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Jan 24, 2022

Runebook: The Advent of Thebis the Wise

 Another bit of prose that I'm surprised I never posted on here before. I can't remember where I came up with the name "Thebis the Wise," but it always had a nice ring to it. I came up with some basic ideas for a storyline that involved a fictional version of myself getting sucked into a fantasy world and transforming into Thebis the Wise, a prophesied savior of a realm called Brugixia who looked like me except older and with white or gray hair. I remember making a few comics about my Thebis persona and even some Warcraft 3 maps, but I never got too far with it. 

Prologue

JUNIOR High wasn’t all that fun for me in more reasons than one.

For one thing, I was no good at sports, which is the only reason any of the kids think you popular. I could never win or even score at Lightning, and I was the laughingstock of the school in dodge ball. The only sport I was could ever score at was Flag tag, and I wasn’t even that good at it.

For another thing, I was a geek. I had glasses and was shorter than most kids in my grade.

It was in that year of ninth grade when I found myself wishing for a way to fit in. I wished to become a hero in the eyes of everyone. I wanted to have...an adventure. If it was by pure luck that I found that Runebook, or by destiny, I’ll never know. But it was that book that changed most of my life, and gave me the adventure I had always wanted. 

Chapter 1 

As for the last few weeks in P.E., we had been doing basketball. The P.E. teacher, Mr. Simeoll, gave us a choice between Lightning, Poison, or normal basketball. I hated Poison, because though I could run fast, Mr. Simeoll allowed overhand passes, so that I would get hit hard with a basketball and sit massaging my thigh for the rest of the day. I didn’t want everyone to hate me on their team for basketball, either. I decided to do Lightning, even though I had never scored a basket in my life.

I snuck to the end of the line, so I could watch the other boys and learn from them. The first boy followed through with a high basket that went through in nothing but net. The second did a granny shot that hit the backboard and went in. The third shot and missed, but managed to recover it before the fourth boy’s ball rolled in.

It was my turn next. I dribbled twice; the second time the ball bouncing off my shoe. The other boys laughed as I chased the ball and readied my shot. I silently willed the ball to go in. Please. Please, just this once. I have to get the ball in just this once. Please, please, please. I opened my eyes and shot. It bounced off the side and flew to the right. I fumbled it after I got it again but I ran back to the basket. Luckily, the boy behind me had missed, too, but he was a tall, broad player who could easily jump to recover the ball. I shot again and again as he ran to get the bouncing ball. I kept missing. I managed to get it to the side of the basket, only to have it roll off the opposite side again. The boys behind me were laughing...I had to get the ball in...the hard player would be back any second...Please, please...sweat glared on my forehead as I struggled to keep it going in...Pleeease. Pleeease. ...The other boy was coming...PLEASE! PLEASE LET THE BALL GO IN....

Too late.

The other boy had made a three-point shot from a long ways away and I was out for the eighteen millionth time. 

I shook my head in dismay as I left the locker room to lunch. “Why me? Why couldn’t I have made a shot? Why can’t I even make one shot?!” I grumbled. I was absolutely no good at sports. And that was what really mattered in Junior High. Good English or math grades didn’t get you any popularity. Or Art. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for Art to get you popularity. I was the best in the grade at Art. I could draw a detailed dragon in a few minutes, filling up a normal-sized piece of paper.

But none of that mattered.

It was either you were good at athletics, or you were a nerd.

The next day I was in Art class. It was Thursday, which meant it was a Free Day. I drew the long neck of a Blue Dragon coiled and twisted, with eyes of glowing icy embers. The wings of the dragon were tall, thin, and serpentine – like bats’ wings without hair. A wall of ice spewed from the dragon’s mouth, freezing anything in its path. I smiled for once in the day. Drawing helped me feel more secure. But then I frowned when I remembered the day before, when all the boys had laughed. Their guffaws rang in my ears over and over, echoing their mockery through my brain. I started to draw the boys in the Blue Dragon’s path.

Chapter 2

I was on my way to the library to study for a History test on Monday when I found a stout, round old man with an almost spherical nose begging on the curb. I searched my pockets, found only a quarter, and tossed it into his hat.

“God bless you, son!” He looked perfectly delighted to have someone give him money.

“You’re welcome. I wish I had more.”

“Oh, heavens, no! This is plenty! Thank you again!”

I waved him goodbye and continued on my way to the library. A block away, I realized that I had a pair of dimes in my back pocket, and hurried back the curb where the man was. To my surprise, there was a construction crew replacing the sidewalk right where the old man had been! There was a bulldozer and a dump truck and five men who looked like they had been working for hours! Where was the old man? I decided that I must have made a wrong turn or something, so I went back to the corner where I found the dimes, looked at the signs, and went back to the curb.

The men were still there.

I walked up to one who was writing on a clipboard and asked politely, “How long have you been working here, sir?”

“Couple o’ days. Skipped Tuesday, so that adds it up to...” the man counted on his fingers, “five days.”

“But that’s impossible! I saw an old man over here just five minutes ago. He was begging and I gave him...”

“Sorry kid, my break time’s up. I gotta get back to work.” He put on his hard hat and climbed into the bulldozer.

I left shaking my head. How on earth did that happen? I thought. It had to be real. I had forgotten to buy an extra milk at lunch today and had saved the quarter, a nice new Virginia state one, and given it to the man, and – I checked my pockets, just to make sure – nope, I had definitely given that old man my coin. 

I entered the library and went straight to the nonfiction study section. Searching for something on the Revolutionary War, I found an extremely old leather brown book with the title, The Runebook of Brugixia. It had neat-looking runes on the sides and cover. I had loved making up my own runes and alphabets, so I grabbed the book and took a look inside it.

Blank.

The pages had nothing on them. They were old and somewhat wrinkled and yellow, but not a single rune or symbol lined the parchment. I felt disappointed. I had trouble finding books that I liked, and my mother had always said “you don’t have to like a book. Just read it to get good grades.” I didn’t really agree with that. I couldn’t concentrate if I wasn’t interested.

I flipped through the book again and even checked the inside of the covers. I sighed. “Oh well, I might as well get on with my homework.”

I had finished studying for the Revolutionary War, and was very confident that I would ace the test. I started to put my books away and leave the library when I noticed that the Runebook thingy in my backpack. Huh, I thought. I thought I put that in the fiction section. I thought about the Runebook and decided I might as well check it out. I could study the runes on the cover and stuff and learn the alphabet of...what was it again? Oh yeah, Brugixia.

I walked up to the counter and handed the book to the librarian.

Without even looking at the book she inquired, “Do you have a library card?”

I checked my backpack but I had forgotten my library card at home. “Er, no, ma’am. Can I give you my name and barcode number?”

Her strict eyes narrowed into slits. “You memorized the barcode number?”

“Yes ma’am.”

Her eyes never left mine as she booted up her computer. Then the screen went on and her eyes broke off.

“Name, please.”

“Dale Hemenster.”

She seemed a bit humored at the thought of me memorizing a fifteen-digit barcode, but she asked anyway. I carefully recited my number. She eyed me again and doubtfully typed it in. The screen beeped and she looked slightly impressed. For the first time she looked at my book, gathered it in her wrinkled hands, and looked at both sides.

“This book does not belong to our library,” she said after close examination.

“It was over in the study stuff. Are you sure it’s not yours?”

“I’m sure, Mr. Hemenster,” she said, turning over the book again. “It doesn’t have the library’s sticker on it. It definitely does not belong to this library.”

“So...can I have it, then?” I asked, a slight smile forming.

“I’ll put it in the Lost and Found, Mr. Hemenster, and if no one reclaims it after a week, you can keep it. For now, it’s getting late. You’d better get home. Do you have a bike?”

“No,”

“Walk home fast, then. It’s the time of year when it gets cold and dark early.”

“Yes ma’am,”

Still quite disappointed at the loss of the Runebook, I walked out of the library and started to walk home.

Chapter 3 

“It’s big, about this big,” I said, indicating with my hands, “and it’s got cool runes on it.”

“Very nice. What’s it called again?” my mom asked.

The Runebook of Brugixia.”

“Is Brugixia a real place?”

“I checked the Internet all last night but I never got a single search result.”

“That’s weird,”

“Yeah. It didn’t even have an author written on it.”

It was Saturday morning the next day. I had gotten home late the previous night and went straight to the computer, but I didn’t find anything about Brugixia.

“Do you think maybe someone homemade it, and didn’t have time to write in it before they lost it at the library?” I asked thoughtfully.

“That’s probably what happened. Unless a faraway kingdom needed a hero to save them and the book is the connection between the worlds.”

“What I wouldn’t give to be a hero in someone’s eyes.”

My mom looked at me sneakily. “What someone would that be?”

I jerked my eyes in her direction. “What are you talking about?”

She went back to doing the breakfast dishes, grinning. “Jeremy told me about that girl you like at school.”

I rolled my eyes. Jeremy was my little brother. He was two years younger than me, and was a good kid...most of the time. I trusted him somewhat with my secrets, but they always seemed to slip out of him no matter what mood he was in. “Oh really?” I grimaced.

“Yes. What’s her name?”

“Potliver,” I said, keeping a straight face. “Well, gotta go, mom. Jordan invited me over to play on his Playstation. I’ve already packed lunch.”

I quickly grabbed the ready-made sack lunch on the counter and grabbed my coat on my way out, leaving mom rolling her eyes.

I grabbed the handle of my scooter and wheeled off the sidewalk and on the asphalt on the road. Suddenly I saw something that made me stumble and fall on my back in the grass.

It was the Runebook.

I reached for it, my mind racing. How on earth...?  I fingered it and ran my thumb over the embossed runes on the cover. I read the title over and over again. The Runebook of Brugixia. I couldn’t believe it. Running over in my mind some solution to this weird happening. I thought over the night before, how I gave the librarian the book...and she placed it in a drawer under her desk...

There was absolutely no way this book could’ve got here! Unless someone stole it from the library and brought it... here...

But why to me? I held the book some more. Then I opened the cover.

It wasn’t blank anymore.        

I read the text inscripted on the parchment.

 

And it shall pass forth that the Savior,

Even Thebis the Wise,

Will aid Brugixia in its time of need,

And pass forth with the Book of Prophesy,

And unite the nine keys of the World.

And lo! thus forth will pass in the space of four Suns.

            How weird is this? I thought. Someone must be playing a trick on me.

            I finally gave up with reason and put the book in my room to study later.

Chapter 4

After I went over to my friend Jordan’s house I forgot about the Runebook and just ... forgot to continue this story. Oh well. Got you interested, didn’t it?

Jan 23, 2022

Moon Town: Leonard's Rescue Adventure

 I should probably write a whole post about Moon Town someday, but who knows if I'll get around to it. The short version is that it was probably the most complete Heroes of Might and Magic III map I ever made, and one very dear to my heart. The level was laid out with houses made of rock and told the story of two rivals, Daniel and Leonard. This was apparently a bit of supplemental fiction I wrote in the Moon Town universe from Leonard's point of view. It's pretty funny to see me try to fit in game mechanic references, and to fall into the same trap of talking way too much about food. No idea where the story was going, but I remember enjoying writing it all that time ago, and it may as well see the light of day now.

Leonard’s Rescue Adventure

A Moon Town Epic by Austin Ballard

Chapter 1

T

he knight looked outside at his sundial—Four minutes to go. Sir Leonard, a citizen of a large city called Moon Town, which was located in the vast jungles of Harbingg, was training his griffin, Herbert, to fly around Moon Town in less than half an hour.

He had been flying for about twenty-five minutes and Leonard was expecting him soon. He waited five more minutes and sighed. He had spent six years breeding different types of griffins (and miraculously, a parrot) into a fast, powerful, and durable species that was superior to all others, and could speak the human tongue. So far, Herbert was the only one that the two griffins Dierdre and Fritz, his parents, had given birth to. Leonard was hoping to have enough of the superior griffins to last twenty battles without having to recharge his troops. Leonard sighed again, looked at his sundial, and waited some more.

After ten minutes had passed a loud flapping was heard, and Leonard looked up to see Herbert zooming towards him. He landed softly on the dirt in the front yard, panting and puffing. “You’re late,” said Leonard. “How do you ever expect to be in my party if you can’t fly fast? You think your master wants an inferior griffin?!”

“Gee, Master,” said Herbert, still panting. “Why don’t you try flying around the whole of Moon Town in one half an hour! Besides, I could have done it if I hadn’t run into several rocs on the way. Even a thunderbird attacked me! ...Please give me a chance, sir.”

Leonard sighed once again. “Oh, alright, Herby. Take a rest, eat some coco-milk*, and I’ll see you back here in five minutes,”

“Don’t call me ‘Herby,’” said his griffin, and it flew to the Griffin Sanctuary a few miles away.

Leonard walked outside and sat on a log near the fort gate.

“Tough, it is, to train creatures?” said a voice behind him. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked at it. Wrinkled somewhat, and covered with a thin white fuzz. He recognized the hand as it belonged to the magemaster, Ged.

“Yes, it is, Ged, but worth it.” said Leonard.

“Indeed. I once had... a serpent fly, I believe, and I couldn’t even get it to move. Got a few nasty bites from the little beast. But I kept trying, and finally...”

“You got it trained?”

“No, the ruddy thing killed my cat, Bitsy. I finally blasted the thing with a magic arrow.”

“Oh,” Leonard looked thoughtful.

“But the important thing is to keep trying, whether it’ll kill your cat or not.”

“First of all, I don’t have a cat. Second of all, if that’s so important, how come you didn’t keep trying?”

“Hm? Oh, right... I, uh, didn’t really know how to control my temper back then. And also, why not get a cat? They’re perfect house pets and the easiest to train. Why, my poor little Bitsy was so nice... well, actually, she gave me a scratch on my arm at the age of six. See?” Ged showed Leonard a scar on his arm that was at least a foot long. “And anyway, I didn’t know what I’d do without my poor Bitsy. The poor little cat never could be...”

“You’re such a fine wizard, why didn’t you just use the ‘resurrect’ spell on her?” Leonard cut in.

There was a long pause. Ged’s skin was turning a pale pink and he was looking very uncomfortable. “Well...I, er...I didn’t think...that is, she had...um, I guess I...uh, I guess I didn’t think of that.” Ged was wringing his hands as he talked, and after he finished he slapped his forehead constantly mumbling “Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid...”. Leonard waved him goodbye as the mage walked grumbling back to his hut.

Herbert came back and Leonard gave him some advice. “Herby, this time I want you to...”

“Don’t call me ‘Herby,’”

“Right, Herbert. Anyway, this time I want you to fly into the clouds when you see any enemies that might slow you down. It is very important that you can go very fast for good battle. Now, get ready!”

“See you later, Master!”

“...Set...”

“I’ll be back soon!”

“GO!” Herbert shot off into the sky, leaving a whirlwind of dust in the middle of the road. Coughing, Leonard waved the griffin goodbye as his flapping wings soon disappeared into the clouds.

Chapter 2

L

eonard chewed his celery with disgust. It was now 4:22, fifty minutes after Herbert was supposed to arrive back. He threw the remains of celery leaves into the middle of a road, where a horse was trotting by. It stopped a moment, sniffed at the vegetable, ate it, and continued. Leonard’s disgusted face grew more grim as he noticed who the rider was. It was Lord Daniel, the elven ranger that lived on the other side of the street. They glared at each other sternly and seriously, until Daniel muttered, “YAH” to his horse and cantered off down the road. Daniel and Leonard were rivals, and had been so for over ten years. They had both moved to Main Street on the same day, and had had hate at first sight. They didn’t know why they hated each other. They simply loathed one another as rivals, not bothering to spend time with each other to get to know them. If they had done so in time, they might have become best friends, but they simply tried to stay away as far as possible from one another. Each thought the other was always up to something, plotting a nasty trick, trap, or joke on them. The hatred between the two was so strong that they had even got in a fight once. Each outdid the other, and many black eyes and bruises were involved.

After Daniel had passed, Leonard had waited another ten minutes until he began to become uneasy. Had Herby gotten hurt? Was he lying bleeding on the grass with no one to help him out? Or had he merely gotten into another battle with another roc? Leonard was not sure, but he intended to find out.

“Lisa? Lisa!” Leonard called to his wife.

“What is it, Leonard dear?

“What happened to the stable-master?”

“I think he went outside the Fort. Try his hut. Meanwhile, I have to get to the Pet Shoppe,” Leonard’s wife worked at a Pet Shoppe several miles away, but the pets also served as defenders.

Leonard walked outside the fort. He locked the door again and walked towards the stables. Sure enough, there stood the stable-master giving all the horses fodder. He looked up and grinned. The stable-master was a bright, cheery man who had a warm smile that made you smile back. Though he often enjoyed humor, when things got serious his gray eyes were very stern. Leonard walked up to the stable-master and said, “Hello. Do you have any horses I could use?”

“Of course, milord. Here’s a nice, strong one named Bessie.” He led a pearly-white tragy† with a grey mane. Leonard reached into his pockets for a few traces of sugar for her. She gladly accepted the gift and licked his hand until the sugar was gone.

“She’ll do, thank you very much.”

“Anytime, milord. You may come back here for a fresh mount next week if she’s too slow. Goodbye, milord. May you forever be safe on your journeys.”

“Wait,” said Leonard suspiciously. “How can you give me a perfectly healthy horse for free?”

“Oh, it’s all yours, milord. The only cost is fodder for her, and every new mount after this one is only one hundred gold.”

“Why is everything so cheap, stable-master?”

“Oh, I’m just in a good mood today.”

“You’re always in a good mood,” Leonard mumbled. “I wish I could have such a hearty attitude as you have.”

“Ah, it’s easy. Just see the good things in life always, and soon you’re givin’ everyone a smile.” Chuckling, Leonard galloped away as the stable-master waved goodbye until he disappeared into the dust.

Chapter 3

A

t first Leonard thought that maybe Herbert had merely gotten into a fight and had a slight wound that was slowing him down. “Poor Herby,” he said to himself. He chuckled when he thought of the griffin saying, “Don’t call me ‘Herby.’” Leonard sighed. He was starting to miss the little chap. But now how should he do this? Which way should he look?

He thought for a moment. “Now let me see... most creatures dwell just along the inner and outer rim of the outskirts of Moon Town.... maybe he got stranded there.” He made a left along the road and the large village of Moondemi appeared. He rode along the edge of it until he was at the back of the village. He then continued northwest until mountains could be seen in the distance.

Bessie was getting quite tired and hungry, and Leonard was fighting to keep his eyes open. It was dusk ten minutes ago and soon the moon was visible. Leonard slipped off the horse and took the pack off of the saddle. “Hey, Bessie, want some carrots?” The tragy whinnied softly as Leonard held out the vegetable. Finishing the carrot, it closed its eyes to rest.

Leonard started a fire with his tinder-box and lay down to toast his dinner on a skewer. The flames licked the meat tenderly, not burning it. Leonard was always a good roaster. He had almost never burned a marshmallow or hot-dog, and his veggie dinners were always exquisite (when, of course, he roasted it over an open fire. His stove-dinners left a lot to be desired).

When the meat was perfectly cooked, he set it onto his tray. He took the vegetables off the cooking stone and set them onto the tray as well. He also took a pot and put in a sliced peach, some cream, and some other things and set it onto the coals.

Usually, Leonard was a slow eater, nibbling at his meat and licking the gravy off his fingers slowly as to savor the taste. But by now Leonard was starving. The trip had made him tired and hungry and he wolfed down the dinner quickly to fill his stomach. As the fire faded away, he took off the pot. He let it cool a few minutes and scooped a spoonful onto his tray. Mmmm-mm! Peach cobbler!

After finishing the cobbler Leonard poured water on the fire until the steam stopped. Then he snuggled down into his sleeping roll and fell asleep.

Leonard awoke to a sound. It was still dark, and he was still half-asleep, but he thought he heard something.

“Heellllpp meee!”

The voice was quiet and whispery. It sounded as if they were trying to keep themselves down so as not to be heard. He heard it again.

“Heeellllp meee! I need your helllp, Leonard!!”

That was strange. How did the voice know his name? After a few more cries, Leonard became suspicious and a little afraid. Who was calling him?

“I need your helllp!!”

“W-who’s there?”

“Leonaard, I need you to helllp me!”

“B-but w-who are y-you? H-how c-c-can I help?”

“Pleeeease helllp meee.” With those last words the voice faded, leaving a bewildered Leonard staring out in the darkness.

Chapter 4

I

t must have taken at least an hour for him to get back to sleep. The words of the voice kept haunting him, but at last his eyes closed and he dozed off.

The next morning Leonard got up to start a fire to cook breakfast. He couldn’t find his tinder-box. Perhaps I left it by the pack, He thought. He walked over to the pack which was a few tens of feet away. He looked for the tinder-box and found it on top of a rock.

As he came back to camp he noticed strange markings on the ground. They weren’t human footprints or horse hoof prints... They were short, slashing motions along the ground. It looked like an extremely large bird had been looking for worms by slashing the dirt with its talons. Leonard didn’t take anything of it, really. Perhaps a small roc or such came during the night. After all, he was quite near the outskirts of Moon Town. He went back to the fire to make breakfast.

A few hours later, after savoring a great breakfast of fire scones and a toasted apple, Leonard mounted his mare and tied the pack to the saddle. He rode off towards the mountains of the outskirts.

After only an hour, Leonard reached the crevice in the outskirts that was the only way through the mountains. After getting halfway through the crevice he realized that Bessie was still outside. How could she get through? Tragies were big horses, and she could not fit through the crack. He thought a moment and decided that, no matter what, he had to reach the outskirts and, perhaps, find his griffin. If Bessie couldn’t fit, so be it.

Leonard reached for a roll of parchment from the pack and wrote with his pen a note to the stable-master. It read:

“Dear Stable-master,

I have reached the crevice in the mountains of the outskirts, but the tragy you gave me cannot fit through the crag. I am sending her back with this message. Tell my wife that I am fine, and not to worry. I will be back in three days’ time. If I am not back by then, please send someone to find me.

Ghurvice rhengaite, 

Sir W. Leonard of Leonard Fort.”

He took the pack, tied the note to the horse and let it be off.

Leonard entered the outskirts with disbelief. He had never been in such a swamp before, and it was surprising how abruptly the terrain changed. His foot got stuck in the muck well more times than once, and he was anxious to get into the forest where grass was on the ground.

Chapter 5

A

fter twenty minutes or so, Leonard’s foot finally touched grass. He walked now with more speed and vigor than when he was in the marsh. A few minutes into the grass Leonard was horrified to see several boars grazing around the bend. Leonard was horrified. Where there are boars, there are bound to be orcs that ride them. They could be anywhere. If one saw him, why...

“HEY! Who’re you?” Leonard jumped to a voice behind him. He turned to see the ugly face of an orc.

“M-me??” He stuttered.

“Yeahhh....YOU! Do you know what we do to men on OUR territory, see?” Leonard was to startled to speak. “We MASH them! First we CATCH them, then we beat ’em up, see? An’ then we...”

“Smash in their skulls with our... er... whackers!” Another orc answered. He held up a deadly-looking spiky weapon.

“Morningstar,” said Leonard.

“Huh? What was that?” said the orc.

“I said it’s a morningstar, not a ‘whacker’.” Leonard had already decided that he was going to try to stall the orcs until he could think of some way to escape.

“A m-mm a marnk...”

“It’s a morningstar! A MORNINGSTAR!” the orc was flabbergasted. No one had dared yell at him before, and he wasn’t used to it.

“I, uh, didn’t know it was a morny-star. I just called it after the name it makes when it WHACKS SOMEBODY!!”

Leonard ducked just in time to the blow of the morningstar. The weapon, being spiky, smashed into a tree and held fast.

“It’s... stuck...” The orc struggled with the weapon and the other orc helped him. “It... won’t... move...”

The second orc that already owned a morningstar decided that he’d just kill the man himself. He walked over next to his friend and unsheathed his weapon. Suddenly he realized their prisoner had escaped!

“Fool! You let him run away, see? Now there’s no dinner for us, see? And now we can’t...”

WHANG! The orc fell to the ground from the force of the blow. The first orc had suddenly yanked the mace out of the tree trunk and had pulled so hard it had flung back to hit his friend on the head!

“Oww... oww... you blithering idiot, you could’ve KILLED me! My poor, achin’ head! Ooohh... now where did that man go? Quick! There ’e goes! Get ’im! He’s getting away!”

The orc started to chase after Leonard. He stopped short, ran back, hopped on a boar, and rode away into the distance. 

Chapter 6

B

oars run fairly fast, but Leonard was nowhere in sight when the orc came to the place where they had seen him. The orc was, of course, very confused, for he had definitely had seen a silhouette of something around here. “Strange... I could o’ sworn... I mean, there had ter be...” the orc scratched his head as he looked every direction for the man.

*** 

Meanwhile, Leonard ran and ran, not looking back, when he felt his lungs would burst. Panting hard he looked around for the orcs

 “Strange... I could have sworn they were right on my tail...I heard their footsteps right behind me... what the hey is going on here?”

Leonard’s question was answered with a deafening roar of something right behind him. Leonard screamed as huge claws flew down on a rock, shattering it. Leonard’s head was spinning with fear, confusion, and surprise. He spun around and saw the deep black eyes of a behemoth.

***

The orc looked in every nook and cranny of the meadow and could not find the prisoner that had dared correct him in orcish speech. He looked once more and decided it was pointless to find something that wasn’t there.

He trotted back to his friend on the boar. When he got back he was confused. His friend wasn’t there. He saw a bloody “morny star” by where he had lain...

“No! NO, my dear friend!” the orc sobbed as he searched for his body. Assuming someone had killed him, he looked everywhere they had been; behind the tree, in the pasture, around the road... no luck. He gripped the morningstar solemnly, tears in his eyes.

Suddenly he heard a scream. Not an orcish, pearcing shriek, but rather a human-like yell for help. Thoughts raced through the orc’s mind. Where’s the man? Where’s my friend? Who yelled? Is it the man who is hurting my friend, and that was him who yelled, because my friend was putting up a fight against him?

The orc intended to find out each of the answers, and he took off running in the direction of the sound, toward the pasture.

***

“What do you want with me?” Leonard shivered, the behemoth tying him up in a vine.     “We have not eatun since long time ago. You be our dinner. We EAT TONIGHT!” The behemoth’s voice sounded like grindstones rubbing together, and its laugh sounded like an avalanche.

Suddenly a puff of smoke issued from the ground. The noxious gas exploded like a firecracker. Like dust, the smoke settled to the ground and a silhouette of another, slightly smaller behemoth slowly came into view. The behemoth had an orc clutched in its claw.

“We eat dees one, Grog,” said the behemoth. Compared to the first, it sounded a tad feminine, if that is at all possible, as if the grinding stones were rounder and smoother.

“Good work, Jourk. Are der any odders?”

“No, Grog. No odders. Not dat o’m concerned. Dees ees da one dat chased me into da grove. It has Tele-power, too.”

“Mortal ’as Tele-power?” The behemoths talked more about “Tele-power” which, it seemed to Leonard, must be some sort of teleportation power that only certain creatures had.

“You are here too?” said the orc. “Where’s my friend? Do you know?”

“I think he ran the opposite way that I did. At least, that’s what I think. I saw him turn and run the other way, but then I heard pounding footsteps behind me as I ran.”

“’Twas probably the behemoth. I hope my friend is okay. What’s your name, man?”

“Leonard. What’s yours?”

“I am called Rokrin, but most call me Rok. My friend, Laxxingador—I call him Lax—is my apprentice. As you may have noticed, he is smaller than me. I’m training him in the arts of Orcery.”

“What does ‘Orcery’ mean?”

“Orcery is the ability to... well, ‘cast’ Bloodlust on yourself at any one time. If you master Orcery, you can even gain the Regeneration ability. You know what ‘Bloodlust’ is, don’t you?”

“Oh, yes,” said Leonard with interest. “I don’t know much about magic yet, but the magemaster, Ged, taught me a few spells like, let’s see... ‘Magic Arrow,’ um...oh yeah, ‘Haste,’ ‘Slow,’ and ‘Bless.’ Do you like magic?”

“Yes. Orcery is an interesting and useful skill, but I’ve liked magic ever since childhood. Sometimes I wish I would’ve been born an ogre-mage instead of an unskilled orc.”

“‘Unskilled’? You’re not unskilled!”

“Targorn says so,” said Rok, growing a bit grim.

“Targorn? The Ogre-lord of Anduran?”

“The same.”

Leonard knew about Targorn. The terrible ogre had plagued many places for centuries and this is where I stopped writing the story.



Coco-milk: The milk of a coconut and the favorite drink of griffins.
† Tragy: A quick, sturdy breed of war-horse, usually raised by members of a castle.
‡ Ghurvice rhengaite: “Holiness be with you” In the language of the monks.

Jan 14, 2022

Poem: Coding Virelai

 Ballades are my preferred poem structure, but I found this one that I made in 2018 about the difficulty of transitioning to a coding career from an editing one. It seems especially poignant now that I've been in the coding career field for a while now and just frankly... don't like it at all.

Coding Virelai

In my coding course
I sit with remorse
So bored.
This rich learning source
To me was endorsed—
Explored.
I work like a horse
To join the work force
Abhorred.

I hope my reward
Will soon be restored.
Survive.
I don't wish to hoard
Just let me afford
To drive.
Computer dashboard
Screen, mouse, and keyboard
Hard drive.

A strict nine-to-five
Is not where I jive,
I fear.
In salary i'd thrive
Instead of nose-dive
In drear.
And so I must strive
To gain a contrived
Career.

Dec 29, 2021

Snippet: The Day of No Jackets

It's sad to see how many times I tried and failed at writing something. The more of these I read, the more I want to make this year the year I use all my D&D training as well as my knowledge of creative writing from college to write SOMEthing that has a beginning, middle, and end that I made all on my own. Anyway... This "attempt at an epic novel" was basically me rewriting my own life to be set in a fantasy universe. The worldbuilding was clearly meant to parallel my actual life, and while I get the idea of Ando being a linguist being a possibly interesting plot element, I had no idea where I was going with the conflict. I just wanted spring to come and to get started writing anything. They say write what you know, but in my case, that turned out to be really boring.

The Day of No Jackets

An attempt at an epic novel by Austin Ballard

The birds were singing outside the University. This was not a rare occurrence, but most of the time it did not fit the situation. For months on end you could hear a bird sing, but not know where it was singing from on account of the flurrying snow; Nor could you, on most occasions, understand why the birds were singing. Their song was ever joyful, announcing a spring that hadn’t come for nearly half a year.

            Such was the weather of the land of Ricard’s Ville. Other parts of the United Lands, or so rumor went for those rich enough to travel, were much warmer, and some had no seasons at all. This was an odd concept for Ando, who had been born and raised in Ricard’s Ville, and hence had no concept of anything but a half year of winter, followed by six months for the other three seasons to fight over.

            Sure, the winter weather got annoying sometimes, even for a native like Ando. It was all very welcome at first, coming right before Graymansnight, snowing light flakes over the grass that was dead and may as well be covered anyway. And it was all widely nostalgic in popular culture and stories to have a white blanket on the ground during Nativity’s Eve. It seemed odd to think of the green-eyed Daskian people from the southwest United Lands celebrating Nativity under palm trees.

            Despite the welcome arrival of winter and its refreshing weather, there came a time, just around Lover’s Day, when the snow seemed to turn from white to gray, and the shadows from lack of sunlight began to darken everyone’s mood. Merchants were more reluctant to count your change, the police were crabbier and more likely to write you a ticket for loitering, and people just seemed to mutter to themselves as they sogged through the brown slush.

            It is precisely during this gloomy time of year, when everyone is looking forward with vigorous anticipation to the Day of No Jackets, that our story begins.

            As was said before, the birds were chirping in the University. The frostcrows were also cawing, perhaps in protest of their season coming to an end, but the fact was that the sun was shining today, rather merrily, in fact. It might have already been spring, or the Day of No Jackets itself, if there were not a crisp breeze rustling the dead leaves on the ground.

            Ando thought the yellow and brown grass was beautiful. The other day he had looked at old photographs of the previous summer, and admired the brilliant green grass of the lawns he had mowed for his job, but after all the dirty snow that was melting, the grass could be white and prickly for all he cared. Grass was grass, and not snow.

            There Ando sat admiring it, at the metal bench table in front of the science building, eating his lunch. He was wearing his dark blue jacket with the golden runes on the sleeves, his tan pants with the pockets, and a yellow tunic. He was eating a cold barbecued sandwich with corn chips from a brown paper sack, and he chewed thoughtfully as he inhaled the nearly-spring air. He couldn’t believe the long winter was almost over. He looked forward to enjoying a delicious lime-flavored icecone after work, bronzed from the summer sun and muscular from pushing a heavy lawnmower. He had just found out two weeks earlier that he had once again established his trade with Mr. Insh, the master lawnmower. It would be another long, hot summer full of work, and with the royals he earned he could buy himself a new scryer.

            The University bell tower clanged. Ando stuffed the last piece of sandwich in his mouth and tucked the chips into his jacket pocket for later. He gathered up his paper notebook and pens as students began filing out of the science building doors, backpacks slung over their shoulders, looking eager for once to be outside. They looked at the grass and nodded knowingly to one another, some mentioning the Day of No Jackets aloud, though everyone knew without saying it that it must be close. It was a wonderful day to begin the school semester.

            Ando walked through the science building’s glass doors and down the hall. There were charts and maps on the walls, describing the four elements and all of their many laws and theories. Ando had chosen to study alchemy and elementalism on the side of his language training, partly out of the encouragement of his mother, but also because the composition of the world intrigued him. Weather magi, alchemists, elementalists, and a few geomancers filled the building, sitting on hallway benches, walking quickly or talking to each other. Rooms passed, some filled with vials and flasks, others with shelves of rocks. Once Ando passed a door that was radiating cold air like an icebox and shivered.

            Ando found a room with black plaque above it that read CXII. He checked the slip of paper in his pocket, and then entered into the chamber lined with charts and pictures of previous revolutionary elementalists. There were only two or three other students inside. He quietly shuffled into an empty row and looked at the clock. He was early.

            The master had not yet arrived, so Ando took out a pen and paper and began to write. He had just managed to master the difference between the GH and GK runes of the Writhian alphabet, and had been able to pick them out of texts he had glanced at in the school library. Now he was working on being able to write sentences with them. This language had been particularly tricky to learn, but he was making progress. He had already learned Yrittian, Daskian, and Noiyan to the point of being able to read them. Ando only wished he could have more experience speaking the languages. Luckily, he realized, the University was the place to be to fuel his passion for language. There were several students from different parts of the United Lands who studied here. It was only a matter of time before he could meet one of them in person and practice speaking their tongue.

            Ando straightened his chair and looked around. Several more students had entered the room, each in university tunics of varying colors. Each was wearing a jacket, which they soon threw around the back of their chair before sitting down. Ando looked back at his rune sheet, and scratched out a rune or two.

            “Hello!” Ando looked up to see a young man standing next to him. “This seat is taken?”

            “No, go ahead,” said Ando. He opened a pocket in his backpack and hurriedly slipped the paper inside.

            “What was that you were writing?” asked the boy, wrapping his gray jacket around his seat. The young man had reddish black hair and a snub nose. He was shorter and broader than Ando, and had a thin beard, as if he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days.

            “Just some notes,” said Ando. He had learned from previous school experience, at least in the country school of Ricard’s Ville, that his hobby was one many people thought strange.

            “Eh,” said the young man. “Our name is Hadge. Which is yours?”

            Ando hesitated. His accent was very intriguing. “It’s… Ando.”

            “You like alchemy?” he asked. He began to unload his backpack, placing binders and pens on the desk. “We like alchemy. It is our first time away from home, and we are excited to spend it learning at this University.”

            “Where are you from?” asked Ando.

            “We are from Sarbandia. Do you know it?”

            Ando struggled to understand. He couldn’t embarass the young man, or himself, by lagging behind in his language. “I’m… not sure I’ve ever heard of it. Is it in the east?”

            Hadge lifted his finger in the air and waggled it. “Not. It is south of here. Very south.”

            Ando thought carefully. In his study of the United Lands tongues, he had never heard of Sarbandia. Perhaps it was a smaller city in the south, though if it was too far that direction, or “very south” as Hadge had said, it would have to be a desert city.

            “And you are from where?” asked Hadge.

            “Here in Ricard’s Ville. Born and bred,” said Ando proudly.

            “It is very cold here,” Hadge said. “We do not like the weather here. We had to buy this jacket just to keep warm.”

            Ando noticed how heavy the gray jacket was. At least three times the thickness of his own. He was about to say something when the master spoke. He hadn’t even realized the class was full and ready to start.

            “Welcome, everyone!” the master was a shorter man with glasses and gray hair to his shoulders. He gripped the lectern with stubby hands and his face wrinkled when he smiled. “Welcome to First Alchemy. I’m sure you’re all excited to get started. By show of hands, how many of you have already studied alchemy, perhaps in country school?”

            Several hands shot up, including Hadge’s. Ando’s stayed still.

            “Excellent. My name is Master Alchemist Crango Perryson. Since I am the only Master Alchemist you will be having this semester, and since my first name is rather irrelevant in this day and age, you may all call me Master Perryson.” Master Perryson stepped down the step on the lectern and became even shorter. He’s a Ricard’s Villeman, alright, thought Ando, listening carefully, perhaps from the Mountainsprings. “Before I ask what you already know about alchemy, for the purposes of grading I must find out who is here today.” Perryson took a paper from the lectern and adjusted his glasses. “Alphabetically.

            “Ando.”

            “Here,” said Ando, caught off-guard. 

Dec 28, 2021

Snippet: Sonho Cinzenta

 Here's another snippet that's surprisingly not on this blog yet. Another attempt during the Great Writer's Block of the early 2010s, this time trying to invent a story of some kind out of Brazilian lore. I knew next to nothing about Brazilian mythology or some way to put a spin on a Brazilian setting (I assume, like all of my writing, this was going to be a fantasy story), so it fizzled pretty quickly. But the writing, as usual, is fun to read, and I especially like the first couple of paragraphs.

Sonho Cinzenta

T

here was nothing exceptionally poetic about the way the night fell that autumn evening. The sky wasn’t blanketed by a starry velvet shroud, nor was the western sea seared by a glorious sunset. The sun simply finished disappearing into the clouds near the horizon, and soon the already-dark streets of Sonho Cinzenta became easier to get mugged in.

            Actually, the coastal merchant village of Sonho Cinzenta didn’t really have anything at all poetic about it. It was a tiny establishment, half of its brick-and-cement buildings piled on top of each other on the side of a steep hill, the other half scattered on the coastline and the bases of the hill where putrid marshes burbled. The residents of the village never complained about the terrible smell that hung around the entire dale.  You could tell who lived there and who was just making a day’s transaction watching for who would hold their nose when a gentle breeze blew from any direction. As if the swamps from the north and south weren’t bad enough, the sea stank, too, of rotting fish guts in the shallows that fishermen often discarded. No one really took care of the natural aspect of Sonho Cinzenta, which was why no one bothered to write a poem about it. Indeed, the only thing that was vaguely pretty about the village was its name. Sonho Cinzenta—“Gray Dream.”

            Walking through the village, one might wonder(in fact, a great deal more than one often did) who on earth would be so stupid as to establish an organized township in such an inconvenient, dangerous, and downright smelly place. The answer, known to but the eldest of the village whose sense of smell had long decided to abandon them, was simple: Bad luck.

            The center of the city held the key to the town’s unfortunate origin of establishment. It was a door in the midpoint of the hill’s populated side. Large, with two enormous support beams. These beams had once had names carved into them, but out of sheer embarrassment had been sanded smooth. This was the entrance to the widely-known Mina Cinzenta, the Gray Mine; widely known for its reliable supply of coal, and its lack of supply of silver.

The unfortunate—and now nameless—founders of Sonho Cinzenta had stumbled across some seemingly deep veins of silver while passing through the swamps here decades ago, and had taken the initiative to invest all of their money in opening a mine in the hill to extract the silver and become rich. It was only after a single year, when hundreds had come to the malodorous dale for work, that the hill had expired of silver and had begun to yield only coal. Common, worthless coal. They all continued hopefully, for another year or so, and then the miners were mournfully paid their promised wages out of the investors’ pockets. The cheerless founders had—or so the legend went—sailed with sagging heads to the west, never to be seen again, while the unemployed miners used their wages up to give the silverless serra one more chance. The hill had, of course, made up its mind. So they had stayed, and mined coal for generations afterwards.

That was ninety years past, more than two generations ago, and the people were starting to forget about just how laborious and uncomfortable their town was. Among these satisfied townsfolk was a strong-backed boy named Bruno. Bruno lived with his family in a house that was much too small, but it wasn’t any bigger than anyone else’s, and he lived happily in it. He ate a plate of beans and rice most afternoons, though some days the family of five had to share two eggs for the day’s meal. Every once in a great while, sometimes on somebody’s birthday, his father brought home a piece of meat that he cut into pieces and mixed in with the beans. He always made sure everyone got a piece, but the flavor the meat gave to the beans was good enough in Bruno’s opinion.

Bruno knew all about the Mina Cinzenta. His older brothers Tiago and Agusto had both been working in the mine for two years now, and of course his father had always worked there. He was counting down the months for the day when he would turn sixteen and be able to join them. The prefect of Sonho Cinzenta had decreed children younger than sixteen were too young to mine, and were left to harvesting tar and pitch out of the swamps to caulk boats with, or to make torches.

Bruno always admired the way the men came home, covered in smudges, coal dust and clay mixing with their sweat. They always came home tired, and that impressed him. He could always tell that his family was a hard-working one. Most of all, Bruno admired their muscles. He always wondered exactly what they did. Anything had to be better than scraping foul black sludge from trees in the marsh, with gnats and pernilongos buzzing in his ears. He imagined Tiago, with his curly hair, holding a pickaxe and twisting his body to hammer it into the cave wall, and coal spilling out from it like coins from a stone purse. He could almost see Agusto, or his father, holding a merrily-glowing lantern to the walls, searching for signs of minerals poking out. How deep was the mine? Did it go kilometers below the ground? Was there one immense tunnel? Or an anthill of tunnels branching into a labyrinth of passageways? Bruno had never thought to ask any of these questions to his brothers, or even his father, whom he trusted dearly. It was only a couple more short months. The fact was, Bruno wanted to wait to see it for himself.

____

As a note, here is an outline I found of what the conflict of this story would include:

"Bruno wants to work in the coal mines with his father + Several months till his birthday + Father gets antracose disease and gets sick + Needs medicine = How will he work with his father if he’s sick? Will he find a way to heal his father?"

Dec 27, 2021

Snippet: "Beasts and Beauty"

 I'm glad I found this. I remember writing it in 2014 when I was in the height of my writer's block, desperate to find something to stick to writing about. So I decided to flip fairy tales on their heads and see how far I could go with that. As you can see with the shortness of the following snippet, I didn't get very far (blast my undiagnosed mild apathetic depression at the time!) but it's an inspiring snippet, and as with other snippets I've posted here on the blog, I wish I could learn more about this intriguing story. 

Beasts and Beauty

H

wast Varingr stood over the edge of the steep clifftop. The sweeping ramp beneath was made from an avalanche of shale stones that curved downward to the heath below, where a village nestled on the edge of a forest-encircled lake. He heard the heavy breathing of his companions as they gazed hungrily downward. Hwast did not feel hungry. Not for what he was about to Feed upon.

            The King of the Deorcynn, Eargian, sat on the highest crest of the cliff, looking hungrier than anyone. Like many of the older Deorcynn, Eargian had horns, but his were larger, more curved and sharper than anyone else’s. His bristly fur, blacker than the average, stood out like needles over his enormous body. Hwast noticed his razor-sharp teeth gleaming from beneath his curled lips. He was actually drooling. The other Deorcynn watched him out of the corner of their eye, waiting for the signal to attack.

            Eargian liked to savor the day of Feeding. He told everyone that the more chilled with fear the peasants’ blood was, the more valuable it was as drink. Hwast did not believe this, and he secretly hoped that none of the other Deorcynn did. The humans were almost like all the other animals, besides their ability to communicate. It seemed bullyish to lurk up on the cliff in plain view for a while just to let their blood run cold for sport. He longed to get the day over with. It had to come every year, and he understood the importance of Feeding, but there was little sport in it for Hwast.

            At last, Eargian seemed to be able to wait no longer. He jerked his head back, his eyes completely red with frenzy, and roared. The valley was filled with the triumphant sound of roaring Deorcynn throats. They dropped to all fours and clambored down the mountain rocks toward the village.

   

 

T

he Deorcynn struck the village like a flood of smoke. Their hairy dark gray bodies galloping like immense rats, they dashed to houses, throwing themselves at the doors until their hinges snapped, then stalked inside looking for peasants. They were the scourge of Dharian—the superior race. The Deorcynn were the villains in every peasant tale; the monsters that every peasant child had nightmares about.

            Upon entering a hovel, Hwast had the misfortune of encountering a peasant who was brave enough to fight back. Such ones as these bothered Hwast. Why did they try to resist? They were intelligent, that much was obvious. At least, more intelligent than the common forest deer or rabbit. They spoke a bastard tongue of the Deorcynn, made homes for themselves, and even seemed to trade and form a crude form of politics with each other.

            The peasant raised a spear and pointed it toward Hwast. “I’m warning you, Beast!” he said in an even tone. He was backing against the thatch-covered wall, hoping that Hwast would lunge and impale himself on it. Hwast sighed inwardly. It was a wonder in itself that their race had survived even this long—they were short in stature, they had no claws, no horns, and practically no hair—it was rather impressive, he admitted, that they had at least had the sense to clothe themselves in animal skins and wool, but to try and outwit or outmatch the Deorcynn with weapons crafted of wood and stone? It only made things more time-consuming.

            Hwast faked left and lunged, but when the peasant moved its spear to the side he darted under it and snapped it in half with a sideswipe of his claws. Rather than crying out in surprise, the peasant brought the splintered shaft around and jammed it into Hwast’s side. Hwast howled in pain and anger, but he was far from injured. The attack had been an annoyance more than anything. There were Deorcynn who would enjoy a fight like this. They relished the idea of actually getting to have a challenging spar with their prey before they decided to end it. Some actually enjoyed getting scarred so that they could mock the peasants’ impotence and display the signs of their own invulnerability for all to see. Hwast had never felt this way. He knew the importance of Feeding on the peasants, and preferred to let the circle of nature run its course without wasting time. Besides, he was already tired from the trek down from the mountains and wanted the raid to be over with soon.

Hwast whirled around, his teeth gnashing, and leapt for the man’s throat. The peasant crumpled under Hwast’s bulk, falling against the wall with a bellow. It was over in a second. Hwast bit into the man’s throat, tasting the man’s blood as it entered into his mouth. The toxins in Hwast’s spittle quickly stopped the peasant’s flailing, and he felt its body go limp. He lifted his head up to look into the man’s lifeless eyes. “I’m not to blame for your inferior birth,” growled Hwast. “You were born a peasant, and I a god. It’s just the way things are.”

Hwast began to Feed.

 

B

y the time Hwast had finished Feeding, the noise in the village had calmed down significantly. His peasant’s chest was open, and there was a hole where its heart had been. Hwast had consumed it carefully, only opening its rib cage as wide as it needed to be. There wasn’t much blood on the ground, for the heart had stopped beating seconds after Hwast’s first bite to the man’s neck. He otherwise left the man how he had died—reclined in a crumpled position against the thatched wall of his hovel. Eargian had long since established this standard of Feeding. This way, when the k’nikts came to investigate, there were displays of silent carnage waiting to demoralize them.

            Hwast felt full, despite the small size of what he had eaten. At normal mealtimes he ate as much as any other Deorcynn, but this was not the usual type of sustenence. He walked out of the hovel into the late afternoon light and looked around. The village seemed to be deserted except for the sounds of Feeding. Each Deorcynn had taken one quarry—a man or a woman, matching the Deorcynn’s sex—and it appeared as though the rest of the villagers had fled into the forest. Another Feeding had come and gone.

            Hwast walked around as he waited. Most of the other Deorcynn were taking their time with their meal. Some liked to drink their prey’s blood. Hwast made his way to the lake’s edge and knelt down to drink. He saw his visage in the water. Pink eyes, bloodshot from his exertion in the battle; a dark grey, hairy face; he had only been Feeding age for ten years, so his horns had only just began to grow. He was tempted to wash the peasant blood out of his mouth and claws, but he knew the rules.

            A general silence from behind told him that the others had finished and were gathering together. Hwast padded over to a circle of Deorcynn. The others had obviously enjoyed themselves a lot more than Hwast had. Some had blood from their jaws to their feet, and some had even spattered it onto their face. One Deorcynn known as Glainchar even had speared a red piece of flesh on one of his horns.

            Eventually Eargian emerged from a hut, soaked from head to toe in blood. He was always the one to look the most dreadful after a Feeding. Though he told all of them to leave their corpses virtually untouched save for the heart, he himself as king had the right to completely disembowel and flay his prey. He always said this was so that the k’nikts would later know who had been chosen as the prey of the king himself. He also said that if they truly did understand their place in nature, they would consider it an honor; but since they were yet stubborn and impertinent peasants of the king, they would curse the Deorcynn for their violence.

            “Another Feeding,” growled King Eargian, a wash of blood escaping his mouth as he spoke. “Another year added to our lives. The peasants foukt us, but it was in vain. For we are the Deorcynn! We are their gods!”

            The Deorcynn howled loudly with triumph. Hwast followed suit obediently. Eargian continued his monologue, barking about how the peasants were the natural underlings of the Deorcynn, whose only lot in life was to grow up to the age of a Deorcynn and then transfer his life to one of them. Hwast was not really listening; he had heard everything before and longed to return to the caverns to be alone. He felt dirty from the blood and tired from the trek. It was more of a mental weariness than physical exhaustion, however.

            “Let us go back to the caverns,” Eargian bellowed at last, “wearing proudly the blood of those beneath us, until another year has passed!” Eargian’s eyes flared with a red light when he threw his head back and howled the most loud and gravely roar of all.