How a Story Began

Think of this.

Think of a moment that turns the day from one direction into another, thereby changing everything. A way of taking time, moving it from what could be to what might be.

We all have those moments when our days change, sometimes in ways we do not notice at the time. We go on differently then, taking a road we had not planned to travel, ending up in places we had not expected to be.

I remember standing at that crossroads. I had been down that road before, trudging from village to village in the hope I could tell enough stories at each one for me to find something to eat, and perhaps a woman who found the lost and lonely storyteller echoed a need within her for something to hold onto, if only for a fleeting time.

The other road from that crossroads was strange to me, unknown. I knew there were bandits, outlaws in the forest that way. I was not too bothered. I was not worth killing. I carried nothing, and my clothes were probably in worse repair than any worn by an outlaw. If the worst came to the worst, I could always trade a few stories about noble outlaws fighting the oppression of their lords and masters for my life.

So, having no coin to toss, I shrugged and walked off own the strange road. There were no signs, no milestones. The people living around here knew all they needed to know about what lay along the road, and strangers had no need to know if they were only passing through.

I spent the night huddled close to my fire in a clearing near the edge of the forest were it met the road. Traces of old fires, and other detritus, marked it out as a place where many travellers had stayed the night.

I knew there were eyes watching me from the trees and that some of those eyes would be predators or outlaws, not that it made much difference. There wasn’t enough meat on me to risk a fight to the death over me, and, as I said, only a desperate outlaw would want the meagre pickings from my corpse.

Later the next morning, I came across the bodies.

A few outlaws, more soldiers and a limping horse with an arrow in its foreleg. The horse bolted, screaming before I could do anything about the arrow, and the bodies had been stripped bare of anything useful.

I found a woman’s travelling hat by a bush at the side of the road. It was expensively made. I hoped she was worth a good ransom, or was happy to live the rest of her life as an outlaw’s wife.

I thought about turning back then as I stood amongst the pools of dried blood as flies buzzed around and the crows watched me from a lighting-struck tree.

As I looked around again, I thought about what a good story I could tell about the events that came from such a scene. I moved on, hoping there would be a village soon were I could tell the story of the kidnap of Lady Grentell by the outlaws of the forest.

 

Published by David Hadley

A Bloke. Occasionally points at ducks.

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