cast of characters:
Aidan - member of the Exporer's Society
Gregor - fighter and bodyguard and maybe something more
Marinus - son of a rich vendel merchant family, travelling after completing his journeyman's piece
2. Octavus 1668, two days from Atemlos
We left Atemlos with some vague hints where the brothers wanted to go and followed the only road that lead in the right direction, at first in the company of traders and other travellers, but soon we were alone. The first night we spent at a charburner's settlement in the woods, they allowed us to stay in their barn for the night. We decided against standing guard, but I still woke up when someone tried to sneak onto the hayloft where we had set up our camp. I made a blind grab for the intruder and ended up holding a small girl with very sharp fingernails. She jumped to the ground as soon as I let her go and she and her siblings ran home. I do not know if they wanted to steal or if they just wanted a closer look, in any case they did not return.
The next morning, Aiden offered their mother a couple of pfennige to give to the girl in reward for her braveness and almost ended up buying the child. Not that he wanted to, but it took him a bit to clear up the misunderstanding. Gregor and I watched with negotiations with some trepidation - people do not always react very friendly when some strangers offers money for their children. The woman, I believe, actually would have sold her daughter. Not for such a small sum, but times are bad in Eisen.
We continued to follow the road and we found the first trace of the brothers: one of their horses. The animal looked a bit untended and has probably been tethered for a while without anyone taking care of it. It broke its reins to free itself and seemed to be on its way back to Atemlos. I bribed it with some dried apples and it suffered itself to be touched. There were no further hints we could find so we send the horse on its way again, but added a letter to Knef with some explanation.
The horse had just left our sight when I heard the sound of a sling and ducked, just in time. We found ourselves attacked by several bandits who might have thought that they sheer number would intimidate us. Gregor reduced that number by three with one stroke of his axe - an impressive feat I am in no hurry to see again. I killed two men and I still can see their faces. It is not the first time I have been attacked on my travels, but the first time I killed and I wish I did not have to. I doubt they would have shown us mercy, so it is not like there was much of a choice. But still. It is not something I wish to make a habit of.
In the later afternoon, we stopped at a small brook to wash. There, we met an old woman named Susa who agreed to let us stay at her house for the night. She seemed glad of the company and of our help with carrying water and chopping wood. We shared a meal and she told us many stories - from what she said she does not see people often and her husband and children are long gone. She mentioned in passing that the sons of the Eisenfürst had visited her and agreed to show us the path they had taken. Susa, I believe, is a bit more than a woman who lives alone in the woods. I am not sure if she read my palm or has some other means of seeing, but she knew very well that I for one could well understand the wish of the boys to get away from their family for a time. I do not know what else she saw, but whatever it was, it did not seem to trouble her.
This time, we did stand guard. I will have to ask the others in the morning, but I heard Susa tell me something. She had already left to go to bed by then and I did not see anyone or anything who it could have been. I might have just imagined it, but I do not think so. What I heard was: Your path will lead into darkness. Light is deceiving, darkness is benedictory and I am at a loss as to what to make of this.