Chapter 1

FYI: This is a completely different story than I'm used to writing.
A strange hunter lives alone in the forest with his horse. What is he hiding from?

The market square buzzed with life as the villagers went about their daily errands. The air was filled with a variety of scents; fresh fruits, recently caught fish, roasted nuts and the overwhelming odour of tanned leather. The men and women of Sorace went back and forth between the stands, exchanging money for goods and the occasional handshakes.

A man, dressed in a hunting suit covered in mud, slowly made his way towards the stands. He rubbed his trimmed beard to remove some of the dried mud and avoided looking at the passersby’s who stared at him moved out of the way as he approached.

A solid black steed walked a few paces behind him. The man didn’t hold the reins nor guided the horse; it simply followed him of its own accord. The tall charger’s was caked in mud and it carried an elk’s lifeless body along with three wolf pelts.

“Oh no, he’s here again,” a woman whispered.

Her husband, standing beside her sighed. “What now?”

“That man scares me,” she said. “I don’t like the looks of him one bit. He’s up to no good.”

“Calm down woman, he’s here once a week and it’s only for a few hours.”

“Well he should go somewhere else,” she said crossing her arms.

“It’s good business for the village. He brings good hides to the tanner and fresh meat to the butcher. I don’t see why you’re so worked up about him, he’s never cause any trouble.”

“He’s one of those crazy hunters who live in the woods like hermits. We don’t need people like that here.”

“Bah, be still woman,” he said rolling his eyes. “For once in your life, mind your own business.”

The couple fell quiet as the man walked passed them and stopped at the tanner’s shop. The steed stopped as well and shook its mane, sending dried mud on the nearby couple. The woman dusted herself and gave an angry look to the horse. The hunter pat his horse’s neck before opening the tannery’s door.

The tanner was sitting at his work table, carefully trimming the unneeded parts of a deer hide. The thin man’s body was bent over the leather as he focused on his work. The man waited a moment before coughing politely to get the tanner’s attention.

“Ah, Charles!” he said. “It’s nice to see you again. I take it the hunt went well.”

Charles nodded but remained silent, not because he didn’t want to chat, but because the years spent alone in the woods with no one but his horse to speak to, made him unaccustomed to talk.

“Please,” the tanner gestured for him to enter. “Come in.”

“I… I’d rather not,” Charles said. His vocal cords tickled after days of not being used. “I’m filthy.”

The tanner couldn’t help but let out a kind laugh. “This shop has seen so much worse my friend.” He stood and extended a hand.

Charles smiled and shook the tanner’s dirty hand. Dried mud and leather particles flew around as their hands met.

“What do you have for me today?” the man said.

“Three wolf pelts,” Charles said.

“Oh, did you finally catch the alpha male?” the tanner said following him to his horse.

“No, but I saw him this morning. He was feeding off one of the rabbits I trapped.”

“If anyone can catch it, it’s you.” The tanner laughed again and pat him on the back.

Charles froze for a moment, forgetting how friendly the tanner was and how he had never asked for his name.

“Those are fantastic,” he said inspecting the pelts. “You do fine work Charles. Most hunters around here either don’t have the right traps or aren’t patient enough while skinning them and end up bringing me pelts with missing limbs. Yours always sell for a pretty penny.” The man smiled widely and brought the wolf skins in his shop. “I’ll be right back.”

He had only been in the village for a few minutes and already wished he was back in the solitude of his forest. After living away from society for five years, even short visits made him uncomfortable, but what bothered him most, was how they looked at him. Charles passed ahands through his horse’s mane to remove some of the mud and avoid looking at the people around him.

“Here you go,” the tanner said, making him jump.

“Thank you,” he said taking the coins and putting them the pouch tied to his belt.

“It’s a pleasure doing business with you.”

He opened his mouth as the tanner was walking away but closed it immediately. He sighed and took a deep breath to work up the courage to say: “I never asked for your name.”

The tanner turned and offered him a warm smile. “It’s Todd.”

Charles nodded and walked towards the butcher’s shop.

The End

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