Chapter 20

Chapter 20

A Chapter by thuaners

Along the northern wall of the Encumbered Adventurer Tavern was a dark alleyway.  It was narrow; probably wide enough for two men to walk abreast.  Somewhere in the blackness, a man lay tucked underneath a mound of thick, coarse blankets.  He had wedged himself into the corner, between the wall and the ground, to help keep warm.  Even after years sleeping on the streets of Firgenduke, he still liked to feel as snug as possible.

The name of this hobo (or vagabond, as he preferred to call himself) was "Four-tooth".  The nickname was given to him by the locals, as he only had four teeth.  Three on the top and one on the bottom.  Well he used to have four teeth; sadly he'd lost a tooth earlier in the year biting into a scrumptious greenfeld apple and now only three remained; two at the top and one at the bottom.  People still called him Four-tooth though, because it rolled off the tongue better.

A few years back, Four-tooth was quite the nomad; travelling wherever he pleased, sleeping wherever he liked.  This night under a bridge, that night on the rooftop of some tall building, overlooking the city.

It all changed though, one night four years ago, when by chance he came upon a tavern called the Encumbered Adventurer.  He spotted a woman on the ground outside the tavern, sitting with her back against the wall, smiling, and looking rather pleased with herself.

Four-tooth became so curious he just had to ask:

"Begging your pardon, milady, but what are you so happy about?"

"When I was younger," replied the woman, "All I wanted was to own a tavern and be married to a good man.  And now, I just became owner of this tavern.  I love this location, I love the patrons, I love everything about it."

"And a good man did you find?" Four-tooth had asked.

"Aye," she smiled, "He's alright."

After living on the streets for so long, Four-tooth had become well aware of different types of people.  Some were disgusted by him, looking upon him with disdain, crossing the road when he was near.  A few openly abused him, shooing him away like he was a rat.  The majority didn't even see him, waking past him like he was invisible.  But then every now and then, a person would come along, like a sunny day during winter, like the sultanas in a bowl of cereal.  These rare people seemed to him to be almost glowing from within and with an energy about them that put him at ease.  They spoke to Four-tooth the hobo as equals, with absolute sincerity.  This woman was one of them, and he liked her immediately.

"I'm Lena Straud," said the woman.

"They call me Four-tooth," and he grinned to show her why.

They spoke for hours that first night.  He honestly couldn't remember what they talked about, but he remembered it was good.  He remebered at one point, the delicious aroma of food from within the tavern came wafting past his nose, and he couldn't help but take in a longing sniff.  Lena immediately went inside the tavern without a word, coming out later carrying a bowling of warm soup and a hunk of fresh bread.  Four-tooth was not very knowledgeable about food, so he didn't know what type of soup it was, but he remembered it tasted like heaven and he devoured every last drop.

"It's good to cook and see someone enjoying it so much," Lena had said, chuckling.

Later in the night, Lena asked if Four-tooth would like to stay the night inside the tavern, out of the cold, but Four-tooth had flatly refused.  Even a homeless person can have their pride.  He didn't want to owe anyone anything.

Instead he chose the alleyway next to the tavern.  The plan was to sleep there and go somewhere else the next day.  But sleeping there that first night, Four-tooth felt something he had not felt in a long time.  In that cold, dark alleyway, with the big warm tavern next to him, it reminded him of being four years old again, sleeping in a room with your parents in the room next to yours.  It was comforting.

After so many years living alone by himself, Four-tooth finally felt like he had come home.

Practically every night for the next four years, Four-tooth had slept in that alleyway.  And tonight was no different.

He wedged himself closer to the wall and pulled the blankets in tigher around him.  Very soon, he would be asleep, floating in the lovely land of dreams...

"The albatross is in the Eagles nest," said a woman's voice.

Four-tooth's eyes opened.  Two people were talking in the street nearby.

"I repeat, the albatross is in the Eagle's nest," said the woman once again.  Four-tooth knew this voice.  It was Penelope, one of the waittresses from the Encumbered Adventurer.

"I have no idea what you are talking about," replied a young boy, who's voice Four-tooth did not recognise.

"Don't you understand the code?" said Penelope.

"I'm new," said the boy, "I started two days ago."

"Come closer," said Penelope.  She lowered her voice to a whisper, "The man that everyone is looking for, the man in the red cloak.  He is inside this tavern.  Inside a secret room downstairs."

"Righteous!" said a boy, "So I suppose you need a tough guy like me to go capture him?  Sure!  Let's get in there and boogie."

"No, you fool," said Penelope, "This is important!  I need you to hurry back to the Castle and tell the Captain that the man they are looking for is here.  Do you understand?"

"Affirmative!" said the boy.

"Good," said Penelope, "Godspeed."

There was a pause.

"It means go fast, run fast," said Penelope, "Go!"

And with that, the pair separated, Penelope returning to the tavern and the boy sprinting off in the direction of the castle.

Four-tooth sighed.

He was so cosy under his blankets.  His body heat had warmed everything up just nicely.  He was so close to being asleep.

Oh well, he thought, these are the moments that define friendship.

He flung off the blankets and rose, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.  It was glorious!  Anyone watching would have thought he was so cool.

Then it hit him.  It was cold!

He jumped around like an angry monkey for a little bit and then stopped.

But now was not the time to worry about warming up, he had something important to do, and every second was precious.  He walked deeper into the alleyway.  Finally he came upon what he was looking for; an iron manhole in the ground.   Four-tooth pulled on it, just to check, but as expected, it was locked.  Four-tooth took the silver key that hung on a chain around his neck and inserted it into the centre of the manhole.  And turned.

Click.

Four-tooth climbed into the darkness below, and replaced the cover above him.  Once it was locked, he continued down the ladder, and prayed that what he was doing, would help rather than hinder his friend.

 



© 2013 thuaners


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Added on July 6, 2012
Last Updated on February 3, 2013

Passion of the Liger


Author

thuaners
thuaners

Australia



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Currently writing a fantasy adventure story online (called 'Passion of the Liger' :) ). hope you enjoy reading it ^^ more..

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A Chapter by thuaners