Chapter 17

Chapter 17

A Chapter by thuaners

Lena Straud sat behind the bar, eyes fixed on the stranger in the red hooded cloak. He was seated in a shadowy corner of the tavern, away from the warm amber of the fireplace and the room’s flickering candlelight.
“Penelope,” said Lena, to the buxom young waitress who was walking by, “That man in the red robes. Who is he?”
“Never seen him before, ma’am,” said Penelope, “Seems nice enough, but very mysterious. His hood comes down so low, I couldn’t make out his face. He has a bushy beard, but that’s about all I can tell you.”
Lena nodded, her eyes still boring into the stranger across the room.
“Did he order a meal?” said Lena.
“Roast boar,” said the waitress.
“With mint sauce?” said Lena.
“Yes’m,” said the waitress, “How did you know?”
Lena didn’t answer. She seemed to be thinking about something.
Penelope looked down at her little notepad, and said, “He also ordered a tankard of-”
“Butterscotch mead,” they both said together.
Penelope looked at Lena, “You know him?”
“My instincts tell me it is a man I knew long ago,” said Lena, “One day he left, and never returned. Why he should return now, out of the blue, I do not know. Perhaps I am mistaken. Perhaps this is simply a stranger passing through Firgenduke. In any case, I will speak to him, to put my mind at ease.”
Lena got up and made her way over to the dark corner where the man in the red robes was seated alone.
“Greetings, stranger,” said Lena.
The man nodded his hooded head slightly in greeting, but made no sound.
“Do I know you?” she said, “You seem familiar.”
There was a long pause.
“Yes,” said the stranger.
“Who are you?” said Lena.
The stranger reached out his hand and clasped it firmly around her wrist, holding her in place. His grasp was incredibly strong, and Lena knew she was not going anywhere until he let her go. She made not a sound; her heart began to beat fast.
The stranger brought his other hand up�"with index finger pointed�"to his mouth, indicating that Lena should not make a sound. Then he tilted his head up, his face coming into view.
Lena couldn’t believe it. Even if he hadn’t been holding her wrist, she was too stunned to move.
The piercing green eyes. The face�"aged since she had last seen him�"still ruggedly handsome, his beard longer and shaggier than she had remembered.
“Anton!” whispered Lena, “It’s you!”
“Please, Lena,” said Anton in a low voice, “I need your help. No one must know I am here.”
Lena nodded, “Come with me. We can speak in private.”
Anton stood up and followed her. The two of them weaved their way through the crowd, until they came upon a set of stone steps at the back of the tavern, which they descended. When they reached the bottom, Anton found himself in a small square room. Aside from a few big wooden kegs, there was not much else in the room. Even though there were four wall torches�"one in each corner of the room�"the light was very dim; Anton could barely make out Lena’s face, and she was standing directly in front of him. But even though it was dark, he could tell that she was not happy with him.
“Why,” said Lena, “After all these years, have you suddenly decided to return? And under such a shroud of secrecy.”
“I cannot explain,” said Anton.
“Then I have another question,” said Lena, “Why did you leave in the first place? You just vanished! Without so much as a goodbye. Maruska was poisoned and on the brink of death. They found her alone in the forest. Did you know that?”
“Found alone in the forest?” said Anton, “Is that what they said?”
“Yes,” said Lena, “Is it not true?”
Anton paused.
Eventually, he said, “Yes, it must be true then.”
“Answer me, Anton,” said Lena, “I want to hear it from your mouth. Saxon keeps defending you and says you must have had a good reason for disappearing. That you probably didn’t even know Maruska had been poisoned. So now that you are here, I want to hear your side of the story.”
“My side of the story,” said Anton, “Is that I knew Maruska was poisoned and abandoned her.”
There was total silence.
Lena looked at the man standing before her. Physically he looked like the man she remembered. The strong, brave, honest Anton. The man you could always depend on. Now as she looked at him, she saw that he was different. He seemed broken, vulnerable, desperate and weak.
“Leave,” she said quietly.
“Lena,” said Anton, “Please, I need your help.”
“Leave,” she repeated more firmly, “I will not help you. Leave my tavern and never return. You are not welcome here. You abandoned my friend and left her to die.” She looked him in the eyes and said, “The next time we meet, we shall be less than strangers.”
Anton got down onto his hands and knees.
Lena could tell by the way he did it, this man was not accustomed to begging.
“Please, Lena,” said Anton, “Help me get to Maruska. My wife’s life depends on it.”
Lena could not believe her ears. She was struggling before, but this really pushed her over the edge.
“Your wife?” said Lena, “You got married to somebody else? You left Maruska to die, and the reason we never saw you again was because you went and got married?”
Anton just kept staring at the ground.
Lena wasn’t done yet. Two decades of bottled up anger at this man all resurfaced at once. “Maruska would have died for you. She loved you! You broke her heart. You didn’t see her after she recovered from the poison. She kept saying ‘Something must have happened to Anton. I have to go find him!’. After years, even she gave up hope. She wanted to kill herself! Maruska is alive now, but the Maruska we all knew and loved died years ago. And it’s your fault!”
Lena was furious. She was normally quite a calm person but she was spewing forth such venom at Anton. She took some deep breaths to calm herself down.
Anton said nothing. He just stayed kneeling before her and looking down at the ground.
“I didn’t mean to hurt her,” he said quietly.
Lena just looked at him. He had just taken her verbal barrage without even flinching. He wasn’t completely weak.
People make mistakes, said a voice inside her head, We all do.
Lena took in a deep breath and when she exhaled, she blew out a lot of the anger from her system.
Lena looked up at the stairs. Penelope was standing there.
“What is it, Penelope?” said Lena.
“It’s the Royal guards. The Conquistador actually. He’s looking for a man in red robes,” said Penelope, “What should I tell him?”
Lena looked back at Anton. Memories from the past came flooding back to her. Memories of the times when Anton had been like a big brother to her. He had always looked after her.
This man kneeling before her now, she didn’t know if he was the same man anymore. But he looked like Anton DiManlen, her friend. And for that reason alone, she gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“Tell him that we have seen no such man,” said Lena.
Penelope glanced at the man kneeling there in the red robes and nodded, then vanished upstairs.
“Thank you,” said Anton.
“Don’t thank me yet,” said Lena, “I am still undecided.”
She began to head upstairs, leaving Anton alone in the cellar. Before she reached the top, she turned and said to him, “If I was you, I would pull that torch in the corner.”

© 2011 thuaners

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Nice. how did I miss this one? It does dound different from usual adventures, and am going to read more (and hopefully dont forget).

Posted 9 Years Ago

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Added on August 23, 2011
Last Updated on August 23, 2011

Passion of the Liger




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