For Bazhur Khan; nomad, hunter, exile and outlander; the name ‘Neverwinter’ had a ring of irony to it. After all, in the cold desolation of the northlands, when was it ever anything but winter? But a mere thousand yards from the city walls, the snow-covered ground gave way to brown and blackened grass, dry rooftops and still-growing wildflowers. A miracle… the Calishite mused. One of many recently.
Another miracle he recently experienced was the near-disappearance of the elf in the stables. The quiet and calm of the village giving way to the rush of frightened horses, and the shouts of the party’s newest companion.
A wound upon his shoulder… feet that never so much as scraped the earth within the stables; neither those belonging to the human or the elf. Tracks led from one moment of calm to the next. There was no fight; there was no struggle. The pattern of blood on the ground was not such that the cut could have been made in anger.
Bazhur had been tracking men since the age of seven, when his grandfather took him along to find a pair of horse-thieves. They had stolen a fine young mare from the Emir’s stables, and Ummrah Khan was ordered to retrieve her. Young Bazhur watched as the old man put horse-dung to his tongue, pronouncing the age of it to the hour. He sat and marvelled as his grandfather’s eyes – creased and milky with age – deciphered the puzzle of criscrossing tracks as the thieves took to the roads. He watched in awe as his grandfather explained the meaning of a track’s depth; its breadth; the reasons the earth was thrown this way or that. The proof of a morning or evening passage in the dew behind a track’s leading edge, and the health of a man by the angle and spacing of his steps.
The meaning behind the stranger’s actions in the stables was clear to the Calishite, but that knowledge did not improve his mood. The promise of warm food and a soft bed did little to stir Bazhur’s thoughts from the dark places within his head. The day was nearly over, and night was certain to cast his thoughts in an even darker gloom…