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.
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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.”