Hralf and the Thief of Tarts

Another tale of Hralf. If you’ve not met Hralf, start with the first Hralf story “Hralf, Hewer of Sagas.”  The full set is listed under Short Fiction, above.

You wish to speak to me about Hralf. May I ask why?

Truly? How very odd. Very well, ask your questions.

I see that Sarvalur has been telling tales. But I suppose there is no harm in speaking of it.

Sarvalur, Hralf, and I were employed for many years by Bounty Snare in Clutterback City. Clients contracted with Bounty Snare to retrieve a variety of ancient and magical items, and we were one of the reclamation teams sent to do the retrieval. Hralf provided muscle and intimidation whenever it was required; and I assure you, a lion-man finds it easy to be intimidating.
At that time we were often called upon to retrieve items for His Eminence the—but no matter. His name is not important.

Oh.

Yes, Sarvalur probably did refer to him as His Feculence. He often spoke of our clients in such terms, but in this case the title is undeserved, for His Eminence was rarely difficult and we were paid quite well.

On this occasion I received the usual note, and Hralf, Sarvalur and I gathered in Master Halidom’s office for our instructions.
“It’s another job for His Eminence, boys,” he said. “But there’s a catch.”

“A catch,” said Sarvalur. “Tell us about this catch.”
“His Eminence thinks you might need help, and he has chosen to provide it. If you think you can work with his agent, well and good.” He gave us a hard look. “And if not, the Snare stands to lose his account, kovaleh?

The look made it clear that we were to learn to work with His Eminence’s agent. His Eminence was one of Bounty Snare’s few clients who was willing to pay on a cost-plus-fixed-fee basis, nor was he inclined to question the cost—provided that we retrieved the target. Such clients are vanishingly rare.

“Very well,” I said, and Sarvalur nodded. Hralf said nothing, as usual.

Master Halidom rang a small brass bell that stood on his desk. His assistant, Mistress Svenka, appeared at the door.

“Yes, Master Halidom?”

“You can show her in now.”

“Yes, Master Halidom.”

I studied our employer’s face as we waited. He seemed somewhat apprehensive, which was unusual.

And then, of course, Mistress Svenka returned with her.

“Boys, I’d like you to meet—formally, as it were—Mistress Katia e’Cheni.” His eyes flicked to Hralf, while Sarvalur and I stared at our new team member.

“You!” said Sarvalur. Sarvalur might tell you that his eyes were popping out of his skull, but truly they just widened a bit.
His Eminence’s agent was tall, about my height, and clad in a leather vest and trousers. The fur of her face and ears and arms was a rich reddish gold, marked with black spots and streaks.
She stood in the doorway, hip cocked.

“Hello, boys. You have missed me, yes?” she said, and smiled a sly smile I knew all too well though I’d never been quite so close to it.

I looked at Hralf. His eyes were wide, and his mane was standing up; but he seemed frozen in place.

Mistress e’Cheni came to stand at Master Halidom’s side. I would say she walked, but that is not the right word. Mistress e’Cheni had a way of moving effortlessly and silently from place to place that, when she chose, was impossible to ignore.
And when she chose otherwise, you would not see her until it was too late.

“What fun we shall have, no?” she said, and smirked at Hralf. He made a hoarse noise, like a cough, and bolted from the room. We all watched him go; and Mistress e’Cheni looked down and smiled at her claws.

Master Halidom looked from me to Sarvalur and back to me.

“So there’ll be no problems, then?”

I looked at Sarvalur, who shrugged.

“No, sir,” I said.

“Excellent. Keep it that way, kovaleh?
Kovaleh,” we said.

“Excellent.”

“So what’s the target?” said Sarvalur.

“An item belonging to His Eminence has been stolen. He wants it back.”

Sarvalur raised an eyebrow. “Stealing from him, that’s a dangerous occupation. Was it a burglary of opportunity, or was the thief after this specific item?”

“The item itself.”

“So there’s another collector involved,” I said.

Master Halidom nodded.

“That’s a bit out of our usual range,” said Sarvalur. “Manticores, yes, enchantments, yes, ancient undead pirate liches, yes, but nobody cares what happens to them. Collectors, though, they tend to have friends in high places. How much blow-back might we get from this?”

Master Halidom mentioned a figure. “Each,” he said. “His Eminence has a personal stake in this one.”

Sarvalur looked at me. I nodded. “That is quite an inducement,” said Sarvalur. “Do we know who it was?”

“Oh, yes. Mistress e’Cheni will fill you in on the details.”

“Any conditions?” I asked.

“Try not to get caught,” said Master Halidom. “Everyone who matters will know that His Eminence has taken the required steps, but he would prefer that the details remain dark.” As he finished he looked pointedly at the door.

“Yes, sir,” I said. Sarvalur gestured Mistress e’Cheni out of the room with an elegant sweep of his arm, and the three of us went in search of Hralf.

“Katia, is it?” said Sarvalur as we stepped out into the street. “Nice to put a name with the face. I was tired of calling you ‘that cheetah who made us look silly that one time.'”

“You do remember me,” she said. Her eyes gleamed wickedly.

“It would be hard not to,” I said. “I trust we’ll have no difficulties with our livestock on this outing?”

She winked at me. That was a no, I thought, unless one counted Hralf as livestock.

“So, you’re a thief, I’m guessing?” said Sarvalur.

“You say the sweetest things to me,” she said.

“Do you need to make any preparations, Mistress e’Cheni?” I asked.

“Call me Katia,” she said. “No, I am quite ready.” She indicated the small pack she had retrieved as we left the office.

“So all we need now is Hralf.”

“He will find us,” I said. “Give him time.” So Sarvalur led us to the Cluttered Cellar, where we sat drinking Brandywort’s ale and chatting about the mission.

“So you’ve been working for His Fec—His Eminence for some time, I guess,” said my partner. “Can you tell us about this item we’re supposed to recover?”

Katia nodded. “Indeed. We are seeking the Tarts of Norstrilia, the prize of my master’s collection. They were stolen from his strong room a month past.”

“I would guess that the protections on his strong room are powerful and well maintained.”

“To be sure,” she said. “I could find my way past them, I think, but others?” She blew a kiss goodbye. “I should have found it of all things the most unlikely.”

“But it happened.”

“As you say.”

“Tarts?” said Sarvalur. “What are they really, when they’re at home?”

“Tarts.” she said. “It is true. They are tarts, made an age ago and preserved until this day.”

“What is so special about them?” I asked.

“It is said that the filling was made of the Golden Peaches of the Norstrilides.”

“And have they any special properties?”

Sarvalur made a face. “And haven’t they, ah, gone off by now?”

“They have no special powers,” she said, “not that have been mentioned to me. But they are kept in an enchanted reliquary.” She sketched out the shape of an oblong container with her hands. “It is said,” and here she looked us each in the eye, and her voice grew softer and deeper, “that within the reliquary they are, in fact, still warm.”

“And do you know this for a fact?” said Sarvalur, frowning.
“Have you, ah—”

She shrugged. “I am curious, me. I am not in need of death.”
We sat in silence for a moment, considering this while we drank our ale.

“Sarvalur,” I said, “keep your fingers out of the reliquary.”

He pursed his lips and nodded. “Yeah. I’ll do that.”

I turned back to Katia. “Who knew he had them?”

“Not many. He acquired them many years ago, when he was still unknown as a collector, and he has kept them secret. But it is no matter. He knows who took them: his chief rival, the Earl of Manky.”

“How did he find out? Did he capture the thief?”

“No. But three days ago he received from the earl a small box of crumbs. My master, he was not happy.”

Sarvalur frowned. “And where does his Mankiness live when he’s at home?”

“To the east, in the City of Samarkosh. It is said that he is of the line of the Bakers of Samarkosh, and his many-times ancestor was the one who baked the tarts.”

“Ah. So, I presume His Eminence acquired the tarts from the Earl to begin with?”

“Oh, yes. In a manner of speaking.”

“I’ve never been to Samarkosh,” said Sarvalur. He looked at me.

“I have, once,” I said. “It was long ago, in my youth.”

“Nice place?”

“Old,” I said. “Poorly maintained. The pastries were good, though.”

“So,” said Sarvalur to Katia, “We go to Samarkosh, you and I figure out how to re-acquire the tarts, and Palantir and Hralf make sure the bad guys don’t follow us home. Got it.”

Katia looked questioningly at my partner. “And do you think
you are skilled in such things?”

“It’s more my cousin’s line of work, but I can get by.” He shrugged. “I’ll follow your lead; you’re the expert.”

Hralf still hadn’t joined us; I was beginning to be worried. I beckoned to Brandywort, who left the bar and joined us.

“Have you seen Hralf in the last hour?” I asked.

“Oh, him? He’s been here since before you came in.” Brandywort glanced behind me.

I turned, and indeed, there he was, sitting in the darkest corner of the room. He had a massive leather jack in front of him. Brandywort had had it specially made, to save wear and tear on his help.

Hralf looked up, catching my eye, and then turned his head away.

I grimaced. “I was afraid of this.” I started to rise.

But Katia sprang to her feet.

“No, no,” said Katia, “you will allow me, no?” All eyes were upon her as she swayed slowly to Hralf’s side and whispered something in his ear, one hand on his shoulder.

It seemed to be in the nature of a threat, for his eyes widened and he looked at her in horror. She batted her eyelashes, and he gulped and made for the door. As he passed our table he muttered, “My things I must fetch, the foray to follow.”

Katia rejoined us, a pleased look on her face. “And you too must fetch your things, no?

“So we must,” I said.

You want to know why Hralf reacted so strongly?

Oh, come now. Surely Sarvalur explained it to you.

He embellishes? Yes, Sarvalur does do that. Fair enough.

Hralf, as you doubtless already know, is from a tribe of lionfolk that lived in the veldts of the Far South. A plague took them, leaving only Hralf to tell the tale. He came north after that. And Katia’s people, they lived nearby. The two tribes were rivals—bitter enemies, in fact. You should already know all of this. If you’ve heard any of Hralf’s sagas, you’ll have heard them mentioned frequently.

But when we ran into Katia on our first mission for His Eminence, it was clear she found Hralf tremendously attractive. Hralf, for his part, was…conflicted.

What happened next? That’s the story I am trying to tell you.

Not at all.

I will not dwell on the details of our journey to Samarkosh. It was all on the main trade route to the east, a heavily traveled way; there were no wild beasts to speak of, and armed as we were, and accompanied by Hralf, the thieves left us alone.
Well, except for Katia, who alternated between maintaining a running commentary on everyone we passed and tormenting Hralf.

She had a singularly easy time of the latter. Hralf walked ahead of us, so as to avoid our dust; and every so often she would ride up beside him and make some comment or other in that screechy tongue they shared. And he would look down, or away, or he would begin to walk faster. Fruitlessly, as Katia was on horseback and had no trouble keeping up with him. Just once she spoke to him in Common, casting an eye back at us over her shoulder.

“You would like to read me one of your sagas, yes?” she said loudly.

“No,” he said to the dusty road.

Sarvalur and I looked at each other. That was not an answer we had ever heard before.

“Surely you are not ashamed of your people?” said Katia in the same loud voice.

“NO!” said Hralf, in what was very nearly a roar.

“Then it must be my people for whom you have no respect,” she said, coldly. “Very well.” And with that, her back straight and rigid, she allowed her horse to drop back even with ours.

“And now we shall see,” she said softly, with a wink at Sarvalur.

We rode into Samarkosh later that day, and found rooms at an inn near the north gate. Hralf was still quiet and withdrawn, and that evening—

Well, it was like this.

We were sitting in a corner of the common room, having our evening meal, when one of the local toughs came in. He looked around for likely victims, and within moments his gaze lit on Katia. She does tend to stand out. He nodded to himself, and came over and put a hand on her shoulder, and said, “Hey, Kitten, why don’t you come and spend an hour with a real man instead of these plug-uglies.” He was a brawny fellow, with a wide mustache and curly hair, and a face he was probably too proud of.

Hralf began to rise, and Katia pointed a claw at him.

“No!” she said. “You sit.”

Have I mentioned how quick Katia is? There was a blur of tawny-spotted motion and Katia was on her feet, poised in front of the tough with one hand held lightly over his nose and mouth and the other behind his back, holding him close. Her claws were all extended—I could see the dimples they made on his cheeks.

The fellow seemed stunned. So was everyone else in the common room.

“You are attached to your face, I think?” she said.

He began to nod, and stopped abruptly.

“Do you wish to remain so?”

“Uh, yes. Yes, I do.”

“I see. And your ears? You would perhaps wish to keep them as well?”

“Yes—”

“And also your—”

His eyes grew wider and wider. “I’m sorry, I’ll just be going—”

“No!”

“What are you going to do to me?”

“Me?” Katia looked surprised. “I will do nothing at all.”

Without moving her claws, Katia turned her head and looked at Hralf.

“Now,” she said, “you may rise.”

And Hralf did.

Hralf is not quite eight feet tall; I have never seen an inn where he didn’t have to stoop. He was on the far side of the table from Katia’s victim, and bent over the table as he was he was already looming over him.

Hralf snarled once. Katia retracted her claws. And the fellow was out the door.

Katia turned to Hralf and smiled. “Thank you,” she said.
Hralf froze, head knocking against the joists. Slowly he sank back down into his seat, looking very much like our guest had when he felt Katia’s claws.

“I believe I shall retire now,” she said, and swayed her way across the room and up the stairs. We all watched her go.

“Hralf,” said Sarvalur, “We all know you’re attracted to her, and if we had had any doubts you’ve just destroyed them. Don’t you think you should try to get used to it?”

Hralf looked down at him—he could hardly do anything else—and his face hardened.

“BLOOD AND BONES BROKEN!” he roared, leaping to his feet.
The crowd, which had started to relax, tensed up again. Two people ran for the door; several more looked ready to slide under their tables. But there was no brawl, not as such.

Instead, Hralf strode heavily around our table to Sarvalur’s side, yanked him from his seat by the scruff of the neck, and held him dangling at arms length. There was a lantern close by us, hooked to an iron bracket on one of the posts that supported the ceiling; and handing the lantern to me, Hralf carefully affixed Sarvalur in its place, hanging him there by the collar of his fine coat.

Hralf looked around the room.

“Remain there he shall until my return! Or shambles there shall be, my anger appeasing!”

And with that he stalked out into the night.

I watched him leave, and then looked up at Sarvalur, hanging by his armpits with his nose sticking out just over the top button of his coat.

“It was worth a try,” I said. Then I shrugged, raised my tankard to him, drained it, and went to bed.

We rose early the next morning. I don’t know when Hralf took Sarvalur down from his bracket, but he was in sitting up when I awoke. He was moving rather stiffly, though.

Our first order of business was to investigate the Earl of Manky’s residence and its surroundings, preferably without being noticed. Katia and Sarvalur would take a look at the grounds themselves; I would explore the area around it. Hralf we left at the inn, as he was far too likely to attract unwanted attention by his mere presence.

Wouldn’t Katia also draw unwanted attention?

No. By definition, no, absolutely not. If Katia doesn’t want attention, she doesn’t attract any.

The residence, Yeastwood, was an old pile on the north side of town. There was a wall around it, with a gate and spikes on top, and over the gate a plaster coat of arms consisting of two rolling pins, crossed, with small baked goods in the angles, and a motto that translated as “A Dozen and One Blows.” The Earls of Manky did not wish to be trifled with.

I finished my survey of the maze of streets surrounding the residence, and returned to the inn where I spent the afternoon reading. I found Hralf chiseling away at a stone tablet, his usual occupation when he had downtime.

He seemed to be having some trouble with it. When the work is going well he hums softly, but that day he spent much of his time chewing on the tip of his magically-silenced chisel. At last he carved the last few words. He heaved a huge sigh, put the tablet and his tools in the sack he always wore on his hip, and went downstairs to the common room for some ale. I followed along behind.

Our rogues joined us an hour or so later.

“Well,” I said. “What do you think?”

“Tricky,” said Sarvalur. “And that’s just the outside.”

“There are spells all round the grounds, yes?” said Katia.

“And guards everywhere,” said Sarvalur. He pursed his lips. “I begin to think he knows we’re coming.”

“How could he not?” I said, to nods all around. “How do you want to handle it?”

“I do not know yet,” said Katia. “Much changes after dark.”

“But I don’t think a frontal assault is called for,” said Sarvalur. “We’ll need to be sneaky.”

Katia raised her chin and smiled broadly.

Hralf had been sitting nervously through all this, which is to say he’d been sitting quite still with his mane fluffed up. Now he extracted the day’s tablet from his sack and extended it quietly to Katia.

She held it in front of her, her lips pursed and her head cocked to the side, as she read the first lines. Then she shot Hralf a critical look.

“What kind of thing is this?” she said. “‘Her spots so seductive, her whiskers so winsome.’ Do you think that I am some kind of plaything? A lovely maiden whose head is to be turned by pretty words?”

Sarvalur shot me a glance, but wisely chose to say nothing.

Katia shook her head. “No!” she barked. “I am a master hunter of the e’Cheni, me, sly and crafty. Once I stalked my prey on the veldt, and took them all unknowing; now I move unseen through the mansions of men, and all their belongings are my prey.”
She tossed the tablet onto the scarred table with a loud thunk.

“You must do better,” she said.

Hralf’s face fell. He took the tablet and placed it in his sack without even checking it for damage; and then he went silently to the stairs, shoulders slumped.

Katia watched him go, and smiled softly.

“He will do better tomorrow.” she said. “Much, much better.”

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” asked Sarvalur. “We’re rather attached to Hralf; I don’t want you to break him.”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “The lion-folk are easily managed, you see? And they are not at all breakable.”

I shook my head, and called for another round.

Katia and Sarvalur set out for the night’s work immediately after supper. Sarvalur winked at me as he left.

“Feel free to wait up,” he said.

I sat in the common room for a while, nursing an ale, and then went up to our room where I watched Hralf carve yet another tablet until Sarvalur returned several hours later.

“It’s all good,” he said. “We can talk about it in the morning.”

“It is morning,” I said.

“When it’s more morning, then.”

And when it was more morning and we had eaten something,

Sarvalur laid it out for us.

“Night time is no-go,” he said. “There are guards with torches all along the top of the wall, and there are watch-things all over the grounds, twenty or thirty of them. I’d hate to have His Mankiness’ bill for thing-fodder.”

“Not good,” I said. “But is daytime any better?”

“I think so, if we time it right.”

“Guards are less watchful when the master is away,” said Katia. “And are often sleepy in the early afternoon.”

“So you’ll keep watch on the place today, and we’ll move tomorrow?”

“That’s the idea.”

Katia began to get up from the table, but Hralf rumbled softly and extended the tablet he’d carved the night before. Katia sat and looked it over.

“‘Speedy and sly, she moves as by magic,’ she read. “‘Her prey is perplexed, no refuge remains.'” She cocked her head. “That is better, I think, but not what I am wanting. I am already acquainted with my own talents.” She gave Hralf a considering look. “There is no time now. We will speak tonight.”

And off they went, leaving Hralf gazing forlornly after her.

It was a long day. Hralf sat in our room, dejected and hopeful at the same time; and for once he did no carving, for Katia had left him without inspiration. It was painful to watch, and so I spent much of the day wandering about the city sampling tidbits from one bakery or another. They truly were excellent.

And so it went until we gathered for supper in the evening.

“We’ve got it,” said Sarvalur. “The guards do look sleepier in the afternoon, but it doesn’t matter. His Mankiness has a significant interest in the Samarkosh Baking Works. I made some discreet inquiries, and he goes there in his carriage every morning without fail, just to keep an eye on the bakers and make sure everything is done properly.”

“I suppose the bakers find that annoying?”

“I should say so; they wouldn’t half shut up about it.”

“And while he’s gone?”

“The guard is cut in half,” said Katia. “He is more concerned about his skin than his residence. And the watch-things are kenneled at dawn.”

“Tomorrow, then?”

“Tomorrow,” they said.

We spent the next hour working out the details and contingencies, and most particularly their line of retreat and precisely where along it Hralf and I would be waiting.

And then Katia turned to Hralf, who sat up straight.

“You would like to read me one of your sagas, yes?” she said.
He froze, and by this time I’d figured out why. Hralf’s sagas tend to be full of descriptions of how vile and wicked the cheetahs are, and typically end with the cheetahs getting slaughtered wholesale. No surprise that he’d feel uncomfortable.

“I feel sure that you would,” she continued. “I think that you would like to read me this one.” And she reached into a tiny pouch on her belt and extracted, I have no idea how, one of Hralf’s tablets.

And this time, Hralf’s eyes nearly did pop out of his skull. His hand went to the sack on his hip as he looked from Katia’s face to the tablet and back again.

No, I don’t know how or when she acquired it. She had her own room, and elves are light sleepers; I’d have noticed if she’d come in while we were sleeping.

I think I would have noticed.

She handed the tablet to Hralf and folded her hands on the table.
“You will read now,” she said.

He cringed, and raised a finger, mouth open, as if to ask a question, but she just stared at him. He closed his mouth, and gulped, and began to read softly in his own tongue.

“No, no,” said Katia. “That is most rude. You must translate for your partners.”

He sighed, and nodded, and began to read it in Common.

It was one we’d heard before, of course, about the Horn of the Rolling Veldt, a drinking horn that a tribe of cheetahs had stolen from Hralf’s forebears as they slept off the results of a major feast. Hralf’s people had overtaken them the next day and slaughtered them all, so the saga goes.

Hralf read it through, giving Katia fearful looks with each hard word, and when he reached the slaughter at the end his voice grew so soft it could hardly be heard. Katia maintained a calm demeanor throughout, her face blank.

When he finished he put the tablet gently on the table and looked at her like he expected to be whipped.

Katia cocked her head.

“At last you begin to show some proper respect for my people,” she said. “But the story, it is not quite right.”

Hralf frowned. “So the tale was told, at the knee of mine aunties! Honest and honorable, to lie would be low!”

Katia nodded, “Of course, your people would say that; it is of all things the most likely. But I had the story at my great-grandmother’s knee, and she from hers; and it was her great-grandmother, Felice e’Cheni, who led the raid to steal the Horn. Oh, I heard of it many times, how Felice found your people lying about their camp, too drunk to know anything, and how she tied their ankles together with cords so that they would fall over when they tried to get up. It was most entertaining, to hear how she drew a mustache on your chief’s face with ash from the fire!”

Hralf gaped at her. “But your people all perished, no tales to tell!”

“My ancestress was not so foolish as all that. Did she not blaze a trail even a drunken pride of lions could follow? And did she not lead them to the camp of our ancient enemies, the e’Chata, and place the Horn by the side of their leader before vanishing into the night?”

Hralf’s mouth opened and closed. He looked as though he’d taken a warhammer to the solar plexus.

“And now we must sleep, to be ready for tomorrow.” She paused, and put a hand on his, where it lay on the tablet. “Thank you for your reading. You will need to rewrite it now, yes?” She smiled warmly, and was gone.

We made our move the following morning, as planned. Hralf and I took up our positions in an alley that led away from the back side of the residence, and waited patiently; and when our pair of rogues returned—

No, I don’t intend to describe what went on inside the residence. I wasn’t there, and besides it’s irrelevant. You asked about Hralf and Katia, and that’s the story I’m telling. You want more, go find Katia yourself.

No, I don’t want to see the scar she gave you.

As I was saying, we were waiting patiently when we heard rapidly approaching footsteps. Katia came around the corner, running swiftly and silently, and behind her came a trio of the Earl’s guards, short swords out. It was the sound of their hobnail boots on the cobbles that we had heard.

Hralf leaped from his spot as Katia ran past, spreading his arms and seeming to fill the width of the alley all by himself, and roared. It was not his usual roar; it was much louder, and the leading guard, shocked, slipped on some rubbish and tumbled into a puddle, taking his followers down with him.

Katia whirled on Hralf.

“What is this?” she cried. “Do you think I am some weak human maiden that I need your help to deal with such as these?”

Hralf’s head turned so rapidly I thought he might have hurt himself, and he stared at her in outrage, his whole body swelling with each breath. His hands formed two fists and his biceps swelled, and speechless he turned to her and leaning forward roared at her even louder than he had roared at the guards.

“Ah,” she said, putting a hand to her cocked hip. “It is like that, is it?”

His eyes burned.

She nodded. “Very well. Please continue.”

Hralf turned back to the guards, mane swirling, to discover that they had turned around and were heading the other way at speed. Katia watched fondly as he vanished around the corner after them.

“My mother taught me that a man likes to be needed,” she said to me.

“I suppose he does,” I said.

There came a variety of noises, including much crashing of metal; and presently Hralf appeared again, still breathing deeply.

He nodded at Katia, and she at him; and when he joined us she gave him a warm embrace.

We met up with Sarvalur and the reliquary of tarts at the edge of town, as planned, and had a quiet ride back to Clutterback City. Katia rode next to Hralf the entire way, and when we gave the reliquary to Master Halidom, she said, “I think I will insist on being assigned to work with Hralf from now on. Please send word to my master.” Hralf took it calmly, so calmly I think it must have been no surprise.

And that was that. Hralf and Katia were a pair ever after.

No, I don’t have any further details for you. If you want more, feel free to ask Sarvalur; I’m sure he’ll have no trouble embellishing some for you.

____

Photo by Nathalie Jolie on Unsplash

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