Introduction

Featuring Brokk and Samanthya

Samanthya

The rain seemed incessant. It poured down from the sky in torrents, creating wide rivers of mud and great waterfalls alongside the buildings that made up the town of End of the Road. The heavy clouds overhead cast the land in a gloomy darkness that gave very little vision to any who dared the storm.

I wadded relentlessly through the water–like world, stumbling and tripping over drifting objects in the sea before me. Though I could barely see, that was not necessarily a problem. That instinctiveness that had always steered me from danger was taking over. It drove me forward, into the unwelcoming town that loomed before me.

As my legs grew heavier with every step I took, I wished nothing more than to be home, in front of the fire with mother. I missed her so much. But that was no longer an option. My home was burned and mother was taken from me. Tears ran down my rain-soaked cheeks, but I fought them back. Crying would not help me find shelter.

I drew my sodden cloak about my shoulders more tightly and continued to march forward. I was close.

Before long, I was standing in front of a tavern. Warm light spilled through the open door and I could almost smell the mead and ale from within. I stared at the entrance, but could not move to enter. I would gladly welcome a reprieve from the relentless rain, but the seedy tavern was not welcoming at all. A few men, disheveled and dirtier than the mud at my feet, caught sight of me and were now leering at me. I took an involuntary step back.

From within came a crashing sound. Angry voices floated out. Shattering glass soon followed. He was coming.

He appeared, finally, with two men on either side of him, each seeming to take pleasure in manhandling him as they escorted him out. He stumbled and staggered as he tried to get his footing. Upon gaining his balance at last, he was unceremoniously thrown out into the rain. He crashed down inches from my feet.

“And stay out, ya good for nothing’ lowlife,” one of the men spat, leaning his head out to actually spit at the man at my feet. The men did not linger at the door and soon turned their backs to go about their business.

Very slowly, I moved my eyes over the man that now lay sprawled face down on the muddy, wet ground before me. When he made no move to stand or even sit up, I began to fear that the fall somehow killed him. I leaned down and touched my hand to his broad back only to yelp when he grunted suddenly and began to move.

Slowly and uncoordinatedly, he pushed himself into a sitting position. It was as if he was crawling out of the very ground. Every inch of him was covered in mud. He passed his hand over his face and cleared some of the wet earth, though it did little to help his overall appearance. He was clearly drunk, if the manner in which he swayed was any indication. He was wet and dirty, and if instincts were informing me correctly, he had only one place to go.

He blinked his dark eyes and it took him a few moments to notice me. When he looked up, our eyes locked and I held my breath as I got lost in the deep sea of his eyes. In his inebriated state, he did not keep the anguish that tormented him from his eyes and I immediately became privy to it. I pushed the palm of my hand to my mouth to stifle a gasp. He blinked again and the anguish was gone. It was suddenly replaced with anger.

“Who the hell are you?” he grunted in his deep and raspy voice.

The question coupled with his harsh tone nearly shocked the sadness from my mind and I gaped at him. It took me a few moments to remember that he did not know me. Of course, he did not. We have never met before.

I fumbled a bit as I tried to gather my bearings.

“I…er…my name is Samanthya,” I said after a few moments.

He continued to stare at me as he blinked the rain out of his eyes. The longer I stared back at him, the more familiar his face became to me. The sharp cheekbones, the thick brows, his dark steely eyes. I had never seen him before, but looking at him now, I felt as if I’ve known him all my life.

Without warning, I leaned over him and began helping him up.

“We must get you out of the rain,” I muttered, struggling as I tried to pull him to his feet. After a few moments, I continued to struggle. It was if the man was made of pure stone. Heavy stone. I couldn’t even make him budge!

“Are you a wench?” he asked suddenly.

Shocked, once again, by his words, I fell back against the wet earth as I stared at him in surprise. The rather nonchalant look on his face stirred my blood.

“I am not,” I said indignantly, offended he would say such a thing.

“Then why the hell are you helping me?” he asked, his speech slurred.

“Because if I don’t, you’ll catch a cold,” I said as I struggled to get back on my feet.

“Why the hell do you care?” he now asked angrily, somehow managing to get to his feet.

“Is ‘why the hell’ the only way you know to ask questions?” I countered, grabbing his arm when he swayed precariously to the side.

He groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“I need a drink,” he muttered, making to reenter the tavern he had just been thrown out of. I suppose he forgot about that.

“I know a better place,” I said, pulling him away from the tavern. I began to walk, my feet leading me to an unknown place, but a place I knew I would at last find refuge.

“Now you’re talking sense,” he slurred, draping his arm around my shoulders. My knees nearly gave out when his weight fell on me. “What’s your name?” he asked, seeming to already forget that I told him my name.

“Samanthya.”

He was quiet for a few moments.

“That’s an odd name for a wench,” he then commented.

“I am not a wench,” I stated, contemplating letting him fall to the ground for calling me a wench a second time. But I did not as we had arrived to our destination.

I blinked at the inn, solemn and gloomy. There was much sadness here. Tears began to form in my eyes again. They were immediately forgotten when I met for the first time the owner of the inn.

“Bratomyr!” the rather short and round woman bellowed when she appeared at the front door. “You’ve gone and drunk you worries away again, have you? What would the order think if they saw you like this, hmm? Wasted away? Haven’t I done enough for you? Is this the way you repay me?”

I nearly began feeling guilty for Bratomyr.

“No. You’re definitely not a wench,” Bratomyr muttered, his dark eyes catching mine when he turned his head to look at me.

“Get in here before you catch your death,” the short woman demanded, taking Bratomyr’s arm and pulling him inside.

“And who are you?” the woman said, seeming to notice me at last.

“A wench,” Bratomyr slurred as he stumbled into her inn. “Leave her out there, Bertha.”

For a few fleeting moments, I feared that my gift of presentiment failed me and that it was in fact, as I had recently began to term it, a curse.

Bertha looked me up and down and then our eyes met. She did not react immediately and instead stared at me for what felt like an eternity. I tried to look dignified and not at all like a wench. A difficult feat when hard, cold rain was pouring over my head.

“Oh, you poor child,” Bertha cried suddenly, her tone changing as she ushered me inside. She then proceeded to peel off my cloak, all the while muttering under her breath.

As Bertha began to replace my wet clothing with dry, warm ones, the fatigue of traveling on foot for leagues and the relief of finally finding shelter after so many days of sleeping on the cold hard ground took its toll on me. I did not fight the kind woman as she dried my hair with a towel and later, pried the nearly sole-less shoes from my stiff feet. She eventually led me to a warm fire where I wept as I was reminded of my mother. I was unsure of how much time passed as I sat in front of that warm fire and let the sorrow of the past few days overcome me. There was a noise next to me and when I turned my head, I saw Bratomyr standing a few steps to my left. His features, as I would soon become familiar with, was expressionless, but his eyes had lost the steeliness I had witness earlier. They seemed to understand.

Wordlessly, he turned and stumbled through the door on the far side of the room.

I would see him again. On and off for the next few moons as he struggled with the anguish that plagued him. Bertha and I would care for him and keep him from plunging into the depths of true despair. Eventually, Bratomyr would return to his former state. And it would be then that we would begin our journey truly.

I did not know what kind journey we would embark or what it would entail. At the moment, I did not really care. I was struggling with my own anguish, my fingers grasping the small pouch of money my mother had given me before dying in my arms. Having met Bratomyr at last, however, put my mind at ease. He was a drunkard now and the next few moons would be difficult for the both of us. But I saw the light at the end of our dark tunnel and I hoped with all my being that the light would be our salvation at last.