[NorthWorld] Thorgaut Kabbisson: Chapter 42 – Homeward!
“Halldora!” Thorgaut shouted with glee.
He jumped up and ran over to her. He grabbed her in his arms and spun her around genuinely glad to see her.
“I thought I’d never find you again,” he said after putting her down. “You cloaked your place good.”
She blushed at his enthusiasm at seeing her and beamed with pride over his compliments.
“Well, it’s a trick I learned from an old friend,” she replied. “It seems you’ve picked up a few skills yourself since I last saw you.”
“Not because I went looking for them,” he said. “That’s for sure. I got waylaid along the way over and over again.”
He noticed a flicker of worry briefly cross her face as she frowned. She caught herself though and smiled him right after.
“What is it?” he asked. “And where is Vriobrum?”
“Vriobrum can’t walk very fast and would have held me back,” she said with a laugh. “I came running as soon as I sensed your presence. Besides, someone has to stay back and keep an eye on the house. There are a lot of creepy guys running around in the woods these days.”
Thorgaut chuckled and then turned serious. “Speaking of creepy guys, have you seen three of my friends who are out there looking for me?” he asked.
Halldora grinned sheepishly. “I have,” she said. “Would you like them back?”
“What did you do to them?” he demanded with a scowl. A sudden realization of what Halldora could have done hit him, and a look of horror crossed his face.
“You didn’t,” he said. “No!”
“What?” she asked mischievously.
“You didn’t turn them into shufflers to join your undead army. Did you?”
She laughed over that one and punched him in the arm.
“Of course not, silly.” she managed to say once she stopped laughing. “You seem to think I’m an evil person. I’m not like those wicked, old witches from the fairy tales your mother used to tell you when you were a child.”
Thorgaut breathed a sigh of relief. “So, what did you do to Liut and his companions?” he asked. “And yes, I want my friends back.”
They started walking back to the rest of the group who were still eating by the fire. Halldora took his arm with one hand and hitched up her blue dress with the other.
“Not the best outfit for a walk in the woods, but I left in a hurry,” she said. “Anyway, your crazy friends tracked you to my home. You were gone of course. They thought I had eaten you or used you to perform some evil ritual. Then they saw Vriobrum and tried to kill him.”
“So, what evil spell did you cast on them?” Thorgaut asked. “Did you turn them into disgusting-looking toads. They’ll live in the lake until a charming princess comes along to kiss them.”
Halldora smiled and wrinkled her nose. “Yuck,” she said. “I hate toads. So, no! That would be too cruel. I put them to sleep until I could find you and prove that I hadn’t done anything to you.”
“Well, then let’s go get them,” he said.
“Relax,” she said. “They’ll wake up and be here shortly.”
Thorgaut shook his head. He was still trying to wrap his mind around all these crazy events and strange people he had met here in these woods. He had only been here a week, but he would miss this place once he headed home with his friends.
He introduced Halldora to Svart, Katla, and Ariana. She seemed extremely excited to meet the spider. She said she had heard a lot about them and always wanted to meet one.
Ariana seemed nervous around her. Thorgaut probed her to find out what it was, but she wouldn’t tell him. He perceived that Katla was jealous. She politely offered Halldora some of their soup and chatted with her about the weather. But after Halldora turned to talk with Svart, Katla scowled at Thorgaut and gave him a dirty look.
Thorgaut shrugged his shoulders and pretended to look confused. But he didn’t need to use his mind-reading skills to figure out what was wrong. He had sensed that Katla had a crush on him for quite some time. She never came right out and mentioned it, but he had a gut feeling about it.
They had a little fling when they were younger. Thorgaut kissed her once and thought she was the love of his life. And then she told him that he wasn’t her type. It had devastated him because soon after that she had started hanging out with his best friend, Liut. Later, Liut had broken things off with her.
After that, things were awkward between the three of them. They each went their separate way for a while. But over the past two summers, they had gone on several raiding parties together. During that time they had all patched up their friendship. They had all gotten along great after that.
Over the past few months though, Thorgaut had a gut feeling that the Katla was hoping to be more than friends. He sensed that she regretted having rejected his advances. But it was too late. Thorgaut had long gotten over his feeling for her.
He didn’t want to put himself back in that situation. And he didn’t want to complicate his friendship with either Katla or Liut. Besides, there were plenty of other women in the world that he could choose. No need to get all bent out of shape over Katla.
So, he found her attitude towards Halldora moderately humorous under the current circumstances. He tried not to smile or show it though when she looked at him. Katla was a charming girl and a good friend. No need to blow things all out of proportion over nothing. Besides, Halldora had blown him off, and there was no reason for Katla to be jealous of her.
Thorgaut asked Katla for another bowl of soup. He ate a little more slowly this time and relished the delicious flavors in each bite. Katla was a great cook. She blushed and smiled when he complimented her. But then she scowled right after when she saw Halldora.
He knew she was dying to ask what had gone on between them, but ignored her unspoken questions. He kept shoveling spoon after spoon of the delicious food in his mouth. He didn’t know if the food was really that delicious or if it seemed that way because of his heightened sense of awareness. Maybe it was due to his extreme hunger after all these adventures. He didn’t pause to overthink things too much though. He just sat back and enjoyed the meal with his friends.
A little while later, he heard more footsteps coming through the woods. He motioned everyone to be quiet. He heard Liut’s voice first. He jumped up and grinned as they came into view.
“Welcome back boys,” he shouted out. “What took you all so long to get back?”
Liut grinned and strode toward him. They greeted each other with a typical Jorundarfell forearm handshake. Then Thorgaut gave him a big hug. He didn’t think he would ever see his friends again.
Thorgaut greeted Bior and Grimar. They all turned towards the rest of the group and noticed Halldora sitting beside Svart. Bior and Liut jumped backward and pulled their swords out.
“It’s that witch woman!” Liut shouted.
Grimar charged forward running headlong straight toward the surprised woman. Before he got to her though, she waved her hand and wiggled her fingers. He fell at her feet as though dead.
“Silly men,” she said. “I told you that I didn’t do anything to Thorgaut.”
Thorgaut put out his hand on his Liut and Bior’s arms.
“It’s okay,” he reassured them. “Halldora is a friend.”
They looked at him like he was off his rocker, but obeyed by putting their swords back in their sheaths.
Katla held out a bowl of soup for each of them which they accepted. The men sat down on the other side of the fire from Halldora so they could keep a wary eye on her as they ate.
Grimar was so concentrated on Halldora that he didn’t even notice Ariana was a spider. Grimar started to sit on her as if she was a log. The spiderling hopped back, and the man fell on the ground. He tried to hold his bowl of soup up during the fall, but it poured out all over him.
Liut saw Ariana the giant spiderling and threw his bowl in her face before grabbing his sword. “Spider!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. “Look out, a spider!”
He looked wildly around at everyone. They continued sitting calmly as if this were a typical everyday occurrence. Liut didn’t understand why no one did anything. They seemed more surprised to hear him scream like a little girl than to see the spider in their midst.
“Don’t you guys see it?” he asked in a shaky voice.
Halldora started laughing first. Everyone else followed along right after. They roared at the hilarious scene that had played out in front of them. Svart rolled on the ground holding his stomach.
Thorgaut found it funny as well but tried not to show it too much. He wiped a tear of laughter from his eye and snorted his laughs as he introduced Ariana.
The spiderling didn’t seem to find the situation funny at all though. Ariana scurried off to the other side of the fire beside Halldora. The spider put as much space between herself and the screaming man as she could.
Halldora woke Bior from his sleeping spell, and Katla gave the men all another bowl of soup. They told him about the spider though before he saw her so there wouldn’t be any more surprises.
It took awhile for Thorgaut to give them a brief rundown what he had been through over the past few days. He glossed over the craziest parts. He focused on meeting Halldora and being attacked by the wolves in the woods. He told them a condensed version of escaping the strangers in Svart’s house and their trip down the cave.
He didn’t mention anything about undead wolves or the NightWalkers though. He also didn’t tell them about his run-in with Abyss Snarer. He portrayed the spiders as friendly like Happy Feet and her children.
Thorgaut didn’t want them knowing about him being bitten by the undead. They’d tie him up and wait for him to turn as Arnulfr had done. And he definitely didn’t want them knowing about his new mental and healing powers.
Liut, Bior, and Grimar all thought they had only been gone a day. They had left the day after Thorgaut when he didn’t return. That would have been the day Thorgaut got caught in the snare. They had tracked him to the campground where the shufflers attacked him. From there, they had trailed him into Halldora’s meadow.
Halldora put them under a sleeping spell when they attacked Vriobrum. Then she left them there while Thorgaut recuperated at Arnulfr’s house. She had located his presence when he had regained consciousness that night. She told him that she had planned to pick him up the next day. But she lost him when he entered the cave to escape the men with the strange device.
She told him that the strange men were undead bounty hunters trying to make a name for themselves. They had been in the area for the past several months. They were the main reason she had cloaked her section of the woods. Halldora had set up the shield to keep their device from locating her shufflers.
Thorgaut was happy to have completed his crazy journey through Knulkforrest. It had been a freaky adventure, but he had come out stronger than ever. His new abilities were an added bonus. And on top of that, he had discovered a new appreciation for life and was ready to embrace his destiny. He knew his purpose was to rule over Jorundarfell and be a good leader for his people.
Thorgaut urged Halldora to return with them to Jorundarfell, but she declined. They both knew that she wouldn’t be welcome there. He knew the people of the town would try to burn her at stake.
He tried to feel Halldora out about creating an undead army for him, but she refused. He made it sound like he was joking about a crazy idea that came to him in a dream. But she immediately shot the idea down saying it was dangerous and risky.
Halldora hinted that there was an extremely terrifying threat behind his idea which left him intrigued. He could sense the fear lacing her words and wanted to ask why that was. But Katla came barging in with some silly excuse to interrupt him. Thorgaut didn’t get a chance to talk with her alone again after that.
“It’s already dark,” Halldora said. “I shouldn’t have left Vriobrum alone. He’ll come out looking for me.”
She gave Thorgaut a long hug and bid everyone farewell. Then she disappeared into the woods. Thorgaut watched the woods swallow her up. He sat on a stump by the fire looking into the darkness long after she was gone. Svart and Katla went off to sleep. Ariana had gone into the woods to find something to eat.
Thorgaut talked with Liut for a while before heading to his spot to get some sleep himself. Liut and Bior offered to keep watch in the night since they had just woken up from a week-long nap.
The next morning the group woke up early and ate a quick breakfast that Katla had prepared for them. It was a strange mix of roots she had discovered while they were gone. She cooked it up with some rabbits Ariana had caught for them in the night.
And then they were off. The small group traveled back down the river the way they had come. They made for an odd group. Five adults, one boy, and two large spiderlings. Ariana had invited her sister who had also joined them as they were leaving.
Thorgaut was finally headed home. It had been a marvelous journey. The adventure of a lifetime that he would never forget. Only he didn’t realize that for him, it was only just beginning.