A short story narrated by Briareth and gifted to Mom on her Birthday. Posted here with her permission.
No matter what Faladel will tell you, I’m not an idiot. I’m really good at playing the fool though, when necessary. The reason Faladel thinks I’m ridiculous is because I just get really obsessive with some things, and then the obsession causes me to do something stupid. Some of the things that I come up with are a lot more brilliant than they first seem. They normally end up looking weirdly complex though.
One time, oh it was ages ago, on my first practice assignment in training. I was supposed to be getting a code word from a dwarf in a small town on the border. The Dwarf’s name was Balor, the town was called Dun-Dae, and I had only three weeks to finish the task. It was drilled into Balor’s head that he shouldn’t reveal the message. Apparently not thoroughly enough though…
Well I was a young rascal, but I wasn’t impatient. I came into the town dressed as a creepy fortune teller. I waited and watched my prey for a couple of weeks to get to know his routines and cook up a brilliant plan. It was really boring, I already knew what my plan would be and he was a typical unmarried male dwarf, except for the fact that he was completely brown. Brown hair, brown tanned skin, brown eyes, brown clothes, even brown boots. No wonder he wasn’t married. He worked in an assembly line. A job as boring as the rest of him. Every day he would get up, go to work, come home for lunch, go back to work, come home for supper, (sometimes with groceries), have dessert, then go to bed. After he would go to sleep, I would explore the house, until I was certain that I knew it better than he did.
After two weeks though, even I was sick of following this guy around. I wanted action! So the next morning I went to the forest to gather a few things that I would need. I ate some lunch there, and went back to his house, which was deserted because he was going back to work. I tied strings and placed traps, keeping a close eye on the clock above the fireplace. When the hour hand was halfway to five, I had to leave. He would leave work in thirty minutes. I couldn’t test it out, but I was sure he would.
In the thirty minutes between when I left Balor’s house and when he left work, I got changed into my creepy fortune teller disguise. As he left his workplace, I accosted him in the streets.
“You!” I shrieked at him, in what I thought was a convincingly erie voice. “You have a shadow of ill-boding around you! Watch out, for only pain and madness lie in your future!” He just scoffed and continued on his way, I smiled to myself and I remember thinking that it would be fine, he’d change his tone soon enough.
While he finished going home and ate his supper, I changed back into my sneaking clothes, and joined him at his house. He didn’t know I was there of course. I timed it so that I would arrive right before he finished supper. Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly as I had planned. He had already ate supper and was about to try and make his desert! The one day I needed him to be on routine, he went and ate early!
I silently entered the house while he moved to the kitchen to get his honey and milk for his desert. The desert was meant to be honeyed toast with milk. I moved to the dining room, and inspected the toast. It lay in two pieces on a nice china plate, with a cup nearby, presumably for the milk. I moved the plate to the chair and hid in a crack between the cabinet and the wall in the dining room. I could see him, but he couldn’t see me. He had already gotten the milk out with no problem. Good for him. But as he grabbed the honey off the shelf, the string tied to it yanked on a spoon, sending it swinging off it’s shelf, and made it collide with a pan lid. The resulting resounding “Clang!” caused Balor to step backwards in shock, trip over a well placed brick inside a hat, drop his pot of honey, which then plummeted to the ground and broke, which sent the spoon flying upwards, which landed on his head. That was so much better than I had imagined it would be. I had to stifle my giggles as I found a better hiding spot.
The miserable and confused Balor eventually picked himself up, cleaned up the mess, drank his milk and munched on his cold toast, and went off to bed.
The next morning, poor Balor was exhausted when he got up. I napped on his couch on and off all night, but wouldn’t allow myself to fall asleep after six AM. After all, he had deviated from his normal routine last night, who knows if he might have gotten up early today?
When he came downstairs, I was ready and waiting. I wanted to see what would happen with my latest design. I stayed up late the first night after he went to bed to prepare this morning’s tortures, and I didn’t want to miss the figurative fireworks. Balor started to make his mornings coffee, same as he did everyday. He prepared his breakfast as it brewed, and when he was done making breakfast, he began to doctor up his coffee. I watched grinning as he added milk, stirred, then reached for the Honey to sweeten it up. He has to get a new jar since he broke one last night. He is so tired that he didn’t notice that the seal is broken. He smiled happily, humming to himself as he shaked it, and then opened it. Thank goodness for the humming, I hadn’t expected the shaking, and his humming covered the noise they made as they woke up, very angry.
Balor opened the honey jar, and a swarm of outraged bees flew into his face. He screamed in horror and pain as they attacked, running right past me, and outside. It was all quite hilarious, until some of the bees who were a bit slow, decided to go after me instead. I quickly joined Balor outside, though I ran into the forest to lose the bees, as he just ran around the house. When the bees had left me, I returned to the house hoping to beat Balor back and get to prepare a surprise for him in the medicine cabinet. Unfortunately, he somehow managed to shake off his much greater swarm before I did, and was already nursing his stings. ‘Ah well,’ I thought to myself, ‘I can’t win everything. Besides, those bees were worse than I originally thought, the guy has to be able to catch a break sometime. He really is quite pitiful.’ So I left him alone for the rest of the second day, but I prepared a spectacular finish for the third day. If this didn’t work out, I wouldn’t have time to think of another plan. I would only have four days left after all.
That evening while Balor slept, I went into his bedroom, down into the cellar, and even went searching through the woods to rig everything just so. I gathered supplies from my base camp in the woods and moved them closer to his house, then finally crashed on his couch, exhausted. I woke up late the next morning to a shriek of surprise. Poor Balor was tumbling down the staircase, a pot of honey on his head, it’s delicious contents dripping down his face. I rolled off the couch, landing silently on the floor, and scuttled my way out the door, chuckling.
The rest of his morning would be fine, I hadn’t messed with anything else that he should run into at the house, and I couldn’t mess with his worklife. While he was at work though, I needed to finish setting some stuff up at the house. It was harder than I had expected, and when I saw him coming up towards the house, I abandoned the fine tuning. It would have to do. I had doused the fire, ages ago, and as I saw him coming up the lawn. I scampered down the ladder, hurriedly stashed it, then blew out my lantern. The door creaked ominously as he opened it, then there was a loud ‘Snap!’ and the rope attached to the door flew into the air, cut after rubbing against a carefully placed knife. The rope flew up, and down came the log that I had spent so much time adjusting. It went straight through the door, blocking my view, but there was no way that it could have missed. I grinned, waiting to see Balor fly backwards from the impact, but I didn’t see anything. I waited confused as the log swung to a stop.
Eventually I went out front, and was stunned to see poor Balor, lying prone on the ground, a nasty gash on his chin. ‘Is he dead?’ I thought to myself, panicked. ‘This was only supposed to scare him, not kill him.’ I checked his pulse hurriedly. He was alive, but knocked cold and would probably stay that way for a while. At that point I wondered, should I continue? I had nearly killed poor, poor Balor, who’s only grievance to me was being a dwarf, which he couldn’t help; and talking to the wrong elves, which probably isn’t his fault either. He didn’t even know I was the one freaking him out. I could have just stopped then, given up, failed the practice mission, and set him free from my torments. But I was so close. There was only a little more prodding in the right direction to do, and then I’d never bother him again.
Eventually I decided. I wouldn’t fail the mission, but I wouldn’t put him in unnecessary danger either. I’d be very careful, and if there’s even a hint that a trap could be life threatening to him, I’d dismantle it.
I went back inside and made some changes to make the whole rig safer, got dressed in my creepy fortune teller garb, then sat in a lookout position to watch. After all, if something went completely off track I might have needed to perform first aid or something of the sort. When Balor woke up it was dark out, and all the lights in the house were off. He came inside cautiously, pushing aside the log in the doorway, sending it swinging gently. He bumbled around for a while before finding a match and a lantern. I heard him swear softly as he realized that the lantern had no oil. I saw a different flickering light, and frowned. I wondered if he had found another lantern I had missed. He came toward the cellar to get more oil for the lanterns, he opened the door, and another loud ‘Snap!’ erupted. He stepped back fearful of being wacked in the face again. The string broke and went up, a stone went down, pulling out a plug, sending oil down a halfpipe.
The oil doused Balor, and he dropped the candle, it seemed to have gone out, but then a light flared and I heard Balor howl in fear as he caught fire. He turned and ran, tripping over a cleverly placed wire. It released a bag of sand, which then doused all the fire. I laughed, glad that I had taken precautions. Balor ran out of the house, and I followed as quickly as I dared. He was heading for the market place along well known roads. I took a shortcut through the woods, and got to my tent before he arrived. When he entered panting, eyes glazed with fear, I was as calm as I could be, and breathing naturally.
“Ah, the one with the shadow of ill-boding.” I cackled at him in my eerie voice “Come to ask for my advice eh? I’m going ta guess that the pain has come, and you wish to avoid the madness.”
“How did you know?” Gasped poor Balor, “What can I do to stop it? It has nearly killed me twice now!” his voice turned to a shriek at the end.
“Quiet down. You,” I rapped on his nose with a finger. “Have angered a God.”
“But what did I do?” Balor looked flabbergasted.
“Don’t ask me. How should I know?” I said. “All I know is that one of Them has sent an evil spirit to haunt you, perhaps if you admit your wrong and repent They will take pity and put it away.”
“But confess to whom? Who would listen and not judge?” Balor looked miserable at this point. But his question was exactly what I wanted.
“I won’t judge and I won’t tell. I’ll be leaving here soon enough anyways. You could tell me.” Balor looked at my disguise and seemed to melt a bit.
“Truth is, I’ve been wanting to tell someone about it for ages.” He began. “I talked to two elves, they appeared like magic when I was hunting, I don’t know how they got past the front lines, but they did. They told me a word, and said they would kill me if I told anyone else. I know it was wrong, I know I should have reported them.” My breath hitched. This was what I was looking for.
“What did they say?”
“That’s the strangest part. They said ‘Honey’. That I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone ‘Honey’.” He began to cry. “Now they are going to kill me.”
“Oh I wouldn’t worry about that.” I said to him confidently. “How would they know? I won’t tell your elves, and this tent can’t be magically spied into. Feel better now?”
“Yes much,” Balor paused, wiped his eyes and sniffled “Is it still there? Is that shadow of ill-boding thingy gone now?”
“It has gone far away.” I reassured him. “You shouldn’t be troubled by the Gods any more.”
“Thank you Fortune Teller.” He paused, “Do I owe you something for your services?”
“Oh no.” I responded, smiling. I had already gotten money from the other villagers with this disguise. “Just doing a good deed, you don’t need to pay me for that, although beware the Ides of March..” Balor smiles at me, relieved, and leaves. I nearly jumped up and let out a whoop as soon as he was gone. I had passed!
Later after I returned to Raegel and the other King’s Archers who were grading the exercise, I told them of my success, and summarized the events of the past two and a half weeks. Then they went into a tent to talk it over. I wasn’t allowed in of course, so I had to wait in suspense for my results. Eventually, Raegel exited the tents, flanked by the other King’s Archer’s.
“Well Briareth, after much consideration.” He began. “You pass. Your methods were successful, if quite unorthodox, you weren’t supposed to turn a profit from your mission after all. Your moves were smart, but well outside of what we expected, which some people-” he glared at one of the other graders, who shrugged “-wanted to fail you for. But after some haggling, it was agreed that you would pass, although your methods would be banned in the future due to the emotional trauma that you inflicted on your subject.” Raegel grinned at me and slapped me on the back. As he passed he whispered in my ear, “Great job, I knew you could do it Briareth.” I grinned in unabashed pride.