A Day in Service to the Hall: Evening

A Day in Service to the Hall: Evening

A Story by JPDonelan
"

Vhaldykryr carries on his duties into the evening, when he suffers a ceaseless bother.

"

 Hours passed after he returned to the hall and gave the foodstuffs to a grateful Lytra, who tended the counter in his absence. In this period, he completed personnel appointments, documented financial transactions in the ledger, and updated a secondary ledger in the event a certain elderly fellow got his mitts on the primary. While dealing with these tasks, he received visitors and request-makers.

 

Amongst these visitors, five of Valsjiark's men who came by with the promised meat and, an hour later, a courier delivering branch reports. As Vhaldykryr skimmed the reports and spoke with the messenger, Bougrie and his people arrived. They didn't linger and hurried to the main hall. He had hoped an opportunity to speak with the man but never managed.

 

As evening descended, he fetched a chair from the dwelling and brought the ledger back out; additional transactions had occurred, including the payout to Bougrie's group. With the disbursement record from the hall's supply master beside the book, he set to work.

 

He didn't get more than a line in when he heard the door creak open, and didn't manage to look to the visitor before she spoke.

 

"Vhaldykryr! Good, you're here. Where's that brother of yours?" The young woman stopped at the counter and slapped a hand down. Her eyes, as brown as her shoulder-length hair, had heated coals behind them.

 

"I haven't the slightest, Cynarie. What did he do now?" Vhaldykryr asked, focus returned to the ledger. He had no need to look at Cynarie, knowing well the scowl she had on her face.

 

"Nonsense! How'd you know he committed a misdeed if not for him telling you?"

 

"You called him my brother, instead of your--"

 

"If you finish that sentence I will tell the old lich you visited the bakery while the daughter tended," Cynarie whispered.

 

"I would appreciate it if you didn't. He already starts on his own; I needn't him with cause," Vhaldykryr pleaded in a low, concerned voice.

 

"Did I hear news?" The wispy, rattle of the elder sounded from beyond the curtain, causing both to jump and hesitate. But, one's hesitation lasted longer than the other's.

 

"You heard nothing of the sort," Cynarie replied, much to Vhaldykryr's terror.

 

"Damnation, Cynarie! You've gone and roused him!" He murmured and turned his eyes to the woman. She wore her usual attire: a dark leather vest, tight enough to hint at her athletic physique, over a long-sleeved beige shirt. A smile had replaced her scowl and brought turmoil to his gut.

 

"Cynarie? My dear, is that you? Are you here for a visit?"

 

"Something along those lines, grandfather. Tell me, have you seen Dailyth about?"

 

"Cannot say I have, dear. Haven't seen him in over a week. Fear the lad avoids me." A scraping sound, muffled by cloth, grew loud with his words. "Now, do tell. How fairs the search of which we discussed?"

 

"Not so well, I fear. Though, you will struggle fiercely to guess what I witnessed today at the bak--"

 

"Cynarie to silence! Old man, by The Churning, I will bury it this time!" Vhaldykryr twisted toward the curtain, half expecting to see the elder peeking out.

 

"Please don't," the elder replied, meek and fearful, from behind the cloth.

 

"Cruel, Vhaldykryr. Cruel and harsh. You know dearest grandfather means well. Oh, how he worries for--"

 

"Don't you start with those honeyed tones. I stand by my statements, all of them! You've seen Dailyth more recently than I. Out of my hands if the ungrateful misery inducer held his tongue."

 

"Ungrateful? You trying to sweet-talk me now?" Her mouth smiled as her eyes grinned. "Though appreciated, such words will not sway me. Where is he; what task did he take?"

 

"He's in Scaril, a village to the southwest, disposing of reanimated ungulates."

 

"Returned beasts, delightful. You think sloppy hunters or other forest critters?" She asked, leaning onto the counter with eyes on the curtain. Beyond, she saw the shuffle of two cloth-wrapped feet.

 

"Doesn't much matter. They've thrown the forest into disarray, forced numerous species into neighboring woodlands..." He furrowed his brow as he realized where these beasts ended up.

 

"We've received three posts on the matter, two after Dailyth left. Initial request claimed thirteen of the animates, second insisted twenty, third said twenty-four."

 

"So you assume thirty," she said with a smirk.

 

"At minimum. If you don't believe me, I can show you the registry." He lifted his hand and pointed to the shelves of books.

 

Cynarie grimaced and shook her head. "No need. I can trust you that much. Let us discuss another matter, unrelated to your brother."

 

"I would prefer we not; your curiosities tend toward trouble. Why don't you tell me what he--" The sudden disruption of the hallway lantern's light grabbed Vhaldykryr's attention and held it until the obstruction emerged moments later.

 

"What can I help you with, Lytra?" he inquired, a smile quick across his face.

 

"'Tis not a matter of great import, Vhaldykryr. I have merely come to give you the costs for restocking the larder," she said as she approached the counter and laid the sheet down, a smile given to Cynarie, who grinned in return. "I must apologize, though. I had not realized you two were in conversation."

 

"Oh, you are not near a bother. Why don't you join us? Vhaldykryr was about to tell me of his fraternizing."

 

Vhaldykryr shot a sharp look at Cynarie, and she recoiled instinctively. "I was about to do no such thing. Don't go spreading more nonsense, or you will face repercussions."

 

"Now, now, such threats are unnecessary. Do recall, I knew of your plans since shortly after dawn's crawl. I know your pacings well and thus know you ventured only to the Hunter's Hall and, as I had asked of you, the bakery."

 

A chill shot down his back as Lytra spoke. Though Cynarie had turned away, he knew these words brought a smirk to her face; one so broad it almost split her head. A renewed bout of mischief had arrived.

 

"Oh ho ho, so you fraternized elsewhere?" She spun to look at him, her face contorted in a frightening, conniving, overjoyed expression often seen on wooden masks used to ward off spirits. And drunkards.

 

"Damned by Zhijyrl's lantern..." Vhaldykryr muttered.

 

"A visit, nay, rendezvous with a certain huntress I am to presume? Do tell, do tell." If the corners of her mouth could, they would loop upward and hook into her eyes. She took special care to keep her voice low; the accusation needed but one listener, two at most.

 

"An end to your accusations! I delivered requests better suited to them, encountered the Huntmaster, and spoke with him for a spell. Hezyiah came up, yes, but I did not see her; she stalks down near Ramiril." With taut face, he narrowed his eyes on the inquisitor. Her mirth, easy to notice, aggravated him worse than the questions.

 

"Oh? And who brought her up, I wonder, I wonder?"

 

"The Huntmaster, when talking about how the elder emerged from the nightly blindness and started being as you are now: a pestilence."

 

Before Cynarie could utter another incredulous question, Lytra chimed in, "So that is where the Guild Master snuck off to last night." Her words were cheery, with a tinge of marvel, as if this revelation solved a mystery.

 

The interruption broke the flow of the conversation, the established dynamic gone; silence reigned. In the silence, Vhaldykryr glanced at Lytra. She returned his gaze with a pleased smile and an apologetic nod. This result, he realized, was intended.

 

A not so intended result came from beyond the cloth sheet, uttered in a familiar, raspy tone, "Is that Miss Oryilsh I do hear?" The Guild Master had returned, their bickering a cloud over his approach.

 

"Spawn of an Ittleshian goat fondler..." Vhaldykryr muttered.

 

"'Tis I, Guild Master. Are you well?"

 

"All is well, save for with Vhaldykryr. He threatens me so, kind Lytra. So unreasonably tense he is. Oh, how he would relax with--"

 

"Last warning. I will have you after it for weeks," Vhaldykryr snapped.

 

The elder kept quiet, knowing well the truth of his words.

 

"'Tis needless intimidation, Vhaldykryr. He speaks and acts as he worries for you. Surely you know this?" Lytra smiled and looked at him with those verdant eyes of her's. He found responding difficult.

 

"Hearing those words hurts more from you than from Cynarie. And stop looking at me with those, you bring undue difficulty to this matter."

 

"What do you mean by that!?" Cynarie asked with a playful smile.

 

"You know damned well my meaning. Now, and my apologies Lytra, but out with the both of you. I would like to finish my work without being driven to the unconscious reach."

 

Cynarie tensed and sneered, prepared to argue when Lytra set a hand on her shoulder. The simple gesture distracted and calmed, garnering no resistance. Vhaldykryr she could argue with until exhaustion, as long as she didn't force his anger. The green-eyed woman, however, she could never argue with or tease; her gentle demeanor always made such efforts distressing. And her temper, hidden by this conduct, was formidable.

 

"Right. I'll bother you no longer," she said and left for the main hall.

 

"Do try to not stress yourself too greatly. If rest is needed, then rest. The ledger can be dealt with in the morn. Tend well." Lytra gave a shy nod before pursuing Cynarie.

 

***

 

Alone again, Vhaldykryr made progress with the ledger amid a tense silence, like a musical note caught in the air. In the quiet, a distinct and diminishing scrape reached his ears, and his muscles eased. He knew the elder would let him be when the others departed. What he should've known, should've remembered, is how easy a calm can break; particularly with Cynarie about.

 

The note broke against the sounds of energetic footwork, shuffling from down the hall by an individual too excited to ease their steps. A sound both regrettable and familiar. One he knew could not be ignored, and so, with tired eyes, shifted his attention from the ledger to the hallway. The origin emerged moments later.

 

Around the corner came a short woman with dirty blonde hair past her shoulders wearing the terrifying expression of absolute glee. He knew this grey-eyed woman as Auvira, the guild's supply master. Like Lytra, she took the role to assist the hall. Though, unlike Lytra, she didn't come with reports.

 

Indeed, she bore nothing as she stopped before the counter and straightened her back. Despite her exuberance, manifest in a shiver, she hesitated. Vhaldykryr knew why: she sought to carefully phrase the words about to slip from her lips, to reduce risk.

 

She never once succeeded.

 

"Is what I hear true? About you making sweet words with the baker's daughter?" Auvira asked, eyes locked on his face.

 

"Not a word and your informant deserves time in the river." Vhaldykryr closed the ledger and leaned back, eyes drawn to the space behind the counter as his face went long. A folded parchment, Galgior of Neivalst's unfinished transfer, rested on the shelf. He now knew who to send, and so returned his attention to the over-excited woman.

 

"A relief. She is no good for you, too peaceable for your line." She broadened her smile and glanced at the curtain. "Isn't that right, Guild Master?"

 

"You are correct, Auvira. Though the family's ethic is without dispute, the girl is a terribly poor fit," the old man rasped from beyond the threshold.

 

The voice's nearness surprised Vhaldykryr; the sneak had drawn close without his notice. He wouldn't wonder when. Wondering wouldn't send the elder back or scour his mind of what he heard. And how much he heard could be guessed at, but assumption insisted all.

 

"Indeed. There are many better, more ideal candidates--a number in this very hall!"

 

Vhaldykryr rose as the two spoke past him, their words to each other but meant for him. He knew the direction this conversation headed, an over-tread bit of ground. A patch of earth no longer stomachable.

 

"Many indeed. Yourself, of course, included, dear Auvira." The Guild Master's voice swung upward in tone, hoarse with a touch of honey.

 

Vhaldykryr slid his chair against the wall, away from the doorway. After all, he didn't want anyone tripping over it in a hurry.

 

"You are kind with your words, Guild Master, but I am not so sure. The others have proven themselves fit through their completed contracts and similar displays. I have done so with terrible infrequency, with none in recency. Though I tend to the supplies, what qualifies me for such an honor?"

 

He slid the ledger beneath the counter and brought out the transfer notice--the exchanged words background noise to him.

 

"Oh, but such modesty, such selfless assistance cannot be undervalued. Nay, I say. You are, as clear to me as the Guiding Flame of Zhijyrl's lantern, as ideal as any. Contend with confidence, Miss Auvira," the elder said with a chuckle, content with his phrasings.

 

Vhaldykryr filled in a space on the transfer, placed the quill in the inkwell, and set his hand on the second of his pouches before turning to face Auvira. The woman shrunk when she saw his hand's location. Gone was the jovial contortion, the gleeful glow she had entered with; concern now dominated her features.

 

With deft fingers, he opened the pouch and plunged the tips inside. Two objects greeted his touch, both smooth in places, and jagged in others. He, of course, knew the difference between them and grasped the one with the longer body.

 

The object, a pale white statuette, dangled from his fingertips. The depiction had the long snout and face of a possum, a truncated body with ridges along the back, the legs of a hound with hand-like feet, and three long, thin tails. With arm outstretched, the effigy hung before the curtained threshold.

 

"Miss Auvira?"

 

At those words, Vhaldykryr released the figurine. Auvira, eyes wide, observed the object's tumbling descent as she softly shook. When the ornament struck the ground, it shivered and grew. In the span of five seconds, the odd illustration reached the size of a small dog and darted through the curtain.

 

Then the screaming started.

 

"Ah! Why? Why, Vhald--? No! Come back! How? No! Not there!" The fading cries drew only the attention of the trembling Auvira.

 

"Auvira," Vhaldykryr said, face smooth and gaze harsh.

 

Auvira squeaked and offered no further response. She knew she had pushed him over the edge, snapped the last support holding the bridge over water. Fear devoured her, fear of what he would do.

 

"I believe we are overdue for a supply check. Thorough and through, down to the most minuscule speck of bone dust. Certainly you are capable, no?" A bitter, sadistic tone permeated his voice, joined by a smile which caused her bones to shiver.

 

"Please...no. Such a task by my lonesome will take days." Auvira's voice shook as she took small steps backward, eyes darting in search of escape.

 

"Three and a half, no less. Assuming you get started immediately and minimize your sleep. As you should," he said and signed the transfer document.

 

The short woman observed the signing, fearful of its relevance; a compounded punishment? She flinched when he folded and held the parchment out to her. Instead of taking the missive, she stared, as if expecting the letter to snap at her. After a minute, she took it, if only to get his eyes off of her.

 

"Give that to Cynarie and tell her I will send Dailyth when he returns. Also, tell Bougrie to tend the counter when he wakes. Now, you had best get started." His voice drowned out the sounds of a scuffle from beyond the curtain.

 

Auvira nodded, slow and careful. She didn't wish to irk him further, invite additional rebuke. On shaky feet, she bowed and whispered, "I...am sorry for getting carried away. You have a pleasant night, Vhaldykryr." Her words spoken, she turned and trudged back down the hall.

 

The sight of Auvira's departure, and her meek well-wishes, led Vhaldykryr to sigh. The order, he thought, harsher than deserved. While he didn't know how he frightened the woman, he didn't need to--he still felt terrible. He swore to himself he would assist her with the review and turned to retreat into the dwelling. Sleep called to him like a siren.

 

As he pulled the curtain aside, the long-snouted creature rushed by with a silver bracelet in its mouth, an item of utmost importance to his grandfather. The object would be safe, this he knew, just as he knew the elder would not rest until he again had it in his possession. He stepped aside as the old man, dressed in layers of cloth wrappings, pressed past in pursuit. The sight elicited the first genuine smile of amusement in hours, a perfect capstone to the day.


© 2017 JPDonelan



Author's Note

JPDonelan
Any feedback would be appreciated.

This is the second half of this piece.

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Added on June 12, 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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