A Day in Service to the Hall

A Day in Service to the Hall

A Story by JPDonelan
"

A sleep deprived man sets about his day tending to the needs of the guild hall.

"

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.

 

***

 

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



Advertise Here Advertise Here
Want to advertise here? Get started for as little as $5

Author's Note

JPDonelan
Any feedback would be appreciated. This is the entirety of the piece in one spot.

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Featured Review

There is nothing I can add to this piece to make it better. I clearly came out the way you wanted it.
The world you created is well defined by the actions of its inhabitants rather than by description and Vhaldykryr's character is well shown.
I think though, that abandoning the usual conflict ups and downs of the 3 act structure left this piece as a segment rather than a completed yarn.

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

JPDonelan

1 Month Ago

Norbanus, thank you for the review. Its always nice to hear when I've managed to portray a setting a.. read more



Reviews

Really enjoyed the flavor of the story, and the way you established an authentic contextual setting. By your own admission your writing tends to be wordy, so my honest feedback includes the advice I have always been given, to 'edit, edit, edit.' Look for ways to cull three sentences when one will convey more simply. For example, instead of 'Dawn was yet to rise,' go with 'just before' or 'well before dawn' - it's easier on the reading ear. Likewise, your description of V stopping on the staircase would read better as 'Halfway down the stairwell Vhaldykryr hovered to peer into the central room, now curiously empty. Try also to avoid too many sayings like 'didn't move a muscle,' when something like 'remained motionless' will suffice. Of course writing is an art, and like all arts there is no exact science and so it remains speculative and open to debate/preference. I think you have a real talent for storytelling so keep going. Hope this helps.

Posted 16 Hours Ago


JPDonelan

11 Hours Ago

Julie, thank you for the feedback. I appreciate it. The edit advice is always good, and is something.. read more
It is an interesting piece. Although I often hesitate to criticize too much, as I believe criticism of art often borders on cancerous and unproductive, I will give advice based on my personal preferences. This is not by any means me saying what is objectively good or bad about the piece, but more my own personal opinion. I find the piece has merit, although I also think it would benefit from being condensed. Communication is extremely important in a writer's work, and although I think this does an EXCELLENT job communicating imagery for myself and other literary-inclined people, I could see where others might find certain sections hard to understand. Perhaps my own inclination towards journalism and history prejudices me towards certain narrative styles. Overall, I think it's a great piece, and am glad I was able to review it.

Posted 1 Month Ago


JPDonelan

1 Month Ago

William, I appreciate you taking the time to let me know your opinion on the piece and I'm glad you .. read more
There is nothing I can add to this piece to make it better. I clearly came out the way you wanted it.
The world you created is well defined by the actions of its inhabitants rather than by description and Vhaldykryr's character is well shown.
I think though, that abandoning the usual conflict ups and downs of the 3 act structure left this piece as a segment rather than a completed yarn.

Posted 1 Month Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

JPDonelan

1 Month Ago

Norbanus, thank you for the review. Its always nice to hear when I've managed to portray a setting a.. read more

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe

219335_One-Stop Publishing: free print & ebook publishing

Stats

287 Views
3 Reviews
Rating
Added on June 12, 2017
Last Updated on June 16, 2017
Tags: Fiction, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Life, Family, Duty

Author

JPDonelan
JPDonelan

TX



About
Currently working on a follow-up to "Tome of Reality." - Update - Project looks to be running long, may end up broken into two. My stories tend to reach toward five thousand words, which can be mad.. more..

Writing