Updated: Jun 17, 2022
I wrote this short story as an assignment for my Fiction class Spring of 2021 at Utah Valley University. I always wanted to write a revenge story, but I didn't exactly feel ready to write a novel, or even a novella for it quite yet. So, I wrote this short story set in the very last couple scenes of the book I might one day write.
Also, I'd just like to thank all of my writing friends and associates who helped me workshop this so I could get it to the shape that it's in now. I'm really proud of the work that went into it from both myself as well as the help I received from them.
Original Artwork by Kim Diaz Holm
“Are you listening to me?” the girl said to Hrafn. She waved a hand in front of his eyes. She was young, fair, and clearly unhappy. Not just by the way she was speaking to him, but how her eyes seemed to never look any brighter than the winter-gray clouds outside The Goddess’s Flower brothel.
“Sorry, I… I got distracted,” Hrafn said, looking around the large room that held the
brothel’s clients, most of which were drinking at one of the many round tables, waiting their turn to be taken to one of the back rooms with one of the many women that worked there.
“By one of my co-workers,” guessed the girl, rolling her eyes.
He looked around the room at the women there. Many of them had features that showed they were women, whereas the one before him was no less than a timbre poll. The only curves on her (besides those that her corset helped to create) were those of her heart-shaped face and full lips. Even still, the other options around him were not what distracted him. No, that wasn’t it at all. Hrafn had no interest in whores, at least, not tonight. But would she believe him if he said he was mesmerized by the glowing stones embedded in the ceiling, which illuminated the brothel in a pale, yellow light? Not likely. Instead, Hrafn shrugged and watched as the girl flared her small nostrils, not bothering to hide her indignation.
“Well,” the girl continued, waving her hand as if it meant nothing, “I was saying that for the information you want, you’d have to give me something I want. Our client's information is supposed to be confidential, after all.”
Hrafn nodded and stroked his blond beard; which was once well kempt—trimmed and combed regularly—now bushy with hairs that jutted out this way and that after months of chasing his target to this spot. This final, and desolate place on the map. Whatever she wanted, it didn’t matter to him. So long as it meant he got the information he needed, then he would slit his own wrists for this girl.
“I’ll get you whatever you want,” Hrafn said, keeping his voice low.
“It’s not so much a matter of getting me something,” the girl whispered, leaning over the table, proffering the small amount of cleavage she did have at him, “as it is getting me the hell out of here.”
Hrafn raised an eyebrow. “Passage off Murar—or any part of the Rabbit’s Breath Archipelago for that matter—is… can be difficult,” he said.
“Don’t worry about the money,” the girl said, sitting back in her chair. “All I need is someone to protect me. There are a lot of people who don’t exactly want me to leave this place.”
Hrafn nodded. “I see. And if I agree to do this for you?”
“Then I’ll give you however much information you need on anyone you want.”
Hrafn held out a hand, and the girl reached out, but before she could grasp his forearm, he pulled away slightly. “First, I need you to confirm one name so I know I’m not wasting my time,” he said.
The girl hesitated as she narrowed her eyes at him as if she were trying to decide if he was trying to pull the rug out from under her. Hrafn wouldn’t do that—he had waited too long for this moment, spent too many years searching. If this meant getting this girl to the mainland, then so be it. He placed his hand over the center of the table again, and the girl grasped it, shaking his hand.
“Okay,” she said, smiling the charming, yet seductive smile only a prostitute could, “who do you want to know about?”
“His name is Calder,” Hrafn said.
“Oh. Him.” The girl paused, sucking on her teeth to hide what looked like a sneer. “What do you want with him?”
“Me giving information wasn’t part of the deal,” Hrafn said, crossing his arms over his chest.
The girl smirked, it had turned into a sort of game to her now. Flirtatious in nature, but this time (perhaps the first time in a long while) not for sex. “Fine. He’s here now, actually, waiting for me. I’m his favorite…” She trailed off, as though stopping herself before saying something she didn’t want to admit, while at the same time, pulling hair from behind her ear to hide a bruised cheek Hrafn had only just noticed.
She was his favorite plaything, Hrafn realized.
“What’s your name?” Hrafn asked. He hadn’t meant to ask it. Something so small shouldn’t have mattered. But for whatever reason, something told him that it did and the question just sort of slipped out, and there was no taking it back now.
The girl cocked her head at him as if the question caught him off guard. “Kari,” Kari said, and Hrafn flinched. It was his daughter’s name, and she was the reason he was there, the reason why he had spent the last two decades hunting Calder.
“I’m Hrafn,” Hrafn said. His tone was soft, nearly inaudible, but whether or not Kari had heard him speak, it mattered little to him, and she did not ask him to repeat it. There seemed to be an understanding between them, as though his name was just as important to her as hers was to him. Though, whatever that meaning was only mattered to one’s self and not to the other. So they pressed on.
“Follow me,” Kari said, gesturing with a hand that—to a man on any normal brothel quest—would have found seductive. Hrafn found that, even though he wasn’t following Kari into the back rooms for sex, revenge was just as enticing.
“I’ll take you to him.”
Kari rose, and Hrafn followed her past the many clients awaiting their turn in the back rooms and past the bouncer who stood in front of the door. The muscular man eyed Kari as though wanting to question her, but she paid no mind to him, so neither did Hrafn. Behind that door was a long hallway filled with many doors on either side of him. From behind each one, the stench sex filled the air, and Hrafn shook his head. How many of these girls had been taken when they were too young? How many of them had died by some degenerate who had been too rough? How many of them were like the one in front of him, who would do anything to escape?
“Are you going to kill him?” Kari asked suddenly.
The question came out of nowhere. What did she care if he killed one of her clients? Then he looked at her and saw the bruise she had tried to hide earlier. Of course.
He saw Kari then differently than he had out in the tavern. She was beautiful in the pale yellow light of the hallway, with dark red hair and pale, freckled skin. Her question was about life or death, it was to ask whether or not she was going to have to withstand any more of Calder’s abuse.
When he first set out to Murar, Hrafn had thought that it didn’t matter if he died in the process of avenging his daughter, but now, he knew he had to survive to keep his word and to save someone who could not save herself.
“Yes,” he said in a low, gravely whisper.
“Good,” Kari said, then paused, prodding the bruise on her cheek gently. “He’s five doors down from here. Once you’re done, meet me back here, I’ll make sure we both get out safely.”
Hrafn didn’t say a word as he strode to the place which held the man he had searched for for so long. He counted five doors, then pushed open the door that Kari had indicated with slow deliberation. Hookah vapor poured out into the hall in swirling masses of mist. The man within—sitting naked on a plush, red couch awaiting what he paid for—looked up and glared at Hrafn, obviously annoyed at the fact that the petite red-headed woman he had ordered was not there, but a burly, bearded man instead.. But even through the fog, Hrafn recognized the man murdered his daughter all those years ago.
He entered the room and closed the door behind him, it clicked shut in a fateful whisper that echoed through the room. Calder rose from the cushioned wrap-around lounging bench and opened his mouth, perhaps to ask, “who the fuck are you?” Maybe it was to shout for the bouncer. Hrafn didn’t let Calder have the chance. He punched Calder in the throat, knocking the black-haired man back and clutching at his neck as he coughed. Hrafn grabbed Calder by his shirt and kicked down on the side of his knee, breaking the leg in a sickening crack. Calder’s cries were no more than pathetic wheezes with the damage done to his trachea, but tears welled in his eyes, and nothing could silence those.
Hrafn let go of Calder’s shirt, and the murderer collapsed on the couch. Hrafn leaned over him, bearing his teeth as though he were a bear ready to maul an innocent child simply because they had wandered too close to her cub. Calder’s fist flew up toward Hrafn’s temple, but Hrafn caught it in a closed palm and twisted. Popping in the wrist indicated at least two more bones were broken, and Calder pulled the arm back and to his chest, cradling it.
“Do you know who I am?” Hrafn asked. His tone was more than even. It was emotionless.
Calder shook his head. His eyes full of the fear that only someone who had spent their lives murdering, raping, pillaging, and all sorts of attrocities feared. That one day, their sins would catch up to them. The fear could not be associated with guilt, no that would be too simple. Guilt is a natural feeling, something that had to be forgotten until there was nothing left but a callous so hard that you felt nothing but such base emotions as fear, anger, and lust.
“I guess it doesn’t matter if you know,” Hrafn said, Kneeling straddling the monster who had killed his Kari. “Because I know who you are, and that’s all that matters to me.” Calder threw a punch with left arm—the one that wasn’t broken—and Hrafn swatted it away. In the same moment, Hrafn wrapped his glove-like hands around the creep’s neck and squeezed.
Calder reached up with his right hand again, too week to hit, but just strong enough to claw. His arms were long, lanky, and they easily reached Hrafn’s face. The first scratch wasn’t bad, but even if it had been, Hrafn was not letting go. He had felt the greatest pain any person—whether they be elf or human, male or female—could ever feel.
Hrafn squeezed tighter. Calder clawed more ferociously as his face turned from one color to the next. Hrafn didn’t care what happened to him in that moment. So long as he lived. He didn’t care, either, when Calder managed to plunge a thumb into Hrafn’s left eye and pluck it out. Blood spurted from his face and ran down Calder’s arm. Hrafn didn’t even flinch. He only grit his teeth, letting rage be his guide, and squeezed as hard as he had ever squeezed anything in his entire life. Harder than, even, when all that was left of his daughter was ash and bones and he had clenched what may have been her femur in his fists while tears streamed from his eyes and bellows of pure agony blew from his lungs.
The monster’s eyes bulged from his head now and his arm went limp, falling from Hrafn’s face. Hrafn checked for a pulse. There was none. He looked around him; hookah vapor was still thick in the air, and Hrafn noticed that in their scuffle, they had knocked over the shisha which had—somehow—not shattered. He took deep breaths, inhaling the vapor, allowing the drug—likely hydra plant—to calm him a little. Once his hands stopped shaking, he tore off some of the fabric of Calder's tunic in a strip and tied it around his head to cover his his now-missing eye. Then he stood and turned, turned leaving the dead man in the mist and closed the door behind him. He looked up the corridor, then down it, but Kari wasn’t there yet. So, he leaned his back against the wall and breathed slowly, meditating on what had just transpired. It was over, but the relief, the sense of accomplishment or feeling of peace that he had hoped—no expected. He had expected relief. And it did not come.
He closed his eyes and thought back, reaching for happier memories of his daughter. Ones before her death, but it had been so long since he had let them intrude on his mind, so consumed by vengeance, was he. And now, the only memories that came were those of him finding not but her bones in a pile of ash after Calder and his group of marauders had ransacked his entire village during the Two Empires War.
Tears streamed down his cheeks, then disappeared into the forest that was his beard when suddenly, there was a small hand, soft, and delicately stroking the side of his face. His eyes snapped open to see Kari (the whore, not his daughter) standing there with a heavy winter cloak and travel sack slung over her shoulder, wiping away his tears.
“It’s okay,” she whispered. Her emerald-green eyes—staring up into his—were shimmering and full of empathy. “It’s going to be okay.”
And, somehow, Hrafn knew it was or that, at least someday, it may be.