With Honor, part 3

With Honor

by Leigh Townsend

Part 3

Matthew shared a quick glance with the two scouts who accompanied him as they entered the village of Klais. These two were part of the troop that had been stationed here for months, and even though they were on foot he appreciated their presence.  They were familiar with the people of the village, and would be able to spot if someone was behaving oddly. 

Klais was situated on the very edge of the foothills of the northern mountains.  It had taken another day and a half after the fire for the troop to reach the spot where the rest of their company was bivouacked; Klais was the closest community to their encampment.  Although they were in their own country, bandits had been known to hide in a village in order to harass the troops.  The villagers usually cooperated with the brigands only when threatened; if someone was acting strangely it could be an indicator that there were bandits in town.

Today there was no sign of trouble.  The people who the soldiers passed gave them only a cursory glance before continuing about their business.  As he rode through the village, Matthew noticed that most of the homes they passed were well-built; it seemed nearly all of them were a single story with a thatched roof.  One larger building stood out in the center of town, a sturdy, two-story structure with wooden shingles in place of thatch.  This was the village inn; the first floor was a tavern and the second would have a room or two to let.   As in many small towns, the tavern also served as the primary meeting place for the locals.  It would be an excellent place for Matthew to start.

With the ability to read as well as basic arithmetic skills, Matthew was often called upon to act in the stead of the company’s quartermaster.  The army brought a majority of their supplies with them, but it was always worth an attempt to secure a local supply of fresh food items when they were available.  Today Matthew was in search of a possible source for several items, including fresh produce, milk, and eggs.  The two scouts with him were going to stay at the inn, ostensibly to relax and play dice but also to attempt to gather more information on the bandits.

Matthew tethered his gelding outside the inn and started talking with the locals.  Sergeant Lewis had found that people were more inclined to talk if you were at their level, rather than staring them down from the back of a horse.  Within just a few conversations, he discovered that produce might be a bit difficult to come by due to some minor bad luck with weather earlier in the season.  He had no trouble securing two providers of milk; not enough for the whole company to drink, of course, but plenty for their cook to use it in his recipes. 

It only took a few more questions before he got an answer about the eggs.  “Go see old man White on the edge of town.  His wife Sarah’s got a fondness for chickens; always trying to find someone to take eggs of his hands.”

With a grateful response, Matthew saddled up, left the scouts in the inn, and headed in the direction of the White’s farm.

*** 

When he rode up to the little farm, Matthew knew he was in the right place.  The garden in front of the house was full of clucking and strutting chickens.  He dismounted and tied his horse to a sturdy fence post.  A path led through the garden and up to the house; although the family was likely working the fields he hoped someone would be home at this time of day.

After knocking, Matthew gave the property a quick scan out of habit.  He turned back toward the door just as it opened.  A young woman near his age stood in the door, her eyes slightly downcast.  “May I help you?” she asked.

Nodding, Matthew replied, “Perhaps.  I am looking for Farmer White.  Do I have the right farm?”

Until she smiled up at him, Matthew hadn’t really noticed the girl.  She looked similar to every other farmer’s daughter he had encountered.  At the question she met his eyes and gave a small grin; the intense green color of her gaze gave him pause.  Her words broke the moment, though, when she answered.  “That’s my father.  He’ll likely be in the barn about this time; you can go on back and find him.”

“Thank you,” Matthew said, and found the small path that led around the house to the small barn.  Farmer White was busy milking the cow, although he looked up when Sergeant Lewis entered.  “What can I do for you soldier?” he asked, and the two began a spirited discussion of eggs.

A short while later, Matthew swung back into his saddle and rode back toward the town.  Pleased with securing a source for fresh eggs along with the milk providers, he gathered up the two scouts and the three returned to their encampment.

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