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The burly guard's name was Blake. Alan could tell that he made the man uncomfortable.

Alan was in a plain room that he suspected was usually used for interrogations. He was inside the guardhouse sitting across from the two guards who had found him earlier that day. The chair he was sitting in was surprisingly luxurious and seemed to be made from a soft and comfortable leather, which stood out from the plain surroundings. He figured that they must have tried to make it a bit nicer for him after learning about his circumstances.

"Now boy," Blake said leaning forward in his seat. "You say that Willowbrook has been attacked? Are you positive on that? This is no small thing."

Alan looked over but kept quiet. He had already told the guard what he was willing to tell.

He had planned to avoid the guards initially if at all possible. Having plenty of time to think it over, the circumstances under which Willowbrook had been attacked seemed increasingly bizarre. There were three things that stuck out. The first thing was that Eric had somehow known something was going on. There was also the fact that Goblin's had broken into the barrier, something which he had never heard of happening before. And lastly, the fact that even days after the event no one had entered his town or even traveled along the Road.

He was not ready to go trusting just anyone yet. Not after what had happened.

He had debated lying about where he was from, but he knew that any story he came up with would not last long if they decided to investigate. He settled for being vague, pretending not to have seen anything, and trying to come off as too emotionally shocked to be properly helpful, which he supposed might even be true.

In the back of his mind he even admitted that it was probably a good thing that he had run into the Guards. Aside from his own paranoia he had no real reason to distrust them. They were there to serve the citizens, and normally it would be the first place he should seek out given his situation.

It would be so much easier to tell them everything and let them deal with it. Still, something held him back. And he figured he could always tell them later when he felt more ready, that option wasn't going anywhere.

The taller guard, Stan, glanced over keeping quiet. Stan didn't say much unless prompted, but he seemed to watch absolutely everything, sliding his eyes towards the target of his curiosity.

Blake continued on, ignoring the lack of response. "I knew some good people in that town and it hurts me deeply to hear this news. We suspected something of course, what with the order for closing the Road and all, but it's still a bit of a shock to hear our worst fears confirmed. Many folk here had family and friends in Willowbrook..." He continued somberly. "We're truly sorry for what you must have been through. For now, we'll be calling over some Inquisitors from the capital to take your statement. It will take a day or two for them to get here and until then we will need you to stay with us. Trust me when I say there's nowhere safer. We have some decent rooms and good food, and the Keeper here at the station can get you anything you need."

"Thank you sir" Alan responded in his now familiar toneless manner. He hoped it had not shown, but he could not help feeling some panic at the mention of Inquisitors.

"And you sure you can't tell us anything about what happened?" Blake asked. Stan threw his eyes over towards Alan waiting for a response. Blake just started scratching at his thick mustache.

"I will try to think of anything else for when the Inquisitors arrive." Alan replied, "As I said, I was away from home and by the time I came back there was no one there. I remember searching through town and..." he trailed off, "I'm sorry my memories are still a bit hazy..." He decided to venture for some information, "Is there anything you can tell me? The Road was closed so you must've known something was going on? Why hasn't anyone been by to check on Willowbrook and it's people?"

The two men glanced at each other for a moment before Blake responded. "Sorry lad, no reason was given for the closing. Rumor has it that there were bandits afoot. That the bastards had united and planned a massive raid on several villages throughout the territory. Orders came from the deputy commander himself to have the Road sanctioned off and closed at various points just two weeks back. Not just a road closing, but a full Skilled Sanction. And let me tell you those capable of Sanctioning off such a large area don't come cheap, so we knew something serious must've happened but this..." a grunt from Stan seemed to bring Blake back to himself.

"That was why we came at you so suddenly boy," Blake continued. "Not many would break a Sanctioning, but since you started out within its area of effect... well, either way, it should be lifted soon and then we'll see what we see." The guard finished.

Alan mentally noted the information, determined to investigate the deputy commander and the road closure further. For now though, he kept his curiosity to himself.

Blake made as if to spit to the side, but stopped himself last second as if just noticing he was inside.

"Well that about finishes things up here," he said. "Let's get you some hot food and a nice room. We'll take care of everything boy, you're in good hands." He patted his hands against his pants as he got up.

"Out the door and up the stairs you'll find yourself a spare room. There is a latrine at the end of the hall if you need it, and even a bath in the room if you want to wash up. The Keeper will be right outside the door if you need to use the toilet or if you need anything at all. I know it sounds like we're keeping you locked up pretty tight, but this is for the best until the situation is resolved." Blake paused, looking down.

"Anyway boy, listen to Stan here, he can get you some food and go over the basics of the place and help you get settled. It's getting a bit late so I'm gonna go request the Inquisitor now and we'll see you bright and early... Again, I'm sorry for your loss lad," he said reaching over and patting Alan on the back. Nodding to Stan, he walked away and out of the room.

Stan watched a moment as he walked away. "Well I guess that's it unless you have any questions?" he asked looking back towards Alan.

"No thank you, I'm pretty tired, I just want to eat and go to bed. Maybe take a quick bath," he replied truthfully. It had been a long day. A long several days. An eternity. Now that he thought about it, he had slept on a pile of hay the whole time. A proper bath would be nice. His town had a public bathhouse that the villagers shared. He had found it unusable after the attack. A private bathtub was a luxury he had not actually experienced before.

"Alright, help yourself. One last thing though before we head to your room." He gestured to Alan's backpack, "I'm going to need to take your belongings into evidence temporarily for the inquisitor and others to go over. No need to worry, you will have it all back soon enough, aside from the horse which rightfully belongs to the kingdom of course. There are some forms we can fill out tomorrow, and statements to be taken, but again that can all wait." Stan began to get up and leave as he spoke of the procedures that needed to be followed, leaving Alan no choice but to follow.

It was night time, but the hallways of the Guardhouse seemed to be still filled with all sorts of people coming and going.

Alan noticed the wide range of clothes that they wore. Some of the outfits looked wild and revealing to Alan's eyes. He glanced out a few windows and noticed the city of Stonewall below him. Many lamps decorated the streets and walkways that bordered the guardhouse and people were still out going about their business. There were crowds moving around eating or shopping, and after so long alone Alan found all of the activity both inside and outside a bit overwhelming.

Following Stan, he tried to ignore his unease. He was safe.

Reaching a normal looking door, Stan opened it, took Alan's backpack, and ushered him inside.

"There's some food laid out and a bath for your personal use. Please treat the room as your own. I'll see you in the morning, Alan. I can't begin to understand what you went through, but you just believe me when I say we'll get to the bottom of this." Patting him on the shoulder Stan left and Alan was suddenly alone once more.

Waiting for a moment, he put down the few things he had left and looked around. The room was decorated simply but tastefully. There was a comfortable looking bed in the corner and several nice paintings hung up on the walls. A bowl of something hot lay on an intricately carved table situated across from the bed. And most impressively was the bathtub in the corner. It was a large bronze thing, with various knobs and tubes coming from the sides. There was a neat trick to how the thing worked that Alan didn't quite understand except that it involved some sort of crafting Skill to create. It was easy enough to use though and after walking over and turning some knobs he was rewarded with warm, scented water pouring into it.

Alan went to the bowl of food while he waited for the tub to fill up. He took a few bites of the hearty stew as the sound of running water calmed his nerves. The warm stew sat comforting in his belly.

Calmly, he finished his quick meal and finally moved over to the now filled bath. He put a hand in, testing the temperature. It felt wonderful.

Not wasting any more time he stripped his dirty clothes and stepped into the inviting tub. Easing himself in, he soon found himself lying back and felt the knots of muscle he hadn't even known were there loosen as the water engulfed him. He looked around and quickly came to the conclusion that the guards were probably trying to be nice by giving him this room. It was too well furnished to be ordinary, not to mention the bathtub, it must be usually reserved for important guests or visiting high ranking officers.

He closed his eyes and let his mind wander.

He was worried about the Inquisitors. Everyone knew that they had at certain Skills for being able to determine the truth of a person's statements. Many professions required their members to follow some specific Skill paths and the higher ranked Inquisitors were rumored to have secret Skills that allowed them to look into your mind. Alan wasn't sure about that, but he was still worried enough that his ruse would be found out immediately.

More to the point, it was hard to feel as if he was in any real danger after being treated so nicely. Guards were required to protect citizens and uphold the Territory's laws. In any normal situation, he should just trust them. He was tempted to just tell them everything and let them handle it. He admitted to himself that he probably would do just that tomorrow.

Saving his worries for later he tried to relax. The soreness from riding all day, and the dirt and grime he had accumulated rolled off of him as he lay in the tub. The water eventually turned colder and Alan got out, dried himself off, and went to the large bed. Warm, clean, and comfortable in a soft bed, he fell asleep instantly.

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nolrichard
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