Chapter 15: Relics

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The rest of the ride to Worms was passed in a stoic silence. Grimbert's bones felt hollow and his head was filled with what ifs. What if his attacker had been stronger? What if Grimbert had not knocked him off his horse in the first pass? What if the pack horse had gotten away? What if? What if? The relentlessness of the thoughts were driving him mad, and he prayed that the monastery had a master brewer who knew how to craft a strong ale. His earlier promise of not drinking was completely forgotten.

Some conversation would probably have helped ease the attack of unwanted thoughts, but he assumed that neither of his companions were ready to talk. Richart was muttering to himself as his eyes scanned the road with a compulsive regularity. Hildegund was quieter than Grimbert had ever seen her before. Her eyes were as wide as wagon wheels and she jumped every time a squirrel rustled the brush along the road.

Grimbert wondered if he would get the full story of what happened. A mere scratch wouldn't have left so much blood.

As they approached Worms the roads became busier. Like most urban centers, the majority of the locals lived in the countryside and only entered the walled city for trade and business. These commuters walked by the side of the road or rode along on mules. Peasants could be seen toiling in the surrounding fields; their conversations carried on the wind. Several carts were pulled over to the side of the road. Some were openly loaded with harvests while others were covered over, their contents a mystery. The merchants must have been taking a rest before making their way into the bustling markets located in the city square.

Grimbert felt comforted by the increased crowd. Not only was there was safety in numbers, but Grimbert knew Worms well. He had travelled here often to find work. However, a quick glance at Richart and Hildegund let him know that they didn't share his sense of reassurance.

The gates to the city were open and people passed freely through the wide gap and down the busy avenue lined with red-roofed buildings. The trio of travelers, however, circled around the city and continued down the road. Their destination was just beyond the next hill.

"I'm glad we will be sleeping with a roof over our heads," Hildegund finally broke the silence.

"Yes," Richart agreed.

"I don't know if I would be able to sleep otherwise."

"Well, I'm not sure how much sleep I'll get either way, to be honest," he confessed.

"After so much adventure, the safety of strong walls will definitely be a comfort," Grimbert added.

"Adventure?" Hildegund scoffed.

"Joseph," Richart raised his brows towards his daughter.

"Sorry, Papa, it's just..." her voice trailed off.

"I know. That was scary. And," he paused, and held his free hand palm up in supplication, "I'm sorry. My overindulgence the previous night made me slow and sloppy and it put you in danger. I never would have forgiven myself if anything had happened to you."

"Everything just happened so fast. I did hold my own, though, didn't I?"

"Yes, and I'm proud of you. But, I hate that you were put in that position. Next time when I tell you to stay in safety, you should listen." Richart's voice turned stern, "I mean it. I want no harm to come to you. I know you are brave, but that was really close. You need to follow my directions. You should have taken the pack horse and left the man to me."

"He would have overtaken you, Papa," the defiant tone that Grimbert was so used to hearing had returned to her voice.

"That won't happen again. I lost my focus when we were at the inn. This is a pilgrimage, not some jaunty knight's quest, and we need to keep our focus on why we are making this journey in the first place. We are on a holy mission," he lectured.

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