The Creation of the Hound
Houndal held the mirror to his face. He blinked at his reflection. 'Is there anything more beautiful than me?' he asked himself. 'I think not!'
'Houndal!' called the old barmaid. 'Hurry up and clear those cups away. And stop staring at yourself!'
'Yes, ma'am,' said Houndal, getting up. He dusted off his rough-hewn trousers and strolled over to the barrels the barmaid insisted on calling tables. He stuffed his arms full of dirty, wooden mugs.
'Hello, lad,' said a voice beneath the barrel. Houndal bent down and lifted the barrel up. Beneath it stood a little man, no taller than Houndal's little finger. He held a sack in his hands that bulged with something pointy. The little man wore a grey suite. 'Do you want to strike a deal?'
Houndal nodded. 'Sure,' he said.
'Then,' said the little man. 'Hear me out. Take care of my little bag and I'll give you whatever you desire.'
'Seems simple enough,' said Houndal. 'I'll do it.'
'Good,' said the little man. He handed Houndal the bag. 'Just don't open it under any circumstance. Nor let anyone else open it.'
'Or what will happen?' asked Houndal, clutching the bag. It fit in his hand like a small pebble.
'Or you will turn into the creature that dwells in your heart.' The little man gave him a smile. 'I must go now, bye!' A breeze blew through the room and scooped the little man up. He flew through the open door and into the dark world outside.
Houndal took a deep breath. That was odd. He shook his head and got to his feet.
'Houndal!' yelled the barmaid. 'Hurry up!'
Houndal grabbed the rest of the mugs in his other hand and ran into the kitchen. He tossed them onto the water bucket and ran back into the room to see if the little man had come back.
Houndal sat down and stared at the little bag. A golden light shone from it. In the flickering shadows of the candlelight, the bag seemed suspiciously a lot like gold.
'Houndal, what is that?' said the barmaid, stepping up behind him. She looked over his shoulder. 'What are you doing with that?'
'A little man under the barrel gave it to me to look after it,' said Houndal. He smiled at the barmaid. He was very proud of his task.
'A little man?' said the barmaid. 'Under a barrel? Which barrel?'
Houndal pointed at the one in the far back of the room.
'Under here?' said the barmaid, lifting it up. 'Are you sure?'
'Oh, the little man left a while ago in a gust of wind.'
'So, he's not here?' said the barmaid, her eyes gleamed.
'Yes, he's left,' said Houndal.
'So, he won't see if we, you, were to open his little bag?' said the barmaid. She walked back over to him and gave him a wicked smile.
'I guess not,' said Houndal. 'But the little man also said that I was not allowed to open it.'
'Or what will happen?' said the barmaid.
'I will turn into the creature that dwells in my heart.'
'Oh, then you have nothing to worry about,' said the barmaid. 'No, not someone as handsome as you.'
'Yes, you're probably right,' said Houndal. 'But I can't. The little man said...'
'Oh, bugger what the little man said.' The barmaid gave Houndal a slap behind the head. 'What could a little man really do? He's most likely too small to do anything.'
'But he was a magical...'
'Bugger magic,' said the barmaid. 'Don't you see the glint of gold in that sack?'
'Then open it,' she said.
'No,' said Houndal, making up his mind. 'I'm not going to.'
'Just give it here then,' said the barmaid. She yanked it out of Houndal's hands and hit him again. 'You're a very stupid boy.'
'No, I'm not,' said Houndal.
'Oh, shut it,' said the barmaid. She licked her lips and pulled on the little string that held the bag together.
In a bright flash and a loud bang, the barmaid lifted into the air. A brilliant, golden light shrouded her. Slowly, she began to change. Her hands shrunk and her fingers fused together. Her legs and ears grew longer. Fur sprouted all across her body. Her lips stretched out into a snout and her teeth turned into sharp, yellow fangs. She let out a low howl and dropped to the ground.
'What the heck are you?' said Houndal. He jumped back and got onto one of the tables. Houndal stared at her. She was a shaggy, black mongrel.
The barmaid howled again.
'That sounds like my name,' said Houndal. 'Are you a Houndal?' The barmaid howled once more and padded out of the room.
'No,' said Houndal. 'It said Hound.' He hurried of the table and into the night outside.
'Is your name Hound?' yelled Houndal, at the last sight of the barmaid. She howled again as she stood in front of a withered, old oak. The moon hung behind her like a silver coin.
'Goodbye, Hound!' Houndal yelled once more. He waved his hand in the air.
The barmaid took off, bounding into the forest.
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