Chapter Forty

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Despite the cloak, the chill of the northern wind took Kareth longer to come accustomed to each time he visited. It was a cold unlike anything else, and he cursed the ancients for settling in this frozen land, godless land. The night’s bell rang moments before, and the great city of Harrendom would be coaxing itself to sleep shortly, but not before the final feast of the Bone Tine had ended.

He sat alone on a stone ledge near the outcropping of the courtyard overlooked by the keep far up the hill. His eyes danced from the highest stone peak, to the gates that stood not three hundred feet in front of him. The last of the roaming citizens were finally clearing the streets, and the courtyard was relatively empty.

After the last of the evening’s light was squelched by the night sky, he rose from the stone ledge and moved up the quiet, cobblestone street. The city’s guard had been doubled since Sir Fenley’s death, but they remained as wholly predictable as always.

The frequency of torches increased as he neared the gates. Kareth let out a low chuckle that was little louder than a whisper, and picked up the pace. When he was some fifty feet from the gates he darted left into an alleyway and began weaving his way through the cities back passages until he walked right up to the keep’s outer wall. It was some twenty feet tall of piled stone and hardened mortar, and he looked up at it curiously as if it were but a small hindrance.

The space between the buildings directly across from the wall was approximately four feet. He lengthened his stride methodically and then ran up the stone wall about five feet, and leapt from the wall to the nearest building, and grabbed hold of the shingled roof. With minimal effort he pulled himself up and atop the roof. Keeping a low profile, he moved to the nearest peak and launched himself over the expanse. He just grabbed the top of the stone with his hands as his body smashed into the face of the wall. With a deep breath, he shook off the impact and pulled himself up and rolled across the top and off the side, grabbing the ledge on the far side with his hands just before plummeting to the ground.

Kareth glanced down at the grass below and released his hold. The wall was angled just the slightest bit, which allowed him to somewhat slide down the inner face until he hit the ground in a controlled roll and rose unscathed. Though darkness shrouded most of the outer gardens, he still felt exposed moving around without a disguise.

As he moved he stuck to the shadows and remained close to the keep’s walls. Every so often a guard would patrol across the stone wall, but they were concerned with the on goings outside of the keep, not just inside its walls. It did not take him long to make it around back and to the kitchen. The large preparation room just outside of the kitchen entrance was full of servants preparing the meat and grains for the following day, while there was constantly someone going in and out of the main kitchen entrance.

After some consideration, he chose a cloaked serving man with shaggy brown hair and an apparent smoking habit. Every so often he would come out, find a hiding place, somewhere unseen, and light up his corn pipe.

He crept up behind the servant and grabbed a piece of wood that was leaned up against the preparation room’s wall. Before the man could react, he smashed the wood over his head and watched as he slumped to the ground. He used the cloak he wore to restrain the man and put a small cloth in his mouth to gag him. It was not long before he was moving through the great keep in the same drab garb as the entire serving crew. It always amused him how invisible he became in the common folk’s wardrobe. He moved through the service hallways as quickly as possible. Though it had been some time since he had last visited Harrendom, he remembered the layout at least slightly. The king’s solar was the tallest room in the world, and it was located on the far end of the keep. When he passed the Great Hall he heard a bustle of cheers and guffaws. The king was entertaining guests for the Bone Tine Feast. No doubt he was otherwise indisposed.

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