23
Aug
11

the chronicles of shorok, part the fifth

Another part of Shorok’s origin today. We learn a bit more about his history as a young man and get closer to the “horrific violence with stupid punchline” origins of the series. However, this is far and away my favorite stupid punchline. In fact, I came up with it first and wrote the story around it.

Who cares about plot when you have puns? Check the (very long) story out after the jump. We’ll move the chronology forward tomorrow with the first new Shorok story in nearly a year and a half.

Shortly after the death of his father, Shorok wandered the land looking for the dispersed members of his tribe so that he might gather them together under a single banner once more. The process proved difficult; many of his tribal brothers and sisters had moved on to new homelands, others had perished in the search for their brethren, and some…some had tried to form new tribes, feeling that they could establish legitimacy for their rule by slaying the son of the former King when he came calling. Regretfully, they found it difficult to lead when their head was located roughly forty yards from their shoulders.

After a month of searching, Shorok had managed only to round up a handful of willing warriors. Exasperated and exhausted, he left the temporary encampment and made his way to a filthy tavern in the small mountain hamlet of Gethelshelm. His mead stein, often a source of joy, was now little more than an obligation; for the second time in a short while, Shorok was lost. He resigned himself to getting properly drunk until he overheard two well-traveled beggars commiserating in the corner.

“Oy, I ‘eard the town marshal over K’shal way just rounded up a bunch o’ dem flatland barbarians,” said one of the men, who wore an eyepatch and skullcap like an imaginative child.

“Ain’t that always the luck.” The other, taller man, spit on the floor, saliva gathered on his graying bristles. “Strong backs like those’ll fetch more’n a few silvers on the market. He’ll prolly be knee deep in servant girls this time next week.” The man paused and a lecherous grin spread across his face. “’Course, those flatlander women ain’t too bad themselves. He’ll be sittin’ pretty either way.”

“Less’n their countrymen come lookin’ for ‘em.”

“Their countrymen’s dead or scattered. Heard the royal family got slaughtered. And even if they was to try somethin’, what could they do? Whole bloody town’s under the spell of some sorcerer. Blood ritual, real nasty stuff. Deal was the town’ll never fall to any man whilst the marshal’s in charge. Can’t be broken, neither.”

“Ha! Maybe we oughta make our way over there. We’d live like kings.”

The two men laughed, a raspy, sickening sound. Shorok stared at his reflection in the mead. K’shal.

***

Shen Glott, town marshal of K’shal, was in high spirits.

Part of that was due to the forty head of flatlanders his men had captured trying to illegally travel through the mountain pass, and the fact his appraisers said 4,000 pieces of silver – 100 a head! – was a conservative estimate at auction. Part of it was due to the fact that he had kept some of the choicer women and girls for his own purposes, purposes he had just attended to. But the best part, the marshal thought as he lit his ornate pipe, was that thanks to the blood ward that wandering sorcerer had placed on K’shal, no army or invaders could stand against his village. Many men had tried, and the result was always the same – a crushing defeat, and more heads for the pikes outside the gates.

He leaned back in his massive oaken chair, puffed away at the pipe, and closed his eyes for a nap.

***

A sudden explosion from outside the gates awoke him. In a flash, the marshal threw his breastplate on, secured his helmet and scabbard, and ran down the stairs and out into the town square, where already the town guard was forming and awaiting his orders. Theodore, captain of the guard, ran towards him.

“A flatlander army is amassing at the gates, ser. They’ve already set fire to our cannon houses.”

Glott’s eyes furrowed, the scar across his left socket constricting as he did so. “Who leads his men on this suicide mission?”

“A young lad, ser. Couldn’t be of siring age. Wenzell tried to get his name and the boy stabbed him in the eye.”

Glott scoffed. “The insolence of the young at work.” He pointed towards the city. “Rouse your off-duty men and have them guard the homes and stores as a precaution. Send the rest of the men to the gates. A few flatlanders should be no trouble for the K’Shal Guard, right?”

“Right, ser!”

Glott ordered the guardsmen stationed at the gates to open them and stepped outside the walls. There, in the middle of the clearing, stood the young flatlander, a battered axe in one hand and a blood-soaked shortsword in the other. He had some length of bone, and the musculature of one who spent his life on the plains. The ignorant flatlanders even stood in a protective horseshoe around him, ready to enclose at a moment’s notice. Misplaced loyalty to their king, no doubt. He allowed himself a chuckle as he walked towards the boy.

“And,” he laughed, “I suppose I have you to thank for awakening me and destroying my cannons?”

“You will have little to be thankful for soon.”

“Such spirit!” Glott chuckled heartily. “But it will do you no good. For I, and K’Shal, can be felled by no man. Especially a child playing at being one. I think it best that you and your men run back to your hovels, lest someone get hurt.” He enclosed a gauntlet-clad hand around Shorok’s face, squishing his cheeks together. “Do you understand?”

“I understand more than you know.” The unmistakable song of drawn steel rang out, accompanied by a meaty slashing noise. Glott stared in open-mouthed horror as the young barbarian removed his now-liberated hand from around his young face and threw it to the ground with a dull thud. Cradling his bloodied stump, Glott ran back to the village gates, screaming.

“If they wish to make the acquaintance of lady Death so quickly, then by all means, oblige them! See how they stand against blood magic and the might of the K’Shal Guard!”

***

The heavily-armed town guards encircled the barbarian army, which had enclosed its horseshoe around Shorok.

One of the older men yelled to Shorok, “Stand firm, young prince! We’ll protect you!”

But Shorok had found an opening in the impromptu phalanx and was already running through it. “Protect your own lives and take theirs! I have a plan.”

Across the clearing Shorok ran, slashing at any part of any K’Shal Guard that got too close. Blood splashed across his face and chest and he felt an arrow lodge itself in the meat of his shoulder, but the barbarian would not be stopped, throwing himself full force towards the still-open city gates. The town marshal broke his stride and turned to look at the charging youth, then fumbled with his sword. He had managed to free it from its scabbard as Shorok breached the city gates. There was a blinding flash of white light, and soon Shorok had his blade in the middle of Glott’s face.

“Surrender, and I will allow you to spend the rest of your days learning how to eat with one hand.”

Glott smirked and smacked Shorok’s blade aside with a quick glance from his own sword.

“Shouldn’t be difficult. I already know how to fight that way.”

Glott lunged towards Shorok, who leapt back and dodged a slash to his abdomen. He grasped the hilt of his axe and swung it wildly at Glott, sinking it into his shoulder. The marshal let out a howl of pain and kicked Shorok in the chest, sending him reeling backward and sending the axe into the dirt. As Shorok stepped to his feet, Glott stabbed him in the foot and kicked him in the head. Shorok screamed as he flopped backward. Glott quickly pulled a dagger and held it to the young man’s throat.

“You fight well, pup. No doubt you would have been a great leader of men some day. But you shall die as you lived. A child.” He sank the blade lightly into Shorok’s throat, drawing a trickle of blood. “Any last words?”

Shorok coughed. “You don’t even realize, do you?”

“Realize what?” As he said this, Glott glanced over his shoulder and saw only fire, smoke, and blood.

Beautiful K’Shal. It was burning. But how?

“This…this is impo-”

Shorok had no time for the man to finish his thought as he drove his free foot into the marshal’s groin. As Glott bent forward, Shorok found the grip of his axe and with one strong, one-armed sweep sent the blade sailing through Glott’s neck. The marshal’s head fell to the ground first and his body followed.

Shorok pulled the sword from his foot and sat up. His men were cheering. The battle was won.

***

The next few days were a blur as Shorok watched his men reunite with their wives, their brothers, their children. His men brought townspeople and guardsmen before him. He spared the townspeople and those guardsmen who swore loyalty to him, and offered all a chance to join his tribe. Some did, others elected to stay in the town, and Shorok and his men helped them rebuild. Soon, Shorok began to march back to the barbarian camp, his forces – and his spirits – replenished.

For it may have been true. The town had not fallen to any man. And Glott may have been right – Shorok may still have been but a child.

But in this case, it took a child to raze the village.

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