Chapter 42

The driver rapped on the door, Alezander reaching over and opening it so that the man could poke his head inside. He was dripping with rain, his clothes soaked through and the edges of his lips alarmingly blue with cold. It sounded like the carriage was getting pounded on with rocks at every angle, the wind making it sway threateningly.

"We're stuck, Sire," he pronounced. "And I fear I nor the guards and horses can go much longer in weather such as this."

Alezander frowned. It was already very late at night; they were indeed very late for this birthday ball. Weather the whole journey had seemed horrific, and it seemed this storm, getting worse and worse, was following them all this last day of travel, without a ray of light in sight.

"Alright," the Prince began resolutely, rolling the sleeves of his fine shirt. "How close is the nearest town or village?"

After a  moment of thinking, the coachman replied, "We  should be approaching the Aedryn village of Thertyon, Your Majesty. It should just be over that hill yonder."

Alezander nodded, "Let us move this carriage out of the mud and try to make it there. We can break there until this wretched rain quits." With that, he moved into the cold rain with the driver and the guards, stepping from his carriage perch to help push it free.

{~}

The Prince and his small entourage of guards entered the safety of the village inn shivering and unrecognizable as they were all smeared with mud and sopped with rain. Alezander had grown increasinly worried over the coachman, who was appearing terribly ill, and beckoned him and the others to a place by the large mouth of the fire. After which, he strode towards the counter where an older man of greasy appearance sat picking his teeth aimlessly, the only person in the empty commonroom.

"I would like several rooms, please." Alezander instructed him. "And a doctor for that man over there. I believe he has come down with fever."

"All rooms are occupied," the innkeeper said bluntly, looking over him and his group with wary, suspicious eyes.

Alezander searched in his bag for a moment, retrieving a sack of coins which spilled over onto the counter as he set it there. The man's eyes caught on the gold, sparkling in the faint, oily light, glittering with glee.

"I'll find you a room, good Sir. And retrieve Doctor Woodston--I am sure he won't be happy at this hour of the night, but I am sure he will be persuaded," said the innkeeper, now more then ready to oblige him. Now that is what I thought you'd say, Alezander smiled grimly to himself. "If you need anything else, Sir..."

"It is they you serve tonight," Alezander gestered to the men by the fire. "I am off."

A nearby guard looked up, "Excuse me, Your Majesty?"

"I am going to ride off to the Palace, alone. You stay here and rest."

"We cannot allow you to--," he began.

"You can, and you will," replied the Prince sternly.

The End

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