Sunday, May 24, 2015
Last of the King's Men, Chapter 32
At first Krym Valdoorn thought it was the thunder that woke him. He lied in his bed still exhausted from the previous day’s work, watching as the rain poured down past his window.
He knew morning wasn’t far off. He was wondering if he should get up early and get started on the day’s work, or if he should try and eke out the last few moments of sleep, when there was once again a loud rap on his front door.
He stood, wrapping his worn robe around himself as he walked towards the front door of the tiny farmhouse. He pulled opened the door, hoping for but not expecting good news- the night before he was told to stay in his house until further notice. Something about skeletons in the river, or so he seemed not to care. Last time, he had slammed his door in Telstedler’s face a little too callously. But not this time.
When he opened the door, there was a man in a dark cloak- as the image before him cleared, he realized it was that trystborn… Tarrow. The one who makes the big speeches whenever some group of idiots kills a goblin or something.
A brief silence. This guy didn’t seem to know quite what to say. He looked like he had taken a beating, too- his face was swollen, and one arm sat in a sling.
“Look, if you have something to say, please say it before I slam the door in your bruised face.”
Tarrow glanced down at whatever it was he held in his hand, and then back towards Krym.
“I’m terribly sorry to wake you at this hour, Mr. Valdoorn. I have something important to tell you, if you don’t mind. May I come in?”
Krym grumbled something to himself, and gestured him in. He didn’t like this Tarrow fellow, and never will. He knew what he was. He was an adventurer. One of those people that sets off into the wilderness, leaving behind any family he had, in pursuit of gold and power and monsters to slay. Krym had learned the hard way that those kinds of people bring nothing but sorry to everyone around them.
Krym’s mother, Aramyth, had also learned this lesson. She had been living here, back when Kellonville was merely a place where a few farmers decided to build houses. She had inherited her father’s farm, and though she did what work she could, most of the work had to be done by hired hands. Money was tight, and life wasn’t easy, but she made do. Until the traveler came into town.
“The traveler” was all that Krym knew his father by. He had come into town in search of riches, and dragons, and glory. He came in, captivated Aramyth with his stories of ancient dungeons and tombs full of traps, and told her of his undying love for her and his intention of abandoning his quest for glory and settling down with her. They shared a scant few intimate nights together, and then, like the wind, he was gone. Gone to search the world for riches and dragons and glory.
This “traveler” left Aramyth in her squalor and never returned, leaving her now with a child to raise in this harsh world, alone. The burgeoning town around them wanted nothing of harlots and bastard children, so Aramyth and her new son, Krym, were cast out, her land taken and home burned. They were forced to flee, find what little civilization they could come across, and live on whatever streets they were lucky enough to find. He grew up a tired, hungry, angry young boy.
As soon as he was old enough, he forced his mother to tell him about his father, though she was more ashamed of it than anything else. She told Krym everything she could, from what he looked like to how he talked. Everything but his name. Aramyth knew, from the moment she realized he was gone, that whatever name he had given her was false. Knowing a false name would do her no good, so she quickly forgot it to end her grief.
Krym set out, living off scraps and refuse and fending for his life in the wilderness, in search of the beast that refused to be his father. In order to find the wandering adventurer that begat him, Krym became one himself.
Years passed. He met up with a group of others, just as bloodthirsty as he was, and just as selfish and unconcerned for the lives of others that his “father” was. He searched and searched, all to no avail. The clues he had to find his father were simply not enough.
After reaching maturity among thieves and cowards, he returned to his mother, to tell her of his ultimate failure. He was spared, thankfully- for his mother had died shortly after his departure. He had become what he hated most to find the father he wanted to kill, only to fail. And now he had nothing.
And so, with nowhere else to turn, he found himself back at the entrance to Kellonville, now a quiet little town. Those responsible for forcing his mother and himself into the gutter were all dead or gone, and nobody even knew who he was. He took all that was left of his gains from his days wandering, and bought the tract of land his mother had once owned. He built a home on the foundation, all on his own. He met and married a woman in the community, and with her bore a daughter. His wife sadly died during the childbirth, leaving his beloved daughter in his care.
The days were hard, lonely, and tiring. He worked from morning till night every day to try and provide for his daughter. His old life, if it could be called a life, was left completely behind him. The only remnant of his life as a wanderer consists of an axe he keeps under his bed, still sharp from the day he found it.
“Mr. Valdoorn… may I call you Krym?”
Krym simply grunted. Apparently that meant yes.
“Krym… I have here, in my hand, a letter… for your daughter, Persephone. It was written by my squire, Artemis Redsleeves.”
He leapt to his feet, anger seeping through his eyes. Ever since the moment their group came to Kellonville, Krym hated them all. They came from the wilderness, most likely looking for a place to stop so they could use up the town’s resources and then move on to raid some temple. Sure, Ben Arons had predicted something or other, but Ben is a lunatic. And it wasn’t until they showed up that any monsters came to town. And besides- Ben’s last warning was “beware danger from the east”. They came from the east. He hated them, just like he hated all of their kind. And after they “saved Kellonville”, most likely from some danger they themselves brought, he caught that Redsleeves boy eyeing his precious Persephone, his one link to the only good person he ever met in his life. There was no way that boy would get his dirty little mitts on his daughter- no way, no how.
“Forgive my rudeness, Sir,” began Krym, slinging the word as an insult, “but your ‘squire’ has no business speaking with Persephone. If that boy wants anything to do with her whatsoever, he can talk to me himself. I don’t know where you come from, but I know enough about your kind to know that all you people do is take. You take our money, you take our homes, and the company you bring with you takes our lives. That boy will have nothing to do with me or my daughter or my town, if I have any say in the matter, until he gives something back.”
Seeing the man before him was clearly upset, Tarrow stood slowly, meeting the man’s gaze. His tone was forceful- but as level as possible. What he was about to say needed to be said.
“I am here, Mr. Valdoorn, because one day ago, Artemis Redsleeves was killed. He gave his life, as did another of my companions, to save your town. If he hadn’t saved me, I would have died as well. So, it is my obligation… no, my duty… to give you this letter. I found it with his things after he was killed. I believe it was his intention to give it to your daughter once he had earned your approval. Good day, and I hope that you will attend the funeral.”
He turned on his heel, opened the door, and left. After the door slammed, the only sound in the room was the soft noise of rain tapping against the roof.
The letter that Krym held in his hand was so small, worn, and unassuming. He had guessed that when this boy tried to steal his daughter, it would be something big and flashy like his mother’s stories of what his “father” did.
He looked at the parchment. Could this boy really be dead? Could he really have given his life to save the town? Could it be that someone from… out there… was actually willing to give something back? To give his life?
After reading the letter, Krym collapsed into his chair, and cried. His wet eyes stared at the page before him. Yesterday, he would have eagerly tossed the letter into the fire without a second thought.
But now… what was he supposed to do?