Today I have the beginning to a sequel for you, a continuation of the story I started in Rum Luck (rough draft of that story can be found here). If you like Andre and Jerome, you’re in for a treat. It does end rather abruptly, but there’ll probably be more soon. Read on, and enjoy!
Rum Luck: Bad luck, esp. in a certain circumstance or series of events
This one came about through an odd (actually, pretty typical) series of circumstances: I was starting another story and realized partway through that I really needed to know what came before it. Like its predecessors, this takes place in a fantastical alternate history setting, with geography (and some place-names) much like our world’s. And again, this is a fairly rough draft. Other stories in the same setting can be found here, here, here, and here. Enjoy responsibly.
* * *
The night air was fresh and clean, carrying the scents of salt and the sweet tropical grasses that grew along the beaches here. It wafted up from the shore, dancing across the slopes of the hills and tickling the back of Jerome’s neck as he and Andre drove their wagon along the well-traveled path. Stars dotted the sky above them, and a rising moon left a glimmering trail on the water to their right. Andre’s lantern cast enough light on the trail ahead for the horses, both of whom had traversed this path many times before. The hefty dwarf smiled up at Jerome, his teeth gleaming as they caught the moonlight.
“You know, Jerome, sometimes,” Andre gave a happy sigh, “sometimes this really isn’t so bad at all.” His free hand swept to encompass the hillsides around them, the trail, the sea, and the rising moon. He glanced behind them at the bed of the wagon, eyeing the casks which he’d so carefully secured. They sloshed as the wagon creaked and rattled. From where Andre sat, Jerome’s answering grin was silhouetted against the rising moon.
“I told you this would be a good job.” Jerome risked a glance at Andre, looking away from the team for a moment. Andre snorted in response, and Jerome chuckled. Trying to keep a straight face, he continued, “And have I ever led you astray before?” The two of them burst out laughing. They laughed so long and so hard that Andre was soon wiping tears from the corners of his eyes.
“Never!” Andre lied with a guffaw. The two of them burst into a new round of laughter.
Jerome took the reins in one hand for long enough to wipe his now wet cheeks. “Well! I’m glad we’re in agreement then!” He chuckled some more for the next few minutes, watching the bends in the path as it took them down the shoreside route. It was several miles from the sugar mill and distillery where they’d picked up their load to the town where they’d been hired to deliver it, and in weather such as they had tonight it was a true pleasure to travel.
“I still don’t see why that man wanted you to do the delivery instead of whatever drivers he normally uses.” Andre returned to their earlier debate, though he sounded far more goodnatured than he had while they were arguing over it in the bar.
“He said his usual drivers were sick or something.” Jerome peered ahead at the dimly lit path. He slowed the horses a little further, glancing to either side. “Play that light across those rocks, will you? I don’t like the looks of them.” Jerome nodded as Andre complied, then added with a grin, “And besides, he said it was a pleasure to be doing business with me again!”
“Pffffft.” Andre made his opinion of that idea clear. He shook his head, running his free hand through his beard as the wagon rattled slowly towards the rocks that he’d illuminated. “He just said that so he could screw us with lower pay than he’d usually give, and all of it at the end of the job too.”
Jerome winced a little. He allowed as to how that might be true, though he wasn’t likely to agree with Andre out loud. Certainly not just now. He looked over the rocks again, largish things that lay to either side of the trail, and had a sudden flash of memory that helped him place why he felt so uncomfortable. “You know,” he began, “I’ve been ambushed near stones like these before—,” and then he saw the figures rising from either side of the road, guns in hand, while a small log was heaved into place across the path from the lower slope to his right. Jerome gently brought the wagon to a stop.
“Have you now,” Andre muttered darkly as he raised his hands. “I never would have guessed.”
Here’s the return of Andre and Jerome, the pair of accidentally-adventurous miscreants. If you want to read other stories about them, try Paying the Tab, Jerome Goes North, or Jerome’s Tropical Vacation. There should be another short story coming along soon!
* * *
“Does everyone understand their part?” The man’s voice was nagging and whiny.
Belly down on the hay-strewn dirt, Andre felt a sneeze coming on. There was the unmistakable sensation of rising, building pressure, and that odd tingling feeling that came along with it. He knew it would feel so good to sneeze that the anticipation was almost pleasant in and of itself. Despite this, he thrust his hand up underneath his nose, trying to press against the bone just above his teeth in an effort to stop the sneeze before it could come out. Through his desperately squinted eyes he could make out the feet of five people standing less than a yard from where he hid underneath a small wagon, and he knew that sneezing would be a very bad life choice at this moment. None of the people whose conversation he’d been eavesdropping on would appreciate unexpected company.
I wrote this first draft of a short story over the course of one week, as a morale-boosting project. You might think of it as fantastical historical fiction.
* * *
Andre sat with his back against the tavern’s wall, his legs draped down the length of the bench. They didn’t go very far down the bench, since he only ever reached four feet three inches on a good day. The portion of the bench that he did cover he clearly dominated with his muscular bulk, as might be expected of a healthy dwarf of his respectable age. He and his drinking companion were a study in contrasts.