I started with the best of intentions and a kind of need to prove I could do it again. That I still had it in me. Probably the biggest obstacle I was facing was that I had only the roughest of ideas for a story and not even a sketch of an outline.
The road clung to them like a jealous lover in an unfamiliar tavern. Dirt and sweat and stink along with three nights of sleeping rough and the accompanying bug bites to prove it. The horses were gone, along with their saddles, bags, and harness. Lost somewhere in the Cairn Wood. Brael had a handful of coins left in his money bag, his kit, and about three bites of hardtack remaining when they finally walked back out of the wood.
“Well, you’d think a damn big stack of rocks would be easier to find. That’s all I’m saying,” Glauston said as they stood within the shadow of the forest gazing out over the meadow.
“Forest is a bit, more, than I was expecting,” Brael said with a shrug and a grin. “Besides, that horse was shit. And we found half a dozen stacks of rocks, it’s gotta be out there. Somewheres. But we made it back out and the timber lane can’t be more than two miles off. We’ll be back to civilization within half a day.”
“Somewheres, indeed. The horses might have been shit, but my gear wasn’t,” Glauston said. “I’m inclined to think you owe me a saddle.”
Brael slapped the big man on the back and stepped out of the shadows. “Let’s go. And I’m not buying you shit.”
They found the Timber Lane right where they expected and after brief exchange of opinions decided that they were probably north of Lara and should probably keep heading away from the village.
“It’s entirely possible that the whole Cairn of Tharham story was just to get us to leave,” Brael said as they stopped to share their remaining bread and tack.
“Bah,” Glauston dismissed the idea. “We hadn’t even been there a week. We were good for another three or four days, I tell you.”
“You did punch that guy’s cow.”
“It was a bull. I wouldn’t punch a cow. Standards, Brael, you’ve got to have standards.”
“Oh, I’ve got standards, big guy. You didn’t see me punching anyone’s livestock. Besides, even had you knocked it out, instead of pissing it off, what was the point?”
Glauston spit a bit of gristle over his shoulder and grinned. “No point. Just a bet.”
“You’re an idiot.” They both laughed. Glauston at the look on the farmers face when he walked over and punched his bull. Brael at the sight of his friend running back across the field and hopping the fence to get away from the angry animal.
I just started writing, with hardly any idea where I was going. I tried to keep things on the rails and write toward some amorphous cohesive theme. Basically, I needed to build toward a group of five characters doing a thing successfully. But get there through a series of partial successes and outright failures. My lack of planning made the whole thing feel like an uphill climb.
“I’ll let you a bed, but you’re not sleeping on my blankets until you’ve had a wash. The two of you stink like you been sprayed by a trollskunk.”
The two exchanged a look of shared revelation. “Trollskunk,” they said in unison.
“I’m not going to say that we weren’t,” Brael said to the innkeep. “But I am just curious, are trollskunk’s good eating?”
The innkeeper laughed and shook good naturedly. “They’re better eating than possum, a bit bony, but they’re a little tricky to catch. Seems you boys figured that bit out, though. Next time, look for a rabbit. They’ve got more meat and less stink. Now, about that bath.”
“You’ll not get an argument from either of us on that point,” Brael said laying out three of his remaining coin.
The bath was brought to their room and their clothing was taken away to be laundered.
“You were a farmer, Brael, how did you not know about these trollskunks?”
Brael looked up from his scrubbing and got an eyeful of Glaustons nakedness. “Dude. Maybe sit in the chair and not on the table.”
“What? I just washed. You worried about tasting my ass? Maybe, don’t put your food right on the table. See, I’m a problem solver. No worries.” Glauston grinned and continued to clean his kit.
“Yeah. Thanks.” Brael said. “The only skunks I ever saw were the black and white variety, but then, like you said, I was a farmer. There is not a lot of farming that goes on in the forest. Mostly, we do the farming out in the cleared pasture and meadow lands.”
“Maybe next time, we don’t try to hit those,” said Glauston setting aside his sword and taking up his mail coat.
“We?” Brael questioned. “If I’m taking the blame for losing the horses, which was so not my fault, for the record, then you can own up to trying to smash the skunk with a log.”
“It was dragging off my pack,” Glauston said, “what would you have me do? Wave it goodbye and do nothing? Like you did with horses. A normal animal would run away when you throw a log at it. How should I know. I wasn’t a farmer.”
“I was up the tree. You were in the cave. I don’t know what happened to the horses. One moment they were there, along with all our stuff, the next minute they were gone. Something either chased them off or they wandered back to the farm we bought them from. Neither is good and neither is my fault.” Brael said as he stood to rinse off the soap.
“We should keep our ears open. Maybe we’ll hear of someone finding our horses and things in one of these villages along the forest. I mean, nobody will admit that they showed up with our stuff, but maybe we can get lucky.” Glauston handed across a towel and glanced up at the sound of a knock at the door.
The maid came through the door and bought them a bottle along with a platter of bread, meat, and cheese. Brael recognized her, but couldn’t remember her name—Dorrie or Kaerice or maybe something starting with a Th sound. He couldn’t remember, but he was certain they’d stayed at this inn in the past.
“Your clothes will be a bit longer, yet, as I’ve hung them out to dry,” She said, looking over each of the naked men before her appreciatively. She closed the door with her foot and set the tray down on the edge of the table. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” she said handing Brael the bottle and squealing as Glauston wrapped a hand around her waist and pulled her toward him.
It kinda keeps wandering along like that for 5,000 words or so. Then I hit a spot where I didn’t know where to go and I just stopped writing. This is my official announcement, I’m not even trying to get to 50k at this point. Consider me a NaNoWriMo washout.
I think I like the idea enough to keep going… but I need to outline this thing to do so. And that means I need to make time to sit down and do that. We’ll see where it goes.