They spent the night restless, still taking the watch by turns but neither one able to sleep. Sir James felt his danger sense ping every time sleep brushed his eyes, and Wain had the constant feeling of being watched.
“Do you think the ghost followed us?” Wain asked.
“I’m sensing something a little different.” Sir James frowned, “Almost like a different flavor.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“I don’t make the rules.”
When the sun finally brightened the horizon with the first rays of morning, both of the adventurers were weary, but thankful to have lived through the night. Wain started saddling his pony.
“What’s the plan? Kill the ghost and then kill the bandits?”
“No.” Sir James said, “Let’s ride to the bandit fort and see if we can meet peacefully with them. Perhaps they know something about the ghost. Something just doesn’t seem right here. Why didn’t the ghost follow us when it seemed so eager for the kill?”
“It’s the ghost of a butthead?” Wain guessed.
“Or it was bound to that well. Think about it. Why would a ghost live in well in the middle of know where?”
“Maybe it’s the middle of no where because there is a ghost living there.”
“Maybe. Don’t start any fights with the bandits. Ok?”
“No fights?” Wain scowled, “What about a little one?”
“Ok. Fine. But if they start something, I’m going to finish it.”
Sir James nodded and finished the last checks of his saddle straps. Doubting Thomas had adopted the unpleasant habit of taking a deep breath just before the straps were pulled tight. Once he released it, the straps would become loose and the saddle would slip the moment Sir James put his foot in the stirrup. It was just one more little annoyance that he tried to suffer through with patience and grace.
They gave the well a wide berth on their way back to the road, then followed the wagon ruts south towards the bandits fort.
It wasn’t terribly far and a little before noon the palisade wall became visible, cresting the top of the highest hill by the road. From the wall a long white banner was flying, emblazoned with a black symbol. As they drew closer they saw it was a sword.
“Not shy about his profession, this John White, eh Wain?”
“Seems like a hoity toity thing to do for a bandit.”
They rode closer, pausing just before they were in range of the bowman standing over the gate. The fort was nothing special, a small palisade encircling several buildings. Smoke from the daily hearth fires hung over the roofs. There were no towers, only a few fighting platforms. The largest one was over the gate, which was little more than a heavily built piece of fence that could be dragged out of the way.
“I think we’ve conquered far stouter defenses than this.” Sir James looked at his companion, “No towers. No moat. One sentry.”
“You couldn’t keep a cow out of this place.” Wain muttered.
“State your names!” The bowman laid an arrow to his string. “What is your business here?”
“I am Sir James Flickerflame! Paladin in the service of God and His Church! I’m traveling through on the Church’s business and merely seek to re-supply.”
“Mostly true.” muttered Wain.