Charles took another deep breath and opened the door to the busy butchery. His eyes grew wide when he saw the line of people already waiting to be served and felt the urge to turn around, but it had to be done. He needed the money for supplies and grain feed for his horse. So he waited and waited. The people in line gave him plenty of space, though he wasn’t sure if it was by fear or disgust.
When his turn finally came, the butcher took one look at him and froze. The hunter scared him like no one else did. Every animal he brought had been killed with pure precision, with either an arrow through the heart or with its jugular sliced. Only someone who enjoyed killing could make such perfect kills every time.
He took the rag from the counter and cleaned his cleaver. “What will it be today?” he asked, trying to mask his fear.
Charles paused and looked at the knife. “I have meat for you… If you want it that is.”
The butcher looked at the line of people standing behind then back at him. “You’ll have to wait until there are less customers.”
Charles nodded. “I’ll wait outside.”
“Next,” the butcher said dismissing him.
Charles walked out and moved out of the way as people went in and out of the butchery. He took a brush out of the saddle bags and began to remove the filth from his horse around the elk. He smiled as the steed craned its neck and hoofed the ground in delight.
“I’ve never seen a horse hate being dirty so much,” he whispered and the horse nickered in reply.
He was almost done brushing when the butcher finally came to see him.
“Let’s make this quick, I have customers waiting,” he said keeping his distance from the strange hunter. Chills ran down his spine thinking about what that man did in the woods. “Is it fresh?” he said shaking the horrid thoughts away.
Charles nodded and motioned to the elk. “I killed him this morning in the glades by the village.”
“How did you get him on there?” The butcher asked, staring at the size of his horse. The elk rested on its back above eye level.
“I had help,” Charles said patting the horse’s muscular back.
The butcher raised an eyebrow in disbelief and examined the dead elk. Quality meat wasn’t easy to find and an elk this size would supply the villagers for some time.
“I’ll give you fifty five coins,” he said quickly, offering him more than he usually would just so he would get rid of the man faster. “But you have to help me bring it in.”
“Of course,” Charles said following the butcher around the shop, the black charger followed close behind.
“How are we supposed to bring it down?” the butcher said annoyed. The elk was too heavy to lift alone and the horse was too tall for them to reach it well enough to lift it off.
Charles extended his hand, palm facing down, and lowered it. The horse bowed awkwardly and lay on the ground, allowing them better access. The butcher shifted nervously and hurried to carry the elk inside with Charles help. Then he all but threw the money at the hunter and closed the door.
“Thanks...” he said to the door.
He pocketed the money and made his way towards the grocer for the last part of his visit in the village. The steed stood and followed him with a newfound bounce in its step.
The grocer smiled as he saw the pair near his stands. “Same as usual?” The old man said. Charles nodded and his horse fidgeted, unable to stay in place. He put a hand on its neck to calm it and the horse stood still.
The old man went to one of the stands, picked out a large bag of horse feed and struggled to bring it to them. Charles hurried over to help and swung the bag over his shoulder. He tied the bag on the back of the saddle so that it rested on the horses behind and picked up two more while the man prepared a bag with cheese, bread and various vegetables, which was also tied to the saddle bags.
The old man looked at the black charger that eyed him carefully from the edge of the shop and smirked. “Would you like some ap…”
“Please don’t say that word,” Charles rushed to cut him off. “He’s already excited enough.”
The old man chuckled and walked to his fruit stand. He crouched to take a bag and the steed immediately nickered and bobbed its head. He smiled and filled the bag with apples to the brim and handed it to Charles who paid him.
“Would you like anything else?” he asked.
“No thank you,” Charles replied, patting the impatient steed.
The man extended a hand towards the steed but stopped halfway.
“May I?” he asked.
Charles looked at the old man’s trembling hand and nodded. The grocer turned his hand up to reveal a ruby red apple. The black charger bobbed its head again, moved forward to smell the apple and gently took it from the man’s hand, eating it in one bite.
“You made his day,” said Charles.
“He’s a beautiful creature,” the man said. “Come back anytime.”
“Thank you,” he said tying the bag of apples before mounting.
He leaned back on the bags of feed and the steed slowly made its way towards the gates on its own, carefully avoiding the villagers around it.