Sleet pinging against dark glass behind him, wind whipped leaves stampeding past his feet on the unlit path, an eerie howl screaming through the treetops; he knew he had trespassed against all reason and common sense, yet he walked further, bent against the storm, forward to meet his nightmare face-to-face.
He was going to have to go through the town of Gotham if he wanted to make it to lodging before the storm hit. Damn fools. And they would expect him to save them. Again.
It looked like a typical village. Sturdy well kept buildings. Many with glass windows. Prosperous, even. A large well at the crossroads in the city center. Gardens and grass. All hiding the truth.
He shuddered as he walked, picking up his pace. Almost to the well. Almost halfway. He wished the wind was at his back, instead of blowing in his face. Slowing him down.
“Help us!” from up ahead..
Head down. Don’t look up.
“Oh, we are doomed!”
Damnation. there was a small crowd of them in the road. No way to shoulder past. He sighed. It begins. Again.
They spotted him and rushed over. He braced himself.
“Oh thanks be that you are here, stranger!”
He braced himself. Gotham, town of fools. “And what is it, then.”
“One of us is missing! We gathered to prepare for the storm. Twelve of us. My wife counted before we left. But now, there are only eleven.”
He sighed, he’d already counted them. Gotham strikes again.
“Only eleven?” He said with gritted teeth and angry eyes. “And how did you come by this number?”
“Each of us counted. I will show you! One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven! And you of course, now but you weren’t here before.”
Fools. a town full of them. Can’t go through this town without being accosted by an idiot who begs you for help. An idiot who forgets to count himself.
“You counted eleven. The eleven people you yourself can see. “
“Yeah, that’s right. But we don’t know who is missing!”
He pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers and sighed. Explaining to them the truth would keep him there all night. I’ll gain from this instead, he thought. and be on my way.
“Each of you give to me a single coin and I will find your missing man.”
Quickly they passed a bag.
“One.” he said, thumping the fool on the arm with his walking stick. Firm enough for the man to cry out.
“Two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven and twelve!” he said striking each in the arm.
“Twelve!” they cry while rubbing the pain in their arms.
“I have found your missing man.” He said, pocketing the coin. “I will be on my way.”
“Thank you!” They cheered while heading into buildings.
He hurried off. He hated this village and every man in it. Pretty, and located at a crossroads, but he would not be recommending this location to the king. He would have to find another place for the kings lodge. This town was full of idiots. Some other town would gain the privilege of supporting the king and his court while he travels. He will not allow his majesty to suffer these fools.