Chapter 4: Begins with a Single Step
“You don’t have to leave tonight,” said Esau. Jacob shifted the straps of his pack on his shoulders and adjusted his scarf as a chill wind rose. Margaret hustled and bustled about the kitchen, lighting candles whose glow melded into the orange of the setting sun. She was gathering biscuits, hard cheese, and a skin of wine.
Jacob reached for the door. “No. If I’m going to make this boat, I need to find a ride out of town as daybreak.”
“Right,” said Esau. “I’m, I’m sorry it worked out this way.” Jacob noticed that Margaret had stopped her bustling. He thought he heard a sniffle. Maybe she had a cold.
“I’m not sure if I’m sorry yet,” returned Jacob. “Who know’s what traveling with Uncle will be like.” Esau only nodded. Margaret had joined them at the door, her hands clenched around a sack and wine skin.
“Thank you for letting me stay as long as you did,” said Jacob. “I know this house has felt rather cramped.” He opened the door into the dusky evening.
She lifted her eyes Jacob’s for the first time since that morning. They were were pink and puffy and damp. She sniffled again. “I promise I will miss you, Jacob. Like a brother.” Her arms extended with a jerk, offering him the sack and wine skin.
He embraced his brother and sister-in-law, then turned to the path into town. “I love you both.” And Jacob Travlers started to walk.
He walked as the sun dipped into the east at his back. The cold night air morphed damp patches of mud and slush into ice. Jacob walked with care. He slipped once or twice, but caught himself on gracious branches, which bowed before him under the weight of snow.
Norshire was dark when he entered the village. Everyone was asleep. The night before had been bathed in blizzard and the townspeople must have spent their whole day clearing the streets and salvaging caved-in sheds. The darkened windows of the Drunken Dragon were a far cry from the hustle and bustle behind warm panes, persevering through the storm the previous night. Jacob knocked on the tavern door. After a moment he knocked again. He raised his fist to knock a third time when he heard Everette Thor’s thick stomping feet thundering across the floor. The locks of the door clicked and Thor threw the door open.
“We are closed! You ingrates emptied every barrel of ale and every sack of flour, you bastards!” Thor then realized who was standing before him and raised an eyebrow.
“Hello!” chimed Jacob.
“Master Travlers. Why are you here?” His eyes widened. “She kicked you out! That icy witch threw you out!”
Jacob shrugged. “If you give me a bed, I’ll tell you the story.” At that, Thor stepped aside and swept a welcoming hand to the interior.
“Well, I have no food or beer. But I have beds. Come, Master Travlers. Let us fellowship as paupers.”
Jacob relayed the events of the day. Thor read Malachi’s letter, accompanied by a dim harmony of hums and grunts and exhales. He could not spare a horse to Jacob for a prompt morning gallop to Nor’Haven, but given Jacob’s lack of experience on horseback it wouldn’t have been worth the trouble. Jacob was in luck, said Thor, because the fellow who had rode into town, to deliver mail throughout the village, was the Dragon’s only other guest. He had gone to bed before sundown to rest well before his journey south. “For a copper piece or two, I’ll bet he’ll take you. His cart and horse are in the village stable. He’ll be leaving town at dawn so you best be awake by then.” Jacob nodded then felt exhaustion fog his mind. Jacob had not noticed how tired he was while amidst all the letters and packing and goodbyes of the day. But, having spent the previous night snowed in at the Dragon listening to stories, Jacob hadn’t slept since the previous morning. “I’ll take that bed now, Master Thor.”
The following morning, Jacob awoke to the knocking on the bedroom door. “Best be moving, Master Travlers! Your carriage should be leaving soon.” Jacob rubbed sleep from his eyes, gathered his things, and marched through the still chill of early morning to the village stables. A man with graying hair and a thin face under a fury cap was tightening the reins of his horse and double checking the cart. He agreed to take Jacob to Nor’Haven and if all went well, Jacob would be there before the departure of the Queen’s Splendor. Jacob loaded his pack into the cart and took a seat next to the fur-capped man. And the cart left Norshire. And Jacob left home.