I started a short story from the world I’ve been building recently back in November and decided to finally wrap it up last week. Tina posted her story last week so I figured I’d follow suit! Critiques always welcome – enjoy!
p.s: don’t judge me, it was all written in notepad and I’m 100% I missed spelling or something crazy while editing.
There was a bite in the air across the plains this cold morning. The town of Altoon was still fast asleep, as it was even too early for the Sun to be awake yet. Thaddeus Mason slogged out of bed, knowing he was probably the only one that would be up for the next few hours, looking forward to not having to interact with anyone. He sat staring into the darkness for several minutes, reluctant to relinquish the wool blanket he’d draped over himself. Finally, heaving a huge sigh he forced himself to his feet and shook off the shroud of warmth.
He liked to rise early each day to get the days work out of the way before anyone wandered in for breakfast or gossip, or both. He wrung the wispy edges of a dream about this time last year out of his head sadly. The Inn had been his dream ever since he’d first met his late wife Margaret, the happiest adventure of his life. A dream that had twisted into a trap. He’d escaped his past and couldn’t go back, he and Margaret had thrown everything they had into this place. He would never abandon the last dream they had together.
Forcing himself into gear, he reminded himself that under no circumstances would the current state of the Inn be satisfactory to his wife’s standards, and so he’d resigned to getting up earlier every day to finish more. He hadn’t had anyone book a room in months, but that was beside the point. Thaddeus worked a few hours sweeping and dusting and mopping, glad for the exertion to warm him despite the chill air. Light began peeking through the shudders as he was just finished restocking the kitchen from the supplies in the cellar. Thad unbolted the shudders and locked them in the open position, more of a formality at this point but the routine helped him focus.
As was his custom, Thaddeus headed out the door, locking it behind him and not bothering to leave a note – everyone knew where to find him at sunrise. Thad headed to the outskirts of town, though it only takes about 5 minutes he finds himself lost in thought as his body navigates its way. He finds himself seated in his usual resting spot amidst a few other dilapidated and crumbling headstones, some even worn to the point where you couldn’t see the inscription. The one he sat next to was brand new, and had a few elaborate designs chiseled by his strong hands some months passed. Thaddeus rested and chatted to the empty air for a good while, letting her know that he’d caught up with the rooms in the Inn and that even the king himself would be proud to stay in them.
“Well I better get back,” he reluctantly rose to head back to his Inn. “Everyone in town is doing great, I know you’re happy to hear that. We sure do miss you though! He forced himself to say cheerfully, lapsing into a brief silence. “I miss you” he whispered quietly, turned and started the walk back. He hurried back to his solitude behind closed doors. The townfolk were his friends and family now, but he found himself wishing they would reminisce less and just let him stare into space a bit more. Still, they wouldn’t start rolling in for another few hours until lunch, it was time to get the kitchen started.
Thad was shocked upon his return! waiting at the door to the Inn was a stranger he hadn’t met before, a rare enough site as it was. This stranger also looked clean and groomed, though traveling alone so he couldn’t be too important. He didn’t look particularly young or old in any way, and was as outstandingly average as could be.
“Good morning!” he called to the stranger. “My apologies on the wait friend, I just had some business to attend on the other side of town. Please come in.”
Thad unlocked the doors and let the man pass, before going to grab the firewood to warm the room.
“No trouble at all, I’d only just arrived” the man stated dismissively. “I was hoping to find a place to stay a few nights while waiting on an associate, do you have any rooms available?”
Available was an understatement, Thad thought to himself. “Sure I do, Altoon doesn’t get many visitors so you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Have you eaten today?”
Thaddeus and the man, a cobbler named Michel, discussed the price for the room and food for the next 3 days. They also discussed a few dishes the bigger cities were doing in the kingdom of Tyrel where he’d just come from, and Thad set about replicating a few. Breakfast was needed and he knew the townfolk were always happy to try out the latest fashions in food and wardrobe, albeit in their own ramshackle and discounted ways.
Michel thanked Thaddeus and complimented him on his rendition of the cuisine, and then retired to his room. Thad was glad for the silence once more, though he enjoyed working in the kitchen and was grateful to have an excuse to burn the next several hours away doing just that.
Kerrick the baker wandered in just before the sun started its downward descent, signaling the start of the rest of his day. “Hullo Thad, daily delivery for you, just brought this lot out of the oven before shutting down for the day.” Upon saying this, Kerrick heaved a heavy basket of crusty bread onto the counter, piled high with rolls. Margaret had worked hard to setup various partnerships around town. Now each night, everyone from town brought a small something to share and the all would eat and enjoy each others’ company for a few hours.
Sighing inwardly, Thad picked up the basket with a grin, turning to head back to the kitchen. “Thanks Kerrick” he said, gesturing at one of the stools. “Have a seat, you’re early as usual.” Thad and Kerrick chatted for a while about the upcoming farm season as it was only a few months off. A few others trickled in during this conversation and gave their input.
Soon, most of the regulars were there, which was at least over half of those living in Altoon. Conversations started branching and changing and getting louder, the dining room was alive with conversation and hazy with the smoke and smells of the roasting food.
“Oi Thad! The Inn looks marvelous lad!” Grohm, one of the elder men was lounging next to the fire, letting his gaze drift. “It reminds me of ol’ Maggie” he continued to numerous agreements from the others.
“Sure does, Thad. You’re doing so well, do let us know if you could use any help at all!” Grohm’s wife Lissette added.
Thaddeus smiled sadly. Maggie was Margarets nickname, first by the children and then adopted later by the adults in town. She hated it, he liked to tease her by using it when they were alone. “Thanks Grohm, Lissa, but I can handle this old place just fine, thanks. I’d never get any peace in the afterlife if I became a derelict as soon as she wasn’t watching me.”
The conversation cut abruptly as the front door banged against the wall. A middle aged man limped through the door, dust and mildew heavily wafted in with him. The ragged clothes and unkempt beard suggested at least a few weeks on the road. The room was as still as night as he scraped the floor to the counter in front of Thad, not seeming to see anyone as he pushed his way through the crowd.
“I need a room and whatever you’ve got to eat” his voice almost a growl, he glanced at Thaddeus and Kerrick who was nearby, returning his gaze to the counter.
“You the cohort the other guy was waiting for?” Thad asked, hopefully.
The newcomers’ gaze soured. “Ain’t nobody waiting for me I should hope” he rasped, tossing a Tyrel copper across the counter at Thad that he allowed to drop to the floor. “Just give me a room and shut up”
Thad could feel the room turning against the traveler and was starting to feel irritable himself. “Sorry stranger, I’m not taking a single copper coin. Ten copper for the food, 20 for the room. And your name for the book.” This was basically true, if you counted the insulting-the-Innkeeper’s fees.
The grizzled stranger slumped at a nearby table and scowled. “I don’t care, call me Gareth, give me the damn-” he interrupted whatever he was about to say by pulling a flask from his flimsy jacket and taking a swig, and visibly drawing a deep breath. Thad opened his mouth to reply when he realized the man had also flipped a coin through the air as it landed neatly in his apron pocket. Wide-eyed, Thad stared at the silver, easily worth all five of the meager rooms upstairs. Shrugging, he waved his hands gently to ease the townfolk. “Easy now guys, the old man’s probably just weary from travel. Let’s get him fed and slept and I’m sure it’ll be fine”
Pivoting his large frame, Thad inserted the silver into his secured chest and gathered up a dish for the angry man. Thad didn’t like his attitude of course, but he didn’t actually care either. It was almost like being offended out of propriety more than anything. Setting the food on the table, Thad let a key drop next to the plate as well. “Last room on your left, just up the stairs across the way” he directed.
Thad returned to the counter for some half-hearted conversation, but it seemed the townspeople had lost their luster by this point. Sullen stares and unspoken insults were flung in the direction of the newcomer, but everyone had too much respect for Thad to sully his reputation by accosting someone inside his Inn. Everyone drifted out a bit early tonight.
Thad chuckled. If some poor manners were all it took to get some time to himself in the afternoon he was going to have to take notes. The sun was even still up! There’d been no sign of Michel since that morning, Thad wondered what he was up to all day, normally guests would eat more than once. Thad knocked lightly on the door on the right at the top of the stairs, though the sudden stillness made it seem to boom and echo. There was no answer. He shrugged, who was he to judge someone for staring at a wall all day.
The stranger gruffly made his way up the stairs, shoving Thad in the process. He couldn’t tell if it were deliberate since the strangers’ walk was so accented by that limp, so he just let it go. “I’ll be shutting the kitchen down soon so let me know if you need anything, I’ll open it up again after sunrise, so if -”
He didn’t bother finishing the sentence, instead returning to his melancholy desk behind the counter. The rest of the night was dreary and uneventful, Thad found himself getting drowsy before he’d cleaned up for the day. Well, best get to bed early, what was the point in cleaning now, what would he do when he woke in the morning anyway. Thad took special care to lock down anything that would be valuable and moved all the money from the chest behind the counter to the buried safe he kept in the cellar. He didn’t want anyone thinking about taking back their room fees.
Thad lie in bed a long time that night. There was a gaping chasm in the void next to him, the physical manifestation of loneliness sapping his will, yet refusing to allow him the sweet release of sleep. He allowed himself to breathe the smokey aroma of the fires he’d kept going most of the day. The thick smells of food that wafted through the rooms, hours after any food had been cleared away. He allowed himself to reflect on his breathing, smooth and steady. His heartbeat, steadily drumming away the night.
Thad bolted upright in bed. The room was cool, yet he was drenched in sweat, heart pounding. He listen silently for any sounds in the quiet night. Altoon was deathly silent at night and it used to unnerve him, but he’d grown accustomed over the years. Thad forced his heart to slow. He’d been dreaming of her again. Thad wasn’t superstitious, but he felt through the core of his being that she’d been next to him just now. His bed suddenly shuttered, a bolt of shock hitting him like lightning. It sounded like a battering ram out there!
Thad threw on some quick clothes and snatched up the large knife he kept in his room. Moving slowly and silently, listening after each step, Thad made his way upstairs. When he arrived in the main room, he recognized the the gangly strangers’ coat from behind, hanging in tatters. He was facing Michel in a threatening pose, whereas the cobbler seemed at ease.
“You’re a slippery snake, Mor’gard. I knew you couldn’t resist battering these folk some more, but I’ll be endin’ that tonight.” As he spoke, the scruffy man dug into a thin pocket and produced a transluscent sword. Fiery runes glowing down the sides that pierced the darkness as he brought it to bear, and then dimmed once more. The runes seemed to flicker hungrily, as though the sword were actually on fire. He loosened his stance and crouched a bit lower to the ground it appeared to be in preparation for a pounce.
Thaddeus made his presence known by clearing his throat loudly, taking care to keep his distance from the madman with the glowing sword. “I’ll not have you killing strangers in my Inn! This man’s name is Michel, what business do you have attacking others in this town!” Keeping his butcher’s knife held high as if to deflect any sudden blows, Thad inched to the quiet man standing in front of the attacker. “I’ll not have any bloodshed!” His voice became louder and deeper to feign the confidence he didn’t feel.
“Get away from him fool! This man will kill everyone without hesitation. He has been forsworn by my leigelord, and so his life is forfeit for his crimes.” Gareths’ eyes were as wild as his sword, focused intently on his target. With a fluid motion, he whipped a small metallic bead from his jacket and flicked it over Thad’s shoulder. He knew it missed Michel as he saw the man sidestep from the corner of his eye, but he wasn’t expecting the 6-inch hole that small bead left in his kitchen door.
“Reapers eat you, what are you?!” Thad demanded. He’d heard of mages who preyed on those who couldn’t defend themselves, but he didn’t think anyone with power would bother ever visiting Altoon. A sudden lunge from Gareth stopped his wild imagination. Before he had time to react to the movements, a cold numbness pierced him like an arrow. His back felt icy, then nothing. His legs and arms started to tremble violently, throwing him to his knees. “I. w-w-wha-” his throat convulsed, cutting off anything he’d been about to say. Thad leapt facefirst into the floorboards, his body tight and unyielding.
Michel chuckled softly from behind his field of vision. “His wife’s spirit has been…reluctant to let go, she was causing quite a delay in my work. I thought I’d bring them closer together and use them to feed my ghost-walker.”
Thad’s mind reeled, both from the inability to feel below his neck, and the words coming from this man. Wife? Spirit? Was it Margaret he meant? It was hard to focus as he fought unconsciousness. Thad fixated on the idea of his wife, the sweet smell of her after a hard days work. Running his hands through her silken hair. He wasn’t sure what was happening to him, and while Thad found it immensely easy to focus inwardly he was getting a bit concerned that he could no longer feel his heartbeat. Thad fought to focus his eyes to keep from dropping unconscious. The only thing he could see with any clarity from his vantage point on the floor was Gareth, though he wasn’t quite sure he could trust his eyes at this point. Gareth’s sword was shimmering in the air, washing Thad in waves of heat and seemingly lighting up the entire common room.
“Ghost-walker my ass, the only thing you’ll be feeding are the worms you demon!” With this declaration, Gareth seemed to scratch a series of archaic symbols into the air itself, leaving an electric taste in the Innkeepers mouth – the taste of the air before a storm.
Suddenly, Thad’s eyes were engulfed in the flames of the brightest light he had ever seen in his thirty years. Accompanying the light was an explosion to rival the sound of a thousand trees exploding at once. Ears ringing, eyes filled with painful dancing spots – Thad wasn’t sure if it was him screaming or someone else. The taste of copper triggered a small part of his mind that conjured an image of being nursed by Maggie after spilling facefirst into a pile of bricks a few years back. Was that his blood? Thad fought his arms, willing them to follow his commands. Move, damn you! He slammed his eyes open and closed quickly in succession to regain some semblance of sanity. His vision started fading back in, his eyes snapped to the first thing he could think of.
Gareth’s horrified expression looking over him was not reassuring.
Thad blinked several more times to clear his eyes, something sticky and slimy was sliding down his face and he didn’t want that blinding him again. Revolted, he noticed a coagulated pool of blood sitting under his cheek. Was that in his mouth! He did his best spitting out what he could, scraping his tongue on his teeth. A heavy foot trod suddenly on his ribs, smashing the air from him and it sounded like probably cracking a rib or two.
Gareth danced backward a few paces nimbly, sword held aloft.”What have you done?! Have you no sense of right and wrong? Have you no soul?!”
The shambling figure crossed over Thad leaving behind a fragrance somewhere between the weeks after a large battle and an infected open wound. Not for the first time, Thad found himself heaving, at odds with the lungs that wanted to pull more of this putrid air into his mouth. Two more figures slowly ambled to the side of him, allowing him to glance what appeared to be a rotting corpse on its own two feet. Blinking several times, the visage of horror remained. Was this real? His arms trembled violently as he tried to roll into a sitting position, though much stronger than before. One of the disgusting creatures turned to peer at his feeble struggles. Turning, it advanced on him with outstretched hands. The flesh seemed to melt from the bone, the horrid nails more akin to talons on this wretched thing’s gnarled hand. Thad recoiled backward, managing to scoot a few inches. The decomposing hands grabbed his face and hair firmly, dragging Thad by his face to meet it’s mouth. His entire body shuttered and threw himself backward, leaving quite a bit of hair with the monster and certainly losing a few pieces of his cheek.
That firey sword sang through the night as it cleaved the head from this monstrosity, Gareth leaping back out of range of the other two that were closing on him. Using the same technique from earlier, Gareth quickly scratched out new symbols into the dank night air and punched the one in the center with fury. With this final gesture, several tables splintered themselves against the abominations, hurling one through the wall of the Inn and the other flying close to Thad fast enough to feel the wind on his face.
“Mor’gard, not even your pathetic necromancy will save you this night. I’ll be taking your body and soul to my master, you’ll feed the dogs and your soul will clean the toilets! This is better than you deserve for your crimes.”
“Gerard my old friend,” Michel…or Mor’gard, sauntered behind the counter, putting one of his creations between him and the furious vagabond. The man calmly removed something from his pocket and snapped it, flipping the pieces away from him. As he did, the debris of the tables was flung into the air, joined by several more tables and all stacking neatly against the outside door and windows in the common room. “We have power Gerard, this means we rule the peasantry. I’m guilty only of using trash to fuel my work, of accomplishing something only I dare to accomplish. Does it matter if we have a few less rabble in the world?” Simultaneously to his last word, Mor’gard snapped his fingers, immediately igniting the tables against the exits. “I’m curious what happens when I use another mage. Please, die here. I simply must find out.”
Gerard jammed the sword into the planks at his feet and spread his arms wide, a foreign chant reverberating through his chest and bouncing around the room.
Thad watched in fascination, forgetting his mortality with the display of power between these two. Glancing to Mor’gard, he saw the man grimace and swipe his own knife along the entirey of his arm, blood fountaining and pooling under him. The room seemed to plummet as Thad’s stomache leaped into his throat, sudden blackness hitting him almost with a physical force. He noticed swirls of light surrounding him, staring into an abyss for what seemed like hours before realizing that he was actually seeing the fire in the Inn. The blackness was a fluid manifestation that encircled him tightly, but never seemed to touch him. As quickly as it came, the darkness vanished. Thad noted both creations on either side of Gerard and closing fast, the old man seemed not to notice.
“Look out!” Struggling to rise unsteadily, Thad wasn’t sure what he was even doing getting up but it was all he could think of. Gerard was still chanting in his impossibly deep voice, Thad swore his bones were rattling. Swaying on his feet and holding a counter for support, he made sure to back away from Mor’gard and not turn his back to anyone. Gerards’ sudden shriek pierced his head, his entire being shattered in an instant. Forcing his eyes open, Thaddeus witnessed Gerard radiating the same light as before, the two monsters on either side of him jerked up into the air before exploding, bones and organs painting the inside of the common room. Thad’s world spun as something heavy hit him in the face, knocking him back down and nearly out. A grotesque thud told him whatever it was landed right next to him. Opening his eyes, Thad’s world crumbled as he gazed into the smiling face of his wife. His mind whirled at the implications and questions, sweeping him away in a furious storm of emotion. He snapped back to reality to a gleeful cackling.
“This is delicious poetry, reuniting with your dead wife as she dies all over you once again” Mor’gard supported himself against the counter behind Thad, beside himself in his own twisted humor.
Thaddeus Mason was not and had never been a violent man. Drowning himself in the gaze of what used to be his wife, he severed the tide of memories that tried washing over him in that face. Thad’s vision trembled, his entire body felt on fire. Slowly rising to his feet, he tuned out the world to face his wife’s murderer.
Heaving to catch his breath, the evil mage continues. “I’ve been using villagers for years, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to laugh quite so hard. My thanks.” His smile soured into a sneer as he glanced to Gerard, kneeling on one knee and holding the pommel of his dimmed sword. “You’re weak Gerard, I expected to at least live a little tonight. It seems using your corpse would be the same as the rest of the trash after all. Let’s wrap this up and I’ll use this fat oaf to-HNG”
Thaddeus lifted the mage from the ground easily, squeezing his throat and crushing the windpipe with an inhuman grip. This man was the reason Margaret was gone. This man was the reason his beautiful wife was snuffed out like a candle. Thaddeus fed his rage with all the pent up frustration at watching his merry wife slowly waste away. Remembering her struggles to mount the steps from their room, her eyes pleading with him while she forced a smile to make him feel better. His arms began trembling, and he noticed suddenly that he was pouring blood onto the ground as Mor’gard stabbed his shoulders and chest time and again, more and more feebly. Thad renewed his crushing grip, satisfied by the grinding and snapping he felt under his hands. Thaddeus was not a violent man, but he would die this night with revenge.
The necromancer stopped flailing with his knife as his eyes rolled back into his head. He weakly drew his black dagger from its sheath on his chest and plunged it into his throat with a sickening squelch. The rushing wind and screeching howls comforted him as the ghastly shadows emerged from his body and greedily drank the blood flowing from inside him.
Thaddeus let the body crumple to the ground, staggering against an onslaught of raging shadows and doing the same. Lying on the floor and gazing into the flames which now engulfed almost the entire Inn, Thad drifted off to thoughts of meeting his wife in the beyond.
Thaddeus Mason lay silent, still. Was he dead? He tentatively tried raising a hand and shrieked in agony as his nerves lit themselves on fire. Heavy boots and muffled shouting lend credit to the not dead theory. How? The door is flung outward and Thad is slightly comforted to hear his old friend next to the bed.
“Thaddeus! Gods above man, are you alive?! Are you awake?!”
Thaddeus opens his eyes briefly, quickly squeezing them shut in the blinding presence of a single candle. He opens his mouth, but no sound emerges.
“Ye’ve been out over a week, son. Not rightly sure why or how you survived, but the shadows take me if I’m going to let you die now.” The old physician paced about the room, it sounded like he was opening and closing drawers and cabinets, the sounds were familiar, but amplified hundreds of times in his sensitive ears. “Here m’boy, let’s see about some water”
A wrinkled hand slide under his head and tilted him to the side. The water felt like ice sliding down his throat, but after a few sips he definitely felt a difference.
“What-” his voice was a croak, speaking was too much to bear. The old man recounted something to him but everything was hazy, and Thad quickly sunk back into darkness.
Thaddeus opened his eyes tentatively. The light no longer pierced him like a hot knife, so he blinked experimentally a few times. Taking in the room around him, he didn’t recognize any part of the dim furnishing. The bed he lay in was very low, and no windows were around to tell him what time of day it was. A single candle danced on a sidetable, illuminating the dark. Thaddeus tried speaking, but received a fit of coughing instead. The door opened immediately, Grohm’s concerned face materializing in the entrance.
“Thaddeus m’boy, you up again?” The old man hobbled into the room followed by his wife. “Well look, you can open yer eyes! This is wonderful progress lad.” Grohm went about the room pulling out wads of cotton and cups of water and settling everything onto the table next to Thad. “I was just thinking time was come to get those bandages changed, them holes in you been healing up right nice”
The following few minutes were extremely uncomfortable as Lissette held various clothes and bandages for Grohm and Thad discovered he was stark naked under the blankets. His eyes popped out of his head for a moment, drawing a chuckle from the old physician. “Don’t worry Thad, Lissette’s seen a thousand men or more wearing less than you are now, no need to be shy after this week.”
Thad winced as an icy concoction hit his skin over one of the puncture wounds.”What?” he croaked, nodding toward the jar in Grohm’s hand.
“Not sure, I figured you could tell me. Found you slathered in it on my porch about ten days ago now was it?” Glancing to Lisette for confirmation.
“That’s right dear, about ten days back we found you washed up on our porch in the middle of the night wearing nothing but this gel. We was hoping you could tell us what it was, since you wrote down the instructions to use it.”
Thaddeus let the soft pillows cradle him. Instructions? “The Inn?”
“I’m afraid it’s gone boy. Not sure what started the blaze, but it took the Inn and the garden both. Been treating burns all week for the lads who tried to save it, we’ve all been hoping you’d be okay”
Tears rolled unheeded onto his pillow as Thad took it all in. Why was he still here? What was even left? Thaddeus stared at the ceiling, sinking back into darkness.
Thad stood in his normal spot, right behind the counter in front of the kitchen. Well, what was left of them. Charcoal and ash littered the ground, lying where they fell some three weeks ago. He fought his way through debris down into the cellar he’d dug with his own two hands not even five years ago. Noting with satisfaction that the ground above his buried safe was untouched and unmarred, he decided to wait to dig that up until he could hold a shovel again. Grohm made it clear that in no uncertain terms was he to lift anything, touch anything, or even think anything. Thaddeus drifted among the ruins of his life for a few more minutes lost in thought. Margaret would have already had the Inn rebuilt by now, ready to accommodate friends and family. He’d decided from the depths of the darkened room the best thing to do would be to rebuild and share his life with the friends he had surrounding him. Moping and depressing himself was no way to honor the name of someone as great as Margaret Mason, and she would be furious if she’d have witnessed his behavior these last months. Heaving a great sigh, Thad allowed the smells to engulf him for a moment before turning on his heel and walking back to old Grohm’s house. It would be weeks at best before he could set about rebuilding.
Sweat stings as it pours into Thad’s eyes. Even in the mild temperatures of spring, the exertion of ripping the bones of his old Inn out was exhausting. Thaddeus found himself comforted by the familiar heft of his hammer, by the deep burning of his muscles as he grappled with the lumber being used to frame the new Inn. The last few planks were in place, completing the frame of his new Inn. Thad contemplated the new gardens’ location for a few minutes as a shadow fell across him. He and the stranger stood in silence a few minutes while he selected the best spot.
“Sorry friend, we’re all out of rooms for the night. You’ll have to move on to Tyrel to get lodging the next few months.” Thaddeus moved to wrestle another load of wood panels across the lot to get everything in place for rebuilding.
“I’m glad to see you well, Thaddeus”
The strangers’ gruff voice grated across Thaddeus as he recalled the owner of this voice. Thad whirled to face the man. He let his hammer fall to the ground as he remembered the shabby old man, now dressed fit to be king.
“I’m deeply sorry for your loss Thaddeus. I hunted Mor’gard day and night, chasing him all over the kingdoms for years. You helped me stop a monster Thaddeus.” A cloud of charcoal dust swept up as Gerard dismounted his mountainous horse. “It may not mean much to you lad, but you’ve saved a great many people by ridding the world of an evil man. My lord bid me return to you with your share of the bounty placed on Mor’gard. If you permit, I wish to help you finish this Inn as well.”
Thaddeus glanced between the stranger and the skeleton of his future home. “I’m afraid I can’t offer you anything in return, Gareth. No, Gerard. Is that who you are?”
The mage smirked knowingly. “Gerard is my name, in service to his majesty King Illiume III. I’ve been granted a year to myself however. I tracked Mor’gard for years, the things I encountered will haunt me a lifetime. I wouldn’t have brought you money if I’d expected to be paid for my services however, I wish to rebuild the lives I’ve touched, and I think the exertion of building an Inn will do me good.” With this, Gerard removed his brilliant and obviously magical cloak, setting it in his saddle and rolling up his sleeves. Pausing, he turned to his horse. “Gwenyvere, be a darling and take this with you back to Leariel, I’ll retrieve it upon my return.”
Thaddeus let out a low whistle as the horse galloped out of sight in less than a minute. He turned his attention to the task at hand, handing Gerard the hammer and picking up another set of panels. “Follow me.”