Bards tell tales on knights and ladies, kings and queens, farmers, blacksmiths, and goose girls as if their lives were full of grand adventures. Very rarely is it like that. Normal geese to not lay golden eggs; smiths very rarely have the chance to forge a sword for a passing knight let alone a prince; farmers do not often find treasure buried in their fields; royal life is not made up of fancy garments and balls, but rather solving the problems of the people and dodging interfering politicians; should a knight have the misfortune of falling in love with his lady, he’d sooner put the noose around his own neck then let his affection be known; and very, very rarely does any soldier return from any battle unscathed. Stories are stories for a reason and, generally speaking, a person is far better off being content with the mundane. The rain clouds gathered over ReValya promising more than the current light drizzle that was keeping the valley kingdom fresh and green. There was a coolness to the air that, if one let it, could cut clean through a good wool cloak and chill to the bone. The addition of being in full armor certainly didn’t help that problem. The metal carried the cold. Hoof beats crunched the loose gravel and the saddle creaked as the lone traveler shifted his position atop the buckskin gelding. Gloved fingers tightened on the reigns and then spread again to chase the stiffness from the joints. Sir. Nicoli de’Arbolshire was a fast rider, but even the fastest riders in the kingdom knew better than to gallop all the way across the country. Walk and trot, walk and trot. That was the way. It helped both horse and rider stay fresh, especially when there was no pressing reason to risk the life of the horse. He valued his horse, almost as much as he valued his friends. Not for the first time he wished he had some company on this ride. Three of them had set out from the royal city, now only one could return with any speed. Sir. Tristen had taken a crossbow bolt through the shoulder, now he was in the hands of a healer a day’s ride behind. One of the other two was to be sent on alone. Sir. Greagor had drawn the long straw and stayed behind to see to it the other knight made it back in one piece. The long straw rested, short straw rode ahead. Had the news Nicoli was to deliver been good, it would have been the other way around. The bandits they had been chasing had escaped, vanished into the Mist Wood. He hated being the barer of bad news. The road crested the rise and then dipped down again, dropping into the grassy sea of a long meadow and the river’s ford after it. Not long now. Not long at all until he reached the city a few hours, maybe, if he kept his current pace. Yet as he approached the waters of the river something caught his eye. A woman he thought, but this was a strange place for a person to be resting considering the current weather and the promise of an approaching storm. He dismounted as he drew nearer to her, staggering slightly when his feet hit the ground. It would seem that his fingers weren’t the only things that were stiff. "Forgive my intrusion, madam, but do you require any assistance?"