Miles was just stepping out of the inn, when he saw the horse trot down the street. Castor was walking by, and she quickly hurried past it and around the side of a building. Miles walked down to street, stepping out of the way of riders and busy townsfolk, making his way to the horse.
"That looks like Kalan’s father’s horse. I thought Kalan just left town on it not too long ago?" he spoke to himself.
Miles stopped dead in his tracks. Castor!
Mister Greene (Kalan’s father) stepped out of the stable where the horse now pranced back and forth nervously, riderless. The saddle looked slightly tilted, like it had been jerked at. Miles ran up to the skittish horse.
“Where’s Kalan?” Mister Greene said, running a massive hand through his unruly hair. “Where’s my son?” he asked, turning on Miles.
“I don’t know sir?” Miles said, stepping back a pace or two. “I haven’t seen him since he rode out of the village!”
Greene grabbed the horses reins and patted its side till it calmed down, all the why getting more agitated. “Where’s my son!”
Miles shifted his feet. “I . . . I don’t know sir.”
“Well call th’marshall!” Greene roared.
Miles mumbled something quickly and hurried farther down the dusty street, heading for the biggest building in the small village. It was pointy-roofed with red shingles and shutters. Miles stepped up the big stone steps and pulled open the double doors. "What did you do Castor?" he mumbled.
Light poured in from two open windows, and splashed around, soaking everything in the golden warmth. In the center of the fifteen-by-twenty foot room sat a desk, at which was Marshall Deston. Behind him were two cells, both empty, save for the bucket and cot in each.
Deston looked up as Miles entered. As the doors clanged shut he stood. He stuck out a big hand. Miles took it.
“Hello Miles, what can I do for you?” he asked.
“I’m afraid the blacksmith apprentice, Kalan, has gone missing, Marshall. He left not an hour ago, and his horse returned by itself. Mister Greene is very upset.”
“Which way was he headed?”
Miles shrugged. “I don’t know Marshall. He left on the main road, but of course he could have taken plenty of side trails to get wherever he was going. Mister Greene would know.”
Deston reacted quickly, grabbing his cone-shaped helmet on his desk, and leading Miles out the door. They quickly reached the stable where Mister Greene was already mounted on his horse, which had finally settled, and stood still. Beside him stood another horse, an ebony black mare owned by the marshall, saddled and bridled, ready to ride.
“Marshall Deston, I be needin’ yer help. My son is gone missin’. I’d go after him m’self, but I figured that if he’s been ‘ttacked, I might need someone else to help me.” Mister Greene said.
Deston nodded. “Of course. A wise decision. I’ll call two of my guards to come with us.”
Miles stepped forward. “Could I come along? I’d like to see if Kalan is alright.”
Mister Greene looked at him from his heightened position, and Miles felt awkward, and just a little bit intimidated. But thankfully Mister Greene responded quickly. “It’s fine with me, long as the Marshall’s fine with it.”
“Well there could be danger ahead Miles. Are you sure you want to?”
There probably isn’t. If Castor has anything to do with it. “Yes, Marshall, I do.”
“Then get your horse and let’s move out.”
“I don’t have a horse Marshall, but I can run alongside.” Miles said.
Deston quickly rounded up two guards, clad in leather armor, cone-shaped leather helmets, and red-and-white tunics with a black stallion, the coat-of-arms of the village, on them. Miles stood to one side as they spurred their horses forward. He then began to jog, easily keeping up with the pace.
He had been running since he was eight, and now could go for several miles at a good speed. He stayed about twenty feet behind the horses, that way the dust had some time to settle down before he ran through.
He had to admit that keeping up with horses was harder than just jogging at his normal pace, but he was conditioned. Running involves techniques, just like other things do, and he had had seven years of practicing. A lot of it involved breathing. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Deep breaths. Keep calm. Stay in sync.
He hurried down the path, thankful for the trees the shaded it from the direct blaze of the sun. Even so, within ten minutes he had worked up a sweat that soaked through his clothes. He would have liked to change into his pair of clothes he had for running and working out, but this could be an emergency, and he didn’t want to lose valuable time.
The riders slowly pulled farther ahead of Miles, as two miles dragged into a third. They reached a fork and pulled up to a stop. He quickly made up the distance. When he reached them he slowed down to a walk, and breathed in deeply. His chest wasn’t burning, but he definitely could use the breather.
He took long breaths, filling his lungs with air. He wiped his forehead, and listened as the Marshall spoke.
“Which way would he have gone from here, Mister Greene?”
Mister Greene pointed to the left fork. “That’s the way to the McTacosh farm.”
The party of four turned, and once again spurred their horses. Miles followed again. His mind was racing over the possibilities. He liked to talk things out to himself, but that would make running mroe difficult. Kalan could have been attacked by thugs, but why did Castor run into town just a few minutes before the horse did? Why did she run away when she saw it, as well? But she said she was doing laundry. Could I be over-thinking this? But if Castor didn’t do something, then someone else did!
And if someone else did, that very likely meant bad things for Kalan. Miles picked up his pace, ignoring the small cramp that was sliding into his ribcage. He was getting panicky he realized, and wasn’t breathing efficiently for running. He came to a stop and gathered himself. After a one-minute breather he resumed, this time at a pace that he could keep up with, and soon he saw the Marshall, the two guards, and Mister Greene up ahead.
They were reining to a halt. Miles didn’t see a fork up ahead, which meant that they must have encountered something, or someone. He put some extra energy into his effort and reached them within twenty seconds.
Everyone was dismounting. He pushed past the guards to the front of the group, ignoring the need to take a moment to regain his breathe. There, in the middle of the road, swaying like a reed in a storm, stumbled Kalan. Tears streamed down his face, which was smeared with dirt, his shirt and pants were torn, and his right arm looked twisted at an awkward angle.
Miles gulped in fresh air. "What happened to him?"