187/366 – The Man and the Bush

Day 45 of 100 Word Prompts: Lost

Flint traveled from the port town for days through the forest until it gave way to foothills. He passed all sorts of dwarves, halflings, elves, humans, and goliaths along his journey until, for two days, they stopped passing him. Not thinking about it too hard, Flint kept his eyes on the mountains and continued walking forward. The red and orange veined granite of the face gave him the feeling of being small for the first time in his life. Even the mountain in Baswea couldn’t hold a candle to what towered above him now.

“Madig-,” Flint whispered, craning his neck to look toward the peak.

“Quiet!” a voice yelled to his left.

Flint looked around and saw no one and nothing. He scratched his head, shrugged, and looked back up the mountain.

“Madigton is-”

“Quiet, you ruffian!” the voice said again, interrupting his thought.

Flint turned once more to find an old, grizzled man poking his head over the top of a bush.

“Are you-”

“Some of us are trying to get sleep!” the old man shouted. “Knock it off with all your noise!”

Flint tilted his head and began walking toward the man. He watched as the man jumped and dove into the bush. It shook as though some great beast were hiding within its green branches.

“Are you okay?” Flint asked as he walked closer.

“By the gods, please, don’t let this thing kill me,” Flint heard the man whispering.

“I’m not going to kill you,” Flint replied.

“Oh, no, he found me,” the man exclaimed as he rolled from the bush into what Flint could only assume was a battle stance with his two fists clenched tight.

The man only stood to Flint’s chest at most and wore little more than a covering over his groin. Mud and scratches streaked across every inch of exposed skin. His wild, white hair went in every direction at once, accented by the thick eyebrows and long beard.

“Your lot already took everything from me,” the man muttered, “now you’ve come for my life.”

“No,” Flint replied, putting his hands up with his palms open facing the old man. “I’m not going to hurt you. I wanted to make sure that you’re alright.”

“Now he lies to my face,” the old man muttered as he began hopping around, twisting his arms in little circles. “I bet he won’t even see this coming.”

Flint watched the old man charge him in a series of darts and hops, reminiscent of how squirrels behaved before he threw his first punch at the goliath’s ribs. Flint braced for impact but felt almost nothing.

“Oh, I see, a tough guy,” the old man muttered.

“Listen, I didn’t mean to get you worked up,” Flint said, spinning slowly to keep the man in front of him. “I’m on my way to Madigton, do you know where that is?”

“-technically speaking, I should have been able to break his rib, maybe he’ll run away if I do this-” the old man muttered as he brought his leg around, kicking Flint’s thigh weakly.

“Are you lost?” Flint pressed, still keeping his hands up.

“-no, that didn’t work. What was it, my old master said? Ribs, thigh, then what? Oh, yeah, groin!” the old man muttered.

“If you attack my groin, you and I are going to have a problem,” Flint said, his voice growing harsh.

This brought the old man’s darting attention up to Flint’s face.

“You can read my thoughts?” the old man said. “No wonder I’m losing this fight.”

“You’re thinking out loud,” Flint replied, shaking his head. “I understand, I do it too sometimes. I’m not trying to hurt you.”

“Why’d you come here, if not to finish what your ilk started?” the old man asked, still hopping back and forth.

“I arrived by ship a few days ago to the south. I’m trying to get to Madigton,” Flint said. “Do you know where it is?”

“I know where Madigton is,” the old man said. “But I’m not going to tell you unless you best me in combat.”

“I really don’t-”

“Righteous combat!” the old man screamed as he charged Flint.

Flint shrugged and turned as the old man jumped, clinging awkwardly to his side.

“Get off me, I don’t have time for this anymore,” Flint sighed as he trudged back toward the road.

“Fight me,” the old man said.

“No,” Flint replied, taking his first step up the side of the mountain.

“Fight me,” the old man muttered, his grip beginning to slip.

“Why do you want me to fight you?” Flint asked, propping the man up as though he were a child on his hip.

“B-Because it’s the way of your people. It’s the only way to gain respect with them,” the old man said.

“Not with me,” Flint replied, shaking his head.

“What?” the old man asked. “You’re a goliath.”

“And you’re a human,” Flint replied. “It’s not a fair fight anyway. You’re my elder.”

“I resent that remark,” the old man said, releasing his grip on Flint.

“I appreciate your spirit, but I really need to get to Madigton,” Flint replied.

“Why Madigton? There are a dozen towns that are easier to get to, with far less violence,” the old man said, pausing to pick his teeth, “which you seem to avoid.”

“I don’t avoid violence,” Flint started but shook his head. “I have to find out about this.”

Flint held up his arm, showing the man the tattoo on his forearm. The black tribal tattoo looked plain enough on his arm, but he had seen it change once before.

“Oh, what a pretty-” the old man said just before falling out of Flint’s arms. “What’d you do that for?”

“I’m not carrying you up the mountain. If you want to join me, I’m not going to stop you, but I can’t stay here forever,” Flint said, reaching up for a handhold on the rock.

“I wouldn’t show off that tattoo up there,” the old man said, turning away from Flint as he walked back toward his bush.

“What? Why?” Flint asked.

“Firstly, the road is a few miles that way,” the old man said, pointing behind Flint. “There’s no need to climb the mountain that way. “Secondly, I’ve seen something like that tattoo before. It’s a bad omen. It’s a taint on the world. It’s a mark of greatness. It’s a-it’s a-it’s a-”

“What?” Flint asked.

“Let’s just say that the people up there don’t like it,” the old man said, dropping into his bush. “Take it from an old anthropologist.”

“What is a anto-anthra-pill-o-ghast?” Flint said, feeling a small spike of a headache in the back of his head.

“Anthropologist,” the old man corrected from inside his bush. “It means I study societies and how their history. I’ve never seen your tattoo specifically, but I saw something close. They weren’t that receptive to it when I asked about it.”

“What do you mean?” Flint pressed, approaching the bush.

“I mean, they took everything from me, burned it all, and exiled me from the village,” the old man said.

“What? Why?” Flint asked.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” the old man said, popping his head out of the top of the bush before dropping back inside it.

“Wait, you can’t do this to me. I’ve had this tattoo longer than I can remember and-”

“I. Don’t. Care,” the old man said from within his hiding spot.



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