The White Badge of Deceit; Chapter 8

Right at midday, exactly as planned, Twitch and Sixx reached a little knoll overlooking the border crossing. Twitch dismounted, and would walk the rest of the way in to Geldenreich. He checked over his baggage, searching for any signs of anything a nosy guard might deem as illicit. Everything looked good. His bow was stowed unstrung, he had no sword of any length that could be considered illegal in Geldenreich, and he made sure that his spellbook was plainly visible. He loosened the saddle a little to give Sixx a break. Then he clasped the reins loosely in his hand and began walking, and whistling, down the road to the border.

The guards at the little outpost were quick to see the brightly clothed elf whistling down the little hill towards them. Their command center was a small stone tower with several one and two-story buildings behind it, all surrounded by a little grove of trees. Quite the idyllic hamlet here, in the middle of nothing. The flag flying from the tall flagpole atop the tower was the imperial banner of Geldenreich, a bright tricolor that was yellow, white, and yellow, with a yellow sun in the center. In the center of the sun was a white crown. The rays of the sun radiated like the points of the compass. Banners hanging down the sides of the tower indicated provincial and regional authority. The guards were professional in appearance, but this was not a very busy crossing. Most traffic from Slothjemia ran either to the north around the Grey Alps or more frequently to the west closer to the big urban centers of Geldenreich. On this end of their empire the land was more rural, and not as heavily settled. Debreken was the second largest city in this half of the empire. It was something of an anomaly here. These guards were probably based in Debreken, and rotated in shifts to keep watch here.

Twitch didn’t want any trouble with anyone out to make a name for themselves here on a mostly deserted border crossing. He put on his most cheerful, road-weary face and waved to the guards as he got closer. Two of them waved back. An excellent sign. They weren’t all professional. Without proper documentation this would have to be done on the fly. Twitch had never crossed here before so he had no earthly notion what to expect.

“Allo!” he called out as he got close. “A lovely day! So good to be home again!” He smiled as widely as he could. His linguistic skills were on full display and he was enjoying every moment. He stopped walking and waited for the guards to approach.

Three of them did, and Twitch couldn’t believe his luck at how cheerful they were to greet him. The one that appeared to be in charge motioned for the other two to give the horse and baggage a good looking over, and then he grinned at the elf.

“Allo brother elf! Where do you hail from?” He asked.

Twitch maintained eye contact but didn’t stand rigidly. He wished to convey the message that he was utterly comfortable and at ease, so he stood and stretched and wiggled about just to appear as though he was glad to be out of the saddle. “Bregendoria, sir. Small village called Eper.” He made like he was stretching his neck and took a quick glance at what the other guards were up to.

“Ah, very nice! The northwest, then.” The head guard seemed to appreciate this information. “I’ve never been there. What’s it like?” He cocked his head to one side and narrowed his gaze slightly.

Twitch stopped wriggling and stood with his legs a foot or so apart, and rested his hands on his hips. “Mountains, sir. Mountains and trees like the plains have grass and butterflies.” The elf took a deep breath. “But no clouds like this in that corner of the realm. More rain, though. Always plenty of rain.”

The guard just nodded and kept smiling. “How did you happen to be all the way down here?”

“A series of misadventures, sir. Started with a wedding in Orlister, and one thing just sort of led to another.” He could see from his peripheral vision that the one guard had finished going over Sixx and the other had done a fairly good job of rummaging through the saddlebags and bedroll. Twitch laughed as though these unspoken escapades were stuff of legendary comedy. “Ended up someplace full of men in funny tube hats, then over to Slothjemia, and now back home.”

The head guard laughed too, and asked, “What is your name, brother elf? And do you have the fee for border entry?”

Twitch replied “My name is Taimblore, sir. I probably have enough, depending on the cost.” He motioned to his belongings draped behind his saddle.

“Three gold, and seven silver, brother elf. That includes the toll for your horse, your bow, and of course you. Small surcharge for the fact you are a spellcaster is waived, seeing as you are a Geldener.” The chief guard removed his gauntlet.

Twitch pulled his small pouch from inside his doublet. “That I have, sir. That I have!” He carefully counted out the coins into the guard’s hand. He also included three coppers. “The extra is for you good sirs. Perhaps a beer when you return to home.” He smiled again.

“Very gracious, Taimblore. A very kind gesture, and we thank you.” The guard snapped his heels and bowed slightly. He then pointed down the road further into Geldenreich. “The village of Hessra is just down the way. You should be able to reach it by nightfall.” He looked at Twitch. “Have a good journey. And welcome home.”

Twitch nodded to all of them and waved as he swung back into his saddle. He let Sixx walk for a while and once the border crossing was well behind him on the horizon he gave Sixx a nudge with his heels. The horse began trotting and Twitch allowed himself to laugh. So far, so good.

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