A Day in Service to the Hall: Morning

A Day in Service to the Hall: Morning

A Story by JPDonelan
"

A sleep deprived man sets about his day of duties. This is his morning.

"

Dawn had yet to rise when the first sound arose from the lone bedchamber on the second floor of the hall's rear domicile, an aggrieved groan borne of yielding reluctance. The noise emanated from chamber's inhabitant, Vhaldykryr, a man who had returned late the previous night. The day itself exhausted him, yet he could not help but stir. A cruelty of long instilled practices.

 

Resigned to consciousness, he rose from bed and unlatched the window's worn shutters. The brisk, morning breeze, now unobstructed, blew in and sent an enlivening shiver through him. He appreciated the minor assistance in face of such empty sleeplessness. To struggle with weariness would only make his duties more difficult.

 

With eyes still burning, he washed his face at the room's half-full basin and, with fingers still moistened, swept back and tied his near-black brown hair. After the application of alum and an herbal concoction, Vhaldykryr dressed himself in a turquoise shirt with a shoulder cape-like second layer and a pair of trousers held by a notched belt. He cinched three pouches to the belt's left side, preparations for the day ahead, and left for the first floor.

 

Halfway down the stairwell, he stopped and looked into the domicile's central room, left curiously empty. The sight troubled him, as the dwelling's other resident could be up to anything. The old man never slept and hadn't since long before Vhaldykryr was born. His absence brought concern, and concern spurred speech.

 

"Are you in, Grandfather?" Vhaldykryr called as he watched the doors off the main room. An ambush wouldn't do him good and could damn his mood with swiftness.

 

No response, not even the subtle shuffle of cloth that told of his grandfather's movements. The elder, ever the schemer, must have a trap laid. Vhaldykryr descended two more steps before calling out, "Grandfather, are you about? I beseech you to respond, as I hold no desire to involve the townsfolk again."

 

Silence responded until cut off by a faint, wispy rattle of a voice from the doorway at the rear. A voice he had sought, yet still shivered at upon hearing.

 

"Harrow the folk not for I am here, young Vhaldykryr. A busy night I had in your absence. A night best treated with the lulls of meditation. Care you join your dearest grandfather? For at least one chime?"

 

The elder's offer, sung in inquisitive tones, reeked of a plot. What he had in mind, both obscure and obvious, birthed in Vhaldykryr a revulsion to the idea. The claim of work, however, peaked his interest. A rare occurrence; one he learned at a young age to be curious, even wary, about.

 

"You tended the front? Do tell, how many requests did we receive? Did you need write in the ledger?" Asked Vhaldykryr as he descended the remaining steps. He now knew the elder's location, and so felt no further hesitation; no inquisitive, nagging ambush awaited this morn.

 

"Requests were numerous, additions to the ledger less so. I did all in my might to keep those pages unaltered. Know how otherwise frustrates you." The rattle paused and then started again. "All notes and requests lie beneath the counter, awaiting documentation and the board."

 

Vhaldykryr held his tongue, fit to lash, deciding this situation preferable to tearing down another board of requests. In continued silence, he approached the curtain covered doorway at the room's southern end and, in the single step over the threshold, entered the guild hall proper.

 

As the curtain swung over the framed orifice, he looked upon the foyer half expecting to see the space in disarray. To his pleasure, the vestibule remained intact. The counter before him had been cleaned and cleared save for a polished candlestick. Aisles of bookshelves to the right remained neatly populated, with a few exceptions, while the hallway to the left seemed unchanged. Altogether, a small comfort.

 

Concerns swept away, Vhaldykryr set about his duties by borrowing the flame of a lantern located in the hallway, situated beside the request board, to light the candle. With light source acquired, he returned and pulled an inkwell and quill from behind the counter, placing them upon the aged surface. The arrangement set, the elder's documents were placed in the light's reach and assessed.

 

Each parchment pained him.

 

"Such inconsistency. These would have been a nightmare to deal with at the board; will have to rewrite every damned one. A small favor he remembered the requisite details," Vhaldykryr mumbled as he sorted the files into three stacks: requests, lower hall operation updates, and member reports.

 

Aware of the workload's scope, he began rewriting the documents.

 

***

 

Hours passed as he worked. Each parchment read with care and then rewritten. The operation updates and member reports required more intricate work, thorough readings of multi-page documents, each with a peculiarity derived from their authors. They reminded him of the bedlamites who headed the branches, and the less manic members of those halls. Each page from these stacks needed their contents distilled and written in the relevant registry, which led Vhaldykryr into the shelf-fashioned aisles repeatedly. By the time he finished, dawn had caught up with him.

 

Two stacks of parchment remained: requests relevant to the guild and those better suited for the Hunters Hall on the other side of town. Why they ended up here, he hadn't the foggiest, though he suspected his grandfather to be involved. With a shake of his head, he picked up the rewritten sheets and returned to the hall leading to the rest of the guild.

 

A smile crossed Vhaldykryr's face as he attached the pages to the board, the simple nature of the task and knowledge of its impact a bearer of joy. The mindlessness allowed his thoughts to wander, his creativity to bubble like a stew. Ideas churned and chained in his head--a reminder to requisition cubes for experimentation. The possibilities, and the surge of inspiration, both delighted and distracted. They proved such a distraction that he missed the soft approach of footsteps.

 

"Pleasant morning to you, Vhaldykryr. 'Tis refreshing to see you about with such vigor and direction so early," a soft, kind voice said, startling him from his cognitive labyrinth.

 

Vhaldykryr spun to face the voice's owner, a person he knew had not meant to surprise. Before him stood a woman, slightly younger than himself and a head shorter, with a calm, charming smile on her lovely, freckled face. She had her brown hair tied behind her with a thread of silver, and the faint scent of oak smoke drifted off her vibrant yellow and green front-buttoned dress. He knew her name well and doubted he could ever forget.

 

"The morn looks favorable, Lytra, if a bit tiring. I pray yours be spun with silver." He smiled at her and turned halfway to the board. "Have you been roused long?"

 

"Since just before dawn broke; the fires needed feeding, after all. 'Tis difficult to prepare with a handful of embers." Lytra sidled fully into view as she moved her arms behind her.

 

"A struggle I know all too well; makes for miserable conditions," he said, rearranging one corner of the board to accommodate the last requests. "How many have we in at present?"

 

"Yourself and I make twelve. A number set to double this afternoon."

 

"Yes, I read and documented Bougrie's report earlier; means they split at least two days ago. I am to assume you received word of their relative locations?" He cocked a brow toward her, and her glistening green eyes smiled in return.

 

"Nay, not a word outside of the report's arrival. And an estimation from the Guild Master when I pried. He tended the front in your stead, you know."

 

"I do, he told me himself. Also left work for me." He paused and turned to face Lytra again. "His scrawl worsens; I needed to rewrite the entirety, even requests outside of our specialization. Arduous work, nearly finished, need but deliver the remainder."

 

"Outside? You mean suited for the Hunters?" Her hands came from behind her and met over her abdomen.

 

He glanced to her fingers with a half-smile, "What do you need, Lytra? You've linked your tips again."

 

She looked down with a giggled at his observation and hid her hands again. "We have few loaves left, even fewer when the others eat. My undying gratitude if you would stop at the baker's on your return?"

 

"I see no reason why I couldn't. If we are as hard off you claim, I assume you would like loaves in addition to the usual order?" He glanced at her shy act and smiled.

 

"Yes! Any number would carry a great distance." Lytra clasped her hands before her bosom. Her motions displayed a refreshing liveliness he found odd for this early in the day.

 

"Consider it done. Have you any other tasks with which you desire assistance?"

 

"Oh, I dare not employ you as mule. All other matters shall be handled in due course, with proficiency. If you'll excuse me, Vhaldykryr, I must return to the preparations. Worry not, for I will keep a portion for your return." With a terse bow, she turned and left.

 

Vhaldykryr watched her walk away; a cringe slow upon his face. When she rounded the corner, he sighed and started toward the foyer. With the heel of his hand, he rubbed the center of his chest and distracted himself with thoughts of his impending trip through town.

 

***

 

The trip through Vheisnal, a town of stone and wood structures, went uneventfully. Often he would be waylaid, stopped by one or more persons. Some would share news, while others sought aid or made requests of him as an agent. Of these distractions, his favorite were the children. They always asked to see a trick or two and enjoyed them with genuine enthusiasm. But today the residents scurried about, too busy to pay him mind. Considering his morning thus far, he appreciated the distance.

 

The Hunter's Hall sat outside of Vheisnal, on the edge of the western forest. The structure, built of great logs from the forest's depths, stood amidst smaller buildings and a concentration of kennels. The pleasant smell of smoke from behind the hall tickled his nose and reminded him of his lack of sustenance.

 

Vhaldykryr, ignoring his stomach's cry, pressed forward into the hall. He barely passed the threshold when a graying old bear of a man greeted him.

 

"Morn to ye, Vhaldykryr! To what do we owe the pleasure of a dawn-birthed visit?" The graying man, known to Vhaldykryr as the hall's master, Valsjiark Vari-Lurng, shouted from behind a table tucked in the corner. Beside the fur-dressed man laid another graying old bear, who lifted its head and looked on with disinterest.

 

"Greetings, Huntmaster. I come bearing misallocated requests; a litany of visitors came to the wrong hall in the dark hours," Vhaldykryr said as he approached the Huntmaster's table, a wary eye on the bear.

 

"Oh? That all?"

 

"You sound as if you expected a different cause. Do I want to know why?" He set the parchments on the table and slid them to Valsjiark, content with not being turned away.

 

"Prob'ly not; will hear nonetheless. We had another visitor from the hall of dust and formless chittering last night, now didn't we, Nyuld?" The old huntsman turned to the bear and stroked its hide with a deep laugh. The beast responded with a tired, half-hearted growl.

 

Vhaldykryr did not join in the laughter. 

 

"Ol' Gialdyth, stopped in 'fore the moon hopped over. Came with a mug of prattle; knew he had an inquiry right-off. Asked of Hezyiah; told him she's out on a hunt." He took the requests and began reading them. "Will tell ye she's out hunting a pack of displaced thistle wolves southeast of Ramiril. Sorry she's not in to say hello."

 

"Perhaps for the best. I suspect she would've wanted to show me how her howlers were doing and you wouldn't get these requests for a good while. As for grandfather, I appreciate your humoring him."

 

"Ehh, I don't mind Gialdyth. We've both been around long enough to get along. Even if he can be a bother." Valsjiark loosed another laugh and rose from the table. The bear didn't stir an inch at the screech of the chair.

 

"Appreciated no less. Now, I beg your forgiveness, but I must depart. I had promised Lytra I would stop in and procure bread from the bakery." Vhaldykryr bowed to the man.

 

"Ah, hold. Ye got me remembering, have some dried shanks and bits for Lady Lytra. Let me send ye with a sack; have the rest brought over by some o' the lads round noon," the man-bear said and slapped the stack of requests down on a small table beneath the hall's board. He didn't take no for an answer, nor he did wait for an answer at all before disappearing through a rear door.

 

Vhaldykryr didn't move a muscle, concerned eyes locked on Nyuld. The beast didn't open an eye or stir an inch, too tired to bother with him; though apparent, he still didn't feel eased. This skittishness, in spite of his experience with far worse entities, burnt his neck like a brand. Never would he admit this sensation, not to anyone.

 

As he observed, time slipped from him. In the all-consuming moment, only he and the creature existed while all else faded. Until Valsjiark's boom returned him to his senses, "Still worried of Nyuld?"

 

"If I may, Huntmaster, do you know the reason Nyuld dislikes grandfather and myself, and yet pays Dailyth no mind?" Vhaldykryr faced the man, who held up a thin cord in his large hand--an almost comical disparity. At the end of the rope, tied shut, dangled a sack.

 

"Hmm, because he sees the two of ye as threats. Gialdyth, himself, is cause enough. Not sure why ye..." The Huntmaster tilted his head up and looked down at Vhaldykryr, as if the cause for the bear's animosity resided upon his face, waiting to be deciphered like a foreign text.

 

"Eh, never the matter. Here." He thrust the rope tied sack into his visitor's hand with a broad grin.

 

"Ye best get getting before Lady Lytra starts wondering what's tied ye down; ye have spent long enough blathering with this old huntsman." Valsjiark laughed as he escorted Vhaldykryr from the building.

 

***

 

The bakery resided near the town's southern entrance, through which the road to crop fields and the river where the water mill stood ran. The large structure, built of more stone than wood, housed six ovens and a shop front. The scent of bread and other goods born of these ovens had so permeated the premises as to be a permanent fixture, an ambiance to the area.

 

The location tended to stay busy from morning until evening, the need for bread ever continuous. But, today differed. For as Vhaldykryr approached, he noticed the scent weaker than normal. And when he drew within sight of the building, saw far fewer townsfolk about than expected. A curious yet appreciated sight.

 

With a smile to himself, he tugged the rope further upon his shoulder and entered the bakery.

 

The interior of the shop, arranged to display various types of bread and sweetmeats, suggested why the scent had faded. Of all the products present, day-old loaves were few and fresh non-existent. Vhaldykryr thought the sight odd, as the ovens start before dawn--a detail mentioned by the baker's eldest son one morn when they crossed paths on the south road. Odder still, and of greater concern, was who tended the front. Where he expected the baker's wife stood their fourth child, and sole daughter, Idyliel.

 

The young woman, garbed in a simple dress, had her brown hair in a loose braid from above her right eye, around behind her ear, and then down her back. Her brown eyes fell on him when he pressed in from the street, the empty store worthless as a distraction.

 

"Pleasant mid-morning to you, Vhaldykryr! Have you come in for a treat?" the young woman, ever the morning person, chirped.

 

"Afraid not, Idyliel. Lytra asked I procure some loaves and place an order. Though, if I may judge, both may be difficult." Vhaldykryr approached the counter, eyes still on the near-empty cases.

 

"I fear you are correct; a problem arose at the mill. Mama and my elder brothers went down at dawn. Papa and the rest do what they can with the little remaining flour. I hope they resolve the problem soon," she said with a melancholy smile.

 

"Well, that shan't impede the order and I will purchase what old bread you have to make do," Vhaldykryr said with a concerned look, aware how the lack of ingredients must've made her morning difficult.

 

"Certainly. As the order is for Lytra, I assume the usual amount?" She pulled a parchment from behind the counter and prepared to detail the order.

 

"Our understandings align."

 

Idyliel nodded and began to write the order with a practiced hand and a mind familiar with the details. "If I may ask, is Lytra well? She has not been by recently. Has she been on contract?"

 

"To my knowledge, she has neither taken a job nor come ill; I suspect she oversaw the hall in my absence. Did you need something of her?" Vhaldykryr set a hand on the counter and gave the rope a tug to keep the sack off the floor.

 

"Hmm, I suppose. It's just...the Festival of Five Pedestals draws near and, I wished to ask her assistance with the feast." The brunette flicked her eyes up from the parchment. "Assuming she is not needed elsewhere, of course."

 

"Doubtful she will be. Matters of such severity are rare. Would you like me to ask her for you?"

 

"Oh, I could not ask such of you. I will stop by and talk with her myself; it has been far too long as is. Appreciate you offering." Idyliel returned the quill to the inkwell with a cheerful smile. "You said you also wished to purchase what bread we had left, yes?"

 

"What you can spare, at least. I am led to believe we are as low on bread as you are on flour," Vhaldykryr replied.

 

"We have nine loaves left, all a day or two old. You can have the lot if you need."

 

"Then the lot I shall take. Scarcity has yet to drive the price up, I hope."

 

Idyliel's smile broadened, "Not as of yet, and none need know." She looked at him for a moment before nodding. "Wait here; you will need something to carry them back in."

 

As she turned to head into the back, Vhaldykryr saw her smile turn mischievous. While he didn't know the woman like Lytra did, he did know her to get playful and droll. The uncertainty about her devised ploy concerned him and spurred curiosity as he fished out curved, silver coins from his first belt-tied pouch. The lass, unlike certain other individuals, never scared him with her antics which, unfortunately, did so tend to draw the attentions of those unaware of the jape.

 

Two minutes after she left, Idyliel returned with a basket and a constrained smile.

 

"I'm afraid we lack any rope or leather sacks for your collection, so I hope this basket will suffice." Her smile went broad again as she moved the loaves into the basket.

 

"Should talk to the Huntmaster, then. Suspect he has more. Can hide them about, surprise me when next I come in," he said with a chuckle, more amused by her attempt at humor than with the quip itself.

 

 Idyliel returned to the counter, set the basket down, and counted the coins. She didn't doubt the number, knowing Vhaldykryr to be good on his payments, but also knew to check nonetheless. To not do so and be short a coin or two, by mistake or by intent, would make a fool of her. As predicted, the amount was correct.

 

"Alright, here you are," she said and pushed the basket toward him.

 

As he reached for the basket, the brown eyes woman spoke again, "Uh, Vhaldykryr, before you go...might I ask a question of you?" Her voice dropped as she spoke, a mumble by the end.

 

"Of course."

 

"Has...um, Galgior returned from his request?" She cast her eyes down at the counter and refused to look up.

 

He furrowed his brow as he mulled the question. No answer came to mind, but a problem did.

 

"Need you to be more specific; we have...five in the registry?" He replied, brow still furrowed. He hadn't realized the prevalence of the name before and found it beyond belief.

 

"Galgior of Neivalst."

 

"Ah, Neivalst." Vhaldykryr tilted his head back in an exaggerated nod. "He's on loan to the branch in Yialda, has been for a fortnight now. Why?"

 

"Uh, um, no particular reason. Do you know when he'll be back?" Her voice remained hushed as if she felt ashamed of her questions. Or didn't want someone overhearing.

 

"Depends on when the mountain passes clear. Heavy snowfall has had them blocked for the last month and a half; the hall in Yialda is waiting to get three from the keep." He shook his head. "Unusually cold up there for this time of year..."

 

For how obtuse Vhaldykryr could be in these matters, Idyliel's meaning did not go unnoticed. With a smirk, he said, "Hmm...considering how long he has been in Yialda, his morale may benefit from a brief return home. Will have to see who I can send up when I return to the hall."

 

The young lady perked up at this and looked back to the man, broad smile back on her face. "I would be greatly appreciative. Thank you."

 

"No need for thanks. I should leave now. Take care, and may your flour issues be resolved soon."

 

With the exchange complete, Vhaldykryr gave Idyliel a friendly nod, took the basket of bread, and departed the store. He considered bringing out aid in carrying the foodstuffs, but decided against the idea; the act would only draw attention. Without a look at his surroundings, he headed east through town and toward the hall.


© 2017 JPDonelan



Author's Note

JPDonelan
Any feedback would be appreciated. Additionally, I'm not entirely certain how to classify this piece, so you have an idea please let me know.
This is the first half of a larger piece.

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Added on May 31, 2017
Last Updated on June 18, 2017
Tags: Fiction, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Life, Family, Duty

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JPDonelan
JPDonelan

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Currently working on a follow-up to "Tome of Reality." My stories tend to reach toward five thousand words, which can be made to look longer due to formatting. Feel free to leave a comment, ques.. more..

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