Harald's Story

Coming to the Monastery

Harald walked with his head bowed, shading his eyes from the setting sun. He could see his goal in the distance, the small dirt road winding its way towards the monastery door. He had arrived in Garnswick around noon the same day. He managed to get a small cup of water from a merchant to satisfy his parched throat and then found a secluded spot to take a nap until the sun slid down the western half of the sky.

The journey had taken him two and a half days with little sleep and few rests. He had managed to forage for a few berries and nuts along the way, but he was mostly hungry. While waiting for the sun to set, he had toyed with stealing some food. However, remembering the old king's words from two nights ago, he decided it would be a bad idea. Besides, he was almost certain that he could sense the spirits that had been tormenting him nearby. This filled him with fear that any attempt of theft, no matter how small, would be foiled. This would bode poorly for him, as the merchants of Garnswick were a notoriously ruthless bunch. They might not bother outlawing him and simply end his life outright.

Harald took a few moments to collect his thoughts and catch his breath once he had reached the monastery's front door. Once this was done, he braced himself, reached out, and rapped his fist against the door three times. He thought he could hear mutters and the clamor of feet emanating from within the building.

After a minute, the door opened slowly, and a young man with an unusually stoic face appeared stood before Harald. This new figure studied him for a few minutes before speaking in a stern voice that barely veiled the monk's irritation. "The kitchen is closed for the night, and all the brothers have retired to their chambers for evening devotions and rest."

Harald bit back the harsh reply that immediately sought to escape his throat. After a second to recover, he responded in a tone he hoped would imply humility and penitence, "Forgive me, brother. I do not wish to disturb you and your fellow faithful, but I was sent here to speak to the abbot. I was advised to seek his aid at this late hour. If I was ill-advised, I apologize."

"And for what reason do you seek the abbot's counsel?"

Harald took a deep breath and repeated the phrases the spirit had taught him. "I am but a poor pilgrim who has broken troth and now seek to earn it back."

The young man stiffened and fixed Harald with an even sterner glare. After studying the thief for a few moments, he replied, "I will inform the abbot of your request and return to tell you of his answer. In the meantime, please wait here." With that, the monk shut the door tightly. Harald could hear the locking bolt slide back and the monk's footsteps retreating deeper into the building.

The thief stepped to the side of the door and sat on the ground, pulling his legs under him. As he waited for the monk to return, he again pondered the events that led him to this point. He found himself wondering once again where this whirlwind of circumstances would eventually lead him.