Aaron left the airship floating just off the shore of the lake before making his way over to the settlement. Refreshed and dressed once again, he felt better than he had when he’d woken up that morning. The only thing that weighed on his mood was the pistol, sitting heavy in his coat-pocket the paper wrapped tightly around it.
He couldn’t leave it behind, but he didn’t want to bring it with him either. The power of it’s call and his instinct to throw the weapon away were at war with each other.
As he walked along the dirt road into town, he pushed it from his thoughts. The ghost of it’s presence hovered in the back of his mind though, but he ignored it as best he could, focusing instead on the settlement around him. It was small as far as settlements went, nestled at the bottom the mountains in a wide valley. Like most, it was based around substance farming he saw. To bring in trade the people would ship out what they could spare during harvest season and harvest season, as Aaron knew, was in full swing at the moment.
Late morning brought the citizens from their homes preparing for the day and starting work that needed to be finished before the sun set in the evening.
Heading for the center of town, Aaron looked for the trade-house, his first destination if he was going to get some work. In the back of his mind the pressure from the pistol grew, pressing down on him as he got farther into town and started to see more people on the streets.
The whisper came when he was least expecting it and it startled him. “Kill…”
He froze and turned his head in the direction he thought he heard the whisper from. He looked around suspiciously and then resumed walking. The presence of the pistol grew in his mind.
Aaron focused his thoughts, trying to drive it back. Something like this had never happened before to him. The curse had never been this strong before. I’ve been separated from it too long. That has to be it… he thought, nodding to himself, slightly worriedly as to what he might do if it overpowered him. He remembered back when he’d first been entrusted with the weapon that it’s suffocating presence had surrounded him all the time forcing his every action.
Looking up, he saw that his feet had brought him to the trade house while his thoughts had been elsewhere.
Clearing his mind and his face of any emotion, he headed up onto the porch laid out with crates of fruit and veggies that people had brought to the shop to sell. Inside he knew there would be other wares that the people had crafted or were packaged up for trade with another settlement or even to be shipped to the flying city. The trade-house was community run, as was with most settlements, and was the on the edge of the square as the local market was hosted around it weekly.
The bell above the door rang out as he entered.
“Come on in!” called out the shop-keeper from across the room. “I’ll be with you in a second.”
Aaron surveyed the room. It was mostly empty save a few crates and tables with wares lain out for show. He headed over to the counter at the back and the shop-keeper, came over to greet him.
The man pushed his glasses up his nose and leaned on the counter. “What can I do for you, sir?”
Aaron froze for a moment and then blinked, before responding. “I’m looking for some work. I own an airship and was wondering if you had any outgoing cargo.”
The shop-keep shook his head. “Our regular airship just came yesterday I’m afraid, so we’re all taken care of for the moment.”
“Kill him…” Aaron felt his hand twitch toward his pocket involuntarily. He forced his hand to stay still.
“That’s a shame. Do you know of any work that needs done in town?” he asked the shop-keep, keeping his face a passive mask as he fought the pressure growing the back of his mind. If it kept up he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from doing something he would regret.
“Demon! Kill him… now!” came the whisper stronger than ever.
Aaron forced his hand to stay where it was, but he was loosing the war. His hand twitched sliding into his coat-pocket. He could feel his muscles tensing up.
The bell over the door rang as someone entered. He turned to look at the same time as the shop-keeper did.
“Hello!” the newcomer called out ducking in through the doorway, a crate balanced on one shoulder. He tipped his tattered and sun-bleached straw hat back on his head as he entered revealing his face and a few tufts of bright red hair sticking out from under the hat.
“Hey! I was wondering when you were going to make it into town,” responded the shop-keep raising his hand in greeting.
The man looked Aaron over, the muscles around his eyes tightening ever so slightly as he did as if in a silent challenge to Aaron. “I didn’t expect to see anyone else in here today,” he said.
Aaron felt his muscles relax and the presence retreat to the back of his mind. He blinked surprised and pulled his hand from his coat pocket as casually as he could, looking at the man.
“We—I didn’t catch your name did I?” the shop-keeper started and then looked over at Aaron.
“Aaron… Aaron Bl—Backer,” replied Aaron shakily.
“Aaron here owns and airship and was just asking if there was any work. You wouldn’t happen to know of anything, would you, Jay?”
The man, Jay, moved across the room and hefted the crate off his shoulder, setting it lightly down on the floor. The top of it was open and Aaron could see that it was filled with apples.
Jay looked to Aaron. “I’m afraid I don’t know of anything in town, but I am looking to catch a ride over to Okoa Landing. I’ll pay you for you troubles.”
Aaron stared at him for a moment, thinking. He never took on passengers. They were a were a nuisance and a distraction he didn’t need up in the skies, but this man seemed different. “Sure. Shouldn’t be a problem,” he said after a moment.
Jay smiled and nodded. “I have to unload the rest of the crates from my truck and we can head out.”
“Late harvest?” asked the shop-keep.
Jay gave him a knowing look. “The cold during these past few nights has kept most of my harvest from maturing quickly.”
“Well I’m sure we’ll find buyers her for you in town. Everyone loves the apples you bring in.”
“I don’t doubt,” he looked at Aaron. “Help me out with the rest of the crates and you can take a crate for yourself as an advance.”
Aaron nodded, unsure of himself at the moment. The pressure was still weighing on the back of his mind, but it seemed to have subsided for the moment. How… why… did it suddenly retreat? he wondered. It had something to do with this “Jay” person, he felt it in his gut, but he didn’t have a clue as to the how or the why.