Harald's Story

A Late Night Repast

Father Delling stood, and Harald made to stand with him. However, the abbot jovially motioned for him to remain seated. "You've traveled far and should take this time to rest. I will have one of the brothers bring food to you here while I see to your sleeping quarters. Please satisfy your hunger and remain here until I return. I shouldn't be gone for long. And when I return, we will discuss this matter further."

"Thank you, Father Abbot," Harald said as he settled back into his seat. "Your hospitality is far more than I have any right to expect."

The abbot thought about these words for a moment before replying. "It's not my place to judge what you can rightfully expect. However, to my mind, that is immaterial, anyway. My order is called to help those who are in need of aid whenever we can. Whether you have any right to expect anything of me, I know what is expected of me because of who I am." Father Delling paused for several seconds as if debating with himself before continuing. "For me, it is a matter of honor, and my choices are made based on what my honor calls for, regardless of my perceptions of the worthiness of those who benefit from those choices. Considering the quest ahead of you is a matter of honor, you might do well to ponder this matter for a season." With that, he stepped into the hallway, closing the study door behind himself.

Harald sat there, pondering the abbot's words as they echoed through his mind. Honor was a concept that the thief - reformed thief, he reminded himself - had not thought about in a long time. Indeed, he wondered when he had last thought about honor.

Honor had been important to his grandfather, or so it would seem to Harald. Harald remembered listening to his grandfather as a small boy. Many of the tales the elderly man would tell involved matters of honor, either the defense of it or the loss of it. The old man would tell Harald tales of his own family's honor which Harald's grandfather had to sacrifice when he was a younger man - the old man never explained how or why this sacrifice was made. And the old man would share his dreams of seeing that honor reclaimed someday. Harald could still hear the old man's words all these years later. "I'll probably never see the day, and I'll probably pass from this earth without honor. But it's not too late for you, boy. Some day, you might find an opportunity to restore yourself and our entire family line to what it once was. And if you find that opportunity, you must take it and make the most of it. It would do an old man proud to know that his grandson found a way to reclaim his rightful place in society." These words always inspired Harald when he was younger.

His father, however, did not share in that vision. He often would refer to Harald's grandfather as a foolish old man. "He's living in the past! We're thieves no, and there's no honor for our kind! Besides, we live a fair life! Will honor put food in your belly, boy? I think not! Better to focus on that. Leave thoughts of honor to old men who can do nothing more than dream and small children who don't know any better." When Harald's grandfather died when Harald was twelve, his father's point of view won out. No one was there to keep reminding Harald about honor.

And yet, here he sat in a monastery, finding himself facing matters of honor again. And this time, they were more than dreams. If anything, it was more like a living nightmare. According to everyone he had talked in the last few days, the matter of his honor had now become a matter of life and death - his own.

His ruminations were broken only slightly when a monk entered quietly bearing a tray laden with breads, cheeses, and fruits. He smiled distractedly at the young man who deposited his burden on the desk, bowed, and quietly left again. Once he was gone, Harald cut a slice of bread and snatched up a handful of grapes to eat as he continued his musings.

He wasn't sure how much of what he had heard various people tell him he could actually believe. The abbot had been right on that count. He didn't normally go in for much of this spirituality stuff. And yet, he could not deny what he had experienced that chilly night with the witch. Nor could he get past the nagging sense that he was constantly being watched. Either these things were real, or he was going mad. And Harald felt he could handle the idea of spirits taking an active interest in his life better than the idea that he was going mad.