“Ah, he is on the move,” Darton said. “I must go, my sweet. Until later!” He kissed the girl’s cheek lightly, made a slight bow, and turned to stroll casually down the street after his quarry.

     That quarry had just left his house and was moving eastward. Probably going to the Merchant’s Guild. His name was Kengarn. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man of fifty or so years, with a slab of wobbling belly looping over the belt he wore around his light blue robe. He was nearly bald, with but a horseshoe of gray hair around his crown, and his face was a map of wrinkles and folds. A merchant-prince, this one. Wealthy. Respected.

     Up to something.

     There had been rumors…so Darton shadowed him, had been shadowing him, to try and pick up some pattern, some strange significance, in his movements.

     Darton himself was only twenty, yet he wore the uniform of one of the baron’s cavaliers: a wide, rakish hat with a bright red plume in the band, tan jerkin over a white silk shirt, dark brown trousers tucked into knee-high soft-leather boots. A fine dueling sword at his hip. Only three others wore this uniform, and all were over forty. Porthen, Athen, and Aramee. Three legendary figures throughout Drogarth, throughout all of Inslar. They were known as great warriors. Heroes. What boy didn’t dream of joining the Three Cavaliers?

     Well, Darton had.

     Some scoffed at him, but not to his face. Hah! Look at that boy! Thinks he’s a cavalier. Barely old enough to be able to tote that sword, much less use it! ’Twas only because his father an’ the Baron were so tight that he’s wearin’ it…

     There was truth in that. He knew he could never have become a cavalier without his father’s influence. But he also knew that he deserved to wear the uniform, the blade. He was good — one of the best. A natural swordsman. And, with the training of the other cavaliers, improving all the time.

     Kengarn glanced over his shoulder, and it seemed he’d spotted the young cavalier. No problem. Darton wasn’t going out of his way to be invisible. That wasn’t possible anyway; in his uniform, he was a magnet for attention. If he’d been spotted, it was only a wonder it had taken the merchant so long.

     Soon the huge complex housing the Merchant’s Guild and their private army, the Merchant Guard, came into sight. Then Kengarn went inside, where even a cavalier could not follow.

     Darton settled down to wait at an outdoor table in front of a nearby tavern. When a young barmaid came out, he smiled broadly.

     “Ah, my sweet! A cool beer if you please.”


...CHAPTER 10...