It was the third time in a single week an adventurer had come in and stuck a bucket over his head. The bucket was barely in their hands, and their tongues stuck out as they concentrated, making sure the bucket fit on his head just right.
It was driving him crazy. But every time he tried to yank the bucket off of his head, it was as though some mysterious force was keeping his arms pinned at his sides, even as he said the words “can I help yah” over and over again. Help them? How could he help them when he couldn’t see anything inside his own shop?
And every time he managed to get the simple wooden bucket off, his inventory was missing. Could he prove that the adventurer took it? No. Did he know it had happened? Yes. It frustrated him, drove him mad, and all he wanted to do was make it stop.
Sighing, he put a hand on the wooden door in front of him, and took a deep breath. Whatever had happened at work today, he had promised Martha, his loving wife of ten years, he wouldn’t bring work home with him.
He pushed the door open to find her stirring the pot on the open flame, her hair tied into a messy bun at the top of her head. “Harold!” she beamed at him as she turned her neck ever so slightly, happy to see him. “How was work today?”
“It was lovely dear.”
“Did you sell anything?” he ground his teeth against each other, unable to stop the impulsive movement.
“Some things disappeared off the shelf alright.” He muttered as he walked to the back of the house, their bedroom of sorts, even if it was only behind a simple divider. “What are we having for dinner?” He had changed into the only other thin worn tunic he had, but it held a simple steady comfort inside of it.
“Carrot soup.” He sat down at the table as she ladled the soup into bowls when it happened. Their front door was shoved open, and a terrifying lizard in bright purple nightmare armor barged into their house, sword drawn, in a crouched creeping stance.
Harold wanted to protest, wanted to demand that the stranger get out of their house immediately. Instead, he found himself ladling soup into his mouth, the flavor satisfying on his tongue. And then it happened. Buckets appeared out of nowhere, as though there was a pouch that could fit anything on the adventurer’s hip.
Harold could see it was going to happen, could see the look of concentration and intensity on the adventurer’s face. Then the bucket was over his head, and all he could do was helplessly spoon more carrot soup up to the mouth that was now covered by the shield of wood.
As he continued to ladle soup to his mouth, Harold heard the steady clack of potion bottles, cutlery, and coin. He heard the loud thumps of the cheese wheels and dried boar meat they had meticulously created drop to the floor.
Then the bucket was off his head, was off Martha’s head, and the adventurer in nightmare armor was out the door, leaving them not only confused, but poorer.
“What do you think your day will be like at the shop tomorrow Harold?” Martha asked suddenly, her eyes glossy and glazed as she looked up.
“Martha? Didn’t you see that?”
“See what dear?” surely, she couldn’t be oblivious to what had happened. Surely, she had seen the adventurer, had heard the clinking as things had been stolen. He continued to stare at her as she swallowed another spoonful of soup. “What do you think of the soup?”
“its excellent.” He muttered softly, unable to continue his line of questioning, sensing it was clear she had no idea what he was talking about.
As the sun started to set, Harold crawled into bed next to his wife, his mind replaying the days events, reliving the buckets on his head and his helplessness to do anything about it. When Martha’s snores were a soft music in his ear, he untucked the blankets from around himself, and stood.
Or at least tried too. It was like his body was laying in a puddle of hardened honey, his limps felt heavy and unyielding as he tried to get up, tried to force himself out of the bed. His eyes were heavy, weaving a convincing tale of slumber that part of him wanted to listen too.
He continued to try to move, to push his arms outside of the barrier of the hardened honeyed bed, concentrated as hard as he could until finally, a pinky finger moved. The first movement was the hardest, and soon he was out of the bed, standing.
Martha looked so peaceful as she slept, her hair finally down from its sloppy bun, her mouth curved in a soft smile. He was setting off tonight to see the Jarl. He had a family to take care of, a wife that deserved more than things constantly getting stolen.
In his bag, he packed some dried meats, a skin of water, and some potions. On his hip he strapped his great great, great, grandfather’s sword, a weapon that had not seen battle since the last great war. Around his shoulders he tucked the rabbit fur cloak he had made himself when he was a boy, and with one last look at his small house, he walked out the front door.