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Ross Tarran, 06 Jul '12

A bowed figure, wooden staff in hand, picked his way wearily along the muddy trail in the pouring rain, his battered leather boots sinking deep into the waterlogged ground with almost every step, his tattered woollen cloak and ragged clothes heavy with water. Every few feet he had no choice but to splash through a pool of standing water, raindrops peppering the surface of puddles and the sodden earth.

        Frederick had lost track of his age but to look at him one might guess he was approaching seventy years old. A hard life had taken a heavy toll however: he was actually in his early fifties. His narrow face was unshaven, with pitted, weather-worn skin, tired eyes and long thinning hair down to his shoulders, drenched by the rain that fell in sheets from the dull sky.

        The man muttered to himself as he went. He hated the rain, he hated the wind, he hated the dark, he hated the gnawing hunger in his stomach, and most of all he hated other people, not that he had seen any for the past few hours on this seemingly god-forsaken path. All he wanted was shelter from this rain, a warming fire, a pint of ale and a juicy rabbit pie. Rabbit pie was the best: like mother used to make, not that any pie he had tasted in the past thirty or so years could compare.

        Suddenly the whole sky was illuminated as a flash of lightning forked into the earth – the light drew dark shapes stretching across the ground for a moment – the shadow of a dead tree appeared as if a skeletal hand was grasping out towards a wide-eyed Frederick. A second or two later came the thunder: a deafening crash that shook the ground as if a landslide of gigantic boulders was rumbling narrowly past. Frederick hated thunder even more than he hated other people.

        Fortunately Frederick knew that there should be a small but hospitable inn somewhere along this way; he had stayed there some years back on a similar day to this, and the standard of the food and the log fire had almost made up for the presence of the other patrons.

        True enough, upon cresting the next rise on this meandering path he could just make out the little stone building with its thatched roof, a welcoming glow just visible from the small windows and smoke billowing from the chimney. While it must still have been nearly a mile away, Frederick was almost convinced he could smell the aroma of boiling rabbit in the wind, although it was probably his mind playing tricks in his weary state.

        If anything the storm seemed to be worsening, with the sky now a strange dark purple hue almost like night, except it couldn't have been much later than mid-afternoon. Still, the sight of the inn had rejuvenated Frederick somewhat, and he was moving a little quicker despite the torrential rain and slippery mud. He began to descend the hill towards his goal, using his staff to steady himself as the ground sloped away, though barely catching himself once or twice as his feet almost went from under him on the treacherous path.

        Finally Frederick was getting close, and a sign hanging from a post by the side of the track stated 'The Fox and Hounds welcomes travellers – 200 yds on right'.

        “That'll do me.”

        Perhaps this path truly was god-forsaken. Apparently out of nowhere, a burst of blinding light along with an ear-splitting explosion tore the air apart and Frederick found himself thrown onto his back, either from the force of the shock wave or a result of his own fright; quite possibly both. As the sound rumbled on and the whole atmosphere seemed to be somehow crackling around him, Frederick thought it wise to close his eyes and hastily introduce himself to any higher power that would listen.

~

        It seemed that this was not the time for one Frederick E. Fitzgerald to go. Once the noise and vibrations had died away, he noticed the rain continued to fall upon his face, helping to bring him out of his dazed state. Opening his eyes, Frederick noticed the sky now looked a little lighter, which was something. There was however a horrible burning smell in the air, and having dragged himself to his feet he could now see why; The Fox and Hounds had not been as lucky as he.

        Blackened stones were spread randomly in a wide area around where the inn used to be, with just the lowest blocks still illustrating the outline of where the small building had stood just a short while ago. The thatched roof was almost entirely gone except for a few remains on the ground, still smouldering despite the rain. It seemed the inn hadn't had many patrons today, but there were a few blackened shapes among the rubble which seemed to be the source of the horrible smell, now identified. It was clearly not the aroma of boiling rabbit in the wind.

        Surveying the remarkable devastation, Frederick shook his head slowly in disbelief.

        “Aye, that's about right...”

        Frederick rubbed his face, wiping the rain from his eyes for a moment, and then started once more along his path, wooden staff in hand.

Comments · 6

Page 1 of 1

  • Ross Tarran said...

    Having written this, it somehow reminded me of the hymn 'To be a pilgrim'!

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Thanks @Liam Volk, glad you enjoyed it. He would have appreciated Gandalf's hat, but otherwise I suppose Frederick could appear like a (slightly!) younger version of the wizard. Not sure if there's any magic in Fred however; who knows?!

    • Posted 5 years ago
  • David Taylor said...

    Hi @Ross Tarran! I enjoyed reading this and found the twist at the end amusing where your character never actually makes it to the inn! Like @Liam Volk, I think your use of imagery is great and something about the air of the story reminded me of Kvothe ambling about in The Wise Man's Fear! Good job and I hope to read more like this!

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Thanks @David Taylor, glad to hear you enjoyed it. I think this is the burst where I tried to include some gentle (and rather dark!) humour; hopefully it added something to the story. I do like trying to describe dramatic events in the most effective way possible, to try to put the reader in the situation with the character(s). Glad that appears to have worked here! Maybe I should consider 'The Further Adventures of Frederick E. Fitzgerald'...

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • james garrison said...

    I'd like to find out what happens next...

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Thanks @james garrison, it sounds like this should be a contender for a follow up if I'm not sure what to write another Burst about... I'll have to consider Fred's direction!

    • Posted 4 years ago