We’re past the halfway point of this April’s Blog Challenge! Hooray! Let’s keep the momentum going and keep enjoying ourselves!
Today’s word was suggested once again by my Twitter pal, Sakina, and the word is “NORTH”. Now, this word has proven to be deceptively simple, as it didn’t lend itself to any solid story ideas right away! I needed to sit and think for a while, so well done, Sakina! A sneaky choice!
Here is what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.
By Adam Dixon
“How can I explain it?” the scruffy man spread his arms across the bar, tapping his calloused finger on the wood as he frowned in concentration. The other patrons of the tavern droned on behind him, chatting away about their labours that day and how good it was to sit by the warm hearth.
“Listen, you’ve heard of birds flying south for the winter, right?” The barmaid nodded, her fair hair sweeping across her forehead. “Well, it’s like that for me, only it’s in the opposite direction and winter never ends.”
“Plus, you’re not a bird!” The barmaid laughed, winking at him as she brushed her hair from her eyes. The man smiled sadly and nodded once. He lowered his head and gazed thoughtfully at his drink as if he could divine some answers from its depths. The barmaid’s smile faded as she watched him. He was a strange one, there was no doubt about that, but there was something appealing about him as well. Whilst the whole world was mired in uncertainty, here was a man who actually had a purpose.
“So, you really don’t know where you’re going?” She asked, looking at him seriously. The man glanced up, his kindly blue eyes matching hers.
“I’ve got no idea, miss,” he shrugged, opening his palms in resignation. “Since I asked that wizard to help me find my happiness, I’ve felt something tugging at me, urging me to get moving, and always to the north. All I know is that I have to keep going. Maybe I’ll know once I get there, but who can say?” He scratched at his beard for a moment before lifting his tankard and draining his drink. The floor creaked and groaned as he pushed his stool back and stood upright, smiling at the barmaid once again.
“Well, I’d best be off, miss,” he said, plucking his drooping hat from the bar and placing it on to his head. “The lonely road calls!”
“Wait!” the barmaid called as he moved away. He stopped and glanced back, surprised. The barmaid felt herself blush as she fidgeted with her apron. She didn’t know why she had called out to him, but something had compelled her to.
“You could stay here, you know,” she began nervously. “I mean, we might be able to clear a space in the hay loft for you…erm, maybe you could sleep down here? Sometimes the mistress lets the regulars do that, if they’ve drunk too much to stand…” She trailed off into an embarrassed silence. The man stood watching her, smiling.
“Thank you, miss, for the kind offer,” he said, bowing his head and placing a hand on his heart. “But I think your lack of room tonight is another sign that I need to keep moving. That poxy wizard didn’t plan on making this easy for me, it seems!”
“Oh,” the barmaid was crestfallen. “But, what about bandits? We get lots of reports every day about them causing trouble outside of town, especially at night!”
“I’ve got nothing to offer them, miss,” the man chuckled. “Look at me! I’m wearing a battered old coat, I haven’t shaved in days and my boots are nearly worn out; any bandits marauding along the road will take one look at me and realise that I’m not worth the bother!” He laughed heartily, and the barmaid couldn’t help but smile too.
“Besides,” he continued, a far-away expression crossing his face. “I don’t think that wizard gave me this opportunity only to see me die at the hands of petty criminals. No, I believe I’ll be just fine. Thank you all the same, miss. You have a good night, now.” He turned away from the barmaid and strode towards the door.
“Farewell, sir!” the barmaid shouted to him with tears in her eyes. “I hope you find your happiness!”
“Aye, me too, miss,” the man waved but did not turn back. He opened the door to the tavern and disappeared into the cold, windy night. The door slammed shut behind him, and the barmaid felt tears rolling down her cheeks.