The Tale of Henry Divor
By Anthony Passalacqua
The night had fast arrived, cloaking everything in it’s suffocating blanket of darkness. Looking up to the obsidian sky, Henry Divor could not even see the winking of a single star through the thick cushion of clouds. Pulling tightly at the hooded cloak wrapped about his neck, Henry scanned his surroundings, hoping to find a place to stay for the night. In the near distance a small flicking of light caught his attention and Henry could make out the outline of a farm house.
Grunting to himself, Henry strode toward the farm. To him, each step was an annoyance. He was accustomed to so much more luxury than he currently endured. Through a series of bad decisions he had wasted his great wealth down to absolutely nothing. The days of his greatest indignity of having been to wear the same coat twice in the same month was over. Now he had nothing more than the clothing on his back and the angry memories he wished he could erase. The lap of luxury had been soft and warming, but he was tossed down to the floor like an unwanted child without a second thought. Everyone had turned their backs on him, and so he was even without friends.
Taking another deep sigh, Henry felt something touch his cheek as he quickly moved toward that small beacon of light. A breeze as brisk as the deep winter blew about him and hundreds of snowflakes began to kiss his flesh. Henry quickened his step towards the farm house as the goddess Skadi attempted to wrap him into her frozen embrace. Each snowflake looked like a small star falling from the sky as it amplified what dim amount of light there was. The beauty of the scene would not have been lost to Henry if he wasn’t worried for his own life.
Just when he felt as though his legs would take him no further and the bony hand of death rest on his shoulder, Henry reached the door to the farm house. With three raps Henry notified the owner of his presence. Inside, he could hear a series of muted voices, almost as though from the realm of the dead, spoke to each other before he could hear a series of footsteps approach the door.
With a high pitched whine the door swung open very slowly to reveal a man of many seasons staring at Henry. Behind the seasoned man was a woman of equal state and three young children sitting about a table near a kitchen fire.
“Speak your business, traveler,” the man spoke to Henry, eying him up and down with caution.
“Please, sir, I beseech you, let me enter if just for the night. I am being braced up by death itself and I fear he shall take me in this weather,” Henry replied to the man through frozen lips and chattering teeth.
“I have only the floor to offer you, stranger, but you are welcome…under one condition,” the man informed Henry and opened the door slightly more on it’s crying hinges.
“I do not have much, but anything I can do I shall! Please, speak your price and allow me to stave off death!” Henry pleaded with the man, gripping the door frame with fingers so cold he could no longer feel them.
“I wish for only but a story told to me and mine. We are in dire need of a new one, and my children do enjoy them so,” the man said with a smile, believing his price was more than fair, especially to a desperate man in a snow storm.
“But I…” Henry gasped, holding a frozen hand to his chest with gruff, “But I have no stories to tell! I am nothing more than a man fallen from the lap of privileged. For I have never traveled far from home beside this night…I cannot pay your price. I will not and cannot pay!”
With a snort, the man closed the door more so once again, “I ask only for a story and you cannot even provide that. Even one so made up you refuse, so you will find no sanctuary here!”
Before Henry could speak, the man shut the door with such ferocity that it roared closed loudly even in the howling winds. Pulling the cloak as tightly about him as he could, Henry staggered away from the door and looked around for even a large tree in hopes to bed down behind. A moment of clarity in the storm allowed Henry to spy a large barn not far from the house. With little other option left, Henry began his labored trip to it’s doors.
A deep, bellowing moan came from the large barn door opened it’s gaping maw to allow Henry to enter. Closing the portal behind him, Henry found a small lantern, flint, and a steel knife. Lighting the lantern with his frost cursed hands, he inventoried his surroundings. The barn contained no animals, but had an uncountable amount of hay, some piled high, and a plethora of boxes undoubtedly housing tools or other feed. Walking as far back as he could access, Henry blew out the lantern and lay deep in the hay, where the the wind became his lullaby and he slept.
Henry did not know how long he slept, but he was now feeling much better and did not feel the Grim Reaper tapping his foot, counting down to the harvest. The winds outside no longer sang their tune of bitterness come and through a separation in the barn construction, Henry could almost make out the stars.
Suddenly he became of what had woken him from the tender cuddle of sleep: A series of voices rapidly approaching the barn. Like a prairie dog alerted to the incoming dangers, Henry buried himself into the stack of hay he was using as a bed.
Preceded by a series of laughs, the barn door swing open almost silently and with the speed of the wind. Quickly catching his breath in his throat, Henry did not see the farm owner nor his family. Instead, three giants stomped into the middle of the barn, trembling the ground as they walked. The largest of the giants would rival the old Titans in physique and had a long, white beard. The second of the giants had fiery red hair, a hooked nose, and was very skinny. The third giant, short as he may have been was still four heads taller than Henry, was chubby and was dragging a long white sack behind him.
“I told you this place would be useful,” the second of the giants spoke with a booming voice.
“Yes, it will suit our purpose for this night,” the largest of the giants spoke with a rich baritone, “Let us build the fire here.”
Dropping the white sack, the third of the giants began to help them build a pile of wood and hay in the middle of the barn.
“This one will taste delicious!” the smallest of the giants stated, wiping some drool from his chin.
“Yes, we were lucky to find him wandering about at such a night!” the largest of the giants said with a chuckle, slapping the smallest of the giants on the shoulder.
Deep fear pierced Henry’s entire being when he came to the understanding the contents of the sack were that of another human being. With the tightness of a noose, his throat closed, preventing him from swallowing even the smallest of droplets. Coughing, Henry quickly covered his mouth and gasped aloud, knowing that his hiding place would soon be discovered. All three giants turned and looked into his position and began their large strides to his sanctuary. The largest of the giants reached down into the hay, and with one hand lifted Henry into the air.
“This of you I do beg! Please, spare my life and I shall be forever in your debt! For not a soul I shall speak of this to!” Henry pleaded with widened eyes as he kicked about in the air.
“What is your name, puny man?” the largest of the giants questioned, bringing Henry ever closer into his face. The odor of breath from the giant was nearly unbearable to Henry and he gagged slightly at the pungent smell.
“Henry…Henry Divor!” Henry gave a muffled shout through his hands as he covered his nose and mouth.
The largest giant tossed Henry to the ground as though he were a sack of potatoes. Scurrying to get up, Henry looked over to see the body, still wrapped up, not more than an arm’s reach away.
“Well then, Henry, Henry Divor. Do our bidding and we will let you live. String this body and hoist it into the air, then build a fire and help us cook it, or else it will be your body next we be cooking!” the largest of the giants ordered.
Unable to speak and in dire fear for his life, Henry began to do as he was ordered. Quickly he tied a rope about the body and through it over the rafters. With the speed unmatched in his life, Henry then built a large hay pile in order to start the fire. Grunting to one another, the giants gave a nod and then headed out of the barn.
The second largest of the giants stopped and shouted back at Henry, “Cook him well for our return, or we will cook you next!”
Henry could think of nothing more than to obey these giants in exchange for his life, so he began to cook the body. The fires roared and heated the barn, but the flames began to lick the sack and rope which was keeping it held up. Before long, the sack began to burn and the rope caught fire, dropping the body into the flames before the tired Henry could do anything about it. Watching in horror as the body turned black with char, Henry’s eyes filled with pools of tears. Hearing the sound of the giants returning, Henry rushed out of the barn as fast as he could.
Working their twilight magic on him, the stars were making Henry more tired than he would be even with his full run down the moonlit road. He did not know how long he had been running away from the barn, but Henry knew it was not yet far enough, however, he could go no further. Crawling off the main path, Henry found a deep bush which would offer him shelter from both sight and from the night. Moments after settling down, Henry once again drifted off to sleep, assured he was now safe from the horrific scene which had played out to him.
Frantic dreams haunted him as he slept on the dampness of the ground. Shifting his position, whispers crawled through the night, tickling his hear. Stiffening his body like a rod of iron, he carefully peered through the thistle branches of the bush from where he was attempting to sleep. Shadows at first, three figures began to move ever closer as they chanted a haunting tune as they walked. Larger still the figures become, until Henry realized they were the giants who would most certainly punish him for ruining their dinner.
Each step of the three giants reverberated along the ground as they crashed through the snow riddled road. Acid rose up into Henry’s throat as his fear overtook him, and he gasped out loud. Pausing next to his bush, the giants began to look around.
“I know I heard something,” the second largest of the giants remarked, searching the sky.
“I did as well,” stated the largest of the giants, who began to scan the horizons.
“Oh, we most certainly did!” the smallest of the giants exclaimed. With speed unthinkable, the smallest of the giants reached into the bush and pulled Henry through the bush, cutting his skin on each of the needles. Throwing him to the ground, the smallest of the giants began laughing heartily.
“Well, now. Henry, Henry Divor!” the largest giant laughed, dropping the charred body to the ground, “You have made us miss our dinner!”
“Please, no! I beg of you! Show me mercy!” Henry begged on his knees.
“Mercy? We shall show you mercy…for a short time!” the second largest of the giants exclaimed, picking Henry up and handing him the burned body.
“Follow us now with the ruined meal, or we will eat you this moment!” the smallest of the giants reminded him. Saying nothing, Henry began to follow the giants through the night until they reached a small graveyard.
“Dig, Henry Divor!” the largest of the giants demanded as he thrust a shovel at him, “Dig a a grave for this ruined meal or it will be your grave we be digging next!” With trembling hands, Henry began to dig as feverishly as he could. Taking a few minutes to watch Henry work to make sure he was doing a good job, the giants moved further away and began to whisper amongst themselves.
As the night wore on and the hole began to grow up to his waist, Henry was trembling with exhaustion. His hands were blistered, bleeding, and in agony. his back felt as though it would snap and he could no longer stand straight up. He long ago stopped crying simply because he had not the hydration in his body to continue doing so.
Soft as a mouse squeak, he heard a sound he was familiar with, and so he paused at his work. The three giants sat back to back, arms folded, heads down, deep in the world of sleep. At first Henry believed this to be a trap and feared to move even his eyelids. Watching the rhythmic raise and fall of each giants chest, he grew braver and began to walk towards them, as they were between him and the exit to the fenced in graveyard.
When the giants did not move as he stepped over the second largest’s legs, he began to run as fast and hard as his broken body would allow. The soothing morning’s light was beginning to shine its golden hue across the sky, lifting his spirits with each step. Close in the distance was a small town, and so he quickened his pace, desperate for the freedom and security he hoped it would provide.
For four years Henry Divor worked in the small town, learning new trades, and once again building a comfortable life. Each winter brings those dreaded memories back to him, as he relives that cursed night every time his head lays upon his pillow during a snow storm. He tries to push it aside, but feels the tapping of the reaper with each passing second during the memory.
This day, however, was a bright spring day filled with excitement. Henry Divor was being honored tomorrow in the town for his contributions over these years. Once a stranger, and now a welcomed member of their community.
Needing a new outfit for the ceremony, Henry hurried that morning to a tailor in the next town over. The trip itself was unremarkable through the green hills, save for a few passing caravans. Upon reaching his destination, Henry hopped down from his cart and tied his horse to the post. It was then fear struck Henry almost into paralyzation once again.
As the door to the tailor’s opened, the largest of the three giants stepped from the shop, dressed in a fine suit. Henry’s mouth became dry, his knees quaked, and the sweat fell instantly from his brow like rain from a storm cloud. Hearing a gasp, the giant turned his head and looked Henry straight in the eye.
“Well, now! Henry Divor!” the giant laughed and reached for him.
“No! No, please!” Henry screamed and began to run with a new found energy. His legs moved so quickly, he nearly tripped himself multiple times as he dashed between people on the street. No matter how fast he ran, no matter how loud his heart beating in his head was, the giant’s footsteps were always directly behind him.
“Got you!” the giant exclaimed as he grabbed Henry by the shoulder and spun him around.”
“No, please! I am sorry for everything those many years ago! Please, do not kill me!” Henry begged. The giant simply let out a hearty laugh and rubbed Henry’s head.
“No, Mr. Divor, I am not going to kill you. Nor am I going to give you labors,” the giant stated with a soft smile.
“Then…I don’t understand…” Henry quivered, falling to his knees.
“Mr. Divor, I am glad you remember me!” the giant chuckled helping him up, “Now when asked, you have a good story to tell! And if you don’t mind coming over for dinner…my family and brothers would love to hear your version of events!”