One-Minute Epics: “Edict of Thoom”

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…


Edict of Thoom

The High Priests of Merth had heard enough. Word of the unrest and strange goings on in Nord did not sit well with them, so they called for an unheard of Council of Lords to convene on the eve of the new year’s moon in Thoom, their stronghold and holy city crowned by the Temple of Rain and Sun. Prelates flocked from across the land and locked themselves away for days of debate, some of it so contentious that points were made with blades and fists.

But the fur really flew when the priest of the west accused the eastern lord of concocting it all, the tales of things in the sky, of flying girls, martyrs, and thousands possessed. “I know you, Hennok. This smells like one of your tricks, a menace you’ve conjured up over Nord and its weak-minded, inbred folk. It’s no doubt merely a ruse to raise an army and resurrect the throne.”

“I wish I’d thought of that,” Hennok laughed. “I’d order you skinned alive as my first royal act…” Then he gagged on his mug of wine and choked to death, poisoned with half of his faction.

The west lord was strangled that night as she slept.

The blood was still wet on the chamber floor when the council resumed deliberations. “Brothers! Sisters! We must stop these squabbles now,” cried the priest of birds and beasts. “The crisis grows with every sunrise — the crows have told me so. I believe them.”

There was a dangerous silence before the wisest, the Sooth of the South, spoke up. “Be that as it may, what matters is… we must act before the Senate does.”

All agreed and they issued the Edict of Thoom. It was written in crimson, posted, and read…

 

“Hear ye, folk of the Underland!” yelled the herald, unrolling a lambskin scroll. “Harken — this is official business.” A hush fell over the wide-eyed crowd.

“The Lordly have spoken from holy Thoom and offer this gift of four Commandments; heed them or not, on pain of death:”

– Firstly, don’t gaze at the sky again.
– No flying or dying without permission.
– Speech is allowed, but not aloud.
– Everything else is strictly forbidden.

The messenger tucked away the scroll to leave, “Good luck with that, Underlings. You’ll need it — the High Priests have sent their knight.” And he laughed as he lumbered out of sight.

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Photo by John K ~ Lore of the waters

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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.”