The Old Coot

The old man was pleased Bäske was his company now, he had spent so many days in the cave his skin had turned pale white and his bones had grown brittle. Bäske eyed the man with angered eyes; “Well then old man, I have kept my promise so far, now tell me your name.”

The old man smiled, he knew the question would arrive at some point; naturally, it was rude to not properly introduce oneself in Oskónia. “My name is of no concern to you, you may call me what you wish; old man, wise man, fool or trickster. The only thing that is of concern now is that we find clues of where to find the dragon I have been waiting for so many years. We must make way for the nearest village; we will buy transport here and a clue. I know where to go.”

Bäske laughed mockingly; “You know where to go old man? You couldn’t find your way out of a cave, let alone know where we can find a clue about your precious beast.” At least the travel to the village wasn’t a boring one; while Bäske mocked the wise-man with anything he could find, all the old man did was reply with riddled answers and history lessons. Occasionally the wizard would let out some information about his past, and Bäske asked for magic tricks. As star-lit darkness approached the two decided to put up for camp along the road. The road was relatively safe, it was paved and on occasion a guardsman or trade caravan would pass. The old man told Bäske to look for wood and perhaps some food would he stumble upon a hare or berry-hound. As Bäske went into a woodier area further on the old man prepared to get some sleep, he had taken a long travel and hadn’t walked this far in a while. He looked for a part of soft ground, threw his long cloak around himself and stuffed his puffy beard inside his clothes. Bäske returned with a scrawny looking hare and some wood, he sighed upon finding the old man sleeping with his back towards him. It looked like he would be finishing the hare alone. As he kneeled down to arrange the wood he suddenly saw a shadowy figure in the corner of his right eye; “you want me to light that for you, little huntsman?” The old man pointed at the wood and a blue flame appeared from the tip of his finger. Bäske felt back, he had never seen magic before. With a quick blue flash the pile of wood caught fire. “You didn’t actually think you’d be finishing that juicy looking beasty yourself did you?” Bäske raised an eyebrow; “There’s not much meat on there to begin with, I don’t know if we can find enough to fill both of our bellies.” Bäske took the axe Johann gave him, laid down the hare next to the fire and decapitated the thing in one quick slash. As blood hit the old man’s face in a spray Bäske laughed barbarically. “I’m sorry about that, I’ll tell you what, you can have the whole thing yourself, I don’t know if I’m hungry anyway.” Wiping the blood from his face the old man smiled; “I won’t be eating that until you rip out its innings and roast it for me.” Bäske grinded his teeth together but almost instantly smiled afterwards; “You are a demanding old coot…very well, just sit down and be quiet for the night. I have things to reflect on.” Satisfied, the wizard went back to his spot and sat down. He put his finger down in the dirt and started moving it around, drawing symbols and figures to pass the time. In front of him Bäske was degutting the hare, first making a slice in its hide and ripping parts of it from its body. He cut off its small paws and stabbed the thing in the chest to make a hole out of which to remove the insides. From the whole gruesome scene a horrible smell was coming too, had a forest troll been around it would have picked up the scent and killed the two men just to suckle on the juice insides of an emaciated little hare. Finishing the preparation for roasting the hare Bäske eyed the old man that was entertaining himself in the dirt further away. He spoke loudly, eying the old man; “Tell me what your name is old man, and no riddles.” Bäske violently smacked the hare on the ground and picked up some rocks to tender the hare’s meat. “I already told you huntsmen, call me what you wish, I have no use for a name.” Bäske smacked down a large rock on the hare, obviously annoyed. Blood splattered over the ground. “I shall give you the word for riddle in my own tongue, it’ll suit you just perfectly, I shall call you Bokhbar, yes that one will suit you very finely” Bokhbar smiled and shrugged; “as you wish huntsman, finish my hare now, and be quick about it.” He smiled a mischievous smile at Bäske. Bäske shook his head and put the hare on a construction he made above the fire. He lied down on his back and gazed up, finally having the time to go through what had happened that day. In the background the rustling of fire and the wind moved softly through the trees. All was virgin white and quiet.

Oskónia wasn’t ruled by a king or lord, when it wasn’t under attack by invading armies or foreign tribes it was peaceful and quiet. It had only one large city, naturally its capital, and the elder council resided there. Bäske had been there once. It was custom for a victorious army to be personally awarded medals by the council. And in Oskónian history there has never been an instance the invading army succeeded. Bäske held many medals and honorary blades. If times hadn’t been as bad as this winter he would be home now, staring at his rewards from a chair in front of the fireplace, drinking a glass of Shivergrot Ale. Alas it wasn’t so, he was stuck with a crazy old man and his entire family had died of starvation weeks before. Bäske changed moods suddenly and jumped up, taking a stick and poking the roasting hare; “Looks like your dinner’s ready old man, find something to put it on before I eat it myself.” Bokhbar hastily looked around for a flat looking object, feeling around him he found a smooth stone and slid it towards the fire. Bäske put the half burned crispy thing on the stone and slid it back towards Bokhbar, he eyed it with disgust and satisfaction; “enjoy.” Bokhbar looked at the hare and started pulling off pieces of the horribly burned black skin, the sound it made when teared off could wake up the whole forest. He took the skins and put them neatly on the side of the rocky plate, he grabbed the hare and put it to his mouth entirely, ripping the flesh off and making the sounds one would not expect an old man to make. Pieces of it got stuck in the beard; Bäske beheld the scene with interest. “Don’t choke old man, who else would save the world from fire-breathing dragons.” Bäske took his axe and started playing around with it, tightening the rope and hacking into the ground with it. It was getting late, by the time Bäske was getting tired and sleepy, Bokhbar was still at it with the hare. His face and beard were ridden with blood and pieces of flesh. It would be the first time in a while he had such a good meal; normally he had to feed on bugs and bats. Only a wizard would put himself through such an ordeal to accomplish something. Bäske felt it was going to be a long trip, had he ever heard of a dragon the actual goal would be closer to grab, but the only thing they were going for was a vague description about a vague myth. Bäske made a bed of leaves and tucked himself into his leather tunic, he hoped he wouldn’t be waking up a frozen icicle. At the sight of Bäske going to sleep Bokhbar threw away the remainder of the hare. It was time for sleep, he crept close to the fire to stay warm. Tomorrow they would make a journey to the town, still a day’s walk away.

The End

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