For hours Rad manned his post at the apothecary counter, but not one person had set foot in the shop. The chemist had left early, leaving his apprentice to man the shop. Rad slumped on the counter, waiting for the monotonous day to finally end. The city streets were empty, and Rad had seriously considered closing the shop early and going home. The sun was beginning to set, and Rad moved around the counter towards the door. At that moment, the door of the apothecary opened. A man in a black cloak entered and hurriedly closed the door behind him. The man turned and Rad stepped back in alarm. The man was tall and his hair and eyes were black. He wore a menacing scowl, which made Rad’s skin crawl.
“Where is the chemist?” The man asked, gruffly. His voice was deep and intimidating.
“H-He’s not here.” Rad managed, his voice higher than usual.
The man let out a low growl, causing Rad to back away further.
“Your name is Rad.” The man said. It was not a question.
Rad nodded, cautiously.
“You are the apprentice.” Again, the man was not asking.
Rad nodded again.
The man crossed the room in two strides and grabbed Rad by the shoulders.
“I have need of a man possessing great courage.” The man said, his dark eyes boring into Rad. “Are you such a man?”
“I-I-I…” Rad stammered.
“Here,” The man said, pushing a small roll of parchment into Rad’s hand. “The king has entrusted this message to me, but his enemies are following me.”
Rad’s heart was beating fast, but his brain seemed to be in slow mode.
“I need you to take this message to the moneylender in the lower city. His shop is in an alley near the city gates.” The man said, as if issuing orders to a soldier.
Rad stared dumbly at the man, completely bewildered.
“Do you understand?” The man said, shaking Rad violently.
Rad nodded, slowly.
“Good.” The man said, turning to go. As he reached the door he turned back. “Beware anyone wearing a red tunic, baring the crest of the black wolf.”
Then he was gone.
Rad quickly went to the door of the apothecary and looked up and down the dark street. It was empty. He closed the door and shook his head. Had that really just happened? Rad looked down at the roll of parchment in his hand. It was only four inches wide and sealed with the king’s crest. It was real, which meant the urgency of the stranger’s words must also be real.
A knock at the door drew Rad’s attention. He walked over and opened it. Three men, all in dark cloaks entered. They were all armed and looking about the shop for something. Rad’s heart began to race as he saw that under the cloaks all three of the men wore red tunics baring the crest of the black wolf.
“I am Ramond Kludge, member of the Guardians of the Citadel.” The man in front said, still looking about the shop. His voice was harsh and grisly. “A man just entered this shop and left. I demand to know where he went.”
Rad was dumbstruck and simply stared at Kludge without speaking.
“Did you hear me, boy?” Kludge asked, glaring at Rad.
When Rad still didn’t answer, Kludge advanced on him. Rad tried to back away, but he hit the counter. Kludge grabbed the front of Rad’s tunic and got in his face.
“I said, where is he?”
“I-I don’t know.” Rad whimpered.
“He was just here!” Kludge roared, grabbing Rad’s tunic with both hands. “Tell me where he went, boy!”
Rad didn’t know what to do. He wanted to run; to get away, but the man’s grip on his tunic was too strong. When Rad still didn’t answer, Kludge hurled him across the shop causing him to crash into a bookshelf. Rad was momentarily dazed, but he shook his head. Kludge was nearly on top of him, but Rad ducked his grasp. He ran for it, pushed his way through the other two men, burst through the shop door, and ran down the street as fast as his legs could move.
To Be Continued…