Waiting For Havarfast

December 24, 2014 - Short Story

Waiting For Havarfast – A Fantasy Story By Kelly D. Tolman  (Free audio of this story is available at the end of this story.)

 

Six years, Jarak thought; six years, three months, and nine days. The cell looked much the same as it had six years before. The straw on the ground had changed intermittently, but the stones were the same dull gray they had been, and the smell of unclean bodies was the same, if only less noticed now. Six years in Havarfast’s dungeons was a feat accomplished by few, although Jarak was not particularly thrilled about being among the select crowd of criminals who managed to survive that long in the wizard’s grasp. Jarak slipped a knife from inside his tattered tunic, and began prying loose a stone in the ground beneath the straw. Most men died from despair in the dungeons, not from the venomous food, or the miserable rats. Jarak giggled to himself as he felt the stone move, hope kept him sane, and sanity kept him alive.

 

Beneath the stone a dark hole opened, and Jarak quickly dropped himself under, and slipped the stone back into place overhead. The tunnel was completely dark, but Jarak didn’t mind at all. For almost six years he had been visiting the tunnel as frequently as he could, each visit bringing him a little closer to insanity, and a little closer to freedom.

Six years was too long a time for the master thief to spend wasting his life when adventures abounded at every turn in the outside world. One petty mistake, and Havarfast locked him in this miserable dungeon, simply to save face. Jarak had worked for Havarfast on many occasions, indeed Jarak had stolen many of the elements that had allowed Havarfast to rise to his new position, including his prized staff and crown. In return Havarfast had betrayed him, and withheld payment. The guards caught him trying to escape Dyrwater after pilfering the wizard’s treasury, and that final chance had ended him in the dungeon.

 

Jarak slipped stealthily down the tunnel, to its blank end. Behind him a cord stretched in a straight line back to his cell. At the tunnel’s end, he came upon a worn spade, which he used to chip his way towards freedom. He took the shovel, and with one nudge broke through the wall. Cool air filtered in, and Jarak broke into a frenzy, digging and clawing his way into the moonlight. He breathed the fresh air, and stifled a shout. Within moments he managed to drag himself out of the hole. The castle sat atop a large hill, and Jarak began to pile stones over the hole to cover his exit. The work was finished long before the sun rose, and the thief slipped quickly into the night.

 

Dyrwater, the town that had grown up at the base of the castle, would have to offer Jarak refuge for the night, until he could find faster transport to some other region. Jarak slipped over the wall at the edge of town, and stole silently through the predawn shadows to the center of town. Many new buildings and streets had been built over the years, including a number of taverns and inns. In the back of his mind he hoped the inn he looked for still remained. He worried in vain, for prominent on the main street of town, near the center, still stood the Blue Drake, its delicately painted sign slightly iridescent in the moonlight. The first rays of sunlight were sneaking over the mountain peaks that surrounded the town and castle as Jarak knocked at the front door.

 

“If Darnum has rented my room, I’ll strangle him,” mumbled Jarak to himself.

 

After knocking loudly a second time, a husky voice growled at him from behind the door, “I’ll open in a moment, be quiet or you’ll disturb the guests.” Jarak heard the bar being lifted from inside, and a key turning in the lock. After a moment, the doors swung out and wide open. Jarak stepped back, and looked at Darnum’s unchanged face. The innkeeper was still as stout and bald as ever, and his long beard covered almost his entire dirty apron. Darnum held his silence when he saw Jarak’s face.

Jarak looked quickly up the deserted street, making sure no lights had appeared in the gray, and that all of the windows had remained closed, and then he slipped quickly past the innkeeper and into the inn. “How did you escape,” asked Darnum, “and what are you doing here. The guards will search here first, you must leave at once.”

 

The common room was empty, but the smell of breakfast had begun to drift in from the kitchen. “Let me into my old room,” Jarak began. He saw the concern and confusion on his old friend’s face, and assured him, “I won’t stay long. Give me some food, and I’ll be gone before the guards arrive.” Darnum hesitated, but then retrieved a key. Jarak bounded up the stairs, his heart pounding inside of his chest. The old room, at the very top of the inn was small and cramped, and seldom used unless the inn was filled beyond capacity. Even the bed had been removed in recent years, and a thick layer of dust covered the floorboards. Jarak quickly found the loose board in the windowsill, and moved it aside. From the hollow of the wall he retrieved a small leather bag filled with jewels, and a few gold coins. Just as he returned the board to its place, he heard a familiar voice behind him.

 

“I didn’t know you’d hidden it here, of all places,” said Darnum. “I would have spent it had I known,” laughed the innkeeper.

 

“I know,” replied Jarak. Darnum carried a tray with food and drink, which he proffered. Jarak ate gratefully, and quickly.

 

“Where will you go?” asked the innkeeper.

 

“I’m not sure, north probably. I need to see what’s changed in six years.”

 

“The color of gold hasn’t,” was the dry reply, “and neither has Havarfast.”

 

“Still bitter,” laughed Jarak.

 

“Don’t let him catch you again, or you won’t live to escape a second time.”

 

Jarak quickly ate the meal, and dropped a few jewels and a gold coin onto the tray. He tucked a half a loaf of bread and some cheese into his tunic. “Havarfast won’t see me again,” he chuckled grimly, “and I doubt anyone in this town ever will either.” Jarak opened the window, and slipped onto the roof of the inn and towards the edge of town.

 

*

 

The north shires were peaceful lands, where a prosperous merchant, such as Jarak, could ply his trade and peaceably enjoy a free life. Two years after his escape, he had not returned to the land of Havarfast’s reign, and had made a flowering business for himself as a jewel merchant, and expert trader. He owned a little shop in the quiet town of Eastonshin, where bandits were few, and the farmers fat. His evenings he passed at the local pubs, in particular The Glass Tavern.

 

Travelers were rare, but in recent weeks many had passed north (or south) as Kings and Wizards sought to expand their influence. Jarak sat at a table near the hearth, enjoying a game of cards with a few dwarven merchants plying their trade in the south. There’s no need to pay for what you can get for free, Jarak thought, as he dealt another hand, and found the pile of treasure growing steadily before him. From his vantage, Jarak could see all who entered the tavern from the main door, and when a thin stranger clad in a dark green cloak walked in, his attention left the game for a moment.

 

Valsh, the barkeep sent a spindly maid to take the order, but then followed closely himself to inquire if the stranger would require a room, or other refreshment. Of a sudden, Valsh pointed a stubby finger towards Jarak’s table, and pocketed a coin. The stranger rose, and Jarak indicated to his companions that they would soon have company.

 

“‘Tis a private game,” suggested Dalhern, a broad dwarf with a thick yellow beard as the stranger approached, “and we’ve only begun.”

“Cards are not my strength,” replied the stranger, his voice smooth and relaxed, the words dripping from his mouth easily, “I would rather speak a moment with the jewel trader.” The stranger eyed Jarak closely, and smiled, “perhaps there is business that we may accomplish before the evening is done.” Jarak noted the stranger’s fine clothes, and rings beneath the worn cloak. The dwarves grumbled loudly as Jarak rose, but calmed noticeably as he left a fair portion of his winnings sitting on the table.

 

“Come with me,” Jarak said, “and we’ll see what can be done.” Jarak went to the bar, and tossed Valsh a coin, “we’ll need the back room for a time, send Jeanne in with the good wine.” Valsh nodded and laughed, then yelled for the maid and jerked a thumb at the back room. “Do you have a name,” asked Jarak as they settled into the thick smoky shadows of The Glass Tavern’s back room.

 

Jeanne entered with a tray set with goblets and bottle. The stranger waited for her to leave before replying, “I am Tellus. I have heard that you can identify any jewel carved from the Auvul Empire to the Free Lords in the south.” Tellus spoke calmly, but Jarak noted the earnestness behind his eyes, and slight desperation at the corner of his mouth.

 

Jarak chuckled. “That is an exaggeration, albeit pleasant, but far too much.” It wouldn’t be the first time in the past two years, or several years before, that someone had come with questions about his past; or a grudge. “I take it you have a question about a jewel.”

 

Tellus removed a pouch from his tunic, and opened the contents onto the table. “Tell me why I haven’t been able to sell these in any of the lands south of here, and why I have had to flee for my life to these freezing lands.”

 

Jarak quickly identified some of the stones he had stolen from Havarfast, as well as a few other more common trinkets. “You must be some kind of thief,” laughed Jarak, “indeed, there is only one other who would dare lay his hands on those.”

 

“And who would that be?”

 

“The tale is common enough,” laughed Jarak, “of the only thief who ever pilfered that treasury and escaped. Jarak was quite famous until his death. The guards of Havarfast searched for him in every corner of the kingdom. Rumor has it that the old wizard himself has even searched for Jarak. But he died when bandits fell on him. Most of the jewels were recovered over a year ago.” Jarak finished his tale quietly, and looked Tellus in the eyes. “Where did these come from?” Jarak drank deeply from his goblet, and filled it again.

 

“Bandits fell on a traveler in the south, they fled when they saw my approach, but they left behind a small pouch. Its owner was a paunch, balding man, with a long beard. He died with me looking on, cursing the name of Havarfast. Inside the pouch I found the jewels. Can you help me distribute them?” Now Tellus waited, and as he did, he too drank from his goblet. Jarak chuckled softly.

 

“Of course. Come to my shop at midnight.” Jarak drained his goblet once again, then stood and left the room. He left the tavern quickly, and laughed out loud as he left, and hurried along the dark streets.

Promptly at midnight Tellus appeared, knocking at the door of the shop. Jarak opened the door quickly, and let the stranger in. A tallow lantern lit the room where a small table was set with wine and cakes. Jarak sat quickly down, and gestured to Tellus.

 

“Two years is a long search,” Jarak said softly, “I’m almost surprised at your persistence.” Tellus looked briefly shocked, but quickly resumed his calm.

 

“Then you’ve guessed,” he said menacingly. Jarak nodded, and poured himself a glass of wine, and then filled his companion’s cup. “Then you know why I’ve come.” Again Jarak nodded, and sipped at his wine. Without breaking his smile, he offered Tellus his cup. The stranger batted the cup away angrily, “I haven’t come to drink, particularly not with a thief and assassin.”

 

“You were always rather disagreeable, Havarfast,” laughed Jarak. “I only took the wages you cheated me.”

 

Tellus pulled back the hood from his cloak, and mumbled arcane words. As he did, his face shimmered, and Havarfast took his place. The Wizard’s short cut beard and dark eyes were unmistakable in the lamplight.

“You should have been content with what you were paid.” Havarfast was growing angrier by the moment, and his eyes burned with fury. Jarak managed to remain calm, quietly sipping from his cup. “And now, my revenge will be complete.”

 

“Don’t you mean my revenge?” said Jarak. The mage balked. “I believe our contract for the assassination of your brother was complete freedom to run the underground in your realm. The contract for your staff was for an unofficially sponsored assassin’s guild. And finally for your crown, the source of, or at least proponent of your power, was to be delivered in exchange for the smuggler’s guild. Perhaps I would have cut my losses if you hadn’t put me in prison. Perhaps I would have let you live if you hadn’t murdered Darnum.”

 

Havarfast cackled, “that fat oaf. You should never have left the sorcerstone with him. Without it you have no protection from my powers. And you should never have trusted him, he told me where to find you even before we burned his inn to the ground.” Havarfast suddenly stood up, and waved his arms, screaming arcane words of power. Iridescent streams of energy cackled at his fingertips as he unleashed a bolt of power at Jarak. The magic fizzled, and evaporated when it touched the smiling thief, and the wizard stepped back, babbling.

 

“Two years is a long time to set a trap, Havarfast, and, contrary to what you may have been told, yours wasn’t the only sorcerstone. The assassin’s guild here in the north has been very helpful, and will probably be my greatest support when I take your crown. You should have tried the wine, it is much less messy that way.” Jarak slipped a knife from his boot, and quickly lodged it in the wizard’s throat. As he did, the wizard caught a glimpse of a small blue stone on a chain around Jarak’s neck.

 

THE END

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