The following is the opening section of a short story entitled, For No Reason. I hope to include this story in an anthology in several months. The main character, Dax, is stuck in a magical rut that’s not headed toward a good ending…
Missed part 1? Click here to read it first.
Dax’s knees soon wobbled so he climbed onto the mule. This cursed sickness. He tugged his hat brim lower and his shoulders curled in as he held his stomach with trembling hands. If only his ride was longer. But the thatched roofs soon peeked between tree limbs as he descended the last slope from the forest hills.
The mule thumped into Alton’s Ford. The first rotten tomato smacked the animal’s face and the second whistled past Dax’s. The animal lurched under Dax while he pulled the reins.
Laughter faded between houses.
“Easy, easy.” Dax patted the mule and gritted his teeth.
“Witch’s curse.” Boys laughed from hiding.
Dax muttered oaths as he kicked the mule into motion. He should’ve pulled his collar up. He snorted. They knew him on sight. His lip curled in a silent snarl.
Idling men sneered from the tavern porch. He stared ahead as the mule carried him past jeers thrown like refuse. Elon snorted and spat. “There’s your tithe, cursed man. Who says you can steal our livestock?”
Dax clenched his jaws. “Ain’t stole nothing.” So much for childhood friends. Felton should move his store to the other end of the village. Maybe he’d pull his collar high but the store wasn’t far. His hand strayed toward the collar anyway. There’ll be no hiding when…
Stinking tomato juice exploded on his face and stung his eye as well as his sores. His head wobbled at the solid hit.
A girl laughed and squealed.
The men back at the tavern snickered. “More tithe.”
The girl danced. “More tithe, more tithe.”
Her unblemished face beamed and Dax’s cheek quivered. He wouldn’t get down. He’d ride on. He gritted his teeth, swung off the mule and stepped toward the capering child.
She screamed and ran for her door.
The girl’s mother rushed out the door at her cry and stood between them with a kitchen knife. “Don’t touch her!”
Dax clenched his teeth. “That’s right. You know what my touch does but for these gloves.” He shook his fist. His chest heaved rough breath like a blacksmith’s bellows.
“You leave my girl alone!” Elon leapt into the road.
The other men from the tavern stamped through the puddles in the road.
“Or you’ll what? Touch me? You can’t even hurt me!” Spittle flew from Dax’s mouth and his lips curled into a snarl. “But I can hurt you, any of you, whenever I want.” His bitter laugh rang like a bell and halted the threatening toughs.
“Dax, come down to the store. I’ve got your supplies ready.” Felton, the storekeeper, approached.
Dax cocked his head at the speaker. He wiped his face with on his sleeve and grimaced from the sores. He trudged toward the store with the mule in tow. He paused and pointed his gloved finger at the trembling mother hiding the girl. “I just come for what’s mine. You just remember I suffer this and do nothing when I could. Next time I might not wear my gloves.”
At the store, he tied the mule at the post and stomped through the door. He hunched and shook his head. He never threatened people. What was wrong with him? He swayed and grasped the counter.
“H-here’s your goods as usual.” Felton waved his hand over packages of food stacked on a counter.
“I need a mirror.” Dax counted his packages.
Felton sighed. “Another one already? You know how hard those are to get. Why do you want one?”
“For no reason.”
“But people have to p-”
“They pay for their wrongs to the old crone, not me. I just bear them–for now.” Dax continued his inspection without pause but his growl bothered him. Was it getting worse like she foretold?
“Well, I’ll try but it may be a while.”
“Just get it.” Dax hefted his first load and wobbled out the door.
Felton pushed wares to him when he returned. “Why do you let them do this to you? I can deliver your supplies. Or you could come early or late, I don’t mind the time.”
“Because.” Dax minded his steps on sore feet.
Dax whirled and fastened Felton with a hard stare and snarled his answer. “They need to see their work. They need to see I can’t be harmed but suffer for them. They wronged the old woman and given the choice they let her put the curse on me. So they pay and they must see.” They’ll all pay with their bones for gnawing. His stomach heaved. No, he’d never be a raging beast. He loaded the supplies, grabbed his belly and leaned against a post. There’s no escape from this curse for any of us.
“When will all this end? I at least pity you, Dax.”
Dax pushed past Felton. “It won’t end.” They won’t let me do them a kindness so it can’t end until I devour this place. “Don’t pity me. Leave if you can.”
“None of us can. Find a way to end this, Dax.” Felton stood with his face lowered and arms hanging loose. The shopkeeper sniffed and his shoulders bobbed a bit.
“I can’t, they won’t let me.” He left the store and passed Elon’s house. Dax glared at the dark windows as he rode past. They feared him worse than ever. He’d never have his chance. Dax slapped the mule’s sides with the reins.
The end of part 2.
Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. The next part of the story will be posted on 3/2/2016. Sign up for my Archer’s Aim Digest mailing list to receive notification of these posts and those for other upcoming fiction projects to appear on Archer’s Aim as well as news about the upcoming release of An Arrow Against the Wind, the second novel of The Bow of Hart Saga due out later this year.
Prequel short stories to The Bow of Hart Saga: