One-Minute Epics: “Of Ogs and Oggers”

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…


Of Ogs and Oggers

Jurykynd Ogger was barely awake when he stumbled outside for the morning chores. He crossed the snowy courtyard barefoot and shirtless, buck naked but for his britches, and seemingly unaware of the calendar or the frigid winter air. Six moons had passed since his love, Lam Lan, was lost and Jury still wasn’t himself.

His father, Jurgo, was waiting for him in the og barn, where he’d been working since dawn. It was warm there and dry and bathed in a lamplight that turned the sweet-smelling straw to gold. “Yer late again,” groaned the bronze-skinned man. “Them ogs, they ain’t gonna slop themselves, son.”

“Sorry Da,” said the young man meekly. He reached for an old oaken bucket of swill.

“Leave that,” his kind-eyed father commanded. “It’s time I showed ya something, lad.” Then he tossed his son a soft, worn blanket and led him to the nursing pens.

Soon they were standing in front of an open stall full of hay bales and dozens of frisky young ogs, flat creatures shaped like a sea ray but eyeless and tailless and made of flesh. A few of them flew around the room and flocked to the two men when they sensed them. Jury petted one flapping at his side. His father smiled and said, “These beasts us Oggers breed and train — haven’t ya wondered why they’re so dern strange? Like how they can change their look like magic? I’ll let ya in on a secret…”

Jurgo motioned past the pen to a square slab set in the earthen floor. He used a shovel to flip it over. Jury was awed by what he saw.

It was a tablet, the olden kind, a tale in stone from another time and place about a race of men who lived when wizards ruled the land. After the Witch Wars, they were enslaved by the nineteen nether lords and enchanted — half turned into handy changelings, the rest made keepers of those creatures. “Ogs and Oggers”, the black runes read.

Jury reached the panel’s end as his mind raced with a thousand questions. “Ogs and us are kinda kin?” He sat down to think on a bench by the pen, an old birch log, which had been there forever.

“Son,” said Jurgo, “there’s one more thing… Ogdog! Come on out o’ hiding.”

The log rolled out from under Jury and turned to a folded up old og.

“Oggie was my boyhood pet. Our fathers’ too fer generations; that’s why he needed a little rest,” laughed Jurgo. “Now he belongs to you.” The og unfurled and flapped like a pup, happy to be himself again. Then he nuzzled Jury’s leg and purred like there was no tomorrow.

“Belongs to me, Da? Are you sure?” chirped Jury excitedly. “Got to show Yooper…”

“You boys go and find yer friend, but take care — ogs have a taste fer adventure!”

One-Minute Epics: “The Wide Eyed”

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…


The Wide Eyed

As soon as Nard Hardseed heard word of the Pendant, the ominous object that clouded the skies over Nord, the far first province of Merth, the leathery westman abandoned his sad patch of sand and his troubles and set out to see it. Without so much as a beggar’s sack, he walked east for sun after sun, moon to moon, alone with his thoughts but not for long; for he was soon joined on the hot, dusty road by others — rich and poor, ill and well, evil and kind, but like him all seeking something. By the time they could see it, looming in dawn’s early light, they were legion. “My God,” Nard cried.

The pilgrims were awed by the sprawling encampment they found there, in the specter’s shadow, a makeshift city of mud huts and sewer pits some had dubbed the Underland. Though rank and chaotic, it was a neighborly place nonetheless where folk shared their stories, their childlike excitement, and smoked meats while waiting for something to happen. But then, as the days passed, divisions set in. Wonder crystallized into religion.

“This wraith is the prophesized bird-god of Droog, here to hatch her deviled eggs.”

“Blasphemy! Spare us your scrambled myths. That’s just Hooneth, a minor nymph.”

“You’re both cracked. It’s the Blood Moon’s son. And it’s growing — it’s going to eat Creation…”

That scrum was where the cults came from. A chorus of “prophets” rose out of the din and most flocked to one or another of them for answers; the questions were all but forgotten. Nard Hardseed for one had joined the Wide Eyed, a small but particularly zealous sect that worshipped the taken girl, Lam Lan, as saint and prayed to be raptured too (although to where they weren’t so sure). A rival cult, the Heard, called Lam a sinner, so violence and bloodshed ensued.

In the end the Wide Eyed silenced the Heard and their herald, cutting out his tongue. But Brother Nard had been killed in the battle, his order’s first martyr, impaled on a pike. Their seer, blinded in the fight, directed the Wide Eyed to fell the tallest pyne and raise it to the sky. Then they hoisted Nard’s lifeless corpse to the top. “An offering, Lord,” the prophet announced.

Vultures circled. The Pendant watched.

One-Minute Epics: “The Yooper”

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…


The Yooper

It was a feast day throughout the land and Morio Yoop’s mother, a typical Nordswoman not to be crossed, had sent her son out on a mushrooming mission. “Murklees… and lumpums too, at least a pouchful,” she squawked from the kitchen window. “Or there won’t be any woodly stew!” Morio knew that wasn’t an option.

But he was a cheerful, agreeable lad — a mop-topped, porkly seventeener — and didn’t really mind the assignment. Not this morning anyway. Everyone seemed to be away, his best mate Jury Ogger included, and Morio needed something to do. So he whistled his way down Olde Wood Road and was deep in the cool, dark forest in no time.

“Hello again, friends!” he sang out loud to the trees, a great stand of ancient gray swillows, “I hope you’ve got something yummy for me.” He pulled out a small, worn sack from his pocket and took a big sniff of the musky air. “Tootstools?! Mother will be pleased.” Then he fell to his hands and knees and crawled.

Morio trolled the treasure trove before him, his tan eyes on prize after prize. He filled up his bag full of fresh, fragrant fungi until it was bursting. “There’s room for one more…”

But his reach reaped something unexpected this time — nothing. A fistful of air.

Morio looked up and into the void where the forest had been, and the farm field beyond. Only a hellish hole remained, a wide crater greater than Larnlark Lake. It was as if the hand of a giant had scooped up the land and everything on it. “What in the world could do this?” he stood and wondered. He found it overhead.

High in the blue sky a black apparition eclipsed, for a moment, the mourning sun. “Who are you?” muttered Morio, shielding his eyes from the glare. He heard a distant voice. It sounded familiar and came from the wounded ground. He leapt down into the crater.

Morio tumbled and stumbled his way to the hole’s dead center, the source of the voice, and discovered a tiny plateau capped with soft green grass and white flowers that looked like an altar. It took all he had to scale its tall, steep side but he pulled himself over the top.

“Jury?”

Morio found his lost friend on a round bed of petals in fetal position, writhing and rolling his red eyes back. “She’s gone, my love,” moaned the lanky young man. “Lam’s gone. That monster… the dark angel took her.” Then he suddenly recognized Morio’s pudgy face. “No, Yooper — you shouldn’t have come here… Go. Run before it gets hungry again.”

Morio comforted Jury, “Don’t worry, chum,” and slung him over his shoulder. “We’re going home. It will all be alright.”

Jury slumped into unconsciousness pleading, “Save yourself… leave me… I want to be with her…”

“We’ll save us all, Lam too,” vowed the Yooper, “if it’s the last thing we ever do.”

One-Minute Epics: “Lam and Jury”

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…


Lam and Jury

Long ago, on the warm clear morn of old Nord’s Midsummer’s Day, two teenage lovers, Lam and Jury, lay together in a field of white lillylorn gazing up at the eye-blue sky. Lam was a doll-like beautiful girl with silken black hair, sweet smile, and bright eyes. Jury, a tall lanky boy, adored her and had sworn so in blood at the shrine of Nor Dool at last moon, the moment he’d come of age. The resident seer, a prune of a man, foresaw for the nominal fee of five farns their destiny — joined forever in lore, entwined in a love story worthy of song.

Now the young man squeezed her hand. “Lam, come run away with me tonight and we can be married tomorrow.”

“Don’t be silly, my heart,” she giggled. “Father would cross the Desert Sea to find us. We’ll hide better here.”

But no sooner had the words left her lips than a strange sight appeared in the azure above them. An object from out of the blue. A darkness. It hung in the air as a pendant hangs from a necklace, motionless, but like it was watching.

Jury and Lam were all but dumbstruck, transfixed as if they were pinned to the ground. But all around them everything levitated like magic, drawn up to the sky — petals of lillylorn pure as snow, green leaves of grass, thick sticks, even stones. Beasts too, creatures great and small, were called to the black mass.

And then Lam followed.

Her limp body rose like a marionette while Jury, still frozen alive, watched in horror. He saw her float up up up to the specter unable to help her or even call out her name. She vanished in deafening silence.

Jury awoke in a crater alone, except for the shadow eyeing him. Nothing would be the same again.

But that’s a tale for another time.