The Kingdom of Zaniah

Road to Chathing

ngled. The faint smell of cooked deer hung in the air.

Jex having heard the men ventured ever so closer with Ray on his heels.

”I say hes got three days, that buggar. He ain caused nothing but trouble not payin up them taxes, he hasn , ” one said with a thick accent. His teeth dove into a piece of meat.

Another man laughed. ”Like ones got a deathwish around ere. I got ta pay me taxes. I say the kings up ta something, Borren. We can keep doin this. ”

Gurgling laughter erupted from Borrens throat. ”I say we throw lucky to em. Comin this far, the kings grown a couple testies, he has. ”

The group rang out again. Jex could hear four men as he approached. He stood at the mouth of the alleyway peering down towards the four men enjoying a deer sitting on crates and baskets meant for storage. Grease and juice from the meat was smeared on their faces, the makeup of unmannered men.

Jex entered the alleyway with Ray close behind. He slid off his saddle planting his feet on the cobble stone street. He held the reins in his hand and cleared his throat.

”Excuse me… ” he asked as he approached.

One man lowered his meat, staring at Jex with his mouth agape. His brow covered his eyes, giving him the appearance he was squinting at him. ”Eh? What do ye want, boy? ”

Jex didn seem to mind the oddities. ”Im looking for someone. Maybe you can help me. ”

”Well, spit it out boy, I don got all night ye know. ”

Jex scratched his head, ruffling his thick hair. ”Im looking for a man named Nimer. Hes said to be in this town. Im sure youve seen him around? ”

”Nimer? ” A hardy laugh erupted from the mans broad chest as he addressed his comrades. ”Ye hear boys? This lads lookin for Nimer! ” They all hollered in a chorus.

Jex frowned, ”Whats so funny? ”

The man wiped the last of his tears, ”Oh nothing lad, but I tell ye, a scrawny, greedy bastard like that will rob ye dry, boy. ”

”I tried to tell him, ” Ray commented.

The man chuckled, ”Ay, what do ya need em for, any who? ”

”We need him to guide us to Zanaih, ” Jex blurted with anger.

The group fell silent, looks of disbelief plastered on their faces till the hyenas roared again. ”Zanaih? Ah, ye might as well be chasing unicorns! ” the group roared again.

Jex made a fist with his right hand as he pointed with his left. ”Its not funny! And unicorns exist! Ill prove it to you! ”

Though, the thundering laughter did not cease. Ray placed a nimble hand on Jexs shoulder to calm him. His tense muscles relaxed from her soft hold. Ray stepped forward in Jexs defense.

”All right, all right, thats enough now. Would you be so kind as to point us to where Nimer is staying. Wed appreciate it, ” she urged tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

The roaring decreased to a low rumble as the man rubbed his unclean shaven beard, ”Alrigh lass, you win. Down the street a way, a pub and inn is there. Ya can miss it. But I be warnin ya, hes as crazy as your boy, he is. Best not talk to him long. ”

”I appreciate the concern, but well be on our way, thank you. ” Ray then led Jex out and away from the group of men. Once out of the ally, Rays face dulled. ”As you were saying about the infamous Nimer… ” she scorned.

”Im sure hes not that bad, ” Jex growled. ”I can believe they don think Zanaih is real. I will prove it so. ”

”Not everyone believes in everything like you do. Its what makes you special, ” she encouraged.

He glanced away with a heavy sigh. She was always right in his mind, especially when led astray.

The light of torches beckoned them ahead towards the pub. Horses tethered out front stood in the frigid air, their flanks twitching as they waited for their traveling companions to return. The wide windows displayed what seemed like late night excitement. Men appeared at each table, for the tavern was full of sheep herders, shop owners, and travelers stopping by for the evenings brandy, whiskey, and beer.

Ray and Jex tethered their horses, Ray helping secure her partners sloppy knot. Together they entered the bar. The moment the door swung open, a pleasant sensation thawed their chilly bodies, courtesy of the large fireplace burning on the far side of the tavern. Twelve tables accompanied by five or more chairs occupied the wooden floor of the pub. Several wooden beer steins lined the shelves that hung on the back wall. Old paintings hung on the walls displaying landscapes and one distinct oil of a man with a ginger beard, bushy and down to his collar. His green eyes were envious yet kind, a rather peculiar nature. Sadly, his head was bald.

”He must get cold in the winter…, ” Jex commented towards the painting, pulling off his hood and tugging on his fingerless, wool gloves.

Ray shook her head with a smile, ”Come on, lets locate our guide so we can get out of here. ” She laced her fingers with his and ushered him to the back bar while waving down the tender. ”Um excuse me. Have you seen a man? He goes by the name Nimer. ”

The built, dark haired man behind the counter eyed her wiping a stein with a holey rag. He seemed stern as the two approached and grumbled, ”What do ye want with im? ”

”We… need to appoint him our guide. We
e headed towards the mountains tomorrow. ”

His dark eyes examined the farm country like state looming around Jex and Ray. He nodded towards a table full of gambling men in the far corner, ”Hell be over there. The sooner hes out the better, ” he answered, ”Hes been milkin my customers all day. None of em got loot to pay for their drinks. ”

Jex couldn help but laugh. ”Oh well steal your milk maid sir, don you worry. ”

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