“Your limbs grow weary, and the inn’s still far. Rest here. No need to punish your faithful and pleading flesh. Rest a moment, only a moment, and then proceed with new vigor and greater speed.”
“Foul specter, hush, quiet your insinuations and temptations. The inn’s fifteen easy minutes on a good road, and dusk stirs; the sun lowers, and your kind will be about soon. Still, still, it’s too soon to vacate your gloomy tomb.”
“Tired and weak limbs, sore and battered feet, aged knees, and eyes dimmed by time and darkness – a recipe for a bruised or broken foot or twisted or sprained ankle or worse. At least slow your pace, watch your step, and scout the road with care.”
“Pap! Such deception, such shameless and relentless skullduggery. Your only concern’s your taste for blood, your desire to destroy and corrupt, and your insatiable greed. Every step carries me further beyond your reach.”
“I do care. I care more than a master who would have a loyal and aged servant out at this dangerous time in this notorious place. Even the rocks in the road care more for each other than a master like that cares for you.”
“Ha, and bah. You know nothing of it. I pled for this task and implored my master to allow me to conduct this most important business. He did not send me; I usurped this mission. Get thee back into the grave. Your time is not yet.”
“Of course, you did. Your master selected a younger, sturdier, perhaps more comely servant for a “most important mission.” Set you aside to molder. Placed you on the shelf to audition your replacement. I have heard it all before. I have had many masters.”
“Fool, blind, dead fool! Some things are beyond your ken. Loyalty, love, and friendship are well beyond your compass. Fie, on thee. Ahh, now on the next hill I see the inn. Set your greedy eye elsewhere.”
“Of course, noble companion. Masters are well known for loyalty, love, and friendship. That must be a rule of nature. You, servants, are duty bound to serenade masters with this hymn. It need be the most popular tune of the day. Sing me that sweet melody now for my sallow ears have never had the ringing pleasure of that song.”
“Minutes three of four and I will be at the inn door. I will bid you ado before I step in. Your company has been most unwelcome. I leave you to your taunting and evil pursuits.”
“Walk carefully. One may trip and fall even on the doorstep of safety. And as a gift of dismissal, a goodbye kiss, could you hint at the nature of this perilous mission that you are compelled to complete?”
“No. You have lost this race. Be away with your deceit. The message I deliver is of no interest to your kind. Be gone.”
“And I shall away, but were I you, I would wonder what message to the master’s son is so urgent to be delivered so late in the evening when the same offspring will be at the master’s grand Harvest Ball tomorrow. It makes one curious. May you sleep well and tomorrow bask in the goodness of your master’s bright light. Adieu and goodnight.”
Now, how did it know about the master’s son and his whereabouts and itinerary? Let me pause and dust off my livery, wipe my face, and set my cap. I need to make a proper entry. I do represent the master.
And I need to check the message. Humph, I have sweated open the envelope. Well, none the matter. My master will understand… still, it’s unsealed… a quick peek. What harm that after thirty years one look, what harm in that?
“Dearest Son, if the old fool makes it to you, I owe you ten gold coins, and we can make sport again soon.
Your loving father.”
It is my darkest moment in a long life of labor. I weep.
The night creature finds me sitting, waiting on the doorstep of the inn. It comes not as a raging monster, but as a handsome young gentleman dressed in quality and taste. I’m thankful for that consideration.
We speak briefly of matters of mutual importance. He reseals my envelope and departs with a tip of his hat.
Once, they finally gain the courage to open the inn door and snatch me inside, my survival is cause for general celebration.
My master’s son leads the tavern party.
It foreshadows the master’s Harvest Celebration tomorrow night, but on a much smaller and far more provincial scale. I have taken the liberty to invite several additional guests to that grand gathering to add a bit of unforgettable color and excitement to the evening. I too will have my sport with the loving father and son.