The McClaron Chronicles: Hawk

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Chapter 3

It was a small fire. Night had fallen after a beautiful summer day on the road, so Hawk didn't actually need the fire for warmth or for cooking. The dried food in his sling bag had been enough. The light of the fire was a comfort.

After lighting a candle to help him see better, he pulled out the fife and fingering chart to practice one of the pieces of music for it. It seemed easy enough to start out. There were a couple of fingerings that were awkward to change to, but Hawk was determined to have a working knowledge of the fife to have as a back up instrument. He had loved the sound when he had heard Carter play it those very few times last winter. The carols he had played sounded lovely and somewhat magical.

Hawk couldn't imagine himself going to sleep yet. He was too excited to be out on the road and wondered how long it would take to get to Brimmerton. He finally was feeling sleepy after he had switched to playing his lute for a while.

It was still dark when he sat up. He knew he couldn't sleep much more than the couple of hours he had with his head on his sling bag. It was strange to sleep on the ground after his own bed. He had gone on patrols with his father sleeping the same way at night, but it had been some time since he had even done that. Sleeping alone out in the woods was a little different. He briefly regretted not taking one of the horses that Father had gotten after he had found out about Thaddus' scheme to get one from the local blacksmith.

That had been quite a confrontation. Reed had wanted his boys to hold out for one of the special mounts that the hired master swordsman had gone looking for. Thad had made a good case about needing to train on horseback, and possibly selling or giving the horses to faithful men of the village once Hawk and Thad were chosen by one of the special foals.

Hawk mulled these things over as he brewed and drank some of his jasmine tea in his small tin cup.

His sword and armor came to mind as he thought about patrolling with his father. It was nice not to have such encumbrances even though his armor was designed to grow with him as he grew and stay relatively comfortable. In a way he missed them, but they were another symbol of the life he really didn't want anymore.

He had learned to handle his sword pretty well, but since he discovered his love for music, the training held less appeal by the day. His youngest brother, Justin, seemed to have the same love for the Warrior life as his father. It seemed that he tried to make up for Hawk's lack of drive.

He chuckled, remembering the day he had let Justin challenge Thad to a sparring match. Thad had thrashed him unmercifully using every dirty trick Hawk had ever seen. After the match, Justin pulled wood splinters out of his clothes that corresponded with the bruises inflicted underneath.

Hawk put out his meager fire and walked back out to the road.

The aspiring minstrel came into the town of Brimmerton three days later, road weary and half starving. He had passed the final village between The Keep and Brimmerton before his food ran out. He had no bow and arrows to hunt for game, so he had pushed on stopping only to sleep the few hours he could manage between exhausted hikes.

Stumbling down the middle of the main street, Hawk spied a small inn called Traveler's Inn. He stepped inside and had to let his eyes adjust to the dimness before he could see where he walked.

A matronly woman looked up from a table with parchments spread on it. The parchments resembled account sheets and hinted at this woman having something to do with running the inn.

"Are you looking for a room, young man?" she asked.

"Nothing much, just a place to sleep," answered Hawk.

"I have a small room upstairs in the back with a cot. Not much else." she raised her eyebrows inquiringly.

"That sounds just right," smiled Hawk.

The lady introduced herself as Mrs. Hill. She was a recent widow and had inherited full ownership of the inn from her late husband.

She led him up the stairs and down the hall to the back. The room had a cot and an old crate in it. There was no dust, but a broom had stood outside the door to testify of someone's recent labors.

After paying for two nights and buying a few candles, Hawk found his money almost gone. He was glad that a meal was included with each night's stay. He found a tub for bathing outside in the back of the inn, and made full use of it with the cold water from the inn's well.

In his new room, Hawk laid himself out on the cot and fell immediately to sleep despite the rumbling in his stomach.

It was afternoon when Hawk opened his eyes. His hunger pangs were sharper now.

He walked downstairs and asked Mrs. Hill if he could get his day's meal yet. He was given a chunk of roast beef inside a small loaf of bread, and before he could finish it, was given another. This time along with a dark brown, steaming beverage.

Mrs. Hill called the hot drink caffe. It was bitter tasting, but the widowed innkeeper suggested he try a spoonful of sugar in it. Then it tasted better. She refilled his cup when he finished it.

Hawk asked the lady about a place where minstrels and musicians gathered.

"Oh," she replied, "they usually come here. I give them free drinks when they play, because it attracts the University students from across town. I do a good business, then."

Hawk, a little startled but glad of his good fortune to have found his destination, took another look around the cramped dining room. The Mug And Trencher back home had a bigger dining area.

After his meal, Hawk brought down both of his instruments and all of his sheet music including his own compositions. He had been able to learn the fife's C major scale on the road when he had camped, and found that he could work out the fife music written in that key.

He was still looking over the fife's fingering chart, when a young man and a young woman wearing bangle bracelets and small hoop earrings came into the inn. They sat right on Hawk's table by the fireplace and looked to be about Hawk's age.

Flowing notes came from a lute the young man produced and the girl began to sing a haunting song of loneliness and a lost love.

As the mood of the song filled him, Hawk began to softly play long notes to accompany the pair, quickly getting a feel for the song and watching the young man's placement of his fingers for chord reference.

The girl looked at Hawk in surprise as she sang, and then closed her eyes with a small smile as she began to sense the enhancement he lent to the song. Hawk was quick to jump off any wrong note and was glad he managed to make very few mistakes.

When the song was finished, the couple laughed with delight, congratulating Hawk on his contribution to the music. They introduced themselves as Gail and Henry, and Hawk briefly introduced himself.

They spent the whole evening taking turns playing songs with the other two joining in when the song was known. Hawk played his lute to teach Henry his standard "Adventure Road." Hawk felt a sense of pride when they expressed their appreciation of his own compositions.

Unnoticed by the musicians, people came and went throughout the evening. They didn't realize they had an audience until there was enough people to applaud them quite loudly. Now, Hawk felt a sense of belonging he hadn't ever felt before, even with his own family.

Before they left for the night, Henry and Gail had invited Hawk to visit the university and meet more of their friends at the university library. Happy to have made friends so quickly, Hawk gladly accepted.

Hawk walked into the university after walking across town and asking directions when he found the school grounds larger than he had anticipated.

The library was a large room with lamps placed at each table and the books arranged along the walls. Pulling an interesting volume off the shelf, Hawk began scanning through it occasionally finding a passage that caught his eye. He began to read steadily, finding other references to search for.

Several hours and many volumes later, Hawk was interrupted by a surprisingly familiar touch of hands on his shoulders. He looked up to see Gail standing close behind him smiling into his face. Hawk felt his heart rate rise as he absently closed the book he had been intent on.

Henry came around in front of him and said, "Let's go to the Brown Shield and meet Robert."

"I have no money right now," Hawk started to protest.

"Don't worry about that. We'll cover you. Besides, once we buy Robert a drink or two and engage him in conversation about something he's interested in, he usually becomes very generous."

"Do you get him drunk?" asked Hawk.

"No," laughed Henry, "he just enjoys discussing history and religion among other things."

"Well, maybe I could contribute come topics," said Hawk.

"That's what we're counting on," said Henry.

When they stepped outside, Hawk was surprised to see that it was late afternoon. The three walked to the edge of the campus and turned down a street that was lined with a few businesses on both sides.

The Brown Shield was a run down looking tavern that served food from a large pot in the fireplace. In addition to the usual lamps in such a establishment there were lamps placed at each end of the long tables much like the library. Many were reading by these lamps, and others were in conversations with friends over what was either beer or the hot drink caffe that Mrs. Hill had given to Hawk.

The trio found Robert reading by one of the lamps. Introductions were made and Henry bought Robert a beer and a pot of caffe for the rest of them.

Gail asked Robert what he had been reading.

"I've been reading about the cave-dwelling people that used the cliffs by the river," replied Robert.

"Really? That's not too far from here. Is it, Henry?" cooed Gail.

"That's right," stated Henry.

Not wanting the pair too sound patronizing, Hawk asked Robert a genuine question. I read in the library today that the Warriors of a hundred years ago would seclude themselves in such caves for a time of meditation and communion with God. Would the caves by the river be a likely sight of one of these temporary hermitages?"

Robert seemed to perk up and warm to this subject, and Henry and Gail had a hopeful gleam in their eyes.

"Yes. I'm sure you would have to explore deep into the caves to find one. I've even read that as recent as fifty to seventy-five years ago, Warriors would do this. Clan leaders would seclude themselves for a week before taking up newly inherited duties."

Something inside made Hawk decided to veer away from more talk of Warrior families. As far as he knew, no one had ever heard of a Warrior's son not wanting to be a Warrior. Hawk was certain no one would take his music seriously if they knew he was Warrior-raised.

Robert himself changed to a lighter topic, and they were soon laughing and teasing each other in high spirits. "I want to buy you a beer, Hawk. Will you drink with me?"

Hawk hesitated. Although he occasionally drank with Carter, he never liked the way he would ridicule the slightest sign of his inebriation. His father did not want his children to drink beer, wine or other strong drinks for the sake of discipline. He also was convinced that a life of drinking led to physical and spiritual ruin. In the last six months, Carter had been his prime example.

Shutting these thoughts out, Hawk accepted.

"Let's all have one," returned Robert.

Several beers later, while Henry had engaged Robert on another of his pet topics, Gail slid up next to Hawk putting her arms around his shoulders. Immediately, he felt as if the effects of the beer had left his body to replaced with a startled giddy feeling. His thoughts burned clear.

Looking into Gail's eyes, he murmured, "Aren't you and Henry..."

Henry's my brother," giggled Gail draping Hawks arms around her middle.

The warmth and softness of her form along with the new revelation flooded Hawk with such desire, he never knew which of them had initiated the kiss. Then she rose and led him by the hand out into the summer night.

She pulled him down into the grass away from the tavern. With his head propped on his hand and elbow, he watched her looking at him. He searched for something to say to her, but was at a loss.

He laid back and began to watch the stars in the sky. She cuddled up next to him and joined him in his star gazing, saying nothing.

When he started to get sleepy, she ran her hand along the side of his face and asked, "What brings you here, Hawk?"

"I thought I would try to earn some more coins before continuing on to travel as a minstrel."

"Would you leave us, soon?" she asked.

"Is there a reason for me to stay?" he countered hopefully. After she said nothing he said, "I could take you with me, if you wanted to leave school."

"Henry is attending university. I'm staying with him because he is all the family I have, and I am all he has," she whispered.

"I need to earn some coins, even if I stay," said Hawk, trying not to think of how torn he felt between staying with her and pursuing his dream. He had never been very popular with the girls. It was easier to try to keep this small chance alive, but his dreams called strongly to him.

Hawk was awakened a little while later. His eyes opened to see the obscured face of Gail close to his. He noticed that Robert and Henry were standing close by, also.

"We need to be getting home," smiled Gail.

"I'll walk with you to your house," said Hawk.

After seeing Gail home with her brother, Robert and Hawk wished each other a good night and separated.

The next morning, Hawk was ravenous from not having dinner the night before. Mrs. Hill had some fried corn cakes and caffe ready for him when he came downstairs.

"Good morning, young man," she said.

"Thank you for the breakfast, Mrs. Hill," smiled Hawk.

"I was wondering if you would like to pay your next night's stay by being my house minstrel, tonight," she proposed.

"I had hoped to stay here another night. This works out well," said Hawk.

"This night is not a night when the students come from the university, but I will put a sign in the window this morning." She busied herself with wiping the table with a wet cloth.

The young man was visibly relieved. He had no desire to leave Brimmerton just when his hopes of a closer relationship with Gail remained promising. Hawk planned his night of music over another mug of caffe.

That afternoon, Hawk found his way back to the university and by retracing his steps from last night, he found the house where Henry and Gail were staying. The brother and sister were not there, but a middle aged woman with several children stood in the yard. The woman was the siblings' land lady, and she was unable to tell him where the two could be.

The young minstrel spent the time before he had to be back at Traveler's Inn at the university library.

The night had gone well. There seemed to be a wave of travelers as there had been at the Mug And Trencher back home. The sprinkling of coins were a welcome sight to Hawk as well.

Most of the guests had gone to bed, and Hawk was playing with a fife tune he was composing as he nursed a mug of caffe. Mrs. Hill had walked outside with the last of the customers to bid them a good night, when Gail hurried in.

She came close to Hawk talking quickly and softly. "Hawk, hide me in your room for a few hours!" She was pale with fright. "Just for a few hours until I can steal back home unobserved.

"What is going on?" asked Hawk startled.

"I have to hide from someone. He's probably already on this street," she said.

The young minstrel went to the door of the inn. No one was in sight at first, but then Hawk was shoved back inside by a tall, dark haired man in a brown, hooded cloak.

"Hawk! It's him!" cried Gail.

The Warrior-raised young man felt a strange, slight, tremor inside him as he faced the dark man once again. "What do you want here?"

"I've come to take what is mine," said the dark man. "She is mine, and I intend to have her."

"I think not," began Hawk, but was struck in the face. He was sent sprawling against the counter where Mrs. Hill had left some cooking utensils.

A peculiar, undefinable, knowledge seemed to well up in Hawk's mind. Grabbing up the butcher knife near to hand, Hawk suddenly knew he was dealing with more than a normal man.

Hawk lunged at the man before he could catch Gail, slashing him on the arm just enough to draw blood and his full attention.

The man appeared so full of rage, he glared at Hawk with a livid face. Then, to his astonishment, the facial features were torn aside, and the bloody skull spoke with a deep and hellish voice, "You will die, worm!"

A brown sword was produced from his cloak. It glowed with a dull red sheen, as if with blood. The defaced man held it at the ready and advanced.

"You have no business here," declared Hawk. He felt a detached part of himself observe as he executed each combat form using the butcher knife as he would a sword, as he closed with this demon unveiled.

They were locked in a close clinch, but Hawk struck his elbow and forearm across the red skull when there was an opening, knocking the demon to the floor. Hawk's foot was on his chest and the knife to his bloodied throat. "In the name of God, I declare you without power here!" Hawk's voice was hoarse with emotion.

"No!" cried the demon, "She is mine by right!" He pushed against the foot on his chest hard enough for Hawk to have to step back to keep his balance. All in a moment as the demon began to rise, Hawk, holding the butcher knife with both hands, swung the blade with all his strength. Against the laws of nature, the head was severed from the body, and all was still.

By this time, Henry, Robert, and Mrs. Hill were staring at the scene with disbelief. Gail trembled and stared fixedly at the corpse.

Hawk took the corpse by the legs to drag it outside.

"Let me help you," offered Robert.

"Take his legs then. I'll take the messier end," Hawk responded. He twisted the edges of the cloak together after placing the gory head on the chest, and hoisted his end of the body.

The two buried the body in a wooded area behind the inn.

Robert looked Hawk in the eye and asked, "Who are you?"

"I am Hawk Mc Claron of one of the Warrior Clans," said Hawk woodenly.

"Has the war come to Brimmerton, now?" he pursued.

"In a way, it's always been here," said Hawk cryptically.

Chapter 4

Hawk opened his eyes and saw that Henry and Robert were still sleeping on the floor in his room. It was very early in the morning. Mrs. Hill had insisted that Gail stay in one of the inn's empty rooms and not go home last night, so Hawk had the two stay with him. There hadn't been but one empty room last night.

Again, Mrs. Hill had corn cakes and caffe on the counter waiting for Hawk when he came downstairs. She motioned for him to sit nearby as she finished cleaning the last evidence of last night's encounter.

"Where do you come from?" she turned her dull green eyes to Hawk.

"I am Hawk Mc Claron from Reed Mc Claron's Keep, three days south on foot," stated Hawk, waiting for a denunciation.

The woman mopped the bloodied spot some more, and then stopped to push back a strand of what used to be a handsome shade of auburn hair. It was faded to almost brown, but Hawk could see that when she was younger, she would have turned a few heads.

She stopped with the mop in the bucket. Leaning on the handle, she said, "My husband was killed by a group of men. That man...demon," she swallowed to keep her voice from cracking, "was with them."

"They questioned my husband persistently, and he told me he suspected them of stealing Warrior-horses. I never found out what they wanted him for, but he had to go with them somewhere. His body was brought back into town by a traveling tinker."

Hawk led her to the bench where he had been seated. She sat next to him and said, "That ghastly demon likely murdered my George, and you have avenged me. I can't keep you here. I can't let you stay."

"I know," said Hawk. "More will come sooner or later to ask more questions. I'm sure some of your guests may have even witnessed last night."

She nodded, and Hawk asked, "How's Gail?"

"She's still sleeping. Something's wrong with that girl. She's relieved at the death of the demon, but something's still wrong."

"I can't doubt anymore that God has had his hand in bringing me here," said Hawk with a sigh.

After a moment, Mrs. Hill sighed. "Oh, my George loved the Warrior Clans and worshipped God like no other man I've known. He fought side by side with a clan chief before Arcad was taken. The Council of Light rewarded him with a sum of money that bought him this inn," she said with some pride.

Hawk began to think. His eyes stared into nothing. After a space of time, he said, "I need to leave right away, but I need a piece of parchment and pen and ink to leave Robert a letter. It's best you know nothing of what we decide to do, now."

At this sign of decision, Mrs. Hill went to fetch the needed articles. After placing them in front of him, she disappeared into her own room located behind the counter.

Hawk stepped over the two still sleeping in his room and gathered all his things quietly. He slipped downstairs to find a few guests up and stirring. Mrs. Hill motioned him to follow her into her room.

The curtained doorway behind the counter hid a bedroom with a fireplace, two chairs, and a double bed.

From a corner of the room, Mrs. Hill picked up a scabbarded sword and a small bag of what turned out to be cleaning accessories for the sword. "Take these," she said. "You need a sword and know how to use it, so keep this for me."

Hawk was too surprised to protest. He took the sword and pulled it partly from the scabbard. The weapon had been well cared for.

From a small chest, she took out what looked like a leather bound version of the Scriptures and placed it in his free hand. "He said all Warriors have one of these, but you didn't even have a sword. My husband used to tell his army companions 'Go with God' whenever they departed our company. I say go with God, young Hawk."

On impulse, Hawk embraced her, and she returned it hard enough to make him gasp for a breath of air. "I will be back to see how you fare soon, Mrs. Hill," he said with tears starting in his eyes.

Robert awoke to find Hawk's things gone. Downstairs, Mrs. Hill gave him breakfast and a small sealed letter.

"He's gone," said Mrs. Hill. "Just before full dawn, he was on the road."

"Where did he go?" asked Robert.

"He didn't tell me where he was going. Hawk left that letter for you and said I shouldn't know what you all decided to do. For my protection," she explained.

Robert nodded. He opened the letter when Mrs. Hill turned to busy herself with the day's business. It read:


I ask that you find a place for Henry and Gail to stay for a while

to see if their daily lives have been disrupted. If they cannot safely assume

their normal routine, please bring them to me in the caves we discussed.

I place all my trust in you. Please burn this letter immediately.

Hawk Mc Claron

Robert, the scholar, took a sip of his caffe thoughtfully. He realized he had many new decisions to make.

Hawk felt a growing excitement as he approached the first of the caves. He looked down at the river shimmering in the sun and briefly studied the surrounding area. He was about a hundred feet above the river at the mouth of the cave.

Turning, he entered the cool, dark cave. He lit a candle and began to explore.

The third cave seemed to go deeper into the cliff. After turning from two dead ends, he found a passage that was significantly longer. It was so dark that his candle wasn't enough to find his way. He returned to the mouth of the cave.

The sun was still shining, shimmering on the surface of the river. Trees came right up to the riverbank on the far side. Directly below him, scrub trees started from the sand of the riverbank on his side.

Hawk had reached this cave by simply lowering himself down feet first from the cliff top. There was just enough of a foothold that he could use to step back up and swing his other foot onto the edge of the cliff to pull himself up.

He needed a torch or two, but had no materials to make any. He decided to slip back into Brimmerton to buy some lamp oil.

He found a place to buy the lamp oil on the edge of Brimmerton and found some rags to use outside an abandoned barn. Back near the cliff, he found some branches that would suit his purpose and wrapped one end of each one with the rags. He then soaked them in the lamp oil.

At the cave mouth, he built a small fire and tried to light one of his home made torches. It seemed to work.

Dousing the fire, he used the newly lit torch to light his way back to the darkest part of the cave. This passage seemed to wind around a little until he saw daylight shining from another opening.

Sticking his head out, he saw that there was a narrow ledge along the cliff. He stepped out, crouching to allow his head to clear the top of the opening. He was about twelve feet lower on the cliff and more to the left of the entrance he had first lit his torch.

Walking carefully along the narrow ledge, he came to some scrub brush growing out of the cliff side. Gripping the brush to steady himself, he slipped on some loose stones and fell against the brush only to find himself falling into a concealed cave entrance.

This new cave entrance didn't have a very wide entrance, but it opened into a spacious room. Still holding his torch, Hawk saw there was a framework to some sort of cot or bunk. Haphazardly, at the foot of the cot was a small chest similar to the chest belonging to Mrs. Hill's late husband.

Looking further, he saw some ashes from a fire on the floor at the back of the cave. Wondering where the smoke could have gone under such circumstances, he saw that there was a natural vent above the spot. It looked like a crack in the ceiling at first, but after looking closer, he saw there was a passage for the fire's smoke to go up and out to the daylight barely visible. There was a small draft that ran from the entrance to the natural vent, to give air for such a fire.

"A natural fireplace," thought Hawk aloud. He wondered at the residence that seemed waiting for him. This had to be an old hermitage of a Warrior. He wondered who it could have been.

With a blanket he had taken from the inn, he wrapped the cot frame as if he were making a field stretcher. That was something his father had taught him, he reflected.

He went to the gather firewood just in case the cave would be cold that night. After he was settled, he planned to look in the small chest. If anything, he could find use for an empty chest.

Hawk was fatigued from gathering firewood and preparing a small meal. He knew he needed to be able to hunt game in the local area to avoid taking a risky trip into Brimmerton. He didn't have any bow or arrows, but he thought he might think of how to rig a snare.

His meal prepared, he ate as he looked into the chest at the foot of his appropriated cot. The chest contained a journal from the looks of it, a broken candle, and a dried up ink bottle with an old pen.

The journal's presence fascinated Hawk. The ink was brown with age, but was easy to read:

Arthur Meier

Day 1

I am grateful to have a time to rest and pray away from all that has happened.

Arcad was taken after a long fierce battle. My loyal companion, George Hill,

stayed by my side and guarded my back as we fought the hordes of the enemy flood that

finally pushed us back south from whence we came.

Men such as my friend George, are becoming rare in these times. Many are

compelled by their own desires to compromise with the Dark Empire if only to live in

uncertain peace.

I have written a recommendation to honor George with a form of citation that

would carry some monetary reward with it. I have put up a sum of money that I hope the

Council will find in their hearts to add to.

Hawk put down the leather bound journal to exclaim to himself how Mrs. Hill would treasure this reference to her husband. He flipped through the journal and found many blank pages in the back.

A folded page fell out. It read:

I have left this journal here for the use and safe keeping of any Warrior clansman

who finds this secret haven. This should remain in the hands of a Warrior family or go to

the family of George Hill who proved himself a Warrior in spirit and deed.

Arthur Meier

There was more to the journal than Hawk could read in one night. He would use whatever spare time he could find to read this historical document. He thought he would give it to Mrs. Hill after he made a few entries of his own.

Hawk slept fitfully, getting up between sleeps to throw wood on the fire. It was better to have the fire at night, he thought, than to have the smoke visible during the day. He was able to boil water for some of his jasmine tea and put out the fire before daylight.

When the sun had been up for a few hours, Hawk heard laughter and voices down by the river. He could see that it was Henry, Robert, and Gail swimming in the river below.

The young Warrior took the passage that brought him to the clifftop, where he found the winding trail that would take him down a gentler slope to the river. He surprised them when he jumped into the water with them.

After a joyful reunion, Hawk suggested they come to his secret lair to discuss their current situation.

Robert began the conversation by telling Hawk that the night before there were two men questioning Mrs. Hill and Henry and Gail's landlady about them. At first light, Robert had taken a round-about way to bring the siblings to the caves.

Henry had been unable to sit still on Hawk's cot during Robert's account and took the next pause he made to interrupt. "We haven't told you that those men including the one you killed, Hawk, were paying for my schooling in return for Gail and I to work for them and bring them information. We never told them about you, though. We were to watch for fighting men that were not from Arcad."

Gail watched Henry with a look of horror, but was speechless.

Henry continued, "Gail was asked to do quite a lot for them. She was mostly cooking and washing their clothes at their camp north of Brimmerton. It is in fact not far up the river. But two of them paid too much attention to Gail." He looked at her to urge her to say something.

Gail looked pale, almost sick. "One told me he wanted me for his own. He would describe the degrading things he wanted to do to me. The other, only told me of how he wanted to sell me to some high official or other in Arcad. I was so afraid, but how could we escape them? The defaced man...but this was before...wouldn't let them touch me because he had plans for me should I have no more use for them here. I knew he was with the Dark Empire. I could feel evil from him."

"They probably had plans for Henry's future as well," added Hawk. "Why else would they put money into him?" Hawk thought for a moment. "Robert, do these men who were asking questions know about your association with us?"

"I don't think so," he replied.

"Good," said Hawk. "I am so ill-equipped here. I need you to bring some supplies. I plan to make my home here for a little longer. Here's all my money. I need things like soap, some things to make snares, and food for those two and myself." He handed Robert his coins.

"I can get you anything I have at my room near the university," offered Robert.

Hawk sighed impatiently. "There's so many things I have to consider. Do you know of a bow and arrows I could borrow for a time?"

"I have one," said Robert.

"Could you lend them to me and bring the supplies I asked for?"

"You can count on me," said Robert. "I'll go down and get the two horses we've hobbled by the river and be back as soon as I can."

"I appreciate this," said Hawk holding Robert's gaze.

"If you're up to what I think you are, I want in," replied Robert.

Late that night, Robert had brought back blankets and the bow from his rooms in Brimmerton and had purchased everything Hawk had asked for and more.

Hawk took him aside and said, "I think we'll be in a fight sooner or later. Are you sure you want to continue to throw in with me?"

Robert smiled. "I've liked you from the start, and I've thought you would be doing what any Warrior would: fighting the Dark men. You intrigue me, Hawk. A Warrior is said to be close to God, and I want to know about this."

"As I learn, I'll share it with you," said Hawk reaching up to clasp Robert's shoulder. The young Warrior had to look up to meet Robert's eyes. He seemed to tower over him. "Let's eat a little of this bread you brought. I 'm a bit hungry. Then we sleep."

The four sat on the cot because there was no where else to sit.

After they had eaten, Gail was given the cot to sleep on, and the men spread blankets on the cave floor. It was comforting to be with friends, thought Hawk as he drifted off to sleep in the light of the fire.

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