THE PRICE OF KNOWLEDGE
an any and everything have a value? Can intellect be appraised as a quantity? Can an identity? Can one’s very own existence?”
-Dygan Heartswind, on value
Dygan awoke to see gleaming sunlight through the shutters of the window. Melrous’s bed was empty, so Dygan guessed that the old bard was already ready to leave. Out in the central chamber, Dragol the innkeeper and Melrous were exchanging words, with an all too frequent laugh from one or both of them.
He walked down the stairs carefully, trying to avoid attention if he could help it. In his mind, the stairs creaked louder and louder with each step he took. However, he reached the end, and no one paid him so much as an idle glance.
Dygan guessed they were just reminiscing, because although he came in the middle of the conversation, he understood what it was about.
“Well, we’re both too old now. I think we get a bigger excitement remembering all those great times rather than trying to repeat them…” Melrous said with a twiddle of his white moustache.
“You’ve got enough stamina to travel, Melrous, and you always will. As for me, the greatest joy is watching my little granddaughter grow.” With that, he gestured over to a small child. “It’s been her eighth winter,” he spoke with beaming pride.
“Grandpa Frethon,” she had a high voice that could turn into a singer’s with the right amount of practice. “Will you tell us more stories?”
Melrous saw Dygan at that time and shot him a glance. Dygan understood it as the smirk of a man who was up to something. “How about I tell you what I’m currently working on? It’s the story of a sad man.”
“Ooh, really? Why is he sad?”
“Something very bad happened to him when he was young. His name is Agynd.” Dygan recognized this as an anagram of his own name. Melrous saw that he recognized this, and shot Dygan the smirk again.
“Well, what happened?”
“My child, I can’t tell you. You’ll have to wait until I’m finished writing the story of Agynd. It may take a while, but I will tell it to you. I promise.”
“I’ll remember, Grandpa Frethon. Your stories are always really good. Everyone likes them.”
“Ahem,” Dygan interjected.
“What are our travel plans, Grandpa?” Dygan said with a sly tone. Melrous thought carefully for a second, wondering what the youth was up to. Then, as he realized that it was part of the joke and chuckled, he started to laugh. “We were waiting for you, dear boy! You sleep more than a man who has drank enough leithe to knock out a horse.”
“I wasn’t asleep for that long…” Dygan said, but he already knew he was. He had been traveling for days with little sleep, so he wasn’t surprised. “Well, I’m ready now.”
“Alright then. We’re off to Voldar, Dragol. I’ll be back when the wind blows me in, just like always.”
To the sound of the innkeeper’s jolly laughter, Melrous and Dygan left the inn, and to the sound of disappointed townspeople alike, the wandering bard departed from his birthplace. They had scarce left the town gates when Dygan tugged on Melrous’s sleeve. “And what was that about?” Dygan asked in a slightly angry tone.
“Well, I picked up a few tricks on my travels. One is telling how particularly tight-lipped people like yourself are really feeling. Didn’t I say that when you play a tune, you’re playing how you feel?”
“And you got it all from that one little ditty? That I’ve got some past regret that is haunting me?”
“You’d be surprised what you can learn if you know how to listen.”
For the second time, Dygan was stumped by pure logic again. Just as before, he had no rebuttal for the simple yet concrete thought. “Well, anyways, do you think you could leave my own regrets to myself instead of making it a story for every little child in Tharania to hear?”
“Who said it was about you? It’s a fictitious tale about a man named Agynd, not about a boy named Dygan… Truth be told, though,” Melrous was grinning in a way that if Dygan didn’t know that it was about to be some practical joke, the troubled young man would have smiled. “I’m going to have to write it. I’m a man of my word when it comes to the little ones.”
Dygan muttered in frustration and switched off with Merick for guard duty. Traveling with Melrous wasn’t exactly what he expected of life on the road. Dygan had always viewed travel as a battle against the elements, a struggle to get to where you want to go while handling the obstacles in the way. Melrous, however, treated it like it was a game. No more different than tossing a few dice. And what was really odd was that no matter how high the odds were, Melrous always seemed to come out the victor.
“Maybe it is just a game. Maybe we are just some playing piece, being moved as the player sees fit. But who is that player? Are they the gods? What if the gods are playing pieces on some other board? Where would it end?” he talked out so fast, he didn’t think about repressing any of it. Luckily, no person was in earshot.
It was so complicated to think about, and Dygan wondered if he should think about it. If he were just a playing piece, then how could he change that? However, every piece could influence the game, even the lowest. It was a reasonable answer for now, he guessed.
The days were uneventful, and the two-day journey to Voldar went without delay. Not so much as a creature went up to bother them, and at the end of the second day, the wagon pulled up to the gates. Quickly, a small but muscular man dressed in armor, which Dygan guessed correctly to be the gate guard, went out to greet them.
“What’s your business?” he asked swiftly and to the point, and his tone suggested he wanted an answer just as concise.
“Traveling, and we’re just going to find a place to rest.” Melrous said quickly, ready to just go to an inn and finish out the day. It was quite late.
The guard directed them to the nearest inn after looking over them. Guards were trained to internally gauge troublemakers. While the old bard was familiar, the rest were new faces. However, they didn’t pose any immediate harm, and if they did, the city guard would take care of them.
“So Dygan,” Melrous said. “We’re here. Now where are you going? Perhaps now would be a good time to tell me why you’re coming here.”
“I never said that I wanted to go to Voldar.”
“Not with words,” agreed Melrous, “but when I first met you and said we were going to Voldar, I could see your eyes light up, and if I could see it, I would watch your heart speed up. Sometimes people communicate better when they’re not speaking…”
There was so much this old man taught Dygan, and Dygan could only guess what he quite potentially could. But Dygan had to repay him, with honesty at least. “I’ve got family here.”
“Really? What family are they? Maybe I know some of them.”
“I… don’t know.”
“How don’t you know? If you know your own name, you should know your own family. What’s your family name?”
“I don’t know… I’m an orphan.”
Melrous stroked his chin for a second. “There’s still some confusion. How are you an orphan, but know you’ve got family here?”
“Well, I was raised by a foster family, and they told me my real family came from here. I’m only guessing that my birth parents had some other relatives here. Do you believe me?”
“Well, I’ve heard stranger things that were true, so yes I do believe you. It’ll be difficult to find them though. You don’t have any mementos?”
“Nothing.” Dygan wished he did have something, but that didn’t make it appear.
“Well, then I’m stumped. Much as I hate to admit it, the people here will not have much sympathy for your plight, unless it benefits them.” Melrous shook his head and muttered about the selfishness of humans.
“Then I’m on my own?”
“Well, I’d help you, and if you find any leads, I’d be more than happy to come around and help you search, but I have no idea where to start. Come on, I’ll pay for your inn room this night, and hopefully, tomorrow, you’ll be in a bed that belongs to your own blood.”
Following guidance from a guard, Dygan on the next morning was standing on the steps of the building where the Voldar Ruling Council was going to hold a public convention. According to the guard, the Council addresses any and all issues at these. Melrous wasn’t as optimistic, but the other option would be street sources that were even less trustworthy than the Council, so Dygan would have to try his luck.
When the Council opened its session, Dygan took a seat and waited patiently for an opening. First, food shortages because of the poor harvest in a section of farmland outside town were brought to attention. Dygan waited, thinking that if people were starving, it was more important. But the remaining points that the Council debated on went further and further down Dygan’s priority scale. The Council never got anywhere, for when one brought up a point, the same houses would have one stance, while the others held the opposition. Numerous times Dygan tried to make a sign to get noticed, but all the Council members ignored him, and a guard gave him a silencing stare. After what seemed to be years of pointless debate, the Council said that the convention was over. Dygan was shocked. Finding his family was important, and they didn’t even put in a second to humor him. Melrous was right; no one did care. Dygan glumly trudged out of the building.
“I take it you wanted to bring something up?” came a smooth-talking male voice from behind Dygan. Dygan spun and almost drew his weapon. “Do not be alarmed. I do not wish to harm you. What matter do you feel is important enough to bring up before the Council?” Dygan recognized it as one of the Council members, but as to which one, Dygan forgot in the mass of names.
“I’m trying to find someone. My family to be precise.”
“Couldn’t you just ask anyone to point you in the direction of their house?” the man was smiling, and Dygan could sense that a plot was forming.
“I don’t know who my family is, but I know they live here.”
“Hmm… well, I’ll propose a trade of services…” he said, and his tone reminded Dygan of a slithering snake. Melrous was right; the nobility only cared when it benefited themselves. However, the nobility had the resources to find his family – perhaps...
“What do you mean?” Dygan asked, trying not to say anything that would cement himself in with the house.
“One of the other houses, Sellus to be precise… has a book of mine. It contains shipping routes and other commercial information. I don’t need to tell you, but I certainly did not lend a book like that to a house that does not get along well with me. If you can return with this book, I’ll be able to find out who your family is.”
At that very second, Dygan seriously doubted that he was being sent to steal an already stolen economic records book. No, he would probably be taking one instead. But what other option did he have? “I need to know who my family is first…” Dygan tried to negotiate a way out.
“Why? So you can just leave without fulfilling my end of the bargain? So you can be distracted at a critical moment? You learn after you have the book!”
“But how will I know you don’t just take the book and remain silent?”
“Fine. The procedure will be as follows. You get the book and bring it back. I tell you your family name, and then you can place the book in my hands. That way we both get what we want.”
“But what if I get caught? Will you bail me out?”
“You aren’t going to get caught,” the stranger said with a stern voice, like an ultimatum. The answer was evident. If Dygan were caught, there would be no help. “How would I go about getting this book?”
His face lit up with a sly smile. That was the question he wanted to hear. “They’re not going to give it to you, if that’s what you mean. No, you’ll have to be covert and take it. Good day. Come by House Hruth and the doorman will say, ‘State your business.’ You will answer, ‘I deal in spices, and I have a proposal you may be interested in.” And with a cocky smirk, he moved quickly away.
Dygan muttered a curse under his breath. This city was like a pit of vipers, but he shouldn’t insult the vipers so. What could he do? Only one option appeared in his mind. He raced off down the street.
“Quite a predicament,” conceded Melrous. “Well, as you probably already guessed, he’s out to gain advantages over the other Houses, not to equal the playing field.” Melrous hummed in thought while stroking his chin.
“I’ve never been a friend of House Hruth, because I’m closely knit with House Eithar. These differences go back over 1000 years, and if what I’ve heard is correct, they were separate factions at about the time of the Dragonstorm.”
“Why did you tie yourself to a particular house? You’re not the type.”
“Oh, it’s the remembrance of my younger days. I was quite the dashing young man, in my prime.” Melrous remembered it all with a slight chuckle and a wide grin, even wider than normal.
“I trust it was quite a tale, but I don’t know how that will help us with my current problem.”
“I am a friend of House Eithar, and thus, I am with one alliance of houses. Sellus is in that alliance. We could ask for a favor, or even better, play a trick on those Hruth schemers.”
“What are we going to do, Melrous? Or should I just not ask?”
“Suffice to say, it’s going to be incredibly fun…” Melrous enjoyed this part of the grand scheme. He always did.
“Melrous Frethon,” spoke the lord of House Sellus, a rather lanky man with a proud bearing, “to what do I owe the honor?”
“This boy behind me,” Melrous gestured widely. “He’s got a rather complicated situation to get out of. I thought of something incredibly clever, which benefits all of us. You get an upper hand on Hruth, this boy gets what he’s looking for, and I get the satisfaction of orchestrating it all.”
“True to your nature, you old schemer,” came the reply as well as a small laugh. Melrous smiled, remembering days so many years ago. “So what do you need?” Melrous took the noble aside, and began to explain. At the end of it, Dygan was finally addressed. “I will send for you, when the preparations are complete,” and he was promptly dismissed.
“What was that about? Why am I never noticed unless I’ve got something to be gained? Even these people, who are your friends?” Dygan was confused. City life was so odd.
“My friends, not yours. And remember you’re just an orphan as far as they’re concerned. Hruth noticed you because you were a useful pawn, and a pawn you’ll stay, unless you become someone rich and important overnight.”
“But why is that?”
“Money, young Dygan. Everything in the cities, not just this city either, is driven by how much money you can give and how much you can make. Take even my friend, for instance. He just might know who your family is, but nothing is free. After this, I could ask him, and I’d be likely to receive an answer. Even among comrades, everyone is after one of two things: to make money or to stop others from doing so. Unfortunately – it’s just how it works.”
As if to prove a point, four lightly armored men with short, easily concealed blades seemed to pop up from nowhere. With a gruff and short bark of a command, one quickly demanded. “Your money or your life.”
“Stay calm, Dygan.” Melrous whispered. “Gentlemen, we wish for no trouble.” Melrous made his hands open and visible. Slowly, he placed a sack of money on the ground. “That’s all we have.”
“What about him?” He pointed to Dygan. Two of the four went over to retrieve more ill gotten goods. “That sword’s gem looks like it’ll make a fortune. Grab it boys!”
The two rushed. Quick, move! Dygan jumped forward and drew his sword quickly. In the same motion, he spun in a half circle, and held Flisgard’s blade with his left hand secured near the guard while the right was below it.
Dygan didn’t need his second hand on, but it let him swing with more control.
“Show him what happens when you don’t lay low and be a good boy!”
They’re trying to flank you. Take a half-step to your forward left and attack quickly. It was a smooth command, and Dygan followed suit. Not expecting the boy to attack, the mugger received a painful thrust to the hip. Dygan continued to move forward, pulling the sword and going back into a neutral fighting stance, geared neither toward offense or defense.
The second thief moved past his injured comrade, who had decided that loyalty was not worth risking his life, and engaged Dygan in an even exchange of attacks. Not having the advantage of surprise, Dygan first had to guard the attack. Unfortunately, Dygan’s enemy had the advantage of a smaller, and thus, more maneuverable weapon. While Dygan was able to fend off the quick, biting blow, the opportunity for a counter was small. Use your feet. Your sword is not your only weapon. Dygan cocked his head at the inaudible suggestion. It piqued his interest. When he guarded the next attack, a quick slice to his left collar, he was sure to bring his foot to kick his assailant in the lower section of the rib cage. The guard dropped, and Dygan, who didn’t want to kill anyone, brought the hilt down upon the mugger’s head, hitting at the side of the head, near the temple.
“Who’s next?” Dygan turned to face the two remaining thieves. The entire ordeal was over in about half a minute.
“Look…we’re sorry. Don’t hurt us,” one said as he held his hands out and started backing away as fast as he could. The two were quickly out of sight, and the third was limping away. The fourth remained unconscious.
Dygan exhaled deeply and sheathed his elegant weapon. Melrous was still calm. “Make that two things: money and survival among the lower classes. Not that I believe in a class system myself, mind you. If people were judged by merit instead of by wealth, we’d be a better society. However, what is and what should be are commonly two different things.”
“Are you ever fazed?” Dygan asked abruptly, shifting the topic. “Is there some time when you are caught unaware?”
“Indeed there is. Just not when being mugged in a city street or when someone changes the subject of a conversation.” Melrous chuckled and kept on walking, leaving Dygan dumbfounded for a second before he hurried to catch up to him.
It was a few hours before Dygan and Melrous were summoned back to the Sellus residence. The plan was simple enough. In the time that Dygan was waiting, a fake book of records was prepared, and rumors were spread through street informants that there was a break-in at the Sellus house. All Dygan had to do was act as if he did steal the book and everything would be fine.
The sun was about to set when he reached the Hruth house. The gatekeeper stood firm, at a strict poise. “What business do you have?”
“I am a dealer in spices, and I am offering a proposal that you might be interested in,” Dygan answered.
“Awful young for a merchant, but I see that you are selling… other things. Go right through to the door and open it. Do not be late.”
Dygan moved quickly. His move watered and he could taste a sweet feeling in his mouth. He could learn who he was, which was worth more than all the riches to be found in dwarven mines. He opened the large doors to be greeted by the stern face of Lord Hruth.
“Do you have it?” he asked, and held out his hand.
“I do, sir. Could you tell me who my family is?”
“Give me the book, boy.”
“But that’s not what we agreed on…” Dygan didn’t like how this was starting to shape up.
“Agreed on what? Do you have any proof?”
“Then I’ll just return the book then.” Dygan started to leave, but the doors were shut, and in front was a pair of angry-looking guards, ready to kill.
“I think not, boy. You will give me the book, and I’ll tell you your family name after you complete your next task.”
“You’ll just betray me like you’re doing right now! What assurance do I have that you’ll fulfill your side of the bargain?”
“You only have the assurance that if you don’t do it, you’ll be arrested, charged with theft, and spend the rest of your wretched little life in one of Voldar’s prison cells. Trust me when I say I have powerful influence, and I could get you in a lot of trouble, even more than you are currently in.”
Dygan was furious, and his face showed it. But what could he do? He would get arrested, and by the time Lord Sellus and Melrous could organize something, Dygan would already be beyond hope. “What must I do?”
“That’s the spirit. There’s a group of sewer rats that offended one of my personal friends by stealing a minor statue. I would like it if I could return it. Do it, and your freedom only becomes uncertain, not an impossibility. Escort the boy to the sewers, and let him find the statue.”
Dygan was roughly dragged out of the house and taken to a grate. “Get in, and find the statue.”
“But what does it look like? I can’t just keep going down and up with every statue in the sewers.”
“It’s a statue. There won’t be many down there.”
“That low-down, deceitful, son of a…” Dygan stopped himself. Raye wouldn’t like him saying such things. How was he going to find a group of ‘sewer rats’ and persuade them to let him take a statue?
“This just makes me sick!” Dygan furiously kicked a stone, which only gave slightly, causing a shock of pain to course through the boy’s foot. “Grrgh,” Dygan grunted out a sound of pain and frustration. Dygan moved forward, but he stopped when he heard the sound of footfalls in the muck. He flattened himself behind a wall, and he was hopeful that he gauged the right direction that the people were coming from.
“Great fun, eh Carlok? We got us a real haul, and it was a day raid, no less?”
“You said it, Dunc.”
After that little bit of boasting, the duo went down a shady passage. Dygan shadowed their movements, being careful not to step in the water. They either weren’t expecting anyone or Dygan was better at stealth than he thought, because they led him through the sewer access to what appeared to be a storeroom. It was damp, had a strange smell, but it wasn’t the sewer. He hid behind a barrel and waited for Carlok and Dunc to leave. Once they left, Dygan breathed deeply, relieved that he wasn’t discovered.
“But now, I have to sneak in here, and I’m against thieves no less.” He looked through the cracks in the door. The room ahead seemed clear. When Dygan opened the door, however, he could see a guard, who quickly pointed in his direction and started to run at him. This just isn’t a good day, Dygan moaned to himself, then sprinted away, to the closest thing, which happened to be a staircase. He ran and turned down a hallway, and then sharply went down another hallway, trying to shake his pursuer. He had gained some breathing room, but he wasn’t out of the stewpot yet. Dygan ran up another set of stairs. After climbing them, Dygan ducked into the first room he came across.
Breathing deeply as the aftereffect to his sprint, he quickly jumped into a nearby cupboard. With barely enough room to squeeze in to the tiny area, Dygan compressed himself as much as possible and held his breath.
Heavy boots stomped around, and every second seemed like a lifetime. Dygan’s sweat was cold, and his heart beat furious spurts of blood into the rest of his body. Shutting his eyes so tightly that he could feel tears forming at the edges, he silently hoped that the guards wouldn’t catch him and do whatever unspeakable things they were told to do to intruders.
The boots thundered off. A moment of silence passed, than another, than two more. No boots were coming back. Did they give up? Or were they playing some twisted game of cat and mouse? With trepidation, Dygan opened the cupboard, each creak in the hinge sounding like a raging waterfall. It was a full minute before Dygan regained enough courage and sense in his legs to get out and stand up.
He was in a storeroom, and by the layers of dust on everything, it was an unused storeroom. The cabinets were old and rotted, even Dygan’s cupboard that he was hiding in moments before. Despite for the woven webs of spiders, they were bare. Not that the old wood could handle much weight. There was one exception, and that was a jar that looked like it once contained some sort of fruit. Dygan could only guess what was in the jar. He carefully prodded it with his sword, just to make sure it didn’t release some deadly venomous cloud or other equally exotic trap. Nothing happened. “Well, the other option is to chance it with the guards out there,” Dygan reasoned, aided by his curiosity about what was actually in the jar. With a deft twist of his hand, he opened it, and was instantly greeted with the foul stench of fruit that was long past rotten. It didn’t even resemble food, but like a hard black… Dygan didn’t even want to think about what it could have been. He suppressed the nausea reflex that almost made him throw up. He put the lid back on and put the foul smelling food back on the shelf.
“Now what do I do?” Dygan asked himself, still trying to remain quiet. All of a sudden, he heard what sounded like a series of mechanical clicks and rumblings. He ducked and turned toward the sounds. The wall rose, much to Dygan’s amazement, and out stepped a short, seedy-looking man with eyes that spoke of street smarts.
He looked plain as an everyday street rat, but if he was using that secret passage, Dygan guessed it was only a matter of appearance and not of truth. For a second, the two men stared at each other, guessing what the other was doing.
“I commend you for eluding my guards. What is it that you want?” The thief spoke quite civilly.
“Aren’t you going to attack me?”
“I tend to avoid violence myself. I’d rather not risk my life as opposed to giving me a chance to get killed. Now I answered your question, so answer mine if you please.”
“I was sent to recover a statue.”
“A statue? I don’t deal with art or things of that sort. It’s too noticeable. I deal almost completely in money. It’s easier to disperse as opposed to trying to sell a stolen painting, no?”
“I see your point. I was told however that I would find a statue here.”
“No, you won’t. Whoever sent you obviously wanted to just use you to make a quick profit.”
“I gathered that. It isn’t the first time I haven’t been sent on one of his greedy little errands.”
“Then perhaps we’ll just have a mutual exchange. The information that you were able to sneak past my guards would not be good for my rivals. In exchange for keeping silent, I’ll let you walk on out of here, through the sewers of course.”
“Is information really that worthy?”
“I see you haven’t dealt with enough politics. Information is everything in politics.” In truth, he was already plotting a raid on Hruth, so he could eat the loss.
“Then how about some more information, like who would send me on such an errand against you.” Dygan was now on the bargaining side of the table.
“Interesting… But what are you taking in return.”
“I need something from your treasure room, maybe not a statue. If I take something just as worthy, maybe more so, then I could still complete my task.”
“Possible… Yes, this would work quite well for my position. Tell me then, who sent you?”
“Hruth… The lord himself.”
A small smile flickered over the thief’s features. “Good. I may be a thief, but I’m no liar. Take one thing. One thing, mind you. I’ll be watching.”
Dygan was ushered through that secret passage, and as a condition, he was blindfolded as to not let him see how his newfound ally gained entry to his treasure hold. Dygan didn’t care, as long as he wasn’t being led into danger. When the blindfold was removed, Dygan was in a huge room, with ornate columns and high ceilings. “Amazing what money can do, isn’t it?” Dygan looked around, in awe from the splendor.
“Now what do you want?”
Dygan gauged through the treasure pile. Most of it was small coins of various metals, but Dygan paid them no attention. It was the bigger things that Dygan looked for. He saw gemstones, some plain, and some as beautiful as if they were stars. Other than that, there was a folded suit of chain mail armor, a set of golden spearheads, and…
Dygan looked around quickly, trying to see who was talking. It was the same voice as in the fight with the wolves and the earlier ambush. But no one, save the thief, was in the room.
Take the armor.
The command had a more compelling tone to it. It felt powerful, as if it was something Dygan couldn’t ignore. But he couldn’t take the armor. He needed something valuable to satisfy the Hruths.
Take the armor, now!
Dygan’s blood pumped almost painfully in his head. It was such a powerful mental command that his brain was starting to hurt. He couldn’t learn who his family was if he couldn’t even think straight, by all guesses.
Yes! Take the armor...
Dygan could no longer take the mental strain. He grabbed the armor, and instantly everything was back to normal. The blood returned to normal and he was no longer in mental pain.
“Well, you’ve made your choice. Now come on, I’ll take you back through.”
Dygan was taken through the sewers and up to the surface. After Dygan had left, the thief grinned. That boy improved his situation immensely by telling him what house was against him. A shame that he didn’t have any money on him. It was just a wasted effort when he pickpocketed him.
“Outside of the sewer gate, Dygan sat with his back propped on a two-story building with the sign advertising it’s alcoholic beverages. “What am I going to do?” Dygan asked himself. The armor was worthless in the eyes of the Hruth house.
What was it that compelled him to get the armor? True, it was a fascinating suit. Dygan had always guessed armor to be heavy, especially when Merick offered to give Dygan an old set of his, which was still too big for the boy. The metal plates felt as if they weighed as much as a full peddler’s wagon. But this armor was different. It only weighed a little more than his normal clothing. But he felt…more complete with the armor. An indescribable feeling, and it in truth was quite absurd. Dygan shouldn’t need armor to feel as if something inside of him was replaced, and especially that the sense of emptiness that the armor was apparently filling was not gone, just weaker. It made no sense.
“Stopping for a moment of thought, my boy?” The old voice so accustomed to chuckling sounded off to his left shoulder.
“Melrous? I don’t know what I’m going to do. Hruth sent me on another task, but I failed.”
“Really? Well, to give you some good news, I know who your family is…”
Dygan’s breath stopped for a second, and his heart raced. What was Melrous saying? “What, Melrous? Please, tell me what you know.”
“Remember that we helped Sellus? Well, I asked him to do some research in Voldar’s public records. It turned out that he already knew a house that, fifteen or sixteen years ago, lost a father and infant child. Neither was ever found… but he did look at the records, and confirmed it. The child’s name was Dygan… your name.”
Dygan had a sharp intake of air, and his stomach felt a little queasy in anticipation.
“Dygan… You are a member of the Heartswind family. It’s a minor noble house, amassed it’s fortune in spices and furs, I think. They always tended to try and stay out of politics, but whenever they had to make a decision, they usually sided with House Sellus. You should thank your ancestors, because that’s how Lord Sellus remembered…”
Dygan didn’t even bother to hear the rest of it. Interrupting Melrous, “Where are they?”
“Well, sadly, where is she is the correct question. Your aunt Veleri is alone now, the rest were taken by Querpur, unfortunately. Come my boy, let old Melrous take you home.”
Dygan was overjoyed, and he was led to the house. Quite unlike the other houses, it was smaller and didn’t have large gardens or imposing structures. He went to the gate, and he asked to see Veleri on a matter of extreme urgency.
“Yes, can I help you?” asked the woman. Veleri’s hair was graying, and Dygan could see that she was somewhat sickened and aged, through some ordeal. It might have been his disappearance. She was shorter than Dygan as well, and the top of her head barely came up to his shoulder. Dygan didn’t care. He moved forward and embraced her. He was so overwhelmed that he could only say one thing, which seemed the most appropriate. “I’m home.”
Story written by Eskon