--Chapter Six: Diamo’s Return

For the next two days, Isa was in such high spirits, she completely forgot about Nidric and the war. When Diamo walked into the tavern at noon, she was almost confused as to why he should look so serious.

“Greetings, Isa. Thank you for sending Cerie immediately. I have more news of how the situation is developing. Uh...” He looked around. The tavern was empty, since most travelers would not come to the tavern until evening. “I take it we are alone?”

“Yes,” Isa answered.

“Hm. Well, the rest of the people who live in your town should probably hear this as well. I’ll have to trust you with spreading the word to whomever it concerns. But keep it away from travelers’ ears, since you may not know exactly who is listening.”

“Come have a seat, will you?” It was just beginning to sink into Isa’s mind that this might be a good time to stop feeling so giddy and start being more attentive.

Diamo sat in a barstool and said, “We’ve learned more from the fairies. Here is where things stand:

“Desdon reconnaissance is, as you’ve noticed, picking up. They are now determined to come to this village and cut off all land trade to Incria, but this will not be easy for them. Spies are quick, but it takes a large effort to mobilize an entire infantry to a certain location—especially if the plan is to keep that infantry’s movement a secret. It is unclear whether or not Incria has noticed Desdon’s interest in the heartland trade routes. On the one hand, Incria’s forces show no sign of moving in the same direction. On the other hand, Desdon is being so obvious about its plan, in spite of itself. One cannot just move that many soldiers and not have the other side notice.

“The good news in all of this is that it will take a few fortnights for them to get here, assuming they keep their current pace. For our part, we woodlanders are keeping check of all this movement. If need be, we will do everything in our power to stop either army from going this far west.”

Isa was still smiling, if only a little.

“So what are we supposed to do here in The Windmill Road? Just sit and wait for things to develop?”

Diamo nodded. “I see your point. Yes, I’m sorry to say, there’s not much you can do right now. I thought you should be aware of it all, though.”

Isa sighed. She knew Diamo was right, but still, it bothered her that such events should ever even come close to her peaceful town. In a way, she wished Diamo hadn’t made her “aware of it all.” But that wishful thinking would get her nowhere in the end...

Later that night, after Diamo had left, more travelers came to gather and share stories. There was no minstrel this time; Isa was worried that within days, every minstrel in Aren Country would be warned to stay away from this tavern because the competition was too fierce.

One young man in chain mail sat at the bar and ordered himself a pint of brew. When Isa first looked at him, she shrugged him off as yet another dragon slayer. When she handed him his drink, she asked what brought him here. She expected a rant about swords and prophecies... Instead, though, she learned this:

“My family in the north sent for me. Their town has been under siege, and Incria’s army needs recruits. So I’m headed to the battle to help my hometown.”

Upon hearing this answer, Isa looked the man over more closely. He was tall, blond, and very attractive, yet he did not speak as though he had intelligence equivalent to that of an eggplant. There had to be a catch...

He went on. “I left my family only a few years ago. It’s sort of a custom that boys should go out on their own and seek adventure or join the army at age sixteen. I chose adventure. I wanted to see it all: the fabled woodlands, the dusty plains... For three years I roamed this land, and I’ve been through this town many times before, though you may not remember me, what with all the people you must see every day.”

Isa did not remember him. She realized that this man was telling her far more information than she had asked. This was usually only the case with people who had gone far too long without anyone to speak to... Most of these talkative cases were actually introverts—sensitive people who had kept all their feelings to themselves before this moment.

Isa had other customers to tend to, but she wanted to hear this man out. He was already gorgeous, smart, and sensitive... There really had to be a catch. Homosexual, maybe?

He continued talking, since Isa would not interrupt him.

“I’ve seen all there is to see, basically, and I find it all fascinating. I guess all that was left for me was to find a nice girl and settle down somewhere...”

Not homosexual. Must be lying about something. Maybe he was trying to trick her... talking smoothly just to take advantage of her.

“...But then two days ago, I got word that several villages in the area of Incria were under attack. One of these was my own. Now I have to head back. I’m sorry I ever left my family like that... I hope I arrive before it’s too late.”

Here it comes, thought Isa. He’ll try to make his move...

The man finished his ale and stood. “I have to be traveling all night. Here’s for the drink...” He put his coins on the bar. “Goodbye.”

Isa stood stunned for half a second. “Goodbye?” she thought. What kind of move is that? Then something in her snapped, though she could not tell what it was.

“Excuse me, sir?” she called to him as he had turned his back.

“Yes?” he said over his shoulder. His demeanor really was that of a man in a hurry. “May I ask, what is your name?”

“Asmir. Asmir of Peadston.”

“I’m Isa.”

“Uh, nice to meet you, Isa. But I have to be going.” He made a motion as if to tip his hat, but because he had no hat, this was pointless. Then he turned and strode out of the tavern.

Isa went back to serving customers, but it was a long while before she could get Asmir’s image out of her mind. If that man were telling the truth...

Well, it’s best not to think about it, she concluded. If he’s going to war, he might die anyway. Then what would be the point in getting interested in him?

For some reason, this last thought hit hard on her heart. What hit hard on her brain was the inability to explain why that was. Most of all, she could not help but feel that she just missed some sort of opportunity... one she could not even prove existed in the first place.