Chapter 22

"The Trio"

Marc dragged behind Alex as they entered the town.  Dusk was falling and all the people of Yeher were heading to bed.  With aching feet, shoulders, and eyes, the two stumbled into the dirty street.

"I'm tired."

"That's why we're finding an inn, idiot," Alex replied wearily.

Marc sighed, glancing at his surroundings.  Small huts were set up along the main drag, where peasants would debate on goods such as food and jewelry.  Houses were on the outside of the main road, many of them branching off to different cul-de-sacs.

"That's an inn!" Marc called, pointing to one across from them.  "Let's stay there.  Please…please, let's stay there!"

"A specific inn, Marc," Alex said, frustrated.  He didn't know how many times he had explained it to his friend: Cradle Inn.

Marc looked helplessly at a sign swinging on one of the inn's doors.  He wasn't able to interpret the scribbles, but he was able to decipher one from the past: Ale.  "Oh, oh!  Let's go there!"  Despite Alex's orders, he started walking toward it, shifting the bag that still held Clay on his shoulder.  Without stopping his stride, Alex reached over and grabbed onto the back of his friend's shirt, pulling him down the street.

"No."

"But…but…ale sounds a lot more fun than cradles.  C'mon, Alex!"

"We have to find Mercedes and Tyrell, Marc," the eldest friend ordered irritably.

"Aw, she's fine!"

"I know, I'm worried about him."

Marc demanded, "Aw, who cares?  Please, Alex…I don't wanna wander around anymore."

Alex sighed.  "No one should have to endure whatever it is Mercedes is putting him through.  Hell, no one should have to endure Mercedes period."

Moaning, the younger friend wanted to know, "So why are we heading toward her?  Let's stay free of her – at least for one night.  Please?  Why run toward danger when you can run away from it?  And sleep in the meantime."

"We're going to find them because Mercedes is our friend and Tyrell…well…"

"He serves for amusement?" Marc offered.

Alex nodded.  "Yes.  Because Mercedes is our friend and Tyrell is a good topic to poke fun at."

Marc eventually ended his struggles to avoid Cradle Inn and go somewhere peaceful with alcohol and allowed Alex to pull him down the street.  He felt Clay shifting unhappily in the bag, so he reached in and pat the boy's hand.  In return, the small child attempted to bite his fingers.

"Ow!" Marc yelped, pulling his hand out of the bag.  Alex glanced at him.  "Er…bit by a bug, heh.  Ouch."  The other thief only shook his head as a response.  Marc tossed a scowl toward the aggravated child, before securing the top, while still making sure there was enough room for the boy to breathe.

The sun had disappeared looming mountains when they finally arrived at Cradle Inn.  It wasn't much to look at, not in comparison to those they had passed.  It was old fashioned, with a swinging wooden sign that looked ready to fall with the next slight wind.  Hinges were rusted and worn, on both the sign and the doorway.

Marc grimaced.  "There?" he asked hesitantly.

Alex nodded.  "There," he confirmed.  The younger thief sighed as they moved up onto the sidewalk and over to the door.  Alex hesitantly pushed it open and the two moved inside.

At least it's warm, Marc though, glancing around the  small waiting area.  There was a broken chair in the corner and a desk farther inside.  No one was there waiting.

"…Hello?" Alex called.  There was no response.  "Hello?"

"Well, looks like no one is home," Marc sighed.  "Let's just grab a key and go upstairs."  He moved to do exactly that but Alex grabbed his shirt, stopping him.

"Hello?"

After a few more calls, an older man finally arrived, looking abashed.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry," the large man said, coming out from behind the counter to great them.  "I was unaware that you were here.  My name is Finley, I am the owner and cook at this inn-"

"We need to speak with Tyrell and Mercedes," Alex interrupted, letting go of his grip on Marc.  "We're friends of theirs."

Finley stared at them for a moment, before his mouth split into a grin.  "Come then!" he boomed, making Marc jump and stare at him wide-eyed.  "I'll show you to the back.  Come, friends!"

The two thieves were ushered passed the kitchen and into one of the deep back rooms.  Sitting around the table were two young ladies, who were gossiping and giggling.  Beside them sat Tyrell and Mercedes.  Alex grinned as soon as he saw the knight with his friends, but Marc's eyes went straight for the youngest of the girls.

"Hey, there," he started to say, heading to the young woman.  Alex elbowed him in the gut, stopping him dead.  Scowling, Marc crossed his arms, trying to ignore the movement in his backpack.

"Alex!"

They looked over at where Mercedes had just noticed them.  Joyfully, she jumped to her feet and ran across the room to where they stood.  She jumped into the eldest boy's arms, clinging to him like she hadn't seen him in years.  Alex found himself hugging her back just as tight.

They released each other and Mercedes turned toward their third friend, who was practically beaming upon seeing her.  She gawked.

"Oh…oh, Marc!  What?  What happened?" she demanded, reaching forward and embracing him like she had Alex moments before.  "You're okay!"

"In so many words, yeah, I'm okay."

Tyrell rose to his feet, shocked to see not only Marc but the third thief as well.  They, apparently, were more endearing that he originally thought.  Despite himself, the knight was glad to see that they were both alright.  He was glad to see Mercedes reunited with her friends.

Maybe now she'd to back to making their lives hell instead of his.  He knew, however, that more than likely they'd all go back to making his life hell.

"Tell us, Tyrell," Jacqueline said, smiling slightly with the reunited friends.  "Who are they?"

"Oh…ugh…."

Mercedes, without turning away from Marc, answered, "My brothers!  They're my brother."

Marc and Alex glanced at each other from the corner of their eye, but neither argued with her strange statement.  They both assumed there was reasons behind it and she would inform them later.

"Well!" Finley laughed, patting the new newest additions to the group on the shoulder.  "Welcome!"

Marc and Alex flinched with his kind but loud words.  They both forced slight smiles.

"They both look just exhausted," Jacqueline said.  "Tyrell, dearest, there is another room across from yours.  Please show your brother-in-laws to their room?"

That comment got both Alex and Marc to snap their heads over to the rest of their group.  Their eyes were wide and mouths gaped ajar.  Neither spoke but both were startled with their assumption.

Before they could say anything and screw up the lie, both Mercedes and the knight ushered them upstairs.  Once out of earshot, the other two thieves began demanding things.  Tyrell ignored them until all four were standing in the safety of the spare room.

"Okay," he sighed, silencing their protests.  "Some explaining."

AN: For those of you who read the story when I first wrote it, Kahiki's (the fae mother, remember her?) name has been changed to Carmón.  To make a long story short…I decided I liked that name better for Tinker's wife.