As I doubt I will be bringing out more e-books you can follow this short story on my blogs https://www.alsdominion.co.uk/,https://hereiamattheedge.blogspot.com/, and https://disqus.com/home/channel/indieworld/.
From his demeanor, it’s hard to see what this man did to the city of Meldritch. The once thriving city now lay in ruins, their demise was brought upon them by their desire to appease the man who stood at the city gates.
He was not rich or powerful. To look at the poor wretch, you would imagine he’d had a hard life, for he was thin with broken teeth and unkempt in his appearance. When he spoke or sang, his words and music gripped the imagination of the people like a fever. His words and music could drive ordinarily sane people to do anything to stop him from leaving. When he entered Meldritch – as he had many cities before – the people had no idea what they had let enter their village.
To the world outside, he was no more than a wandering scribe, trying to buy a meal and a place to rest by telling stories. On his departure, he left in his wake a city dazzled by his stories of far-off lands, but he had an agenda that nobody knew about until it was too late to do anything. Like all things, once he’d had his pleasures, he left; leaving behind a trail of misery and disgust.
For a while, everything had appeared pleasantly joyous as the man spread his fascinating stories and ate and drank freely. By all the reports, you’d expect the man to be of great stature and strength, but the opposite was true. Strength and size were not his powers. His powers came from his ability to capture your soul with his words. Tales from enchanted lands flowed from his dry lips like leaves of dying trees. His audiences grew with each telling, as did the value of the stories. With his stories, he earned enough to pay for a small meal and a drink for the two companions. The time being the late Fall, the town’s people begged the stranger to stay, but he’d tired of their company, and all he had to say was, “The land calls me to walk a new path.” The first falls of early snow chilled the earth, and the fruits had long gone from the trees and hedges. The man stood at the gate and steadied himself for the journey ahead. With a last glance to the city he was leaving, he walked out of the gates, and sneered under his breath, “They’ll never learn, Drux.”
Following in his master’s footsteps was Drux – a large dog – wherever Baal Korax went, Drux was close to her master’s heel. Nobody was sure how they’d crossed paths; some say Baal had rescued Drux from a freezing cavern; others will tell you that Baal raised Drux from a cub. Baal believed that Drux was the last of the Wolfen who once roamed the forests and hills. Baal had walked many paths over many hills, and he’d never come across any other wolfen or heard talk of any clans living in the areas.
Like Drux, Baal had a distant past that eluded memory. The past was so much a blank to him; Baal had no ideas where to call home, or when he came into the world. All Baal could say is that the only life he recalled was a traveling scribe. The man didn’t bother much about his past, to him, the road in front was all that mattered, and for now, the way led to the high ranges and the place they called home. “Come, Drux,” he called as man and beast left the sight of the city, “It won’t be long before you can return to your true form,” the man said as he ruffled the dog’s messy mane.
The two travelers took to the open road and left the city in their past, never to return, for that would be to tempt fate. Baal had spent most of his life on these roads and never been back to any village or city. The only place he returned to was his shack, every winter.
“We need to cross the ridge before the heavy snow comes, or we’ll not see our home until the early Spring, Drux, my old friend,” he said to his companion as they made their way to the footpath that led to the hills. At this time of year, only the foolhardy took the roads to the high mountains, unless they had a reason. In Winter, the supplies came along the lower path; they made an extra day, but those roads are safer at this time of the year. The dog looked to the hills that lay ahead and gave his tail a wag, to show she agreed with her master. The man and his companion started their long, cold walk to the mountain range ahead, and with hearts full of thoughts of the road, and bellies full of the most exquisite food they set off on their journey.
Baal’s hide thigh boots kept some of the winter’s cold from the snow from chilling his feet, but he knew they needed to keep moving to reach shelter so that Drux wouldn’t get too cold, for ahead of them lay a long journey.
The snow-covered landscape made for a beautiful view as the pair climbed higher, but the knee-high drifts made walking tiresome for Baal. He glanced back, and seeing Drux begin to shiver and struggle; he retraced his steps to his friend, “Come, I’ll carry you from here. It isn’t far, and we’ll be in the warm soon, my friend.”
The dog looked up at her master with a sad longing in her eyes and gave a weak grin. There were times when she’d happily have ran ahead of Baal, but lately, Drux had taken to keeping in step with her master.
Baal walked the short way back to his friend and heaved her tired body onto his shoulders, “We’ll need to pick up the pace. I feel the chill in the air getting colder on my old bones, and that means a heavy fall is on the way.”
Being careful to tread in his previous steps, Baal began the climb to the old shack they called home. The climb wasn’t long, but with the cold, and feeling tired, Baal struggled with the rise, “I don’t remember it being this hard last year, Drux,” he muttered as he trudged the sharply rising hill. It was some minutes before the hut came in sight, “Here we are, home for the Winter. It won’t be long, and then you can stretch out again.”
The wooden hut didn’t look much from the outside, but it kept the worst of the winter winds and snow out, and that’s all the man and his dog needed. During the Spring and Summer months, they’d built a store of fruits from their journeys across the ranges, now is the time to make the meals that would sustain them, until their next trip.
The small hut lies hidden from sight below the ridge lines of the nearby hills unless you know where to look it’s easily missed – even Baal lost sight of the cabin once or twice on his return.
Being careful of the drift above the door, Baal kicked the door open. He watched as the snow slid off the roof, and waited for the last flakes to float to the ground, and then he stepped over the doorstep, “Here you are,” he said as he laid Drux on a bearskin, “You rest for a while, and I’ll start the fire. We’ll be warmed through shortly, Drux.” Drux looked up from the floor and wagged his tail, and then he laid his head down and went to sleep as Baal went outside to the log pile.