The latest from my online epic, Lore of the Underlings.
Chapter 2 continues:
At last Morio’s knee buckled under the heartless barrage and he seemed almost certain to succumb, bough-beaten and buried by the unforgiving fall. A moment more and it would all be over. The battle lost. The man gone.
But just then the rains abruptly stopped and the winds turned a new direction, gusting strong and warm from the south. Morio filled his lungs with a new breath, a puff of life, and a wonder befell him — a small wonder well aimed, as if by an unseen hand. From high atop the Liar’s Tree, a heavy seedcone tumbled down, down at a dead drop like a hard truth cast from heaven. The cone had the shape of a wildeboar’s heart, with four full pods and every edge tipped in an irony fang, so it met no match in the snaky vine that tethered Morio to his hell-bound berth. It cut the cord and the man ran for his life given again.
The folk were confounded.
“It can’t be. How?”
“Who cares how? You owe me. Now, pay up, pay up, the lot of you!”
“Not so fast, Lunxy. Look where he goes.”
“Back to the Black and Blue?!”
Out from under the ironwood’s reach, Morio stopped and shed his mortally wounded ruckskin. “Pity,” he blurted, out of breath, “A fine old friend.” He made to tuck his tattered shirt but suddenly stiffened, looking legward with a boyish blush. “Whoopsie! Well, there we go. Hooo…” After a moment, he shook one leg and then the other, his face flush but serene. “Some business just won’t wait!” he proclaimed, pouring forth with a frothy laugh.
Three of the onfoot outer Guard moved in to surround him and pressed their pikes to his back and sides. “Go now!” ordered one.
“Sir,” said Morio, “It is so kind of you, but… ‘Mission accomplished,’ I am relieved to say!”
The Guard put a boot to Morio’s spine and shoved him hard, launching a march toward the thicket of troops, a prod for every step.
“Who knew that a pant could be so absorbent,” marveled the prisoner as they pushed ahead, “And then treat the nose to a scent of mersy petals to boot?!”
The Guard, less appreciative of Morio’s pants, gave him a whack in the back of them.
A column of pikesmen lined the last of their course. As Morio passed, they thrust weapons aloft and chanted low the verses of a wordless dirge, ominous and old. Ahead at the heart of the hold they marked, a glow of soft gold awaited, cast by a bale of spun oil just now laid down and lit.
Here, Morio’s keeper sent him sprawling, headlong into the haloed ground, with one final blow from behind. “Down, clown prince.” The hammering nailed him, whiplashed and cross-eyed, while from his hair fell a pound of the ironwood’s precious nettles. Oddly, those had done no harm, for the deep heap of curls he wore atop had made a cushion to catch them in style and spare his skull a certain riddling. But he was on his knees now, blinking back a haze, adaze and confused.
More to come. To read this chapter from the start, click here.