Chapter 19: Alone

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HILDEGUND HADN'T DREAMED. She had been stone, unfeeling and unmoving. And as the gray strands of light beckoned her awake, she felt an uncomfortable soreness in her back and a stiffness in her neck. She stretched as she sat up, shaking the sleep from her mind.

She had spent so many nights sleeping outside that it felt almost claustrophobic being behind closed walls and she felt a slight tugging in her gut that something was wrong.

Next to her bedroll there was a small window that was covered with a sheet. A slight breeze carried in the first noises of the morning, along with the first rays of sunlight. She could also smell something warm and inviting wafting up from the downstairs kitchen, and her mind turned to breakfast. "Grimbert," she began, turning her head to the other side of the room. But, to her dismay, the room was empty.

The feeling overcame her slowly as her eyes scanned the room again, looking for something that obviously was not there. Panic crept into her chest. Breath came in starts and stops. A cold sweat perspired on her forehead and under her arms. She didn't understand. It felt shockingly wrong. "Grimbert?" she whispered again. "Grimbert?" her volume increased as she repeated the name. She repeated it again, a shrill note putting an edge in her young voice.

"Shut up you fool, some of us are trying to sleep," a gruff voice shouted from another room.

Another room! Her heart immediately calmed. Grimbert must have rented an additional room. She knew that he had been close to her father and he must have needed some time alone to ruminate on the events of the other night. He had to deal with his grief in his own way. With the mystery in her mind settled, Hildegund rose from her bed. She had not brought any belongings to this room, not even her sword, but she still had a few coppers, at least enough for breakfast. She walked down the stairs expecting to see Grimbert waiting in the dining area.

The tavern was empty, except for the innkeeper. Grimbert must still be asleep; it was still very early in the day. She walked up to the older man who was absentmindedly wiping down a countertop. "Good morning, sir, do you know what room my companion is staying in?"

"Excuse me?" he looked up, scrunching his face and scratching at his stubbled chin, "What companion? You came in alone last night, no?"

"Well, yes, but my, um," she didn't know what to call Grimbert now that her father was dead, she hadn't thought that far in advance, "The other pilgrim who I traveled here with said he was going to bring the horse to stable and then follow me directly. He didn't seem to make it to my room, so I think he must have let another."

"You were the last patron of the night. If I recall correctly."

Hildegund's mouth went dry, her tongue felt heavy. This wasn't right. "Are you sure you didn't see a man, dark hair to his shoulders, bearded, not too tall but larger around his waist? Speaks French with the same accent as I do?"

"I'm sorry, my boy. I would know if there was another German staying in my inn. Most of my patrons are Italian merchants." He seemed sorry for the child in front of him, and he reached into a large steaming pot and placed a bowl of hot porridge down on the counter, "Free of charge, this morning, and I can think of a few places you might want to check before you get too worried."

Hildegund took the steaming bowl gratefully. As she started to eat she tried to think of all the scenarios that would have kept Grimbert from doing as he had promised. He could have been robbed by bandits. Maybe even the bandits who had killed her father. It was possible they had retreated to Tyre and then recognized Grimbert. Or maybe he got into a brawl. He could be wounded in the street. Or even dead! How could she find out?

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