I’ve just seen a poster on the side of a bus, someone has done a remake of that eighties sword and sorcery extravaganza ‘Conan the Barbarian’. Conan originally appeared in a series of short stories written by Robert E. Howard in 1932 for Weird Tales. In 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in a film version, which was not bad I suppose (personally I preferred ‘Red Sonja’, a film also based on one of Howard’s short stories).
So in homage to the genre I have decided to write a short sword and sorcery snippet. I’ve never written S&S before, so there’s a good chance it could turn into a parody.
Borderlands: Visit to Iderford
‘I’m bored, why are we here again?’ Tobold asked Hibalt, his nondescript travelling, raiding and drinking companion. They were walking through the riverside market place of Iderford after spending three weeks chasing a friend down the river Ider, from Iderhead, three hundred miles to the north-east.
‘Because, you great steaming nit, we have to find Gorgan.’
‘Why? It’s not as though she’ll still have your book. She’s probably sold it, traded it for beer or burnt it to cook her tea with by now.’ Tobold really wanted to find the nearest brothel that took Barbarian Card and spend the night in warm, clean-ish bed.
‘I don’t care, I’m still going to find her and get it back.’ Hibalt continued to look around him, searching for the four foot thief of books. It was not going to be easy, Gorgan could blend in, she could easily hide in a school and nobody would notice. Not that there were many schools out here in the Borderlands, but those strange new priests were opening up schools all the time. Not that they stayed open for long.
‘What’s so important about the book anyway, you never read it.’ Since neither of them could read.
‘Sometimes a scribe reads it to me. It has all sorts of useful advice. You know that time we were stuck in Candara and couldn’t find anyone who spoke Knuttish.’
‘Yes?’ Of course he remembered, it’s hard to forget a place when you have been chased out of it by armed men.
‘Well, the book had all these phrases in it, in Candaran.’
‘Yes, but we still got run out of town.’
‘Ah well, I think that was because I said the words wrong.’
‘Didn’t that priest tell you which words to use when we showed him the book?’
‘I forgot which words they were supposed to be.’
‘That explains it then.’
‘Shut up. I’m looking for Gorgan. She’s bound to have been here.’
‘We should ask around at the inns.’
‘You never get past the first three.’
‘Well, I like to be certain. I’m thourough.’
‘If you say so. You go hunting round the inns, I’ll try the market.’
‘Right, see you later.’ Tobold skipped gleefully away in a most un-barbarian-like fashion, to find the nearest pub.
Hibalt resumed his search. He found a likely looking stall-holder, calling forth his wares.
‘Excuse me, kind sir, could you tell me, has anybody tried to sell you a book lately?’
‘Look around, you daft thug, this is a second hand book stall, of course people have tried to sell me books, I just wish I could get people to buy ‘em instead.’
Hibalt considered reaching for his sword and running the man through, but then his therapist’s voice popped in to his head, reminding him about inappropriate reactions. Hibalt took a deep breath and counted down from ten. He tried a new strategy,
‘Sir, I am enquiring about a specific book, my book has a tattered red leather cover, with an etching of the Black Hills and Borderlands on the first page.’
‘Oh, a Red Book Tour Guide? We have one here sir, five pennies.’
‘No, that’s not my book, my book is special. But it’s very similar. My book was stolen from me, by a four foot siren.’
‘A four foot siren? Have you been drinking?’
‘Not recently, I’m on a program, to reduce my drinking. But I really want my book back.’
‘Okay, does it have any distinguishing features?’
‘Not really, a priest wrote my name in it once, when I tried to learn to read, and write.’
‘Well, that might be useful. What is your name?’
‘Right, well if anybody tries to sell me a Red Book Tour Guide with the name Hibalt Treebreaker written in it, I’ll keep it to one side in case I meet you again. What did you say the thief looked like?’
‘Four foot tall, blond hair, big boobs, large sword. You can’t miss Gorgan, pretty as a picture, she is.’
‘Yes, I’m sure.’
‘Oh and sometimes she dresses as a priestess, just to confuse people.’
‘What a strange woman.’
‘Yes, but so much fun. We used to go on long raiding holidays when we were younger, you’d never know it now.’
‘Have things gone wrong between you?’ The trader couldn’t help himself. It wasn’t often that a barbarian felt the need to confide in him; usually they just robbed him and ran away.
‘Yes,’ Hibalt started weeping, ‘It all started when we argued over raiding the Temple of Sweetest Flowers in Manchura, she said we should because it was a symbol of female oppression, and I didn’t want to because the last barbarians to raid the Temple ended up hanging from the trees like bunting.’
‘What did you decide?’
‘She went off to raid the temple and I didn’t see her for three months after that. I thought she was dead. Apparently they thought she was a novice and it took her that long to escape.’
‘There, there, I’m sure you’ll sort it out. Why don’t you go and have a quiet pint over at the Blue Bull? My cousin’s the barman there; they have the best ale for miles.’
‘I told you, I don’t drink.’
With that the morose barbarian tipped up the hapless traders’ bench, scattering books and ancient scrolls all over the road.
‘That’s more like it,’ thought the trader, ‘I know where I am now.’ He then called for the watch and Hibalt had to dash for the river.
Tobold had been enjoying a pint in the beer garden of the Blue Bull, smiling at the barmaid and exchanging tall tales with other visiting barbarians, when Hibalt dashed past followed by five burly watchmen.
‘Do excuse me gentlemen, I really must go, my sidekick appears to be in some sort of trouble. See you around.’
With that he gripped his sword hilt, and gave chase.
Safely back in their vessel and several miles downriver Tobold finally stopped rowing, turned in his seat and looked at Hibalt, who was manning the steering oar,
‘Well, what have you done now?’
Sorry about that, I couldn’t help myself. 1000 words of silliness. It’s entirely possible Tobold and Hibalt will make another appearance, when I decide what they’re going to do next.