About a league down the road, Alastor heard a familiar noise. Braying mules. He ran up to the crest of a low rise. Down in the dip, among the trees were his two mules, grazing under the sun.

Alastor whistled. The mules stopped and looked up. He repeated the familiar tune, and this time, the two animals came to him, their heads dipping as they walked. He went forward and ran his hands over their coats and tugged their ears, and the pair responded with more head bobbing.

He heard a whimper and turned to see a horse. Sabas’ stallion. It stomped a front foot and snorted. A gathering of old friends—or at least, acquaintances of sorts. It was obvious that Sabas and his companions, in their hasty getaway, must have rode right past the stallion which had taken refuge over the rise.

Not wishing to cause panic and flight, Alastor did not approach the stallion right away. He roped the mules along and stopped a short distance from the horse. He pulled out treats from his bag and spoke in a soft voice and fed his mules. Every so often, he called out to the stallion. It took a few tentative steps towards him and halted. The metalsmith continued to speak in soothing tones. When the stallion was close enough, he extended his arm. The horse snuffed his hand. He scratched its neck and gave it a treat. Then, making no sudden movements, he picked up the hanging reins and secured the horse to a low shrub. He stroked the coat and kept feeding the stallion, allowing it to get used to his voice and smell.

After some time, he loaded his bags onto one mule and mounted the second, and took the stallion’s reins.

Then, he set off on the road—away from Theron’s Cross—back the way he had come; back where that wolf-beast lurked.

Note: I shall borrow a word, phrase or the theme from your comment—a maximum of five primary comments or until the next post, whichever the sooner—and develop this story via my replies. Thank you for your assistance.

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018 ***

11 comments

    1. The room was no larger than the one Alastor had used back in Theron’s and there was little in the way of furniture. A wooden pallet for bed and no more. And the room smelled bad—of unwashed body, unwashed fabrics, and unwashed everything.

      He pulled the stained covers off the bed and threw some of his wools over it, and rolled and slapped a bag for pillow.

      Then, with his staff across the door and battle axe within reach, he laid down and stared up. The small oil lamp beside the bed played tricks on the wooden beams of the ceiling. And a shaft of dull moon glow entered through the small window.

      Alastor felt uneasy. The innkeeper looked afraid. The boy too eager to please. They both seemed wary of one another. And he could not believe they had not heard the howls of the wolf-beast.

      Thank you,

      I’ll see where this takes me and how far I can go with it.

      Cheers!
      Eric

    1. ‘The place is a forest now; pines, as impenetrable as a phalanx; and, caves too,’ said the grizzled innkeeper, in answer to the metalsmith’s questioning look.

      Alastor studied the man as they ate in silence. The inn keeper kept his eyes down. He had changed; looked afraid.

      ‘Caves?’

      ‘Yes, caves, of the whispering type,’ said the inn keeper. ‘Many lives had been lost. Many spirits lurk, lost, seeking vengeance. Seeking blood.’

      ‘You speak in riddles, sir.’

      ‘It’ll be wise of you, master blacksmith, not to pursue whatever business carries you forward. Return to where you came from. Be safe.’

      ‘Why? What is it you know and not telling me?’

      ‘What I know, keeps me here.’

      The door creaked open and young Carenos stepped in. The inn keeper stopped speaking. He bent low and his eyes darted about, as he ate.

      ‘Your pack animals have been watered and fed, master blacksmith,’ said Carenos.

      ‘Thank you,’ said Alastor, and stood up.

      ‘Don’t you wish to talk a while?’ asked Carenos. ‘There is so much I am eager to hear of your interesting travels and adventures.’

      ‘I am tired,’ said Alastor. ‘Perhaps in the morning.’

      ‘I’ll show you to your room,’ said the inn keeper. He got up and hurried to the door.

      ‘In the morning, then,’ said Carenos.

      Hello Ina,

      Am glad you are following the story. Thank you.

      Have a good weekend ahead,
      Eric

  1. Hi Eric,

    Was passing by and got halted ( in my tracks) by this intriguing tale of the wolf- beast. I am left wondering what made you emphasize the word ” Wolf” with ” Beast”. A Wolf is indeed a beast but not the other way around…..

    Shakti

    1. ‘Greetings, sir Alastor,’ said the boy. ‘I am Carenos. I will take good care of your mules, sir, and your horse too.’

      Alastor gripped the boy’s arm in greeting. It felt soft, like that of a girl. He had a pink complexion, not the brown of working lads.

      ‘Seen any wolves about?’ asked Alastor.

      ‘No, sir,’ said Carenos, his reply fast and rehearsed.

      ‘Move along, boy,’ said Lycaon, ‘before you lose the light.’

      Carenos dipped his head and left, his eyes resting on Alastor for a moment. Then, the inn keeper busied himself and gestured for Alastor to sit down at the table.

      ‘I don’t have any meat, but this,’ said Lycaon. He placed a plate of bread, some cheese and wine.

      ‘That will be fine, and wine renders it complete.’

      ‘There are two rooms,’ said Lycaon, and he waved to a door. ‘You can have the larger one.’

      ‘The boy is not your son,’ said Alastor, as he ate.

      ‘No, he’s an orphan. Found him wondering in the woods about ten harvests ago.’ Lycaon sat down with his meal. ‘He has been living here since. A good lad. Keeps me company, does the chores. Not that there is much to—’

      ‘The battle field,’ said Alastor.

      ‘Yes, the battle field.’ Lycaon bent low over his plate and ate the rough barley bread with his fingers. ‘Only, it’s not a field. Not anymore.’

      Hello Shakti,

      You’re right, a wolf is indeed a beast and but not all beasts are wolves.

      From your comment, I assume you have not been following this story.

      In the story, it is unclear whether the animal in question is a wolf or some sort of a beast. It howls like a wolf but (for now) works alone – not at all like a wolf. Other than the post, I’m writing the story based on comments received. I do not know in which direction the story will flow next.

      Therefore and meanwhile, as the author, I’ve taken some literary licence and referred to it as a wolf-beast until such time the mystery clears.

      Cheers!
      Eric

  2. So the wolf-beast does not like blacksmith and mules meat. Whew!

    Did Gelon advise Alastor to seek the field? Is there something precious? Is Gelon a true friend or is he sending Alastor to where danger awaits?

    Waiting to see where the story is leading to.

    1. ‘What else did Gelon say about me?’ asked Alastor.

      ‘Nothing,’ said Lycaon, ‘other than to expect your coming.’

      ‘Do you know which direction to the field where the battle was fought?’

      Alastor did not divulge Gelon’s map. He did know whether he could trust Lycaon but his ore merchant friend must have.

      ‘The field is but a two day’s journey away. You look weathered, and it’s best you spend the night. Set off refreshed in the morning.’

      ‘My pack animals?’

      ‘The boy will attend to them.’

      ‘Boy? What boy?’

      ‘Him,’ said Lycaon.

      And he pointed to a boy of thirteen or fourteen standing no more than an arm’s length behind Alastor.

      Hello Windy dear,

      You have many questions 🙂 And as they say, all shall be revealed in good time 🙂

      Thank you for your presence and comment. Much appreciate it.

      All the best for the weekend,
      Eric

    1. The evil of the night did not manifest and the journey proved uneventful. By late afternoon, Alastor came upon an inn. It was a single wooden structure, not as extensive as Theron’s, and adjoining it was a work shed which doubled as a stable.

      The proprietor, Lycaon, was a wiry man, with wild platinum facial hair. His weathered white tunic, which has turned yellow with age, peeped from under a heavy woollen coat.

      ‘A wolf, you say,’ said Lycaon.

      ‘Yes, about half day’s ride away,’ replied Alastor.

      ‘Not seen or heard any wolf,’ said Lycaon, ‘and I’ve lived here since, oh, since the battle two score years ago.’

      ‘Battle of Hylas?’

      ‘You know of this battle? Many in these parts are newcomers and don’t recall that bloodshed.’

      ‘I seek the field where the fight took place,’ said Alastor.

      ‘Ah, so you’re that same Alastor then, the master blacksmith, that Gelon spoke of.’

      ‘Gelon?’

      ‘The ore merchant, whom you must be acquainted with,’ said Lycaon, ‘but you probably know him by another name, for he wears a new coat for a new town.’

      Hello Bill,

      Yes, even during the day, forest roads can be quite intimidating, I reckon. And evil lurked everywhere.

      Have a great weekend,
      Eric

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