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Barn cleared the short field on the west end of town and paused long enough to give three loud, sharp whistles before walking on. The children playing in the field instantly hushed, hiding from the massive stranger by laying low in the tall grass. Barn’s easy walk took him swiftly past. He still had an hour or two before sundown and with luck he could cover half a dozen miles before stopping to camp.

The further out of town the better, Barn mused. With Duke Lachorn’s men only a few days east of here and royal troops drawing down to meet them, this whole area would be trampled flat within the week, no matter what assurances the royal army had given the townspeople.

Almost a half hour outside of town, the big dog Barn had whistled for bounded into view carrying the remains of a rabbit. Barn smiled softly at the massive dog. The wolf-hound was nearly as big as the donkey and they’d worked together for several years. Barn had once sat holding a mug of cider while watching the dog take apart a group of armed soldiers.

The dog shuffled over to the immediately nervous donkey and huffed strongly, sniffing heavily at the pack saddle before turning to give Barn a questioning glance. The big man laughed, swinging the bundle from the inn off his shoulder and reaching into the bag of scraps. His thick fingers grabbed the first bone he found and tossed it sideways. The lamb shank didn’t make it to the ground. The big dog dove, nimbly snatching the bone from the air before it hit dirt. Barn smiled, reaching to scratch the massive hound behind the ears. “That’s for that archer I didn’t see.”

They stopped an hour later, turning uphill from the road and settling into a grassy depression. Barn took the saddle off the donkey without bothering to hobble or tether it. He didn’t own any horse hobbles anyway. The donkey wasn’t part of his normal gear. He’d raided it from Spider’s hideout to carry some loot and, of course, Spider himself. If it was there in the morning it would get put back to use, but Barn didn’t own animals. He considered them as free as himself. If the donkey, or the dog for that matter, wanted to wander, Barn wasn’t going to stop them.

Barn snugged into the thick grass of the hollow, watching the land around him grow dark. The hills below him on the other side of the road had been cleared below him at some point in the past to make room for a farmer’s field that was no longer there. The scrub brush bristling along the edge of the cart path looked at least a few years old. Barn eyed the road with the last of the light. He was at least a week away from the nearest royal treasury station, but it would be an easy walk. The bandits and highwaymen that usually followed an army wouldn’t be out on the road for another few days, and they usually left Barn alone anyway.

Barn sighed, shoving a wadded pack under his head for a pillow. He would’ve actually liked to sleep in town, but the beds were never big enough. He shrugged mentally, it didn’t matter. It was a warm summer night and anyone out to kill him would probably wait till morning.

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