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Thick and Thin

I often wondered if I could write a story consisting only of speech, a good story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The idea for this story came when I was writing a role-play game scenario.
Steve Dean Short Story Thick and Thin
Image: Ben Wootten

“We’re being followed.”

“Huh, I doubt that very much.”

“You over-estimate your abilities, my friend.”

“As do you, again. That masking spell I cast is one of my finest, Bessom, so I doubt very much anyone could track us.”

“Nevertheless, my young wanderer, we are being followed, by persons so far unknown. I can only conclude they wish to acquire something of yours, possibly that which you carry.”

“Don’t call me young, you know I don’t like it.”

“Then desist in calling me Bessom, you know I have no liking for that.”

“Fine, let’s not argue, but consider the matter at hand. You say we’re being followed, and if true can only mean one thing. Deathmask, or one of his lackeys.”

“An astute, if grammatically incorrect, observation, for one so young. More importantly, what is our plan of action?”

“Why do you always go on about my age? I know I’m not as old as you, but who is, you withered old stick.”

“I am by no means withered, I might be a little thin, but that is hardly my own fault. You on the other hand are stout because you eat to excess.”

“You are so ungrateful. You were sweeping up in a tavern when I found you. I’ve a good mind to take you back, or leave you right here.”

“Fine, I am quite capable of independent existence. You, however, have an almost childlike dependency on my abilities. The first crossroads you arrive at, or the first miscreant that crosses your trail and it will be ‘Mythrata, help me!’”

“However, do you think I got on before, without you? I was doing very well for myself.”

“Oh, yes, Mage Treesong, a fine mount you had, and a purse bursting with gold, and the knowledge and power of one of the Great Ones. Huh!”

“I had a horse once. Very nice it was, although a bit chewy. And gold, who needs gold?”

“Not I for truth, nor horse. But it might be pleasant upon occasion to travel by coach instead of being dragged along these muddy, thorn infested trails you call ‘Ways.’ This damp is doing me no good at all. I might yet leave you at the next suitable place, settle down in some noble’s palace.”

“And what would a noble do with you beside sweep the floor.”

“Oh, off we go again with the old broom jest. Can you not be more original?”

“It’s just that you’re such an easy target, being so thin and all.”

“They’re getting closer.”

“From which direction.”

“South, and a little east.”

“How can I tell which way that is with trees everywhere I look and a grey sky over our heads, you fool?”

“I won’t tell you now.”

“Then how will I protect us?”

“I am quite capable of self-protection thank you.”

“Just tell me, Mythrata.”

“Behind, over your left shoulder. It’s no use looking, you buffoon, they’re still too distant.”

“They?”

“Three, one is Deathmask, and therefore almost certainly High-eye. The other is unknown to me.”

“So, you’re not perfect then?”

“I have never claimed such.”

“I don’t understand how he found out.”

“About what you carry? He is clearly cleverer than you think.”

“Clever is hardly a word I’d use. Lucky yes, daddy’s favourite spoiled little rich boy, everything handed to him on a platter, and what’s that ridiculous name all about?”

“Don’t get bitter now, it only brings on your complaint.”

“What would you care? Anyway, a bit of flatulence never hurt anyone.”

“But it might alert them to our position.”

“How, he’s tracking us with magic, surely?”

“I have been able to deduce the identity of the other. Not a person but a creature.”

“So, he’s been smart enough to bring along a hunting hound.”

“Hunting, correct, hound, I’m afraid not.”

“Oh. Er, would this thing be sort of scaly, bigger than a big dog and possibly of another plain?”

“Mostly.”

“A Slynk?”

“Correct.”

“Ahh. Red or grey?”

“Mostly, red.”

“Mostly red, or all red?”

“All red actually, I was merely attempting to spare you a little anxiety.”

“Thank you. What’s the plan?”

“I was under the impression that you did all the thinking.”

“No, I do everything else, and half the thinking. You merely do the other half of the thinking.”

“Fine, please inform me of your contribution.”

“Well, we could hide, no, we couldn’t could we. Or run, we could run away.”

“We could turn around and charge straight at them, they will be greatly surprised. I can then dispel the Slynk and you can immobilise Deathmask. Then, as one, we neutralise High-eye. He is a little on the tardy side, which should give us ample time.”

“It’s a good plan, I’ll think on it. No, I like mine best.”

“You cannot run forever. If that Slynk has us scented it will follow us ever more, halfway around this globe and any other. The grey ones are tenacious enough, the red are far worse.”

“If we just go a bit further we might find a town, or something.”

“The next town is approximately three days north west. There is a village a few hours away. Lovely, peaceful little hamlet. Bit of a shame to lead a red Slynk in there. All those wide-eyed country folk, clutching their rosy-cheeked babes to their…”

“I get the idea. Can we at least find a tree or a cave or something to protect our backs?”

“Umm, I’ll have a look around.”

“Quick as you like, I can sense the Slynk myself now, so it must be very close.”

“This forest is very young you know, nothing over fifty years. It’s possible there was a fire, or a war, lots of timber used in conflict.”

“That’s very interesting but it doesn’t help our situation.”

“Aha! There’s a river.”

“Where?”

“Straight ahead and a little to the left. Feels quite large. Mayhap we can ford it, or perhaps a little swim. It might put off the Slynk.”

“It won’t and you know it, but it might slow Deathmask down, and High-eye never did like water. If we can split them up we might have a chance.”

“It’s the best we can hope for. Come along, a little faster with you.”

“I’m not going to run too fast, I’ll be no good to us out of breath.”

“Can you hear the river now? It’s not far. A few paces more. Oh, that is a little wider than I had expected Treesong, still it’s quite slow. Let us get wet shall we?”

“Slowly, no need to rush, they’re still a way back yet. Ah good, at least it’s firm underfoot here, but my goddess it’s cold.”

“Cease your complaining and move faster, we need to acquire the opposite bank in order to make our stand.”

“We must be halfway, tell me we’re halfway, if this water gets any deeper Deathmask will just need to scoop us from the water as we float by.”

“It is already shallower, keep moving, we’re doing fine.”

“What was that splash behind us?”

“Oh, just salmon leaping, or some such watery denizen.”

“What, in the middle of summer at dusk?”

“Of course, that is the best time to watch them feeding.”

“It was the Slynk wasn’t it?”

“Merely concentrate on not falling over. We are almost there. Just face ahead, don’t think about anything at all rapidly approaching from the rear.”

“Thanks, Mythrata, that helped. I’m turning around right here.”

“Fine, but two more steps and you’ll have the bank.”

“All right. One, two, and turn.”

  * * *

“That’s the first time I’ve heard a Cyclops cry. Quite pitiful really.”

“I was not even aware they favoured the keeping of pets.”

“Anyone who has a pet Slynk is asking for trouble.”

“That was an excellent shot, if I may say, Treesong. Your fireball impacted quite centrally on the end of its bulbous nose. Certainly slowed it down a mite.”

“Yes, but it was your lightning bolt that made it turn tail and run, well swim.”

“You should have observed the legs of the creature, hammering like a thing possessed. All ten of them thrashing like the spokes on a runaway cartwheel. The next instant Deathmask begins to shout, wading into the river, steam pouring off that ridiculous aura he insists on wearing. He’s such a large man but that Slynk was fairly moving when they collided.”

“And such cursing, it’s been a good few years since I heard language like that.”

“Of course, that’s when I deduced the Slynk was old High-eye’s pet. He assaulted Deathmask most grievously. Of course you heard him. ‘Leave it be, it be mine!’ Oh dear, terrible it was, terrible.”

“So old High-eye ‘rescued’ the Slynk from Deathmask and it turned on him?”

“Oh yes, treacherous creatures those. Ironically, it was the Cyclops that destroyed the Slynk and thus Deathmask was now very much alone. He spots us on the bank, standing pretty and not so much as a bead of perspiration, then turns and retreats, abandoning the Cyclops, whom is presently sobbing against a tree nursing the Slynk corpse as it slowly fades from this existence.”

“No one will believe us you know.”

“That is the truth, but it may yet procure us a cosy chamber for the night. The village I mentioned earlier lies just ahead.”

“So, back to the old routine?”

“It would seem so.”

“Ah, villagers, best keep quiet.”

“Not a word, Treesong, not a word.”

“Alms, alms for a poor old blind man with only a thin broom stave to lean upon.”

“Oh for goddess’ sake.”

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2 thoughts on “Thick and Thin”

  1. Mark Lucas-Taylor

    An enjoyable snippet that sets the imagination going as one needs to visualise the scene from hints given in the conversation which provides for an interesting read. I see scope for a bigger story here and would like to read it.

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