September’s Guest Storyteller, Joshua Munns
Joshua has always loved monsters, myths, legends, and the fantastical. At his primary school, in English classes, they despaired that he’d ever write about anything else but then they relented one year and awarded him the school Creative Writing Prize for a story about … yes, you’ve guessed it right … about monsters! At University, he earned himself a BA in History, English, and Creative Writing.
Presently, he’s working on a piece of short fiction for self-publishing on Kindle. After this, he hopes to write his first novel. He is also exploring the idea of creating online serialised fantasy role-playing games, as well as doing a collaboration on a graphic novel with one of his friends from university.
As you can see, a love of the written word runs in the family, not that the relatives are into fantasy!
The Mountain Road
“You must never stray into the snow. Only ghosts and madmen would wander the mountains in the winter,” the man told them.
The pair had listened with indulgent smiles. Rustic superstitions had their basis in practicality as often as not, and threats of dark spirits was as fine a way as any to keep the foolish from wandering out into the wilderness to an icy death.
Sullen as he was, they were glad to have found the man. Sitting on an old bench, he had the look of a seasoned traveller about him, the sort who could save them from a long and dreary winter spent holed up in a ramshackle village. His price was reasonable, a coin from each for the journey. He too wished to travel the mountain path, and he cared more for the company than for gold, he told them.
The older of the pair joked with the younger, after their first day out on the path. What a shame it was that they couldn’t see the ghosts and madmen from the mountain road. Perhaps they were shy, crouched out of sight behind rocks and snowdrifts. They had seen a man, a woodcutter by the look of him. Maybe he was a ghost or a madman. He was peculiar at the very least, responding to the younger man’s greeting with a leery look as he trudged through the waist-deep snows.
The guide was affable, his mood lifting with every day in company. They spent the nights camped by the roadside where rocks and trees offered cover from the mountain winds. He asked many questions, where they had come from, where they were going, family, friends. He himself was a simple man, he explained, bound up between the villages of the mountain road by familial obligations. Sharing words with travellers was one of his simple pleasures in a life without much excitement. He told them many stories of others he had guided through, men and women of ambition and purpose, aimless vagrants and wanderers.
The older man chuckled, an awkward eye to his friend, as the guide thanked them so sincerely for travelling the mountain road with him, for accepting his company and heeding his advice. Tomorrow, the guide told the pair, they would be beyond the mountains, and in the next village. The younger man smiled, it would be a relief, he said, to put the ghosts and madmen behind them.
The younger man trudged down the mountain path. The snows had lifted, and the village loomed in the distance. He was not in a mood for celebration however. In the night, his friend and the guide had broken camp, walked on ahead without a word. A familiar face glowered at him from the trees, the woodcutter resting against his axe, watching him in silence.
The younger man called out to him, asked the woodcutter if he had seen his friend or the guide. The woodcutter shook his head, told the younger man in a coarse voice that no-one had been down the road all morning. The younger man made to turn back, but the woodcutter called after him, calling the younger man a fool. After all, the woodcutter said, only ghosts and madmen walk the mountain road in winter.