One-Minute Epics are new micro tales from John Klobucher’s Lore of the Underlings, a lyrical fantasy-fiction world. Here’s the latest installment…
Oatus Troot stood on the edge of his field of marshmellons, wielding a hacking blade. The old farmer picked out the best looking fruit, a pearl-white orb the size of a cabbage, and split it in two with one quick whack. What he saw turned his rosy face pale with disappointment; he cursed the shadowed sky. “Look what you’ve done to my crop, you demon!” The specter that first appeared over Nord four years ago loomed as large as ever, eclipsing the sun from dawn to dusk and his sister moon as her brother slept.
The melon was black and sticky inside, like tar, with a putrid stench of death. It made Oatus sick to his stomach. He reared back and hurled it into the plumpkin patch.
“You too?” called a familiar voice. It was Oatus’ neighbor and friend Zedd Lardborn who owned the orchard of poms next door. “The rot got half me harvest this season,” he hissed, “damn Legion took the rest. How’s a man ta stay in business, Oatus brother? They done bled us dry…” By now Zedd had climbed up the hillock he shared with Oatus, which overlooked East Nord Road. Huffing to catch his breath he continued, “Five bits a barrel’s all they paid fer pom ale — then took six bits tax.”
Oatus laughed bitterly. “That,” he spat, “is a might better deal than what I got. But you know the Governor’s Guard, they drive a hard bargain.”
Zedd croaked, “Speak o’ the devil…”
The two farmers watched as a column of troops approached from out of the distant haze, heading west on the dusty road toward Groon where a huge new garrison had been built. They were heavily armed and armored with bronze shields and battle pikes, flying blood-red flags. And they moved as if they rode the wind, marching double time to some urgent mission.
“Pity the poor blokes they’re after,” Oatus joked.
The column came to a halt. It turned crisply toward the orchard, waiting for orders. Oatus gulped. “Uh-oh,” said Zedd.
In no time the pair found themselves surrounded with dozens of pike points trained at them. “Hold on — there’s been some mistake,” piped Oatus, hiding his knife. “We’ve already given.”
“Silence!” barked the captain. “There are no mistakes. Lord Governor claims these lands.” And he waved his hand across the horizon from Mount Theeve to the Angel Spires.
The farmers could hardly believe their ears. “Claims what lands?” Zedd questioned. “Me kinsmen have toiled here fer ten hundred years.” Oatus gripped his hacking blade, “Mine too — our blood is in this soil; this hillock’s built upon our bones. You’ll take it over my dead body.”
The captain raised his pike. “So be it.”