Short Story – The Trader

The story prompt is: The protagonist is female and a trader. A gate plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a barn in the medieval age. The story is about fear.


She gathered her skirts and picked up her bag to see if everything was still in it. Good! Nothing is missing. She looked around.  She appeared to be in a barn.  She could see the stalls and straw and hear the horses. The structure was made of stone and wood and appeared to be fairly solid. She didn’t feel any draft so the doors must be closed. She made her way cautiously forward. A board creaked and a horse nickered. She paused. Without knowing what she would encounter, she preferred to move slowly. It was still light outside so the barn wasn’t completely dark although there were no lanterns or torches. She could see the barn door ahead and glanced back to the gate through which she had recently gone. There was no one around. Just the horses and perhaps some other livestock at the other end of the barn. The horses were usually kept toward the front since they were taken in and out more frequently.  The cows and swine were toward the back where the door led into the barnyard and out to the pasture. It had been a pleasant spring day, so there would be no need for heat, although the night would undoubtedly be cool. She continued making her way toward the door when suddenly it flew open and a large man stood in the doorway. She ducked behind a horse stall and waited. He moved quickly to the first horse stall and was bringing the horse out when it whinnied. “What’s the matter, Blackie? You seem uneasy.” The horse followed obediently, but kept turning his head toward the rear of the barn. He had tethered the horse at the mounting station and was getting the saddle and bridle when he noticed the horse’s repeated glances behind him. “What’s going on, old boy? You act like you’ve seen a ghost.”

She held her breath. The last thing she wanted was to have him find her there. She had hoped to make a quick exit and make her way along the nearest road to a village. If he found her she might have to go back through the gate to escape and she was not looking forward to that. The gate was problematic. She used them when she had to, but each trip seemed to take something from her that she never regained. And who knew how long she could keep using them until there would be nothing left of her to give. Still, if that was what she had to do, she would do it. The gates had allowed her to keep her freedom and her sanity. Otherwise her father would have had her married to some man – a peasant, a butcher – and tied to one time and place. By using the gates, she avoided her father and controlled her own fate. She would go to the villages and trade her needlework for food and fabric and thread to make shirts. Sometimes she traded for wool that she carded and spun for warmer garments.  Occasionally she traded her sewing and mending skills for a place to sleep. But since she had been using the gates, she hadn’t needed as much sleep, so those stops were rarer. Perhaps that was the toll the gates exacted – her sleep.

He came very close to her location and she prepared to flee, but suddenly he turned and went back to the horse. “I don’t see anything, Blackie, and we’ve got to get done before dark.” He finished saddling the horse then led him out of the barn and closed the door. She waited until she heard the horses hooves fade in the distance and then let herself carefully out of the barn. Then she moved quickly to the road and hurried on her way. Grateful that she wouldn’t have to use the gate again so soon.


With thanks to The Speculative Fiction Muse

Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown for the support and the laughs.


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