Last week, we got to pick our song lyric for the Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge. This week, sez Chuck, I pick the lyric. We have 1,000 words to use on the them of the lyric that Chuck chose, “Why is it so hard to accept that the party is over?” from the song “Drew Barrymore” by SZA. For the second week I used 998 words. This week I went back to my D&D/sword-and-sorcery roots and hit some classic fantasy tropes REAL HARD. This one was lot of fun to write. Please to enjoy and thanks for supporting your local writer.
THREE FOR THE ROAD
They called Jonneth Eldram “The Bull” for good reason. He was nearly seven feet tall, weighed more than 300 pounds, and had muscles on the muscles that were on his muscles. He got his name from the iron helmet he wore, with a pair of bull’s horns attached to the sides. In addition to the helmet he was wearing a battered iron breastplate over chain mail that had seen better days. He took a scabbard holding the longest sword he had ever seen off his back and leaned it against the bar as he sat down. The sword had to be six feet long. It was absurd. It looked like a wizard’s staff.
Jonneth was in an inn called The Hound of Merkur in a village called Petronne, which was in the middle of nowhere. He sat at the bar and ordered the local special. The bartender nodded. “The Rabid Dog,” he said. “That’s what we calls it. Two of ‘em will put Froggy over there on his back for the rest of the night.” Jonneth looked over. Froggy was nearly as tall as he was, but twice his weight. If Jonneth was big, Froggy was massive. No muscles, though. It was a soft sort of massive.
“I reckon that means I can take at least three then,” said Jonneth, straight-faced. “Set me up, brother.” The bartender looked askance, but filled the order, lining up three mugs on the bar in front of Jonneth. Stone mugs, Jonneth noticed. Not pewter like the other patrons were getting.
The bartender gestured. “Rabid Dog tends to eat holes in the pewter. Stoneware is all I’ve got that’ll hold it without falling apart.” Jonneth nodded, impressed, then picked up the first one and raised it to his lips, tipping his head back as the liquid ran burning down his throat. The crowd in the common room stopped and stared in awe as he slugged the entire drink. He sat upright and slammed the mug down on the bar with a bang. He dragged his hand across his mouth and belched.
“Hell of a drink,” he said. He picked up the second. He didn’t slug this one, though, seemingly content to just drink it. The crowd turned back to their conversations, disappointed by the loss of what they had thought would be an entertaining show.
A lithe figure wrapped in a green cloak sat watching Jonneth from the end of the bar. It stood up and, carrying a small jar containing bright green liquid and a small paper flower, moved to sit beside him. He looked over and did a double-take, nearly dropping his mug. “Gaeta!” he gasped. “I thought you were dead! Is anyone else here?”
Gaeta Morningdew was a Daughter of the Woods. She was clever and crafty and could track a leaf through a hurricane. She could kill with a quarterstaff and was a dead eye with a throwing knife. Until recently she had been the scout and tracker for a party of adventurers seeking relics and glory in the abandoned silver mines a day’s ride south of Petronne. It had all gone wrong, though. They’d met a gang of squatters in the mine who didn’t play well with strangers. She’d thought she was the only one who had made it out. She was wrong.
“Not that I know of,” she said. “At least, I haven’t seen anyone else.”
Jonneth snorted, slamming down the second mug and starting in on the third. “It’d take a lot more than what those guys had to take me down.”
“They were tough, though,” said Gaeta. “We barely got out. We were lucky.”
“What’re y’gonna do nexsht?” asked Jonneth. His speech was suddenly slurred. The third drink had gone to his head in an unexpected rush. He couldn’t believe it. Only three? He hadn’t lost his head off that few drinks since he was a lad. Unbeknownst to him a wisp of smoke was beginning to leak out from beneath his helmet.
Gaeta looked at the smoke, then back into Jonneth’s increasingly unfocused eyes. “I’m going back to the Castle. I’m going to lay low for a while, then see if I can find another party that needs a scout. This life isn’t done with me yet.”
“I’m going back to the mine,” said Jonneth. He put down the mug and rubbed his hands on his breastplate, leaving trails of condensation behind. He shook his head as if to clear it. “There’s good loot there and…and I left some friends there too.”
She shook her head in amazement. “Go back? By yourself? Are you mad?”
“Come with me, then. You know the way and you’re pretty good in a scrap.” His voice wasn’t slurred anymore. A light was beginning to shine in his eyes.
“No, no. Two people do not make a party. This party is over, Jonneth. Come back to the Castle with me. Get a new party together. We’ll go back in force.”
Jonneth stood and stared off into the distance. He was quivering. “No,” he said. He picked up his massive sword and slung it over his shoulder. “I’m doing this myself. Too bad the bard died. I’ll need someone to write the song when I’m done.” He tossed some coins on the bar, saluted the room, then left the bar at a run. They all watched out the window as he ran off into the trees to the south.
“He’s a fool,” muttered Gaeta. She walked back to her seat at the end of the bar.
The bartender pocketed the coins. He collected the stone mugs and placed them under the bar to be cleaned. He was careful not to touch the lip of the third one. That one he placed in a case to be returned to its owner when he next came into town.
I tried to get him to stop at two, he thought. He shrugged, pulled out a cloth and began to wipe down the bar.