Down the dirt road it rolled, a cart carrying a load of goods being pulled by two horses, one of which had a rider. There were barrels of apples, crates of bananas, and a single small icebox packed with freshly caught fish. An unusual piece of cargo was amongst the goods, that of a male person dressed in a dark tan vest and cargo-pants and sitting with one knee hugging his chest. He had a backpack sitting in the cart next to him as he slouched against its low wall between two barrels of apples; it appeared to be carrying all sorts of utensils for drawing and art. In front of him in a bit of free space was a bow, as well as a quiver of arrows that rattled against one another from the bumpy ride.
The man in the cart had been quiet for quite some time, but he suddenly felt the urge to give his gratitude once again to the man on the horse. "I really appreciate the ride."
The horseback man didn't make any motion to acknowledge the words. Instead he spoke back humbly. "Oh it's no problem at all. I'm headed to Claiborne anyways to drop off that stuff back there." A motion was made now, a tilt of his head backwards as a gesture towards the various food items packed in the cart around the other man. A short pause ensued before he spoke again. "What business do you have there, lad?" Another pause and then, "If you don't mind me asking, that is."
A third pause interrupted the conversation, during which the man in the cart shuffled through his backpack. A sketchpad was pulled from it along with a pencil. With both of those objects in one hand, his other shot into his vest pocket and pulled from it a compass, which was placed next to his foot on the floor of the cart. "Actually," the man started while flipping the sketchpad open; lines stretched across the pages both vertically and horizontally to form a grid. "I'm a cartographer." Green eyes quickly glanced at the compass that showed northeast. He pressed his pencil into the bottom-left corner of the page and dragged it slowly, cautiously, carefully for three grid boxes' lengths worth.
The horseback man had his interest piqued at the claim of the other man and now looked over his shoulder, catching sight of his auburn-haired passenger. "Fancy that! Sure could use a good map of this region, myself being new here and all. We have these signs here-and-there," he said, turning his head to his front again and pointing to something in the distance, "like that one coming up. But they only give us a general direction. This road we're on is a blessing." His hand returned to the rein. "In other parts of the world, towns are rarely connected by roads and even signs are scarce!"
For a moment the other man imagined that. It must have been tough for others to travel or even trade. He rested his hand on the sketchpad, pencil between his fingers. "Does this road have a name?"
"A name?" the horseback man thought aloud, gaze to the clouds, "Well let's see…no, I don't think it does."
The other man tapped his finger against the sketchpad thoughtfully. It deserved a name, he concluded. "Then I'll name it…" he remained quiet in thought for a moment, "…Route One!"
A hearty laugh was let out by the horseback man, of which the other man also joined in. "'Route One,' you say? How simple! But you're the cartographer, so I won't argue."
Although the horseback man couldn't see it, the other man was baring a wildly happy grin and voiced his reason for it: "I'll get to name all sorts of things as I make my maps." His pencil was lifted and in small calligraphy he wrote the name above the line representing the path. "It'll be like owning part of the world." He mused.
A single chuckle came from the horseback man this time. "You'll certainly leave your mark on it if those maps of yours get distributed." He turned around to face the other man and gave a warm smile. "I'll be looking forward to using one for my deliveries."
Smiling back, the other man killed the moment by saying, "Of course. But don't count on it for at least a few years. I've got an entire world to chart!"
After some time the cart rolled into its destination. The horseback man dismounted his steed and tied the reins around a fencepost before going around to the back of the cart and lowering the tailgate. He began to bid the other man, whom proceeded to hop out of the back, farewell. "So lad, what's your name before you run off?"
The other man slung his backpack over his shoulder, then shifted his bow to his other hand and slung his quiver over the opposite shoulder. "Murto."
"Murto…the man who will capture this world on paper."
Murto grinned at the sound of that.
"And it seems you have your own place on that map. Oh, but forgive my musings. I'm Ricardo, and it was a pleasure to meet you." With a nod and tip of his hat, Ricardo turned and began unloading his cart.
Murto offered to help the man unload his cart. It would have been a sort of payment for the ride. Ricardo declined the offer, however, and urged Murto on his way to his goal. So now he was wandering the streets of the town of Claiborne, his second town to map. Remembering that, he strutted off the brick road going through the town and sat against a fence surrounding a house. He brought out his sketchpad and pencil and, at the end of the line he'd drawn, made a bold point. Above it he wrote the name of the town and then gazed at the point in awe like it was his most prized possession, a grin on his face. His eyes trailed from it back across the line, and a frown replaced his grin; he had forgotten to mark the first town—his home. Another bold point was scribbled in and assigned a name: Murto. His grin returned.
Standing, he cradled his sketchpad and pencil in his arms and kept them at the ready. There was no need for him to stay long in this town, so he decided it best to take his survey of it, chart it, and be on his merry way. And so chart it he did. The shops, the streets, the landmarks of significance, the houses—all of these found their way onto a page in his gridded sketchpad, and all of these were assigned the names he saw on signs, if they had one. Unsurprisingly the houses and streets all lacked names. Some of the citizens gave him funny glances, pointed at him, or talked in hushed voices about him. He happened to catch the words of one, which mentioned another man having come through here doing the same thing a long time ago and—"A year was it?"—was a rhetorical question contained within it. Murto smiled to himself, knowing full well who they were talking about. But then he frowned, remembering the man's broken dream. The weight of that broken dream was now on his shoulders, and he may not be a handyman, but he certainly wasn't going to let that prevent him from fixing it.
Commotion broke his train of thought and his pencil halted on the paper. Down the street from him was a gathering of people. A street perhaps it wasn't, but an alleyway instead. He was alarmed at the direction the commotion was taking, violent tension tainting the words being spoken. His brow furrowed in disapproval and he slipped his sketchpad and pencil into his backpack before approaching the group of wannabe thugs. It would appear they were ganging up on someone, said person trapped from all angles by the five of them.
"Really, I don't mean any trouble guys! I'm just passing through, really!"
The five thugs all shared obnoxious laughter at the pleading man. One of them, presumably the head-honcho if the spiffy black bandana he wore and the fact that he laughed first before the other four joined in were any indications, spat out a menacing and sarcastic request, "That's a fine looking sword ya' got there. Mind givin' it to me?"
The sound of a boot scuffing the ground caught the attention of all six people.
"What's going on here?"
Murto stood with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face. Everyone, including the man surrounded by the thugs, exchanged perplexed glances before the supposed thug leader spat out, "Who the heck are you?"
—To be continued.