A Kicked Cur is an original short story written by Wrychard Wrycthen.
After this fateful revelation, a kind of awkward silence fell over the musty confines of the basement. Renita merely stopped speaking and focused on an invisible point on the raithen floor, lost in her thoughts. Wayloch’s arm was still loosely around Daralya’s shoulders, but his brow was lined with befuddlement and his sapphire eyes were staring and confused.
“I don’t get it, Rena. What does that crahlun mean, ‘come back then’? You’d never been there before, right? And how would an ubyr even know who you were in the first place?”
Renita looked up to meet his piercing gaze as if her head weighed a millions tons. Her face showed no trace of its former smirk now, just a form of beleaguered resignation. “I don’t know, Wally. And I may never want to know. But I see those sanguine-coloured eyes in my nightmares almost every night. And sometimes, in them, she invites me in. Leads me to a huge, wooden table covered with dusty, half-full glassware. And there, right in its center, is an ancient, pockmarked skull on a small, moldy cushion facing the back of the shack. As she holds me by my left arm, almost dragging me forward and around the table, what I mistook at first to be darkness in its ocular orbits begins to brighten. I slowly realize that it has eyes, that they are indeed alive, and as my terror grows, the thing makes bloodshot, hazel-coloured eye contact with me. Then, right before I bolt stark upright in bed, sweating and stifling a scream, Grenall croaks the phrase ‘He’s finally awake’. I don’t understand any of this, Wally. Not one bit. But what if, just suppose for one moment, all of this was meant to happen…? The Shunned Shack. Us moving here to Deskordin. Daralya meeting you. Finding out about the upyrs here in the city. Knowing about Tethrayl. Can’t you see?” Here she made eye contact with Daralya’s dark brown, expressive eyes. Her normally forceful voice broke a little. “Can’t you see it? This is a quest. This is our quest. Most people lead boring lives and never even have one, while the great warriors have many. And this one is ours. We can’t let fear overtake us, not for one minuet. We have to take care of this, and see it through. Ok?” Her frosted, cloudy and ice blue eyes found Wayloch’s again. She held his gaze while waiting for affirmation. The puzzlement was still there in his eyes, she saw, but it was slowly draining and then being replaced by resolve. He was agreeing with her.
“Ok, Rena. I’ll do my best.”
Daralya was looking at him. She frowned a bit. “We will do our best.”
He gave her a quick little smile. “Yes, Darry. We.” His arm tightened around her shoulders once more.
At this point, Renita stood, brushing dust off of her legs under the noctunic and her arms around the elbows. Then she faced them. “Now, I know it’s silly boisterous, but I want us three to shake on it. We’re in this together.” Wayloch and Daralya parted, collected themselves, and stood up, also brushing off some traces of dust. She faced them, forming a sort of triangle, and placed her left hand out, palm down and relaxed. The two lovers followed suit, slowly, Daralya first; she hesitantly placed her equally small and dainty hand on Renita’s, also palm down. Last was Wayloch, his eyebrows turning downward toward the bridge of his nose in his second favorite facial expression, that of determination.
Renita waited for Wayloch and Daralya to still, then all was suddenly silent. Haybugs were chirping merrily in the backyard, outside. They each looked in the eyes of the two facing them briefly, paused for a tangible moment, and then Renita began. “In this together”, she intoned, breathlessly.
Wayloch and Daralya answered her as one. In a succinct monotone they uttered the same exact phrase. “In this together.”
They made more meaningful eye contact, and then the moment had passed. Wayloch depressed the three hands once, for about half a teythe, and then they broke apart, becoming three individuals again.
Renita looked at Wayloch again. “Well, that’s that. Wally, it’s been a sheogol of a long night and we need to go to bed right away. School in the morning. So say your goodnights to my sister, I’ll wait over here and then take you out the back door again.” She gestured off to her left into the darkness outside the olde relic lantern’s oval of suffuse light.
It was late. The Lunus was still out and shining brightly in its fullness. Wayloch strode down the left-hand side of Bryne Way, which was mostly bluish or grey cobblestones and dirt. A few huge, dark trees dotted the landscape and shielded some of the shantys and houses from view; the humaynes of this city were of wildly varying income levels and caste, and even this one main southern boulevard reflected that. One place would be stark brand new, and the next would have a giant hole in the roof that the inhabitant or inhabitants couldn’t manage even to keep covered for want of currence and thus materials. Wayloch, however, noticed none of this, having been surrounded by it for the entirety of his lifetime so far. He was locked inside his own head, for the nonce; walking and thinking, walking and thinking, head down and eyes focusing on the ground, as Daralya had said she often used to do.
Bryne Way was intersected by Pylon Place, and Wayloch looked up long enough to check for riders or carriages, taking a right and heading eastward for home. The poverty was even more exacerbated here, with the shantys outnumbering actual houses nearly ten to one. Some lots were vacant as well, with huge blackened deposits of rotten lumber or other industrial debris just sitting around in huge piles for annum without anyone even caring enough to find out who owned the lot or to clear them. It was a true waste, but again, Wayloch had been reared in this environment, had even played games with other little curs in these self-same abandoned lots.
He was thinking about the upyrs. He knew magic was nothing to laugh at, while also knowing almost nothing about it; even the thought of an ubyr was highly odd. Strange. Indefinable. He couldn’t bring himself to feel anything about that development quite yet. But the upyrs? Their presence here was absolutely terrifying to him. Every schoolcur in Descordin was taught about those unholy abberations in their reality from day one. Never go near an upyr. If you see an upyr, tell someone. Never engage an upyr, if you want to continue living. Stuff like that. Wayloch would go feed a lyon raw meat before he’d speak to an upyr, which is what made what Renita had done this evening so extraordinary. She had not only spoken to it, but also had had the quick wit to fib to it and wait it out, until it had ended the encounter. Renita had suddenly taken on a whole new dimension as a person in Wayloch’s eyes.
He shuddered and adjusted his brown tunic top, buttoning it once more against the suddenly brisk wind that cut through the humid night air.
Grinrik Street kind of meandered off from Pylon Place at a northeastern forty-degree angle. It was all broken-down shantys here, except for Wayloch’s pappa’s place, a one-level hewn-stone hovel at the end of the dead end street. There were three properties on one side, and two vacant lots full of toppled dark trees and debris. Along this side, once again the left-hand one, Wayloch walked up and down uneven mini-hills in the ground as he advanced. Finally, he came to the homestead. It had one large front picture window, which was dark at the time, telling him that his pap was asleep. The olde man would normally be sitting with his pipe in the front room until at least mid-nacht, but he, like Daralya’s parents, had retired for the evening. Lorick Urser no longer kept tabs on Wayloch, as he had reached what was termed ‘that age’ and was finally granted what essentially was a carte blanche to come and go as he pleased without real curfew. Wayloch stopped at the dark wooden front door and produced his own keyring, which, thankfully, he hadn’t lost during the course of the evening’s full-tilt flight. He unlocked it, letting himself in, then closed and locked it again as quietly as possible. One would think that an older man would be a heavy sleeper, but that was not the case with Lorick. Any loud sound and he’d immediately be on his feet, raggedy noctunic hanging off of his grizzled frame, yelling at Wayloch about ‘that crahlun noise’. That was just the way he was. Wayloch had had twenty and two annum to get used to it. There was a reason the olde man lived at the dead end of a deserted street far from the city’s centre at Town Square, and it really wasn’t because of an undying love of humaynity.
Wayloch walked down the hall and took a left, into his bedroom. Directly across from his doorway was the bathroom for the floor, which was very convenient. A modest kitchen took up the rest of the first floor, facing eastward. His pappa lived on the entire lower basement level, surrounded by his potions, ingredients, cauldrons, mortars, pestles, and other tools of his trade. He virtually lived to work, working for himself out of his home, and virtually everyone in Descordin knew of him and his abilities. This was the case because Lorick, at the age of seventy and four annum, was a Potentor, Master Level. This was often abbreviated P.M.L. for short as a title after his name on business cards, advertisements and the like. And because this was Dath Urser’s life’s work, he saw it as a source of unmitigated pride and nagged poor young Wayloch relentlessly; he was only a Potentor, Apprentice Level (P.A.L.), and his pappa wanted him to get his ‘rear in gear’ and begin studying for his first year at Potions Academy. Wayloch, to his credit, often stonewalled his pap most effectively, arguing that he needed to finish General School and at least take a few moneths off before even beginning to worry about Academy. This argument always led Lorick to emit a sound much like “Harrrrumph!” and return downstairs to his work.
Wayloch’s room was smallish, with beige wallpaper and a jester-sized bed up against the north wall. The bed was covered with two inexplicable things at that inraylable hour. One of these things was a sheet, dark blue in color and currently strewn with a litany of mysterious short brown hairs. A profusion, really. The second thing was a canis. He was overall rather large and suspiciously brown, with a rediculously furry and wrinkled forehead even in slumber; he also had big olde paws that were placed carefully next to each other in slumber, as well as floppy ears that hung back from his head, with one overturned just so to offer Wayloch a nice view of his inner ear canal. Oh the irony.
This, of course, was Bustercluck.
Wayloch gained that determined look on his face again, his expression finally degenerating into an outright scowl. More so, his face grew slightly red with blush and he suddenly went into a stiffened half-crouch next to the bed. Staring at the dumb cur, eyes nearly bulging out, he clapped his hands together as softly-yet-loudly as he could so as to raise the beast yet not raise his pap. The canis did not rouse. Not a twitch, not a muscle moved. Wayloch did it again, right next to the almost strategically opened ear.
“Wake up, you! For Mangranol’s Sake, a millus times I have told you not to sleep on the bed, you silly boisterous mutt. Get up.” He raised his voice slightly. “GET UP.” It really had been a long nacht, you see. He continued to scowl, almost for its own sake.
After a third repetition of the gesture, the canis’ right eye drew open, a little bit at a time. Wayloch was virtually panting and sweating at this point, so he got right in Bustercluck’s wrinkly face, eyeball to eyeball. “WAKE… UP… and GET… DOWN.”
In a flash the canis was off the bed, his proportionately small tail wagging furiously, his front legs on Wayloch’s chest as he jumped him, slobbering furiously and lolling his tongue as he did every time he had seen Wayloch for the past twenty annum or so. Thankfully, Wayloch, out of long experience, knew how to deflect the large canis and he kind of sidestepped the onslaught, allowing Bustercluck to fall back to the hardwood floor, tail still wagging.
“Alright, alright. I told you though.” Here he stopped and pointed menacingly at his faithful pet. His eyed bulged out comically again. “Never on the bed. A millus times, never on the bed. No extra biscuit tomorrow, I mean it.” Taking the blue sheet off the small bed, he shook it out in the air a few times before he was satisfied enough to billow it back out into place and fold the corners in as well as he could. This task complete, he collapsed onto his back, head lolling to the right, and the last thing he saw as he drifted out into infinitely pleasurable repose was Bustercluck mimicking him by settling down on the floor, head on paws, large brown eyes smiling. A long nacht, indeed.
He awoke to a curious sensation, a tickling between his big toe and the one next to it. Sitting up in bed with a start, he realized to his horror that Bustercluck was licking his toe cheese.
“AAAAGH- stop that, you mutt! BUSTER!”
Wayloch swatted him with a good deal of verve and finally the canis desisted. Backing up, he looked to his master expectantly, who in turn looked over at the rounded black clock on his dresser. Plenty of time, he thought; Bustercluck must’ve woken him up on purpose. But… this stupid mutt? If Buster was really that intelligent, he sure did a great job of hiding it. “Come on, boisterous. Let’s go eat.”
Lorick was in the kitchen, having woken very early, before his son, as he had for the entirety of his life. The sky was still ashen grey, just shortly post-dawn; the window over the kitchen sink showed a nice eastern panorama of dark trees, as a sizeable, foreboding forest was what extended beyond the end of the street. It was a bit out of place here within the city, but it stood on abandoned land that the queendom had claimed for reserve, and thus was undeveloped.
A large pot of what was undoubtedly gruel was on the stove, as it was every single morning. Wayloch grimaced at it and rolled his eyes slightly as he walked through the minor archway from the front hall into the kitchen. Sitting down regardless, with Bustercluck coiling up at his feet like a misshapen footrest, he opened his mouth to speak. Lorick, however, beat him to it, speaking to his son while still facing the window.
“Hmmm. You’re up early.” He paused, taking a wooden spoon from a rack and beginning to stir the gruel methodically in nearly perfect circles. “I thought for sure you’d be out for another hour or so. Clock alarm still working, or do I have to take a look at it again?”
Waylock began playing with the cedron setting, taking the fork in his right hand and the spoon in his left and attempting to interlock them uselessly. His brow was slightly furrowed in consternation, which was his knee-jerk response to any discourse with his father. “No, pap, it’s fine. Buster got me up for some reason.”
Lorick gave a little chuckle. “Yes. You see, he actually likes the gruel, unlike you. And more than that, he adores your company. You really shouldn’t take him for granted so, son.”
Wayloch frowned fully now. “I never said I didn’t like the gruel, pap! And I don’t take anything for granted, not any more. Not any more.” Helplessly, he hung his head, its usual weight suddenly of concern.
Lorick, curious, turned to face him from across the heavy wooden table. The olde man had long whitish grey hair that streamed down his back, a braided whitish grey beard that ran fully down and over his chest, and strange iryn-grey
eyes that were suddenly filled with concern behind his small, oval spectacles. These eyes were always narrowed, and his face was heavily lined with many wrinkles, many more than one for each annum he had lived. However, there was one oddity about the man; on a cedron chain around his neck was a thick but tiny ledger, which he wore on his person at all times. Wayloch had never, ever seen his father without it, and the man was constantly opening it and scribbling in it furiously with an equally tiny pencil. The subject matter, from what Wayloch could even detect, were grievances; many, many grievances, annum and annum worth of them. Who owed him currence. What amount. Who had offended him. How. What they had “coming to them”. The like.
Lorick quickly responded to his son’s weird demeanor. “Why are you so moody all of a sudden? You’re never this negative in the morning. Usually just talk about Daralya this and Daralya that… has something changed?” Lorick turned back to the gruel, found a ladle in the same rack that he took the spoon from and began preparing two bowls of the stuff. “If there’s something on your mind, son, you can tell me. You’re never too old for that. Remember that I’m here for you.” He came around the table, stooping to put Bustercluck’s bowl on the floor next to him before setting Wayloch’s portion down on the table with an audible clank. Wayloch, with an air of slight exasperation, put his cedron spoon in the mire and began to eat in small, halting bites.
He stopped after about three of them, carefully swallowing while he thought hard. “Listen, pap… something’s come up. Something serious.”
Lorick nodded slightly. He pulled out the chair at the opposite end of the table, dark brown robe swishing, and sat with a sort of athletic dexterity that was seemingly out of place in a man of his advanced age. “All-right. Do you want to talk about it?” His eyebrows were turned downward towards his nose in the same determined expression that Wayloch had inherited as his genetic progeny. Frankly, it sat a little better on Lorick’s face than on Wayloch’s. He could pull it off, while Wayloch’s version just kind of looked a little silly. Strange thing, genetics.
Wayloch met his gaze for a moment, then stared down into his bowl without eating for a few stoundes. Finally he replied. “It’s not the kind of thing I can really talk about just yet, pap. It’s all too up in the air. When I can tell you, I will, I promise that.” He stopped speaking after this statement and took another small little bite of his food.
Lorick’s expression faded into a softer one. He straightened in his seat. “Hmmm. All-right, I just hope it’s nothing too serious.” Under the table, Bustercluck was lapping so noisily at his portion, so enthusiastically, that the atmosphere of seriousness faded for a moment and the two men, father and son, were forced to lighten up a bit and actually smile at each other. Chuckling a bit, Lorick pushed his chair from the table and regained his feet, going back to the stove for his own breakfast.
Now it was Wayloch’s opportunity to ask a few questions, make a few inquiries, or so it seemed to him. Clearing his throat, he spoke his mind suddenly without much forethought.
“Pap… tell me again about the War of the Tighthes.”
The olde man was by then settling back down into his chair and grabbing his own cedron spoon simultaneously. He frowned a bit at its mention. “The War…? I’ve told you about the crahlun war at least a couple of dozen times over the annum. And they must have taught you all about it in school, no?” He began to eat, with normal hearty bites.
Wayloch set his spoon against the side of the ceramic bowl, putting his hands in his lap and deciding to press the matter. “They just glossed over it, really… and I know you told me all about it, but I guess I never really… listened enough. Please, tell me again. It’s important.” Here he successfully met his father’s gaze, a line of consternation between his sapphire-blue eyes.
Lorick swallowed his current mouthful and then cleared his own throat. “Hmmmmph! The crahlun upyrs, you want to hear about them again? It ended sixteen annum ago, when the last one got itself blasted off the crahlun wall! And it raged for a good sixteen annum before that, when it petered out. The forces of the queendom were hard pressed to find enough soldiers and assassins in their many cabals to send west to aid the townships and villages. In fact, even our good sheriffs, the Redglennes, started out as soldiers in that great conflict. Surely you remember how it all started? Come on, Wally. This is basic.”
Wayloch brought his left hand up from his lap and rubbed the lower half of his face. He needed a shave, badly, before he could set off for school. Only a few days left in the season, and he intended to be on time for every one of them, as it was his final annum there. He broke this chain of thought and ably considered the question that his father had posed him. Basic, he thought. Basic…
Starting, he returned his hand to his lap, now aware that the old man had been staring at him as he had drifted far off into thought. Lorick was frowning again.
Wayloch sighed heavily. “I don’t remember, pap. That’s why I’m asking. Please.”
At this, the olde man’s gaze wavered a bit, and he looked downward at the table. “Those were very dark times, son. Many, many killed. Millus after millus. The War of the Tighthes started because the upys were coming out in numbers from their abominable nation, Drackhon, and attempting to soak the villages over the border for anything they could intimidate out of the humaynes there. Currence, cattle, property… they even began making off with actual humayne females to birth their loathsome halfbreed dhampyrs… why, would be anyone’s guess. And it still exists today, son. The War may be over, but the danger is still there.”
Wayloch’s throat seemed to form a lump, as it was suddenly very difficult for him to swallow. He felt beads of perspiration form on his brow, and he more mouthed the words than spoke when he tremulously inquired clarification of what Lorick had just told him.
“Wh-what still exists today, pap?”
Lorick looked up, a gleam in his iryn-grey eyes behind those little dainty spectacles he wore. “Drackhon, son. It’s real and its government intact. Nothing has changed lo these sixteen annum. A truce; nothing more, nothing less. They’re still all over there, plotting revenge on our queendom, no doubt. Why did you think this was a walled city?” It was his turn to sigh, heavily.
Wayloch suddenly jumped to his feet, throwing back the wooden chair and now sweating more heavily. His voice was raised and that unsure, insecure expression had manifested itself in his eyebrows once again, for the first time since the previous nacht.
“For Mangranol’s sweet sake, pap, Drackhon is real? An ENTIRE NATION of upyrs? Of those THINGS?”
Lorick was very patient as Wayloch panted it out for several stoundes, hands balled into fists. He began to make downward motions with his right hand toward the table, motioning for Wayloch to sit down again. As he shakily followed his father’s instructions, settling back down into his chair, Lorick himself got back up and proceeded to the sink next to the iryn stove to draw a pitcher of water and fetch a glass. “Easy now, son. Like I said, I have told you these things many times, but a little cur never really listens, not as an adult would, to really hear. So now you have really heard, and now you really know. About the shadow that has hung over Khlarion the entirety of the time that you’ve been alive. About Drackhon, the nation of vampires.”