Our tale begins on a humid summer morning as Arin Talriso, of Sunnfal, floats away from the city’s dock while baiting a makeshift fishing line with a small grub, and then tosses them into the clouded water.
“Please, catch me some lunch today.” He begs the drowning lure while standing up on the ferry, returning to his poling oar.
The river is unusually swollen for this time of year, due to the unseasonable week of rain prior, and the fast-paced current is not making it easy to move upstream. Arin is eventually forced back to Sunnfal for his mid-day unloading much earlier than anticipated.
When he arrives at the docks, they are much quieter than normal, with few people around that are willing to put up with the wet-heat and risk the deadly undertows at the same time.
“Luck is definitely on my side today, friend. I will take care of the boss early, and then go find some new customers. If no one else is willing to salvage out there they won’t have much else of a choice!” Arin says to an indentured dockhand with a smile, all while unloading the driftwood and timbers.
“Don’t be foolish, bettin yer skin for just uh nuther meal.” The servant jaws back as he carries away the haul toward the markets.
Nevertheless, Arin had made a weighty promise the night before, and already he has begun to dream of obtaining an unforgettable gift for his son’s ninth birthday, which is drawing to an end with every minute wasted. For the last eight years, he has never been able to give the boy anything more than a larger dinner potion and maybe some different colored rags to be made into his next set of clothes. Anytime Arin had extra silvers before they had been spent fixing his family’s home, or secretly lost at the taverns, but this time is going to be different. He is determined to present his son with something truly special and neither fear of death, nor most of all booze, will ruin this opportunity. So now, with the raft totally empty, Arin effortlessly floats downriver in hopes of quickly gathering his remaining orders.
Once the normal amount of lumber is procured for his contracts, Arin scrounges diligently around the perilous shores, bringing in a good amount of extra logs and a few decent stones to be sold. The hefty stack of timbers is dangerously pushing the maximum capacity of the modest watercraft, keeping the man treading across the water at a measured pace.
As Arin finishes his labors, still organizing and roping the heavy surplus, he spies a broad blue canopy atop an exotic merchant canoe that is gradually making its way upstream from the outlying Emerald Bay. It is rare for Sunnfal to have such distant guests, especially ones bearing the azure banner of Pommence, so he takes quite an interest in the outsider’s affairs. From his raft, he can make out two well-dressed crewmembers sitting beneath their sunshade, though only one of them is actually rowing.
“What a journey…they probably have treasures from as far away as Rothlin…” Arin excitedly speaks aloud in admiration and curiosity, believing his good luck to be in full effect, “… I have to make another trip out before sunset, or I’ll never have enough silvers for people like them!”
However, as the words pass through Arin’s’ lips, he witnesses a large, rotten log become dislodged from the flooding bank near the traveling merchants’ canoe, and then smash into the side of the unaware vessel. The sudden impact knocks the hired vanguard on the rear of the boat into the river, along with all of the oars, never to surface again. The final remaining crewmember is sent hurling uncontrollably downstream inside the spiraling watercraft, until finally breaking upon a rock in the center of a rushing rapid. Still clinging desperately to the broken and ensnared boat, the drowning man screams in terror for help as he gradually begins to slip to his demise.
“Dammit!” Arin yells, glancing at the stacks of lumber, searching within his conscience.
With no time to waste he pulls the sashes off his entire payload and kicks it into the cold water, along with his promises and dreams. While the logs roll overboard the raft quickly gains speed, and it easily glides with the current towards the frothy rapids. Once Arin is within range of the crashed boat, he slams his steering pole deep into a crevice between rocks, stopping his raft directly alongside the helpless merchant. Using all of his strength Arin lifts the man onboard, and then roughly ties the broken canoe to the edge of his wooden raft.
After wrenching the sinking canoe free from the razor-like rocks, Arin guides them skillfully and safely through the rapids. He quickly lands on the inundated shore, well downriver from being within sight of Sunnfal.
“We can’t linger here, hurry up and salvage what you can from the boat!” Arin sputters his words with a tone of urgency, but completely exhausted.
“I owe you my life…” The merchant heaves while hastily pulling a few crates and bags onboard.
In a matter of moments, a low growl begins echoing closer from the hazy forest.
“That’s it; we have to cut it loose NOW!” Arin hollers.
Together they crudely tear the sashes and push off from the forest’s edge just in time to see the trees and grass quiver and shake. Neither man dares to look back as the growl turns into a distant shriek, they just continue toiling upstream in silence.
Several hours later, the men reach the stone docks of Sunnfal, both of them gasping for air.
“I am in your debt, kind sir… What is your name?” The merchant breaks the quiet spell as they step off the water, planting their feet on the dry dock.
“Arin, Arin Talriso, and if you have enough goods left to pay this rafts owner for the day, we’ll have to call it even, my unlucky traveler.” Arin replies as he lies down on the dock and points at the approaching fat man, who is sternly reviewing the empty raft with an angry look.
“Forgive my rudeness; I am Maschio Fentella of Pommence. The cost of this raft will never be able to repay what is owed to you, Sir Talriso, but consider it done. He will be paid in full this minute, and I will apologize for the loss of business.” The thankful merchant grovels humbly.
“Well, farewell then Maschio, my family is awaiting their dinner. I pray you can find another vessel to take you safely home.” Arin answers as he rises to head home, greatly wanting to avoid the conflict with his ill-tempered employer.
As the merchant, Maschio, pays off the vendor of the raft, he watches as his savior walks around a corner and disappears without another word. Amazed by the selflessness of Arin’s actions, he returns to the minimal remains of his cargo and claims a long satchel out from the jumbled pile of recovered goods. With the object in hand, he chases after the reluctant hero with a gleam in his eye.
“Wait! Sir Talriso, wait! I have something for you, please!” Maschio catches up to Arin at the corner of a dirt street that has no torch in place to light its pathway. He then places the leather bag in his rescuer’s arms. “Take it, Sir, I beg of you. My reason for coming to Sunnfal was in the showing of this particular item. It’s only proper now that you have it, seeing as how you are the only reason I am here, and alive.”
Arin unties the bag and slides out a magnificent sword, crafted in a style by the likes he had never seen before.
“Impressive, isn’t it? I found the broken handle on the southern shores of Enclost while readying a journey across the Hauldron. The smith in Pommence that I brought the pieces to told me that even though the sword was missing most of the blade, and its scabbard, it was worth as much, if not more than his entire shop. The man had never known a sword could be made in this manner, but he mastered the new technique in a few months and re-forged the relic free of charge! I then took it to a magnificent carpenter who made this brilliant and unique scabbard; they all kept calling it a ‘katana’. Genius, I suppose…”
“This is… amazing.” Arin mutters; stunned by the clean look of the blade as it shines in the moonlight, also by the merchant’s sudden generosity.
“I am pleased that you like it, Sir Talriso, you truly are a worthy man. But don’t let my ramblings keep you from your family though. Good evening Sir.” Maschio leaves the precious gift with his rescuer and departs to the dock, feeling a deep amount of respect for the goodness residing within the hearts’ of the common people of Sunnfal.
Arin rewraps the sword and tucks it away inside his empty pack, unsure what to do. At this time of night, the only open market is on the end of his street, near a wooden storehouse. Once there, he only trades a few stones he has left in his pocket for some stale bread and one score of cheese, and then slowly makes his way home, still thinking only of the expensive would-be gift resting in his haversack.
“I can’t even imagine the look on his face…should I give it to him?” He asks himself quietly before entering the dimly lit house.
Arin beams brightly while swinging the door open and rushing inside. Armon clambers over and chants while climbing up the side of Mt. Father, “What did you bring? What did you bring? Dad you promised!”
Arin cannot hold in the excitement, seeing the young boy’s enthusiasm causes him to make up his mind, and he swiftly begins unfolding the pack.
“It can’t wait until after we eat?” His comforted wife, Elice, wonders with a smile, taking notice of his high anticipation.
“No way!” Arin exclaims while removing the elegant sword from its satchel, and handing it over to the wide-eyed boy.
“Whoa!” The speechless child stares at the weapon resting upon his outstretched hands, unable to fathom the value of such a beautiful object.
“Hold on a minute… What is this?! How much did that thing cost?” Elice stumbles on her words, breathe-taken by the incredible weapon, and yet upset about being left in the dark about the gift at the same time.
Arin relives the crazy day for his family, telling them in detail how he came into possession of the katana, and how much the merchant implied it is worth. His son is in awe of the brave tale, hanging on every gallant word, but Elice is in tears as she listens to her fool’s story.
“Risking your life for a complete stranger? As if you aren’t in enough danger out there, honestly…what would we have done if you were killed? Sometimes I …” She trails off into whimpers and moves over toward the table to start them a meager dinner, keeping back the tears with a forced smile.
“With a sword like this I’ll become a hero just like you Dad!” The energized child proclaims, standing tall and proud.
“I know you will, but first let’s eat before going out and saving the world, aye.” Arin pats his son’s head lovingly and leads him over to the table.
Later that night, as Armon sleeps with the katana clutched in his hands, Elice scolds Arin for not selling the sword right away.
“You know it’s going to crush him now when we have to sell it!” She claims truthfully.
“The boy deserves to have something special… and I will never force him to part with that. We’ll get by, I promise.” Arin states with determination in his voice, trying desperately to protect the child’s gift, along with his pride.
“You can’t keep such a promise… naive man. Good night, Arin.” His wife coldly replies while picking the sleeping boy from the ground and carrying him to the family’s bed in the corner of the room.
Arin spends the rest of his night quietly staring at his sleeping family until the spent candle on the table begins to flicker out. He then slowly climbs onto the crowded bed, leaving the taper to darken and fade away alone.