[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 23 – Runa! – Dave Bailey

[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 23 – Runa!

Thorgaut laughed out loud. “Well, let’s not count our chickens. I’m not a king yet, and my brothers are already making plans to keep that from happening.”

“Don’t worry,” Runa said. “I’ve already seen you as the king.”

“What? Don’t be silly,” he said. “That’s impossible.”

“No, really!” she replied. “I see things and know things before they happen just like my momma. She says that it’s a gift that we have. But we can’t tell anyone about it because they would burn us at the stake for being witches.”

“Well, are you a witch?” he asked.

“Of course not,” she retorted. “Witches are evil, and we aren’t evil. We only do good.”

“So, why are you telling me all this?” he asked. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll try to burn you at the stake.”

She laughed out loud. “You’re chained to the bed. You couldn’t hurt me even if you wanted to.”

Arnulfr stuck his head through the door. “What’s so funny,” he growled.

Runa had her back to the door. She didn’t bother to turn around. She just looked at Thorgaut and pressed her finger to her lips.

“Nothing much,” Thorgaut said. “We’re talking about the future and better days to come.”

Arnulfr grunted, “C’mon Runa. It’s time to get to bed.”

He turned around and walked back out leaving the door open.

Runa leaned forward and whispered, “They’re almost here. Don’t fall asleep. After Uncle Arn falls asleep, I’ll come to unlock the chains for you. Get ready.”

Thorgaunt grunted in reply. He didn’t know how to take her. A kid her age talking like that was flat-out crazy due to the trauma she had suffered. But still, he wasn’t about to complain if she was going to let him go. He didn’t trust Arnulfr. The man would just as soon kill him as look at him.

He laid back in the darkness and pondered what she had said of his future. It made sense and lined up with the things his mother had told him. He would be king of all of NorthWorld and not just Jorundarfell. His mother had assured him that he would one day lead the people to safety and freedom.

He had never given it much thought really, but freedom from what was the first question that came to his mind. NorthWorld didn’t have any major enemies. Maybe they were projecting their need for purpose onto him.

Thorgaut never worried about that kind of stuff. He sincerely tried to enjoy life and live each moment to the fullest. He knew he would be king someday, but wasn’t in any hurry to take on that responsibility any time soon.

Sleep soon overcame him even though he tried to stay awake in case Runa came for him. He awoke with a start. There was complete silence in the house. Nor was there any more light coming in from under the door.

It was too silent. The calm before a storm kind of silent. An eerie dread fell over Thorgaut. He almost got the impression that someone was watching him. He looked around trying to peer into the darkness, but he couldn’t see anything. He squeezed his eyes tightly and buried his face in the pillow.

The wind picked back up and whistled in through the rafters. Thorgaut felt the crisp, chill draft blowing over him. He could smell the stew wafting through the house, and his stomach growled. He should have asked for more. That had been barely enough to fill him on a typical day, much less when he hadn’t eaten for several days.

He thought he heard something and lifted his head.

“Runa,” he whispered. “Are you there?”

“What do you want with Runa?” a loud voice boomed out from the darkness.

Thorgaut jumped at the sound of Arnulfr’s voice.

“Sheesh, Arnulfr!” he practically shouted. “You sure know how to scare someone. What are you doing in here?”

“I’m keeping an eye on you, of course,” Arnulfr growled. “But you haven’t answered my question.”

“I thought I heard her and was going to ask for some more of that soup she made,” he replied. “I guess I was dreaming.

He chuckled to brush it off, but Arnulfr didn’t reply.

“I just ate, and I’m already hungry again. I guess this is what a bear must feel like after waking up from hibernation,” Thorgaut said out loud as if muttering to himself.

He lay there in silence for a bit. Arnulfr hadn’t said anything more, so Thorgaut assumed he had gone back to sleep. At least he hoped so. Runa would be in so much trouble if she came in and tried to free him with Arnulfr that close by.

It wasn’t long before Thorgaut heard the door opening. He debated what to do. Should he pretend to be asleep or greet her loudly asking for soup? But she was beside his bed already and if Arnulfr woke up would know that something was going on.

Thorgaut reached up in the dark and put his hand over her mouth before she could say anything. He pulled her close and whispered, “Uncle Arn is in the room.”

He could feel her body tense up with fear. It confirmed his suspicions. She was afraid of him, and it wasn’t only because of his earlier slap. Thorgaut wasn’t so sure it was a random, first-time incident. Uncle Arn probably beat the kids on a regular basis.

Thorgaut let go of her mouth. She moved to the foot of the bed and unlocked the chain around his feet.

Runa was exceptionally quiet. Thorgaut wouldn’t have even known the chains were undone except she tapped his legs once she was done. He pulled his feet up and no longer felt their resistance.

She came around the side of the bed and touched his arm to remove the cuff around his wrist. Thorgaut was impressed at how swiftly and quietly she moved around in the darkness. It was almost as if she could see in the dark.

Thorgaut twisted his body towards her, and his feet bumped the chain at the foot of the bed.

“What’s going on over there,” Arnulfr bellowed. “Are you trying to sleep or dance?”

“Sorry,” Thorgaut said. “I’m having trouble falling asleep.”

“Well, keep it down,” Arnulfr grumbled.

Thorgaut couldn’t feel or sense Runa in the darkness. She must have ducked down behind the bed when Arnulfr starting complaining. He waited for her to come back.

She finally did after a minute or so. Thorgaut couldn’t see what was going on, but it felt like she was having trouble getting the lock undone. Thorgaut felt up his arm to figure out what was going on. Runa tried all the keys one after another, but none of them were working. She cycled through them all twice.

“It’s no use, Runa,” Arnulfr’s voice boomed out of the darkness once again. “I took one of the keys off on purpose. I knew you’d feel sorry for this loser and would try to set him free. You’d rather see us all dead then protect the family.”

“You’re not family.” she spat out. “You killed my dad so your stupid brother could marry my mother. He got what he deserved. I’m glad you had to cut his head off.”

She laughed hysterically. Meantime, Arnulfr had lit up a torch from the back where he was sitting against the wall in the opposite corner. He had been waiting there watching them the entire time.

Arnulfr stood up and walked in their direction while shielding the torch so it wouldn’t go out.

“I’ve had it with you, you little witch. You think I didn’t see through your little ploy. I knew all along that you were faking that traumatized victim role. I let you get away with it because I felt bad for your mother. But now, you’re gonna wish you had died along with my brother.”

Thorgaut realized things were about to get ugly.

“Wait!” Thorgaut shouted and held up his hand toward Arnulfr. “Both of you. Wait, right there. Let’s talk this out like civilized folks. I’m sure this is all a big misunderstanding.”

“Shut up, Thorgaut.” Arnulfr spat. “I’ll be back to deal with you after I teach this little brat a lesson.”

Arnulfr had spun in Thorgaut’s direction a little too fast, and the torch went out. He stopped to light it again and waited for the flame to blaze back up. When he looked back at Runa, she was gone.

“Why you sneaky little witch child. Don’t think I won’t find you. I’m gonna string you up outside and let the NightWalkers have you. Let them take you to your momma.”

He turned slowly holding out the torch to light up the corners of the room, but Runa wasn’t there.

Arnulfr growled in displeasure. “You know she can see in the dark?” he said. “Just like the devil’s child. That’s where she came from, and I’m gonna send her back. Yes, siree. And you too, Mr. Wolfman. I’m gonna send you right along with her before you get a chance to turn me too, Thorgaut of Kabbisson.”

He turned and stormed out of the room leaving Thorgaut in the pitch black room.

Runa snuck back in through the door and stood by his bed.

“Here, take this,” Runa said placing something in his hands.

“What is this?” Thorgaut asked as he felt it.

“A saw to cut through the bedpost. The chain is on right here,” Runa said as she guided his hand with the saw in the right direction. “Be quick about it before he gets back.”

Dave Bailey

Dave Bailey started writing short stories when he lived in Brazil to help his students learn English. Now, he lives in Florida again where he continues to write fun and inspiring sci-fi and fantasy fiction stories. You can read his weekly short stories here on his blog. Make sure to join his advanced reading crew so you know when new stories become available >>> https://davebailey.me/go/crew