They met in the smoky light of the tavern doorway, horses stamping in the snow, breath clouding on the freezing air. It had been a long winter with more to come. The spring of 1598 seemed to have been forgotten. The townspeople shuffled through their days swathed in rags and every garment they possessed to keep out the biting cold
Freezing temperatures kept down the rats, but fleas were always glad of a warm armpit.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
The other one just grunted and walked his mount away into the forest.
“You fucking idiot,” said the third. “We have had to leave everything because of you. My shop,your tools. and his family! It’s hard enough being us without reports of a savage beast roaming the forest.”
“I was hungry. How was I to know that Joseph Carter’s wife was going to pop out two brats at once and wake up half the town while she was doing it. He would have had to leave her soon anyway, he’ll get over it.”
The third one sighed.“When was the last time you got close to a woman?”
He shrugged.“About half an hour ago if you must know, behind the inn.”
“I don’t mean a quick fuck up an alley with some little slut. I mean really close. They brought up five children together and buried two. He wanted to go when it suited him, not run out on her in the middle of the night.”
“You know I don’t need all that baggage.”
“Yes but he does, it’s killing him. If I ever hear you say he’ll just get over it again, big as you are, you will feel my fist in your teeth and my boot up your arse, now move!”
And so it passed into legend that the apothecary, drunk as usual, had wandered out into the snow one night, and that his friends the miller and the carpenter had bravely set out to find him and were never seen again.
The tavern wench, a nice girl,found that she suddenly had an urgent need to accept an offer of marriage from the elderly innkeeper.
Her son born the following autumn grew up to be a decent man. He cared for his widowed mother and was generally respected and well thought of by the townsfolk.
The only odd thing about him was that sometimes when out hunting deer he had the most peculiar notion to get down off the horse and chase the beasts himself.
What his laughing friends would never know was that when the moon was full and the forest was calling, he often did.