In which Haft follows through on Peridan’s orders when meeting a rather dodgy stranger
You stand in the busy outer ward of Castle Anvard, full of people seeing to the needs of king and kingdom. There are market stalls along the outer wall, bustling with merchants and shoppers. Grooms work in the stables, tending to the horses there, and you hear the occasional bark of a dog from the kennels. The sounds of hammer hitting iron rings out from the blacksmith shop. There are stairs leading to the gate towers on the northern and southern corners of the outer curtain. To the east is the outer gatehouse, and the road leading into the realm of Archenland, and to the west another gate, leading to the inner gatehouse, the inner ward, and the main keep of Anvard. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
You can go: Kennels <N>, Northern Market <NE>, Outer Gatehouse <E>, Southern Market <SE>, Stables <S>, Blacksmith <SW>, Inner Gatehouse <W>, South Stair <US>, North Stair <UN>
Haft sits on a barrel against the wall of the inner Ward, glancing over the crowded from time to time.
Darius walks leisurely into the Outer ward, his eyes narrowing a hair as he takes in the scene before him. His gaze finally coming to rest on the gate leading into the Inner Ward, he begins walking along the wall. His gaze remains steadfast as he examines the gate intently.
Haft glances toward the blacksmith’s shop, but his eye is caught by the crimson attire of the man who has just entered the ward. Noting the man’s interest, he frowns slightly.
Darius nears one of the corners, slowing to a stop and leaning back against the wall opposite to the gate. Crossing his arms, he remains still, his eyes only ever leaving their examination of the Inner Ward’s wall to scan the crowd every so often.
Haft rises from his barrel, stretching his arms over his head and cracking his neck. He walks toward Darius. “Hello friend. First visit to Anvard?”
Darius’s sees the man approaching, his brow raising slightly. As the man speaks, he takes a quick breath and flashes him a large smile. “Can’t say so! Been here a few times myself. ” he returns, pushing himself off the wall and standing up straight.
Haft asks, “Oh I see. Visiting family?”
Darius’s smile remains. “Nah… Just in town for a time. ”
Haft glances at Darius’ side. “Unusual sheath.”
Darius follows the man’s gaze down to his sheath, his smile gaining some pride. “Is it? ” he pats it a couple times before letting his hand now rest on it. “And what would make you say such a thing?”
Haft’s hand twitches reflexively, but doesn’t move far. “I fought with the Narnian army. An old soldier, you might say. I’m interested in unique weaponry. ‘Fraid my own scabbard is more plain.
Darius looks a bit too interested in this as his brow raises. “Is that so? Well… As much as I would love to remedy that, I am afraid I will neither be able to part with my own scabbard nor acquire you your own. ”
Haft laughs. “No doubt I could not afford it. I’m not a wealthy man, as you see. Just earn enough to keep food on the table, really.
Darius nods in return. “Tis a good thing… Though I am sure a man fighting in the Narnian army would have at least a little extra coin in his coffers to afford such a thing. ” He looks the man over briefly. “Or do the Narnian Lord’s pay their soldiers so poorly? ”
Haft shrugs lightly. “I wouldn’t know, I’m afraid. Though I was a soldier in my youth, I came with the Narnians as a volunteer when word reached Sted Cair of the attack on Anvard. When at home I mostly hunt and skin for coin.”
Darius waves a hand, at this. “So then you were not rewarded for your service in the battle?!”
Haft frowns. “I…had not thought of reward, to be honest. A man will fight for the country of his birth without expecting a return on it–other than honorable burial should the need arise, of course.” He hesitates. “You disagree.”
Darius shrugs slightly. “Ah, that is all well and good my friend… but a man needs to eat, as you said… feed his family! ” he hehs, talking a couple steps to the side and raising both of his hands. “Now as honorable a burial as it may be… Such a thing does not pay for one’s widow, nor their children. ” he lets out an exaggerated sigh, turning to look the Man in the eye. “Wouldn’t you agree?”
“No,” Haft says quietly. “I suppose it does not.”
Darius’s smile is replaced with a grin. “Food for thought… I suppose. ”
Haft asks, “Yes. I suppose it is. You have a family of your own?”
Darius crosses his arms once more, letting himself fall back against the wall and letting out a chuckle. “I grew up with one… but, alas, I have not had the fortune of finding a lovely lady to wed. But then… I don’t imagine I will any time soon. ”
Haft says, “Oh, why is that? The ladies of Archenland are as fair as any in the world, or so I believe.”
Darius hehs. “A life of wandering leaves little to be desired in a man such as myself. ”
Haft says, “Ah, I see. Now that I have travelled a bit, I find I prefer a solid bed and a roof. A good inn with a hearty cider. Better yet, being home.”
Darius grins. “They all have their advantages… Tis for certain. ” He lets his eyes wander over the Inner Ward’s wall once more.
Haft turns to lean against the wall next to Darius. “Ah yes, it’s a beautiful place, isn’t it? Good stone and solid walls. And brave men to defend it.”
Darius’s smile widens once more. “Indeed it is, friend… indeed it is! What I wouldn’t give to see the inside of those walls…”
Haft smiles. “It’s beautiful inside and that’s for certain. Fair hangings on the walls, gardens and a library–for those with gentler tastes–and every door carved in the likeness of some wild creature or mountain scene.” He pauses. “I used to be a guard for the royal family, you know.”
Darius’s brow shoots up. “You were, were you? Well! By jolly… That is something else. ” His grin widens. “And what was it like being a guard in such a place?”
Haft shrugs. “Hard work, long hours. A lot of standing in place while the conversation swirled on around you…” He forces a tight smile. “Happiest time of my life.”
Darius smirks. “Doesn’t sound so… Though, I admit… seeing what you saw. All of the hallways, rooms and access to the royal family themselves. ” He shakes his head, eyes returning to the gate. “I imagine that would have made it all worth it. ”
Haft looks contemplative. “I felt privileged. It was a high honor.” His lips twist. “Didn’t last though.”
Darius’s watches the man intently, almost as if he is sizing him up. “What happened?”
Haft’s face darkens. “You may already know. Half of Archenland does. The older half anyway. Ever heard of the name Haft?”
Darius frowns in thought, shaking his head after a moment. “Can’t say I have.”
Haft says, “Yeah well you’re young. I daresay I was the most hated man in Archenland–after Lord Bar–probably still am, come to that.”
Darius’s brow furrows. “Why so?”
Haft growls, “I opened a door. Had duty that night outside the nursery. Well, how could I know Bar was a traitor? He was a powerful man, so I let him in.” He snarls, “Got exiled for thanks. Guess I was supposed to be grateful they didn’t lock me up or worse.”
Darius’s eyes gain an odd light. “Indeed?! Well! That, friend, is a travesty! All of your hard work and they threaten you imprisonment and exile you?!” He releases a long breath, clicking his tongue a couple times. “All because you followed another Lord’s orders. ”
Haft grunts. “Lived fourteen years among those critters in the North. Strange land. Half the animals can talk, and you gotta make sure you get it right when you’re hunting, I’ll tell you. I once shot at a Talking Wolf–didn’t know what it was–but it was blasted big. Missed the thing, but had half the pack come out and give me a talking to.”
Darius frowns. “Doesn’t sound all too pleasent… ” he glances back at the gate, looking thoughtful.
Haft kicks against the wall. “Well, I’m back…for now, at any rate. Whether he’ll allow me to stay…”
Darius grins. “Glad to hear it… ” he smiles, the odd light never leaving his eyes. “I fear though, that I must be off. It was a pleasure making your acquaintance Haft… I do hope we can talk again. ” he extends a hand to the man.
Haft hesitates a moment, then extends his hand. “Sorry, didn’t catch your name.”
Darius clasps his hand, before coming around with his other hand and clasping the man’s arm. “Aaron. ” he returns, giving the man’s hand a good shake. Once doing so, he releases the handshake and begins walking off without another word.
Haft says, “Good day, Aaron.”
After this encounter, Haft composes a brief note and slips it under Peridan’s door:
Commander, I wish to apprise you of a situation arising with the man called Aaron. I spoke to him today–with all courtesy, as you requested–and I believe his designs are malicious. He was very interested in the entry to the inner ward from what I could see, and when I let slip that I had been a royal guard his interest became positively avid. Some of the things I said to draw him out might do me harm before the king if repeated to others, so I wished to inform you before he could do a mischief. I will speak to you tomorrow at your convenience, as I did not wish to disturb your rest.