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The HunterThe Retinue

The inn does not look very well-kept, but it is the first one that they have seen for miles. After spending days on the road, even the retinue that prides themselves on being tireless and relentless has to come to a stop. The wheels on the largest carriage squeal in the mud as it halts, and the door flies open on tight hinges as a tall figure emerges. He is swathed in rich fabric and thick, expensive leather. His wide-brimmed hat keeps the drizzling rain out of his eyes while also serving to conceal most of his features. 

 

“We will rest here for the night,” Antoine’s cultured voice rumbles with authority, and his men heel like trained hounds at his words. “Gather your bearings and meet me inside.” 

Bastien, the one who rode with him, grabs the brim of his hat and inclines his head. “I will pass along the word,” he says. 

Antoine closes the distance between him and the front door quickly. There is light coming from underneath the sill, so he knows that someone is still awake. When he walks in, his harrowing gaze immediately pins the innkeeper behind the counter. When he walks up, he peels off his traveling gloves, enough to show the heavy status ring from the Order on his hand. 

“We need rooms for the night,” he says, without mincing words or making a sweet introduction. “I will require one of my own, and I have five men who are with me. Two rooms between them should be enough. I have hounds and horses for your stables as well.” 

The innkeeper looks visibly shaken. “If my lord will grant me a moment, I will see what we have available.” 

“Money is no object,” his lip curls in disdain, “and it is not up for negotiation. If there are occupants, throw them out. I am not asking, and I am not in a charitable mood.” 

The innkeeper swallows. “I am sure my lord has traveled very far,” she says.

“Farther than you can imagine. The lands I have traveled may seem like a dream to someone like you. I imagine that borders only exist in your imagination, as I am doubtful you even have reason to go to the outskirts of town.” He rests his hand on the bar. “I am hunting for a relic. Do you know what that word means?”

The innkeeper does not answer him at first, weaving her fingers together worriedly as she glances out the window. “Will your men be joining you?” She asks.

“Yes, they will. The men in my retinue are well paid, but they are tired, they are hungry – and they will not be kind to you if they are denied a bed.” Antoine says. “You would do well, in fact, to mark their name because you will hear of their deeds in this land soon enough.” He straightens.

 

It does not seem, for a moment, like the innkeeper can bear to tear her eyes away. “I have never seen men like that in these parts.”

“Nor will you, ever again. Allow me to show you.” There is a ghost of a nasty smirk on the Hunter’s face as he reaches out and takes hold of the innkeeper’s arm, tightening his finger around it with the strength of a steel band as he pulls her to closer to the window. “Look out there. I will tell you first, that is Halvdan. He has arms that are thicker than your waist. He carries a cannon big enough to use your head as ammunition. I keep him with me because he can blow holes into the sides of buildings. The things he can do with some putty and a wick will blow your mind.” He amuses himself with his own play on words, but does not let that hinder the rest of his speech. “Merrick is the one next to him. He has hunted down more beasts than you have teeth. He has trophies of pelts, fangs, and claws that could make a merchant’s eyes roll out of his head. That one,” he jabs his fingers against the glass, “is Cezary. If you cross him, in particular, he will set this entire establishment ablaze without hesitation. I would not even mind leaving him behind to burn with it. He would probably enjoy it – of them all, he is probably the most mad.” He swings his hand around, smearing his fingertip across the glass. “That one is Dorijan. He would break your neck for an extra copper. In fact, he would sell out his own mother for an extra pint down the street, so do not take it too personally. And there we have Bastien…” his smile widens a little. “He would set my hounds on you until there is nothing left. He is loyal to the bone, that one, loyal to me above all. If I give a command, Bastien will obey without hesitation.” He pulls his hand away from the window at last and turns to face her. “Now, you know. Now, you will know their faces when you hear their names and the tales of their deeds being told in the dark corners of every inn and tavern. All that will come in good time, but for tonight, we need rooms. And we will be requiring supper as well.”

The innkeeper’s face flushes with panic as Antoine pulls back. “Forgive me, my lord. You shall have it right away.”