Ale would not soothe Lan’s mood.
He had indulged in a long, steaming bath earlier that evening. His skin still felt raw and new, but it was a good feeling. Much better than the stewing mess under his skin.
There was no call for it, his inner monologue told him. He had taken back what had remained of Fetlock and told the mayor what had happened. The mayor had looked perplexed, but had brought in the local hedgewizard for her consultation. She was a tall, willowy woman, very like Lan’s mother. One look at the mess of burnt twigs and hair, and then she had brushed her hands off on her long sleeves and announced that Fetlock had never been a man at all.
“A construct,” Lan muttered. He rubbed his index finger and thumb together. No wonder her presence had not been required beyond two minutes. An amateur ought to have been able to see Fetlock for what he was, particularly in such a defeated state. Poor Lan was in the same magical state as an amateur, with even less reason than a true amateur had for ignorance.
The wood of the bar bit into his bare forearms. He reached for his pint, then thought better of it and reached for his purse instead. He paid his tab, then left the tavern.
Fetlock’s origins would be a matter for someone else. Although Lan would have been willing enough to pursue the matter further, the mayor had paid him personally, before dismissing him with as much ceremony.
Outside the village, night seemed more honest. Black and blue dominated the spectrum, suppressing even the green. There were no lanterns attempting to beat back or dispel the calmness of the dark. Lan trudged northwards, back to the spot where he had seen Fetlock fall to pieces. Where he had seen the fox.
When he arrived there, he glanced up at the tree where he had hidden himself. He briefly considered climbing back up, but decided against it. The fox had seen through Fetlock, that was no surprise. Many animals, particularly those as sharp of wit as a fox, could see through magic. His father had told him that, as well as many other things. Lan leaned against the tree trunk and glared at the dirt. If only he had been a better listener.
Sighing, he sat down with his back up against the tree. The question of why was what bothered him. Why had it bothered about Fetlock? And why had it not attacked him?
It couldn’t have been a protective spirit guiding or using the animal. Those were yet another subject that he could have learned much more about from his father. But what he did remember was enough to strike the possibility from his mind.
After all, there was nothing out there set on protecting him. He hadn’t needed it in any case. A construct was less powerful than a man, not more.
Lan reached into his rucksack and took out a well-worn letter. It was the last he had received from his parents. It was easy enough to send them messages, but so long as his father kept his promise not to meddle with magic, he could only receive messages when he decided to stay in one place longer than he generally desired.
Reading through the letter brought a smile to his face. Another baby for his second eldest sister. She’d be wearing braids and picking flowers by the time he went back home.
Night crawled on. Scratching his cheek, Lan rested his head on his shoulder and let himself doze off. Perhaps he’d never find the fox or figure out why it had attacked the construct. It wouldn’t affect even if he did. He would just rise in the morning and set off for wherever the horizon took him next.
- Freewriting at last (litendeavor.wordpress.com)