Lore of the day #10: The executioner’s song

The latest from my online epic, Lore of the Underlings.
Chapter 2 continues:

They seemed as one, this animal and man, with eyes that flashed unworldly through the dark night’s rainy veil. The bull let out a loud snort and pounded the puddling ground with its wide front hoof.  The Guard mashed his battle pike three times into the gauntlet he wore on his right. Then he dexterously turned it in air to rest across his heavy breastplate, which was adorned by an artisan’s skill in a pattern of yellow leaves upon a thorned vine. The same markings covered the intricately carved shaft of the pike.

He called out from behind the visor of his helmet, which allowed no window to the wearer but a long, thin eye slot. The sound was nearly song, strong but highish pitched:

Till the grave
Plow this row
Reap their souls
Sovereign, ho!

The bull began to lumber forward. But then…

“Hi-ho sirs! Hello!”

Stranger three, the fattier folkish one, suddenly stood betwixt the taller two. His arms were open wide and he gave a cheery smile.

“May I call you ‘sirs’?”

Fyryx looked back over his shoulder. Sovereign the bull set his sights.

“Permit me please, very quickly, to introduce myself. Morio Yoop at your service.” Morio made the briefest bow, keeping one eye bullward. The other he shifted to send John Cap a secret wink.

John Cap squinted at him with a question on his face. “What?”

But Morio was already in motion. He slipped a step back, saying something like, “Tuck and run,” to the tall young woman. She tipped her head, puzzled, and pursed her lips at the words. Meanwhile, his foot found the fleshy mass of friends lying low amongst the tufts and he kicked it hard with his heel. “Tusk and run, Ogdog,” he whispered. “On my mark!”

Beneath the shielding skin, something seemed to wake — with a soft cry and a twain of muffled voices.

And the bull was upon them. Morio bounded out to meet it with a leap like a hoppalope, then thrust his hands high in the air. The chevox was nimble enough to stop on the spot, so near that its nostrils flared in the stranger’s face and sprayed him in a warm mist of sour mucus.

Morio turned his head to breathe. “You can see, noble sirs, that I bear only arms.”

The rider leaned over the neck of his mount.

“But for even further fellowship, I hope you will accept my full and unconditional submission to your will!”

The black Guard raised his pike to strike the stranger down.

A score of strides away, the vell shoved Pyr Hurx in the back with its long, boney nose. It seemed to give the boy the pluck to speak. “Hold there, honored Guard! Forgive me, Uncle…”

Syar-ull swung. Morio ducked, but the weighty stick still struck his shoulder with a glancing blow, barely so, but enough to fell him aground. “Mmmph.”

Fyryx fired a livid look. “Mind your place, boy!”

“But Uncle…”

“The Guard do not take orders from children. Nor do I.”

“But Uncle…”

“Silence! Go. Tend to your animal.”

Morio gazed up from the soft sodden grass where he lay, having fallen flat upon his back. The dark pikesman loured over him, unmoved by the cherubic look on his friendling face. He gripped his weapon spearwise and spiked Morio through the right of his ruckscoat, just aside his wide belly, to pin him to the spongy sod.

Morio made to wriggle or roll but could not move. “Kudos, good warlord! Your mastery of the rod is real… Owww… I am awed.” He reached to rub his arm. “Your hand will come in handy.”

John Cap peered through the darksome drops at the flailing of his friend. He twitched as if about to act, but the tall young woman shook her head.

Morio gave a hard lurch left and heard his ruckscoat rip. “But pleasantries aside,” he said, “I wonder whether you’ve had the chance to chat with your colleagues or associates about a matter I mentioned earlier tonight. Sound familiar? The notion of negotiating a short truce or treaty to attend to some ever-more-pressing private business? Does it ring a bell?”

More to come. To read this chapter from the start, click here.

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