Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hommlet Road

Over the past year or so, the long stretch of road that passes through Hommelet—and with it Hommelet itself— has been struck off the itineraries of most merchants and traders.  It’s not the usual banditry and brigandry that are just part of the cost of doing business.  When entire caravans simply disappear—that’s a risk not worth taking. 

The people of Hommelet are self-reliant and obstinate.  When they can’t make it themselves, they make do without.  Except for certain things, like bacon.

Pigs are dirty animals and people didn’t used to keep them in Hommelet.  But a little ways down the road, two days journey if you push it, the town of Aeigh-o-waugh is famous for its bacon and for its pigs.  A few enterprising young men from Hommelet pooled their savings, made a little trip, and bought a boar and two sows.
The Swineherd by mandolux
The Swineherd, a photo by mandolux on Flickr.
  It was during their return trip that the new swineherds discovered what had been keeping the merchants away from Hommelet.

They reached a crossroads and were struggling with the seemingly simple task of making the pigs turn left.  Neither gentle prodding nor rough cursing had any effect.  Hearing the loud rustle in the trees, the men joked that if only they had a bow among them, they might shoot some deer and sell venison instead of bacon.  But then the “deer”— human bodies, mangled and decayed, obviously lifeless but still walking on their half-rotten legs— emerged from the forest, three of them at once surrounding poor Sebastian, who batted at his assailants with a swine-whip before the monsters  knocked him to the ground and stomped him to death.

“It all happened so quickly,” said Sebastian’s friends, “we could see there was nothing we could do for him.”  More of the walking dead approached from another direction.  They were accompanied by one or two natural, breathing men, both wearing helmets that covered their faces.  The swineherders fled, driving the pigs before them with panicked ferocity. 

“They were setting a trap for us, and if it weren’t for them pigs, we’d have walked right into it.”  Except for Sebastian, all the young men—plus the pigs— made it back to Hommelet alive.

Sebastian himself returned the next day, in a state that put to rest any wicked gossip about his friends’ weird story.  The soldiers from the tower had to be called to do the work that soldiers do.  It wasn’t really Sebastian anymore and his face bore no expression of fear or pain as first two and then three spears pierced his re-animated body.  After the body finally collapsed and lay still, the villagers told the soldiers to drag it to the boneyard on a long rope, and cover it with lime in a deep pit. 

The boys gave up their plans and slaughtered the pigs all at once.  Most of the meat went to sausages and most of the sausages went to the dogs and to the tinkers, too poor to afford fear, who still follow the road that passes through Hommelet.

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