Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Strongest Feller Around, Pt. 4

Yikes. Late again. Maybe I should just change my update schedule to Tuesday/Saturday. We’ll see.

Despite the humans’ dancing and celebrations going on well into the night, the troupe was up early the next day, eating breakfast and chatting idly and nursing their hangovers. What townsfolk from Whiteriver had spent the night in the camp made their way back to the village proper, most of them looking a bit embarrassed or else trying not to be seen at all, and a few of the troupe members wandered into camp. They looked a lot more pleased with themselves than the Whiteriver folks did, I noticed.

I watched the humans run back and forth, eating a bowl of hot porridge and wishing that I had some meat I could roast over a spit. I laughed and shook my head at the thought. “Only been with the humans a few days, and already I’m wishing I could wander back into the woods and hunt some game. A few days of that, and I’d start wishing I had someone to talk to, or just to be around.”

Being around the humans was making me soft, I decided. It was okay for the moment, but if it got to be a problem, I’d have to go back to doing things my own way. Maybe Glimmerton would be different, I thought. I couldn’t imagine how many humans there would be in the space, but from the way I’d heard Enrico and the other members of the troupe describe cities, it reminded of the woods at their most wild. Just a mass of creatures all trying to go about their business, all preying and feeding and helping and depending on each other. I tried to imagine how many humans you would have to have in one place so that they didn’t all know each other and couldn’t.

Maybe being in a city would bring my edge back, if it were as wild as Enrico made it sound.

I spent most of the trip to Glimmerton walking alongside the caravan. Sometimes the littler children would ask to sit on my shoulders as we went along, and they were so insistent that I did it. Most of them didn’t weight much more than pack dead at its heaviest, so it wasn’t an issue. And it made them happy. I thought about Victoria and wondered why she never asked for rides. Maybe she was too old to want that kind of thing, or maybe the Fierans were just different.

We stopped for lunch alongside a stream, and as I was eating a pastry from Whiteriver and some smoked deer, Enrico and a few of the older members of the troupe came up to me. “We were discussing what your act would be,” Enrico said. “It’s been some time since we had a strongman act, and we don’t really have the equipment for it.”

“Equipment?”

“Iron weights and barbells. That sort of thing.”

“Maybe we can get them in the city,” an elderly woman suggested. “There should be a smith with something we can use.”

I snorted. “I don’t need iron to prove that I’m strong. Do cities not have rocks and logs?”

A man who looked to be about Enrico’s age laughed. “No, of course not. That’s why they’re cities.”

“We could play up a sort of ‘savage’ angle. It might be good to have breaking doors and hurling bricks and whatnot,” another said.

“I stand by my idea,” Enrico said, “that we should present him as a citizen of some far off land. A traveling warrior, or the errant scion of a noble family, or…” Enrico’s eyes went wide and he grinned. “No, a monk! A disciple of some mystic leader who was sent out on a pilgrimage to prove that their order is the best!”

“He’ll need a different outfit, then. Those rags are a mess.”

“I think it works. We’ll just say that he took a vow of poverty.”

“What about the face? People are going to want to see his face.”

They nodded. Behind my mask, I frowned. “I’m not showing anyone my face.”

“But–”

“I’m not,” I said. And even though there wasn’t an edge to my voice, I could tell by their disappointed looks that they knew I wouldn’t.

“That’s fine,” Enrico said. He smiled. “It will be fine. Just think, it adds to the mystique!”

“I suppose… I suppose we could make up something to go along with the mask.”

“It’s a matter of honor. So long as he can cover himself up, he’s not a man, but a living symbol of their god. If he’s ever defeated, then he isn’t fit to be that symbol, and he has to take it off.”

“Oh, that’s good! We can tell people that if they can prove that they’re stronger than him, they can unmask him!”

“I’m not showing anyone my face,” I said, this time with steel in my voice.

“Of course not,” Enrico said. “Of course not. It will never even come up because you will never lose, yes?” He grinned, and despite myself, I chuckled.

They spoke a bit more about my attire, about finding a suitable spot in the city to use as a fighting ring, about how they would present me, but none of that really interested me. I was excited again, excited to see all that this city had to offer me. As the troupe leaders excused themselves, Enrico lingered a bit longer before turning to me with an unusually serious look on his face. “Tusk, I must ask you something.”

“What is it?”

“Why are you so intent on no one in the city seeing your face?”

“It’s not the city, it’s everbody. I don’t want anyone seeing my face.”

“But why not?”

“It doesn’t go well.”

Enrico frowned. “Are you deformed?”

“Not exactly.”

“It’s alright if you are. My people are very accepting. We’ve seen all sorts of strange things in our travels. We won’t be cruel to you, I promise.”

“That’s not it.”

“What then?”

I was losing my patience with this. I tried to think of a way to end the conversation as quickly as possible. “I’m a hideous green monster with sharp fangs,” I said. “Damn near everyone that’s ever seen me has looked at me as if I were going to eat their children, and they usually act like it.”

Enrico’s eyes narrowed. He gave me that same appraising look he seemed so fond of using, as if he couldn’t decide if there were any truth in what I was saying or if I was trying to deliberately upset him. Finally, he sighed and shook his head. “If you don’t wish to tell me, Tusk, that’s fine. I’ll respect your wishes.”

I growled. Talking with humans was so damn difficult sometimes. It’s like a certain amount of sneakiness and deception just comes naturally to them and they can’t imagine a world where not everyone is lying about everything.

I pulled the wrapping off my face and pulled the hood back from over my head. Enrico’s eyes went wide. I know what I look like. I saw my reflection once in a the clear waters of a still pond. No hair atop my head or on my face. A wide, heavy jaw. A mouth full of fangs. A stubby, upturned nose and coal black eyes.

“What… what are you?” Enrico said. To his credit, he didn’t back away. Most humans start backing away without realizing it, or else putting up their hands. Or both.

“My master called me Ork. It doesn’t mean anything to me, but I guess that’s what I am.”

“Are you… are you…”

“What I am,” I said, “is itching to see this Glimmerton you lot have been going on about for days now. I want some good ale and a good fight. Beyond that, I ain’t looking to hurt you or anyone else. Not unless you give me a reason to.”

“The children,” Enrico began. He cleared his throat and stood up straight and puffed out his chest, like he was trying to make himself bigger. “The children seem to like you well enough. My people seem to like you well enough.”

“I don’t have any problems with humans, Enrico. Big or small, young or old, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t have any problems with anyone that doesn’t have any problems with me.”

He nodded. “I think that perhaps you should keep your mask on. As you were. I don’t want there to be any problems either, and I can’t anticipate how everyone will react to your… appearance.”

I snorted. “You think maybe I know whether or not keeping the mask on is a good idea?”

“My apologies.”

I grinned. “Apologies accepted.”

Enrico turned to leave, but he stopped halfway and looked at me one last time. I couldn’t tell if he was looking me in the eyes or trying to see how many of my features he could make out from a distance. “I think it’d be best,” he said, “if you didn’t find yourself unmasked in Glimmerton. City folk aren’t country folk aren’t traveling folk.” And with that, he walked back to the rest of the caravan and left me alone to finish my meal.

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The Strongest Feller Around, Pt. 3

The first little village that we stopped at was called Whiteriver, and there wasn’t much to it at all. It was smaller even than Quail’s Leap, and where the citizens of that town had regarded me with caution, the people of Whiteriver seemed to be downright suspicious of Enrico Enrici’s troupe. IT was strange, I thought, for humans to distrust each other so much. If they had seen me without my coverings, I would have understood it. Even with my coverings, I can imagine that there’s something unsettling about a large man with a deep voice wrapped up so you can’t tell anything about what he looks like. But Enrico Enrici and his family looked just like any other human I’d ever seen. When I watched them speak with the townsfolk, they were a bit darker, their features ever so slightly different, but what did it matter? A dog is a dog, even if one has white fur with brown spots and the other has brown fur with white spots.

The town was so small that it didn’t even have a proper mayor. Instead, Enrico spoke with some of the older men and women of the village, and rather than presenting himself and his companions as performers, he said that they were refugees escaping persecution back in Fieri. Which was true enough, I suppose, but it surprised that Enrico opted to discuss this fact so freely with people he barely knew. Instead of asking for a central location in Whiteriver to set up a stage, he asked if there was someplace nearby where he and his traveling companions could set-up their tents for the night, stressing again and again that surely they would not be around for more than a day or two.

I confronted Enrico about his seeming deference to the elders of Whiteriver. Enrico didn’t strike me as the kind of man to humble himself before anyone that didn’t have a weapon drawn on him. “It’s about knowing your audience, Tusk,” he said. “In a small town like this, the people do not trust outsiders. They view themselves as quiet, honest people who don’t need the distraction and the trouble that outsiders bring. If they wanted more adventure and excitement in their lives, they would leave for the big city, no? Or at least for a more impressive village.

“When it comes to getting the coin of a town like Whiteriver, there is an old saying my father taught me: ‘You won’t.’” Enrico laughed at that. “They don’t have much money, and they don’t see the sense in spending it on entertainment. They need that money for tools, for livestock, for the settling of debts. Why, I doubt these people even know how to spend their money to have a good time! No, the people of Whiteriver will not pay us, mark my words, for that is not their way. What they will do instead,” Enrico said, letting a smile slowly play across his lips, “is feed us. That is their way. They are not friendly, but they are polite. They are not spendthrifts, but they are generous. We won’t put on a show for them. Instead, we’ll just go about our business, playing up our foreign and exotic charm, and they will come to us. You’ll see.”

We set up the carts and the tents in the field that the elders pointed out to us, set the animals to pasture, and I watched as the others went about their business. A good number of them went back to the village and began interacting with the people of Whiteriver. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, instead busying myself with physical labor around the camp, but then I thought about Enrico’s answer and began seeing the reasoning behind who went to do what. It was the prettiest (as far as humans can be said to be pretty) and frailest women who went into town seeking help with their chores, and it was the strongest (without being so stout as to be intimidating) men who ventured forth seeking to help the people of Whiteriver with their own matters. I asked Enrico if I should go with the men, but he insisted that I not. “This is not the place for your abilities, Tusk. The people of Whiteriver will take one look at you, and they will begin asking too many questions.” He smiled at me. “Save it for another village, a bigger one, where the people think they are smarter than they truly are. Where they do not ask questions, because they foolishly believe they know all the answers.”

I grunted my disapproval, but I did as Enrico asked. Still, I wasn’t happy. Part of the point of me coming along was to have an outlet for my skills, to meet new people to test them against. I could be useful in the camp, certainly, but that wasn’t what I had been promised.

Time passed quickly, it seemed. Someone played a stringed instrument like a lute but with a wider body. The older members of the troupe told stories and jokes I’d already heard them tell just in my few days of traveling alongside them. Men and women cleaned, delicately rearranging everything so that even a stray shirt that looked carelessly tossed aside was in fact deliberately placed. And then a few of the younger members of the troupe began returning from their chores, the people of Whiteriver in tow.

I chuckled to myself once I realized what Enrico was doing. The people of Whiteriver would likely never come to the camp on their own, but if they happened to approach it by “chance,” a scene unlike any they’d seen before would be awaiting them. An entire culture had been picked up and set down in their own backyard. Strange sounds and smells filled the air, and the people were playing music and doing dances unlike anything the folk of Whiteriver had ever seen. I watched as a young girl asked one of the pale Whiteriver boys if he liked to dance in her accented, broken tongue. The boy said nothing, but I could tell from the look on his face that even if he didn’t like to dance, he would very much like to dance with her.

Some villagers came and some returned to their homes with the promise of bringing their friends with them (and indeed, many did.) The hours grew on and the sun sank low in the sky, and as members of the troupe began to light lanterns and tend to the fires upon which they’d cook their suppers, more Whiteriver folks came with fresh bread and cured meats and even a freshly slaughtered hog. As suspicious as they may have been when the troupe first arrived, now they were as joyous and merry as if it were a harvest festival. The drink flowed and the food was plentiful, and the people of Whiteriver danced just as hard as the troupe, played their own instruments alongside the strange Fieran ones. I watched from a distance, but that was fine by me. I didn’t have much interest in dancing or listening to the music, but watching the humans was alright in its own way. It reminded me of the little green guys back at the wizard’s tower. At the end of the day, there was something kind of peaceful about all the noise. Reassuring, almost. If you give a dog a bone, he’s going to chew on it. If you sneak up on deer, they’re going to run. And if you give humans food and drink, they’re going to find an excuse to dance and laugh and do whatever else it is that humans do.

“Do you see?” I heard Enrico’s voice behind me. “If we had set up a stage, none of them would have come. But if we bring our acts to them, then they become performers and entertainers to.”

“I see,” I said. I did. That’s why I didn’t turn around. I was too busy seeing.

“We will leave tomorrow, I imagine. If we leave early, we will be in Glimmerton by nightfall.”


The Strongest Feller Around, Pt. 2

Yikes. Crazy late post. The past two weeks have been exceptionally busy, and I’ve fallen behind on a lot of my schedule. This upcoming Monday and Friday’s posts should be up on time, though.

I followed Enrico from a few strides behind, my eyes scanning the environment for an ambush. Something about Enrico told me that he was predictable but that he couldn’t be trusted, if that makes sense. You could trust him to be untrustworthy, and I didn’t know if that meant he’d try to swindle me out of a meal or if he had someone waiting to slip a knife in my back, but I wanted to put enough space between me and him that I could I watch him closely. Enrico led us away from the trees, back through a farmer’s field (helping himself to some tasty looking red berries growing in neat little rows planted along the ground, I noticed,) chattering away the entire time. “You’ll like our little group, I think. Francesco will be delighted to meet you. Sylvia’s an excellent cook, and if you say that no one can eat or drink like you, well, she’ll be happy to put that to the test. And Maman! Once she warms up to the idea of having you around, you will think, ‘Never have I met a sweeter, more gentle woman. And Sarai…” Enrico trailed off there, turned to look at me. Once again, he was appraising me with his eyes, and once again, I found myself annoyed to be regarded as a working animal. “Well, Sarai will understand that business is business. We are in the business of entertaining people, of bringing joy to the joyless and whimsy to the dour.” Enrico’s smile returned, and he resumed walking. “And with you in our employ, I think business will be very good indeed.”

“I don’t work for you,” I said. I tried to keep anger out of my voice. I didn’t feel angry. I was just stating a simple truth.

“No, of course not, Mr. Willvic. But perhaps you might like to travel with us for a little while, at least? Tell me, what are you doing now? Do you have a home?”

I thought about his question for a few seconds before responding. I don’t know if I’d ever had a home, then. Maybe with the wizard, but he was an evil old rotter that saw me as something between a tool and a pet. Maybe with Willem and Victoria, but nobody there really trusted me or liked me except for Victoria. And I certainly didn’t have anything I could call a home while I was out wandering about. “No,” I finally said.

“Then you are…”

“Traveling.”

“And do you never find yourself wanting for company while you travel?”

“Haven’t yet.”

“Perhaps it’s worth trying.”

I thought about Willem and Victoria, about the people in Quail’s Leap who were kind enough to teach me to fire a bow and arrow. I’d made some coin and earned some meals by helping humans who needed a strong hand chopping wood, harvesting crops, and so on. Most of them had given me my payment and wished me good luck on my journeys, but a few of them had been kind enough to invite me into their homes and actually share a meal with me. I frowned. “Perhaps.” I shook my head, as if that would make me stop thinking about memories that were both happy and sad. “And where is it that you and your group are traveling, Enrico Enrici?”

“Our acts tend to play better in big cities than in small towns. We’ve been following the King’s Road out of Fieri with the intention of reaching Glimmerton. There’s a saying in the circles we travel in: if you can make it for yourself in Glimmerton, then you can make it for yourself anywhere.”

I nodded without saying anything. I’d been traveling along the King’s Road myself for some time. It was the largest, most central road throughout the land, and pretty much any other little road or turnpike or whatnot crossed it or merged with it at some point. As for Glimmerton, I’d only ever heard the city mentioned in passing, and I’d never heard of Fieri at all before.

“There are other reason we must stay on the move as well. Small towns only have so much wealth to go around, and it doesn’t do any good to drain them of all their money. They will resent you for it, and it does us no good to be resented.” Enrico paused, not just his speech but also his movement, as if carefully considering his next words. “And then, when you are strangers in such a small community, it is easy to find yourselves the subject of vicious, unfounded rumors. Someone’s savings goes missing? Blame the strangers. A farmer’s daughter finds herself with child? It must have been one of the strangers! It troubles Maman so to her such lies spread about her family. We are nothing if not decent people, Mr. Willvic.”

I snorted. It had been my experience that decent people didn’t have to remind you that they were decent people. “Tell me, do your group and your family often find yourselves at the center of such rumors?”

Enrico turned to face me, studied the look of skepticism on my face carefully. His eyes narrowed and he smiled. “Not often, no. But it has happened once or twice. Nevermind. We’re almost to the camp.”

We crested a small hill, and at it’s base, I saw the camp. Four wagons and a few carts, a handful of horses and mules, about six large tents, and a large fire pit lined with stones at the center of it all. There were clothes drying on lines, children running around laughing and shout, babies crying out, women and men working, and the old folks relaxing in the shade. I had never seen anything like it before. It seemed to me that all of Quail’s Leap had been condensed into a space not much larger than Willem’s inn, but there were not nearly that many people there. I realized then that although these people were travelers, although neither of us had homes, they were not quite like me. Where I had never had a home and I had little to my name except for what I could carry, these people had much. And now they were forced to carry everything with them. Their belongings, their hopes, their fears. Their entire lives were in those carts.

“This is your family?” I asked. There was no way to hide the surprise and wonder from my voice, and Enrico chuckled softly at the sound.

“In a manner of speaking. My wife and my son and my mother and I live in that tent over there, but everyone here is like family to me. We live together, work together, play together.” Enrico turned to look at me, the expression on his face disarmingly sincere. “It has been a long journey since we left Fieri, and we have survived only by relying upon each other. It is not weakness to rely upon others for aid and comfort in trying times, Mr. Willvic.”

I said nothing but looked at the gathered crowd in silence. The conversation was making me uncomfortable. “Why did your group leave Fieri?” I finally asked to fill the silence.

“Because the Governess vowed that she would kill me if I did not.”

I had nothing to say to that. From speaking with other humans, I knew that a death threat from any of the Governors or Governesses was second only to a death threat from the King and Queen.

Enrico saw something in my eyes and shrugged. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We are safe here. She swore that she would not send her agents after us so long as we never returned to Fieri, and so, here we are.” He smiled again, but there was no humor in his eyes. Even thinking about it now, I don’t think there’s anyone who could force a smile onto his face quite like Enrico Enrici.

“Come, come!” he said. “You must meet everyone!” And so he led me into his camp, shouting as he walked for everyone to gather round.

* * *

Day turned into night as Enrico told his troupe that I was visitor from a distant land with an illness that left me disfigured but granted me impossible strength. I held the bravest of the children over my head with a single arm each, lifted a loaded cart off of the ground, and beat every man who dared to wrestle with me without any effort at all. They told stories of the lands they had traveled, the people they had met, narrow escapes and clever schemes. There was food and dance and drink, and once I had some roast duck and a tankard of wine in my belly, I realized how much I had missed my days at the inn with Willem and Victoria. Even though the people of Quail’s Leap always viewed me with a bit of suspicion, it was good having them around. It’d taken having people around for me to realize that I could get lonely, and I didn’t much like it.

The party went on well into the night, and I found myself sitting by the fire, watching the humans dancing and laughing. Enrico came and sat down by me, the smell of wine heavy on his breath and his eyes lidded as if he were on the verge of falling asleep. “How are you tonight, Mr. Willvic?” he said, his words slurring and catching in his mouth.

“Good, Enrico Enrici. I am good.” It was not until I heard my own voice that I realized my words were catching and slurring much the same way.

“I think that you will be welcome here, Mr. Willvic. We will teach you the ways of the showman and the crowds will come to see you, this I believe.” Enrico took a deep breath, let it out. I turned my head from the crowd to consider the fire that was still burning strong despite the late hour. “You will never want while you are with us, Mr. Willvic. Some days will have more food and some days less, but our children do not go hungry. We do what we must to survive. It is a struggle, you see? It is a struggle, and you must win. You must fight and you must win.” Enrico turned to face me and put his hand hand upon my shoulder. “Do you understand, Mr. Willvic?”

“I do,” I said without thought or hesitation. “I do. And Enrico, call me ‘Tusk.’”


The Strongest Feller Around, Pt. 1

A new week,  a new story!

I was a couple months out of Quail’s Leap when I fell in with this lot of traveling performers who’d wander from town to town telling stories and performing plays and dances, swindling the foolish and seducing the dumb. They were a right fun bunch, in that way that people who live on the weird side of proper society can be. It was nothing but dumb luck that I’d met them.

It was a warm day in the early summer, and I was napping beneath a tree. I’d taken to wearing a robe and wrapping a cloth around my face to obscure my features. I learned pretty fast that not every human could accept me as quickly as the people of Quail’s Leap; it only took me getting chased out of a village by a mob throwing rocks and waving around pitchforks and torches for me to get a grasp on that idea.

I could have taken them, I mean. Don’t get me wrong. But it didn’t seem right to beat a bunch of humans senseless just because they were trying to protect their homes from something strange. That’s all.

But there I was resting when something jabbed me in the gut. It’d happened before, usually some curious farmer with more curiosity than caution, or an animal inspecting their environment. A few times it’d been would-be robbers, but that was rare and usually accompanied by some dumb threat like, “Your money or your life!” I rolled away, my hand going for but not drawing the knife I kept hidden in my robe. I heard a yelp and looked around scanning my surroundings for the person or thing that had accosted me.

There was a man before, his hair thinning a bit a the front, his cheeks and his stomach a bit pudgy, his clothes suggesting a certain amount of refinement and a greater amount of wear from constant use. His eyes were because of my display, but not even a few seconds had passed before he cleared his throat and stuck out his hand. I looked at it suspiciously, then at his face, and finally resolved not to touch it. “What do you want?”

He frowned, pulled his hand back, cleared his throat again, and smiled a big toothy smile. “My name is Enrico Enrici, teller of tales, bard of ribaldry, lover of life. Tell me, stranger, who might you be?”

“Tusk,” I said. I thought about it some. “Tusk Willvic.”

“That’s an odd name, Mr. Willvic,” Enrico said.

I shrugged. “I just made it up.”

“Ah. I see. That makes sense.” Enrico looked me up and down, and for a moment, I actually felt a bit uncomfortable. I’d earned a few meals since I left Quail’s Leap by doing odd jobs for humans I came across. Once I saw a farmer buy a horse, and he looked at its teeth and he walked all around the animal looking at it and saying nothing. Enrico Enrici was giving me that same kind of look. “You’re awfully spry for a big fellow, aren’t you, Mr. Willvic?”

I snorted. “What are you getting at?”

Enrico smiled at me again and a sense of unease filled me. I began looking around, half-expecting this to be another robbery. Any moment and men armed with knives and with their faces wrapped in cloth to obscure their identity would jump out at me. “I’m just saying, one wouldn’t think it to look at a man of your stature. What are you, six feet tall? More? And when I nudged you with my foot, you rolled away and you were on your feet like a cat. Tell me, where does a man learn such a skill?”

“Didn’t learn it. I’ve always known how to do it. Always known how to do other things, too.”

Enrico’s eyes went wide at this, and his smile changed a bit. It was less like he was smiling just to smile and more like he was smiling because he’d thought of something that really made him happy. “Is that so? Tell me, what else do you know how to do?”

“I can fight,” I said. The thought of getting into a scrap with this guy made me smile behind my mask. He looked pretty heavy, but I thought if I had to, I could lift him up over my head and throw him.

“Fisticuffs?”

I frowned. “Fisticuffs?” He held up his hands, bounced slightly on his feet, and threw some puny little jabs at the air. I actually laughed at that, and even though Enrico Enrici struck me as the kind of feller who didn’t blush easy, he blushed at that. “Yeah, I can do ‘fisticuffs.’ I can fight with anything. Sword, axe, staff, bow.”

“Who taught you?”

“Always knew. Or else I taught myself. But it feels like I always knew how.”

Enrico considered this for a moment, his arms crossed across his chest, one hand stroking his chin. “No,” he finally said. “That simply won’t do.” He looked at me and frowned. “The robes kind of make you look like a monk, don’t you think? Maybe that’s the angle we’ll go with. ‘The Mad Monk! Last of a forgotten order! Trained in all of the martial arts by the spirits of long-dead masters!’” Enrico grinned, and his eyes narrowed. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I think we can work with that.”

It was my turn to look this human up and down, to size him up. Unlike me, he didn’t seem to mind being on display at all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I don’t want a damn thing to do with it.”

Enrico chuckled. “I haven’t even offered you anything yet! How unfair of you to assume that I’m up to something. Your presumption wounds me. But tell me, haven’t you ever wanted the opportunity to earn a decent wage for doing next to nothing at all?”

“I don’t need any kind of wage. So long as I’ve got a bow, a knife, and my hands, I’ll never go hungry.”

“But haven’t you ever wanted to be the center of attention with people gazing upon you with awe and wonder?”

I grunted and gestured at the robe I was wearing. “You think if I wanted that I’d cover myself up like this?”

“Then I assume that you’ve also never wanted to test your skills against the foolhardy and boisterous people of the land, yes?”

Out of anything Enrico Enrici could have offered me, this alone made me stop and think about things. I hadn’t been in a decent fight since that mess with Sir Perceval. Once or twice a drunk human had taken a swing at me, but any fight that ends with a single push knocking somebody flat on their arse and keeping them there isn’t a fight at all. And I didn’t even count the bandits. Beating on those no-good grots was fun, but only because they were trying to take what wasn’t theirs to take, not because there was any sport in it. He must have sensed my hesitation, because he kept going on about this when he let his other questions drop completely.

“Let me tell you something. I’m the leader of a troupe of traveling entertainers, and we go to and fro all across this fine land. So many different people, so many different sights! But, if you’re as good as you say you are, then Mr. Willvic, no one has ever seen anything like you! With the right story, you’ll draw crowds! With a little bit of patter, you could be a hero, or a villain, or anything you like! We’ll tell people… we’ll tell people that you come from a far off place, and that it is your goal in life to find the greatest warrior in the world and best him! Just think, you like fighting? You can fight the strongest warriors in all the land, and people will flock from all around to bear witness to your skill and courage!” In an instant, the smile fled from Enrico’s face. He shrugged, turned his head as if somewhat bored. “That is, if you’re as strong and as tough as you say are.” He turned back to face me, his expression neutral. “I mean, you’re probably not. No one could be that good at fighting. No one could be that strong.”

I growled, the rumble deep and low in my throat. “I’m that strong.”

“Of course, of course.” He waved his hand as if trying to wave away my words, and I thought back to the wizard. The wizard used to do that all the time whenever someone would show up in his chambers and start going on about how they would put a stop to his plans. “It was a silly idea, anyway. Never you mind. I’ll leave you be. Good day, Mr. Willvic.”

Enrico turned to walk away, but I put my hand on his shoulder and held him in place. “I’m the strongest feller around, you hear me? I’m the strongest in this town, the next, and the one after that. If there’s anybody who can fight like me, drink like me, or eat like me, I haven’t met them.”

Enrico didn’t turn his head but the tiniest bit, just enough so that he could look at me over his shoulder. “Is that so? How do you know?”

I grinned behind my mask. “Just one of those things I’ve always known.”

Enrico turned and grinned back. “A fine answer. A fine, fine answer.”


Random Writing Prompt 3: That Sleep of Death

Yikes. I apologize for the late post. But here it is, finally!

The website io9.com posts a piece of concept art every Saturday challenging its viewers to write a piece of flash fiction based on that art. Stories must be less than eight hundred words. As of the time of this blog posting, there are thirty-six images online (they added another on September 8th.) There may be more and I failed to uncover them by searching for the wrong terms, but eh. I think thirty-six’s a plenty big pool to draw from. I’ve assigned each a number, with the newest being 36 and the oldest being 1. I’m going to generate a random number within that range and write a piece of flash fiction on the prompt (generating a new number should I pick an already used image.) Exciting, no?

The third piece is entitled “That Sleep of Death,” inspired by “Hypersleep” by Pascal Blanche. I don’t own this image, I claim no rights to this image, and should Pascal Blanche stumble across this post and demand that the image be removed, I will gladly do so. Also, you should go check out Pascal’s deviantArt page at: http://pascalblanche.deviantart.com/. And while you’re at it, you should go back to my last two posts and check out those guys’ pages as well (seeing as I’ve added links to them. I don’t know why I didn’t include them to begin with. Very thoughtless of me.)

As a final note, it is with a certain cryptic amount of pride that I say we will see the characters and the setting in today’s post sometime in the future. I have plans for them, and if you find yourself interested in their story, you may rest assured that they’ll be back in a more fleshed out piece soon enough.

Anyway, let’s begin! Continue reading


Random Writing Prompt 2: Mudball

The website io9.com posts a piece of concept art every Saturday challenging its viewers to write a piece of flash fiction based on that art. Stories must be less than eight hundred words. As of the time of this blog posting, there are thirty-six images online (they added another on September 8th.) There may be more and I failed to uncover them by searching for the wrong terms, but eh. I think thirty-six’s a plenty big pool to draw from. I’ve assigned each a number, with the newest being 36 and the oldest being 1. Today and Friday, I’m going to generate a random number within that range and write a piece of flash fiction on the prompt (generating a new number should I pick an already used image.) Exciting, no?

The second piece is entitled “Mudball,” inspired by an untitled painting by Stanley Von Medvey. I don’t own this image, I claim no rights to this image, and should Stanley Von Medvey stumble across this post and demand that the image be removed, I will gladly do so. Also, you should go check out Stanley’s blog at: http://bagtaggar.blogspot.com/

Anyway, let’s begin! Continue reading


Random Writing Prompt 1: Take Off Your Shoes, Please

So, here’s how this is going to work. The website io9.com posts a piece of concept art every Saturday challenging its viewers to write a piece of flash fiction based on that art. Stories must be less than eight hundred words. As of the time of this blog posting, there are thirty-five images online. There may be more and I failed to uncover them by searching for the wrong terms, but eh. I think thirty-five’s a plenty big pool to draw from. On that note, I’m going to assign each a number, with the newest being 35 and the oldest being 1. Today, Monday, and Friday, I’m going to generate a random number within that range and write a piece of flash fiction on the prompt. Exciting, no?

The first piece will be entitled “Take Off Your Shoes, Please,” inspired by Todd Baxter’s “Rug Monster.” I don’t own this image, I claim no rights to this image, and should Todd Baxter ever stumble across this post and demand that the image be removed, I will gladly do so. Also, you should go check out Todd’s website at: http://www.baxterphoto.com/.

Anyway, let’s begin! Continue reading


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