I suppose this is a piece out of the world of one of the novels I’m working on, Growing Magic. That wasn’t what I had in mind when I wrote the first sentence, but that’s what it wanted to be. Which… is a kind of world building, right? It’s a piece of someone’s journey, anyway, though he’s not a character that appears in the novel and I don’t think he would be able to say the journey has any particular destination.
668 words. Please leave a comment if you like what you read. 😊
A single drip ran down the side of a shot glass that was filled to the brim. Jasper grinned, tossed it back without losing a single drop more, and plunked it back down on the bar. “So,” he said, turning toward the woman sitting beside him, “what did you say your name was?”
“Karen,” she replied, tucking a lock of dark hair behind one ear. Not a particularly standout name, in Jasper’s opinion, but he could overlook that. Her smile was hesitant but flirtatious as she looked him up and down in return, taking in his heavy boots and clothes of reinforced leather. They gave him an aura of looking for trouble that made him stand out in a quiet, middle of nowhere town like this.
Plus, he happened to know that his ass looked fantastic in leather pants.
Jasper was about to ask if he could buy her a drink when a hand slapped down between them. The shot glass jumped, fell over, and rolled down the bar. He let out a heartfelt groan, for he already knew who it was without even needing to glance down at the hand, much less turn and look.
“Nightfall,” his business partner announced briskly. “Time to get going, Jasper. Those monsters aren’t going to catch themselves.” Without waiting for a response, Beatrix snatched up his travel pack from its resting place at the foot of his stool and walked off, knowing he would follow.
After hastily apologizing to Karen and tossing money on the bar, he chased after his pack. It contained all of his belongings too important or too personal to leave with the horses, including his dowsing rod made of a wood that was particularly hard to find on the northern continent. In retrospect, he probably should have been keeping a better eye on it, but between the size of the small community and the fact that something nasty had been preying on vagrants in the night hereabouts, he hadn’t bothered to keep his guard up.
Outside the saloon’s swinging double doors, the night was sharp with cold. That was enough to get Jasper’s pulse up a bit, because it was mid summer and the day had been too sweltering for all the heat to have dissipated so soon naturally. She was right; it was time to go.
He caught up with her halfway to their patiently waiting horses and snatched the bag out of her hand. “Give me that! Hell’s sake, can’t you let me have any fun?”
The road was quiet and lit by glowstone lanterns spaced widely apart enough to not be especially effective. In the distance there was the glimmer of marsh fire, too. It undulated dimly over the surrounding swamp like an earth-bound aurora, but the tricky light only made the town itself seem more shrouded in darkness. Jasper supposed they were used to it around here, but he still found it unnerving.
Beatrix went to her horse, Fenwick, and swung herself into the saddle. “A murder of nightghasts is hanging around the edges of this town, and there are plenty of shadows to creep up in. We have a job to do.”
“Fine. But after this I demand a week off for some me time,” he retorted, mounting up as well. Barnabus snorted and turned his great head around to eye his rider tolerantly, as if to say what took you.
“Believe me,” Beatrix said, rolling her eyes, “I’ve been unlucky enough to share a campsite with you several times when you hadn’t had enough ‘me time’ lately. I’m in no rush to hear that again. Ready?”
Jasper was pleased that he would get what he wanted, but even more eager now to begin the hunt. The dowsing rod was already out of his traveling bag and ready in his hand, twitching like a compass trying to settle on an elusive north.
He flashed his roguish grin, something that never seemed to move his companion in the slightest. “Let’s hit the road.”
Read more about Jasper and Beatrix’s adventures in W is for Watch.