Hargus Hurryhouse Adventures - Book 1, Chapter 6

The Streets Of Orsholon

He hadn't meant it. He didn't even know what happened. Like most other days at school, the other boys taunted Rhys. But his father had forbidden him from associating with them. No play after school, no making friends in class. Rhys knew he was different. But today, he found out just how different.   His father had always made him cover the patch on his chest. That patch of scaly, almost shiny skin made him different, and his father wanted none of that attention. And now that his father had a new woman in his life, it was worse. She called Rhys a freak and unwanted. She insulted Rhys' birth mother, called her a whore. Rhys never knew her; she died giving birth. But she couldn't imagine his father would have married such a woman. But then, given his current wife, maybe he was wrong.
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Hargus Hurryhouse Age 10 by Kahuna The Elder / Artbreeder
  The boys' teasing that day was more harsh than usual. Despite all the effort to keep it hidden, someone in town had heard that Rhys was hiding something, and the boys had gotten wind of it. The usual teasing became more intense. They wanted to see what he was hiding. "C'mon, Ricey... what ya got to hide?" or "We know you're a freak, show us!"   The taunting was relentless, more so than usual. "I hear he hides something under his shirt. C'mon, freak boy, show us what you're hiding!" They pushed and shoved at Rhys, getting him trapped in a corner behind the schoolhouse. They started pulling at his clothes. Rhys had been given strict instructions not to let anyone see. His father would be furious. The boys would not let up.   They shoved him to the ground and began tearing at his shirt, working to remove it. All at once, the sort tore away, and the boys reeled back when it did. Under Rhys' shirt was what appeared to be a full breastplate of silvery scales on his chest and abdomen.   "He's not a freak! He's a monster!" shouted one of the boys. Another yelled, "We KILL monsters!" and the group attacked. One lunged directly at Rhys, who threw his hands up to defend himself. As he did, a massive rumbling, like that of a thunderclap, was heard, and the attackers flew back a dozen feet. One boy hit his head on a rock and began to bleed. The others, in fear, ran away.    Rhys ran as well, straight home. What had he done? He had no idea what had just happened, but he knew everyone would blame him for it. And they saw his chest! His father would be angry. And his stepmother? She would be even worse. He ran all the way home, hoping to tell his parents what happened first. When he arrived, no one was home. He ran into his room, burying his face in his pillow. What had he done? What just happened?   He would find out soon enough.   It was not long before his stepmother came bursting through the front door, screaming, "He's a freak! A KILLER! Get him out before he ruins us! What if he kills us in our sleep?". The boy who hit his head had nearly died from his injuries. Rhys' father was close behind, trying to get her to calm down, but he would fail. While Rhys sat crying and ashamed, she railed on, and Rhys' father just listened. His parents decided it would be best for them, and the village, to "get rid" of Rhys. The plan was made all within Rhys' earshot, with no attempt to shelter him from any of it. They would put together a small sack of gold coins (his stepmother fought against it), a bag with some clothes, and a few morsels of food. They grabbed Rhys, shoved him into the back of a wagon, and made their way to Orsholon City. They told the gatekeeper they were there to deliver him to a craft guild for an apprenticeship. Once inside the gate, they made their way to the industrial area and told Rhys to get out. His stepmother's final words to him were: "Good luck, you monster. May the streets swallow you up." His father said nothing. He simply whipped the reins, turning the horses around, and led them to the gate in silence. Rhys was alone.   Rhys was ten years old. Orsholon City's streets were no place for a child, especially one left to their own devices. He screamed after the wagon, pleading for his father to stop. His father's response was to whip the reins and get the horses galloping even faster. Rhys fell in the street, sobbing, wailing. And he could hear his stepmother laughing.    He watched them turn the corner near the end of the street. And that would be the last he saw of them. He sat back on his heels, crying. What had he done to deserve this? Why had he been born different? Why couldn't he have been like the other boys? And why had he been cursed with this affliction that marred his skin? It was too much. Rhys wanted the scales off of him right now! He grabbed a nearby rock and tried to scrape the scales off to no avail. He hit them with the stone, hoping to tear or scratch them. They took no damage.    "Hey there, boy! What're ya doing sittin' in tha middle of the road? Can't ya see yer gonna get run over!" A man had emerged from one of the shops, likely after hearing Rhys' cries. He couldn't let the man see his chest. It would only make things worse. So he ran. He grabbed his bags, threw them over his shoulder, and ran. He didn't know where; he didn't know this city. He knew a bit about the crafts areas from trips with his father, but not the rest of the city. He just ran.   He ran until he was out of breath. Eyes swollen from crying, lungs screaming for oxygen, he stopped. In front of him were a large set of stables. The sun was falling behind the mountains in the west. It would be dark soon. It may have still been late summer, but Orsholon City sat in the bend of the Rinzeremel range, and nights could be cold. He looked around and saw no one, so he sneaked into the stables and found a quiet corner with what looked like clean hay. He lay down in the hay, covering himself to hide. And he cried himself to sleep.
   
Rhys was standing on a cliff. In front of him a precipitous drop. Behind him, an unscalable mountain. And no path away.   In the distance, he saw great ranges of mountains and a vast desert. He could also see a beautiful blue sea and verdant lands. It felt like he could touch them.    The cold wind blew up from the bottom of the cliff and into his face. It made him shiver. And it made him smile. It was familiar. The whole scene was familiar as if he'd been there before. He reached out to the wind and heard what sounded like giant wings flapping. A gust pushed him from behind, over the edge of the cliff...

    Rhys' woke from a dream. It was a dream, wasn't it? He had never been on a mountain, and he'd never seen the sea. He'd heard about far-off places like Lawcrane, but other than Fykic and Orsholon City, he'd never been anywhere else.    The hay had kept him warm during the night. But what would he do now? He had no home, and he didn't want anyone to find him in the stable. Rhys still was overcome by the fact that his parents had simply left him. They had given him some money and a little food. And his bag had some clothing in it. But he could never let anyone see his shame. It had cost him his family. Whatever he had done, he wasn't going to do it again.    Rhys gathered his bags together. He would have to find someplace to stay that wasn't as open. Someplace to keep others from seeing him.  He wandered through the guild district, watching the craftspeople do their work. And then he came up a cobbler. He couldn't look in. It reminded him of his family.    It was summer, so other kids were about as well, so he wasn't out of place. And Orsholon City was so much bigger than the village of his birth. No one would think twice about a boy they didn't recognize. He could walk around, at least in the daytime, without a problem. But the night would be different.    There were many stables in a city of this size, but he couldn't just sneak from one to the other, could he? And after summer, it would start getting very cold. Even the hay would not keep him warm enough. No, he had to find somewhere to sleep and maybe even keep his belongings. He kept walking, moving to the east toward the river that flowed under the city walls. There was a large park here, with expanses of grass with geese and ducks flocking alongside and in the water. It was peaceful. He sat down in the grass to think about what he should do next. He looked back toward the city and saw the towers of the Royal Castle. He was sure they wouldn't have abandoned a child. He had heard the Torgaros were kind and generous. He hoped to meet them one day.   He had some money. Not much, but he could probably stay at an inn for a night or two. But then what? He would need more money. But he'd never had a job. He had learned some of the cobbler trade from watching his father, but even that didn't seem useful. His father had never been a hard worker, and he rarely saw his father put in a full day's work.    He looked at the castle again. The Torgaro name was known throughout Arnathia. He had even thought that one day, he might be one of the Royal Guard. But not now. Not Rhys Riviere, the freak. And then it came to him. He didn't have to be Rhys Riviere. His family had left him. His stepmother said she hoped the city would swallow him up. Well, maybe it did! Maybe, Rhys Riviere was no more. That way, there would be no reason to question him about what happened in Fykic. He could be who he wanted to be!   As he looked at the castle, he dreamed of being regal, a nobleman with vast riches and friends who didn't taunt him, who wanted to be near him. He dreamed of a comfortable home. And he wished he could have known his mother. He knew her family - her aunt and uncle were still in Fykic - but they would never want to be connected to him now.    He wanted to travel. He wanted to see the sea, the one in his dream. And to learn to fight. He had never fought because his father forbade it, And what did it get him? Abandonment. No, he would learn to fight. He'd teach those bullies. When he was done, they'd cower and beg for his mercy. He laughed out loud at that idea.   He'd need to make up a name. A name that sounded like a nobleman. He'd think of one. But for the moment, he needed to think about a place to stay. He removed an apple and a small but of goat's milk cheese from his sack and snacked. The apple tasted sweet and tart. And the cheese had a tang he always enjoyed. Where could he stay?   He tied up his pack and headed back into the city proper, back into the guild district. Maybe he could become an apprentice. He was still a bit young; apprentices usually didn't start until their twelfth year. He could learn to forge. Or make weapons. Maybe armor! Then he remembered his goal - find a place to sleep.   As he continued west across the city, he passed right in front of the castle and the castle gate. He saw the two guardsmen standing outside the gate and couldn't stop looking - until they looked at him. He quickly averted his eyes, afraid they might already know his shame.    "Good morning, young squire! Why so shy?" shouted one of the guards. "You have nothing to fear from us!" The guard laughed as Rhys looked around to see who the guard was talking to. "I'm talking to you! Come, shake my hand!"   Rys had never been addressed as a squire before. He checked his shirt to make sure nothing was showing and slowly walked up to the guards. "What is your name, young man?" asked the guard,   "Who..uh, me? I'm...uh...my name is.." Rhys stammered.   "Yes?"   "I'm... Hargus!" was the blurted response. Rhys had no idea where the name came from in his head, but he liked its ring.   "Greetings Hargus. That is your name...Hargus?"   "Yes, sir. Hargus."   "Well...Hargus... It seems you're new to Orsholon City. A little young for an apprentice. Where are your parents?"   "They ...uh...they went home and told me to explore the city." Close enough, Rhys/Hargus thought.   "Ah, I see. Well, don't let us keep you. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask any of the Royal Guard.   "Th...Thank you, sir!"   "Oh, and ...Hargus..." added the guardsman.   "Yes, sir?"   "Tell your parents they shouldn't leave you to wander the city alone."   "Yes, sir."   The guardsman smiled, and the newly christened Hargus continued on his way. Hargus. The more he rolled the name around in his head, the more regal it sounded. But now, he needed a family name. One that flowed well. Then he remembered what he really needed to do - find a place to sleep, quickly. The sun had crossed the zenith, and the shadows would be growing longer.    After passing the castle, Hargus turned left down one of the major streets, now heading south. He was entering the Academic District. Schools of magic, medicine, law, and more were clustered in this area on the city's west side. And then it dawned on Hargus. The libraries and storerooms of the academies might be someplace he could stow away. He followed road signs to the Orsholon Legal Academy. The library here might just do.
    During his visits to the city with his father, Hargus rarely saw anything but the guild district. But as they entered through the city walls, they could see the proving grounds where the Royal Guard would train, and beyond it, the beautiful buildings in the Academic District. They were larger than most other buildings in the city. Taller and more beautiful.   Hargus had never seen them up close. The polished stone columns, the beautifully manicured gardens were a sight to behold. He had never been inside such a building. But he had heard of the libraries. His teacher at school had marveled at these buildings' size and spoke of the rich scent of aging paper and leather that filled the air inside.    But something else Hargus remembered is that his teacher had said they never closed. As he approached the Law Library, he could indeed see the doors were wide open. He climbed the stairs and was awestruck at the ornate, stately oak doors that framed the entrance to the library. And then, he stepped inside.    What he saw was more beautiful than his teacher described and more impressive than he could have imagined. Bookshelves reached the ceiling, some as high as four stories, filled with leather- and hide-bound tomes. There were catwalks along the bookcases allowing access to all the shelves. The rails were elegantly carved of dark woods. The afternoon sun streamed in from skylights on the ceiling, illuminating the tiny motes of dust in the air, creating beams of light that seemed sent from the gods themselves. The aroma of paper and wood was nearly intoxicating. Hargus stood in the doorway, not even noticing the young legal students pushing past him to find good spots at the long research tables.   "You're a little young to be a law student." The voice came from behind Hargus. Startled, he dropped his pack and instinctively cowered. "Whoa... no one's going to hurt you. Easy..."
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Elindine Raelle by Kahuna The Elder / Artbreeder.com
  The voice was kind and a bit playful. Hargus bent down to pick up his bag and turned to look at the source of the voice. She was beautiful. Long blonde hair, pulled back and tied, flowing down her back. She had a slender build and kind eyes. And a disarming smile. "Have you ever been in the Law Library?" she asked.   "No, ma'am," Hargus replied.   "Ooof. Ma'am? Now I feel old. What is your name, child?"   "Hargus." The more he said it, the more he liked it.    "Well....Hargus... Mine is Elindine. My friends just call me 'E' ".   "Thank you, Miss Elindine." Hargus was careful to show manners. If he were going to pretend to be a nobleman, he'd need to act like one. Not that he'd ever met one, but at least he would try.   "You are quite proper young Hargus. I like that. Where are your parents?"   "They...uh... they're at home. They let me explore on my own."   Elindine cocked one eyebrow. "Are they now? Where do you live?"   Hargus hesitated. He didn't know the city. And this lady seemed kind. He didn't want to lie to her. "Nearby" was all he could say.   "Ah yes, of course. How silly of me." Elindine had seen young men like this before. Urchins left to the streets. But typically, they were more hardened, more practiced in their obfuscation. She didn't mind them; they were trying to survive like so many others. "Well, let me tell you what, young Hargus. If you lose your way and can't find your way home, ask someone to guide you to the Enchanted Jackal Pub . You can stay there safely until we can send someone for your parents. But don't tarry too long... you might have to stay the night..."   She smiled at him and saw him relax. No, this was no street-rat. She didn't know why he was alone, but she was sure he wasn't ready for the streets. "Now, enjoy the library. Perhaps we'll meet again." She straightened his collar, and as she did, it separated slightly, exposing a bit of the shiny scales on his chest. She did not react, but she did notice. This one was different, of that, she was sure.   Hargus thanked her and watched as she turned to walk away. He imagined his mother might have looked like her. He never met his mother, but he wanted to believe she would be just as kind.   He turned back to the library and began walking down the aisles, in utter awe at the number of books. He had never seen as many books in his entire small village as he would find on one shelf here. The titles described the different forms of law and the theories behind them—Dwarven justice, Elven tribunals, and of course, human courts. There was even a section on Orcish penitentiary practices. There were tomes covering laws from different regions of Arnathia, from Baduhm to Chadigartu. And behind a glass enclosure, books that had reportedly been rescued from the time of the Cataclysm, nearly 5000 years earlier.    It was pleasantly warm in the library, with the sun heating the stone-tiled floor. There was a comfortable looking leather chair in the corner of the main room, a quiet area among the stacks of books. Hargus sat down and sunk into the luxurious feel of the soft, worn leather. It would not be long before he fell soundly asleep.
    The Enchanted Jackal was not far from the law library. Elindine had gone to the library to meet a law historian regarding rules and procedures for transferring property. He owed her a favor (as many did), and he was more than happy to meet. But when she ran into the young man, plans changed. The scales she saw were unique, as was the boy himself. As soon as she entered the pub, she scribbled a message on a slip of paper, folded it, sealed it with wax, and sent one of the kitchen boys off with it.   "How can I help you, E?" The voice startled Elindine. It came from a dark corner of the pub, a corner booth where now sat one Mr. Kite. A tall, dark-skinned man who always dressed impeccably, he sat with legs crossed and a scepter in his lap. He smiled a broad smile.    "I HATE when you pop in like that! Half startled me to death! You got here fast..." Elindine wanted to pick his brain about the young man. Quickly recovering, she added, "Thanks for coming."
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  "For you, my dear, I am at your beck and call. How can I be of service?" Kite was nothing if not charming. He was known to be a sorcerer but did not flaunt his skills. He was also one of the most well-versed in magic and lore in the region. When he could remember it. The belief was that Kite had suffered some type of trauma when he was younger that affected his memory. Some days, he had perfect recall of the smallest detail. Others, he could barely remember what he had for breakfast or if he indeed had eaten.   It was mid-afternoon, and the pub only had three or four patrons, all at the bar. Nevertheless, Elindine wanted to keep this conversation quiet. "I met a young man today with a...unique...marking on him."   "Oh, a tattoo perhaps? An odd birthmark?" inquired Kite.   "No, something I've never seen. His chest appears to have scales, shiny silver ones. I could only see just below his collarbone, but they were definitely there."   Kite sat back in the booth. "Scales, you say. Hmm..." He looked pensive. "Anything else? A tail? Protruding spikes on his back? Extremely long tongue? Speaks with a lisp?"   Elindine chuckled. "No, none of that. Other than the scales, he appears to be a normal young boy. And one who seems to be on the streets alone. Any thoughts on what this boy's ailment is?"   "Is he from the city? If not, I can see where the scales could have been a problem". Kite was pensive." Here in the city, we see all shapes and forms, but if he is from a smaller town, they might not take kindly to someone with scaly skin. Even a young boy. Where is he now?"   "I 'suggested' that if his 'parents' hadn't retrieved him before nightfall that he come here. But he can't stay long. He'd be noticed." Elindine was looking straight into Kite's eyes now.   "Hang on there, my dear. I see where you're going, and your seductive stare only has the effect of endearing me to you. But I cannot have this young man stay with me, at least, not until I know more about him. I have an idea of what he might be dealing with, and if I'm right, he will need guidance." Kite leaned forward. "Let's hope he makes his way here. I have time today. Might I trouble you for some wine and some pasties?"   Elindine laughed. "For you, my friend, absolutely!" She rose, walked over to the bar, and gave instructions to one of the servers. Kite had a plate of beef pasties and a glass of claret in front of him in short order. If he was right, he thought to himself, this boy would need assistance. And protection.
   
Hargus was in the mouth of a cave. He looked out and saw the sea, and the desert, and the mountains. Above him, the cave ceiling rose high to an outcropping and what appeared to be a cave entrance. It was cold, but Hargus liked it. He felt...at home. He walked out of the cave mouth and found himself on a cliff. It dropped precipitously below him, and above the cave mouth, it seemed unscalable. He looked out across the landscape and heard the sound of wings flapping. A great gust blew him off the cliff and...

    Hargus opened his eyes. He had fallen asleep in the leather chair. He looked up through the skylights and saw the sky beginning to change from blue to pink. Night was coming. The lady he met earlier said something about staying the night if they couldn't find his parents. They wouldn't, of course. Maybe he could get a night's sleep in a bed?   What was the name of the place she told him to ask for? Something magical. A jackal? Yes, that sounded right. He made his way to the main library desk and asked for directions to the Magical Jackal.    "Do you mean The Enchanted Jackal, young man? You seem far too young for a pub." The librarian was less than pleasant.   "Yes, ma'am, that's it. I'm meeting my parents there before we go home."   "Hmph. A fine place to take a child, if you ask me." Obviously disapproving the 'parental' choices, the librarian wrote out a series of instructions and handed it to Hargus. "Now, move along child, it will be dark soon. Go!"   Hargus took the directions and hurried out the door. It was getting darker, and he so wanted to sleep in a bed.    It was not far to the pub, and soon he was looking at the door. Patrons made their way into and out of the pub at a brisk pace, and it was busy. He straightened out his clothing and attempted to appear confident. At least, as confident as a 10-year-old boy understands confidence. He opened the door, stepped in, and as his eyes adjusted, he saw a bustling pub with patrons of all manner of dress and species. He had never seen such a mix of individuals in his small village. He was frozen. Unfortunately, he was also in the way of the door. A couple of pub-goers simply pushed past him, but one shoved him rather roughly. "Out of the way, kid!"   Hargus fell to the floor. He felt a surge of something start to well up in him, but he had no idea what it was. It was part anger, part fear. He had felt this before, behind the schoolhouse in his village. Not again.    "Here, let me help you, young man." Hargus snapped out of the moment and looked up to see a tall, dark-skinned man offering his hand. He wore the robes of a mage, or at least that is what Hargus believed. He had a broad smile. Hargus took his hand, and he was helped off the floor. "Come, the pub is busy this evening. I have an open seat at my table." The man gestured to a corner booth. "My name is Kite. Come join me".

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