The Accursed

There are four of them walking across the ravaged land, spaced out, yet clearly a group.

The first of them is Shade, a human male; an apt name as he is dressed in black and has skin colour of the same. He belongs to the Sect of Shadow and Steel, a society of assassins, or he did before he failed in a mission. Those of the Sect never fail, at least that is their claim, so he was cast out. In fact he was sentenced to death, except he killed his executioner in their deadly duel. Now he must make his own way by his skill and cunning.

He met Grim when under attack by ghouls, the overly large human waylaying into the monsters with aggression and gusto. At first, Shade thought he had come to rescue him, yet it turned out Grim was merely hungry. He fed on monsters. Grim was part human, if not completely. He had been raised by brutes, taken as a baby by a couple who had just lost theirs. Fed on his mother’s milk, he had grown to their size and with their strength, but the others of the tribe saw him as an abomination and eventually killed his parents. Grim had escaped yet swore revenge on all monsters, and since then he not only butchered them, but ate them too, dead or alive.

The third was a deemi, a monster, yet Grim knew better than to start trouble with such as her. Scynthia; deemi liked to take human female names and distort them. Except her kind were not females. They looked like women – beautiful, voluptuous women – yet had skin and hair of abnormal colour and tone, and their true nature was hidden within. Using these forms, they seduced humans and then killed them, devouring their souls too. So had Scynthia, up until meeting a man she had fallen in love with. Her sisters had ordered his death. Eventually she had complied, but had let his soul fly free and so had been expelled.

Shade and Grim had come across the lone deemi and attacked, yet she had eluded them using her kind’s deceitful magic. Later the pair had met more deemi and, amid the luring speech, they had revealed the tale of the outcast. Shade and Grim, escaping their clutches, had gone after her, found her and then persuaded her to join them; they were fighters, she could be the magic-user. Scynthia had agreed.

The trio had become four one morning when a hobgoblin had begun walking with them and wouldn’t leave no matter how many times they chased him away. Short, hunched, quick and tricky, Deg was like all his kind and no one wanted them around because they were always where they shouldn’t be, stole whatever they could and had an almost helpless desire to mess things up. Still, the three had nothing to steal or ruin.

They were four outcasts together. The Accursed, Shade had joked: a biblical term, as in cursed from the land and from people. None of the others understood the meaning but agreed that the name was suitable and, while none said it, they wanted a name for their quartet. It bound them together when nothing else did. They were four loners, which made them strong as a group, only that left a tension; none could take charge for too long and all kept an eye on each other. Especially Deg.

“There we are,” Shade said, stopping on a ridge. Before him was the coast, near the horizon, but within it was an island and it was covered with life. “That’s Trade Island.”

“So that’s where we get jobs,” noted Grim with a grunt.

“And with jobs come food,” Shade assured him with a grin. That was how he had persuaded the abnormal man to come along. As a member of the Sect, he had taken work here and so headed to it instantly, determined to survive on his own. But a creature like Grim had more basic aims, as well as many uses.

“But what jobs will we get here?” wondered Scynthia, stopping alongside them, her voice smooth and eloquent. Her kind strutted around naked, after all, their fabulous forms were their clothing. But since her exile, she had come to hate herself and so, fortunately for the three males, she now wore a long piece of velvet with ends hanging down her front and the middle coiling down her back. “You are an assassin, we are not. What is for us in this place?”

“Plenty,” Shade replied, his look not just on the island but also the settlements about it. He knew there were more nearby; he wasn’t the only one ever attracted here. “There are all manner of beings: monsters, humans, mutants, even a machine nation to the north that trades through the city, if no machines come. No one wants them to. There are business families and gangs. There’s a powerful devil-beast to the south that calls himself the Demon King. With our combined skills, there will be no end of work.”

“He’s right,” chirped a voice and Scynthia looked down in disgust before yanking her drape from Deg’s admiring claws. The hobgoblin hopped away and pointed to the city. “There’s lots of my people there, we work in every place, even run some. I’ll soon tell everyone how great we are.” His speech was as quick and restless as everything else was about him.

“Lots of hobgoblins,” remarked Grim and turned to Shade. “You sure we should go there?”

“Don’t worry, the humans run Trade Island. But don’t trust anyone.”

“Never do,” confirmed Grim.

“Smart,” said Shade with a chuckle. He looked at Scynthia. “You still in?”

“I might as well come, yet your plan seems too vague. You persuaded us to join you and come all this way to this place, and what struck me was your intent. You had a definite plan.” Scynthia’s gaze was locked on the assassin’s.

“Bounty hunters,” Shade revealed. The rest frowned. “When I was here before, I took interest in the law enforcement, as I would, and noticed a big problem. The humans run the island and enforce their laws, in a fashion, but because of the precarious situation, with all the various races packed around it together, none wants to start a fight. So if a criminal gets off the island they’re fine. That is, unless someone hires us to bring them back.”

“There’s a lot of crime here?” ensured Grim.

“Overflowing,” Shade assured.

“That is actually a superb plan,” admitted Scynthia. “But how do we get established as bounty hunters?”

“We go see the mayor,” Deg cut in before Shade could answer and he nodded, glaring at the hobgoblin now beside him. “By the way, I like your plan too, and agree to join you.”

“None of us asked you to come,” snapped Scynthia.

“You don’t need to ask, I’m here to help,” Deg reassured her, hooking thumbs in the straps of his backpack. She scowled.

“Let’s go,” called Shade, heading on, “and Grim, don’t eat anyone.”

“Yeah, be good,” Deg added, now behind Grim, jumping to slap his rear. He snarled and swung for the hobgoblin, but missed, so stomped on to follow Shade. Scynthia followed too, with graceful, light steps. Deg kept pace at a distance.

#

Trade Island had got its name by being just that. While the rest of the world was tormented by bloodshed and horror, here was where the various sides had learned to work together.

When civilisation had collapsed, a mutant army had come here. Humans had crowded onto this island for refuge, then fought their enemy across the water. Bridges were destroyed, as were buildings, but the mutants couldn’t get across and the humans offered peace. They proposed that if the army ceased they could trade, they had resources to offer, and the mutants saw their logic; monsters had gathered and machines were near. Conflict only weakened them for the rest. In time, though, the other groups joined in the trading, also seeing the advantages. Then more beings came from elsewhere, seeking the area’s growing prosperity as well as its safety.

The island was now covered with buildings, some tall structures, others squat; all kinds of people and creatures lived here and so the settlement varied too. In its midst was a small, simple dome, which was the mayor’s home and office. The mayor of Trade Island was a figure of authority; he organised and oversaw the place’s inhabitants. However his influence was, in truth, very limited; there were others here who had real power. Even so, he was the person the Accursed needed to see.

Mayor Phil looked from his desk at the strangers before him. The man who met his gaze reeked of lethal ability. He had moved like a killer, sure and silent, although he carried no weapons. He certainly dressed like one: his black clothes varying in texture and shading, all strong yet also supple, perfect for both movement and protection. His own form matched it exactly; lean but muscular, and he never twitched or lost focus. That wasn’t his most distinguishing feature though – his all white eyes seemed to blaze from his black face.

Then there was the abnormal man. He was huge! His thick, hairy arms swelled with muscle whenever he moved them; he looked like he could lift the large desk Phil sat at with ease and then devour it. Those teeth! Irregular, sometimes broken or sharp, but they all appeared thick. His black hair flowed across his shoulders and down his back, while his large beard was tangled and gritty. Phil recognised the thick hair of brutes that made up the man’s sleeveless tunic and leggings and his boots looked like the hard leather skin of vandals. His own skin was white, if grubby and scarred, and in one hairy paw he carried a long-handled cleaver.

The deemi really unnerved him, however. Her deep red skin was so smooth it almost gleamed. Her silver hair hung in curls and glittered whenever she moved her head. She was living proof that wet dreams do come true, except her silver eyes barely glanced at Phil and when they did, it was with scant regard, which was a relief. Those silver eyes, matching her lustrous hair, had the black slits of a hunting creature, while those fangs… Many suspected her kind’s existence in the Shadow World to have seeped through to inspire ideas of sirens and vampires, just as brutes reflected trolls and ogres, and hobgoblins gremlins and, well, hobgoblins.
The hobgoblin…

“Get out of there!” Phil yelled, chasing Deg from a drawer in his desk. The grey hobgoblin hid behind the others as the mayor slammed it shut, once certain nothing was stolen. “So, uh, did you say your name was Shade?” The man in black nodded. “A blunt name. I’m black too, but no one calls me Silhouette or Dark.”

“I’ve got the same accent as you, so I think I’m originally from this land, yet I grew up on the other side of the sea, in a cold land of white people with blond hair. I don’t know why; my family all died when I was very young.”

“But you kept the name?” queried Phil.

“It sounds cool,” stated Shade. “Anyway, it suited me when I was in the Sect.”

“The Sect of Shadow and Steel? I thought you had to be one of them with those eyes but then…” Phil gestured to the other three.

“He got kicked out, they all did,” came Deg’s voice.

“Shut up!” snarled Grim.

Phil looked around. “Get off!” he yelled to the hobgoblin, who was perched on his chair’s back. Again Deg avoided his swipe. Phil looked back at Shade. “But you’re alive? No one leaves the Sect alive.” Shade merely shrugged. “I suppose you want to regain your honour?”

“Not really.”

Phil frowned. “Isn’t the Sect strong on honour?”

“It is, but I failed at that bit,” revealed Shade, but then gave a slow, white smile. “I’m great at killing though.”

“Me too,” added Grim proudly.

“Which reminds us of why we’re here,” Scynthia said to the mayor. He didn’t look back at her, unsure whether the eyes put him off the most or if the rest of her did – the drape of velvet hardly made her modest. “We are offering ourselves to you as bounty hunters. Shade has explained how useful we could be to you. All we need is for you to make us official so we can arrest people, then spread word of us.”

“Well, yes, but I’m not sure how the police chiefs will take this,” pointed out Phil.

“Your seven chiefs are corrupt, everyone knows that,” countered Shade. “But we won’t be under them. You ask us to hunt a criminal down and we will. They won’t be able to stop us. They can get away with things behind your back, yet in front of everyone is where you can act.”

“Well, that’s true,” admitted Phil, liking the idea of these four answering to him. “I’m not sure about pay though.”

“You offer us a price, if we like it we take it,” Grim stated with a big shrug.

“Well, that sounds fair. Still, there will be some dangerous…”

“Look at us,” snapped Scynthia, which the mayor briefly did. “I am an accomplished deemi, he is a deadly assassin, he is, well, a human brute…”

“And there’s me,” cut in Deg.

“…little is beyond our abilities.”

“Well…”

“What do you want?” Shade demanded to know. Phil flinched. “You’re hedging. You want something. What?”

“You know of the Demon King? His son, Prince Dranrog, is here for a visit and recently he went to a brothel. All went fine with his three girls until he became hungry and ate them. Now that means time in prison. We have laws, and all who come here are meant to abide by them,” the mayor hesitated, “pretty much. Only his father isn’t a good loser. He wouldn’t actually intercede as no one wants to start a war, but he won’t let it pass either. We should arrest the prince, yet if we do … if I do … then trouble comes here.”

“However,” said Scynthia, silver eyes narrowing, “if we brought him in, we get the Demon King’s wrath.”

“Clever,” praised Shade. He was also surprised; this man didn’t seem that devious.

Phil looked sheepish as he shrugged. “None of the police will go near the prince, so if you did, not only would we be free of blame, but your role as bounty hunters will be assured.” This made the trio look at each other (Deg was looking out a window).

“What’s your offer?” Shade asked.

“Uh, one thousand gems.”

“Gems?” queried Scynthia.

“Not real ones,” Shade told her. “They use small, spherical crystals of no worth as currency.”

“Like this,” Deg said, producing one from among his many pockets and holding it up for her to see between his hooked nails.

“You mean gleaner droppings?” Scynthia was revolted, as now were the humans. Deg just nodded. Gleaners were vicious, arachnid-like monsters. There was a nest nearby the island; now Phil knew who the bankers dealt with.

“We use credit notes too, for bigger sums,” he added weakly.

“Is that a good price?” Grim checked with Shade.

“Very,” he replied and looked slyly at the mayor. “I doubt you can afford that much.”

“Others will chip in, to preserve law,” Phil responded, convincing none of them. “So, do you agree?” There was an exchange of looks, then nods.

#

“We wait until the prince leaves the island, that way we’re outside the mayor’s authority,” Shade announced.

“We should already be gone to pick the best place for the ambush,” Scynthia argued.

“But we don’t know which way he’ll go. This prince is said to be rash, not the sort we can predict for,” countered Shade. The deemi just nodded; she never conceded defeat in an argument.

The two of them and Grim were sat at a table in the corner of a tavern, the Picked Pocket, a place run by hobgoblins, bizarrely. It turned out many such inhospitable habitats were owned by the lowly monsters, but while theft was common, none were better at passing on rumour or getting it. That was why they were here. Prince Dranrog was far from subtle; each move he made came to them within the hour. They now lived here too. Few risked that much, but it was cheap and the owners had swiftly learned not to attempt trouble with their guests.

Grim looked around at the crash to see a hobgoblin struggling to drag his cleaver away before snatching it back. Lessons didn’t seem to stick with their kind.

“This prince,” the abnormal man began, “he must have an escort. He can’t be walking about alone.”

“Yeah, both him and his father never leave their home without guards,” confirmed Shade.

“What do you know of the Demon King?” Scynthia wanted to know.

“He’s a devil-beast, big even for his kind, strong in magic too, and he’s smart. He likes human politics; that’s why he calls himself a king – he even has a royal court. His son, the princely heir, is an arrogant braggart. He’s not nearly as strong as he ought to be.”

“When you don’t have to achieve, you do not try,” commented Scynthia.

“I’ve noticed that about you,” said Shade. “You train a lot, always getting better.”

“I can no longer live as I once did, luring sustenance to me, so now I must earn it. You should train too.”

“I did enough of that with the Sect. Anyway, I’m perfect.” Grim laughed as he munched on roasted meat of some kind; what, he didn’t care. Shade looked at him. “What’s funny, big man?”

“You’re not perfect; you’re not as strong as me.” He punched his chest.

“Who is?” replied Shade with a grin and got one back.

“I heard the Sect recruits from all over the world,” Scynthia commented to the assassin, resuming their interaction. “But why did they choose you?”

“They don’t choose, they take,” Shade said coolly, but then shrugged. “They grab a handful of youths and put them through a nightmare of training. Those who survive are then able to kill anything, anywhere. It’s made my life interesting.”

“I have no doubt, humans are so brief and bland,” said Scynthia with contempt, but it had a bitter edge – one human had been brief but not bland to her. “So, what other major figures reside in or around this island?”

“There are a few, yet the Enchantress, that’s a name to beware.”

“Doesn’t sound scary,” retorted Grim.

“She isn’t, she’s the opposite.” Shade gestured to all around them, the bustling tavern and the city beyond it. “This was begun by humans, and certain families became rich and powerful. Not long ago a daughter was born to one, the only child of a wealthy couple, and she was beautiful. She grew up pampered and adored. What she wanted was done, and as she grew, she became even more beautiful. She was adored even more, she was pampered more, and she became even more beautiful.

“It went on like that until she became so beautiful, so adored, that to hear her voice is to obey her and to glimpse her is to worship her forever.” Food dropped from Grim’s mouth as it hung open. “I’ve even heard that to look too long at her makes you go mad.”

“Since the Shadow World merged with yours, reality has become somewhat… unreal,” affirmed Scynthia.

“So, does she go round taking everyone over?” wondered Grim.

“No, that would only provoke her rivals to destroy her. Like all the powerful beings here, she has to be careful,” Shade explained. “She stays in her building, running her business, which her parents handed over before their timely accident. With her immense funds she hires whatever she needs.”

“So she could hire us?” Grim checked, wary, but keen.

“She could and not just as bounty hunters. We can perform all sorts of tasks once people know what we can do,” Shade said and Scynthia nodded.

“Nor should we be above a little corruption,” she remarked with a smile.

“That’s the only way to make real money,” confirmed Shade.

“We could steal it,” offered Deg.

“Where’d you come from?” Grim growled at the hobgoblin, who was sitting on a stool at their table. “Where’ve you been?”

“Talking, listening, a bit more,” Deg replied, playing with a handful of gems. As much as the others distrusted and disliked him, he was the only one ‘making’ money and establishing links. “I’ve found out more about the prince. He always has two brutes with him as bodyguards, but he arrived on the island with more: a few harbingers and a deemi.” Scynthia scowled. Grim growled.

“Hey, this is professional, not personal,” Shade warned. Neither replied. “What else do you know?” he asked Deg.

“He’s leaving, went across the Third Bridge just now.”

“Why didn’t you…? Nevermind, we can get ahead of them easily.” Shade rose, urgency replacing anger at the hobgoblin.

“We need to plan first,” Scynthia insisted.

“You’re the one who’s been demanding we get going,” countered Shade.

“Because we needed to set an ambush, but now you know his route, yes?”

“Pretty much. It’s nearly all open, uneven terrain out there. Perfect hunting ground for a small and mobile group like us. So yeah, now I know where he is and what direction he’s going in, I know which way we can go to cut across and be ready for them.”

“Then let’s figure out what we will do when we meet them.”

“I’ll mash the brutes,” declared Grim, “and you can take the deemi.” At this, Scynthia nodded quickly. “You, Shade, can match the harbingers for reflexes so…”

“No, no, that’s all wrong,” cut in Deg, only to receive three glares. “We’re a team, we can’t fight them each on our own. We should combine and help each other out.”

“The vile thing has a point,” admitted Scynthia and Deg grinned. “We have magic, strength, speed, skill. If we pit each attribute against its inferior we will win easily.”

“I suppose,” muttered Grim.

“We can’t fail; this is too important,” Scynthia instructed him. He nodded; he realised that. The deemi looked to the hobgoblin sat next to her and stroked his head, surprising the creature – he only ever got swipes! “Well done, uh…”

“Deg.”

“Well done, Deg. You’ve impressed us and you deserve to be one of us,” she said smoothly and he squirmed in embarrassment, then yelped as she pinched a small ear. “Just remember that you are one of us. I know your kind; you would turn on us at the right offer. If you wish to stay alive, don’t.”

“I do! I won’t!” yelped Deg before rubbing his released ear. Shade and Grim laughed.

“You should know, deemi are only nice so they can hurt you,” chortled Shade.

“It is a lesson for us all,” Scynthia cut in, and their mirth ended. “We are a new alliance, but this one act binds us. We will create enemies and so will need each other. To split will end each of us for certain.” Everyone nodded. “Good, then let’s plan our victory.”

To Be Continued…..

Our Saviour

The rocky terrain slowly disappeared and soft earth took its place. Not much, but enough to support life. The damage from the past had not reached here, perhaps due to the arc of mountains that formed about it. Whatever it was, the wilderness was behind and prospects were ahead: supplies, communities, information.

Straker stopped and looked about him, wary of threats, also looking for life. He wasn’t sure what type of being he would come across, but he was confident in himself; there wasn’t anything he couldn’t evade, outsmart or overcome. Even so, he took his automatic rifle from his shoulder and checked it over. Hardly his weapon of choice, old and troublesome, but he had carried out enough repairs on it to know it would do its job. He checked his ammunition in his backpack as well; three more magazines, plus only two grenades – he would have to try to get more if possible. He had a long knife strapped to a thigh and a small one tucked in a boot, plus he could kill with his hands, yet some problems needed an explosion to solve.

He continued his purposeful stride. Tall, muscular, but not bulky; he was a sculpted figure on the landscape. His hands were rough and his face was grim. His green eyes flicked about as he walked. He hoped he met humans or mutants here; he could pass for either, although in time the former would probably detect his superior abilities. Even so, as long as he was brief and careful, he could get what he needed and be gone before suspicion arose. As for mutants, they would revere him or possibly hate him on sight; some were jealous of perfection.

Sounds came to his sharp ears and he dropped, smoothly and suddenly, lying on the grass with his rifle ready. Then beings appeared, not too far away, climbing out of the ground, looking up and around before hurrying in one direction. Straker stayed still, watching, as over twenty figures stopped at a patch of upturned earth and rooted through it. Straker had already noticed a number of such patches about the area. There were also trees and bushes. Some individuals broke off to a nearby cluster where sacks were being filled. It was clear what was happening, but the sense of urgency was mysterious.

Then there was panic as the group heard a whirling noise. Straker had already heard it and seen the dots in the sky when they could not, but they seemed to know what these were and ran for their safety. The fleers were of all shapes and sizes, several moved awkwardly; Straker knew they were mutants and so rose.

“Quick, get in,” he urged, running for the hole in the ground himself, using the situation to gain entrance. They reeled in surprise but never stopped running. He aimed his weapon skyward. “I’ll cover you, hurry up.” The flying objects were closing in. Straker had never seen the like, but the mutants had and fled underground, the last closing the hatch, disguising the way.

“Who are you?” someone asked Straker, who had slipped in with the last few, not giving them a chance to shut him out. “Are you a human?”

“No, he’s a super-soldier,” another, a middle-aged woman, replied for him.

“How do you know that?” asked Straker calmly.

“You look too good to be human.”

The tall fighter grinned at that and rubbed his close-cropped black hair as he dipped his head to her. “My name is Straker and, yes, I‘m a mutant like you.”

“Not like us,” a young man noted, holding up his crooked arm. “Also, your skin and speech is different.”

“I am from far away, the other side of the world, in fact. I don’t know much about my lineage, after all, it no longer matters, but racially I am Hispanic. I believe you live in what was once Eastern Europe.”

“How do you know such old names?” yet another asked of him.

“I was told them.” Straker just shrugged, none of it was important. “But who are you and what were those things?” That mattered.

“Helicopters,” the youth spat. All in the tunnel looked hateful. “The humans use them. We can’t live up there, no one can, but even after forcing us underground they raid us for our food.” He hefted his sack.

“Then destroy them,” proclaimed Straker, fist raised.

“We can’t,” the older woman complained. “They live on the mountains, thousands of them, and they’ve blocked off every route possible.”

“Clever,” commented Straker, his companions’ plight forgotten as his military instincts kicked in. “With those flying helicopters they rule this area while no one can touch them.”

“It also means they have little food, that’s why they raid us,” someone added.

“How do you survive?” wondered Straker.

“We barely do, but we do,” declared the youth.

“This land doesn’t look like much but it produces quite well, it has learned to do better than it ought to, like we have,” the woman went on. “It’s the raids that do more damage; the humans brutally keep us down.”

“Maybe you could help us,” suggested a young woman.

Straker shrugged. “We’ll see. We should move from this hatch, in case they see it and try to come in,” he advised, and together the mutants headed down the tunnel.

#

“So you’re a super-soldier,” remarked Orlock, the hunched old man sitting cross-legged before Straker. He was the eldest of the mutants and so an unofficial leader. They were nothing more than a convergence of huddles and gatherings that had come to this habitable space before being united by their cruel neighbours. The pair were in his home, a small cave with a wooden door that was moved in and out of its place for entry, but Straker couldn’t care less; he was eating and he would learn more from his host than any other. “You don’t look like a super-soldier.”

“What?” This made Straker freeze – that was the last thing he expected to hear. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

“I haven’t seen a super-soldier since I was young,” mused Orlock, “and you don’t look right. No, sorry, I use the wrong word, you don’t seem right.”

“I’m strong, yet agile. I’m not deformed like you,” Straker said without venom. “What else can I be?”

“I don’t know that, but I know other things. I know that super-soldiers are taller than you. They come in many shapes from around the world but all were made well over six feet. You look just over. I know that because of cloning in the past most super-soldiers have a blandness about their features, yet yours are sharply defined. Also, you seem so… independent. Super-soldiers live by their nature. They are very aggressive, they were made to destroy; even now they are war-like. You, however, seem calm, alert and also calculating. I hope that doesn’t offend you.”

“Not even slightly,” Straker said with a grin, but his look was intent on the old man.

“Super-soldiers were made to be clever at war but not much else, the humans only wanted them for fighting. You look like you could thrive in any situation.” Orlock had tilted his head as he studied his guest and his lopsided face sat straight and normal. “You have come to me to talk about our enemy, which makes strategic sense, but you have sat calmly, eating, patient as I tidy my room. What is your focus really on?”

“Very well, you deserve the truth,” confirmed Straker, but he locked his steely gaze on Orlock. “However, if you spread it any further I will spread you out amongst your people, piece by piece.” Orlock nodded quickly. “Then let me ask if you know about the geography of the world, that this area is part of a huge landmass that spreads in three directions? Well, almost opposite this there is another landmass, a long one that stretches down the world, and I am from the northern part. Actually this landmass was cut in half long ago, but that doesn’t matter.

“You see, my tale goes back to the beginning, when mutants were born and the human race was smashed apart. In that northern land mutants were made, super-soldiers, and also other creations – many experiments were carried out. But then they rebelled. The super-soldiers found that they had shortened life spans and had been secretly cloned. They were human volunteers but had been betrayed, so they struck back. Yet they did more than most mutants. They captured the eight head-scientists who had done so much to them and subjected them to the same.

“Only they liked it. These individuals were intelligent, imaginative and ambitious. They saw potential in their new state so continued experimenting on themselves, killing two, but the survivors became super intelligent and used this to improve the super-soldiers. We have already mentioned the limitations of these beings; the scientists had been ordered to ensure they had some to protect humanity. Now they could seek perfection, eradicate every flaw and explore any avenue they desired. They succeeded. They created the ultra-mutants.”

“You?” questioned Orlock. But he knew the answer, it explained everything.

“I am second generation, even better, but yes, I’m an ultra. We are stronger and faster than super-soldiers, and more intelligent, as you’ve noticed. We aren’t as tall, so we can fit in easier with others, yet we are more in control of our bodies; what we cannot overcome through strength we defeat through skill and cunning. We are all from the same mould because ultras were only made in one place. We’re all six two, lean and muscular. But none of us have been cloned; we are varied, racially and facially. The Brainers foresaw the problems the super-soldiers would have with similarity.”

“Everyone wearing the same face, enough to drive… The Brainers?”

“The mutated scientists,” explained Straker.

“An apt name, no doubt,” Orlock remarked wryly. Straker’s nod was firm. “Now I understand you…”

“You do not,” cut in Straker, making the old mutant flinch. “That was just the beginning. A nation of mutants, instructed by the Brainers, with their ultras leading the war against the humans that surrounded them, and just as the super-soldiers had overthrown their inferior masters, so did my kind decide to claim their destiny.”

“Destiny?” asked Orlock.

“We are ultras, the best humanity has become. I’m sure you can see what our destiny is,” Straker said, yet quickly went on. “The rest of my story will confirm it. The Brainers sided with the ultras but still sought perfection: the ultimate mutant. A being not merely without flaw, but unable to be surpassed in any way. Have you heard the name Gilgamesh?”

“Once,” Orlock whispered, “and in such a way…”

“He is a giant, five times my strength, yet fast and with genius crafted by the Brainers themselves, as well as all the knowledge they had gathered, and still have; that is why I know so much. The Brainers and ultras worked together and made him, and the super-soldiers and mutts, uh…”

“Natural mutants, I know the term,” Orlock said darkly.

“Actually, to us, the term has come to mean all mutants not genetically improved. As I said, many experiments were conducted, but there was nothing natural about their results. I understand that in this part of the world radiation was released on people to test theories, that’s why there are so many mutants here.”

Orlock gave a shrug. “I only know we are here,” he replied.

Straker nodded, liking his pragmatism. “Anyway, the other mutants were afraid, and they knew the humans were too, so made a pact and then fled as they attacked. Gilgamesh was complete, about to be born, but the humans came too soon. The ultras fought their way out, with the Brainers, yet Gilgamesh was lost.”

Orlock sat up as much as he could. “Lost?”

“To the humans, a pre-packaged, military and technological expert as well as an unstoppable titan. They chose not to destroy him because, if conditioned differently, he could lead them to victory, as he was meant for us. Only they couldn’t, none can outwit the Brainers. Yet they hoped and kept him in storage. Then others came along and bought him, seeking to use him too, failing as well, and since then the ultimate mutant has been bought and sold around the world, a walking war machine none dare activate. Except us.”

“You? What happened to your people?”

“We were crippled but alive. We went into hiding, knowing how feared and envied we were, and now we wait, or most of us do. Some of us roam the world in search of Gilgamesh, and when we find him we will be able to take what is ours,” Straker now declared.

“He is that powerful?” questioned Orlock, doubtful and yet hopeful.

“We were driven out about a century and a half ago, in that time we have grown strong again. But yes, he is.”

“And…” Orlock paused. “What of us mutts?”

“Super-soldiers were made to destroy monsters. Ultras were made by human-hating mutants. Humans are our enemy and so are monsters and machines, the latter especially because they believe they are the superior beings. We aim to win the world from them all. We do not count mutants as our enemies, although whether they do is another matter. But, to be truthful, the superior must be above the inferior.”

“Funny, I expected you to preach lies to me and even the truth sounded flatly honest, not a proclamation or boast,” said Orlock before grinning oddly. “Do you believe in what you just said?”

“I believe it to be true,” confirmed Straker.

“Not what I asked, but never mind.” There was a glint in Orlock’s eyes now. He also fidgeted. He was nervous about this stranger yet exhilarated by his tale. “So, now we come to it. Why are you here? No, wait, Gilgamesh!”

“Correct.” Now Straker grinned at the other’s shock. “I have a name of a recent buyer, perhaps the latest, and maybe you know it too. The humans on the mountains seem a military people, who leads them?”

“Air Marshal Blitzkrieg.” For a moment Straker was still, then he smiled slowly. “What do you intend?” asked Orlock.

“To have another talk.”

To Be Continued…..

Harbinger of my Doom

In a time no one knows when, a man, Dylan Winter, cast the world into hell. Sick of the human race and its bickering, unable to stomach any more of its shallow, pointless existence, he chose to teach mankind a lesson. He opened the door to the Shadow World, the dimension on the edge of reality, where nightmares lurked and the monsters of myth were inspired from. He was the first to die and millions followed. The world became infested, terror was widespread, and the human race responded. Badly.

Most monsters could be killed with ordinary weapons, but people struggled to face them and some wielded terrible power. Magic and mayhem was engulfing humanity so it turned to science, creating improved men and women to overcome the horrors. However, not all went as planned as those made superior eventually turned on their creators, as did the robots and cyborgs then developed. These were what destroyed civilisation – the monsters only sought terror, the mutants and machines sought conquest.

Cities were overrun by super-soldiers, populations were decimated by relentless droids and creatures from the Shadow World gleefully flitted through the fray. The three races also fought each other and this saved humanity from annihilation. But, well over two centuries since Dylan Winter acted in hate, his people are scattered and the world is transformed. So is much else. Some monsters have lost their evil lusts and mutant breeds push on in their altered evolution. Things keep changing, even as the old sins remain the same. However, members of all the races – humans, monsters, mutants and machines – strive to overcome this hostile existence via whatever paths they find before them.

###

Simon scuttled over the rubble, keeping to the darkest parts, nervously alert and fearful of any sight or sound. There was little of either, however, in this ruined city. The broken buildings blotted out the dull sunlight and the tattered streets were deserted; none would usually risk being in such open territory, especially Simon. This place was his home, or had been. He knew what lurked out of sight, the things that could be hunting him. A human, alone and unarmed; he was prey for many.

He froze, faced with four zomboids; the demented androids were dismembering corpses in their lust to become human again. They heard Simon, turning to him, rotting flesh half covering their corroding metallic forms, and then sprang, eager to obtain more. He ran – there was no way to fight them. He had little chance of escaping them either; the pounding of their swift feet echoed about the ruins. Louder. Louder.

A screech of metal made Simon look back, causing him to trip and fall. Only it didn’t matter as his pursuers had already halted. Another foe was there for them to deal with.

Suddenly, one zomboid collapsed, bending back and then snapping. Its spine had been cut. Now the remaining zomboids circled cautiously. They had once been human, their minds inserted into the robotic bodies in an attempt to create better droids. It was an impossible change: they felt hunger, but could not eat; wanted to cry, but couldn’t produce the tears. They went mad, and still were, yet they recognised the threat of the intruder.

It was a harbinger, hardly an improvement for Simon. The lithe creature wielded a metal pole with blades at each end; one blade was semi-circular and the other was like a bayonet, and this stabbed into a zomboid’s face, into the cerebral core. That ended its existence. The others charged, but the swift monster turned to them in time, carving a reaching arm off, smashing into a leg, then leaping. Both abominations looked up as their enemy soared into the sky, then came back down. It seemed to swoop, completely in control of itself despite its plummet. Then there was a scream.

Simon watched as the harbinger rose smoothly, then pulled his weapons out of the zomboids as they toppled. Now Simon understood. He had split his weapon into two and used his momentum to bury them in their forms. He re-attached the two halves, the non-bladed ends slotting alongside each other before clicking into place.

He approached and Simon started to scramble away; he knew the loathsome reputation of harbingers. At least the zomboids would have ripped him apart swiftly! Unlike them, he didn’t hear the monster’s steps – too light, too subtle – so he yelled in shock as well as fright when a foot stamped on his back.

“Where are you going?” came the question. “If you go that way, you’ll run into the mutants.” There was a noise of contempt. “If I was you I’d get out of the city.”

“That’s what I was doing,” Simon retorted, looking round, up at his captor. Or was it? The tone was disparaging, yet not gloating, nor was the look malicious. He had already noticed a major peculiarity in this being: the usual expansive, rising ears were missing, which were how harbingers caught the slightest sound to detect their prey. Instead, thick strands of yellow hair fell to his shoulders, covering any sign of what might be left.

“Yes, I have no ears, well spotted,” snapped the harbinger, but again he wasn’t vicious in his speech. “Now come on, we can’t stay out here.” He reached down and pulled Simon to his feet with a forceful helping hand, which was covered in chain mail with metal points over the bone talons that jutted from his kind’s fingertips. The pair hurried to cover, then Simon was released and he leapt away. “Fine, piss off, I’ll stay here and see how far you get.” Simon stayed where he was. He couldn’t flee from this creature; harbingers were fast, agile and light. It was said that one pounce went further than a hundred steps. Then he realised the monster was referring to other dangers. “Why are you out here alone?” the creature abruptly asked.

“Because there’s no one else,” Simon revealed, sinking to his haunches. His old boots creaked and he rubbed his thatch of short, dark hair. His clothing was worn and did nothing to hide his lean figure. “The mutants came in. We held them back for a bit, but then those super-soldiers showed up. Everyone’s gone now, I can’t stay here anymore.”

“Wise move,” noted the harbinger. “Then again, the whole world’s a horror. Where will you go?”

“Eden,” Simon instantly declared. The harbinger said nothing. “I suppose you don’t believe it exists.”

“Don’t need to, I know it does.”

“You’ve been there?” Now Simon was back on his feet.

“Of course not,” scoffed the other. “To you Eden is salvation. To anything non-human it offers only annihilation.”

“Good,” spat Simon, and flinched at the other’s scowl, but then the harbinger smiled, showing the small pointed teeth in his protruding mouth.

“When humans are hunted by everything in existence, that attitude is expected.”

“We’re hardly helpless. There’s still more of us than all you monsters, mutants and machines put together.”

“Just as well.” The harbinger seemed only half interested in the conversation, often looking around and tilting his head to listen out; his hearing appeared fine. “There doesn’t seem to be any more zomboids, or anything else either. We’re safe.”

“We?” doubted Simon, preparing for the worst. He only received a disdainful look and smile.

“I’m not going to kill you. Where’s the challenge?”

Simon considered this. Harbingers were known as the foot-soldiers of the monsters; their speed and skill perfect for combat. They had done much of the fighting when humans had tried to exterminate the nightmares that had arisen in their world. Also, this one did seem a warrior – a superb one. He was slender but muscular, with clothing much like his own and just as worn. Without the ears that flared out on either side of most harbingers’ heads and the wicked contempt in the eyes, this creature didn’t terrify him so easily. If anything, he was safer with him than without.

He suddenly shook his head.

“What am I thinking?” he snarled at himself, then pointed. “You’re trying to lure me in, make me relax, then kill me.”

“Why?” countered the harbinger.

“So I won’t be so chewy when you eat me.”

“Harbingers don’t eat humans, we just enjoy the fear that lie creates.” There was something about the way he spoke that told Simon ‘we’ didn’t include him. Suddenly the harbinger sped forward and knocked Simon down. The human was hit hard and let out a grunt of pain, before looking up at the harbinger smirking above him. “I can kill you whenever I want. I don’t need tricks.”

“Understood.” Simon accepted the help back up from the taller being. He avoided the gaze of the slanted eyes as he rubbed an arm. “So, uh, what do harbingers eat then?” The creature grinned, reached into a small satchel and then produced a shiny black worm that filled his hand. The human recoiled. “Brain-maggots!”

“To you and to this world, but in the Shadow World they were food.” Simon relaxed as it was put away. “So, you head for Eden. Think it will take you long?”

“I’m prepared for the days ahead,” confirmed Simon.

“Days?” The harbinger laughed scornfully. “It will take weeks before you reach the coast, then you must somehow cross a vast sea, then you have more land to trek over.” Simon’s look fell and the monster’s mirth went. “However, there is a portal, still some distance from here, that could cut the journey by well over half and bypass the sea.”

“Where is it?” wondered Simon, with desperation and eagerness.

The harbinger considered this question, then nodded. “This way.”

#

Simon woke, saw the harbinger sat before him and yelped in fright, then relaxed.

“Sorry,” he said to the other’s wry grin. “I still can’t get used to the sight of you, and sharpening your blades doesn’t help.”

“It will when we meet trouble,” came the reply. The creature was using a flint from his satchel with smooth strokes. Simon nodded in agreement at this, rising and then stretching before looking round at the wasteland they were in. He would ask how far the portal was, but his companion had long since grown fed up with that daily question.

Lotus was the harbinger’s name; his people relished taking the names of pleasant things to heighten their own cruel nature. Though he wasn’t like that, the worst Simon saw in him was his disdain for humanity. He came across as honourable, truthful and, most importantly, lethal. He often practised with his weapon.

It had taken time, but the pair now understood each other. They were temporary allies; one needing the other’s protection, the other… Well, Lotus didn’t need Simon, yet he did seem lonely. He enjoyed conversing with his new acquaintance. He also smiled a lot more than when they first met. But he would only take him to the portal; he had no wish to be anywhere near Eden. Simon had agreed, glad for that much help.

He knew little of portals, rumour only, so Lotus had explained. The merging with the Shadow World had distorted reality to various effects: duller sunlight, the existence of magic, and also portals – holes around the world that led to each other. However, they were unpredictable. The links between them were not set, so destinations varied at different times. According to Lotus, a command of magic helped to control the path, but since neither of them knew any that was no help. Both magic and monsters had come to this world, together, yet most monsters had no ability to use it. Not that Simon trusted magic. He wasn’t sure of the portal either. However, Lotus had assured him that this one would take him in the right direction. He had twice used it himself. The harbinger had been travelling a long time and visited places Simon had only heard of. Simon knew he had lived a tough life in the derelict city, but nothing compared to walking this earth alone.

Lotus looked round at the odd sound.

“Hungry still?” he asked of the human, who grinned sheepishly. Lotus put his flint back into his satchel, then pulled out a brain-maggot and offered it. He had removed his mail gloves and the bone points on his fingertips dug slightly into its black skin. “Try it, they’re delicious.”

Simon took the meal with reluctance, his grip tight on the thick eel-like creature, then brought it to his mouth. Instantly it flailed, sensing its own food within his head. Simon dropped it in alarm, only for it to speed up his leg before Lotus’ bayonet impaled it with a precise jab.

“Thanks,” gasped Simon, yet again grateful for the harbinger’s reflexes, who now held the maggot aloft, wriggling futilely. “Forget it. I’ll never let one of those near me again.”

“You can eat them,” Lotus assured him. “They attach themselves to the back of your head to feed; bits in your mouth can’t harm you.” As if to prove it, Lotus bit into the maggot and tore away a third of it, chewing rapidly with ease.

“You could have food that’s less dangerous to eat, you know,” Simon pointed out.

“I like challenges.” Lotus smirked slightly as he said this. Simon shook his head. Lotus shrugged and continued devouring.

“There must be some people out here, hidden away,” remarked Simon, hoping for normal food.

Lotus stood, finishing his maggot, looking around. “If they’re hidden we won’t find them,” he responded.

“We can’t keep travelling like this.”

“I have.” There was Lotus’ arrogance again. “Anyway, mutants eat the same as you, or we could find some animals. You have no problem eating them, do you?”

“As long as they don’t want to eat me,” Simon joked. Lotus laughed. That was another peculiarity to this harbinger. Most supposedly had a shrill laugh that reeked of wicked delight; his was a chuckle, like he was truly amused. He twirled his weapon in his fingers as he looked out, as if it were merely a stick; harbingers made their armaments light, yet strong, much like themselves. That thought made Simon uneasy again. No matter what the understanding between them, this was a monster he walked with. He had to be insane to… No, insanity would be to go alone in this vile existence. Lotus’ deeds were what really mattered. “Well, you know the way. Lead on.”

“And you stay alert, don’t rely on me for everything,” Lotus more warned than snapped.

“Oh yeah. I suppose because your ears are gone…”

“They’re still there.” Now Lotus did snap. “They just cut the flaps off. My hearing is sharper than yours will ever be.”

“They? Who did it, and why?” Simon’s curiosity leapt up over any fear. Lotus didn’t answer at first. He pulled on his gloves and started walking, so the human followed, but then he spoke.

“Where I grew up there was little around us but humans and they were pitiful, even for your kind; wretched and terrified. We preyed on them. Since before I was born my kind stalked them. Never to destroy, only to torment and demean, and when I grew up I opposed this.”

“You felt sorry for the humans?”

“No. I feared for us. We were growing lazy and pathetic without challenges; to prey on such weaklings only weakened us. I wasn’t alone in seeing this, but no other spoke up and when no one would listen I chose to leave. That was agreed to. I would seek out others of my kind as well as challenges to better me. I went to say farewell to my family before I left and that was when they ambushed me. My parents cut my ears from me as my siblings held me down. Only then was I allowed to leave.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It was the last bit of proof that my people had fallen so low,” Lotus went on. “By doing this to me, I am disgraced; all other harbingers shun me and so I cannot join another clan to tell them how craven my own has become. That is why they did it – to hide their own weakness.” Simon had nothing to say. Losing his own people had been hard, but to be turned on like that would have broken him. “I left by choice, yet my solitude is enforced. Why else do you think I am with you?” Lotus said this with almost a sigh. However, Simon smiled. At least he understood Lotus’ attitude now. “I’ll admit I’m jealous of you. I doubt you’ll reach Eden, but at least you have somewhere to head to.”

“True. But you’re wrong, I will reach Eden.”

Lotus looked around and regarded the determination of the young man. He then smiled and gave a firm nod. “I will help you all I can,” he pledged.

To be Continued……

A Bit of Shakespearean Nonsense

A quick bit of showing off I once did years ago. A western showdown, Shakespeare style.

“Why stand you there, grim visage set, hand but a breath from your gun? You think yourself unequalled; a man of such swift action and reckless nature that the Devil himself would stop from barring your way, instead preferring to skulk to the saloon with the other cowards? Let me assure you, fool youth, that speed of action does not necessarily mean speed of thought, and while you would blaze away in frenetic gusto, my one shot would prove true.”

“As usual you are quicker to words than you are to offer proof with deeds. Your time is past, you are a mere illusion of that deadly spectre who once ruled this town. Arrogantly you claim to perfection, yet how can any aim be honest when my gun, swifter to obey my call, sends shrieking lead to burrow deep in your frame? If I waver, it will be but a little, and you will react to pain as all living creatures must. So come, let us draw, and let loser taste the earth we stand upon, while winner will forever more have his name toasted as the greatest gunslinger of our day.”

Books From my Childhood

So recently I have been reading two books I came across when very young. The first, which I tore through in one afternoon last week, is Earth Invaded, a short, scifi novel. The second, of which I am nearing halfway, is the Doomfarers of Coramonde, a fantasy novel. The first was written by Nathan Elliott and is the first of the Hood’s Army trilogy, published in 1986. The second was written by Brain Daley and came out in 1977, with the Starfollowers of Coramonde coming out later. I have read all of those and hope to do so again.

It has been amazing to recapture the magic these books had for me and quite startling at how much they affected me. Despite being different genres, they follow the same basic concept – a good few versus a mighty enemy. A number of scenes and images have stuck with me all this time, some of which I had forgotten where they came from. Both have been easy reads because there are so many lines which I knew deep down.

To Earth Invaded first. As the title suggests, the Earth has been invaded by aliens, a warrior race of cold cruelty. Their technology is far superior and their soldiers and vehicles are protected by a golden energy glow. The year is 2052 and humanity has become peaceful and united after the Third World War’s end in 1999 (I do love reading of futuristic things in our past, don’t you?), so we’re getting spanked. We meet First Sergeant Hood and his comrade Corporal Will Redman as their unit is slaughtered amidst the wreckage of London. They flee and run into Marianne and her robot assistant AMOS (Automated Motive Operating System). Later they meet Big Mac and a number of battered survivors underground, along with the suspicious Adair.

If you’re feeling a twinge of recognition about the names, think Robin Hood. This story is a neat little twist of the Robin Hood tale, with aliens and a treacherous human governor. Oh, and get this – the way to defeat the aliens is to use projectile weapons because the golden shields deflect energy only, so guess what Hood uses? Yuppers. They run about with swords, bows and pikestaffs from a museum, if they later get hold of machine guns.

Another note is the cover. I like it, but it doesn’t reflect the content. Hood is 19, but looks over 30 on the cover. Marianne has long black hair but on the cover she is a redhead firing a laser gun (never happens). The K’Thraa (love the name) are described as slug-like but on the cover they look like, well, Rogue Trooper from the 2000AD comics.

It is odd but nothing new in publishing, let’s be honest.

So the story itself is quick, entertaining, a bit simplistic but a solid scifi adventure. The bickering between Will and AMOS is a little overdone as a comic relief support type-of-thing, but it is still amusing and probably somewhat fresh in 1986. The burning need for revenge is portrayed in capturing style. I did feel that this story is told very well in terms of pacing – you get the feel of a new world very quickly and also a good sense of characters without taking forever with descriptions. Images of huge spaceships descending to crush streets is such a stark picture due to its cutting simplicity.

Without spoiling anything, I will say Adair is the best character due to his mysterious past and eventual revelation. I liked him a lot and wish there was more of this story to develop all their characters. Still, it was a very good read, even now.

On to the Doomfarers. Told very differently, with much more description and slower language. But again, some great imagery and moments of action slapped into your face with a short sharp sentence. The telling of Duke Hightower falling to one knee, broken sword held out before him, was something I have never forgot. Other little sentences spring to my mind in completion as I read them – Andre slapping his sword at his side, dead bodies slain by sword and lance wounds, the fist raised in solidarity from the battered APC.

Wait, APC? Armoured Personnel Carrier?

The very same. This story has a neat little twist as well. Set in another world of magic and dragons, there is a man in it from our world. An American (but let’s not hold that against him, folks 😉 ) who invented a machine to travel across dimensions and has settled in Coramonde, helping the famous sorcerer, Andre deCourteney, and his sister, Gabrielle. They summon the APC and its crew from the Vietnam War to fight a dragon, sent against them by their enemy, Yardiff Bey.

The main character is Springbuck, however, and we start with him. He is prince and heir to the throne of Coramonde, except his stepmother seeks to put her own son there instead. Springbuck is ready to let him have it in fear for his life, but when he witnesses the death of Duke Hightower as the man speaks up for him, things change. He is meant for death but manages to escape, then reaches the only people who can stand up to his enemies. The wizard Yardiff Bey is behind what is going on at court, so they soon enter an alliance. Springbuck is an unlikely hero but we see him changing from self-doubting youth to warrior and leader. He is certainly a lead character to be cheering on.

As I said, I’m only halfway through this book, but I’m loving it. I wish I had bought it when young so I could have read it a few times by now, yet the impression it left on me has proven to be a lasting one. I know there are moments to come too. The siege and the futile charge, the fight between ogre and lizard, etc. There isn’t much humour to be found, but it certainly isn’t a grim tale only. When the other Americans arrive in their APC and the story’s perspective changes from Springbuck to Sergeant Gill MacDonald, we get to see the young prince for all his youthful exuberance and regal speech. The idea of a burly US soldier wearing a white gown and veils to lure a dragon in before lobbing phosphorous grenades at it has a humour all of its own too.

This story does remind me of the fantasy books by authors like David Gemmell and Stephen Lawhead and others. High fantasy, swords and sorcery, not afraid to describe actions or scenes in full so you can watch the world move along before you with liquid fluidity. Noble heroes, shady wizards, rough fighters, strong willed women – it’s all here. You can really feel it was written a while back, when you didn’t dumb the writing down (weapons of medieval times and the Vietnam War are described with military knowledge) and a fight scene was littered with thrusts and ripostes.

So far, so great.

I would recommend both books. Yes, Earth Invaded isn’t heavy on science and pretty straight forward, but it works and works well. Younger minds may absorb it more readily than aged readers. The Doomfarers is more solid high fantasy, with a journey into Hell thrown in for good measure, so if that’s your thing, get it.

Don’t let good books die off. These are certainly good books. I’m very happy I was able to buy them this time.

All thanks to my local library for containing these books back then, too. Where would my imagination be without all those stories I was able to grab, read and remember?
I shudder to think.

A Silly Story to Make Me Smile

Just an explanation. Back in January, my dear friend Janrae died. She was also known as the Cuss. Soon after she passed, her daughter, Sovay, showed some of us a piece of chat between them. In it, because of a pause in the conversation, Janrae, being full of whimsy and imagination, broke into story telling. It made me smile to see words from her again, yet made me sad too, especially as she characterised herself as a lonely moose.

This made me sit and write a story of my own. I just had to write something for her, about her, which was more fun and portrayed her in a better light. The way I and others saw her. So this is what I spewed out. It has taken some time for the sadness to pass before I felt ready to put it up.

Oh, and the rumpus bit is from a daft conversation I had with Janrae and her daughter one day.

With that out of the way, let us begin:

Two young, would-be witches were walking down the lane, hand in hand, to go see the Cuss. The Cuss was wise and powerful in magic, so many wished to be taught by her. She was also a bit odd, many suspected her of being a trouble-maker, and she lived in a strange forest with many weird and wild creatures running amok within it – all so she wouldn’t be bothered by nuisances and nitwits. This meant the two witches had to be alert. It was a brave thing to do, but they really wanted to see her.

Suddenly they halted. Before them was a small, grumpy looking critter, barring their way. They had never seen the like and wondered what it could be, and also what purpose it had.

“What is it?” wondered Hallie.

“I think it’s a rumpus,” remarked Sovay.

“I ain’t no rumpus. Imma Git!” declared the Git, stamping a foot.

“He looks like a rumpus to me,” insisted Sovay.

“What do you want? We’re going to see the Cuss and we don’t have time for little gits,” Hallie stated.

“You ain’t seeing no Cuss. I won’t let you!” snarled the Git in a highly unimpressive manner.

“How will you stop us?” asked Hallie as both giggled.

“I’ll menace you with British slang,” declared the Git. “Just like the Cuss menaced me with a bottle of ketchup yesterday. Oops!” He clamped his hand on his mouth, realising he had made a mistake.

“So you know the Cuss!” exclaimed Sovay. “Take us to her. We wish to see her.”

“I don’t know no Cuss. It ain’t like she bosses me about every damn day or nuffin.” Again the Git stopped his mouth. He was a daft critter indeed.

“Gittykins! Here; Gittykins!” came a voice.

“Yikesarama!” shrieked the Git, and he scampered off into the undergrowth.

Down the lane came the Cuss, walking along with her magical staff in one hand and a bag of candy in the other. She peered about as she went, making cooing noises and calling out, then she halted as she saw the two young witches.

“Have you seen my Git? He’s run off again. Damn nuisance. I know he always comes back but I get so worried about him being out here. He might get eaten by a monster. He’s only a wee git, you know?”

“We have just seen him,” revealed Sovay. “He seemed pretty obnoxious.”

“Oh, don’t mind him. He’s a PITA at worst.” By this, the Cuss meant he was a Pain In The Ass, although the Git would always try to correct her by saying arse. Either way, it was true.

“Well he ran off that way when he heard you coming,” said Hallie, pointing into the bushes.

“Oi! Don’t tell her!” cried a voice from that direction.

“Ah ha! There he is! Come here, Gittykins. I’ll give you a treat if you do,” called the Cuss.

“What kind?” asked the Git suspiciously.

“Chocolate chips coated in chocolate with chocolate on top. Your favourite.”

“Ooooh.” They could hear the drool on his mouth already. “You promise not to put me back in my cage?”

“No,” said the Cuss.

“You promise not to hit me with a wet sausage?”

“No. I don’t.”

“You promise not to threaten to chew my ankles?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Well okay, seeing as you put it like that.” The Git scampered out and stood by the Cuss. She tossed the bag of candies at him, which he caught and shoved his head into it, scoffing the lot quickly.

“Bad Git,” the Cuss told him, but patted his head at the same time. Then she looked the young witches over with a discerning gaze. “Hmmm, new students, are you? My last ones were flamegrilled by a dragon. The ones before that were carried off by impudent hippos. You think you will fare better?”

“Yes!” chorused the young witches.

“You know, I think you will,” remarked the Cuss with a smile. “Come on, let’s get home and get you two settled in. I have a lot to teach you both.” She tugged the Git’s ear as she turned and began walking back up the lane. “Come on, Gittykins.”

“I hate that name,” harumphed the Git.

“Too bad. I love it,” chuckled the Cuss.

“Still looks like a rumpus to me,” Sovay whispered to Hallie as they followed the Cuss to her home.

Another Film Reaction

So this post I dug up amuses me because I remember watching the movie and just having to spout off about how bad it was. I had really wanted to see it, had hoped it would at least be entertaining, but clearly my wish was not met. Not sure when I saw it, must be a good few years ago at least, and I’ve not seen it since. Judging by this post, I have no reason to.

Oh, and on this forum I posted on, we had smurf smilies so we sometimes gave them instead of star ratings. So that’s why I mention ‘giving smurfs’. In case you thought that was a euphemism. You naughty folk. 😉

So here it is:

This is a public service announcement.

I watched Pathfinder today. An action movie about Vikings versus Native Americans. Sounds good? NOOOOOO!!!!!

Shit. No real characters, very unrealistic (apparently if you cut someone’s face with a sword then the eye pops out!), and dull. Yes, some decent action scenes, but overall it is poor, over edited, and, well, rubbish. Sometimes the Vikings wipe everyone out, and then other times they fall like sticks.

It would be too easy to say this movie is White Man saves Indians from Vikings, but it really does come close. The main character, a Viking adopted by the Native Americans, goes round killing the baddies and saving everyone else. A few Native Americans have their moment, but most end up dead.
In one laughable moment, the trap he has set for the Vikings backfires as the Americans jump right into it. They are promptly slaughtered.

It is just dire nonsense. You never get to know anyone, especially the Vikings. We’ve gone back to the old stereo typical notion that they are just a bunch of big bad killers. Not sure about all that armour and some of the weapons they used either (flail?). The worst moment comes when the leader kills his friend and second in command to save himself.
Yes, that’s right. The baddies are all bad, and the goodies are all good.

Karl Urban is the main character and I like him. I think he is a pretty decent actor and better than this. It also has Clancy Brown in and he is always cool. But everything else is rubbish. We could have had Native Americans versus Vikings, with both sides shown for all their savagery and honour, but no. We get American Tarzan. We get a bunch of stuff that ends quite poorly.

So whatever you do, don’t watch Pathfinder. It isn’t worth it. I would give it three smurfs, one for some nice fights, one for the big bad scary look of the Vikings, and one for Clancy Brown himself. Always give Clancy Brown a smurf.
So 3 out of 10 smurfs. But they’re shit smurfs. You have been warned.