Author Topic: Short story - "Truffles"  (Read 3177 times)

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uthin

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Short story - "Truffles"
« on: December 08, 2014, 07:58:17 AM »
My fellow Armelians!

It is my sincere pleasure to present for your reading pleasure, a true story (until proven otherwise) from our great kingdom's equally great past.

This is my second attempt at writing fan fiction for Armello, the first being "A pen more dangerous than any sword."

Unfortunately, there is a limit to how many characters that can be in a single post here on the boards, so I had to split it up in three posts under this header. Just so you know there are three parts.

Now, don’t run away, it’s not that long!

I could have fitted it into two posts, if had cut around 300 characters. And omitted an introduction. And the flow in the story would have gone down the drain, because the split would have to be made in a really sucky place in the story, completely ruining the atmosphere. So I chose to cut it in three parts of wildly varying lengths.

Anyway, please stay the whole course with me and Grubert. I think you might like it.  :)  (At least I hope so…)

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TRUFFLES

A short story fan fiction set in Armello,
By Jens Loldrup Larsen, Horsens, Denmark, 2014

From wikipedia:
A truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean Ascomycete fungus, predominantly one of the many species of the genus Tuber. Some of the truffle species are highly prized as a food. French gourmand Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called truffles "the diamond of the kitchen".


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Truffles.

Of all Armelians, nobody likes truffles like a pig. There is no food held in higher regard for a pig. In fact, pigs are so fond of truffles, that they made a magnificent truffle the centerpiece of the clan coat-of-arms. And you don't get to become a great pig clan hero unless you are also able to regularly bring in enormous amounts of truffles, as well as save the day on occasion.

When it is time for gathering truffles, you can hardly get a sensible word out of a pig. Peasant or merchant, all are concerned with just one thing. Pigs know that the other clans ridicule them for their truffle obsession. But except for merchants and high officials for whom face and prestige are important, most pigs don't really mind. In their wisdom, they usually just consider it misunderstood truths and things that are taken for granted by even the littlest piglet. Instead they pity the poor fools who have not yet realized the excellence of the magnificent truffle.

So. Truffles.

The sun was playing hide and seek with the flowers through the heavy boughs of the summer forest canopy. The air under the trees was pleasantly cool and smelled of moss, grass, all manner of flowers, a bit of rotting leaves, wet bark, all laced with freshness after the recent rain shower. A gentle breeze was playing with the grass, the flowers and the leaves on the the trees, and then it unexpectedly found a creature to cool in the pre-noon heat. Delighted at this discovery, the breeze rushed over to the creature and started carefully to glide soothingly over the creature. The pig was slowly moving through the forest's undergrowth with it’s attention riveted to the earth.

Grubert was no exception to the average pig. He was happiest when he could spend hours sniffing for truffles in the old forest outside his village. But being the son of a farmer, time for truffle hunting was ever in short supply. But this summer afternoon found him scrounging for the priceless delicacy.

It was probably because he had forgotten something. Usually, he knew, his day would be full of chores. As a farmer - or rather the eldest son of one - he knew that the work was never truly done. Always, there was something or other that needed fixing or doing or most likely done yesterday. So him being here and not working on the farm was most likely a sign that he had forgotten what he was supposed to do. Instead, Grubert was hunting for truffles.
He had already found some. And some of those he had eaten. And then he had eaten the rest of them. He knew he should save the greater part of those he found for the rest of the family as was custom. But the truffles had helped with his headache, so he ate them.

He had a headache?

Ouch. Yes he did. There it was again. Welcome back. He wondered how long it would be staying this time. Maybe until he ate another truffle like before. Luckily for Grubert, he seemed to be on a roll, finding a new small patch of truffles every other moment or so. Yes, there was another one. Down the hatch and… blissfully the headache was down to a level he could handle again. He heaved a great sigh. Eventhough it was not exactly gone, the headache was being much more reasonable when he ate truffles regularly. He never knew truffles could cure headaches. That was actually marvellous news. He had to share it when he got back home to the farm.

Ouch… Mustn’t think about home too much. Where’s the next patch of truffles? Oh there. Good. Munch, munch, munch, swallow. Wait for it…. and… sigh in relief…

Grubert stumbled on, looking for more truffles.

While he was going from truffle patch to truffle patch, moving ever deeper into the forest and munching on a couple of the truffles from time to time (just to stave off the next attack of headache, you know) he started to notice things about his surroundings. He had never been in this part of the forest before, never been so deep into the forest, actually. And whether it was because he had never been in this part of the forest or because he had never been so deep in the forest before, he didn’t recognize about half the plants here. There were ferns and grasses and three kinds of wyldweed and oak and beech and fir. But he also happened upon flowers that he did not recognize, some pretty, some decidedly not, and bushes, two species of thistles, an ivy and a gnarled tree. The tree at least had looked familiar. Like an oak, only stunted and twisted.

He wondered briefly if the gnarled old council tree in the village had stopped burning by now.

Ouch…

Munch, munch, munch, swallow.

Grubert stopped and did something he didn’t like. He thought for a while. Normally thinking was just annoying because it was hard. But today it hurt. But not thinking all the time was also hard and he had to relax a bit. So he sat down next to a patch with a few truffles of a moderately impressive size and relaxed, allowing painful thoughts to wander as they wanted for a while.

Their first stop was apparently the fields bordering on the river Mistrun that split the village in two. The fields stretched from the river to the edge of the old forest where - so the old men and women liked to say - the Wyld Gods of old had walked before there was even a kingdom called Armello. They never said why, though, and Grubert always liked to know the why. Like the evening a couple of days ago - or was it only last evening - when he had learned that he was to be passed over as the one to inherit the farm in favour of his little brother. Nobody had wanted to tell him why. Not his father. Not his little brother. Not even his mother.
The thoughts wandered from questioning his silent family down the path to the inn in the village and opened the door. He heard everyone fall silent as they recognized him. For some reason nobody wanted to talk to him that day. But why? Was it because is left arm was wet?

Why was his left arm wet?

Ouch…

Munch, munch, munch, swallow.

There were other patrons than just people from the village. There were a couple of merchants of the rat clan and the  pig clan, and one wolf clan merchant, who looked like the others were contageous. There were also three strange dogs with pointy snouts and curled tails around a table in the back, their funny helmets placed on the table. And there was a rabbit clan fellow with ink on his nose and a squint when studying something on the table before him, while nursing a glass of not the inn's usual brew. He never got around to studying any more of the inn’s patrons, because his gaze found a pig standing by a table in a corner. This pig stood out because he was lightly armored and carried a huge mallet with a spike on the top. Recognizing him from the stories, Grubert walked over to Felton the Tenacious, a pig hero mostly known because he never gave up. Grubert had heard people from other clans say, that Felton’s great victories had been because his adversaries got sick and tired of fighting him off time and time again and so conceded - be they wolf, rabbit, badger or rat. But pigs understood and respected Felton’s spirit greatly.

Grubert had walked up to Felton and told him what had happened and asked him why his family would not tell him why. Felton had lifted an eyebrow and looked at him and then around the room for a bit. First with a curious expression most reminiscent of cornered prey, which had seemed strange to Grubert. Then with what seemed to be intent focus he had looked Grubert in the eyes and asked him to sit down and have a drink with him. Grubert had talked and Felton had listened. Grubert had only planned on talking till the cup was empty, but it never seemed to get empty. He remembered wondering about that in a detached kind of way. And the next thing he knew, he opened his eyes and it was morning, and his mouth felt dry, his tongue icky and he recognized the signs of a hangover.

Was that why his head hurt so much?

Ouch…

No, this was a different kind of pain.

Munch, munch, munch, swallow.

Ahhh… relief...

Then he became sad. He now remembered that at some point during the night, Felton had said that maybe he had been passed over simply because he would not be a good farmer. That it was important for an old farmer like his father to know that the one to inherit the farm would be the best farmer possible. It was a great responsibility taking care of a farm and a family, and maybe Gruberts talents lay in another direction. Maybe he was the best farmer’s helper that Armello would ever know.

Grubert knew he was not a clever pig. He had been the victim of choice by basically everyone in the village for all sorts of pranks. But still. He had faithfully followed his father around, helping him every day in his work. For the last couple of years, they usually did not even see his little brother until dinner, or later. Usually because he had been working with something else on the farm. In another field, another building, or running errands to the miller and talking with merchants and other farmers, not helping their father. It did not feel fair. He did not understand.

His seemingly magic cup never emptied, and Grubert had talked and talked while the other patrons left, the merchants and the rabbit going to their rooms and the three dogs with their funny helmets with their small curvy horns going out into the night. But most of the villagers came over to respectfully say good night to Felton. And Grubert had the feeling that they felt a bit embarrassed, and grateful at Felton, but the why of that he did not understand either.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2014, 08:07:12 AM by uthin »

uthin

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Re: Short story - "Truffles"
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2014, 08:02:33 AM »
Well. Grubert was almost out of truffles, so he would have to get up and find some more. A bit laboriously he got to his feet, wondering why he was so dizzy all of a sudden. That didn’t seem like him. He looked around him and soon spotted some more truffles further into the forest. He looked at them and turned around and looked in the direction he had come, spotting the other places where he had found truffles. Wyldwitches and boogerbogs, had the patches been lying that close to each other all of them? This was marvelous. He must have found the best truffle spot in the forest! No, not a spot, a trail! The Truffle Trail! If it continued on much longer, he would be able to gather as many truffles as any hero. Then he would return home, and everybody would say how clever he was. And his father would change his mind.

Ouch…!

Right. Mustn’t think about home too much. He quickly, but carefully as if he was still drunk, walked over to the next patch and quickly ate some more truffles. Hm. If this continued, there would be no truffles to bring with him home and no truffle hero fame and no father changing his mind. Instead, his father might be mad at him, which would be even worse. Like when he had come to the village to look for him this morning, since he had not been home all night. Quite a few of the other villagers were there to see and hear him being scolded. They did not want to seem to be listening, so they busied themselves with all sorts of small things were they were, so they could stay and hear it all. Grubert didn’t like that very much. But about halfway into his father’s scolding, Grubert realized that the villagers were no longer paying him and his scolding any mind. His father also noticed and turned to see what everybody was staring at.

Truffles. Must have more truffles. Hurts.

Grubert stumbled on, eating truffles as he found them to keep the pain down. His head hurt, his left arm was wet and he was dizzy and his father did not want him to inherit the farm and everybody thought he was stupid and there was a badger lying in the middle of the glade he had just entered.

Grubert stopped and looked. The truffles led straight to the badger, and then the magnificent Truffle Trail stopped. The badger was old and skinny. It was clad mostly in small bones somehow sewn together to form a covering. And there was richly black feathers folded in and among the bones. Big feathers. Like a raven’s, but bigger.
For a moment Grubert wondered if the badger was dead. It was lying very still. But then it moved an arm. Grubert was aware that he should se if the badger needed help. Cautiously he approached it, picking up truffles as he went and munching on one or two of them. The badger was a male and definitely alive. But very old. Ancient even. A kind of staff was lying by him. It seemed to be one long, thin bone with more, but normal, feathers attached.

The old badger turned his head in Grubert’s direction and Grubert stopped, staring. His eyes. The right one was milky white and Grubert briefly wondered what the world would look like through an eye such as that. The left one must be missing, because he wore a leather patch over that one. And in the middle of that patch was set a strange stone, like the one his mother would wear at festival. Only, his mother’s stone was a golden yellow and you could almost see through it. This one was either black or purple, he couldn’t decide which.

The badger’s white eye looked searchingly into the air as if looking at something Grubert could not see and then said in a voice as old as rock and as dry as crackling leather: “Have you come? Can I finally relinquish my burden?"

Grubert looked around for a burden. There was no heavy stuff lying around apart for some rocks. But it had not sounded as if the badger had meant those. Maybe he had dropped this burden somewhere and then wandered here and fallen. Grubert stepped a bit closer, headache momentarily forgotten and noted that its claws seemed young and fresh, even honed. He said:

“I’m Grubert. From the Upriver South farm. I’m a pig. Do you need help?"

A confused expression spread across the badger’s face.

“But you… A farmer…? No. You are the hero. You must be!"

The badger was acting very strange. He almost seemed afraid of something. He cast his head about as if trying to listen and see in all directions at the same time. But Grubert got the impression that the badger couldn’t see with that white eye. And with a patch instead of the left one, he would pretty much be blind. Grubert said:

“Can you get up? Do you need help getting up? I can help you get up."

The badger answered in a distracted fashion, as if he hadn’t hear him properly or as if his thoughts were elsewhere on an urgent, even desperate, matter.

“What…? No, I… don’t need your help. I need… the other one… the only one for miles… for miles..."

The badger was not making sense. Even less than his little brother sometimes did. His headache was coming back, and the last couple of truffles had not worked as well as the the others. So he ate a good handful. It helped, but not as much as he had become accostumed to. That worried him a bit. He approached the badger, stumbling a bit over something he couldn’t quite see and said:

“Here, let me help you up."

The badger’s face twisted in horror and he screamed:

“NO! Don’t touch me! Get back!!!"

Get back?

His head hurt.

Get back.

He had to get back.

His vision blurred for a moment, and he had to concentrate to see, blinking his eyes. While thus occupied, there were no one to mind his thoughts and they took off on their own again.

Two big ships with a square, striped sail and a fancy dragon’s head at the tip of the stern had been coming quickly up river. A row of round shields had been attached to both sides of the ships and the oars were quickly being pulled in as the ships were about to be run aground on the low brink by the ford. Even before the flat-bottomed ships had finally ground to a halt, the round shields had risen and jumped over the side of the ships. No, they were carried by dogs with funny helmets and curled tails, like the three in the inn the evening before.
There were a lot of the dogs with shields. And they also had axes. And some had swords. And a few had torches. All of a sudden, everyone in the village was either running or screaming or both. The strangers began breaking their way into houses and violent noises and screaming followed where they entered. A few of the men in the village tried to stop the strangers but got their skulls split by the strangers’ axes for their trouble. It was horrible!

Grubert’s father looked about him with a grim determination worthy of a great pig clan hero and picked up a hoe, his greying bristles twitching violently. He backed towards the inn, pulling Grubert with him. Grubert had been staring wide-eyed at all the violence around him in uncomprehending, fascinated horror, frozen to the spot. His father turned him around and looked intently into his eyes.

“Hurry back home, lad. Warn your mother. Tell everyone to hide. Don’t look back. Run!"

Grubert was full of questions. Why were the dogs with the funny helmets doing this? Had the village done something to them? When would his father follow? But his father gave him a strong push to send him on his way. Still not comprehending what was going on, Grubert began running.

A powerful squeal made him turn around. Felton the Tenacious came thundering out the door from the inn, brandishing his mallet, and barged into the nearest marauder from the ships. The marauder was bowled over completely and Felton promptly stepped on its throat with all his weight centered on the two toes of one foot. There was a wet, snapping sound and the dog lay still. Felton then engaged the next dog with his mallet, breaking its shield with one blow and its skull with the next. The other marauders were now aware that Felton had joined the battle and circled him warily, the rest of the village largely forgotten.

It was a curious dance. The marauders would close with Felton from behind, and he would swing about, but his mallet would never hit hard enough to hurt the marauders. And when he tried to attack one outright, they would retreat while their comrades would move in and Felton would be forced to swing around once more.

Eventually he tired. Then one of the marauders hit him with a sword. Nothing serious, just a scratch. Nothing a bandage with Grubert’s mother’s herb poultice and a few days couldn't fix. But then he got another scratch. And another. And another.
Bit by bit Felton was being bled.

The villagers saw what was happening. A few tried to intervene, to help their hero, but there were simply too many of the vicious marauders.

Dizzy. The trees above Grubert were spinning. He tried to concentrate on making the confusing world stay still so he could take his time and make sense of it all. But it was very difficult. He did not know what he should do. And the forest was in the village. Or was it the other way around?

Grubert’s head hurt. Felton bled. The badger said in a failing voice as from far off: “Not you... It cannot be you…” His father jumped down the inn’s porch and almost skewered a marauder but only managed to give him a gash in his side. Grubert’s left arm was wet. And it also hurt. Taste of truffles. His father got an axe in his leg and fell to the ground, squealing in pain. The badger said: “You are not…” The next blow from the marauder’s axe hit Grubert’s father in the stomach. Felton managed to crush a marauder’s ribcage with his mallet while they were distracted. A green light appeared from the depths of the badger’s white eye and a purple-black glow began pulsing in the stone on the badger’s patch over his right eye. “…not… strong… enough…" Grubert screamed for his father and ran to him. Something struck his left arm. It hurt, but he kept running until he stood over his father. The badger’s wheezing breaths came in short bursts. “You... are not… wise… enough…” Exhausted as he was, Felton failed to avoid a rope pulled towards him from his back and he lost his balance. Immediately, the marauders moved in, striking, stabbing, growling, hating. Felton went down and numberless axeblows rained down on him. Grubert stood looking down at his father, who was breathing laboriously. The badger looked up at Grubert who stood crying over him. “You... are not… good… enough…” Grubert’s left arm hurt. He was dizzy. The wetness running down his left arm could not be fixed by truffles. He was crying. The truffles could not fix his father either. Or the village.

A look of horror and panic washed over the badger’s face as Grubert fell to his knees before him and picked him up and held him to his chest.

Go back.

Something hit Grubert’s head and he fell forward over his father, and the world mattered no more.

----

uthin

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Re: Short story - "Truffles"
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2014, 08:03:13 AM »
----

Grubert was tired in a curious way. On the one hand, he did not feel like moving because he was plainly exhausted. On the other hand, there was an energy inside and around him full of life, beckoning to him. He opened his eyes and found himself in the glade with the badger. The badger was dead. Its white eye was still staring into nothingness but now it was another kind of nothingness. And his eyepatch with the strange stone was missing. Grubert sat up and looked around on the ground. The patch had not just broken or slipped off and fallen to the ground.

Carefully, he got to his feet and looked around. The truffles were gone. And so was his headeache, it seemed. He noticed that the glade was ringed by a circle of huge trees. Proud oak and fir and beech and willow and birch and maple and yew and ash. Looking between the huge trees, the forest seemed more shadowy than he remembered. Between two trees in particular the shadows lay heavy. He felt drawn to those shadows and cautiously walked closer. As he approached the shadows, they began to take on shape. It was not the forest in there. It was a cave. He peered in, and was surprised to be able to make out most details in the darkness. He scratched his head at this and then stopped when he felt something tied around his head, some kind of string. Curious, he took it off. And with it went the eyesight of his left eye. He looked down in his hand with his right eye and saw the badger’s eyepatch with the strange purple-black stone.

Confused, he sat down, looking at the eyepatch and then back up at the cave. To his right eye, the shadows in the cave seemed as dark as he would expect, but when he lifted the eyepatch to his left eye, the shadows no longer were a bar to his vision. He put it on again. This was very strange.
Whether it was the pull he felt that made him do it or whether it was out of curiosity, he walked between the trees and entered the cave.

The air was warm inside, and dry. There were no sounds except from his footfalls and his breathing. After a bit he stopped and turned around. He could no longer see the light from outside, he was alone in the darkness.
Except… he wasn’t. There were voices. Telling him which way to go. Most of them sounded like kind old men. Some like grumpy old men. And one, the strongest, was a craving. That one scared Grubert. It felt like it wanted him specifically, to enter the cave. And the craving seemed laced with malice and cruelty. He tried to focus on following the instructions of the other voices and that helped a bit.

The voices told him which way to go when the corridor branched and where not to tread or make a misstep which would have released an avalanche of stones or a huge block of stone would come crashing down. He proceeded deeper into the cave this way, ever downward.

Eventually, he came to a big cavern. The walls here had been carved with many strange symbols. Curiously, some of them he recognized from the dice everyone in the villages was using to play with. Only the Worm symbol was missing. And most of the symbols he had never seen before. Some of them filled him with hope, others with strength, and some seemed to take away his weariness, just by looking at them.

The cavern was many steps wide. The ceiling was lost in darkness, even to the wonder of the eyepatch. A ring of holy stones like those in the stories and like those his father had told him about from his journey to the king’s palace long ago stood in the middle of the cave. The stones were also carven with many symbols. They seemed to glow with a faint but gentle green light, although flickering. The glow was the same color as the glow inside him that he had noticed when he awoke in the glade. Grubert approached the stones. They were arranged in eight doorways, just like in the stories. The stones seemed to beckon him. He obeyed their call and entered the circle.

The voices in his mind went quiet as if holding their breath, except the mean one which seemed to fairly pant in anticipation. It was as if the voices was waiting for something. He did not understand what.
The stone circle was empty except for a big stone table. On the table lay a big shape covered in a thick layer of dust. Grubert went closer. Then the mean voice fell silent too.

Grubert did not understand a thing. What was this place?

Around the shape were placed eight stones about the size of good mug of ale. Every one of them had the symbol of the Wyld tree carved into them. The symbol and stone was glowing with the same green light as the other symbols, pulsing as if to a heartbeat. But also flickering as a candle in too strong a draft, about to go out. Two of them already seemed to have gone dark.

He carefully blew on on the shape on the table. A thick cloud of dust rose into the air. Where the dust had been, big feathers as black as darkest nightmare appeared. Grubert then went to the shape’s head and blew on the dust that covered it. The dust seemed to flee the shape, and the dessicated head of a big raven-like bird was revealed, although no raven had ever had a beak with its edges toothed like a saw. And though obviously long dead, its right eye remained, as a smooth, purple-black stone.

It was an ugly thing. Wrongness, death, the smell of rotting plants and corpses, coldness of heart, slow death of mind and soul and madness somehow seemed to flow from the ugly bird. Along with a terrible promise. Of strength. Of power. In reply, Grubert felt green light flow from the six stones that still had a glow of their own, and he heard the voices of the kind old men and the grumpy old men begin chanting words that he couldn’t hear properly and did not know the meaning of. He tried to move away from the table, but found that his feet had taken root right there. The sound of the voices rose and their words felt like a crushing grip. The promise of the wrongness intensified and he saw gold, thrones, worshippers, countless slaves and armies all doing his bidding, the images pressing in on his thoughts with ever more strength.

Grubert started to whimper. He did not understand. His head and heart were exhausted, having suffered far more than a simple pig was ever expected to suffer and still be whole and sane. The voices of the green light and the promises of the wrongness pressed and pressed against each other and at him.

The only thing he understood was that he was caught. Between the power of the green light from the stones and the power of the dead bird on the table. And it hurt. He hurt. He thought of his family. His brother. His mother. His father. Could they not please come and help him? The pressure intensified and it became difficult to think, to remember. His family was disappearing from his mind as the pressure grew. His family, the only ones who had ever helped him, ever really cared. Almost gone from his mind.

The stones and the bird were hurting him and making his family disappear. With a desperate squeal of fear and outrage, Grubert picked up a stone in each hand and brought them crashing down on the head of the bird.

There was a silent boom as the bird’s head was crushed and the stones burst in a thousand slivers, lacerating his hands and arms.

For a second, Grubert was free. But so was something else. And it dove into him with a maniacal laughter of joy and pure malice. It was quickly followed by streams of green light from the remaining four stones that emptied themselves into him, leaving the stones as devoid of light as the two Grubert had noticed earlier.

Grubert was crowded. The voices of four men were chanting in his mind while a bird was screaming at them in triumph, at him in glee, and at everything else in pure hatred.

This was too much. This was even worse that before. The voices and the bird talked and yelled and whispered and cajoled and pleaded and tempted and reassured. And finally Grubert fled from himself, leaving Grubert to fend for himself.

His family was not going to come to his help. His father was dead. Maybe his mother and little brother too, if the marauders had gone to his home too.
You should go see if there are people in the village that need your help.
You should go avenge them.
They are your friends. Think of what your father would have done.
They killed your friends. The killed your father!
Hurry, they might be seriously wounded!
Hurry, they might get away!
We can help you.
I can help you.

It was a dream. It had to be. But he felt a need to act. It was demanded not only by the voices, but also by what was left of his memories of the past day. Grubert felt an enormous amount of power course through his body, making the bristles all over his body stand on end, begging to be used. Cautiously, he tried reaching out with this power. A gust of wind rose out of nowhere, and all the dust was blown from the black bird on the table, revealing it in all its hideousness.

"Get to the village in a hurry. I can do that," he thought, and thinking was easy for the first time in his life. He thought and added a bit of will from the bird and he was a enormous black bird, death and decay streaming from his mouth and steaming from his eyes, while the old men were screaming something to him. He didn’t try to understand them. He just spread his wings and shot out of the cave and into the evening sky, a black cloud of corruption in his wake.

When he approached the village, he spied the two ships still on the shore. Many buildings had been burnt down. But not the inn. He revelled in the smell of burnt wood and charred flesh and spilt blood all the while voices inside him - including his own - were screaming in horror in anticipation of what would come.

The bird landed close to where Felton had been hacked to a pulp. Grubert thought again and added a bit of will from the old men and he was standing there as himself once more. No, not himself. Not really. He looked at his father’s dead body and felt sorrow and anger fill him. And something fed on that sorrow and that anger and in turn fed rage back to him. He picked up Felton’s big mallet with the spike on the top. It was light enough that he only needed one hand. Then he entered the inn.

It was a ruin. Maybe two tables were still usable. The rest had been smashed to kindling. The innkeep and his family had been tossed aside after use and lay in a heap against one wall together with what seemed most of the inn’s patrons, the merchants and the rabbit. So much blood. It was glorious! And there would be more. For there they were, the marauders. Most were drunk as a skunk, but a few had kept their heads about them and gone easy on the inn’s ale. It mattered not. The drunk ones were playthings to strike down, to crush, to pulp as Felton had been pulped, but in the end not really satisfactory. The ones that were awake was a lot more satisfying. Especially since they understood what was coming. Or they did after he had killed the first three of them. With ease. Laughable ease. This was glorious. They ran, they screamed, they pleaded, they called upon their foreign gods, but their gods would not listen. Or they were hiding. From him. He was the only God there, and he was an angry god, a vengeful god. And they had done him wrong.
This was his village, his people. Who lived and who died was for him to decide! Not some mangy mutt from a far off place. So they had to learn. And how they learned.

But no matter how many he killed, he could not stop the shouting inside him. He was laughing and enjoying himself for the first time in three thousand years. He was free at last! And all of creation would pay. So why would the shouting inside him not just let it go and shut up?

The village was a complete ruin after his rampage. The two ships were also destroyed and every living thing had died. His work here done, his eyes turned to the countryside. There were farms out there that would likely also provide sport. Maybe not quality sport, but enough to tide him over till he reached more capable resistance. One farm in particular came to mind though he had no idea why. The Upriver South farm. That would be next. Oh, and he also needed to spread his dark wings over and throughout the entire realm. There was much work to be done. But first that farm.

He landed in the center of the Upriver South farm and returned to pig shape, though there was actually no reason to do so. Come to think of it, why had he changed to pig form. That form was irrelevant.

The main house and the barn had been burnt down. Farm hands lay dead, scattered here and there. He had the funny feeling that he knew them.

There were some voices inside him yelling and chanting, and he recognized them as the ones that had kept him imprisoned for so long. Rage rose up in him at the thought of his millenia-long imprisonment. and he wanted to kill someone, anyone, just for the refreshment it brought. He looked around and found that he was in luck. There was one living creature here for him to deliciously kill.

He walked slowly over, wanting to savor this. Disappointingly, it seemed the creature was not going to put up a fight. It was a young male pig sitting down and cradling the head of an older, female pig in his lap. She had been run through with a sword or something similar. The young, male pig was crying. It looked up and said, while holding back its sobbing:

“Grupert! I couldn’t save her. I was out fixing the far fence. I didn’t notice anything until the smoke was rising into the sky. I hurried home but was too late. I was too late. And I can’t find dad. She’s dead, Grupert. Dead!"

This was wrong! Every sentence dug into the bird inside Grupert, tunnelling into his heart. No! Kill him! He must die! Grupert felt dizzy for a second. Why had he come? Why was he standing there with blood and gore splashed over him? Why was he not out in the field, working like his brother had been? Had he forgotten something? No, you haven’t. Just kill him! Kill him now! He is alive! Kill him! This was his brother. And the woman was… his mother!

Old Gods! She was his mother!

Amidst the powerful grief, Grubert felt soothing green light spread through him, pushing back something dark and nasty and that was screaming in rage. He felt soiled. Violated. He couldn’t get rid of the feeling. But the green light helped keeping the feeling down, allowing him to concentrate on his grief.

His mother was dead. Of all the horrible things that had happened this day, coming home was the worst. He could feel the black bird inside him. He could feel it strain against bonds imposed upon it by the old kind men and the old grumpy men. They were tired. So was he. Miserably, he let himself drop down and sit in front of his brother and dead mother. He started crying again but the tears lasted only a short while. He felt numb. Too much had happened. He just sat there.
Then he noticed that as he became calmer, he was better able to understand maybe not the words of the old men, but the intent of them. His thoughts wandered loose for the third time that day, and he let them. The thoughts approached the green lights and asked if they needed help. He sensed surprise from them. And a tentative agreement. So he helped. He added his feeble strength to theirs and they discovered that with Grupert’s help, they were able to confine the black bird in a small prison inside Grupert.

He had not realized that he had closed his eyes before opening them again and looking at his brother across his mother’s dead body. His brother was still crying quietly, while soothingly stroking their mother’s bristles. Grupert looked about at the remains of the farm. He could feel the black bird strain against its new-found prison cell, enjoying the view, looking for weak spots in its cage. It was very good at it. He could tell that the kind old men and the grumpy old men would soon need his help again.

He sat there and thought about it for a while. He had a decision to make. And there was noone he could ask for help in making this decision.
On the one hand, his brother would need his help in getting the farm back in shape. He had noone else to help him. And Grubert knew about being a farmer’s helper, that’s for sure. He had trained for this all his life, he realized, being his father’s helper.
On the other hand, what if he couldn’t get the old men and the black bird out of him again? He had no idea how to do that. And if they were to stay inside him, the old men would need his help too. Also, he could not afford to get angry anymore. He had seen and felt what would happen if he got angry again. What if he could not return to himself the next time that happened? That was a scary thought, and his bristles rose all over him and shook at the thought.
No, there was no choice. Not really. He said to his brother:

“I am going away. I am not going to come back. There is something bad inside me that I do not understand. But it is bad. Real bad. And I cannot risk letting it out. I’m sorry."

His brother looked at him from a dirt and tear-streaked face.

“What are you talking about?"

Grupert got to his feet and looked down at his brother with the saddest face a pig had ever held.

“Father is dead too. He is lying in front of the inn. I think he would like to lie beside mother, don’t you think?"

And then he turned and walked away. He had not taken many steps when his brother called after him, still puzzled:

“What…? Are you going to fetch father?"

Without turning around, Grubert replied:

“No. I dare not. Goodbye, little brother."

With the aid of the green light inside him, he made it back to the cave. He had gathered a whole armfull of soft, green leaves which he placed on the floor next to the stone table with the gruesome arrangement, so that he cold sit comfortably and lean against the table. He sat down with a tired sigh. He felt he still had some time before he would have to help the old men strengthen the cage inside him. They told him he could go to sleep if he wanted. They would wake him, if and when they needed him. He thanked them and closed his eyes. There had been a tone of respect when the old men talked with him. This should have been a surprise to Grubert and would certainly have been so to his father and all the dead people in the village, but right now he didn’t have the energy to care. So he just sat there with his eyes closed. He borrowed a tiny strand of green light and sent it through his mind where his nose and ears would be before sending it back again, and suddenly he could hear the gentle rustle of tree leaves above him, and he could smell warm, forest air of a summer afternoon.

He sighed, prepared to go to sleep, determined to dream about truffles.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2014, 09:29:48 AM by uthin »

uthin

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Re: Short story - "Truffles"
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2014, 08:10:54 AM »
That was all of it (phew!) If you stayed with Grubert till the end, you have my thanks.  :)

If you have any comments that you'd like to share, please do. :)

/Uthin