A few days later, the sea-sick paladin and his barbarian compatriot staggered off of the ship that brought them to the continent. They had put ashore in Sisal, a seaside town that was beginning to look more and more familiar. They collected provisions for their trip and set out along the Dunn trade road.
It was only a few days ride, and soon the land about them began to grow dry and arid. The wide sweeping coastal plains began to rise and roll. Midday on the third day the road carried them through a gap in a line of low hills.
“Well, according to this map, this is the boundary line of County Dunn.” Sir James rolled the parchment and tucked it back under his cloak. The weather was cool and crisp and the air lacked the dampness that prevailed in the islands.
“Sentries, on that hill.” Wain looked to the southern peak.
“So White will know of our arrival. Betternot claims his fort is in the south of the county, a full days ride from here. Would he keep a company of men at this end?” Sir James peered at the hill as he urged Doubting Thomas, his shaggy pony, onwards, “I don’t see any sentries.”
“You were looking at the paper. They ducked below the ridgeline. Two of them.”
“There is a well deeper inside the county. We’ll camp there and figure out our plan.”
“They might attack us there.”
“God will look after us.” Sir James brushed aside the concern.
“I hope they attack us.” Wain grunted, “Planning gives me a headache.”
They rode the rest of the afternoon, but saw no sign of further sentries or brigands for that matter. Apparently White was good at discouraging other bandits from poaching on his territory. As the sun began to reach the horizon ahead of them, bathing the hills in red light and deep shadows, they reached the well marked on the map.
It was a simple square built of rough stone. A wooden frame supported the decaying roof and a rope hung down, presumably attached to a bucket for drawing the water. Someone had rammed a spear into the earth between the road and the well and mounted a skull on top of it. In addition to the ominous atmosphere created by the warning, Sir James felt his danger sense alerting him. Something was not right here.
“Cheery place.” Wain chuckled, “Reminds me of home.”
“Do you suppose the water is poisoned?”
“Maybe I won’t drink from it.”
“There is definitely something wrong. Let’s camp on the other side of the road.”
“Oh, did the wee skull scare the brave paladin?”
“It’s a trifle unsettling. But there’s something else. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something is evil about this well.”
“Uh huh.” Wain shrugged. James was always having nervous feelings about places, especially once they started forth on an adventure.
“Whatever you say. I’m going to get a fire going before we lose the last sunlight.”