Tiriak put the ruined farm behind him resolutely. His father's sword hung at his hip, where it flapped uncomfortably against his thigh. He had no idea where he was headed, just that he needed to put some distance between himself and the Weasels in his village. His mind reeled with all of the events of the past few days, and his belly growled hungrily to remind him of his continuing fast. He knew of a small village a few miles up the Great Road that had an inn. If he could get there before sundown, there was a chance he could get some food in exchange for washing the dishes or something. The only things he had of value were the clothes he wore, the ceremonial dagger and his father's sword. He was willing to part with none of these things in exchange for food. At least not yet.
Several times as he walked, Tiriak heard the sound of approaching hoofbeats and quickly hid in the brush near the road. He had no desire to meet anyone coming or going from his own villiage, at least not until he figured out the reason the farm had been destroyed. Each time, he would slide his father's sword from its scabbard, and clutch it awkwardly.
He wished desperately that his father had seen fit to teach him at least the most basic fundamentals of swordplay, but it was apparently too late for that now. He had not taken time to investigate the still smoldering rubble of the farmhouse, but logic told him that his father would have to be dead to allow such a thing to happen to his family. Finding the sword hidden beneath the old stone bridge gave him some hope, but why would his father hide the sword and run, rather than wielding it in defense of his farm and family?
Fortunately the road was not busy today, and Tiriak finally reached the villiage just as the sun was beginning to touch the jagged peaks of the mountains. He found the inn and doing his best to assume a confident air, pushed open the rough wooden door and entered. He stood just inside the doorway for a few moments to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness, until a pretty girl approached.
"Can I help you sir?" She was only a few years older than Tiriak, and not yet wearing a wedding ring. Her smile was pleasant enough, but he caught her glancing nervously at the long sword at his hip. He placed his hand on the pommel in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner, and forced himself to return her smile.
"Yes ma'am. I have been walking all day, but I don't have any money. Do you know if I could do some work for you to earn some supper?" The girl's smile faded, although her face remained friendly. Tiriak's stomach growled loudly as if to accent his request. She nodded towards the back of the dining area.
"You will have to speak to my father. But I am not sure we have any work for you. I'm sorry." She turned and returned to the long polished bar. Tiriak turned back towards the table she had indicated. A stout man sat there scratchng busily with a quill on a long piece of parchment. By the way his lips were moving, Tiriak thought for a moment he was having an in-depth conversation with himself. Then he realized that the man was calculating under his breath. Tiriak stood at a discreet distance, not wanting to interrupt. After a few seconds, the man cursed loudly and threw the quill across the room. It was only then that he noticed Tiriak standing there.
"Oy! What do you want then? My daughter is running the place, you can see her to order your food and drink." Tiriak gulped nervously.
"Well, sir, as I told your daughter, I was wondering if you had some work I could do to earn my supper. I have been..." The man interrupted with a snort.
"Looking for a handout are ye? Well, unless you know how to cipher, I got no work for wanderin'..." he stopped when he saw Tiriak's face light up.
"My father was very insistent that I learn to read and cipher sir." The innkeeper scowled darkly at Tiriak, his eyes seeming to take him in fully for the first time.
"A bit young to be out wandering the world aren't ya?" he growled, but Tiriak was sure he had softened at least a bit. "And I don't think that sword fits you. Who did you steal that from?" Tiriak blanched at the question, he had not considered how incongruous the sword might appear at his hip.
"It is all that my father left me when he died." Tiriak decided that the truth was the best course, at least for now.
© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved