Thread Contributor: KillerPikeThe Old Brewer, Part 1
#1
I sat by the small window in the corner, the storm strongly hitting even this window. I knew the lake would rise, but not enough to cause us any trouble. I wasn’t sure why I felt I knew so strongly, I knew my connection with the lake was strong, but that seemed nearly magical.


Tree pulled up a chair next to me and slid a bottle across the table in my direction.


“What are you doing over here in the corner by yourself?” He asked, popping the cork off his drink.


“Just thinking,” I replied, my voice trailing off


“What about, if you don’t mind my asking?” Tree questioned


“About the lake,” I answered, grabbing the bottle Tree had brought me.


“That reminds me, I wanted to ask you something,” Tree said, “If probably one of your darkest memories was finding a dead body in the woods at this lake, why did you want to build the bar here?”


“That’s not by far my darkest memory,” I chuckled, “And finding you is one of my best memories. Also, I have many more memories of this lake than you think.”


I’d never spoken much about my past, and I knew it was always something that had interested Tree, so his successful attempt to get information from me didn’t surprise me in the slightest.


“Old memories?” Tree asked, his voice questioning


“Older than you,” I smiled, “Older than a lot of the frequent visitors here as well.”


“Memories of your childhood?” Tree asked


“Some, yes,” I replied, “The short childhood I had, although this lake was part of it.”


“You came to this lake as a child?” Tree asked


“Several times,” I said, “But the first one definitely stands out from the rest.”


“Sounds like a good story,” Tree smiled, leaning back in his chair, “Mind telling?”


“Not at all,” I answered, taking a sip of my drink, “But be warned, it’s quite a long story.”


“I like long stories,” Said a voice behind me


Dark brought up a chair next to Tree and sat down, grabbing his hand, and set a drink down on the table for herself.


“Don’t mind me,” Dark said, “I just closed up shop because of the storm and don’t want to go to bed yet, so I’ll listen too if you don’t mind.”


I took a long sip from my drink, then looked out the window, the memories washing through my mind, seemingly all at once.


“Well,” I said, a smile tugging at my mouth, “The story starts at a river many miles away from here...”


————————————————————————————————————


As I grabbed the bending fishing rod, I knew I had another keeper. I pulled hardly on the rod, bringing the fish up to the surface of the sapphire-colored water. I grabbed the fish, picking him up out of the water, admiring both the beauty and the size. I put my rope through its gills, where it made a few final shows of strength by flailing around with the other two fish I had caught.


With rod in one hand and fish in the other, I started home. The trees were just starting to bud, meaning many fish were spawning. I wondered if the pike were spawning, but this thought I quickly brushed aside, it was of no use to think about pointless things like that. I sighed, wishing it wasn’t pointless, I knew I’d catch a pike someday, but it wouldn’t be for many moons.


The thick, uncut grass of my path tickled me between my toes as I walked, which quickly brought me out of my thoughts. I looked up, standing still just a few feet from me was a deer, watching me with caution, but not fear. I walked this path often, the animals grew quite acquainted to my presence, neither of us bothering the other.


I came out of the forest to the fields, town was just a little ways away. I saw a few farmers working in the fields, determined to keep every weed out of the newly sprouted crops. I also saw the animals out to pasture, grazing with the young calves and lambs, born only weeks ago.


I saw rooftops on the horizon, the spire of the church rising above them all, I was getting close. As my feet hit the cobble road just outside the town, a feeling of safety entered my heart, I knew I was never in much danger outside the town, but in the town I felt no harm could come to me.


I walked past the various buildings of the town without second thought, except for one. I stopped, the memories flooding over me once again, as they do every time I walk past this building.


It happened weeks ago, but it felt like yesterday, and still hurt as if it were yesterday. The doubts and questions it had placed in my mind never left, I knew I could never feel the same about myself after what happened that day. I watched the sign swing softy over the door, the word ‘TAVERN’ barely readable from the years of weathering.


I shook my head, it was not to be, I told myself again and again. I remembered the words of my father, how they had hurt then, but I knew he was right. Brewing wasn’t a job for the son of a noble, but what was? I felt this was a question I could never answer with my heart, only my tongue.


Still, deep in my mind, I felt a special connection to brewing, one I knew would never leave me, but one I also knew I could never act upon.


I continued on, I knew this question would continue to bother me, but I knew not the right answer. I walked up to the doorstep as the sun was just starting to meet the horizon, turning the sky the color of the pumpkins at harvest time. I looked at the family crest, painted in brilliant colors above the door. It was a sign of our position, and I knew if I ever defied my family, I’d never live it down.


With the heavy mix of memories and realizations still boiling in my head, I pushed the door open. I could feel the dryness of the weather taking effect on the door, it was about ready to crack from the pressure. Although not nearly a drought, the weather had gotten so dry everyone was banned from making fires, except those who required them for their jobs, of course, but it didn’t much matter, for even in winter our fireplace never held a flame, although no one ever told me why.


I stepped onto the cool stone floor, which was a welcome change to the poking grass and the hot stones of the street.


“Welcome home, sweetie,” Mother said, stopping only long enough to kiss my forehead, then she was back off to her work.


My mother always seemed to be doing something, rather is be cleaning or cooking, going to gatherings with her friends, or shopping, she never sat still except for when she slept. Her work didn’t go unnoticed, however, the house was always clean, we always had plenty of food, and her friends came over often.


“Hello, son,” My father nodded at me from across the room, seated in his chair.


At this time of day, my father would be reading the newspaper, waiting for my mother to make dinner. Although he was one of the most important men in the town, he spent much time at home with his family. Respected by most, his business had been becoming more successful in recent years, and some said his influence reached even Yukrovia, but rather that was true nobody knew.


I took the fish to the kitchen, where my mother excitedly took them from me to cook. I went upstairs and put on clean clothes, if I sat on the furniture with my dirty clothes on my mother would skin me alive, or so she said. I looked out my window, although it was nearing dark the town still bustled, but it was slowing down, in an hour or so all would be home, and it would be quiet.


I went back downstairs, allured by the smell of cooking fish. It was a good meal as always, warm food, good talk, but it felt different. Something seemed to lurk over our table like a cloud, but I didn’t know what.


After dinner I went to bed, the fresh air getting to me. As I lay down and pull the covers tight, I heard the last of the horses, hooves clacking on the road, getting led back to their stables. The doors closing, people going in for the night. It gave me a sense of peace.


It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep, but if I’d known what was going to happen I’d have never even tried to fall asleep, I probably wouldn’t have been able to, no matter how much fresh air I’d had.


I woke up just after midnight, I threw off my covers and sat up. I planned to get a drink, but a strange scent burned my nose. I took a deep breath, trying to figure out what I was smelling. It took me a few seconds as my mind cleared, but I quickly realized it was smoke.


I got to my feet, and when my feet hit the floor, it was hot. I yelped in pain, and jumped back on the bed. I looked out the window, and my suspicion was confirmed. The town was on fire.


People were frantically running back and forth, some trying to put the fire out, others not. I grabbed my slippers from the floor and put them on to protect my feet, I planned to run and get my parents, but as I reached the doorway a beam fell from the ceiling, blocking me in. My slippers were starting to heat through, and my feet started to burn again.


I stopped for a second, time seemed to slow down. I just now realized what was happening, my world was ending. Life as I knew it was ending. My life might be ending.


A board fell from the roof close enough to nearly burn my hand, and I knew I had to get out fast. I looked at the window, and in seconds I knew what I had to do. I ran as fast as I could and dove through the window, landing roughly on the side of the road. I stood up, my adrenaline masking the pain of my injuries.


The feelings inside my head all hit me at once, and I ran into the woods crying. I ran through the burning town, the fields, crashed through the forest until I collapsed, and cried myself to sleep.


I woke up when the sun was well into the sky. I sat up, and looked at myself. I had some minor bruises and burns, but on my right leg was a cut going nearly all the way down, not deep however, and it seemed fairly clean. My elbow hurt from jumping out my window, but it wasn’t broken, and I knew it’d heal.


I stood up slowly, and hobbled through the woods to the fields, hoping to see some of the town still standing. When I saw them, I was shocked. They were gone. Littering the fields were the burnt bodies of animals, and of people trying to escape. When the fire hit the fields, I realized, the town was surrounded. It was then I knew, I was the only one who had gotten out alive.


A shiver went down my spine, but I choked down tears and walked down the path to the town. When I got to the town, I might’ve nearly walked past it had it not been for the cobble road and the standing fireplaces made of stone. Although weakened by the intense heat, the stone parts of the buildings seemed relatively intact,


I walked down the same road I had walked down just hours before. The tavern was reduced to ash, if I hadn’t known it had been a tavern, I never could have guessed the purpose of the building from what remained.. I passed the houses of all our neighbors, the only signs left of the houses were black plots of ash and the fireplaces left eerily standing, like the gravestones to once marvelous buildings,


I reached our house, standing where I had stood the day before, my mood reversed. I felt tears start to run down my face, but I entered. It was strange to realize what the fire had done to many objects around the house, things you might not have otherwise thought about.


A melon my mother had purchased from the traders from the south had exploded, little bits of red and green scattered everywhere, lightly charred, how it hadn’t been burnt to a crisp I wasn’t sure. Our glass cups and windows lay hardened throughout the ashes. The stone countertop lay cracked in several places.


Memories plagued my mind, from the day before to as far back as I could remember. The good times and the bad, all returning to me now. I shook the thoughts from my mind, and walked over to the fireplace, the only part of the house remaining.


I sat, my back against the fireplace, tears filling my vision. A rock fell from somewhere up high, hitting the mantle, I heard a door open. I stood up, and in the middle of the mantle, a door sat ajar, rocks cemented to the outside to look like just another part of the fireplace.


Why would anyone hide things inside a fireplace? I wiped the tears from my eyes, my curiosity taking over my sorrow, I crawled up on the mantle and opened the door. I stepped inside, the entire inside of the fireplace was hollow, and instead of being open it was covered at the top. I had a hard time seeing the room with the lack of light, and I took a sharp breath from shock once I realized what I was looking at.


To be continued
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