Jack Lime ran through the mists, still soaking wet from having swum Camelot's wide and deep moat. Fortunately, bless the Immortals, no moat monster had been attracted by his plunge into the freezing depths or the splashing as he made for the mainland side.
Now behind him he could hear hounds and their Knave huntsmen off after him, having crossed the moat in their rowing boats.
"Well met, Lime!"
A soft growling voice issued from a nearby patch of dense undergrowth. Out of it, walking on his hind legs, a shortbow slung across his green leather armour jerking, stepped Reynard of Nottingham.
Like all weird animals, when Guising, imitating a human, his front paws formed furry hands although his sly-faced head was still that of a white throated red furred fox.
"Reynard! I didn't do it! I didn't! Someone shot her from the window of the room-"
"I've heard all about it when they raised the hue and cry. You're marked as a base wolfshead now, no one will give you shelter."
Jack Lime looked at his Weird Animal friend.
"Do you believe I am innocent?"
"I do. For a very good reason, mon ami."
"I was outside the castle walls when it happened, and I saw a dark figure run down to a rowboat and get rowed to this side by an accomplice. I saw the killer, though just as a dark shape."
"By the Immortals! You have to tell Sir Kay!"
"I will! But he knows we're friends, and he doesn't put much stock in the word of a Weird Animal. He sees us as abominations of Chaos rather than the loyal subjects of the King most of us are."
"His prejudice be damned! You're my only hope!"
"Surely not that, mon ami. But first, I must get you out of here. If we were back in the Sherwood Forest, with caves everywhere, they'd never find you. But Camelot currently is here in Northumbria. It's too far to the Hafling lands, and too open for you to try and run. We'll have to hide you nearby. In one of the hideouts of The Red Spider."
"The Rhosian? He has hideouts round about?"
"Jack, a man like that, he has hideouts all across Logres."
Lime and the fox-man slowly entered a nearby patch of woodland. The sounds of the hounds grew ever closer. Reynard motioned for Jack to follow him then walked through a patch of tar bubbling up from the rock beneath their feet.
"This will destroy our scent, keep the damned dogs at bay," Reynard explained. After they had both walked through it, the fox led Lime to a giant boulder.
"Up here," the fox-man instructed, nimbly climbing the wall of rock to a ledge. Jack Lime scrambled up with considerably more difficulty.
The ledge led backwards into a cave - through some ancient erosion or hurt, the boulder was as hollow as a worm-eaten apple.
"Stay here," Reynard told the boy. "I will make my way back to Camelot and tell Sir Kay what I saw. He will believe me or not, but my testimony must be part of the record, by the King's Law."
"What then? And what about the killer?"
The fox-man shrugged diffidently. "All of that is in the hands of the Immortals. With the help of sweet Reisons, Drois must do real justice here."
Jack Lime frowned. "Isn't it true that King Arthur is going yet further west? Doesn't that mean the magic of Camelot will make it disappear and reappear further west, as per Merlin's enchantment? It's meant to keep the stronghold no more than seven days' journey from the King at all times!"
"True," Reynard replied. "But I will go with it and plead your case at court. I will find the Saracen knight and certes he will take your side. He's no stranger to Sir Kay's rash judgements and prejudices."
Reynard scrambled down the boulder, leaving Jack Lime alone in the hideout.
A few moments later the Knave huntsmen and their hounds encountered Reynard of Nottingham.
"Leash those dogs!" the fox-man yelled at the commoners. "I'm a freeborn fox of Nottingham kingdom and I will not be harassed by you! Leash them now I say!"
The knaves obeyed. The bravest of them said, "Animal, we seek a murderer, seen to run this way. What of him?"
"Well? What of him indeed? I too am seeking him! And with more skill and less noise than you! Come, you go eastward, I west, and we will continue the chase!"
With that, Reynard ran off westward unslinging his bow. The Knaves set free their hounds again and went east, leaving Jack Lime alone with his thoughts in the Thief's hideout.
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