Happiness: An agreeable sensation, arising from contemplating the misery of others.
Walter arrives at the inn. His Uncle Obel was busy at the bar, unaware of him as he passes by. With all the hustle and bustle at the inn, Walter hadn’t had a chance to talk to his Uncle like he used to. Aunt Edith was locked away in her room while everybody else was occupied in their work. He barely saw his mother and when he did she would make him sweep the taproom or clean the windows upstairs. He didn’t mind, but it was a lonely job. He almost reached his room when he collided with his mother.
“Walter, I’ve told you many times to watch where you are going,” his mother rapped at him.
“I’m sorry mother.”
“Dinner will be served at seven,” she said, without asking him where he had been, which he wouldn’t have known how to answer if she had. “I have rooms to clean,” and left in a hurry. Walter wondered if she was aware of his absence at all.
He had been away for over six hours and she did not even mentioned it. For days he has been having his lessons at the manor and she hadn’t said a word. She always demanded to know where he was, where he was going and for how long. She expected him to return at the time she had commanded. His sister, Margaret, thought she was being over controlling. Walter couldn’t help, but think about her sometimes. He was starting to wonder who else has not been missing his presence. Uncle Obel would have noticed because he would say so and he hadn’t said a word. Maybe the taproom kept Uncle Obel preoccupied and the constant flow of patrons made his mother forget about him. Then he wondered if Archibal had used any magic on them. He hadn’t noticed it before, but he did now.
It had been two days since Archibal had left to retrieve Cadi from the labyrinth, but he hadn’t heard anything yet. Even if he did, he still had not been able to find the orb. He had looked all over the inn twice and still no orb. Then he remembered he had not checked their unused cottage. He hadn’t been there in a while, but maybe he left it there by mistake.
One early morning he decided to pass by the cottage on his way to meet Alden at the church. Father Clery was away for the week and had left Alden a few chores to do. They wanted to hang out until Alden had to show up at Mr. Boyd’s shop.
When he opened the door of the cottage, the smell of mildew and stagnant air greeted Walter. Everything was as he had last seen it. The curtains were drawn making the place darker and desolated. Walter searched the cottage, but he found no orb. He was happy to leave the cottage. It reminded him of what awaited for him when they returned. He shrugged the thought off. Hopefully it wouldn’t be soon.
Walter walked through the town. People were going about their business. The streets were not paved they were still dirt roads and sodden from the rains. The town had an old charm about it, some of the buildings were almost two hundred years old. The tallest one was two stories high, all boxed together in rows from one corner to another. The homes that stood in between the shops were gated. Walter passed by a few buildings. If he would have taken a right he would have come upon the more polished homes. But, he went straight were he came upon more shops. One of them was Mr. Sullivan’s butcher shop. The brothers were standing outside watching at something on the street. Walter didn’t take notice until he overheard them talking.
“Look ’em fools,” said George, the eldest as he leaned on the wall. “They’re headin to their deaths, that’s what they’re doin.”
“Nothin, that is what they’ll find,” said Thomas the youngest. The Sullivan’s were tall young men, though George was an inch taller than Thomas. They had muscular slim build and had their father’s red hair and brusque manner. They certainly looked like brothers.
Walter had seen brothers that shared no resemblance not even temperaments. Mr. Sullivan wasn’t as bad as he made himself out to be. Walter liked him, though, not everyone shared the feeling. Mr. Sullivan was at times petulant. His sons were the same way too, regardless of their ill temper they were great hunters. The best actually, something they were never pompous about. They took it seriously and expected anyone that hunted to do the same.
Walter had turned to see what the brothers were staring at. A sixteen year old boy holding a pikestaff. He was leading two outsiders straight into the woods, right up the mountain. He had rumors about him, he didn’t know his name, but everyone called him Edward’s boy. He wondered if they even knew his name at all. The boy wasn’t a hunter or at least he didn’t dress like one, but he looked bound and determined to guide the outsiders. The two outsiders were not properly dress for the hike into the mountains. Walter wondered if they were going to last the frigid weather with the flimsy coats they were wearing.
“They must be town folk,” George must have read Walter’s mind. “They are gonna freeze in the mountains in this weather before they get to the light.”
“Indeed they are George,” said Thomas. “They probably won’t make it past the woods. No one ever does.”
“That boy is a bigger fool than those outsiders,” said George.
“I’ve heard ’em outsiders paid that boy well to take ’em to those mountains,” said a friend of theirs as he approached the brothers. He was as tall as they were and odder than them. He always wore black and a faded mantle. His long hair was as black as his eyes. Walter didn’t know his name, but he saw him often with the brothers. He had few words to say to people, but he spoke freely with the brothers. He kept to himself most of the time. He never smiled and had a mean look in his eyes.
“No amount of money we make me get close,” said George. “Not with the witching hours almost upon us.”
“Aye,” agreed Thomas.