Fan Fiction

5 July 2004, 9:22 PM

Part IV: In The Tavern by Dustin Geeraert []

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"How did things come to this?" I ask as a way of initiating conversation with the red-bearded man from Erik's room.

He turns from his mug, eyes bleary with intoxication, and grunts "We are not sages, soldier, and know none who are. Death is a mystery as much as life."

His companion, perhaps less drunk, comments "Historians and chroniclers have recorded the events, and thus it is easy to follow the chain and see how things did come to this... but the greater question is why."

I signal the man behind the tavern counter, a large fellow with dull eyes and thick whiskers, to bring me something strong.

Reifnir and Rurik introduce themselves to me as Erik's immediate subordinates, Reifnir being the red-haired man while Rurik is the name of the shorter, more stable fellow. "Like everything else," says Reifnir, "It is the gods."

Draining his cup and staring into its bleak emptiness, he continues "I have never known much of the true workings of the world, but to me it seems safe to say that we have been completely, utterly forsaken."

As the tavern-man sets down my drink on the grimy table, Reifnir grabs it and drains it in one long draught, which is perhaps not surprising. He hands the man some dirty coins without a word. As the man turns to return to the counter, I say "I'd still like a drink" and give him the appropriate coinage myself. Not that money could really matter: in the current situation, the idea of economics is little more than a bad joke. When there are devils at your door, you care little for your worldly possessions. And when oblivion faces you, staring at you from all sides as the cliff allowing you to exist crumbles and you begin to fall, nothing can really matter anymore.

"I am only a simple man," I say, "and I hate this." It seems to me that something so ridiculous as this, so unreal and yet immediately solid, should at least have some explanation so that I could grasp at it as a comfort, so that I could at least know the reason why my life, everyone I have ever known, friend or foe, and everything I have ever cared for, must be destroyed by darkness. "I ask not for the tide to be turned" I continue, "For I know that that is impossible. I only want to understand."

"You'll find nothing of that kind in a thrall's axe," mutters Rurik, perhaps cynically but with good reason. "And that is all you will ever know. Your romantic fantasies about having a right to exist, having refused to die inside you, will only end when your life itself flickers out."

I understand then that Rurik has let all hope go, and in that way is yet worse than the alcoholic, despair-drenched Reifnir, who shares with me an internal rage at what has happened to our world. "We do not deserve this." I say simply in reply.

"That," Rurik stares at me with cold eyes as he responds "is irrelevant."

Another two drinks appear for Reifnir and myself, and I hope that perhaps he won't feel obliged to help himself to mine this time. Rurik does not seem particularly interested in drinking obscene amounts, being in a type of despair beyond any self-pity. His soul, it seems, is usually as empty as Reifnir's glass.

"I suppose you've been promoted," he continues. With a frozen smirk, he adds "We had an opening that's been to your apparent gain."

Through another half-glass, Reifnir adds "This man has no qualms with stating things blatantly, as they are."

"Gwyon, your direct predecessor, disappeared a week ago. Since we haven't seen any of the enemy around here at all, yet, it's fairly certain that he wandered off some dark afternoon to go drown or hang himself."

I choke a bit on my strong ale. "Why not simply wait for the Dark to do it?"

"My guess is that he was sick of putting up with this."

Reifnir, head now lolling, mutters "He had had enough."

I can't stand such self-wallowing despair on one hand and gleeful cynicism on the other. Rurik can torture someone else; Reifnir can continue to drown his sorrows. I finish my drink and step across the decaying floor towards the half-open, mud-caked door.

~ You have reached your journey's end ~