A Hero’s Job. Short Story.

He looked over at the cave. Ogres. He hated ogres. Well, no one particularly liked them, but still he felt his stomach clench. He had suspected it was ogres for a while now, but there had been no real proof, yet there it was. He gripped his sword tightly, it wouldn’t be a fun battle, ogre blood was a bitch to wash out of clothes. He waited until it was distracted, then he crept closer.

The ogres head landed on the wooden table with a thud, deep black blood splattered the ground.

“One head. I’ll take the rest of my payment now.”

“Give you much difficulty?”

“No more than usual.”

“Right, right. There’s been a slight problem with your payment.”

“Bullshit.”

“What?”

“I call bullshit. Right here and now. You’re gonna try and underpay me, I’ll have to pull out my sword, threaten you, you’ll suddenly realise you had enough all along. I’m tired. I’m tense. I may not be able to hold my sword steady when it’s up against your throat. I just thought I’d try and cut through it all now. Pardon the pun.”

A bag of coins appeared on the table.

“I’m glad we’re on the same page.”

He picked up the bag and opened it, sorting through the coins.

“Good. It’s all here. If you’ve any need of me again, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”

He left the room. The old man sat behind the desk, glowering. Most of the time the heroes were willing to barter. Oh well. Something would get him eventually, he just hoped it would be painful. He looked at the ogres head, wondering what they should do with it. The local tavern would probably buy it from him so they could mount it on the wall. Ogres didn’t like that kind of thing if they heard of it. Well, it wouldn’t be his tavern that was destroyed. He stood from the table and rummaged around for a bag.

Aiden whistled as he walked, it was an old habit he was trying to break. He did it when he was happy, which was all very well and good in cities, but out in the countryside, well that was just asking for trouble. Completely screamed “I’m unarmed and an idiot. Please, come and take my money and my life.” Still. Tonight was a good night. The bag of coins was a pleasant weight on his belt, he had done these people a great service and they had provided in return. That was the natural order of things. He considered getting a drink, but that could be such a hassle. No doubt it would end in a fight and someone getting beaten. That someone was never him of course, but it could be annoying having to pay for damages to the establishment and it made getting work around these parts difficult. Would it be worth it? Maybe he’d stop by later, just for one quick one. He kept walking, making his way towards his camp. He never liked staying in Inns, too expensive, too easy to be ambushed.

He set the bag of coins down and checked on his clothes, he had left them soaking earlier to try and get the worst of the stains out. He pulled out his tunic, it was pure black. Damn. Oh well. It was winter anyway, the darker colours wouldn’t exactly cause him to overheat. His mother was always able to get ogre blood out of clothes. She was useful, pity she had to go and get possessed. Only two cures for that, a holy man and decapitation and there were no holy men close by. There was always the scar on his forearm to remember her by at least, acid, nasty stuff those possessions. He made his way well enough through the world. Better than his brothers. One was a thief, the other was some kind of merchant, selling drugs of some sort. Sure he was making money, but it wouldn’t be too much longer until the local toughs bored of him. His father had been a drunk, apparently, at least according to his mother, which meant he must had drank a lot as his mother never shied away from the drink. He was able to provide for himself, even had a nice bit of money saved up. Someday he’d stop all this hero crap and settle down somewhere. See, heroes never lasted too long so the trick was to get out early, rather than dead. He aimed to be in the former category.

It was all anticlimactic the day he found out he was a hero. Some old man had come up, rambling about some great danger, how he had to “save the world.” Old git had taught Aiden everything he knew, he half expected the old git to turn out to be his dad. That always seemed to be the way of things. Still, he’d saved the world, or at least their part of it anyway. Old man had turned all evil and had to be put down, knife in the back, nasty business that was. Took him three days to realise he was dead.

He’d heard of some trolls not too far up the way, he’d go check that out soon. Normally he wouldn’t bother, but apparently these fuckers could go out during the day and wander around. He’d like to know how they were managing that. It wasn’t right, these things, not staying in their proper place. You wouldn’t have caught any trolls wandering around in the sun a few short years ago, or at least, if you did they had the decency to turn into stone.

He ate his dinner, then washed it down with some water. The drink was seeming less and less worth the effort. He’d have to walk all the way back into the town, then he’d have to find a table, order a drink and it would just turn into some big thing. No. It was better to stay here. He settled down into his bedding and started to drift off.

He slept through the night, no terrible dreams, no evil. It was a good night. He always hated the dreams. It meant he had a calling and that meant he was taking  valuable time off getting paid. Sure he could ignore it, but there was always the danger that everyone else would too. Of course when he retired the world could go fuck itself. Wouldn’t be any of his concern after that point. He started to pack up his camp, taking his time. There was no real rush, where did he have to be getting too? The money wasn’t going to go anywhere and from what he heard the trolls had a sweet deal going. The villagers were bribing them to leave the babies alone so they got their pick of the animals. He’d put a stop to that of course, but he’d be well compensated for it. He started to walk, feeling slightly bored. He never liked walking, but his horse had been killed a few weeks back, he’d get another one eventually, but his own legs would do him for now. He had companions for a while, but they never lasted long. Always sacrificing themselves in some grandstanding way, hoping to upstage him. What made it worse was they never really needed to sacrifice themselves anyway. He didn’t know what they expected really, did they think he’d go off and cry to everyone about how great they were? The best that could be said of any of them was that they could carry on a conversation while carrying his things. Still, kept things interesting, he didn’t have to fire anyone or worry about them seeking revenge and it meant he never had to listen to the same story twice. The worst ones were the women, he never took on any of them. Always out to prove something to someone. Never just in it for the fun. He’d tried it once, she didn’t seem to get he just didn’t care. Man, woman, child, if you could carry your weight and didn’t bitch all the time you were fine. But no, she had to go on and on about how she could do everything that he could. The constant challenges got boring. Sure, she won some and he won others, but he never kept track. She drove herself to madness that one. Tried to take on a dragon by herself, full on dragon. No training, no distractions. He found her sword not too far from the entrance. No sign of the body. It was a shame that was. If she had of just cooperated, maybe she’d have made a fine warrior herself. She wasn’t his worst companion though. No, that one went to Jeremy. Little snot nosed brat, never listened, never shut up. Bastard got what was coming to him. Eaten by dwarves. Vicious little things. But there’s only so many times you can tell someone to shut up before they have to learn the lesson for themselves.

He paused at a crossroads, wondering which way would be faster. Some plonker had knocked over the sign and never bothered to pick it up. A woman stumbled from one of the roads, beautiful but dishevelled, “Oh, thank god! Please, you’ve got to help me!”

“Nope.”

He studied the roads for a moment longer, then chose the left.

“But my village was attacked and-“

“Don’t care.”

He kept walking, she kept his pace for a second, then stopped suddenly.

“You could have at least talked to me, prick.”

“Uh huh. Good luck ensnaring souls and all that.”

“Fuck off.”

“You came onto me honey.”

She cursed at him, he kept walking. Was never worth killing a crossroads demon. Never get anything out of them and they just come back a few months down the line. Though some of the stories he heard of them were hilarious. Like the guy who made a deal to be the worlds greatest musician, never read the fine print. Every instrument he touched turn to soil.

Aiden walked into the village, the villages all looked gaunt, frightened. He approached the biggest one, they were usually in charge, “So, I hear you’re having problems with some trolls.”

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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