Reluctant travels

by Silvestri

“If I wake up in this wretched jail cell one more time, I swear I’ll lose my sanity!” Fanatic grumbled to himself as he struggled to rise from the uncomfortable straw bed. “And that relentless crow—can’t it just leave me in peace for one day? Even in this cell, I can still hear it incessantly cawing outside.”

As he steadied himself by bracing against the coarse stone wall, the sound of a key turning in a lock reached his ears, followed by the creaking of the cell door opening.

“Well, well, I see you’re awake,” announced a man clad in the unmistakable uniform of the city guard. “I am Constable Vort, and I’ve been tasked with sorting you out. Follow me, and we’ll get you something to eat and drink. While you dine, I’ll explain what’s in store for you.”

Constable Vort stepped out of the cell and began walking away, clearly expecting nothing less than full compliance from Fanatic. Unsteady on his legs, Fanatic shuffled after Vort, his gait resembling that of a tipsy reveler.

“This is unusual. Normally, they’d slap me with a fine, throw me behind bars for a few days, or give me a thrashing and then show me the way out,” Fanatic muttered to himself. “They keep threatening me with consequences if I’m brought in again, but they say that every time.”

After a brief, wordless journey, they arrived at a small room. Inside, there were three chairs, a sturdy wooden table, a pitcher of milk, a cup, a loaf of bread, cheese, and some dried fruit.

“Please, have a seat and help yourself to whatever you fancy,” Vort offered, taking a seat himself. “Get comfortable; we might be here for a while.”

“Let’s start with the basics,” Vort said as he produced a piece of paper and a pencil from his pockets. “You go by ‘Fanatic,’ but I assume that’s not your given name?”

Fanatic leaned in, peering at the paper. “It’s a bit of a saga, but according to the customs of my people, Fanatic is my real name. However, I was born with the name Albin Trost.”

Vort continued reading from the paper, listing Fanatic’s supposed transgressions one by one. “Several cases of assault,” he recited.

“Assault? More like honorable combat between warriors,” Fanatic interjected.

“Suspected robbery,” Vort continued.

“Robbery? Whoever wins the honor battle gets to pick a trinket from the defeated, like a prize,” Fanatic explained.

Vort proceeded, “Instances of theft.”

“Well, sometimes they leave the good trinkets at home,” Fanatic replied.

“Ignoring orders from city officials,” Vort continued.

“Those officials just butt in and get angry when you insist on their participation,” Fanatic remarked between bites of bread.

“And you’ve been brought in for public drunkenness on more than one occasion,” Vort concluded.

Fanatic sighed, reaching the end of the list. “Alright, I’ll admit, I didn’t know that was frowned upon. My bad,” he said in a plain tone, “Besides if I’m not supposed to be drunk, why do they sell me drinks?”

Vort leaned forward, his expression becoming more serious. “It appears that since you arrived in Myra, you’ve become a frequent guest at the Guard House, approximately once a week. Now, why don’t you explain to me why that’s the case? My commander is on the verge of recommending we escort you out of the city along with the other miscreants and troublemakers. So, if you’d prefer to extend your stay in Myra, you should do your best to convince me that it’s in our best interest to keep you.”

Fanatic scratched his head, his wild hair standing on end as he contemplated Vort’s stern words. He poured himself a cup of milk, taking a long gulp before attempting to present his case.

“Look, Constable Vort, it might seem like I’m a regular at this place, but I didn’t exactly choose this life. I come from a tribe far up north, on the tundra. We’re not used to city rules and laws. Let alone so many people around every corner…”

Vort raised an eyebrow, prompting Fanatic to continue. “Back home, we settled our disputes with a brawl. If two folks had a problem, they’d settle it in a fight. No hard feelings afterward, just folks showing their mettle.”

Fanatic picked up a piece of cheese and took a bite as he explained further.

“The so-called assaults and robberies? Those are just my ways. The winner of a brawl could claim a trophy from the loser. It’s a small trophy and a reminder of the dispute, not theft.
And ignoring the orders of city officials? Well, they don’t understand our ways, Constable. They’d interrupt our conflict resolution, which means you join in.”

Vort listened attentively, jotting down notes as Fanatic spoke. “I see,” he said, his expression softening slightly, “But you’re in civilized Myra now, not on your ancestral savage tundra. Things are different here. We have rules and laws to maintain order and protect our citizens, not tradition”

Fanatic leaned forward, his eyes earnest. “I get it, Constable. I do. But the truth is, I’m trying to change. I’m trying to adapt to this city life, but it ain’t easy. I’ve got this…calling, you see.”

Vort frowned, puzzled. “A calling? What do you mean?”

Fanatic hesitated, unsure of how to explain. “I’ve been having dreams, Constable. Dreams that led me here, to Myra. A big, annoying raven named Flo guides me in those dreams and when I’m awake. To my people, this is a very serious ordeal…”

Vort’s skepticism was evident. “Guided by a raven? How does that connect to your behavior in the city?”

Fanatic sighed, realizing that convincing Vort would be a daunting task. “I can’t fully explain it yet, but Flo is like a…spiritual guide. It’s like he’s leading me on some kind of journey. I don’t know the destination or the purpose, but I can’t turn my back on it. Believe me, I’ve tried.”

Vort regarded Fanatic thoughtfully, tapping his pencil on the table.

“You certainly present a unique case, Fanatic. I can’t say I have heard someone use a spirit guide as an excuse before… But- if you want to stay in Myra and pursue this calling of yours, you’ll have to make an effort to have that calling fall within the lines of our laws. We can’t have brawls and chaos in the street. Not everyone is as… Battleforged… as you.”

Fanatic nodded vigorously. “I understand, Constable. I’m willing to try. I don’t want to cause trouble, and I don’t want to be thrown out of Myra. I’ve come too far.”

Vort leaned back in his chair, contemplating Fanatic’s words.

“Very well… I’ll… We’ll give you a chance to prove yourself. But know this: if you continue to disrupt the peace of this city, the consequences will be severe. We won’t just lock you up with a ‘slap on the wrist.’ We will kick you out of Myra in its entirety. Do we have an understanding?”

Fanatic extended his cuffed hands across the table, shaking Vort’s hand firmly. “We do, Constable. I’ll do my best to adapt to your ways as you have to mine for the past few weeks.”

Constable Vort and Fanatic continued their conversation, discussing the specifics of what would be expected from Fanatic in his ‘quest’ to fit into the city of Myra. As they wrapped up their conversation, a loud commotion echoed through the guardhouse. Shouts and hurried footsteps approached their room. Constable Vort’s expression changed from one of understanding to one of concern.

“What’s happening?” Fanatic asked, sensing trouble in the air.

Before Vort could respond, the door burst open, revealing a group of City Guardsmen led by a stern-faced officer. “Constable Vort, we have a situation,” the officer declared, his tone urgent.

Vort stood up, his brow furrowed. “What’s going on?”

“There’s been a disturbance at the festival grounds,” the officer explained. “A brawl has broken out, and it’s spreading. We need all available hands to restore order.”

Fanatic’s heart sank. The festival. He had forgotten about it entirely amidst his conversation with Vort. In his dreams Flo had guided him to the festival grounds and now he felt a strong urge to go there.

What started as an annoyance of being detained and interrogated rapidly grew into anger as it looked like this ordeal would keep him from the next step of his mission. He stopped trying to remain calm and let his temper take over.

Without a word, he broke from his chains and dashed out of the room, leaving Vort and the officer behind. He sprinted through the crowded streets, pushing through the festival goers who had come to enjoy the festival and celebrate the Blessing of the Flowers. Confusion surged within him. He did not want another confrontation with the city guards, not now. Especially, after the promise he just made. The consequences could be dire, and he couldn’t let that jeopardize his calling.

Festival goers scattered as the Fanatic reached the brawl and berserked with no noticeable cause. The city guards struggled to contain the mayhem. Fanatic couldn’t resist the urge to join the fray, believing that a good, honest fight could clear things up.

But this time, it was different. The city guards were more prepared, more organized, and more annoyed. They outnumbered the troublemaker, and Fanatic found himself pinned down, unable to break free from their grasp.

Constable Vort and additional officers arrived at the festival grounds, witnessing Fanatic’s predicament. Vort clenched his fists, torn between his earlier decision to give Fanatic a chance and the reality of the situation.

Fanatic’s frustration kept growing, and in a moment of madness, he broke free from the city guard’s grasp, delivering a powerful punch to the officer who had been questioning him earlier. The officer fell to the ground, and Fanatic made a mad dash for freedom.

He sprinted through the festival grounds, his heart pounding. As he fled, he realized he was headed toward an unfamiliar part of the city, guided only by his instinct to escape. The guards gave chase, shouting after him.

Out of breath and desperate to evade capture, Fanatic stumbled upon an old church with a sprawling garden of flowers. Running out of places to go, he burst through the church gates, trampling the flowers as he rushed through them. However, to the berserker’s astonishment, as he glanced back, the crushed flowers quickly died and started to bloom anew, vibrant and alive.

As the city guards closed in, their footsteps grew louder. He had to make a decision quickly. With no other option, he dashed into the church. The guards continued their hot pursuit, but before they were able to apprehend them the berserker screamed out a cry.