Samuel didn’t eat much. He wasn’t used to putting his stomach to work, and stopped after pecking at his food. He looked across the table as Arthur, who was still eating with the energy of someone who eats for the joy of eating and hasn’t had a good meal in several hours. Samuel began pondering what his next move would be, as he often did when he was alone. He’d heard tales of grand schemes and assassinations in old stories, and tried to think of what those people would do. He definitely had an edge over those assassins and schemers though- he knew absolutely everything about his target. On top of that, he was pretty sure he couldn’t be killed until Arthur died. There was the issue that he couldn’t physically hurt or kill Arthur, but no plot’s perfect. His next move, he pondered, should probably be to find the best place where Arthur could put himself in harm’s way. With a little encouragement, of course.
Arthur had finished his meal, and slumped back in his chair, content. Samuel stood up.
“I’ll go ask for directions,” He said.
“Are you sure? You aren’t exactly the most experienced at talking to people.”
“I’ve got a name and a body, why shouldn’t I be able to ask a simple question?”
Arthur nodded. “Fair enough,” He said. “I’ll be ready to go in a few minutes.”
Samuel took a deep breath, and headed over to the bar that the owner was wiping down. He straightened up and beamed as Samuel walked over.
“Hello again!” He said, with a smile warm enough to melt a frozen lake. “Do you need another drink or to use the lavatory?”
Samuel assessed his internal organs, which had started up recently and he was still uncomfortably aware of. “I don’t think so,” He said. “I was actually wondering if you could give me directions.”
“Of course! You headed in from the direction of Glenfall, right?”
“I think so.”
“Great little village, so vibrant and full of life.”
Samuel stopped himself from saying that it was altogether too full of life and should tone it down a notch. “So,” He said, “What’s further down the road?”
“Well, if you keep heading down this road, you’ll come to a fork in a few miles. I’d recommend heading down the right.”
“Why?” Samuel asked.
“The road on the right leads to the sea in a few day’s travel. There are some lovely beaches, and you can even get a boat to some faraway land if you want.”
“What about the road on the left?”
“It leads into the forest,” The inkeep said with a knowing nod.
“And what’s so bad about the forest?” Samuel asked.
“You don’t get out much, do you?” The man said. Samuel shook his head.
“There’s rumors of wild creatures in the forest, stories of them have been around since my grandfather’s time. I’m surprised you haven’t heard anything about the Dread Beast.”
Samuel shrugged. “And this beast is really that dangerous?”
The inkeep nodded, his smile replaced with a more serious expression. “They say very few people make it through there alive, and none unharmed. The road’s gone into disrepair because merchants and travellers can’t use it anymore. On the plus side, nothing worse can get to here through the forest.”
Samuel considered the concept of what a Dread Beast might be, and possibilities of even worse and deadlier things past that. Surely he’d find something there. On the other hand, a country where Arthur knows nothing might be promising too.
“Thanks for your advice,” Samuel said. “You’ve been a great help.”
The inkeep smiled again. “No problem at all,” He said. “Anything to help out a couple of travellers like yourselves. Come to think of it, I didn’t catch your names.”
Samuel nodded in the direction of Arthur, who was heading towards them with his and Samuel’s bags. “He’s Arthur.”
“And you are?”
He swallowed his pride. “My name’s Samuel.”
“Well, you don’t hear old names like that often anymore. Nice to meet you.” The inkeep stuck out a big hand towards Samuel, who gingerly mirrored him. He grabbed Samuel’s hand and gave it a hearty shake. “You two have safe travels,” He said, smiling as they left the inn.
“That was quite a long conversation,” Arthur said as they headed down the road.
“Long and full of directions and nothing questionable at all,” said Samuel.
“I’m proud of you,” Arthur said. “You’re learning to talk to others and come out of your shell.”
Samuel gave a grunt of agreement, and they headed further down the road. In a few hours, they reached a place where the road split into two paths. The left side seemed to lead into a fairly dense forest, and the right path headed through some more fields and over a hill. There was a wooden signpost between the two, and it seemed like it had been broken years ago. The arrow pointing towards the forest had been broken off, and the right arrow read “The Cove”. Arthur turned to Samuel.
“So?” He asked. “What did the inkeep say?”
“You asked him for directions, right? What’s down each path?”
“The left one leads into a nice, cool and definitely not dangerous forest that’s easy to cross through,” Samuel lied. If he was inexperienced with conversation, he was an absolute novice at lying. He hoped Arthur didn’t notice.
“And the right one?” Arthur asked. He hadn’t seemed to notice Samuel’s barefaced lie.
“If you head down it you get sunburns, sand everywhere and foreigners,” Samuel replied. Arthur looked up at the sun beating down on them.
“I guess we’d better head into the forest then, right?”
Samuel nodded, and they both headed down the left hand path.
“I wonder why the sign was broken,” Arthur pondered.
“Kids these days and their vandalism,” Samuel remarked. Arthur seemed to consider this for a moment.
“I guess so,” he said. “Things have probably changed since I was a kid.”
“I agree,” Samuel said, thinking of the beast he was hoping to see in the forest. He looked away and spotted a crow and its reaper staring at him quizzically from a tree branch. He put a finger to his lips, and then shooed them away. Somewhere deep in a dark part of the forest, something giant stirred.