This week I’m gathering writing prompts and I’ll be writing ~1000 words each day to inspire myself and quite simply - get writing. This first piece had come from a strange thing one of my regulars said the other week “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”
The Traveller, The Hunter and The Warrior
“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room,” the traveller announced knowingly. Seemingly wise words coming from a man wearing such a ridiculous hat, I thought. It was woolly and a strange muddy green colour, bits of fluff careered off it in different directions and there were several strange stains on it. Well, you know what they say about hats looking like their owners… or something like that. The rest of his attire fared little better, he wore beige slacks that had soaked up rainwater to the knees. He also wore an oversized jumper of a multitude of colours, it sagged strangely and the many holes inferred that the bag at his feet wasn’t full of spare clothing. A scruffy beard adorned his weak jaw and his glazed blue eyes glittered in the lamplight, much to the adoration of the two local girls sat at the table with this -so called- mysterious stranger.
They swooned and giggled as he launched himself into yet another tale of daring adventure. Something about fighting off half a dozen Wildlings in the waste. I’d bet my next bounty that he’d never been to the Wastes and if faced with a Wildling would leave nothing but a sudden gust and a trail of piss. In fact he’d probably never seen one of the feral ones, the creature could pick the woollen monstrosity from his head and he’d be none the wiser. He was a vague sort, the type of “traveller” who has visited a few too many coffee palaces in the North. Lucky Bastard. It’s been over a cycle since I last found myself in a coffee palace. A pipe and an espresso, that’s what I need; rather than to be stuck in a dive bar at 3am.
“I admire the Wildlings really,” the faux air of wisdom continued, “They’ve gone back to their primitive states, hunched over and animal. Beautifully wild. They live off the land, they’ve really, truly embrace nature out there.”
The girls gazed over their cooling mugs of cyder with awe at this new philosophical proclamation. Personally I choked on my particular mouthful of the spiced liquid. The traveller clambered awkwardly from the bench with the gait and grace of a baby giraffe and ordered another round from the barkeep who somehow looked less impressed at this young man than I was. Though I did suffer a close up scent of the dreaded hat. He smiled at us both.
“Y’know… We could really learn a lot from the Wildlings.”
“Yes,” I said, breaking my silence, “such as how to skin and eat a live human.”
I received a thankful wink from the barkeep has a pressed my coins into his had. The
two local girls looked furious at me but Monsieur Voyage wasn’t looking at anything except the floor. Too many folk romanticise the Wastes. It’s not an idyllic uncharted land, it’s a barren hell of our own creation.
In the odd moment that followed I took my leave. I cannot abide useless people nor those who waste my time. My contact clearly wasn’t making an appearance tonight.
* * *
As I walked out onto the street I mulled over the wiseman’s thoughts. Thinking literally, you can say that everyone in the cities take up too much room. There’s poverty, overpopulation, pollution, crime… but who wants to live on the edge, out near the Wastes? I’ll take a mugging in the crowded capital any day. Not that i have a choice in the matter. Too much of my work takes me out there, but do I prefer waiting in lousy saloons for contacts that never show up? No. Waiting is not my forte. Hunting is.
All hope of finding my contact is gone, few people would be willing to venture out onto the sodden street. The brickwork gleams with water and though the rain cuts through the fog I can still barely see a few yards ahead. There’s no puddles, the whole street is under several inches of water and the drains are doing nothing but create little currents that have already worked to soak through my boots.
I never stay far from a meeting place. I prefer to stake out the spot the day before, it prevents any unwarrented surprises. I hadn’t expected any surprises tonight but i’d at least expected my contact to show. He called himself Shial and he’d been reaching for my attention for a while now. Apparently this bounty meant a lot to him, something more than money was pushing this gent’s buttons. Eventually I had to give into my intrigue and arrange to meet.
Too many of my bounties run to the Wastes away from crimes of passion and petty theft just to be dragged back to jail in my custody. My last bounty turned up at the edge of the Wastes, half eaten and rotting with stolen jewels still in his pack.
I reached the inn in short time and ducked into the entrance all, dripping on the worn carpet. Avoiding the lounge, I headed straight to the top floor to bunk down. It’s strange how much the rain saps my strength these days.
As soon as I stepped onto the fourth floor landing I immediately sensed something was wrong. A loose piece of sisal was wrapped around the door knob, the unwritten symbol in inns such as this for “do not disturb”, “go away” and “nothing to see here, move along”. Had I mistaken my room in my late night fatigue? No. I’d chosen that particular room for the clear view of the street.
I wasn’t mistaken. I had a visitor.
* * *
Plucking the blade from my boot I stepped quietly towards the door and pushed it open. It was slightly ajar, I was expected.
Sat in the shadows by the window, leaning against the sill, was a tall, muscular man who gangled. He wore a thick leather tunic which exposed thick biceps and suede slacks tucked into sturdy travelling boots. A wax cloak was draped over the chair in the corner with what looked like a sabre. I had a bad feeling about this man, he had the air of a Warrior.
He looked up calmly at the dagger pointed in his direction no doubt due to my own pistol in his hand, pointed in mine. Shadows of the rain outside the window danced over the slender barrel, lighting it up in the dark room.
“A good friend of mine missed an appointment with you tonight, Mr Cantillon. I need your assistance to find out why.” His voice was smooth and educated with a hint of the aristocracy, it didn’t fit with the shadowed figure I saw in front of me. I couldn’t put my finger what was wrong with this picture until he stepped into the light.
There was no doubt to be had. The tattoos that covered his arms, the deep scars on his face and neck; standing tall in front of me was a Wildling.
And he was asking for my help.