Analise's husband struggles with her abduction
The blizzard’s raging winds sang on through the night, their fangs of coldness reaching even into Garrett’s small shop. But he remained unperturbed by the cold, despite the fact that the fire in the nearby hearth was little more than step from death. So focused was he on the stitch work of a leather boot that he didn’t even notice the sudden knock on his front door.
Only when that knock repeated itself did he realize that it was more than the wind. “I’m closed for the day!” he shouted at the door, angered that his attention had been drawn back to the world outside of his simple work.
The knocking persisted and, with a huff, Garrett set the boot down on his workbench and started for the door. It was only then that he realized that he hadn’t eaten since morning. Or was that yestermorn? He shook his head. The days all bled into an unending eternity devoid of meaning, and it didn’t matter whether his last meal had been the day before or the week before.
He stumbled before coming before the door, feeling suddenly faint. As he regained his balance, he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror alongside the opposite wall. Have I always been so pale and thin? He felt the cold then, in all its merciless fury, and wondered why he was dressed only in an old tunic and faded trousers. It is winter outside; I should have known to dress warmly.
Before he could further ponder on whether he was losing his mind, another knock spurred him to finally, angrily, swing the door open. “You must be in desperate need of shoes to brave such weather!” he hissed, just before lifting his gaze to the man in front of him.
The stranger was tall, his face shadowed in a hood. The folds of a cloak poured down his broad shoulders. “I come not for shoes, cobbler,” he said in a deep voice that was possessed of a slight accent the shoemaker wasn’t quite familiar with.
Remembering his anger, Garrett glared at the other man. “If not for shoes, then for what purpose do you intrude upon my time?”
The shadow of a smile was hinted at in the darkness of his hooded face. “I come to speak of your wife.”
Garrett spun away from the door with an irritable growl. “I’ve not the patience for more ridicule.”
“It is not ridicule that brings me here, cobbler,” the stranger gently corrected, “but to help you.”
That drew his attention, and he glanced back at the visitor. “Help me? How?”
The stranger hesitated for a moment. “It is cold out here. Might I enter?”
“Fine. Go warm yourself by the fire.” As he spoke, Garrett himself moved over to the hearth, where he started building the flames up again with the poker.
The other man stepped in through the doorway, but he kept away from the hearth, almost as though he hadn’t any need for its warmth. Strange, Garrett absently reflected, one would think that he’d be freezing, but he avoids the flames as though they would reach out and bite him. His brow contorted into a frown as he watched his guest, and he wondered if perhaps the stranger hid terrible burns within his hood. That, at least, would explain his fear of the fire.
Letting aside such suspicions, he muttered gruffly, “I have nothing to drink, but I could put some tea to cook if you’d like.”
“I thank you for your hospitality, but no, I am fine.”
Garrett turned away from the restored fire and set the poker down. “Then let us get to the point, if we may. Who are you and what is this about my wife?”
“Who I am is inconsequential, but you may call me Friend, for that is what I shall be to you, Garrett.” The man eased himself down into a wooden chair well away from the hearth and seemed again to smile from beneath his hood. “As for your wife, I have heard the people talk of how she cuckolded you and ran off with another man.”
Garrett’s face flushed with anger. “So you have come to ridicule me! Get out! Get out now!” He reached for the fire poker, as though he would slash it into the stranger.
“Be calm, cobbler,” the man advised, and such was the force in his words that Garrett paused, his anger stilled. “I have also heard some folk say that you have gone mad, claiming that your wife was in fact spirited away by monsters in the night.”
Garrett clenched his hands into fists so tightly that the knuckles became white. “What is the point of you repeating rumors to me? I am well aware of what this town now thinks of me, and I need not for some stranger to point it out! I know what I saw! By the Gods, I know that I am right whether anyone believes me or not! I know what happened!”
“And it is for that reason that I am here, Garrett.” Friend sat up in his seat, his shadowed eyes staring straight at his distraught host. “I believe you.”
Garrett’s eyes widened in surprise, and he felt his heart leap with relief. Someone believes! I have not gone mad then! But his elation died when horrible reality set in. “What does it matter whether you believe?” he muttered with a shake of his head. “The two of us are not enough to help her. It would take an army of men to fight those creatures—certainly more than you and I.”
The stranger chuckled, and the low, rumbling sound sent a shiver along Garrett’s spine. “That is where you are wrong, my friend,” he said. “It will take only you to overcome the creatures who have taken your wife.”
Garrett gulped and stared at the other man blankly. Perhaps he is madder than I? After a moment, he managed to choke out: “What…what do you mean?”
“I mean that I can help you save your wife’s soul, Garrett. In times now long vanished, valiant warriors of ancient Halospear were assembled to fight such creatures as those who have wronged you. I can teach to you their methods, but you must be willing to undergo the training.” He leaned forward in his seat, his shaded eyes seeming to stare straight into the cobbler’s very soul. “It will not be easy, and before long you will find that pain is as much your ally as it is your enemy. The training will take you to the brink of hatred for all things, for all the joys of life will be bled away from your heart, replaced by sheer purpose and the capability for ferocious violence.”
Garrett shuddered at the heavy intensity in the other’s voice. “I…I would do anything to save, Analise.”
“It will mean that you can never again lead a normal life, Garrett,” Friend gravely murmured. “I will open your eyes to a world no one should ever be aware of, so that every waking moment from this point onward will be as a living nightmare for you. You will give your very life to this.”
“Analise is worth my life,” the cobbler solemnly answered, meeting the stranger’s gaze. “I love her with all that I am, and I would give all that I am to save her.”
“Then it is agreed. You will be trained to fight this evil, as were the heroic warriors of Halospear before you.” Friend rose from his seat and started for the door.
Garrett felt his stomach twist itself into a knot. “Where—where are you going?” he stammered, fearful that this was all a hoax, that he had been teased into hoping that there could be some way to save his precious wife.
“Why, we must begin the training immediately, cobbler,” the stranger answered from over his shoulder, just before opening the door to the blizzard outside.
Friend laughed in that same cold, mocking way. “The Eternal wait for no one and no thing, Garrett, and neither can you. This will be but the first of many storms that you must brave.” And with that, he stepped out into the falling snow and howling winds.
With a trembling hand, Garrett reached for his cloak and followed.