It’s story time boys and girls! Here’s a brand spanking new serial that *may* get woven in between the ongoing episodes of “Trouble Gum” here on CF. Give this a read, if you’ve been around here for awhile, these faces may not be all together unfamiliar .
Clomp, clomp, scritch, scratch, the stout man and the burly dog at his side trudged in silence over distant hills. The man’s shoulders hung low with an unseen weight, his back bent into the pressing breeze, away from the sun that set behind. The dog walked with head slung low, nose pressed to the packed dirt beneath, its ears cocked forward as he snuffled away in concentration.
The duo spoke not a word, nor even spared each other a glance. Yet it was clear in their matching strides, the matching dour looks that rode upon their faces and the way they moved as one that the two belonged together. This man that stood just a hair over six foot tall and stared into the distance ahead with steel black eyes that saw forever would on occasion reach over to give the dog’s sagging ear a quick but gentle tug. The dog, standing nearly to the man’s waist with a chest as broad as a wine cask, thick black fur that stood patchy at best would pause in his nasal search to touch the mans hand with his nose. Nothing more passed between the two.
On and on they marched through the grasses and hills outside the Village Noble, their path always straight ahead and never straying. One foot in front of the other they marched, never pausing to gather their bearings or for a bit of respite and rest.
A lone villager sat at the crest of a hill a half a league ahead, spotting the man and his dog. Looking back at his broken down wagon that lay with its wheel splintered behind him, he contemplated asking this odd character for help. The villagers’ first reaction was to blanch from the idea of approaching the stout man with storm clouds riding high in eyes, his fearsome dog doing little to make the idea more appealing. A frigid memory of cold nights forced outside the walls of the village with the cries of whatever evil lurked behind them made the pair coming down the road seem more tolerable.
Marcus turned to look back down the road, gauging once again the mettle of the man before him. Drawing near, the stout mans details came into better relief allowing Marcus a more detailed view. The effect did little to help his nerves. The man was indeed broad about the chest and shoulder as he had originally thought, yet his clothes hung loose about his frame. His pants bloomed about his legs, cinched tight with a length of twine; the shirt billowed out from where it was tucked into his breeches. Despite the way they hung, the man’s size still seemed imposing beneath.
Close cropped hair gave counterpoint to a long and swaying beard that circled a mouth that clenched tightly shut. The set of his jaw and long seeing eyes made Marcus wonder if the man was even aware; his hopes were that it was a gaze of determination as opposed to one of malevolence.
“Ho,” Marcus shouted as the man and his dog began to climb the base of the hill. Neither of them faltered in their step.
“I say, Ho!” he shouted again, this time waving his arms into the air. Man and dog continued their climb; the man stared dead ahead, the dog snuffled loudly at the ground before him.
Marcus began to panic, fearing the worst form the cold shoulder being returned. Visions of muggings and violence made sweat bead upon his brow and his mouth run dry. He stood in the center of the road, slack jawed and unmoving as the duo crested the hill.
Following his nose pressed hard to the ground, the dog was the first to take notice of the obstacle before them. The sounds of sniffing grew louder in the nervous air between duo and villager as the dog worked its way to the boots of Marcus. Dog tested the scent around the man’s soles, a tentative whiff of his trousers and hands. Marcus gulped loudly not knowing what to expect from the overstuffed beast stood before him.
Dog turned to look at the stout man he travelled with, his ears cocked forward as if he was asking for instructions. He turned back to the now shaking Marcus and began to circle, giving him a once again with his nose as he passed. Once, twice, three times he passed, nose working all the while. Marcus remained stock still. At last, the dog moved to a position in front of the frightened villager and sat.
Marcus started eye to nose with the beast, the smell of dirty fur and smelly dog invading his senses. His own nervous sweat stung in his eyes as it stared him down and at last he managed a shuddering breath.
The dog let loose with a thundering snuffle, the escaping air from his maw setting his jowls all a flutter.
“Relax,” the mysterious man spoke, his voice heavy with bass. “Dog gives approval, so safe you will be. “
The man stood tall behind his dog, his arms crossed tightly over broad chest. He played idly with is beard as his contemplated the lonesome villager before him, the silence stretching on as he watched.
“Who is this that breaks our march? With wagon broken and throat so parched?”
“Just a simple man,” Marcus replied.
“A simple man…” the man chuckled as he stared Marcus down. “A simple man that would stop two such as us, yet manages to stand shaking before us? Surely there’s more to you than simple.”
Marcus began to breathe once again, his nerves dropping to an even pulse. He pulled his cap from atop his head and began to wring it with worn hands before him. “I could use some assistance it would seem,” he replied.
The man glanced to the broken wagon behind Marcus, taking in the damage and the jumbled inventory that lay about it in the path. Many of the items were wooden crates stacked high, hiding the contents within. Some had broken open in their fall to spill their contents upon the road. The man saw things such as extra clothes, stores of grain and beans, house wares and more.
“Well, don’t bother telling me that you only need help with a broken wheel,” the man said as he scratched his beard. He toed the rear of beastly dog as he spoke, the dog setting forth to investigate the wreckage with his snout.
“Sir?” Marcus asked, confused. “The wheel is clearly broken!”
“I can see that, you nit.” The man barked with a laugh. “I can see too that the true need for help lies back where you once called home.”
Dog whiffed about the crates and debris with his great snout, an occasional whine or fleeting growl escaping as he worked. As he neared the back of the wagon, he raised his head to the wind that blew from the direction that Marcus once came, tasting deep of the scents only he could smell. Rising to his full height, the great and burly dog raised its hackles and sounded off with a throaty snarl that froze the blood that ran through Marcus and drew a glance from the man himself.
“Dog confirms,” the man said as he looked down upon the trembling villager.
“Well sir,” Marcus pulled himself tall as he forced himself to spill his tale. “There is indeed something dark that lies behind me, but all I need is help with my wagon and I can continue on my way. “
“What kind of Darkness lies that way?” the man asked.
“Something unseen and full of menace, but you need not worry yourself about it,” Marcus replied.
“So you’d let us march into said darkness blind?” The man asked with disappointment in his tone.
“I mean no harm sir, just to remove myself from danger.”
“Fair enough, fair enough.” The man uncrossed his arms and stood to his full six foot two. He stepped around Marcus in the center of the road to survey the wreckage of the wagon and bent to begin sifting through the pieces that remained.
“Do you think you can fix it?” Marcus asked with hope.
“I should think we can fix the wheel and then some,” the man replied as he sat a band of iron that surrounded the wheel in place.
“And then some? But you have no tools?”
“Don’t need em, “ the man replied.
“What else do you plan on fixing?”
“The blight that lies ahead.”
Marcus gasped, memories of long dark nights filled with haunting howls and inches deep gouges left in his front door as if something attempted to claw its way through. “I…I can’t take you there,” he stammered.
“No need,” the man replied.
“You know not what you face,” Marcus cried out. “None us know what stalks the Village Noble at night!”
“Doesn’t matter,” the man replied.
“Are you saddled with a wish for doom,” the villager asked?
“No, just saddled with a wish for helping those in need you could say,” the man replied.
“So you are going to march ahead into to certain evil, with no regards of what awaits? “
“I’m not too worried,” the man chuckled. He glanced over his shoulder to see that Dog still stood tall in the center of the road eyeing the way ahead. “I’ve got assistance as you can see, and him and me, we’ve seen quite a bit in our time. Not many surprises left out there to tell the truth. Not to mention the fact that we could use a bit of excitement around now.”
“From where do you come?” Marcus asked as he marveled at the casual air to the man that was planning to walk into the place he fled in fear.
“Oh, who knows these days? Not me.” Wiping his hands on his breeches, the man rose to his feet to face Marcus once again.
“You forget who you are?”
“No no, I know that part,” the man replied.
“Then how can you forget from whence you came?” Marcus pressed on.
“The dog and I, we’ve walked for a long long time.” The man spoke with a matter of fact tone that suggested that the statement was truth instead of estimation or boast.
“For how long?” Came the obvious answer.
The man let out a long sigh as he ran a hand over the sweat standing upon his skull. He turned to the dog with a questioning look, “Do I really have to tell this part every time?”
The dog huffed and gave a slight nod, eyes locked on the road ahead.
“Years and years since last we stopped,” the man continued. “And yes, I know it sees impossible and all that rot. I can tell you though, the Dog and I’s tale runs like a many layered plot. I could start from the beginning and tell it all over again, but by the time we were done, that evil of yours would probably die of old age.”
“I…I don’t understand?” Marcus stammered.
“They seldom do at first.”
“You claim to have walked for years and years, you fix my wagon with your bare hands and claim to set forth to battle unseen evil…what matter of man are you?”
The man puffed up his chest like a bird putting forth its brightest plume. Dog broke his stance to walk over, planting himself tall at his side. “Why the dog and I are not mere men, you could liken us closer to legend!”
“Legend?” Marcus asked confused.
“Why of course! Do you not recognize the duo that stand before you? Creatures of legend who’s tales are told over campfire and dinners from shore to shore?”
“I’m sorry, no.” Marcus replied.
The man turned to dog and gave him a stroke with broad hand. The corners of his mouth pulled down as the words set in, implications unknown to the villager that stood before. “It seems they don’t know of us here, old friend. It would explain our feelings of weakness and remorse these days.” the man said softly. The dog whined meekly in return.
“Well, from where we came, we were well known. I suppose we’ve finally gotten ahead of our reputation though.”
Marcus urged on. “What nature of legend stand before me? What are your names?”
“We’re known as the Fat Man and his Dog,” the man sighed, deflating a bit from his puffed up posture. “But it would appear that we’re not going to get the normal excitement and exclamations that we usually get when we utter said names.”
“I reckon not,” Marcus replied. “But fixing my wagon will be a good start to building your legend anew.”
Confused? New to all this? Be sure to check out the first introduction to The Fat Man and his Dog over on Amazon for just $.99!