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This week’s fiction comes from the roughly 20,000 words I have written so far this November.  In the true tradition of NaNoWriMo, it has not been edited, refined, fixed, or in any way amended, and is therefore mostly drivel.  Make of it what you will.

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Seth moved through the town searching for a tavern.  The darkness was swiftly falling and he was worried about the warning the gate guard had given about sleeping outside.  The first tavern he came to was called “The Witches Love”, and after a moment’s thought he passed it by.  It wasn’t safe for him to be mixing with witches, even if the chances were high that no witches were actually in the inn.

“The Bonny Lass” was a better bet, and he pushed his way in to the bar.  The place was only moderately busy, and he could see a barmaid lazing against the wall near the fire, so he didn’t hold out much hope of work.  With no money he needed to find somewhere that would allow him to work for his bed.  Sure enough, the innkeeper laughed in his face when he asked about work.

“Look around you, lad.  I’ve not enough work for those I already have.”

“I don’t suppose you know anywhere that’s looking?”

“No.  Now are you going to buy ale or leave my tavern?”

Wondering at the rudeness of the man, Seth left to continue his quest.  He wandered down several streets which contained nothing but houses, and a street entirely of shoe shops.  Imagine having so many shops all selling shoes!  How many people must there be in this city if all of these shoe shops could stay in business?

Around the corner from the shoe shops was the “Cobblers Arms”.  Seth stuck his head through the door and immediately left again.  If there were only three people in the tavern there would be no work there for him.

“The Lazy Shepherd” had a sign with a picture of a boy sleeping while a wolf stalked the sheep.  Seth wasn’t sure he liked the image or the implication, but there was light and noise spilling from the door.  Even as he watched a large man fell through the doorway, his lip bleeding and one eye rapidly blackening.  Another man followed him and started to pound him with his fists.

Seth was moving before he knew it.  With the number of well trained fighters who lived in his home town, brawls could quickly get out of hand, and he was used to taking his turn in the prevention details.  He grasped the second man’s collar and yanked to the side, forcing him to use his hands for support or crack his head on the pavement.  With one hand he pulled the man’s arm behind his back, and with the other he grasped his shoulder.  Kneeling in his back he leant down and spoke seriously to the man.

“I could easily break your arm.  I suggest you calm down before I decide I want to.  I don’t know what that man did to you, and frankly I don’t care.  If he broke the law, report him, and if he didn’t then deal with it like grown men, not like children.  Do you understand me?”

He gave a little squeeze on the man’s arm and watched as he winced.  The man began nodding frantically.

“Good.  Now, go home.”

He released the man and sprang backwards.  Sure enough, the man flailed out as he rolled to his feet, expecting to hit him.  When his fist met air he looked confused for a moment before his eyes focussed on Seth.  He looked him up and down, and suddenly the fight went out of him.  Seth nodded.

“Go home,” he repeated.  “Before you do something you’ll regret.”

The man nodded and stumbled off, weaving from side to side along the street.  Seth turned to the other man.  His confrontation had taken place so quickly that man had only just staggered to his feet.  He was dabbing at his lip with a scrap of cloth.  When he noticed Seth looking at him, he put it away.

“Thank you.  I really thought he was going to do me in.”

“Go home,” said Seth in exactly the same tone of voice he had used to persuade the more violent of the pair to leave.  “I don’t know what went on between the two of you, and I don’t care, but I do know that you aren’t in a fit state to be moving around.  Go home, put a cold cloth on that eye, and sleep it off.”

The man stared at him.  “But I’m the victim here.  Why should I go home?  Who are you to be telling me what to do anyway?”

Seth just met his eyes steadily until he reddened and looked away.

“Fine,” he muttered.  “I’ll go.”  He wandered off along the street in the opposite direction to the first man.

Seth watched him go, and shook his head in bewilderment.  He’d never understood what people found so wonderful about fighting while drunk.  In his experience it just made you sloppy and easily defeated.  He turned to go into the tavern and suddenly noticed that he had an audience.

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The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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