The novel writing continues apace! Wrote a few hundred words tonight, and broke past 119,000. Hope you enjoy this little sample, while I continue writing the last few chapters.
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Hallgeir was the first to arrive at Balfrith’s door, later that evening. Eldamir was already there, of course, since he was in the adjoining room, and they sat on the bed awaiting the others. Balfrith opened the door and Hallgeir entered with a nod, and took the one chair sitting near the window. Balfrith took his place back on the bed, on the opposite side from Eldamir.
Branulf lay, still sheathed, on the bed between them. Hallgeir didn’t notice it, or said nothing, and they only had to wait a few minutes before Calunoth knocked on the door and let himself in. Before Balfrith could speak, he said, “Decided to tell us the big secret before we left, eh?” He grinned and winked - apparently there were no hard feelings, which relieved Balfrith more than he wanted to admit.
Balfrith stood then, and said “Thanks for coming. Yes, I wanted to tell you the full tale here, before we departed, rather than trying to do it aboard ship where we wouldn’t have any privacy.” Turning to the bed, he picked up Branulf and unsheathed it with a sliding hiss, holding it up in one hand and laying the blade across his opposite forearm.
He continued, “This is Branulf, an heirloom of my family, and the reason for our quest.” He then went on to tell the tale of its forging by Sørkell, its use by Aethelred, and the curse placed upon it at his ancestor’s death. He excluded a few details in order to keep the story short, including its prior existence as an Elefdar blade. That wasn’t relevant anyway, he thought. Balfrith concluded the tale with, “And that is why we seek to find this Gregorius: he may be able to help us determine the nature of the curse, and how to remove it.”
They were silent for a moment, then Calunoth said, “That is quite a tale. And Adradomir believes it?” he asked, sounding skeptical.
Balfrith nodded. “Adradomir and lord Felaranthir have been friends for longer than any of us have been alive. If Felaranthir believes there is something to the curse, then Adradomir does too.”
Calunoth nodded, but his brows rose as if still questioning something.
Hallgeir said, “I have heard of this Draugeborg. It is an ancient fortress ruin, from the old Shandollëan empire that preceded the forming of our modern kingdoms. The stories say that wailing spirits wander about there at night, and no one who ventures near can remain for long. In the day-time it is safe enough, though some have reported an unnatural fear that came upon them even in the sunlight. But at night - it is said that the wailing of the dead can be heard for miles, and it threatens to drive the sanity from those who listen for too long. I hope that this Gregorius has heeded those warnings, lest we find only a mad-man and not a scholar.”
Balfrith nodded. “As do I,” he said.
Calunoth spoke again. “What I don’t understand is, why all the secrecy? I did not hear anything that sounded like it should be kept in confidence. It was all known history, even the bit about your ancestor Aethelred and his wife. So why the concern about sharing it only with trusted individuals?”
Balfrith said, “I was charged with keeping the story close to myself and Eldamir, by my lord and benefactor Felaranthir of Illithëon. I have simply tried to honor that charge.”
Eldamir, seeing that this answer did not satisfy either Calunoth or Hallgeir, spoke up and said, “I think at the start, my father wanted Branulf kept secret among our own people, as he knew that many of them might recognize the sword and know its history, and he did not want there to be undue attention placed upon either the sword or upon Balfrith while he was with us. As a people, we are not given to quick panic, but there might have come questions about the wisdom of keeping such a cursed item in Illithëon, and father simply wanted to avoid those.”
He continued, “After we departed Illithëon, I think his command still held for the same reason: one never knows who might recognize the sword, and react in a way that draws undue attention to us, possibly to the point of preventing us from completing our quest.”
Calunoth grinned then, and said, “It just occurred to me that there might be a simpler reason for the secrecy. This sword is, what, almost eight hundred years old?” Balfrith nodded. “And it’s in nearly perfect condition, as if it had just come from the forge. Not only that, but it is obviously a master work - any knowledgeable eye can see that with a glance. Now think of the things that most large cities have in common.” Calunoth began ticking off items on his fingers as he said, “Men of wealth, especially those who collect rare and valuable items of antiquity; an organized, thriving black market supplied by an underground guild of thieves; and those who are able to stand as brokers between the two. What if Felaranthir simply realized that keeping the sword hidden was the best way to avoid its being stolen from you?”
Balfrith paused a moment. “Truthfully, I hadn’t thought of that. But it does make sense. I wouldn’t have thought of lord Felaranthir as one who had to consider such details.”
Eldamir laughed lightly, and said, “Balfrith, you clearly have not had many dealings with my father. He can be remarkably detail-oriented, not to mention knowledgeable of Men. Calunoth, this idea of yours had not occurred to me either. But I think your eye has seen most clearly that which neither mine nor Balfrith’s did. Well done.” He bowed in Calunoth’s direction, still smiling.
The conversation reduced to small-talk after that, as they discussed a few other items related to the journey to Nifflgarde. And finally, Hallgeir and Calunoth bade their farewells and good-nights, and departed for their own places of residence.
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