Art: Campfire by Carl Buell
Hey everybody! To kick off the new “Fiction” category of the site, this is a bit of a story I’m working on called Discovering Courage. Sindarin is a simple elven woodworker who gets sucked into an epic adventure to find the elf who raised him, Tinlef. When he first starts his adventure, something a little unexpected happens…
Again, the daylight had begun to wane, and when he laid down for the night, he was startled by a noise in the forest around him. Frozen by fear, his eyes darted about into the dark, a weak attempt to see the source. Slowly standing up, he reached for his bow. It seemed like it took forever before the sound happened again. The second time, it was much easier to pin point the area it came from. Sindarin guessed, judging by the volume of the sound, that whatever crept in the shadows was of decent size. At this, he assumed it was some sort of predatory animal. Pulling back the bowstring, he aimed it in the direction with much more confidence than he had earlier in the day. A single bead of sweat rolled down the side of his head as he waited for his foe. Just as he made the decision to make a blind shot into the direction, a large figure blundered out of the brush. Loosing the arrow, regret immediately filled him. It was a dog that came out, a mighty large one too. Thankfully, his aim had yet to be perfected and it hit the ground with a thud next to the beast.
The dog yipped and jumped back a step. That was the final expected thing it did. It looked at him with an almost human-like expression, “Hey! Watch what you’re doing with that thing!” Sindarin blinked and shook his head, not sure if his ears were deceiving him.
“That could’ve been the biggest mishap of the day. Take it easy, stranger. If I were here to hurt ya, I already would have,” the dog spoke the common tongue with a funny accent he had never heard before. It had the same grey and wiry fur as the wolfhounds that he had seen humans pass through with in the past, but a little smaller. He wondered if they all secretly talked.
Sindarin swallowed and mustered up some courage, “You can talk?” He almost felt silly for speaking to a dog.
“Yeah, and I can whizz myself too. Let’s be thankful that didn’t happen. Not that I have the problem of pants like you do.” The brush behind him rustled once more and a man fell out of it with a loud, oof! “There’s all these crazy beasts roaming around here and you’re surprised by a talking dog. Sheesh,” the dog grumbled to himself, rolling his eyes. The man that fell out of the darkness was wearing a funny looking pointed hat, it was made of a simple brown cloth. The brim was wide and circled around the spire that was now wilting in front of his face. From the fall, the front of the entire hat had come down over his eyes.
The man stood up groggily and brushed off the front of his clothes. He was wearing a brown coat that went to the knee, a white shirt peeking out of the open buttons, and some simple brown pants. A satchel was slung over his shoulder that clinked with the sound of glass as he batted at dirt on his chest. A closely cropped beard adorned his face, his hair was likely similar underneath the hat. The man seemed a little clumsy, just based off their first interaction.
“Uhm, hello,” the man said, a little nervously. “Sorry to startle you, we were curious as to who made the fire. We’ve had some bad luck out here so we chose to observe before approaching you. May we join you?”
“Just shut up and sit down before you embarrass yourself,” the dog said, “The name’s Alfred.”
“And I’m Tomil,” the man said, walking over. He pulled a small block of wood out of his satchel and snapped his fingers, it took the shape of a stool before he sat on it.
Sindarin cocked an eyebrow, “I don’t have any food to offer, sorry.”
“Oh, great. What are you doing out here with no food, you got a death wish?” the dog spat sarcastically at him. Sindarin was unsure of how to answer, he just sat there in shocked silence. “Looks more like braindead. Tomil, gimme something, will ya? I’d get it myself but this whole not having thumbs thing is getting in the way.”
Tomil was fishing through his pack, its contents noisy. It was simply amazing, the things he pulled out of that pack. He pulled out a spit, a small cauldron, some cookware, meat, vegetables, a blanket, a stuffed sack that was presumably for Alfred, and a book with a quill and inkwell. Defying all logic, Sindarin blinked again. He had always heard of magic, but it wasn’t something that the people of his village were well versed in. His childhood had been littered with tales of magical beings and items but he had never seen any of it. With that, he got a sense that the world was filled with things that he hadn’t seen, the thought made his heart swell with wonder.
“Well?” Alfred looked at Sindarin expectantly.
He stammered for a minute, “Oh, well. I, uh, yeah. I came out here to look for my village hunter. He’s been gone for twelve days or so.” Sindarin was conscious of the way he spoke the common tongue; he could hear his own accent in comparison to Tomil and Alfred’s. He could write and speak a few different languages but not that well. However, his good understanding of common certainly helped this situation. A lick of the gruff dwarven tongue left a bad taste in his mouth but proved useful from time to time as well. He took a second to be thankful it wasn’t a dwarf that popped out after the dog.
“Ya hear that, Tomil? Guy needs a sniffer,” Alfred said snickering, it was foreign to see a dog laughing.
Tomil looked up from preparing whatever it was he was making. “Do you know which direction he went? We were coming from the north and, if you’re following the game trail, it seems you’re headed north yourself.” Sindarin had all but ignored all of Tinlef’s lessons on navigation. He stared blankly at Tomil.
“Woo, boy. This conversation is going nowhere fast,” Alfred chided again. Tomil shot him an angry look and Alfred licked his lips before lying down. He turned back to Sindarin.
“If I’m being completely honest, I sort of just left home. Didn’t think much about it, just left,” Sindarin said sheepishly. “I’m not sure what drove me out here, but there’s just this fire in my chest. I can’t explain it.”
Alfred threw his head back and gave a bawdy laugh that echoed in the night. Sindarin’s felt his face grow hot, Tomil ignored him. “It seems that you’ve discovered some courage. The beginnings of a good adventurer, surely.” He lowered his gaze back to the cauldron and continued cooking. It smelled delicious, Sindarin’s stomach reminded him of that fact.
“What? No, I’m not adventuring, just trying to find my father,” saying it that way shocked Sindarin for a moment. It must have shown because Alfred softened.
“Hey, kid, you have a bad relationship with your dad or somethin’? You look like you’ve never called him dad before, with that face. If he’s a jerk, who cares what happens to him out here?” Alfred’s tone was still light and loose yet he somehow seemed more sincere.
“Alfred!” Tomil shot at him angrily. “We’ve talked about this before, it’s one thing to talk to me like that but we don’t know this man. Show some damn respect.” Alfred’s ears pulled back.
“No,” Sindarin looked at the ground, “I never knew my father. My mother was called to the court when I was very young and Tinlef was a family friend. I still stayed in my mother’s home but he and his wife basically raised me. I’ve just never had the gall to call him my father before, that’s all.” He felt more embarrassed than sad. Sindarin let that statement hang, the crickets were singing in the night. The trees spoke, the flames danced in the eyes of the three that surrounded it.
The silence was not uncomfortable, at least not for Sindarin. Silence was a companion, it didn’t bring up painful memories, it didn’t make fun of him for things he couldn’t control. He studied Tomil and Alfred for a moment. Tomil scribbled in his book while the cauldron in front of him bubbled. It clearly wasn’t full, Sindarin wondered what was inside. Alfred lay next to Tomil on the stuffed sack, his chin on his front paws. The soul of a man was inside that beast; Sindarin could sense it. Alfred’s eyes had this look of wisdom, compassion, but he could also see sorrow. He knew some sort of pain too, just like Sindarin.
“Here,” Tomil said after a while, he had a bowl shoved in Sindarin’s direction. “If you’re going to be out here, you need a hot meal to fill your belly. You won’t last long without one.”
He took the bowl, feeling a little embarrassed once more. Gruel, that much was clear. At least it was hot and thick, it would definitely fill him. It had bits of carrots and some sort of sweet, tender meat. A spoonful revealed that it was made primarily with barley, Poe came to mind. Tomil scooped out a bowl for Alfred and put it on the ground next to him.
“It’s always so degrading to eat like this. Plus, this is worse than having facial hair! I swear, my snout is never clean,” Alfred complained. Tomil laughed softly, “Don’t worry, buddy. I’ll look out for you.” Sindarin smiled.
I hope they become my companions too…
Stay Metal \m/