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Carthinal 7

The magician performed in the square for several days. Each day, Carthinal went and watched. By the prickling sensation, he quickly learned which of the man’s tricks were real magic and which sleight of hand.


Wren went with him the first couple of times, then she said, “Why do you keep on going back? It’s the same show every day.”


Carthinal shrugged, “I’m unsure myself, Wren. I’m fascinated by his magic. His real magic, that is, not that other stuff.”


After watching a number of times, Carthinal thought he could remember the words and hand movements the magician made when he conjured the small flame on his finger. He decided to try it out, but not in the Gang’s Headquarters.


He walked around the area until he came to a back street, Sitting on a doorstep, he began to mutter the words and copy what he thought were the hand movements. Nothing happened. He tried again. Still nothing. After a few attempts, he gave up.


The next day, he was again standing in the square watching. He thought he noticed a few things he’d got wrong, and he went to practise again, in the same back street.


He practised for a week. By then the magician had left the area. One day, sitting on the step, he wondered why he did this. The man he had been copying had gone, so he could not refresh his memory. He sat there, head in his hands, trying to picture exactly what the magician had said and done.


I’ll try one more time. If it doesn’t work, I’ll give up.


He chanted in a slightly different way. His skin began to prickle and he felt a sensation deep within his stomach. A tiny flame appeared on his index finger, then quickly vanished.


The young man leaped up and yelled. “Yeah I did it!”


He ran all the way back to headquarters and burst in shouting “Wren, Wren, I did it.”


“Calm down. Did what?”


“Made magic. I got a little flame on my finger.”


Wren shrugged. “So what? How’s that going to help with anything.”


Carthinal took her by her shoulders. “Don’t you see. I can do magic. Perhaps if I practice I can learn more and then go and perform like that magician. We could be rich.”


“Who’s goin’ ter be rich?” Cat was just passing.


“Cat, I managed to do some magic. Real magic.”


Cat laughed. “You think ’cos yer did a little trick yer can become a real mage? Dream on, Fox, but keep ’em for sleep-time.”


Carthinal shook his head, but determined to keep on practising. Apart from the pride in learning to do it all on his own, when he had succeeded, the physical sensations it gave him were enough to make him continue.


Each morning, the young man went to the same back street and chanted and wove his hands around. Sometimes he succeeded, sometimes he failed, but he did not give up. Eventually, he could keep the flame going for several minutes.


One say, as he tried to make the flame walk from one finger to another, he became aware of a shadow falling over him. Quickly, he extinguished his little flame and sprang to his feet.


“Steady, lad,” a voice said. “How did you learn to do that?”


Carthinal scowled at the man. “Why should I tell you? Who are you, and how did you find me?”


“My name’s Mabryl. I’m an archmage and I felt a disturbance in the mana, so I tracked it here.”


At the sound of ‘archmage’, Carthinal pricked up his ears.

“Archmage? You’re important, then. So why’ve you tracked me down?”


“One simple reason. Hardly anyone can learn to do magic of any kind on their own. What made you try?”


“I watched the magician in the square on Grillon’s day and during that week. I copied what he said and did,”


“Impressive. How did you know what to copy? In other words, how did you know what was real magic and what wasn’t?”


“I felt it. It was like a tingling all over my skin.”


“Young man, you have a talent for magic, but you need training. First, although you’ve managed to get this far on your own, that’s only a very simple spell. One we use to teach apprentices at the beginning. It’s called a cantrip. More importantly, though, is the fact that magic can be very dangerous in untrained hands, both to yourself and those around you.”


Carthinal looked into Archmage Mabryl’s eyes. “What are you saying? I should stop?”


“Not at all. You have a tremendous talent. I would like to train you.”


“No. I’ll not fall for that. You know who I am and want to lure me to your home so you can hand me over to the guards”


Mabryl laughed a soft laugh. “That would be such a waste of talent. Anyway, who are you that I’d want to hand you over? What have you done that the guards would be interested in?”


Carthinal looked down and shuffled his feet. “Nothing. At least nothing you need to know. I have to go.”


As he turned to leave the street, Mabryl said, “I live on Grindlehoff Street. Number forty three. Come there if you change your mind. I hope you do. Your talent will be wasted if not, and you could cause great danger to everyone around.”


When he got back to the headquarters he searched out Wren. He told her all that had happened.


“What did you say?”


“That he could go away and leave me alone. That I’m not interested. He’s only trying to tempt me so I’ll lead him to the rest of you.”


That night, Wren propped herself up on her elbow on the bed they shared. “I’ve been thinking.”


“Not too hard. I hope.” Carthinal yawned and turned to face her.


“About that man, Mabryl was it?”


“What about him?”


“If you went there and learned to be a proper mage, you could be a help to the Gang.”


“How?”


“Suppose you could use magic to help people not notice us when we pick their pockets? Then perhaps you could make Cat invisible when he goes buglaring so no one sees him. Then you could use it when we fight other gangs. We’d be able to take over all the others.”


“Mmm. Perhaps. I’ll think about it.” He turned over and went to sleep.

Will Carthinal accept Mabryl’s offer and go to his house to become his apprentice, or will he stay with The Beasts? The relative security and friendship he knows or an unknown life are his choices. Read the next episode on the first Tuesday of December to find out which he chooses.

Find out more about Carthinal by reading The Woves of Vimar series. The first three books can be got from Amazon.

Carthinal part 4

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Carthinal spent the next few weeks learning the language of the underworld. The Rooster would not allow him to leave the headquarters until he was reasonably proficient. He must be able to talk with other members of the gang without the Guard understanding.
One day, after he had been with The Beasts for six months, The Rooster called to him. “Fox, you go with Wren. There’ll be lots of punters out in the market. She’ll pick a pocket, then pass it to you. You leave in th’ opposite direction an’ come back ’ere. Don’t run. That’d raise suspicions.”
Carthinal grinned. At last The Rooster trusted him to do a job. His eyes glowed with a seeming inner light, and he jigged on the spot.
“Fox,” The Rooster called as they passed him. “Cover yer ’ead. Yer auburn ’air is too distinctive. Can’t do anything ’bout those eyes, but don’t look straight at anyone. No one else ’as eyes that dark blue.”
Carthinal nodded as he pulled a hood over his hair, and left in the company of The Wren.
The Wren had brown hair and eyes, and was of small stature. They walked to the market, but as soon as they entered The Wren whispered to Carthinal.
“We separate here. Keep me in sight. When you see me bump into a punter, come to me. Don’t stop. I’ll put the stuff into your hand. Keep on going and don’t look at me.”
Carthinal mingled with the crowds, pretending to look at the goods in the market, but always keeping The Wren in sight. She passed many people, and Carthinal wondered how she chose her victim. He saw her stumble and bump into a rich-looking woman.
He walked quickly towards her and heard her say. “I’m sorry ma’am. Caught me foot on summat.” She looked down as if to search for what had tripped her.
Carthinal walked by, close to the woman and The Wren, and felt her hand touch his. He gripped something and continued walking, After a few yards he turned in the direction of the gang headquarters.
“Well done. You’re a natural.” The Wren caught him up.
Carthinal grinned at her. “I did alright, then?”
“Very good for a first time. In fact, I’ve had buddies worse than that after years of practice.”
Carthinal puffed his chest out. He would make sure he was the best in the gang.
The Rooster patted them both on the back. “Looks like you’ll make a good pair. A good haul here, too. There’s even an emperor in the purse.”
He held up a large coin made of platinum. “A few copper royals, ten silver crowns, and three gold monarchs as well.” He grinned and then sent them to get some food at the opposite end of the large room.
Carthinal had been sharing a room with The Cat who hoped to be a cat burglar and had begun his training. Soon, Carthinal and he became firm friends.
“What do you want to do, here?” queried The Cat one day.
Carthinal shrugged. “Not sure.”
“How do you fancy being a burglar? Lots of excitement.”
“No, that doesn’t appeal to me, really.”
“Y’ could be a pick-pocket, like The Wren, or The Rooster could set yer up in a shop in town, an’ you could be a fence.” The Cat’s gaze scanned Carthinal from head to foot. “I don’t think you’d be very good as security, though. We need people built like The Bull for that. Then there’re th’ beggars. They play on people’s sympathy. Usually with an injury or summat. You ain’t got no injury, but you’re pretty enough to make punters feel sorry for yer.”
“I’ve not thought about it, Cat. I suppose I should, really.’
It was decided for him, eventually.
The Rooster called him one day. “Fox, yer must earn yer keep. We ain’t a charity. Go over to The Snake and say I told ’im ter teach you ‘ow ter pick a pocket.”
Carthinal began to learn the art of picking pockets under The Snake’s tutelage. The Snake, as his name implies, was a slippery customer. He was tall and slender with thin, brown hair and green eyes.
“ I ’ave a pouch in me pocket. I’m gonna walk over there.” He pointed to the opposite side of the room. I want yer t’ get it out of me pocket. Dunna worry ’bout me feelin’ yer at th’ moment Just get it.”
This Carthinal did, In spite of what The Snake said, he tried to get it without the young man feeling him.
“Not bad. Yer technique’s not quite right, but we’ll work on that. Yer did well for a first time.”
So it went on over the next few months. Carthinal became better at picking pockets, until eventually, he was allowed to go out with The Wren again, this time to be the ‘dip’ while she received his stolen goods.
They came to the market, and Carthinal sighted a man with a bulging pocket. He stealthily walked towards him, looking the other way. Then he stumbled and bumped into the man, reaching quickly into his pocket and extracting a full purse. The Wren walked past as if she were looking at the stall, and Carthinal pressed the purse into her hand and walked away in the opposite direction.
The victim put his hand to his pocket to get his money to pay for a purchase. “Hey, I’ve been robbed.” He scanned the marketplace. Turning to the man next to him he said, “Did you see anything?”
The man shook his head.
Carthinal looked back and saw this exchange, but continued wending his way towards the gang’s headquarters. No one noticed the boy weaving between them, but concentrated on what went on at the stall, where the victim stridently called for the guard.
Back at the headquarters, The Wren handed the pouch over to The Rooster.
“Well done, the pair of you. Fox, you’re proving yourself a handy pickpocket.”

So Carthinal is learning to be a pickpocket. How will that square with his upbringing? Find out next time on the first Tuesday of August.

If you would like to know more about Carthinal’s later adventures, you can buy The Wolf Pack by clicking on the link here, and it will take you to amazon where you are. It is available both as an ebook or a paperback.

Please leave a comment in the box. I would love to hear your views on this little tale.

Carthinal’s Story Part 3

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“I’m not moving from here until I see the lawyer.” Carthinal set his mouth in a straight line.

The woman stood and rounded her desk. She took Carthinal by the arm and tried to propel him to the door. He planted his feet onto the ground and pulled back. The woman slipped and almost fell. She cried out.
A door behind the woman’s desk opened. “What’s all the noise about, Hiroma?” Then he caught sight of Carthinal. His face reddened and his hands formed fists at his side. He iseyes glam]nced from side to side.
“What do you want?” he growled.
Carthinal’s mouth formed a firm line. “I want my house back.”

 

“What are you talking about, boy? You are, what? thirteen years old? How can an thirteen-year-old have a house? Go back to your parents.”
“I have no parents. And I’m seventeen.”
Gromblo Grimnor laughed. “Seventeen? Seventeen? I’ve seen taller twelve-year-olds than you. Don’t try to kid me. Now, what do you really want? And who sent you? Do you want money? If you’re in some gang, they’ve not done very well with this scam.”
“You know who I am.” Carthinal looked Gromblo in the eye. “I am Carthinal. My Grandfather was Kendo Borlin. He left his house and money to me. He told me so.”
Gromblo narrowed his eyes. “So that’s your game. Trying to impersonate Carthinal. Well, I have to tell you that Carthinal is dead. He died of pneumonia last year. Some say his death was the cause of his Grandfather’s illness. That the old man never recovered from the shock. So,. You see, you can’t be Carthinal.” The lawyer laughed.
“I’m not dead. I’m here. And I want to know why you stole my home.”
Gromblo turned to Hiroma. “Go and call the Guard. We need to get this child out of here.”
As she left, Carthinal felt a tightness in his chest, and a familiar feeling welling up from his stomach. Clenching his fists, he ran at Gromblo and kicked him in the shins. The lawyer yelled, hopped on one leg for a few seconds and lunged at Carthinal, who slipped beneath his arm. Steadying himself on the wall behind the bench where Carthinal had been sitting, he turned and, with a roar, launched himself once more at the child. This time he managed to catch Carthinal’s arm. Carthinal bit the hand holding him, but Gromblo managed to hang on to the boy.
Carthinal screamed at the man. “I’m not dead. I’m here, and you’ve stolen my home and my money.”
The door opened and Hiroma appeared with a guard.
“What’s going on here?” the guard asked.
“This little rat is trying to say he’s Kendo Borlin’s grandson. You know, the head of the guilds, who died last year. I think he’s trying to get money from me.”
“Too right I am. You owe me a fortune.”
Gromblo turned to the guard. “See what I mean? I grant you he looks a bit like Carthinal, with the red hair and blue eyes, but that child is dead.”
“Do you have proof of the child’s death?”
Carthinal looked at the guard. He had not thought of that. There could not be anything to prove the demise of Carthinal. He stood right here in front of them, very much alive.
Gromblo turned to Hiroma. “Go and get the Borlin file.”
The young woman left, to return a few minutes later with a thick file. Gromblo took it and laid it on his secretary’s desk.
He fumbled through a lot of papers then pulled one out. “I did a lot of work for Kendo Borlin “Aah! Here’s the paper giving details of Carthinal’s death. Very sad it was. A lovely little boy. Such a sweet nature.”
Carthinal frowned. He had hardly seen Gromblo when he visited. Neither had he ever heard himself described as having a ‘sweet nature’. He had been too much of a rebel and short-tempered for that epithet to be applied.
The guard looked at the paper. He frowned. “Looks as if the name could have been scrubbed out.”
Gromblo paled. “Well, you know how it is. Secretaries aren’t like they used to be.” He flashed a look at Hiroma who started tapping her feet. “I expect she made a spelling mistake or something.”
The guard grunted. Carthinal thought he saw something pass between the guard and Gromblo as the guard passed the paper back, but he could not be sure. Then the guard grabbed him and propelled him towards the door, pushing him so that Carthinal rolled over in the dust in the road.
“Get out of here.” The guard gave him another push, but more gently this time. “I don’t want to see you anywhere near here in future. That lawyer’s sneaky, not like the old man who used to be there. He’ll try to do you harm if I’m not mistaken.”
With that, the guard stomped away, looking at something in his hand.
Carthinal watched as the guard disappeared round the corner of a building. What did he mean? Did he mean he believed Carthinal and not Gromlo? He made his way back to the park where he had slept. He sat on the grass and pulled out what money he had left. As he counted it, a shadow loomed over him. Carthinal looked up. A boy of about fifteen stood over him, with another standing just behind.
“Hand over your money.”
Carthinal jumped to his feet, stuffing the coins back into his pocket. “No! Why should I?”
The boy was much bigger than Carthinal. In fact, he stood a head taller, and he was broad-shouldered. His friend was a little smaller, but not by much.
“Because if you don’t, we’ll punch you until you drop it, then we’ll get it anyway. Your choice.”
Carthinal backed away, keeping his eyes on both boys as best he could, and his hand on the coins in his pocket. If he gave these thugs his money, he would have nothing to buy food with. He would starve.
They both came at him at once. Being smaller, Carthinal managed to duck under both their hands, but then he felt a blow on the back of his head. He went down, but kicked out his feet as he did so. The second boy, as luck would have it, happened to be coming in for another blow and Carthinal’s kick took both his legs from under him. He crashed down on top of his victim.
The first boy dragged his friend off but the blow Carthinal expected did not happen. He looked up to see his assailant held in a firm grip by another, even larger boy, while a smaller one pummeled the second.
Carthinal’s nostrils flared and he clenched his fists. How dare these young thugs try to steal his money. Taking advantage of the fact that he was held, he bunched his fist and slammed it into the midriff of the larger of his two assailants. The boy holding him swung him round and punched him as well. Gasping for breath, he took off, running as fast as his legs could carry him.
The smaller of the two new arrivals dipped and dodged and got in quite a lot of blow without being hit himself, but as soon as his opponent saw his friend running, he, too, turned on his heels and fled.
Panting, the smaller of his rescuers turned to Carthinal. “Right. ’oo are yer and what’re yer doin’ on our patch?”
Carthinal frowned. “Patch? I don’t understand.”
“Yer not part o’ our gang, and yer not part o’ Th’ Green Fish, either. So oo are yer?”
“Green Fish?”
The boy frowned and ran his fingers through his dark hair. “Start by tellin’ me oo yer are. Bull,’old ’im t’ make sure ’e don’t run for it. Right. We’ve never seen you ’ere before. Tell me oo yer are.”
“I’m Carthinal Borlin. I live, or rather used to live, up on the hill.”
“A rich kid,” growled Bull. “Let’s kick ’im.”
“I’m not a rich kid anymore.”
The smaller boy put his head on one side. “What d’yer mean, ‘anymore’?”
“The lawyer has taken my home and said I’m dead. He had a paper to prove it.”
Bull released Carthinal’s arms. “What d’yer think, Cat? Let him go?”
Cat shook his head. “’e’s not part o’ Green Fish. We can’t ’ave ’im wanderin’ round operatin’ on ’is own. We’ll take ’im to ’eadquarters.”
Carthinal did not know what they were talking about, but as he had no other ideas as to what he could do, he followed the pair.
They led him to an area Carthinal had never been before. Near to the docks, it was very run down. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of rotting food lying in the gutters, and carefully skirted other unmentionable things. A skinny dog barked at them as they passed, and half-starved cats jumped onto walls. Dirty children ran wild in the streets, and people looked suspiciously at Carthinal’s expensive, if dirty, clothes.
They came to a dark alley where his escorts turned off the main road and arrived at a door whose paint had mostly peeled off. Cat knocked a complex pattern and the door opened a crack. Just enough for Carthinal to see a grey eye peering out.
“Oh, it’s you.” The voice was female. Carthinal saw the eye turn to him. “Oo’s this?”
“Someone oo might want ter join us. Come on, Shrew. Open up. We need to see Rooster.”
The door creaked on its hinges as Shrew swung it back. The three entered into a long corridor.
Carthinal looked around. Inside it appeared cleaner than outside. The wooden planks on the floor had been polished and the walls looked clean and painted.
“Come on. Rooster’ll want ter see yer.” Shrew beckoned them towards a door at the end of the corridor.
Carthinal followed and found himself in a large room. Several small tables scattered around with a few people sitting at them. Some played Rond, a card game popular on Vimar. Others sat around talking or mending clothes and tools.
Light streamed in through two large windows opposite the door. As with everything else, they were clean and polished. A large table stood under one of the windows, and a man sat on a large chair behind it.
He stood as the three entered the room. He was dressed in a tunic of red and blue, with green trousers. He had his hair dyed red and it stood up. His nose was long and he craned his neck forward as he looked at them.
“What’s this you’ve brought?”
“We found ’im. Green Fish attacked ’im,” the boy known as The Cat replied. “Well, a couple of ’em, anyway. They were on our patch, so we saw ’em off.”
“Why bring ’im ’ere? ’e looks like one o’ them rich bods.”
“’e was, but ’e was cheated of ’is ’ouse, ’e sez.”
The Rooster came round the table. He walked all round Carthinal, looking him up and down. Carthinal shuffled his feet as he watched the man.
He does look like a rooster, Carthinal thought. He even walks like one.
When he returned to face Carthinal, The Rooster turned to him. “The Cat says you might want t’join us. What d’you say?”
Carthinal looked around the room. All eyes looked in his direction, and a few people had left their places and now stood around looking at him.
He turned his eyes at the person referred to as The Cat. “I never said that!”
The small, dark-haired boy grinned. “Not in so many words, no. But you were on our patch. You’ll be stealin’ soon. You steal on our patch, you better be in The Beasts or we’ll deal wi’ you like we did Green Fish”
“Who says I’ll steal? Stealing’s wrong.”
The Rooster stood up from the table and approached. “’ow much money ‘ave you, boy? You say you got no ’ome. Your money’ll run out soon. Then you’ll steal to live. You can join us or not. Up to you, but if you don’t, expect us to sort you out like we sorted Green Fish. You’ll not survive long. Green Fish’ll be after you, too. You join The Beasts and we’ll give you food, protection and a ’ome.”
Carthinal stood looking at the young man in front of him. What he said was true. He closed his eyes as he thought.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you.” The Rooster interrupted his thoughts. “We hold everything in common. You have to give us what you have.”
Carthinal stepped back. “I only have a little money left. You can’t take that.”
The Rooster shrugged. “Have it your own way.” He turned to go back to his chair. Then he stopped and looked back at Carthinal. “We’ll get th’ money anyway. One of us’ll catch you and take it. Pr’ob’ly beat you a bit, too, ’cos you’ll be on or patch, see. So you lose it anyway.”
“All right.” Carthinal felt in his pocket and pulled out his few royals, He handed it to The Rooster.
“Sensible lad.” The Rooster took the money and called to a young man sitting by the window. “Tiger, bring th’ money pot. We’ve a bit more ter put in it.”
Tiger lifted a pot from one of the shelves and carried it carefully over to The Rooster, who dropped Carthinal’s money into it.
“You need a name,” one of the girls said.
“I’m called Carthinal”
“No, a gang name. We don’t use our given names here. As we’re the Beasts, we all have animal names. I’m The Porcupine.”
Another boy chimed up, “I know. ’e’s got red ’air. ‘e can be The Fox.”

So Carthinal has joined a street gang! Will he be able to fit in? What will he think about committing crimes?

Find out on the first Tuesday of August.

Are you enjoying the story of Carthinal’s early life? Please let me know what you think in the comments.

If you want to know more about Carthinal, you can find out by reading The Wolf Pack. You can buy by clicking here, or on the book cover.

 

Aspholessaria. Bluehaven

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The journey continued. There were, as Trinelli expected, a number of times her healing skills were called upon. True to her word, Asphodel helped as much as she could. It was little enough, because the girl had not been trained in healing. She knew nothing at all. Not even the simplest remedies used by almost every housewife in the land.
She had been brought up as a privileged daughter of one of the ruling families of Quantissarillishon. Although only minor royalty, she had not had to work, The result was that she knew little of how life would be for most people. She was fascinated by Trinelli’s healing, both the mundane and that which the goddess channelled through her priestess.
One day, after they had been travelling for a week, Asphodel asked Trinelli about her religion.
‘Well,’ began the other woman, ‘What do you know about Sylissa?’
‘Not much, really. We elves tend to worship Grillon, as the god of nature. We know a little of the others, but Grillon is our god, really.’
‘Well, Sylissa is the god of Life and Healing. She is the twin sister of Kalhera, god of Death. They are like two sides of one coin. Sylissa’s colour is white, as you can see from my robes, while Kalhera’s is black.’
Asphodel settled down to listen as Trinelli told her about how Sylissa and Kalhera were the daughters of the Chief of the Gods, Kassilla and her consort, Zol the god of Knowledge and Learning. how each chose some aspect of life to be their jurisdiction.
Because she chose to aid those who were sick, occasionally there were disputes between the two sisters, if Kalhera thought Sylissa were denying death to people, but generally they were on good terms.
The clerics of Sylissa were the doctors and nurses of the world, but they did not rely wholly on the power of the god to cure sickness and injury. No, they learned other ways too, such as herbs, and manipulation. They could set broken bones, although sometimes they would call upon Sylissa to help.
Asphodel became fascinated by this and began to ask questions about the various herbs and other methods Trinelli used, She fould the rest of the journey passed quickly, especially as Trinelli sometimes gave her little things to do.
Just as they approached Bluehaven, Trinelli turned to Asphodel and said, ‘You seem to have some aptitude for healing, you know. Have you ever thought of becoming a healer.’
Asphodel was amazed. The idea had never crossed her mind.
‘I’m not sure I’d make a very good cleric,’ she said.
‘You don’t have to. We have some lay people who help us. Why not come to the temple with me and see the Great Mother there. You can decide then what to do.’
So Asphodel went to see the Great Mother and decided to become a lay healer.
Soon that was not enough, and one night she dreamed of Sylissa.
‘Come and join me,’ the goddess told her. ‘You have great potential. It’s wasted here. Join my clerics.’
So after a year in Bluehaven, Asphodel joined the novices at the temple of Sylissa.

All went well during her first year as a novice. Mother Caldo, the Great Mother of the temple praised the young elf, saying she thought she had great potential, and could rise through the ranks quickly. Mother Caldo told Asphodel that she could probably become a Great Mother herself, such was her potential in healing.
‘There’s just one thing, though,’ Mother Caldo said one day, in conversation with one of the archbishops. She sighed. ‘The girl is lacking in discipline. Sometimes she seems to think she knows better than her superiors.’
One day, the Great Mother called together all the clerics of the church of Sylissa in Bluehaven. She stood in the pulpit of the temple and began to speak.
‘As you all know,’ she began, ‘the annual meeting of all the Most Highs of all the religions was held recently in Asperilla on Holy Island. There, they decided that all the sickness and other problems that surround us are a punishment by the gods for the evil that we do.’
She looked at the paper before her before continuing.
‘The consensus of this meeting was that we should try to eliminate evil from the world. The best way to do this, they said, is to refuse aid to those who perpetrate evil. The discussion, apparently, decided against the active persecution and killing, as this would make us as bad as them. The Most High of Sylissa, therefore, has decreed that we will not give aid or healing to such people.’
She shuffled her papers and left the pulpit. An astounded Asphodel followed her fellow novices from the temple deep in thought.
This cannot be right, she thought. Surely we are supposed to give healing to all comers, regardless of anything they might have done. At least, that’s what I understood I was promising when I took my vows.
She listened to her friends talking, and they all seemed to think it was a good idea to eliminate evil in this way, and so she said nothing.

 

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Aspholessaria

 

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Asphodel stumbled as she landed in the covered wagon. She lay breathing heavily for a few moments, then she heard a voice and a hand lifted her up.
‘You just made it,’ said a melodious female voice. ‘A few more seconds and you’d have missed us.’
Asphodel looked at the woman who had helped her up and onto a seat. She was wearing white robes tied with a green sash. Asphodel knew this indicated the woman was a vicar and a cleric of Sylissa, the goddess of healing. The woman looked around forty years old and had a few grey hairs just beginning to appear in her dark hair. Her brown eyes had small laughter lines around them and she smiled at Asphodel.
‘Thank you for your help,’ the elf said. ‘It might sound like an odd question, but where is this caravan going to?’
The cleric raised her eyebrows, then replied, ‘To Bluehaven ultimately. We pass through a number of other towns though. First we go through several small villages in Erian before we get to the border with Grosmer. There aren’t any large towns between Frelli and Grosmer.’
The vicar leaned back in her seat and then asked, ‘Where are you going?’
Asphodel sighed. ‘Wherever my coin will take me,’ she said.
The vicar frowned. ‘Running away? What have you done, or who are you running away from?’
Asphodel closed her eyes foe a moment, then opened them and looked straight at her companion.
‘I’ve not done anything. It’s what he did.’
The vicar said nothing, but continued to look at Asphodel.
Asphodel paused, then it all came out in a rush. She told the whole story from meeting Vass to him hitting her. Then her eyes filled with tears and she looked away.
The other woman moved across to sit next to the girl. she put her arm around her and said, ‘You made a mistake, yes, but we all make mistakes, especially when young. How much did you give the caravan leader?’
When Asphodel told her, she tutted. ‘That won’t even get you to the border,’ she said.
‘But Vass saw which caravan I was on. He’ll get the next one and come after me, I know it.’ Her eyes darted around the wagon as though expecting to see Vass jump out from behind the cloth roof.
The cleric patted her hand. ‘Don’t worry about than for now,’ she said. ‘We’ll sort something out. The next caravan in this direction isn’t for a couple of days. By the way, my name’s Trinelli.’
‘Asphodel,’ replied the elf, not giving her full name as she knew the human woman would have difficulty in pronouncing it.
The caravan stopped for a meal at midday. While they were eating, a man came running up to them.
‘Vicar,’ he shouted as he approached, ‘vicar, please will you come to look at my wife. She’s sick.’
Trinelli stood up. ‘What seems to be the matter?’ she asked.
‘She’s vomiting and says she feels dizzy,’ he said. ‘She says that whenever she moves, it feels as if the world is spinning around her.’
Trinelli followed the man to a wagon and went inside. Out of curiosity, Asphodel followed. She stood in the entrance to the covered wagon and watched as Trinelli placed her hands on the woman and prayed to Sylissa.
The cleric’s head slumped forward. Asphodel watched as the sick woman’s colour began to return. Trinelli, at the same time, became paler. Asphodel almost thought she could see something flowing from Trinelli to the woman, but then she decided she was imagining it.
When they left the wagon, and received the man’s grateful thanks, Asphodel had to support Trinelli back to their wagon. The older woman rested for a while, then, as the wagons began to move once more, she seemed to be back to her normal self.
‘What happened there?’ Asphodel asked her.
‘The healing?’
Asphodel nodded.
‘Well. I prayed to Sylissa. She used me as a conduit to send her healing power into the woman.’
‘But it was more than that, wasn’t it?’
‘Yes. When I–or any of us–heals someone, the goddess sends her power, but it also takes some of our life essence to work. That’s why we’re always tired after healing.’
‘I thought I saw something going from you to her,’ Asphodel said. ‘I couldn’t have, though, could I? What you give her is invisible.’
Trinelli looked sharply at the young elf. She frowned.
‘You shouldn’t have been able to see anything,’ she told her, and she shook her head. ‘I don’t know what this means, but I need to think about it.’
The caravan stopped for the night. The caravan leader came to Asphodel and told her that her money had only given her passage to the next village. The girl looked frightened.
‘I have this ring.’ She reluctantly held out the ring she had picked up before leaving. ‘It was my grandmother’s. I think it’s valuable.’
Trinelli turned to the caravan leader.
‘You can’t take her grandmother’s ring,’ she scolded him. ‘It’s valuable enough to take her to Bluehaven and half-way back again.’
‘Well, she can’t have free passage.’ He shrugged. ‘She has nothing else. Seems it’s the ring or she leaves next stop.’
Trinelli fumbled in her purse and withdrew several gold crowns and a sovereign, which she handed over to the man.
‘Here. This should pay her fare to Bluehaven.’
The man took the coins and left.
‘I can’t let you pay for me,’ Asphodel protested. ‘That’s a lot of money. When we get to a town, I’ll sell my ring and pay you back, I promise.’
Trinelli smiled at the young girl.
‘You’ll do no such thing. If you want to pay me back you can help me when I go to heal people. People are always getting sick or hurt on these journeys. Your help will be worth more to me than coin. I’m going to Bluehaven, to the temple there, so I paid enough for you to get there too.’

Has Asphodel has found a means to get far enough away from Vass? How can she help a healer? She’s been brought up as one of the privileged classes in Elven society. How can she help a healer when she has no idea of healing?
Please leave a comment. I love hearing from you.
To find out more about Asphodel’s later adventures, read The Wolves of Vimar Series. Click on the books to buy.

Aspholessaria Part

 

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Asphodel held the ring tightly in her hand. Her mother had given it to her not long before she left Rindisillaron. It had been her grandmother’s ring and she felt an emotional attachment to it.
Although elves lived long lives in comparison with humans, they did not, contrary to popular belief, live forever, nor were they immune from diseases that ravaged the world of Vimar. Her grandmother had succumbed to one of these diseases the previous year. She wanted Asphodel to have her engagement ring as a keepsake.
Now, Asphodel clutched the ring as she wept for what she knew would never be. Vass had become addicted to the drugs and alcohol that his so-called friends had plied him with. He would never make the fortune he had promised her. All his money, and hers, had gone on his own addiction and not to selling the goods to others.
Asphodel did not approve of his work as a drug dealer, but now he was not a dealer, but an addict. She needed to get away.
She packed her few belongings and searched the apartment for anything she could sell, and for some food. She packed it all into the pack she had carried away from Quatissillaron when she and Vass had eloped. She paused to think for a moment before opening it again and taking out half of the food. She could not leave Vass with nothing.
The few objects she had stuffed in, she left there. After all, Vass had plenty money with her jewellery. How he chose to use it was up to him. She blew her nose, looked round the apartment that now looked presentable after all her efforts and walked out of the door.
She looked both ways along the street. A few people were going about their business, but they took no notice of a girl coming out of her apartment. Vass was nowhere in sight. Asphodel supposed he had gone to sell her jewellery. The jeweller’s shop was to the right, so she went left in the direction of her workplace.
It was dark on the street and Asphodel felt a little afraid as she walked. Where could she go? Perhaps her employer would allow her to spend the night there, then she could go and see if she could find a caravan going away from Frelli. If she could find her way to the caravanserai through the winding, spiral streets of the city.
She found herself outside her place of work. Lights gleamed from the upstairs windows. She knocked on the door.
A head appeared from the window upstairs.
‘Yes? What do you want? We’re closed now. Come back tomorrow.’

Krommel, the scribe, was pulling his head back inside when Asphodel stepped into the light cast by his window.
‘Asphodel,’ he gasped. ‘What are you doing her at this time of night? Wait, I’ll be down in a sec.’
After no more than half a minute, the door opened and Krommel beckoned the girl inside. She entered into the room where they did the copying ever day, but Krommel led her upstairs to where the family lived.
As soon as she entered the room, Krommel’s wife, a plump woman of around forty years of age, noticed her bruises.
‘Oh, my dear, what happened?’ she exclaimed. ‘Let me tend to your injuries. Sit down over there.’
While she bustled around finding things that would ease the bruising on Asphodel’s face, Krommel handed her a bowl of stew and a spoon. The girl ate gratefully.
After she had finished and the curious children been sent to bed, Asphodel explained what had happened.
‘I need to get away,’ she said. ‘I’m sure Vass will try to find me. I need to go a long way away. I can’t go back to him.’
She put her head in her hands and wept.
Krommel’s wife put her arms around the young elf.
‘Of course you can’t,’ she said. ‘Men who hit women never change. Oh, they say they’re sorry and perhaps they are, but then the drink and drugs will take over again and it will keep on happening.’
‘I still love him,’ said Asphodel, raising her tear-streaked face. ‘I don’t know why, after what he’s done. Not only to me, but to others by selling them drugs. He started selling before he started taking them. I know if I saw him, and he asked me, I’d go back to him. That’s why I need to get right away.’
Krommel smiled.
‘I’ll be sorry to lose you, girl,’ he told her, ‘but I agree. You must go away. Do you have money?’
She nodded. ‘A little. I’ve also got a ring I can sell until I find some other employment.’
‘Well, you must have your pay for what you’ve done since your last pay packet,’ Krommel told her, walking over to a safe in the wall.
He returned with a pouch of money and handed it over.
‘There’s more here than you owe me,’ Asphodel said.
‘Take it. I can afford to give you a bonus.’
Asphodel thanked him and stashed the pouch away into her pack.
The next morning, Krommel told one of his sons to escort Asphodel to the caravanserai. Asphodel was glad of his company and guidance as she knew she would never have found it on her own. It lay just inside the walls to the west.
The lad said goodbye, and Asphodel rummaged in her pack and found a small coin to give him. He thanked her and quickly disappeared into the crowds now gathering in the caravanserai.
Which one to take? There were several that looked ready to leave. suddenly, Asphodel saw, through the crowds, a familiar figure. Vass. He looked angry as he pushed people aside. His head turned this way and that, looking.
How had he found out where she was? Had Krommel told him? No, her former employer wouldn’t have done, she was certain of that. Perhaps he just guessed. Then he spotted her. He reached into his pocket and gave something to a small figure. It was Krommel’s son. Vass had bribed the child into saying where he’d taken her. She could not blame the child. No one had told him not to tell Vass.
She looked around anxiously. A caravan was just about to leave. Asphodel rushed over and asked the leader if she could join.
‘We’re just leaving,’ he said as the wagons rolled forward. ‘Do you have coin?’
‘I have some. Just take me as far as this will allow.’
The man took the coin and Asphodel jumped into the last wagon and watched as Vass’s figure grew smaller and smaller.

Where will Asphodel’s coin take her? Can she escape from Vass?

Asphodel is one of the main characters in The Wolves of Vimar Series. You can purchase the first two books by clicking on the following links:

http://mybook.to/thewolfpack/

http://mybook.to/NeverDying/

If you enjoyed this part of Asphodel’s story, please leave a comment.

Aspholessaria.

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Once in the village, the pair found an inn where they booked a room for three nights. Vass said if there were work in this village they would see about finding a more permanent place to stay, if not, they would need to move on. After all, their money and Asphodel’s jewellery would not last for ever.
Asphodel left Vass in the inn bar talking to some of the villagers about work. She made her way to a herbalist.
‘Do you have any herbs to prevent pregnancy?’ she asked the old woman who seemed to be in charge of the shop.
‘Is it for you?’ the old woman said, peering over her glasses.
When Asphodel answered in the affirmative, the old woman looked at her sharply.
‘Are you married?’ she asked.
Asphodel blushed and looked down at her feet.
‘Why do you ask?’ she said.
‘Because I don’t encourage promiscuity. I don’t sell to unmarried women and girls.’
‘Y-yes,’ lied the girl. ‘We were married in Quantissillaron just before we came here.’
‘Hmm.’ The old woman peered again at Asphodel, then said, ‘I’ll have to believe you. I don’t know anything about elves so I can’t tell if you’re lying or not.’ She turned round and reached up to a box on a shelf behind her. She weighed out some of the herbs then reached for another box. From this one she added a different herb. She put them into a pestle and began mixing them together.
When she had finished, she took a small pot and poured the herbs into it, then fastened a lid over the top.
‘Take a tea made with one spoonful of the mixture each evening and you will have no trouble with pregnancy,’ she said. ‘You have enough there to last you for three or four weeks, but don’t forget you need to take it every evening.’
Asphodel handed over the money the old woman demanded than almost ran back to the inn.
Vass laughed when she told him she had got the herbs, and almost rushed her up the stairs to their room.
They did not find any work in the village, and so they left after their second night at the inn. Vass thought they should go to Frelli, the capital of Erian. There would be more work there, he reasoned, and so they set off once again.
It took them a sixday to reach Frelli. The capitol city was in a wide valley in the Mountains of Doom, not too far from the border with Grosmer. in days gone by, there had been many wars and skirmishes fought between the two neighbouring countries and Frelli had developed into more of a fortification than a city.
From the Erian side, it appeared as a normal city, with surrounding walls it, but on the Grosmer side, the valley narrowed and the walls had been built across the valley, completely barring access.
Asphodel and Vass approached form the Erian side, of course, and so did not see the forbidding approach from Grosmer. They passed through the gate into a city of streets that seemed to wind around in a spiral towards a castle with a high tower.
‘So this is Frelli,’ Asphodel said, as they searched for an inn. ‘I’m not sure I like it very much. Not much in the way of trees is there.’
Vass shrugged.
‘We can stay here for a while and make some money, then we can go somewhere you’d like better, if that’s what you want.’
Asphodel smiled.
‘Yes, I’d like that. Somewhere where the wildlife can flourish, Perhaps a little farm somewhere.’
Vas put his arm round her.
‘I know nothing of farming,’ he told her, ‘but if that’s what you want, I’ll learn.’
The pair found an inn, and the next morning set off to try to find work. Asphodel quickly found a scribe who was looking for someone who could read and write. His last clerk had left the previous week. Vass, on the other hand, found work more difficult to come by. He had no skills required by the businesses in Frelli.
‘Couldn’t you get something as a labourer?’ Asphodel asked him one evening.
‘What? Get myself filthy? Darling, I don’t want to come home to you dirty.’ He lifted up a lock of her black hair and kissed it. ‘I have more respect for you than to expect you to live with someone who’s dirty.’
‘But you could get washed, Vass. I would barely see you dirty.’
Vass looked at her.
‘Asphodel, the labourers end up with the dirt ingrained in their skin and hard hands. I don’t want you to have to put up with callused hands on your beautiful skin.’
Asphodel sighed. She argued no further but thought she would not mind as long as the hands belonged to Vass.
Vass left again the following morning to look for work and for somewhere for them to live. After all they could not live at the inn. It would be far too expensive. Asphodel left soon afterwards to begin her new job at the scribe’s office. At the end of the day, she rushed back to the inn to tell Vass about her day. He told her he had not looked for a job that day, but had found them somewhere to live. He had put down a deposit and they could move in immediately.
Asphodel was delighted they had somewhere to live, but said, ‘ Why didn’t you wait until I came home before you took it. I’d have liked to have a say in where we’re going to live.’
Vas put his arms round her and said, ‘Asphodel, my darling, I daren’t wait. The place might have gone by the time you got home. There aren’t many places to rent in this city, you know. I had to make a decision straight away.’
They gathered their meagre goods and, after eating a last meal at the inn, went to the apartment Vass had found.
Asphodel was appalled. It was in the poorest quarter of the city with rats running around in the filthy street. The apartment itself was one room. It had a filthy rug in the centre of the room and a sofa that looked as if it had been dragged in from the rubbish tip. It, too. was filthy. There was a greasy sink in one corner of the room, and a fireplace with an oven at the side. In the fireplace were ashes left from several fires.
As she stood there, not believing that Vass could have agreed to rent this place, a cockroach ran across her feet.
‘Vass, this is awful,’ she told him. ‘We can’t live here.’
‘It’ll only be until I find work and we can then get something better. Darling, we can’t afford anything better at the moment.’
‘I suppose it won’t be too bad if I can get it clean. I’ll start now. It’s a good job we ate before we left the inn. I wouldn’t like to eat anything that had been cooked in here.’
Vass told her he would only be in her way if he stayed. He was not very good at cleaning, he said, so he would go out.
Asphodel spent the evening cleaning. She did not get everything to her liking, but it was better than before. She killed at least two dozen cockroaches, and went out to buy mousetraps as she felt sure there must be mice there.
A large cupboard stood next to the sink, and this she filled with cleaning products and then she cleaned out a small cupboard with a mesh front for food. The bed she could do little about, but she determined to wash the sheets the next day. They had access to a small garden at the back of the house and she thought she could wash the sheets before she went to work the next day and with any luck they would be dry when she got home. The mattress she could do little about that night, but decided that one of the first things she would do would be to go out and sell some of her jewellery and buy a new one.
Vass turned up just before the eighteenth hour of the day. (On Vimar, the day began at sunrise on the equinoxes, 6am, and so it was the middle of the hours of darkness when Vass arrived home.)
Asphodel brushed a strand of hair from over her eyes and stopped cleaning the fireplace.
‘You’re late,’ she said.
‘S-sorry,’ stammered Vass. ‘I meeted, no, met, shome blokes in the tavern.’ He staggered. ‘They shtold me all shorts of shtuff. Oh, I feel shick.’

He rushed to the sink and was sick.
‘That’sh better,’ he said, collapsing on the bed.
‘Vass, you’re drunk!’ Asphodel said, but he was already snoring.
The next weeks followed a similar pattern. Asphodel cleaned before and after work and Vass went out to meet his new friends. Each evening he came home drunk. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
One evening Vass did not arrive home at all. Asphodel was at last satisfied with what she had done to the apartment and had been out and bought some flowers and put them on the table. she cooked a meal with what they could afford and waited for Vass to arrive.
The meal got cold, then congealed. Asphodel threw it away. The night crept on and Asphodel fell asleep on a chair. She worried that Vass had gone somewhere else in Frelli and had got lost in the maze of streets. The layout of the city was confusing. It appeared to be straightforward, with the roads spiralling towards the castle, but in reality it was a maze.
Just as she woke, the door opened to admit Vass. She had dark circles beneath her eyes from worry and lack of sleep.
‘Asphodel,’ Vass said, taking her in his arms. ‘You look awful. So tired.’ He ran a finger over her eyes. ‘You mustn’t go to work today, but sleep to get your beauty back.’
Asphodel yawned and pushed him away.
‘I must,’ she told him. ‘You’ve no job and we need money. You’re spending what I earn drinking with your friends.’
Vass laughed. ‘I’m investing it,’ he replied. ‘My friends can get me work. I need to keep on their good sides though, so I must drink with them.’
‘What sort of work? Your ‘friends’ don’t seem to do very much.’
Vass tapped the side of his nose.
‘I can say nothing, yet,’ he told her. ‘I need to sort a few things out first, but be assured, I’ll soon have more money than you’ve ever dreamed of.’
Asphodel turned to the door. Then she turned as she left and said, ‘I’ve never dreamed of money, Vass. Just you.’

Aspholessaria part 3.

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Asphodel left the house, tears streaming down her face. She would go to Vass. He would have a solution to this. She could not, would not marry this man. He was old, in spite of what her father said. It was wrong to force someone to marry against their will. It was one thing if the two people both agreed to the arrangement, but she did not agree. She loved Vass. If she married Frishillondor she would never be able to see Vass again. she could not bear that thought.
She ran down the path leading to where he was staying with his cousin, Liss. It so happened that the two young men were just leaving the house. Vass ran to Asphodel and took her in his arms.
‘Oh, my darling, what’s the matter?’ he said, stroking her long black hair.
Asphodel stopped sobbing now she was in Vass’s arms and leaned her head against his chest.
‘Vass, it’s terrible. Father has arranged a marriage for me with a man who himself is old enough to be my father. I told father I won’t marry him and ran out of the house. He’ll be so angry. He’ll make me marry Frishillondor, I just know it.’
Vass pushed the girl away from him, holding her by her shoulders and looked down into her grey eyes, no longer clear as the usually were. He smiled at her.
‘Asphodel, I swear I won’t let this marriage go ahead. I love you and you love me. It’s right we should be together, and this marriage is all wrong.’
‘But what are we going to do? I know we should be together, Vass, and somehow I’ll make sure we will be. I don’t know how, just yet, but whatever happens, I won’t marry this man.’
Asphodel’s tears had stopped. She clenched her fists pressed her lips together and looked up at Vass. She saw his smile and her heart beat faster. Yes, this was the right man for her, not Frishillondor.
‘You don’t much like being told what to do, do you?’ Vass said.
‘It’s not that,’ replied the girl. ‘What I don’t like is being told to do something I know is wrong, and I won’t do it.’
Vass turned to Liss.
‘Do you think your parents will let Asphodel stay here for tonight?’ he asked his cousin.
Liss shrugged. ‘It might not be easy to persuade them. After all, they would be likely to agree with Asphodel’s parents, that it’s her duty to marry the man they choose for her.’
The three walked through Quantissarillishon thinking and occasionally putting forward ideas. Eventually they decided they would have to lie about why Asphodel wanted to stay with them overnight.
As it began to get dark, the trio made their way back to Liss’s parent’s home. Liss’s mother was preparing the evening meal as they entered.
‘Ah, there you are,’ she greeted them. ‘Did you have a nice walk?’ she turned to Liss.

‘Your father will be home soon, so go and get washed. And you, too, Vass.’ Then she looked at Asphodel.
‘Would you like to stay for the evening meal, Asphodel? If you’re sure your parents won’t mind.’
Asphodel looked at Vass who smiled at his aunt.
‘No, they won’t mind. In fact they won’t even know until Asphodel tells them. They’ve gone away to stay with her sister for a few days.’
‘That’s settled then. You’ll stay to eat with us.’
She returned to chopping up vegetables when she suddenly stopped and, brushing her hair from her eyes, she said, ‘I’ve just had an idea. How long are your parents going to be away for?’
This took Asphodel by surprise. She had not thought this question might be asked.
‘O-Oh, er. I don’t know. Daisy, that’s Dassirrola, my sister, is expecting a baby any day and I think they’ll stay until she’s had it.’
Vass looked at her and raised his eyebrows. Asphodel looked back at him and gave a little nod to say that it was the truth she told about her sister.
‘Oh, I understand that,’ said Liss’s mother. ‘Your mother is so lucky having two of you. That’s rare in elvenkind. Most of us have to make do with one child.’
She picked up her knife again and resumed her chopping before continuing.
‘What I was going to say was; would you like to stay here while your parents are away? It’ll be lonely for you at home by yourself.
Vass almost broke out laughing, and Liss’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor. How easy it had turned out to be after all. No arguing a case for Asphodel to stay after all. His kind-hearted mother had done it for them.
The next morning, Vass took Asphodel out to walk in the forest outside the city.
Once there, he took her hand and said, ‘I hardly slept last night, darling. I was thinking and thinking how we can be together and I came to the conclusion there is only one way. We must run away.’
Asphodel stopped and looked at him. ‘Run away? Run to where? Wherever we go in Rindissillaron they’ll find us.’
‘Not to anywhere in Rindissillaron. This is a big continent. We could go to Erian. They’d not find us there. But we must go quickly. Your parents will be already looking for you. First they’ll think you stayed with Sissi and not worry, but this evening they’ll begin asking. It won’t take them long before they think of looking here. We should go tonight, or at the latest, tomorrow morning.’
Asphodel walked to the edge of a small brook that ran through the forest.
‘Leave Rindissillaron?’
‘Yes.’
‘I’ve never lived anywhere but here in Quantissarillishon.’
‘Then it’ll be an exciting adventure for you. It’s the only way I can think of that we can be together.’
Asphodel turned to face Vass.
‘Then we’ll go. I have a few jewels and a little money. If I can get them without my parents seeing me, then I will. We’ll need money.’
‘I’ve a little money too. Not much, but I can work, and you can read and write so you can get a job as a scribe, I expect. We’ll get along just fine.’
‘I don’t speak Erian, do you?’
Vass laughed. ‘No, but we’re both intelligent people and we learned Elvish, didn’t we? How hard can it be to learn Erian?’
Asphodel laughed and Vass picked her up and spun her round.
‘Here’s to our new life in a new country,’ he said

The Wolf Pack Chapter 7 Hambara

 

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CHAPTER 7

HAMBARA

The four travellers stood on a small hill overlooking the town of Hambara. It had taken almost a sixday to reach it after the rescue of Asphodel from the orcs. Those days had taken the travellers through the central mountains of Grosmer by way of deep passes. These mountains were small in comparison with the huge mountain ranges that surrounded the land, but were about two to three thousand feet in height.

During this time, the travellers had become firm friends, any lasting distrust evaporating in the camaraderie of travel.
Hambara was the largest town in the region. In fact it was the regional capital, ruling the duchy of Hambara, and second only to the capital city of Grosmer, Asperilla, in size and importance. Rolling hills through which the little party had travelled over the past few days surrounded it. There were large areas of woodland and some heath, which Fero surmised were hunting grounds. Small farms similar to that of Borolis and Elpin also studded the land around.

From their vantage point at the summit of the hill, the little group could see the town laid out before them as though they were looking at a map. The town had grown up at a crossroads where the roads which travelled north/south crossed those going east/west. It had begun as a trading post and fishing town, situated as it was on the Blue Lake, and had subsequently grown to an important merchant city. It was situated in a strategically important place in almost the centre of Grosmer.
In the centre of the town, from their vantage point, the travellers could see a large area of green with a building in it. From here, the four main roads radiated out to the cardinal points of the compass. Thus the town was divided into four main areas. There were walls around what had been the original town, with gates leading through them on the main routes, but now the town had spilled out to form a sprawling complex of buildings of various shapes and sizes.

These buildings seemed to form a number of concentric rings around the walls of the old town. It was obvious that some of them were dwellings. In the outermost ring, these dwellings were large and built in the main in squares, with gardens in the centre of the squares. The next ring in, were smaller dwellings with small gardens out at the back, but were obviously not the homes of the poor, they were just a little too fine and large for that. Maybe the people who worked for the rich merchants lived in them. Finally, there was a ring of what appeared to be warehouses and workshops just outside the walls. T

o the north, they could just glimpse the clear waters of the Blue Lake. They could not see the details inside the walls very clearly, but it seemed to be built on a different pattern, more as though the town were divided into quarters with the roads forming the borders.
‘So this is Hambara,’ stated Carthinal. He looked down on the town. ‘I suppose that area in the southwest inside the walls is the area of the temples and the mage tower. There seem to be a number of large buildings, some with spires, and I can see a tower standing up above everything else. It seems to be in some sort of green area. I think that’s where I’m going.’
‘It seems to be near the temples.’ Asphodel spoke quietly. ‘Maybe when we get to the town, we can both travel to our destinations together.

‘Where will you two go?’ she asked Basalt and Fero.
‘I’ll go to see if there are any vacancies in the town guard or the militia first,’ replied Bas. ‘They usually need some experienced fighters. After that, if I have no luck there, I’ll look for something in metalwork. What about you, Fero? Towns don’t seem to be places rangers like very much.’
‘True, friend, but a man must eat, and there are usually people who want a guide, either for hunting, or a journey. The militia sometimes employ rangers as scouts, too. I’ll see what happens when we get there. I may come with you to see if they want anyone,’ he went on, speaking to Basalt.
‘Well, standing here’s not getting us anywhere. We’d better move on. It’ll be dark in a couple of hours and I’d like to find somewhere to rest and have a bath.’ said Carthinal, ‘And I have a letter to deliver to Duke Rollo.’ he revealed, beginning to move off down the hill. The others quickly followed.
The companions soon found themselves passing through an area of fine houses. This was the area in which the nobles and very rich lived. Most of them seemed to be hidden away behind walls and gates, a sure indication that their owners considered that they needed to be away from prying eyes and safe from thieves and vagabonds.

Most were built in squares with gardens in the centre, as they had seen from the hill outside the town. These squares were paved with blocks to prevent mud from clogging up the wheels of carriages and the feet of people. Some of the houses had guards at their doors dressed in the livery of the house. All the guards seemed to be alert and ready to do their duty in preventing unwanted access.
Soon these houses gave way to houses without walls. These houses were built with their doors fronting onto the streets, but it was obvious that the people who lived there were not short of money. Finally, as the houses became less and less grand looking, they entered the area of warehouses.
They came to the gate just before the sun set. There was a nominal guard, but there was no sign of the gates being closed. When they asked if they were closed at night, the guard replied that they were not, as so many people lived outside the walls that they were forever opening and closing them to let people through.
‘It’s not as though there is a war or anything, is it? There are no enemies about to cause us problems since the country is no longer divided into separate kingdoms, and the other races such as orcs and hobgoblins don’t come near any more,’ the guard went on, leaning indolently against the wall of the guard house. ‘We always stop strangers to make sure they are not smuggling though. The merchants get angry if they think that cheap goods are coming into the town to undercut them. I suppose I’d better check your bags although you don’t look like merchants or smugglers. Must be seen to be doing the job.’
He made a very perfunctory search of their bags, simply opening them and looking inside. He did not move anything or take anything out.
‘Well, off you go then,’ he said. ‘I’ll pass you.’
‘It’s our first time in Hambara. Is there a good, reasonably priced inn you can recommend?’ asked Carthinal.
‘I’d try the Golden Dragon if I were you. It’s not far. Go down this road (called by the very imaginative name of Southgate Street!) and then take the second turning to the right, you’ll find yourself in Market Square. The Golden Dragon’s on the opposite side of the square. It’s clean, and the food’s plain, but good. You’ll get a bed there for a reasonable price. Tell the proprietor that Jandi sent you. He’s my sister’s husband and his name’s Keloriff. He’ll treat you well if he thinks you know me.’
They thanked Jandi, and walked on smiling.
‘I wonder how much custom Jandi drums up for his brother-in-law?’ said Fero. ‘It’s ideal for his brother-in-law to have a man at the gates to send strangers to him.’
The main streets in Hambara were cobbled and this made walking easier for the unpaved side streets appeared to be very muddy. It also showed the richness of the town for many towns at that time could not afford to do more than put wooden boards down to try to protect people from the ever-present mud. There was much traffic too, and they had to jump back several times to get out of the way of carts and carriages as well as some people on horseback.
They reached the second turning, and walked down the road for quite some time, until they were beginning to wonder if they had turned down the wrong street.

The street was lined with shops, all closed up for the night. They were timber framed, and had bricks between the beams in the main, but they could see a few that seemed to be wattle and daub. The roofs were all of a red tile and were all at different heights as the buildings all had different numbers of stories. Some had only two, while they saw some with as many as five or six.

Shutters were closed for the night, but occasionally a light could be seen gleaming through a crack as a shopkeeper worked late, checking his day’s takings, or an artisan was hard at work replenishing his stock.

Most of the shutters on the downstairs windows closed by pulling one shutter up and one down, the lower shutter acting as a counter during the day. Upstairs were more conventional shutters, again mainly closed against the cold of the late winter night. (Few people could afford glass for the windows.) Many houses’ upper stories overhung the cobbled street, making it gloomy in the fading light.

A channel ran down the centre to carry away waste and rainwater and occasionally there were gratings leading to the sewer tunnels below the town. This was one of the cobbled streets, which indicated that it was an important thoroughfare, and so the friends decided that they were on the right road after all.
Then they were suddenly out of the street and in a large open square. Around the sides of the square were various buildings, many of which were still open. These were obviously taverns, as evinced by their signs and the smell of ale and sounds of revelry coming from them, and in various parts of the square were stalls selling chestnuts, savoury and sweet pastries, pies, toffee apples and other candied fruits as well as hot drinks.

Some of the buildings were closed and shuttered, and these had signs of moneylenders and pawnshops hanging over them. There were two large buildings on opposite sides of the square. One had a big golden dragon painted on the sign that was swinging in the breeze, and the other was painted in bright and garish colours. Over the door it said “Madame Dopari’s Emporium.”
‘What is that building?’ queried Asphodel, looking at the reds, blues, oranges and gold that adorned it. ‘It looks truly awful with all those clashing bright colours.’
Carthinal coughed slightly and looked at Basalt, who shrugged as though to say, ‘You tell her.’
‘The colours denote that it is—how can I put it—well, a brothel, but it is a licensed one, and checked every few weeks. The girls are all checked for their health and if any are carrying infectious diseases, they are healed by the priests,’ he went on hurriedly. ‘You can tell it’s licensed by the red letter “L” in the circle at the left of the sign.’
All Asphodel could say was ‘Oh!’ and blushed. He hoped that she would not think he was well acquainted with such establishments. She would not appreciate such knowledge he was sure.
‘Let’s get to the inn,’ Fero interrupted, to try to ease the embarrassment that Asphodel was obviously suffering.
The inn was a welcoming place. From the outside, the lights shone brightly, illuminating the cold air. The door was open, and from within there came the sound of laughter and voices in eager conversation. It was obvious that the inn was a popular place in Hambara; a place where both residents and visitors came and were made welcome. The large door was in the centre of the outside wall, and there were large windows on either side. Over the door was a sign with a painting of a gold dragon, with the words ‘The Golden Dragon Inn’, and in smaller letters, ‘The Best In Town’.
It was built in a similar style to many of the other buildings, being timber-framed and brick with an overhanging upper story. This overhang had been put to good use in that a wooden veranda had been built all along the front so that in warmer weather, customers could sit and drink in the shade of the upper storey. The latter had many small windows overlooking the square.
‘Bedrooms,’ surmised Basalt to himself.
Three steps mounted to the door, and the four travellers climbed wearily up them and entered.
‘I’ll be grateful to sleep in a bed tonight,’ mused Carthinal. ‘I’ve had enough of the ground for quite a while.’
‘Me too,’ sighed Asphodel, ‘but I must go to the temple tomorrow to report.’
‘I, too, have to go to the Mage Tower to report for my tests,’ replied Carthinal, ‘I think I should first go to see this Duke Rollo, though, and give him this letter from Duke Danu.’
Carthinal had told his friends about the paper he’d found in Mabryl’s book, and they had all puzzled over its contents and what it meant. Now, after the flood and Asphodel’s capture by the orcs, they felt that it might be referring to the current time.
‘I’ll come with you,’ said Basalt. ‘I can vouch for the flood and the new arrival of orcs in the land if Rollo is sceptical.’
‘I’ll do the same,’ said Fero.
‘Thank you my friends,’ replied Carthinal, ‘but don’t you have business of your own? What about talk of finding work?’
‘That can wait for half a day, eh Fero?’ said Basalt. He turned back to the apprentice mage. ‘I’ve begun to consider you to be a friend after travelling with you these past days.’
‘Yes, we’ll come with you. Moral support and all that,’ This from Fero.
‘Thank you, I’d welcome your company.’
They entered the inn, which was very busy. There was a blazing fire in the fireplace set on the opposite wall of the inn, and there were tables and chairs scattered around the large and comfortable room. The bar was situated on the wall to the right of the entrance, and behind it was a door obviously leading to kitchens and probably the living quarters of Keloriff and Jandi’s sister. Stairs ascended from the left-hand side of the room to the rooms above. A young woman approached the group.
‘Find a seat and sit down, and I’ll be along in a moment,’ she said with a smile. ‘All right, Jolli, have some patience. I’ll be with you in a minute!’ she called to a large man who was trying to get her attention.

She turned to another man at a nearby table. ‘Now, sir, I can take your order. Did you want a meal or just a drink?’
‘There seems to be a free table over there, near the window,’ noticed Asphodel. ‘A pity it’s not nearer to the fire, but it seems to be quite warm everywhere in here.’
They took off their cloaks and went to sit down at the table. Shortly, the young woman came to them.

‘Now, what can I get you?’ she said.
‘First, we would like a meal,’ said Carthinal. ‘And a drink, then if you have any rooms, we would like a bed each.’
‘And we were told to tell you that Jandi sent us,’ added Basalt, smiling his most winning smile.
The young woman smiled back. ‘That brother of mine. Always trying to “help” us. As if we can’t get enough custom on our own. We’re nearly run off our feet every night these days. Not like it was when we took over. The inn was very run down, and we needed all the help we could get. Then Jandi’s recommendations were a godsend. Now they can make life a little too busy at times.’
‘If you don’t have any rooms, then maybe you could recommend somewhere else.’ said Asphodel.
‘Oh no. If you gentlemen don’t mind sharing, I can move a bed out one of the other rooms and the sister can have it to herself, then I can then put it into a room with two beds. I’ve only got the two rooms left. We’re very busy at the moment, and will get busier in the next few sixnights as people come into town for the celebration of spring.’
‘Of course,’ Asphodel said in surprise. ‘It’s only about three sixnights away. I’d forgotten.’
‘Yes. And the celebrations always attract a good crowd. They start a week before and culminate on the Equinox itself. If you are still here, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it immensely. There are games, dancing, entertainers and finally the Spring Procession—and the bonfires, of course. Now, I’ll go and sort out the rooms, and order your meal. We’ve got roast mutton and baked potatoes with roast vegetables if that will be to your taste?’
‘Sounds wonderful,’ a dreamy look came over Basalt’s face as he contemplated the meal. ‘I’ll have a tankard of your finest ale to go with it.’
‘For me too,’ said Carthinal  ‘What about you, Asphodel?’
Asphodel ordered a glass of white wine from the islands in the Inner Sea and Fero decided to have a red wine from the same region.
Soon the meal arrived. The simple fare seemed like feast fit for the gods themselves, so hungry were they. They ate in silence, each of them relishing the good cooking, and meat other than rabbit, pigeon or dried beef. They finished off the meal with fruit brought by the landlady, whose name turned out to be Mabrella.
‘Would you like to use the bath house?’ Mabrella asked as she came to clear away their dishes.
‘Oh yes please,’ responded Asphodel. ‘I wouldn’t like to turn up at the temple looking and smelling like this.’
‘I’ll show you to your rooms and then to the bathhouse. You’ll have to take it in turns as it has only one bath.’
With that, Mabrella turned and made her way to the stairs. As she reached the stairs, she turned to them and said, ‘You can wash your clothes, and if you leave them in there, hanging on the line, the warmth will dry them.’
‘Thank you,’ replied Carthinal ‘I’ll be glad of clean robes.’
‘Are you here to take your Apprentice Tests?’ queried Mabrella. ‘only I notice that you are an apprentice. There are some tests due to begin soon, I believe.’ Mabrella glanced at Carthinal’s tawny-red robes.
‘Yes I am,’ replied Carthinal. ‘We had a little trouble at the ford on the Brundella. There was a flood and the entire caravan was swept away except for Asphodel, Basalt and myself. Asphodel and I were very lucky to have just about got across when the flood struck, but Basalt was swept downstream. We met him later on the road, then Fero turned up, which was lucky, as I don’t think that two of us would have made it. Fero’s hunting and tracking skills are excellent, and he kept us from starving.’
They reached the landing, and Mabrella showed them to a pair of doors that stood opposite each other at the end of the corridor.
‘Sister, I’ve given you the room overlooking the square,’ Mabrella addressed Asphodel in the customary way the people addressed the clergy. ‘It is a much more interesting view. Gentlemen, your room overlooks the stable yard and the bathhouse. I hope you don’t mind, but as I said, they’re the last two rooms we have.’ apologised Mabrella.
‘Anything with a proper bed will do me,’ replied Bas. ‘Even if it is in the cellar with no view at all.’
‘I don’t think they would allow a dwarf to sleep in the cellar with all that ale stored there,’ teased Carthinal.
Basalt responded with ‘Humph!’

Asphodel entered the room and sat down on the bed with a sigh. She looked out of her window down onto the Market Square. It was going dark so she could only see from the light streaming out of the inn windows and the taverns and the brothel. The stallholders seemed to be doing a good trade from the local people. This square seemed to be a natural meeting place for the townsmen and women.

Many folk were buying their evening meal from the stall- holders and wandering around chatting to friends and neighbours whilst eating the various goodies they had bought. There were both rich and poor there, she could see, but the rich did not seem to be eating as much as the poor. They would be going home to a good meal cooked by their staff, she suspected.
Then Asphodel turned her attention to the room. It was not large, but very clean. It had pale green curtains at the windows, and the walls were painted a slightly darker green. There was, as well as the bed, a large cupboard and a chest of drawers. Someone had been in and lit a fire in the small fireplace, above which was a mantelpiece with some glass ornaments.

An oil lamp burned on a table under the window, giving off a warm, cheery glow. Asphodel sighed. It was good to be back in civilisation. She was looking forward now to getting to the temple, whatever the letter that Mother Caldo had written to accompany her said. Now to get clean.
Picking out a clean, white robe and scarlet sash from her pack, she wandered down towards the bathhouse. She found it easily enough from the steam rising from the chimney, and she entered to find again, a clean and welcoming room. There was a large copper boiler in one corner with a fire burning under it. It was filled to the brim with water, which was nearly boiling.

Standing next to it was a bucket, obviously for taking the water to the bath. In the other corner was a pump, with another bucket, for filling with cold water to cool the hot water so that it was amenable to the skin.

She took a bucket of the hot water and tipped it into the sunken bath in the centre of the room. When she had almost half-filled the bath with the hot water, she added cold from the pump until it was a cool enough to enter.

There were bars of soap in a glass pot. It was expensive soap, with a pleasant perfume. She selected one with the scent of lavender and then, after undressing, she stepped into the bath and leaned back luxuriating in the warmth of the water.

She soaped herself all over and then washed her long black hair, which she rinsed with clean water from the pump. Lying back in the bath, Asphodel almost fell asleep. She had not realised how tired she was.

Soon she decided that she had better go back to her room and sleep in the bed—oh yes! The Bed—so that the others could use the bathhouse, rather than sleeping in the bath.

She quickly washed her robe and hung it on the line, and then after towelling herself dry with the fluffy warm, white towels that were provided, she slipped into her clean robe and left the bathhouse.

It was cold outside and she hurried across the courtyard to the inn and up the stairs. Once back upstairs she knocked on the door of the room that the others were sharing and told them that she had finished and that they could use the bath house, and she slipped into her bed and within minutes was fast asleep.

 

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