Chapter 5

Lo’ranan arrived home about half an hour later, when the light of the day was just starting to wane. He unhitched the horses from the cart one-by-one, and led them into the corral that sat about twenty meters from the house. He fed and watered the three, taking special care to rub Quinlan down before drawing water for himself and drinking deeply.

His father’s house was a single story, built of stone and ornate in appearance, though not large in size. It might have been bigger – one could see where the stone foundation had been laid that, if it had been built upon, would have made the structure over ten times as large. Several great piles of stones sat at the far end of the unused foundation, cut and ready for the walls they would never build. Moss grew on them now.

Taking the pail of water he’d drawn, he quietly approached the door to the house. He put his ear to the door and heard nothing. Cautiously, he opened it and looked inside.

He could see the first room, only one of three, the other two being the bedrooms where he and his father each slept, the doors to which were on either end of the far wall directly ahead. On the north side of the room, to his right, were a stove and cooking implements. Otherwise it was non-ornate and bare, with the singular exception of an ornate – though sheathed – sword hanging on the south wall.

Lo’ranan’s father, Sar, sat at the table in the center of the room, facing away from the door. In his hand was a pint cup, and Lo’ranan could smell the alcohol in the room.

Well, he’s here, Lo’ranan thought to himself. Whether asleep or not who knows, but I guess there’s no turning back now.

Wordlessly, Lo’ranan entered, placing his ax against the wall by the door as he did. He walked silently to the stove and set the pail of water on a second, smaller table near the hearth that was used for food preparation.

He glanced at Sar, who sat back in his chair, with his head tilted so that his crown touched the back of the chair. The man was in his middle forties, but his careworn face – while still handsome – made him appear much older. His hair was deep black, but the gray on his temples threatened to quickly overtake it. Sar’s eyes were closed, and from his breathing Lo’ranan ventured to guess that he was in fact asleep.

Seeing that there was still bread and cheese from that morning’s breakfast sitting there at the table, Lo’ranan took some of each and began to walk towards the door of his room.

He had just placed his hand on the door to open it when he heard the voice of his father from behind him.

“I assume you saw Anastasia today?” came Sar’s drunken slur.

Lo’ranan closed his eyes and breathed a silent curse.

“I did,” he replied, only turning his head to the side, but not taking his hand from the door nor turning around.

“And does that sloth, Haruo, have his rent payment yet?”

“He is no sloth,” Lo’ranan replied through gritted teeth. “He will have your payment tomorrow.”

Lo’ranan looked back toward the door and made to open it, but Sar’s voice stopped him again.

“That is what I heard from you yesterday. Haruo is playing games. I may yet have to evict his whole do-nothing family.”

Clenching his fists around his meal, Lo’ranan spun around to look at his father, who was still seated, but now leaning on the table with his elbows, his head bowed over his cup.

“Don’t threaten,” said Lo’ranan angrily. “There’s no cause for it. Today did not go as planned for him, much like this whole past winter did not go as planned for anyone. But there’s no question he will have it tomorrow.”

“And after two months of failure to pay, why should I believe that and grant him another day?”

“Because he’s a good tenant, who always does what you ask,” answered Lo’ranan.

Sar laughed derisively and shook his head slightly.

“You have no idea,” he said. Lo’ranan watched as Sar’s head sank slightly then bobbed back up with a sharp intake a breath, observing that he’d almost fallen asleep and then re-woke with a start.

Sar glanced up at the sword on the wall, then returned his head to a bowed position over his drink.

“Another day, then,” he agreed.

Lo’ranan nodded, but the scowl on his face remained.

If you really need the money, old man, he thought bitterly, just sell that old sword – it does nothing but gather dust anyway.

Without a word, he turned back to the door and stepped through it, then closed it behind him. Setting the bread and cheese down, he lit a lamp, then quietly drew out the money that Tekton had paid him for his lumber and counted it again. Then, he reached within the straw bedding he slept upon and pulled out a large pouch and opened it. He counted everything out, and added it together with his wages for the day.

As I thought, he smiled. Only five more coppers and this will cover the entire rent payment.

Lo’ranan carefully placed all of the money into the pouch, careful not to make a sound that Sar could overhear, if he was even still awake. Then he returned the pouch to its hiding place in the straw, laid down on top of it, and went to sleep.

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