Monday, June 18, 2012

SFF Challenge: Butcher 1976 words

As I have mentioned before, I doing a prompt challenge this summer. And as promised, I'm going to share with y'all what I wrote. The first prompt was Butcher and because I'm with a two year old all day the first thing I thought of was that nursery rhyme "Rub-a-dub-dub/Three men in a tub". So I went with it and this is what I got.

This is a fluffy, fairy tale type piece and not my strongest writing. But I found the story fun to write so I guess that's all that really matters sometimes.


Three men in a tub
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All put out to sea.

The Butcher leaned against the port side railing of the ship and sighed as he watched the gray sea pass beneath him. He’d been on this ship, The Tub, for nearly three months and they seemed no closer to their destination than the day they left home.
Butcher drummed his meaty fingers on the railing and then turned away from the ocean view in disgust. “Shouldn’t we be there by now?” he asked two men standing behind him.
One of the men shrugged. “It’s on Wandering Island,” he said as he ran a hand over his round belly. “No one knows where it is exactly.” The Baker’s face could only be described as doughy and at the moment it looked tired with a tinge of sea sick green.
“People say it stays in this general area though,” said the second man. The Candlestick Maker, or Candle for short, was tall and thin. His face dripped sweat from the heat, but he didn’t seem to notice.
Butcher was about to say something when a sailor up in the crow’s nest cried out, “Land ho!” Everyone on deck looked up at the crow’s nest and then to where the sailor was pointing off the starboard side. There on the horizon was a tiny black speck against the clear blue sky.
 The captain gave an order and the helmsman steered the ship towards the speck. It took several hours before Butcher, or anyone else, could tell that the speck was indeed an island. The sun was setting by the time they got there. They found a deep cove that allowed the ship to settle close to shore. It didn’t take long for the crew to empty The Tub and make camp on the beach. The last rays of the sun saw everyone gathered around a fire eating and drinking.
Butcher, Baker and Candle sat a little away from the crew, eating in silence, each lost in their own thoughts.
“So what now?” the captain asked from across the fire.
The three men jumped and then looked at each other for a long moment. Finally Butcher shrugged and said, “We’ll start our search in the morning, I guess.”
“And how long do you plan on searching?” the captain asked.
“As long as it takes,” Baker replied with a glare.
“We can’t stay here forever,” the captain snapped.
Butcher laid a hand on Baker’s shoulder and said, “Give us three days. It shouldn’t take any longer than that to find what we’re looking for.”
The captain nodded and turned away from the three men.
“Is three days really going to be enough?” Candle asked.
“You saw how small this island is,” Butcher replied. “It won’t take us more than a day to cover it.”
“And what if the treasure is buried under some random tree in there?” Baker snapped, pointing a finger at the dense jungle that took up the middle of the island.
Candle shook his head. “The traveler said that the treasure is in a cave.”
Baker opened his mouth to argue more but Butcher held up a hand for silence. “We’ll go to the far side of the island tomorrow,” he said, “over where those cliffs are. That’s the best place to start as any other.”
Baker and Candle nodded and began to settle in for the night. No one got much sleep though. The sailors stayed up late drinking and laughing, enjoying the freedom of being on land.
When the sun rose the next morning, Butcher, Baker and Candle gathered their things and started their trek across the island. They made it to the far side before noon.
The day before, as The Tub circled the island looking for a place to drop anchor, Butcher heard one of the sailors comment on how the island looked like a wedge of Swiss cheese. One side of the island sloped gently out of the ocean and up to the other side where it dropped off a steep cliff face riddled with caves.
From the top of the cliffs the men had a magnificent view of the ocean and cloudless sky. They could also see how far of a drop it was down to the waves that broke against the rocky shore.
Without a word the men pulled climbing rope and gear from their packs and began their decent down the cliff face. At first, the caves they passed weren’t really caves at all, more like deep pockmarks in the rock face. It took until they were close to the bottom before they found a cave that looked promising.
The opening was narrow but they could see that the cave went deep into the earth. They crawled into the cave and lit torches they had in their packs. A few hundred yards from the opening a tunnel took a sharp turn to the right and down into the darkness.
Butcher led the way, with Baker and Candle following and exchanging worried glances. The tunnel continued to twist and turn and always went downward. After an hour they finally saw an orange glow ahead of them. As they drew closer waves of heat assaulted them. They turned the last corner and came into a cavern half full of lava. The heat was so intense the sweat that dripped off of them sizzled when it hit the ground.
Before the men was a long slender bridge that was made of a strange stone. The bridge led to a wide island that gently bobbed in the lava. Sprawled out on that island was a creature from nightmares.
The entire thing was black. It had the head of a ram, with long twisted horns. Its body was scaled and shinny and had six legs. The front pair was huge lion paws, the middle pair thick horse legs and the back were massive eagle talons. Feathered wings were folded against the creature’s body, making it impossible to tell their span. The tail was that of a scorpion, the tip large enough to impale a man.
Candle swore under his breath.
“What the hell is that?” Baker whispered, his voice trembling.
Butcher shook his head, fear keeping him from replying.
Before any of the men could move or even think about what to do, the Beast opened one red eye. The men fell back a step, fear making their hands tremble and causing them to drop their torches.
The Beast rolled its eye and sighed. “What do you want?” it asked, its tone bored.
For a long moment the men were too shocked to speak. It was Butcher who cleared his throat and spoke first. “Excuse me?”
“I said, what do you want?”
“Um, well,” Butcher said, looking to his companions for help. The other two just shook their heads. “We, um, came here looking for the treasure.”
The Beast let out a long stream of gray smoke. “Of course, the treasure. Men like you are always coming here looking for my gold.”
“It’s not gold we’re after,” Candle said, his fear half choking him.
The Beast raised its head and looked at the men with both eyes. “If you’re not here for the gold, then what treasure are you seeking?”
“We heard a story from a traveler that had been here before that amongst your gold was magical tools of various trades,” Baker said. “Including a magical rolling pin that could cause every pastry it made to taste like heaven.”
“And a candle mold,” Candle choked out, “that made candles that last forever.”
Butcher nodded. “As well as a meat clever that never failed to make the perfect cut of meat.”
The Beast regarded the three men for a long moment. “And how did you plan on obtaining these items?”
Butcher looked at his companions again and said, “Well no one said that the treasure was being guarded, so we thought we could just take it. But under the current circumstances…” Butcher shrugged.
“Is there something we could trade for them?” Baker asked.
“There is nothing in your possession I want,” the Beast said. It crossed its front paws and laid its chin on top of them. “But, I could use some entertainment.” A grin grew across its face, revealing a set of large sharp teeth. “I enjoy poetry. If you can help me finish a poem to my satisfaction then I will give you the items you seek.

Three men in a tub
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All put out to sea.
Butcher, Baker and Candle huddled together for several long minutes, discussing their options. None of them were good at poetry but they figured they’d keep it simple and pray for the best.
Butcher stepped forward first and said,

Three men in a cave
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All come to see me.
The Beast’s grin widened as he said, “Continue.”
Baker was next.

Three men seeking tools
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All praying to go free.
The Beast laughed as Candle came forward.

Three men receiving gifts
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All new friends to thee.
The Beast roared, flapped its wings and beat a paw against the ground. “Oh, that is wonderful! In all my years, no one has made a poem so amusing to me. I have had some of the best poets and scholars try to entertain me with their flowery verses, but never has anyone made me laugh.” The Beast rose and turned toward another bridge that had been hidden behind his bulk. “Follow me and I’ll give you what you seek.”
Butcher, Baker and Candle followed the Beast into another large cave filled to the ceiling with gold and jewels. Off to one side was a pile of plain looking objects, among them swords, shields, a sewing needle, armor, a plow, horse harnesses, clothing and various other mundane items.

The Beast picked out the meat cleaver, rolling pin and candle mold from the pile and laid the tools at the men’s feet. “Thank you for entertaining me, gentlemen, I am sure these tools will help you in your trades. But be warned, these tools will wear out over time. To keep them in perfect shape recite the poem we just created together over the tools every morning before you start working with them. If you do that, they will last forever.”

The men picked up their treasure, thanked the Beast profusely and made their way out of the cave and back to the beach where the crew of The Tub was waiting. The sun was again setting and the crew was shocked to see Butcher, Baker and Candle return so soon.

In the morning, everyone returned to the ship and began the journey home. Butcher, Baker and Candle returned to their shops and renewed their work with their new tools. Each remembered what the Beast had told them and they recited the poem every morning. Their businesses became profitable and the men were able to pass them, and their treasure, on to their children. But over time, the story of how the remarkable tools had come to be and how to take care of them was forgotten. The magical tools became just a plain meat cleaver, rolling pin and candle mold. And all that was left of the poem was that first stanza.

Three men in a tub
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker
The candlestick maker
All put out to sea.


I'd love to hear your thoughts, good, bad or indifferent.

Thanks for reading and Happy Monday!