Twisted Fairy Tale: The Lookout’s Folly by Valerie Puri
Welcome to the 8th annual #SpookyShowcase! The Spooky Showcase celebrates the dark minds of creatives around the world through short stories and artistic creations that are dark in nature, macabre, or horror themed.
This year’s theme is Twisted Fairy Tales. Expect twisted legends, creepy creations, and dark fairy tales that will keep you up at night. Visit each day in the month of October for a scare. The master schedule is here.
The Lookout’s Folly
By Valerie Puri
There once were three brothers from the village of Wingron. They lived a simple life tending the crops in their fields while their father occupied a lone table at the tavern. The silver they earned from selling their seasonal crops was enough to keep their quaint cottage in good repair and food on their table.
They also had a small paddock where they raised goats. When the goats grew plump, they would sell them to the butcher, fetching a silver per head. It was those days they could afford a little extra meat in their stew and even a fresh loaf of bread from the village baker.
When their father grew sickly and passed away, the village priest came to collect his body…and the tavern owner came to collect his debt. Unbeknownst to the brothers, their father gambled away a fortune they didn’t have.
Aramore, the eldest of the three brothers, was untrusting and questioned the claim. The tavern owner produced a scroll as long as he was tall. The parchment accounted for the ongoing debt. Next to each entry was his father’s identifying mark.
Having no choice but to accept the claims of the debt, the brothers were forced to sell off their farmland. The neighboring landholders purchased their fields of rich soil, leaving the brothers with nothing but their cottage home and small plot of land.
They received five gold from the sale.
Their father owed six.
Garamore, the middle brother, selected the fattest and healthiest of their goats and lead them to the butcher. When the butcher saw the small herd, he protested: he couldn’t slaughter them all at once, for people wouldn’t buy the meat fast enough before it spoiled. He offered six silver for the dozen—half of what they were worth.
Garamore protested, claiming the butcher didn’t have to slaughter them all at once, he could keep them in his pen until he needed their meat. After much back and forth, the two agreed upon a final price of ten silver.
Tharamore, the youngest brother, filled the mule cart with their most valuable possessions: silver plates and cups, copper cooking pots and pans, and other items of value. He drove the mule, pulling the cart to the village market. He sold their family heirlooms for the remaining amount needed.
After raising enough coin to cover their father’s debt, the brothers paid the tavern owner. When they returned home, they looked at the meager belongings they had left. The small cottage sat barren with only a wooden table, four chairs, an iron cooking pot, three wood bowls, three wood cups, and threadbare blankets for sleeping. Outside, they only had three skinny goats, a mule, the mule cart, and their farm tools.
As the days passed, their hunger and despair grew. They worked the fields they once owned, each earning a scant copper a day. Their stews no longer had meat and they longed for the taste of bread again, even if it was hard and stale. But they couldn’t afford it.
They took care of the skinny goats, hoping they would soon grow plump and they could sell one for a coveted silver. How their mouths watered at the thought of a stew thick with meat and bread to dunk in it.
One day, as they sat down to their supper of thin broth made with a single potato, leek, and carrot, someone knocked on their door.
Aramore opened it. A messenger bestowed upon him a letter. He dreaded the contents. Had the tavern owner uncovered another debt their father owed? They had very little left and couldn’t survive if they had to sell anything else.
Aramore read the letter. His eyes grew wide. Turning to his brothers, he told them what the letter said.
“Our uncle has fallen ill and is not long for this world. As he has no children of his own, he will bequeath to us equal parts of his plentiful farmland when he dies. Uncle asks that we set out at once to help tend his lands and be there to comfort him as he passes.”
Considering their options of staying in their sad cottage or leaving for a hopeful opportunity, they agreed there was only one suitable choice. They would be there for their uncle in need and tend his lands. And the promise of owning their own farmland again was especially alluring.
Aramore told the messenger to ride back to their uncle and tell him they would make the journey.
After selling their cottage and the remainder of their land, they received nine silver and fifteen coppers. It would be enough to help on the journey to their uncle’s estate in Rockcress. The leather pouch with their coins contained their entire monetary worth. On their last eve in Wingron, they enjoyed a hearty meal and many drinks to celebrate their improved fortunes.
They readied the mule and filled the cart with their farming tools, as they would need them on their uncle’s land. They hid the pouch of coins under their tools. Garamore tied the three skinny goats to the back of the cart, so they could follow behind. They weren’t worth much now, but when they grew thick with meat, the brothers could get a decent price for them.
The three brothers bid farewell to their home and left the village of Wingrun behind. Cobbled pathways transitioned to crushed rocks, and then to dirt, as they ventured into the country. They followed the signs leading them south to Rockcress.
“We must take care,” Aramore warned, “these roads are dangerous and ripe with thieves. Each night we will take turns as lookout. The brother who keeps watch during the night will sleep in the mule cart the next day.”
The other two brothers agreed with the plan. It would allow the lookout to rest after a sleepless night while the other two would walk.
When the day grew dim and the trees lining the dirt road grew thick, the brothers stopped for the evening. They led the mule and goats off the main path into the thicket. It was safer to camp out of sight to avoid being seen by bandits or thieves.
Tharamore prepared a stew over a crude fire. Prior to leaving, they purchased some cured meat from the butcher for their journey. Adding it to the pot made the stew smell delightful, and their stomachs grumbled. It was the best meal they had had in months.
When the stars grew bright and their eyes grew heavy, Garamore and Tharamore went to sleep. As Aramore was the eldest, he took the first night’s watch.
The night was calm and the trees still as he guarded their camp and precious few belongings. Cricket song was all he heard. At long last, the sky grew pink as the sun rose from the horizon. The three brothers broke their fasts on the remaining stew.
They continued on their journey. Aramore stretched out in the mule cart beside the farm tools. Despite the wheels hitting bumps and divots in the dirt road, he slept.
Garamore and Tharamore led the mule and goats further down the road. Their hopes remained high for the opportunity their uncle offered them. The thought of having a prosperous life made the long journey easier. Each step grew more difficult, but their dreams of a better tomorrow kept them going.
When the sun set on the second day, the brothers again feasted on a thick stew. They settled in for the night behind the cover of trees. Garamore, being the middle brother, took watch through the night. He admired the lantern bugs that glowed in the underbrush. They made him think of twinkling stars dancing along the ground.
He was happy when the sun rose. His turn was over and no threats approached. Garamore slept well in the mule cart, despite sharing it with clanking tools. They continued to follow the signs for Rockcress. Their path brought them through thicker woods.
The third night, they set up their camp in the trees, just off the road. It was Tharamore’s turn to be the lookout. He sat and poked at the embers of the dying fire with a stick. The sky was cloudy, casting the night in darkness. It was a terrible bore. Tharamore had an idea to pass the time with a jest. He cleared his throat and cried out into the still night.
“Thieves in the woods! Thieves in the woods!”
Aramore and Garamore were awoken by the alarm. They rushed to the mule cart, each grabbing a pitchfork. Brandishing them as weapons, they stood at the ready, eyes darting around, trying to spot the danger.
Tharamore rolled on the ground with laughter, entertained by their intense reactions.
“Curse you, little brother, for your trick,” Aramore scolded.
They dropped their pitchforks back into the cart and went back to sleep.
The next morning, the two older brothers were in a foul mood. They grumbled into their bowls as they ate their morning meal.
As per the agreement, Tharamore rode in the mule cart since he was the previous night’s lookout. He slept soundly while Aramore and Garamore shambled along. The two older brothers had a miserable day as their sleep was interrupted. They were tired, their feet hurt, and the dirt road was uneven and difficult to walk on.
That night, it was Aramore’s turn to be lookout again. His time was less enjoyable, as the cricket song kept lulling him into a sleepy daze. He knew the importance of protecting their meager possessions and animals, so he fought to stay awake. When morning broke, he was so exhausted, he went straight to sleep in the mule cart.
Garamore was much more rested by the fifth night. He again delighted in the lantern bugs floating in the surrounding trees. The twinkling lights were less prevalent than during his first night’s watch. The dark trees were thick all around, drowning out the stars above and the lantern bugs below. When the sun rose on the sixth day, he stretched out his arms, relieved that his watch was over and now he could rest.
As the brothers ate their supper on the sixth night, they were joyful that their journey was nearly at an end. After that night, they would only have three more nights, and on the tenth day they would arrive at their uncle’s estate. They could begin their new and prosperous life.
Aramore and Garamore slept soundly with their happy thoughts of how improved their lives would be in only four more days.
Tharamore’s eyelids grew heavy while his brothers slumbered. He poked at the dying embers of the fire with a stick. They glowed red when he disturbed them. It was hard to stay awake while fighting boredom. For six nights they each took their turn to stand watch, but no bandits ever disturbed them. He thought his oldest brother, Aramore, was being overly cautious.
Remembering the fun he had the last time he was on lookout, he sought to stir up the same merriment for himself again.
He looked over at his sleeping brothers and cried out, “Thieves in the woods! Thieves in the woods!”
Again, to his delight, his brothers jumped up from their sleeping blankets and rushed to the mule cart. They grabbed their pitchforks, rushing around the camp trying to find the thieves.
Tharamore laughed so hard, his side ached.
Aramore threw his pitchfork on the ground. “Do not make fools of us, little brother.”
He and Garamore grumbled and went back to sleep.
The next two days and nights, the older brothers hardly spoke to Tharamore. They were still upset with him for fooling them and making a mockery of them trying to protect their camp. The looming trees reflected the darkness of their mood. Even the sparse crickets and lantern bugs did little to improve their spirits.
On the ninth night, the brothers entered the woods just off the road as usual. They sat down by the fire, easing their aching feet. They rejoiced, for their journey was coming to an end. On the morrow, they would arrive in Rockcress and greet their uncle. In addition to the promise of their generous inheritance, it gave them joy knowing they could help during his final days.
As the night wore on and the moon rose high, Aramore and Garamore fell into a deep and sound sleep. They dreamt of the next day to come and years of happiness to follow.
Tharamore took his last shift as lookout. He prodded the dying embers, as had become his custom. Movement behind the trees answered the hiss of the glowing ash. He looked up to see something darting from one tree to another. He frowned, contemplating the sight.
Dismissing it as nothing more than a deer, he resumed poking the glowing ashes.
Hushed voices came from the surrounding trees. Bandits!
“Thieves in the woods! Thieves in the woods!” Tharamore shrieked, leaping up from the ground. “Wake up, there are thieves in the woods!”
Having been tricked twice before, his brothers grumbled on their sleeping mats and rolled over. They ignored his cries for they thought it was another attempt to fool them. They didn’t wake and continued to sleep.
Tharamore saw the glint of drawn steel in the moonlight. He rushed to the mule cart, grabbing a pitchfork. He tried to fend them off, but they had edged blades. A bandit sliced Tharamore’s neck, silencing him once and for all.
They left the other brothers alive in their deep and unarousable slumber.
With practiced haste, the thieves stole the goats, mule, and the remaining money raised from the brothers selling their home. The thieves snuck away into the night, leaving only the cart filled with tools.
The next morning, the older brothers woke to find Tharamore slain and their valuables and livestock gone.
They cried out in grief at the loss of their little brother. They regretted his trickery. Had he not lied on his other two nights as lookout, they would have believed him. If he cried for help only when he needed it, they would have woken up and fought off the thieves.
Aramore and Garamore shed many tears as they lifted their brother and placed his lifeless body in the cart. They covered him with a worn blanket. As per the agreement they made at the start of their journey, the brother who spent the night as lookout got to sleep in the mule cart the next day.
Only this time, Tharamore would never wake again.
About the Author
Valerie Puri is an author of Paranormal, Fantasy, and Young Adult.
As an author of both short stories and novels, she enjoys the flexibility of writing tales of any length. Her favorite aspect of writing is the ability to create something out of nothing. She loves building worlds readers can visualize and filling those worlds with complex characters and storylines. Valerie believes that the experiences we have in life are just stories waiting to be written.
In 2016, she published her debut novel, The Crimson Tree, a thrilling paranormal tale inspired by true events. The main source of inspiration for this story was a number of experiences her sister encountered in her home. She went on to publish The Dociles, book one of The Secret Archives Trilogy, her young adult dystopian series. Valerie’s work can be found in anthologies such as Demonic Anthologies, Thrill of the Hunt, and Once Upon Academy. Readers can look forward to future novels and short stories with paranormal and urban fantasy aspects in the near future, including a The Lemerons, The Secret Archives Trilogy book two.
When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, or listening to audio books. She is a Florida transplant, but part of her will always call the Midwest home.
Connect with Valerie
Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/puripals