It had been a whole day since Arthur had left home, and he was having the time of his life. He'd visited new places, met new people, even gone camping. He had to admit, Samuel was right about this whole “seeing the world” thing. The only thing that concerned Arthur was Samuel himself. He seemed somewhat sullen and had taken to slouching and glaring at every animal they passed. Or right beside them, at least. He'd heard Samuel mutter “What're you looking at?” to a squirrel. Arthur figured it'd be rude to ask what was wrong. After all, they'd only properly met yesterday.
I've got to figure out what's the matter on my own, Arthur mused. It'll do him no good to mope around and miss all the wonderful things to see on our trip. But what could it be? Was he expecting something from me yesterday or something? That must be it. Was there anything special yesterday? We first met yesterday, we had a meal, we went camping. It was my birthday. His birthday. Oh.
Arthur wondered what proper gift etiquette would be for a not-exactly-alive reaper of souls that tried to kill you one time. A bottle of wine of fancy food would probably come across strange, considering the man was still getting used to the whole 'eating' thing. In fact, most material possessions would probably not be very appreciated. Samuel seemed like sort of a spiritual man, Arthur thought. On top of that, how do you shop for someone that physically can't go too far away from you? This whole thing was getting more and more complicated. All right, calm down. Start with the basics. What does he like? He wanted to travel, there's a start. Maybe he'd like some maps or a compass to use? Maybe we could go somewhere scenic. He seemed excited yesterday in the forest, maybe he'd like a good hike. I'll have to ask about maps and nearby mountains next time we meet people. When Samuel isn't paying attention, of course. Can't ruin the surprise.
As Arthur planned the perfect belated birthday surprise in his head, Samuel had very different things floating around in his head. So much for that stupid Dread Beast thing, he thought. Why are people afraid of that cowardly dummy anyways? And here I thought I'd finally be done with this nonsense. I guess he won't go out so easily. More's the pity. No matter, I'll just find someone to do him in when we get to the next god-forsaken town filled with smiling dopes and idiots. Some petty lowlife should have no qualms about offing some old fart who's new in town. I just have to get to some seedy tavern or back alley and get talking. When that idiot Arthur isn't paying attention, of course. Wouldn't want to ruin the surprise.
As they both planned and plotted in silence, they came around a turn in the road and saw a town in the next valley. They had found what they were looking for. Samuel perked up and walked a little higher, while Arthur hummed quietly to himself. As they walked onward towards the buildings and wisps of chimney smoke, they both stole a glance at each other, missing each other by just a moment. They don't suspect a thing, they both thought to themselves.
The town of Stillhaven was not expecting travellers, especially not from the direction of the forest. The guard that was dozing off near the south gate was startled by the appearance of these two strangers who looked like they'd never fought a day in their lives and eyed them over, but eventually let them in.
“There's a bonafide hero coming into town, so don't go around causin' trouble for no one,” The guard muttered to them as he opened the gate.
“A hero?” Arthur asked. “What's he like?”
“There's only one hero left in these lands who's deservin' of the title, and if you don't know him you're mighty strange folk.”
Arthur opened his mouth to inquire further, but was stopped by the spectacle of Samuel attempting to discreetly nudge him in the ribs, then missing and turning with the elbow until he tripped on his own leg and toppled over. “Are you alright?” Arthur said instead.
“Never better,” Grumbled Samuel. Still can't hit him, he thought. Why am I surprised?
“I dunno where exactly y'all came from or how you've both managed to survive, but you'd better get in town before someone trips over a bear or somethin'.”
Stillhaven was quite different compared to Arthur's hometown of Glenfall. It was surrounded by walls, for one. It may not have been large but it felt bigger, taller. The buildings were packed closer together, too. Very few people really seemed to have plots or fields near their house. Samuel was pleasantly surprised by the change in scenery, and Arthur was a little dissapointed that the town wasn't as breathtaking as he'd hoped it would be. It had a bustling charm to it, but nothing special. The hero might be worth seeing, though.
“I'll pop in there for a moment,” Samuel said, gesturing to the inn across the street. “My guts are feeling weird.”
“Oh, that'll happen sometimes,” Said Arthur, thankful for the perfect opportunity to split up and go shopping. “Do you want to meet up later? We can look around the town in the meantime.”
“Sure,” Samuel said as he congratulated himself on being such a cunning and skilful liar. “You can go meet your hero person I'm sure you're dying to meet and I can further explore my bodily functions in private.”
Samuel strolled off to the inn as Arthur continued to wander through the town, taking in everything with a polite curiosity. He rounded the corner and spotted a shop. Through the window, he could see books, calligraphy tools and a shelf with scrolls in it. Perfect. There had to be a map somewhere inside. A bell chimed as he opened the door, making the young man at the front desk look up from his tome.
“Can I help you?” The man said, turning back to his book.
“I'm looking for a good map of the area,” Arthur said. “As a belated gift for a friend.”
The man raised an eyebrow, and shut his book. “Maps are rare around these parts, no one's make any for at least a hundred years. I might know of a place where you can find one, though.”
“Would there be interesting things to see on the way there?”
“You could say that, but it may be a bit too dangerous for you and your friend given your age.”
“Oh, my friend won't mind danger one bit. Where is this place?”
The young man sighed. “Your funeral. There's some ruins about a day's ride east from here, no one really remembers what they used to be. Maybe there's a map somewhere down there from times past.”
“Sounds interesting, I'll definitely check it out. Thanks for the tip,” Arthur said as he turned to leave.
“One last thing,” The shopkeep called out after him. “If you find anything of interest in there, let me give it a look for you.”
“Sure thing,” Arthur replied. “Have a lovely day!”
As Arthur headed back through the town square, He noticed a commotion in the middle of it. In the center of the townspeople was a man astride a white horse. His armour was scratched, scorched and dented but he looked charming nonetheless. Arthur couldn't quite catch what he was saying but he smiled and spoke calmly to the people, who all seemed to be overjoyed at his arrival.
A bonafide hero, huh, thought Arthur. He must lead quite an interesting life. Perhaps if I see him again and he looks less busy I'll ask him to tell me and Samuel about his adventures. Now that would be interesting.
Arthur sat down on an old bench at the edge of the square and watched the scene play out. The hero shook hands, patted heads, even let the children hold his sword for a moment. To Arthur, he seemed like everything a hero should be- brave, charming, kind. He decided that even though he missed his opportunity to be a knight or hero earlier in life, if the time came where someone needed him he'd try his best to help them out. It's the least he could do.
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