“Write me a story with a really likable protagonist until the very last sentence, where he becomes a huge asshole”
Picce ran as fast as her feet would carry her, her long golden hair and unassuming pale rose frock trailing behind her like a tail through the town gates and toward the shuffling figure cresting the grassy hill. She had spotted him through the morning fog from her perch in the watchtower, where she had remained since the previous night when he had left her. The man’s head hung low as he stumbled forward, dragging a battered and severely bent shield in one hand, the other hanging limply at his side. Picce shouted to him, “Marius!” as she dashed headlong down the well-worn dirt road. The man looked up and caught sight of her, his ashen and blood-stained face splitting into an unsteady grin before beginning a slow arc towards the ground in front of him.
Picce reached him in mid-topple, but he was far too heavy in his piecemeal armor for her to halt his plunge. The best she could manage was to guide his slack form gently to the ground. Tears sprang to her eyes as she looked over Marius, digesting his current state. As far as she could tell, he was unconscious. His armor, which had not been pretty to begin with, was now dented and warped, covered in dirt and a dark red crust. His blade was nowhere to be found, nor any sign of his horse. Worst though, was how he appeared to be bestrewn with rivulets of fresh blood, trickling from more wounds than Picce’s distraught mind could count, matting his thick brown hair and dampening his earthy blue tunic beneath his breastplate.
She had never seen injuries this dire before, and had no idea where to begin treating them. All she could do was stare at the shallow rise and fall of his chest, reminding herself that Marius was still alive, and wait. Thankfully she did not have to wait long, as several men from the town had also spotted the returning man and had followed Picce out, carrying a crude stretcher. As they bent to lift Marius onto the canvas, he stirred and his head rolled toward Picce. His eyes slid open and, upon seeing her again, his grin returned. Faintly he groaned, “I did it, Pi. He is gone. Bozar is dead.”
The overwhelming concern and grief that had filled Picce was now joined by the glow of hope, steadily growing as the implications of what he had just said settled on her. The townsmen lifted Marius and carried him into town to the infirmary while Picce followed several paces behind, falling tears for her love at odds with her inescapable smile.
Marius sat on a simple cot in the infirmary, propped upright against a pile of quilts. Gauze wrapping obscured his abdomen and parts of his arms and chest. A fresh scar marred his ruggedly handsome face, though to Picce it was a badge of honor. Every time she saw it as she sat next to him, bathing the wounds on one shoulder as the Surgeon had instructed her, she was filled with the elation of freedom. Never again would she have to look over her shoulder, fearing that the lustful Bozar would be stalking her, licking his scaly lips and plotting indecent contrivances. The lecherous draconian had been the bane of her existence, as well as a threat to the entire town, for years. No more, thanks to dear, sweet Marius.
Marius had been a traveler from another land, a modest carpenter’s apprentice seeking to establish himself in his craft. When he arrived in town several months before he made fast friends with nearly everyone he met. He was soon ensconced in a small cottage near the market where he both lived and ran a thriving business. The man was undeniably charming in his eagerness and humility, his was practically a master of his craft, and nothing seemed to dampen his good mood. Truly, Picce’s devotion for the man had been inevitable. Of course, Picce was widely regarded as one of the kindest, most intelligent, and prettiest maidens in town, and most would say Marius’s affection for her was just as fated. Their love was the kind that ballads were composed about, and would surely last longer than those.
When Marius learned of the trouble that the dragon-man Bozar had caused the town–raiding storehouses, killing livestock, stealing valuables–he was incensed. He argued loud and long for the formation of an extermination party. Why should they put up with his tyranny, he said. The townspeople deserved happiness, he said. The townspeople may have deserved happiness, but they were far too terrified of the vicious and powerful creature to pursue it.
When Marius finally learned of the particular attention Bozar had paid to Picce, and the nature of that attention, he became very quiet. He calmly recovered his savings from a hidden chest in his small home and took it to the blacksmith to purchase a mismatched set of armor and a cheap sword, the best he could afford with a carpenter’s earnings. He saddled his horse, the one that had carried him into this town, and prepared to set off, that very evening. Picce knew where he was going, knew exactly the foolishness he was pursuing, and tried to stop him. When he saw the concern in her eyes, Marius’s face softened into his customary smile. He held her tightly and whispered into her ear, “He’ll never touch you again. This ends tonight.” Before she could protest he was on his horse and riding off into the failing light. That was when she had gone to the watchtower to await his return.
Now that he had come back safely, there was a part of Picce that wanted to thrash the man for risking his life the way he had. But mostly what she felt was devastating love and exhilarating freedom. She spoke to him as she redressed his shoulder. “I still cannot grasp that you have faced and slain a draconian for me, Marius! Why would you do such a bold and reckless thing, you simple carpenter?”
Marius turned to her, a grimace of pain at the movement briefly wresting control from his usual grin, and held her head in one hand. He kissed her lightly, and softly replied, “You are the only star in my sky. I would give anything, do anything, to keep you safe from harm or distress.” He kissed her again, and Picce melted in his arms.
Following this moment of tenderness, Picce felt compelled by gratitude and ardency to speak up again. “Marius, I can never fully express how grateful I am for you and for this gift you have given me. With that lascivious beast hounding me, my world was a nightmare. You’ve freed me from that. If only I could indemnify your suffering on my behalf.”
Marius grinned. “My dearest love, queen of my heart…” He brushed Picce’s flaxen hair lightly, savoring the silkiness of it for a moment. Then he glanced downward meaningfully and quipped, “How ’bout a beej?”
Original Prompt: Reddit – Likeable Asshole