He willed the pounding on the door to stop, but after the third time John the inn owner opened his eyes and swung his legs over the edge of the bed.
The room where he and his wife Merry slept was on the ground floor, very close to the inn’s main door. John opened the small door leading to the main hall which was full of tables and chairs spread all across the room.
John stepped to the big oak door opening it just before the big young man on the other side banged his fist on the door again. The man quickly moved to the side in order to let a pretty young maiden to pass. Seeing her all soaked from the rain John moved aside letting her and her companion to enter the inn.
Quickly leading the two towards the table closest to the fireplace, John hurried and threw a couple of logs into the dying fire.
He turned back towards the couple, “How can I help you? “ He asked.
Instead of getting an answer the maiden started crying. Although being a very big man, John always had a big heart and a soft spot for a crying woman. Hurrying away to the kitchen he left the two near the fire place.
Returning with two steaming cups of tea, he found the young man consoling the maiden who rested her head on his shoulder. She still had a few tears on her cheeks but seemed calmer now. “Thank you” the maiden said slowly. “This is Don and I’m Alexandra, but my friends call me Alex” she continued.
“My name is John” he said with a smile. “Now, do you want a room for the night, or maybe something to eat?” John asked.
Don shook his head, “No, we are looking for Arthur” Alex completed him.
“Well….” John tried to think quickly. “It’s the middle of the night and he is sleeping” he finally said.
“Is everything all right?” Asked Merry, a short rounded woman with brown hair coming from behind John.
“We really need to find Arthur, could you please help us find him?” Alex asked again. “I…well….” John mumbled again.
“Please it is a matter of life or death” Alex interrupted John looking at him with a pleading look. “Go wake him up” Merry said to John, “I’ll stay with them.”
John returned a moment later with Arthur by his side, rubbing his eyes trying to focus while keeping pace with his friend John. Arthur was wearing a white cotton night gown which was very warm but not so practical when walking outside.
“Alex and Don, please meet Arthur” John introduced them, looking at Arthur like a proud father although no one in the group was his child.
“I’m sorry, you must have misunderstood us” Don said, looking at Arthur with a look of disdain. “We are looking for Arthur and his friends who help people” Alex said quickly.
“Yes” John smiled, “I woke the rest, they will be here soon.”
“No… but… you don’t understand” Alex stammered. “He is a child” Alex looked shocked. “This is Arthur” Merry agreed with John.
“Can you tell me what is the problem?” Arthur asked calmly.
“We should go” Don said starting to get up. “We made a mistake by coming here.”
Alex started to cry again. Don tried to grab her by the hand but she pulled her hand back covering her face.
Walking to the door, Don looked ready to leave, “We should go” he said.
“Can you tell me what is the problem?” Arthur asked again softly, trying to get Alex’s attention. “Maybe we can help” he continued, seeing Alex looking up at him.
The kitchen door opened. Cathy the thirteen years old blond walked in with Gwen the twelve years old small brunette followed by Peter who although being at the same age was almost a head taller than the rest.
Alex looked at the group and nodded her head slowly.
“Are you coming Alex?” Don called holding the big oak door open.
Alex shook her head and turned towards the group who already took seats around the table facing her. “I’m a maid for the lord’s grey daughter” she said, looking at them searching for an acknowledgement. Arthur nodded. They have heard about him, lord Grey had a keep a day and a half ride to the west.
“Don is a guard at the keep and we are about to be wed” Alex explained “Alex!…” Don shouted “I’m leaving, you can stay if you want to” with that Don closed the door behind him. “Don, please” Alex called. She looked at the group “I…. I have to…” They all nodded and she hurried after him.
Without much time to get up and leave Alex stepped back into the inn “he left…” she cried, “he left.”
“Are you sure?” Cathy asked “Maybe you just didn’t see him, it’s raining” she tried.
“I saw him on our horse” Alex said still shocked.
Peter rolled his eyes, he was about to say something when Cathy elbowed him. He looked at her but didn’t react.
“Poor girl” Merry called “I’ll bring you some tea” she said and ran towards the kitchen.
Alex sat back down still trying to understand what just happened.
The four left her alone until Merry returned with a tray filled with cups of tea and a plate with cheese and bread she placed in front of Alex.
After she took a long sip from her cup, Arthur hoped she was ready to start talking again. “What happened?” Arthur asked “What brought you here?”
Alex took a deep breath. “The Lord’s daughter Dian who I serve is riding with her father the lord, they are sleeping at an inn not so far from here.” She stopped to take another sip and continued. “I was called to her room this afternoon…” Alex turned to Peter “What?”
“Are you eating this?” Peter asked, Cathy’s eyes widened and Arthur smiled when Alex pushed the plate towards Peter.
“Please continue” Arthur requested.
“Where was I…? Ohhh… Dian called me to her room to tell me she knows I stole her golden trinket and I have till day break to return it, else she will have me killed” Alex started pulling he nose, “ I never stole anything I swear, I heard about Arthur and asked Don to help me find you. He didn’t want to come but he finally agreed. Now he is gone and Dian will have me killed” with that Alex started crying again.
It took Alex a bit longer to come down this time, it seemed that she finally realized her situation. “I’m willing to pay you if you could help me find the trinket, I don’t have much but I have a few silver coins” she said to the group.
Arthur was thinking what to do when Merry jumped in “Please help her” she pleaded.
Arthur nodded. “We can’t take your coins” Cathy said immediately.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you….” Alex looked a bit relieved.
“We should change and leave at once” Arthur said, suddenly aware of his night outfit. “We don’t have much time to waste” he said and the four took off to their cabin behind the kitchen
When the four got back Alex was already waiting for them beside the big oak door. They were carrying their short swords wrapped in small blankets and the bows and arrows tied on their backs making them look like real warriors, all this gear was a present from their friend Glen the travelling blacksmith.
Leading the way towards the inn Peter hurried and already started untying their horses making them ready for travel. The rain didn’t stop but at least it settled to a bare able drip. Alex joined Peter on the back of his horse. Peter was happy to be joined by a pretty maiden and always happy to show off his riding skills.
It didn’t take them long to spot the lights of the inn from a distance, reaching it was a bit more difficult as they moved slowly on the road hoping there are no guards on the road.
They stopped at a safe distance, “Where is Dian’s room?” Arthur asked.
“I’m not sure” Alex replied “It’s on the second floor, it’s a corner room but I can’t tell which corner” She explained.
“Do you have a plan?” Cathy asked, knowing Arthur was always coming up with plans.
Arthur nodded, “I hope it works” he smiled.
Peter and Gwen were going to try and talk to the stable boy who was probably inside the stable on the far side of the inn. Alex wanted to join Arthur and Cathy who were heading into the inn but Arthur refused, he explained to her that if she would probably be recognized and that wouldn’t end well.
Standing beside the huge doors, Arthur and Cathy realized this inn was much bigger than the one in their village where they lived. Arthur assumed they will have to knock on the door for a while as it was a late hour in the night but as it was he pushed the door and it opened with ease.
The inn was alive, no one paid attention to the two travelers coming inside from the rain. The hall was almost twice the size they knew so well from their village, there were a lot of tables and chairs all around and a big fire place was keeping everyone warm. A small chubby bold man came up quick to the two and introduced himself as the inn owner, he was a bit surprised when they told him they were travelling alone, but after he made sure they had money to pay he escorted them to one of the tables near the door. Arthur tried to point towards a table at the far end but the inn owner insisted so they finally sat down.
The stable was fairly big from Peter’s point of view, but as they approached he noted the place was a bit neglected. As a former stable boy he could easily spot the signs, the heavy smell was a major one. After tying their horses to a tree they entered the stable to find it packed full, two horses were even tied outside the stalls. “This is Don’s horse” Alex pointed to a nearby stall. The horse was very strong and fit, didn’t seem fit for a low ranked guard.
“Don got the horse from Dian a few weeks ago” Alex said when Peter looked at her quizzically. Peter nodded. “You should stay outside” he said to Alex, she turned and walked outside right in time when a sleepy stable boy came out of a stall yawning.
“What do we do now?” Cathy whispered after the inn owner walked away.
“We need to chat the inn owner, maybe he heard or seen anything” Arthur explained.
“That’s the plan?” Cathy asked.
“For now” Arthur nodded. “We need information” he explained.
“What will you have?” the inn owner asked a moment later, after returning from a round between the tables.
“We would like two cups of tea and some bread and eggs please” Arthur ordered for both of them.
“Peter’s ears are burning” Cathy laughed, making Arthur smile.
“Very well” The inn owner said, “That will be two silver coins”
Although he was a bit surprised as the payment was usually in the end of the meal, Arthur took out two coins and laid it on the table.
“Sir, would you mind if I asked you a question?” Arthur asked.
He only nodded whilst picking up the coins.
“Did you have any theft problems here?” Arthur asked cautiously.
“Thieves?” he looked shocked “No, we don’t have that here.” Then his eyes widened. “Well we had a problem today, but let me reassure you, the maid that stole the trinket from one our guests was caught and she will be taken care of”
“Was the trinket found?” Arthur asked.
The inn owner shook his bald head. “But we will find it soon”
“Are you sure the maid stole it?” Cathy jumped in.
“Do you suggest that one of my maids took it?” his face turned to anger.
“No, no this is not our intentions” Arthur quickly said.
“Well, if that will be all, I will get your order” he said and didn’t really wait for an answer and walked away.
“Can I help you?” The stable boy asked when he saw Peter and Gwen. He was a little older than the two, shorter than Peter with red hair and freckles all over his face.
“We would like to ask you some questions” Peter said, producing a silver coin and throwing it towards him.
The boy caught it in the air and nodded his head.
Taking it as an approval Peter took a step closer. “Did you hear about the trinket?” Peter asked. The boy nodded. “The maid stole it” he added.
“Did you hear if someone found it? Or maybe trying to sell it?” Peter tried.
“No” he shook his head, “I doubt if we would see her here….” He was cut short by a cry from outside.
The stable boy ran outside quickly leaving the two alone inside.
Knowing something was wrong the two turned away and hid.
A few moments later the voices of a couple of men and the stable boy were followed by close by footsteps. “They were here a moment ago.” Peter heard him from his hiding place, frowning at the lack of loyalty.
“You two search the stable with the boy” he heard a bass voice say “I’m going to take the maid upstairs”
Stall doors were opening fast from either side of the path. His stall was next, Peter realized. He was already pulling his sword slowly. He won’t be caught easily, he thought.
“They might have gone out the back” The boy called. Peter let out a breath he didn’t notice he was holding when the men ran out.
The two weren’t waiting long when two guards came from behind them. “Please come with us” the two said to Arthur and Cathy.
Arthur turned, seeing the two resting their hands on the hilt of their swords. Behind them he could see the inn keeper standing, talking to a man who he realized was Don. A woman was sitting with Don and the two were getting up.
Don walked towards them. “Look here, it’s the little heroes” he laughed.
“Take them upstairs” The woman said loudly “Put them in my room, and wait outside.”
The two got up and walked towards the stairs with the two guards on their heels.
“How is the plan working?” Cathy whispered.
“Pretty well” Arthur answered in a whisper.
Cathy raised her shoulders, she still didn’t understand.
The two reached the room where the guards quickly disarmed them. One of the guards opened the door and the other nodded his head towards it while Arthur and Cathy quickly shuffled inside hearing the door slam shut behind them.
The room was huge from the inside, a big bed stood at their right side, clearly someone slept there not long ago. A few large cases stood around the room, in front of them stood a big table with the remains of a dinner and two plates.
“What do we do now?” Cathy asked.
“Now we search for the trinket” Arthur said.
Their search was fruitless until the point they heard steps outside turning around just inside to see the woman they assumed was Dian stepping inside followed by Don.
“Well, what do we have here?” Dian asked walking towards the two standing by the window. “What do you want from us?” Cathy asked, turning the attention of the two towards her.
“You should be minding your own business” Don said quickly, but he was silenced with a look from Dian.
“We didn’t do anything wrong” Cathy continued.
The door opened and Alex stumbled through.
“Well…” Dian started but stopped when a crash came from outside their window from below. “I’m sorry” Arthur mumbled “I didn’t see it”
Don & Dian hurried to the window to see a broken chest on the ground below them. “GUARDS!!!!” Dian shouted.
Standing outside the door the two guards didn’t take long. A moment later they were inside with drawn swords.
“I didn’t want to do this” Dian said, “but you shouldn’t have come here.” She turned to the guards, “Kill them.”
“My lady, they are children” one of the guards tried.
“DO YOU WANT TO BE NEXT?” Dian shouted. The guard shook his head and already took a step closer, when the door flew open.
Peter and Gwen were standing at the door, bows at hand and an arrow set aimed forward towards the guards.
“GET OUT OF HERE!” Dian kept shouting.
“Please call your guard down” Arthur requested calmly.
“ARE YOU CRAZY?” Dian’s voice seemed to be coming from all over, “DO YOU KNOW WHO MY FATHER IS?”
“I know” said a man from the doorstep, a tall thin grey haired man with a well-kept beard. “Mind I ask? What is going on?” While he was talking three guards showed up from behind.
“Sir, I’m sorry to disturb your….” Arthur started, but was cut short.
“THEY ARE AIMING ARROWS AT ME…” Dian shouted.
Arthur signaled for the two and they took a few steps into the room lowering their bows and putting the arrows in their quivers.
“Dian, please keep quiet” Lord Grey said giving her a harsh look. “Please continue lad” he turned to Arthur.
“Sir, we are trying to help find the missing trinket. Our friend here is accused of stealing” Arthur pointed to Alex who was still on the ground. “We are only trying to return it to your daughter’s position”
“Yes, it’s a pity about the maid. She was a good maid” he sighed. “Very well, where do you think it is?”
“Sir, may I say something” Gwen’s soft voice was heard from the corner of the room.
“Sir, We think it is still in the room.”
“It can’t be” Dian puffed a breath of air. “Are you calling me a liar?” She called to Gwen. “Calm down” Lord Grey turned to Arthur. “Because I like you lads, I’m willing to let the guards look for it.”
“FATHER…” Dain cried but quickly kept quiet.
“But, if the trinket is still missing the maid died and all of you will be beaten for threatening my daughter” Lord Grey finished. “Do we have a deal?”
Arthur nodded his head “Thank you sir.”
Six guards were crawling on their hands and knees a moment later and a cry of surprise rose from one of them not long after pulling the Trinket from under the bed.
“How can it be?” Dian cried, turning to Don “You said you took it with you.”
“Well, I think you all should go now” said lord Grey calmly to the four and Alex.
The group didn’t wait any longer and headed to their horses. Arthur turned back when he was on the steps. He saw Lord Grey who nodded his head with a smile towards him.
“How did you know the trinket is under the bed?” Alex asked when the group was safely in their inn heating themselves by the fireplace, waiting for a steaming cup of tea.
“I put it there” Gwen laughed. “I’ve found it in the saddle bag when we hid in the stable.” “You should be thankful you aren’t marrying Don” Merry called. “A girl like you deserves better.”
“I can’t believe he would have seen me dead only so he could marry lord Grey’s daughter” Alex sighed.
“We will get you a suitor in no time” Merry promised.
“To Alex’s wedding” Jon called and they all raised their cups, making Alex blush bright red.