I have been posting instalments of the Fantasy story I wrote about 17 years ago every Sunday and Wednesday afternoons. Except last Sundays was posted on Monday and this is now Wednesday’s instalment. I apologise for the delay.
Well better late than never, here is the next part.
If you would like to read it from the start, this is the first part:
In the sheltered little Savarian town of Hardensford, Lara and her group were encamped. The weather had turned foul. Strong winds and torrential rain had made travelling impossible. The town was situated on the main highway from the City of Savarias, now a day’s ride to the South and the District of Albana still at least a day’s ride North. The highway had once been paved with slabs of stone but had been damaged in the Civil war as part of the Red Army’s strategy of preventing the Imperial troops from being able to move quickly. The fact that the road had not yet been rebuilt demonstrated how important the District of Savarias was to the new regime. The torrential rain had turned the road into a number of stone islands between patches of mud. For two days the wind had howled, the rain had fallen and the lightning had stuck. The towns weathermen predicted that it would last for another five days. The weathermen, with their collection of sayings and superstitions were about as reliable as a cockerel in the hen-coop, but it looked like this time they were right. The town of Hardensford had become their prison. It seemed like it would have been a pleasant town in kinder weather. It had developed as the meeting place of the farms in the area to gather and sell their wares and also it was a stopping point for merchants travelling between the City of Savarias and the more lucrative markets to the North. It was also one of the places you could usually cross the River Arden, when the ford wasn’t completely flooded as was currently the case. They were trapped in Hardensford until either the river levels fell enough to use the ford or the roads dried up enough to travel upriver to the village of Coltswood, about five miles away, which had a ferry.
Mage Caraffi sat in the common room of the Swan Inn, on of two inns that the town possessed to house travellers and visitors. This one was by far the best. The other inn had a more unsavoury reputation. He was contemplating the weather that was keeping them imprisoned. Although not unheard of at that time of year the severity of the storms was unusual. It was not normally until the Autumn festival on the first full moon in November that this kind of torrential rain became expected. Tomorrow was the first day of October and they should still be getting pleasant days, if much colder nights. Outside the rains came down in torrents and the wind howled like the worst December hurricane. Caraffi was worried. Was this storm induced by magic to deliberately delay their progress? In a way, Caraffi had cause to be thankful for the delay. He had so much still to do. Lara and David both still had so much to learn and he felt strongly that he did not have much time left to teach them. He was worried too that this town that had become their prison may end up becoming their tomb.
Lara and Bethra were sharing a room. Unfortunately, due to the roads becoming impassable, there were far too many stranded travellers for Lara to have a room of her own. She tolerated the conditions as best she could. The room was sparsely decorated and had two narrow single beds against opposing walls. There was a plain oak dressing table and a matching wardrobe. On the floor there was a small red rug of woven wool and on the wall there was one watercolour of a local beauty spot. The white porcelain wash basin and jug completed the simple decorations. There was a proper bathroom at the end of the hall, but that had to be shared with the rest of the Inns guests. Lara did not think much of that set up at all. As well as a lot of local travellers and pedlars, there were two higher class merchants. One was bound for Savarias to sell great bundles of Albana lacework and other fabrics. The other, bound for Albana with a cargo of lead ingots from the mines to the south. Lara had never seen two people in the same profession look so entirely different. The one heading for Savarias wore a brightly coloured jacket and pantaloons striped in red and blue. He was rather plump and jovial and had one of those white powdered wigs, common in the North of the country, on his large head. He was a friendly chap who had told them lots of funny stories about his travels in the common room of an evening. The other merchant, heading towards Albana was tall, thin with long black hair pulled into a severe pony-tail. He wore a dark grey coat and black trousers. He was quiet and surly and always seemed to have a scowl on his pinched face. Lara felt that he seemed to be staring at her, whenever they were both in the common room at the same time.
At that moment Lara was looking out of their small window which had a view down the main street of the town towards the river and the flooded ford. Lara liked the view as it gave her a sense of freedom to look out at the countryside beyond.
Bethra looked up from the book she was reading “This journey is taking so long Lara. I remember, before my Mother died, we took a trip to Albana and I’m sure it didn’t take as long as this.”
“Are you really so eager to get to Albana, Bethra? I’m not. I miss home and I miss my Father and I’ve still got so much to learn.”
“Yes, but you see, I’ve never really felt at Home there. Not since Mother died four years ago. Since then Father drank more and more and no one really cared about what I got up to. It wasn’t home any more. I am looking forward to getting to Albana. This is a chance for a new life for me and I intend to grab it with both hands.”
“Bethra, I didn’t realise how unhappy you were. I’m so sorry dear, I can see now why going to Albana and staying with Lady Hardcastle much be such a good thing for you.”
“No, Don’t pity me Lara. I don’t want your sympathy. One day I will have all the money, security and attention that I want. I’m sure of that.”
Feeling sad, Lara left Bethra alone in the room before she descended too far into melancholy. She sought out some lighter company in the common room.
End of Part Eighteen.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 20/July/2018