Horace waited for it to draw close enough to hear his halloo. Otherwise, the traveller might pass by without ever knowing there was another on the moor who did not have the last of the sun behind him.
The figure stopped a hundred paces from Horace. So the traveller was alert. Many a man would have kept his head down, huddled in his cloak against the evening chill. The traveller must have eyes as sharp as Horace himself to see a motionless figure against a dark horizon.
“Good evening.” It was a man’s voice, with enough power to carry a greeting across the distance between them. Horace heard no wariness in the words, but the distance the traveller was keeping spoke for itself.
“Good evening,” said Horace.
“Have you news from the capital?” asked the traveller.
Horace had met many a traveller on the moor, but none who did not have more recent news from the capital than he did.
“Not recently.” Horace allowed no hint that he thought it was a strange question. “By the time news finds us on the moor, it likely ain’t news no more.”
The traveller approached closer. Close enough to reveal handsome features and the best trimmed beard Horace had seen since a troupe of travelling performers crossed the moor.
“Is there a place nearby where a weary traveller might rest his head?”
Horace considered the question. “Aye. You’ll find such a place if you walk with the day at your back until you reach a stream, and follow it downhill for as long as it takes to smoke three pipes.
“Thank you, friend.”
“And none who’ll answer questions from them.” Horace jerked his chin at the horizon behind the traveller, where a band of horsemen had appeared in silhouette against the pale band of light.
The traveller looked over his shoulder. “I’ll be on my way, then.”
He resumed walking.
“There’s sanctuary for everyone on the moor,” said Horace to the traveller’s back. “Tomorrow’s pauper or yesterdays’ king, they’ll all find sanctuary and silence here.”
The traveller paused for a moment, but did not look around. Horace watched until his back had merged with the darkness.