[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 22 – Kyhm!
Thorgaut shook his head and chuckled. “So for the past two days, I’ve just been walking in one big circle. No wonder I thought I was going crazy.”
“Well, technically that was last week,” Arnulfr said. “But yes, you did spend two days walking around my home. But don’t worry, I’ll go there tomorrow and locate your friends.”
“Great! We can leave first thing in the morning.” Thorgaut said excitedly.
Arnulfr shook his head. “I’m sorry, but I’m not letting you out of those chains, my friend. You’ll only be a danger to yourself and your friends and my family.”
Thorgaut scowled darkly. He tried to read Arnulfr’s expression, but the shadows hid most of his face still. When he turned towards the door, Thorgaut cringed. It was the first time Thorgaut had gotten a decent look at him.
Arnulfr’s face was a mass of scars. Three long gashes from nasty cuts from his cheeks down to his neck. One of his eyes looked like it had been gouged out and the area around it sealed shut with terrible burns. They seemed fairly recent.
“Your brother did that to you?” Thorgaut asked softly.
“No,” Arnulfr replied. “I killed him before he had time to turn. But then I went after the NightWalkers who did this to him.”
He paused thoughtfully. Thorgaut could see that he was struggling to keep his emotions under control. Rage and fury boiled just under Arnulfr’s emotional surface waiting to explode. The ravages of his battle with the NightWalkers had deeply affected Arnulfr at his core.
“I’m sorry,” Thorgaut started to say.
“Stop right there,” Arnulfr cut him off. “I don’t need your pity. I did what needed to be done, and most of the NightWalkers are dead. That’s all that matters.”
“But I don’t understand why you’re so angry at the wolves and me because of the these NightWalker things.”
“I am not angry,” Arnulfr roared. The young girl who had brought Thorgaut his supper screamed in terror. Arnulfr lowered his voice sheepishly and walked over to her quickly.
“It’s okay, child. It’s okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. Shhhh!” he said as he hugged her tightly.”
“They’re coming, Uncle Arn,” she said with a whimper. “That man with the long black hair. I told you that they’re coming for us.”
“No, they’re not, child. I already told you that I took care of them and burned their bodies. The man who killed your mommy and daddy is dead.”
The girl looked at Thorgaut and said, “They’re coming for you. They’ll kill us all, but they want you alive.”
Thorgaut watched her sob. Her disheveled, yellowish-blond hair sticking out in all directions. It was eerie and looked like something straight out of one of his mother’s witch stories he had heard growing up.
“Stop it, Runa!” Arnulfr shouted. “You’re scaring the poor man.”
She kept sobbing as she stared at Thorgaut. Then she looked up at her uncle and cocked her head to the side. “They will be here tonight,” she said in a low whisper that Thorgaut could barely hear.
“Shut up!” Arnulfr yelled. He backhanded her across the face with a fierce blow that sent her crashing to the floor. He bent over the girl lying on the ground.
Thorgaut lunged forward to stop him and protect the girl, but he had forgotten about the chains. They jerked back on his feet, so only the upper half of his body fell forward out of bed. And even then, he only fell as far as the chain on his hand permitted.
In the end, Thorgaut lay in the air halfway between the bed and the floor in a very awkward position. It took him a minute to push himself back up onto the bed.
By that time, Arnulfr had composed himself and pulled the girl to her feet. She wouldn’t stop crying, so he shoved her roughly in the chair.
“Stay here until you compose yourself, Runa,” Arnulfr screamed. He was livid. He spun around on the ball of his foot and walked out the door. He slammed it shut and locked it behind him.
Thorgaut lay quietly in the dark. He couldn’t see Runa, but he could hear her sobbing softly. Eventually, she stopped, but he remained quiet. He didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to get her started again.
They sat in silence for several minutes. Runa was so quiet, Thorgaut started to worry that she had passed out.
“Are you okay?” he asked into the dark after several minutes of silence. His voice boomed out louder than he intended. He heard Runa jump with a start on the chair.
“Sorry,” he apologized in a softer tone.
She didn’t answer. So, Thorgaut lay there for a bit longer.
“It’s okay,” she finally answered. Her voice sounded composed and perfectly normal as if nothing had ever happened.
“Did you make that soup?” he asked trying to change the topic. “It was pretty good if I don’t say so myself.”
“Of course it was,” she giggled. “You hadn’t eaten for almost a week.”
Thorgaut smiled into the darkness. “Yeah, that’s true. I suppose just about anything would have tasted good tonight. But still, I liked the way you flavored it.”
“It was my momma’s recipe,” Runa replied. “A special mix of forest plants and herbs that she taught me how to cook.”
“Well then, she must have been a pretty good cook. Huh?”
“Yeah. Momma sure was. I can’t wait to see her again.”
Thorgaut wasn’t sure what to say to that. He didn’t want to burst her bubble, but he didn’t think it would be right to give her false hope.
“What do you mean?” he asked cautiously.
“Promise you won’t tell, Uncle Arn?” she asked in a whisper.
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” he answered.
“Careful,” she whispered in an eerie lilting tone that sent chills down his spine. “You just might get what you wish for.”
“Never mind then. Forget I said that.” Thorgaut whispered back. “So, what’s the big secret.”
“Momma’s coming back for Svart and me tonight,” she giggled.
“Svart is the other little boy out there?” Thorgaut asked. “He’s your brother?”
“Yes,” she replied. “She’s gonna take us to live with her, but Uncle Arn doesn’t believe she is coming for us.”
“Where is your mother?” Thorgaut asked.
“I don’t know yet,” but she says its a nice place, and we are going to love it.”
“Why did she leave you?”
“She was sick, just like you were these days. But now she is better, and she is coming to take us home.”
The way she said that last line set Thorgaut’s nerves on edge. He hoped that didn’t mean what he thought it did.
“Is your mother an undead NightWalker?” Thorgaut questioned her.
“Undead. NightWalker,” the girl giggled eerily in the darkness again. Thorgaut wished she would stop doing that. “That’s just a name Uncle Arn made up for something he doesn’t understand. They are called Kyhm. They’re not undead, they just don’t die. We’re all gonna live forever.”
“How do you talk to your mother?”
“We’ve always been able to communicate with her from far away. But usually, it’s in my dreams.”
Thorgaut sighed in relief. So, this was just a delusional child’s way of coping with the loss of her parents. He lay in silence for a few minutes until she spoke again.
“You know they want you to join them?” she asked casually. “Asbeel is waiting for you.”
“Who is Asbeel? Does he talk to you in your dreams too?”
“Nope. Mother’s never seen him either, but apparently, you are pretty popular with the Kyhm. They are all waiting for you to be their king and lead them to freedom. Are you a king?”
Thorgaut was speechless. He didn’t know what to make of that bit of revelation. He hummed and hawed for a bit while trying to think up an appropriate response.
“No, I’m not,” he finally said. “Well, at least not yet anyway.”
“Well, don’t worry. Momma says you’re gonna be a great king. You’re gonna rule over all the land of NorthWorld. We’re gonna take over the entire world.”