The Roadhouse, part two

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Harbend smiled at the sight of his friend shoveling food into his mouth. A full season after his arrival he no longer looked like a festival clown. Hair showing a lot of brown beneath the faded blue and a face now belonging to someone in good shape. Most of the fat had gone and muscles were building. Harbend was surprised a man of Arthur's age could trim his body so fast. Some of the lines criss crossing his face were gone but others had come in their stead. There was more determination to be read there now, a stability grown during the journey.

Harbend was more than content with the events leading to him being coerced into bringing such a strange friend along on the journey. Smiling Harbend paid some attention to his own food. The smell of peppers, salt and mutton made him dig his knife into the stew. Only after stilling his worst hunger did he feel how boiled tomatoes and horseradish mixed with local spices added life to the meat.

He leaned back, raised his glass and drank a deep draught of wine. A decent wine, nothing special, but not the awful swill too often served when one left the main roads in Keen.

Looking up he saw traces of soot on the ceiling revealing the presence of a large fireplace hidden around a corner where his eyes couldn't reach. Wherever it was, it evidently saw much use during winter.

Late evening broke into full night and he guessed the innkeeper wanted them to depart for their rooms. They both swallowed the last of their wine, thanked him and climbed the stairs to the second floor. Harbend bade Arthur goodnight and made for his room.

It was small but clean. A narrow bed with a brown, woolen blanket clung to a wall and in the only window he saw his own features reflected in the imperfect glass. The walls were bare apart from a hanger for his lamp and in a corner a small wardrobe hid in the shadows.

He quickly undressed and rather than spend time hanging his clothes in the wardrobe he simply threw them in a disorderly pile on a lonely chair standing beside a worn table. Almost naked he blew out the lamp, fumbled for his bed and lay down on linen sheets. Shortly afterward sleep claimed him.

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