Arrr the Barbarian
Seeing a guy about a sword
(and maybe some late lunch)
Arrr crossed the town gates with Sharp strung along his back. The guard didn’t acknowledge him. A closer look revealed the man fast asleep on his feet, a trick known to coppers everywhere. He decided not to disturb him.
A view beyond the entrance gates revealed the exit gates on the other side a few hundred meters away. That kind of town, he thought. Just large enough to warrant a town sign. The central (and only) square consisted of a few houses, a nondescript shop, a blacksmith and the obligatory inn/pub which might or might not double as the local brothel. Although he thought it unlikely that a town this small had more than one “woman of the night”.
He also saw a small house he tentatively identified as the library. It probably doubled as the local post office and city hall. A few people milled around and watched him enter the town but paid him no more mind. They were likely used to travelers.
He decided the inn was the best place to find some information and maybe some late lunch since he was so rudely interrupted before.
He entered the door, expecting a dimly lit room with some grubby tables. Instead, he found a brightly lit foyer with high ceilings decorated in pastel colors. He felt underdressed. Walking through the hall, skirting some “artwork” in the middle of the way, he made his way to a reception desk and rang the bell.
“just one moment” a somewhat familiar female voice rang from the back. He decided to peruse one of the brochures while he waited. Apparently, this was not a common Inn, but the “Zerrrtocl Luxury Hotel and Spa” , featured in the Gohactl Guide to Homgsio, the latter being the kingdom’s premiere guide to everything fancy. Arrr had found a copy once and while he wasn’t particularly interested in the guide’s wisdom, it did come in handy when he was outdoors with no toilet paper in sight. Very soft paper, that guide, he remembered.
He was about to put the brochure back when the woman came from the back room.
“Welcome to the Zerrrtocl Luxury Hotel and Spa, my name is Olivia, how can I…” She almost had the whole rehearsed phrase out of her mouth when she recognized him. “What are you doing here?” she barked at him. “Are you some kind of stalker?”
The dark-skinned woman looked at him angrily. “Don’t you dare telling anyone what happened!”
“Is that how you treat all your guests or just the ones who helped you after you were shocked?” He heard Sharp snicker on his back. He couldn’t resist even if he wanted to. “Maybe I should speak to your manager?”
“No, please, I’m sorry. I just can’t have anyone find out what happened. I’d lose my job.”
Enough teasing, he decided. “My lips are sealed,” he said. “Sharpy and I were just looking for some information. I’m sure you can help us out.”
“Sharpy?” She seemed to notice the large sword slung across his back for the first time. Her face became pale. “That’s the sword from the wood! Why do you have that?” she backed away slowly, the memory of the shock she received still fresh in her head.
“Oh, this?” he took the sword and held it in his hand, the tip a few centimeters from her face. “Sharpy wanted me to pick him up. Said something about a prophecy but we need to find someone named Baud first. Ring a bell?”
“The nerd? Spends all evenings in the library” So it was a library. Arrr congratulated his knowledge of small towns. The clock on the wall indicated it to be three in the afternoon.
“Great, I’ll wait here then. You got a room and some food? Someone..” he looked at her pointedly “…made me leave my lunch behind earlier.”
“The Zerrrtocl Hotel and Spa has a world famous restaurant where all your culinary desires will come true.” Back in advertising mode, I see, Arrr thought to himself.
“Nothing fancy, just a sandwich or two will suffice. Bring them to my room, would you be so kind?”
She looked a bit piqued at the idea of a sandwich but rallied herself quickly. “Of course, Sir. Please enjoy your stay.”
The sandwiches were surprisingly delicious. Fancy little things on a plate three times the size of its content, of course, but still. They probably cost more than Olivia made in a day, he mused.
Waking up from a short nap, the clock informed him that it was now a quarter to six. Baud should now be in the library, he decided and made his way to the exit. Olivia was nowhere to be seen but instead another young woman in the same white clothing greeted him and wished him a great stay at the Zerrrtocl Hotel and Spa, hoping all his dreams were coming true. Nightmares, more likely…, he thought with the sword on his back.
The library emitted a faint light through musty windows. What parts of them that were not blocked by stacks of books had been engrossed by what looked like the work of a dozen spiders working as a well-organized team.
He entered the door. A small bespectacled man was sitting on a tiny desk that was, as he soon realized, made up entirely by books.
“You Baud?” Arrr asked him before the man had time to look up from the huge tome he was reading and register the intruder. It usually paid to surprise people, he had learned. They often told you the truth if you didn’t let their brains catch up with their mouths in time.
“Nooo…” he stammered, visibly confused.
“I’m Baud”, a voice came from an adjacent room followed by a middle-aged woman dressed in a practical shirt and pants getup. Arrr approved of practical clothing irregardless of gender but most people did not share his views, so he was surprised to see a woman around his age dressed like that. Baud had short black hair and equally black eyes.
“I thought we were looking for a guy?” he whispered to the sword on his back. “She is clearly not a guy”, emphasizing the “clearly” part. Baud indeed possessed features that would not be at home with any guy he knew. She was not classically beautiful but attractive in her own way.
“Sorry, my bad”, the sword replied sheepishly. Arrr didn’t believe a single word. It just wanted to mess with him, again.
“Who are you talking to?” Baud asked, puzzled, before she noticed Sharp on Arrr’s back. “Wait, is that the sword I was tasked to leave at the clearing outside of town? Where did you get it from?”
“Where do you think?”
“But it can only be wielded by the Chosen One once it was put in its place. They assured me no one else could take it”, she said.
“That would be me, then.”
“You?” She looked at him with skeptical eyes. He was muscular of course, but time and good food had also made other parts grow significantly.
“Why is this so hard to believe?” He sighed while the sword snickered again. “But since we are talking about it, who are They and what do you know about that prophecy. That piece of metal”, he glared at his back, “seems to suffer from amnesia.”
“The Unblinking Ears of Thurtsfal of course. They created the sword and asked me to bring it here because they prophesied that the Chosen One will travel through here. I asked them why I couldn’t just give it to the Chosen One instead but they insisted that swords wielded by Chosen Ones had to be found in far-away places. Some kind of narrative requirement for the sword to work correctly or something like that. I stopped listening at that point.”
“So you can’t tell me anything about the prophecy?”
“No, sorry, they imbued the knowledge in the sword so only the Chosen One would be able to hear it. Apparently that spell went wrong…”
“You think?” They both looked at the sword which seemed to try to move away sheepishly.
“Can you at least tell me where to find those, what was it, ‘Unblinking Ears’? Since when do ears blink?”
“They don’t”, she said, looking at him like he was an idiot wandering into a school for the first time. “I said they were unblinking.”
“Right, of course. So where can I find them?”
“I think I got a flyer somewhere about their next meetings. Mind if I join you? I’m curious as to what all this is about.”
He shrugged. Might be nice to have someone to travel with for a while, he decided. “Sure, why not.”
“Great, let me pack my things and I’ll meet you outside in a few minutes”, she said and disappeared in the back. Apparently, the library also doubled as her apartment. Or quadrupled, since it was also the post office and city hall. Pretty efficient he decided as he sat down outside and waited for his new travel companion.