Callum and Rory had been desperate. The brothers had been forced of their farm by an absentee landlord who was going to use the land for “other purposes.” They had gathered their meagre possessions and headed into the world to make their fortune. It seemed, however, that the only fortune they had thus far found was misfortune.
They had been down to their last two potatoes and a crust of bread when they camped by a stream-side. They were just boiling the potatoes when a Tinker woman approached them from the woods.
“I am weary to the bone,” she said. “And a morsel to eat is all I ask and I will share the secret to great wealth.”
“If you have the secret of wealth, why do you need food from us?” Rory questioned.
“Alas Lad, I am too old to pursue it myself,” she replied.
More from Christian charity than any expectation of reward, Callum broke the bread in half and gave his portion to the old woman. “I will give you half my potato as well, when it is ready,” he said.
“And you can half of mine as well,” his brother added reluctantly.
“You are too kind, My Boys,” she said.
When she had eaten, she pulled an old parchment from her skirts, and said, “Follow this, and your fortune will be made.” She then got up and wandered back into the woods.
The parchment seemed blank except for a single instruction, Go to the bridge at Newton.
The brothers concurred that they had nothing to lose, so off they went.
When they arrived at the bridge the next morning, they looked around. Nothing seemed to be there except for the lonely bridge.
“Are you sure it said Newton?” Rory asked.
Callum pulled out the paper and read the words, Look under the bridge.
In shock, Callum handed the parchment to his brother. Rory flipped the paper over several times, but these were now the only writing on the sheet. The two immediately scrambled down the embankment, where they found a bushel basket of potatoes.
“I can’t believe it,” Callum said.
“Well let’s not waste the chance,” Rory said dumping about half the potatoes into his nearly empty knapsack.
Callum again looked at the paper which now read, Go to the Spring Wood.
He quickly added the remaining potatoes to his own bag, and the two made their way to the far side of the town. There they found a freshwater spring, with a small forest beyond.
The brothers filled their flasks, and headed into the woods.
On entering the treeline, Callum nearly tripped over an obstacle under the fallen leaves, in so doing, disrupting the carpet.
“Look!” Rory exclaimed.
There under the leaves was the lid of an old trunk. Closer examination proved that it was in fact a complete chest partially buried in a shallow hole.
The brothers opened the lid to find two sets of fine clothing inside.
“What does it say now?” Rory asked excitedly.
“It says, Take fifty paces northwards.”
“Why are you waiting,” Rory asked as he began to count out the steps.
Callum gathered the clothing, and followed his brother.
“Forty eight, forty nine, fifty,” Rory called out just as his toe struck something under the leaves. He bent down and lifted a small pouch with twenty gold coins in it.
“Amazing!” Callum said. He then urgently pulled out the paper which read, Your kindness is now repaid.
“Surely there must be more,” Rory said.
“Brother, I am more than happy. We have food, fresh water, new clothes, and money.”
“Well, if you are so easily satisfied, take all of the stuff and leave. Just give me the paper.”
With a heavy heart, Callum took the potatoes, clothing, and gold and headed eastwards.
Rory on the other hand, grabbed the sheet and read, Proceed 3000 paces to the north.
As he stepped off the paces, the wood became colder and more dense. The three thousandth step fell toe first at the base of a majestic tree. Rory searched its bark, and then walked all around the tree. He even used his fingers to dig around its roots. Nothing appeared. He then frantically pulled out the parchment which read, Your just reward is 100 paces upwards.
Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #61