One-Minute Epics: “The Ogmont”

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 Ogmont

Ogdog hadn’t been home in a hundred years, but something was calling him now. It was on the air, in his skin, a weight to the raindrops falling black as oil, a howling in the lightest wind. His kind, the ogs, had instincts for times like these, and those old as he was the more so. So Ogdog had no choice when destiny beckoned. He took to the slate gray sky.

Far, far north of fair Nord province he flew, up into the wastelands of Merth, a wilderness vast as the ocean sea yet much too deadly for men to cross. The permafrost turned to icescape, the icescape to peaks of twisted rock that clawed at the stars. None of those spires were named, except for the one Ogdog sought — the Ogmont. No wonder, for it could be seen from a thousand leagues. He circled its craggy summit.

The mountain was covered in flat fleshy creatures, his brothers and sisters, and more kept coming. They clustered together, forming a thick black mass; it flapped to an unheard music. Ogdog landed and joined in the silent ogsong. He felt young again.

By moonrise every og alive was one with the mountainside and their changeling kin. “Cousins,” they sang to each other, “the sky is falling. We must decide.” Then they murmured all night long till the muted dawn brought purrs and peeps of agreement. It meant that the clan had chosen — to hide from the world and wait for doom to pass.

For Ogdog, however, hiding was not a choice. His master and friends would need him. “You’ll be alone, dear brother,” his siblings warned. He was resigned to that…

 

The old freckled og looped the mountaintop one last time, waving a wistful goodbye to his family and their nest amidst the clouds. “Farewell,” he sighed out loud. Then he turned south, not sure he’d ever see them again.

He had reason to worry.

One-Minute Epics: “Lam’s Song”

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’s Song

Jury stood watch at the edge of a lonely outpost, far from the heart of Nord. It was midnight but lit by a full blue moon that turned the nearby forest into a netherworld, dancing with shadowed things that came to life at the slightest wind. He was dead on his feet, having paced the same stretch for days. He fought back an epic yawn.

But then he heard something, a noise from the blue, and Jury drew his pike. “Who goes there?!” He heard it again, this time more clearly — a voice… a voice he thought he knew. “But it can’t be.”

Lam Lan called his name.

Jury squinted and listened harder. “This is a trick or some kind of witchcraft,” he muttered. “It’s been seventeen years…”

“Dearest,” she beckoned him. He couldn’t help but harken. Soon he was in the woods.

“Show yourself,” Jury cried from an ancient grove of pynes and swaying swillows. He sensed that something was watching him, like a hawk, and somehow he’d lost his weapon. But then an angel appeared amidst the trees — and all was well again.

She whispered softly the same way his long lost love had the day the specter took her. Yet it was her visage that left Jury stricken, too dumbstruck to understand her words. Those eyes, the shiny black hair, her mischievous smile — the memories flooded his mind like honey wine. Jury was good as drunk by the time the siren started singing.

She sang him a love song he could not resist, the music of his dreams.

We’ll be wed by the evening star
One someday when
The end of time is near
And skylarks sing our names
Till moonfall
Till forever dawns…

Jury awoke with the morning sun in a soft bed of lillylorn, all but naked. The vision was gone, his only companion a songbird. It chirped a familiar tune.

And he wondered. Was she an echo or a prophecy?

He would soon find out.

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Photo by John K ~ Lore of the Sword

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One-Minute Epics: “Children’s Day”

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…


Children’s Day

It had become an annual ritual, one special day on the Ides of Lune when Lord Plesh summoned the children of Nord to gather and celebrate his reign. This was the thirteenth by most counts and in honor a vast new parade ground had been cleared in the Underland’s very heart, denuding the wood beneath the Pendant. That specter, the coming of which had set the Governor’s rise to power in motion, loomed above it still like an alien moon. The tribute was meant to mock it.

Today a throng of thousands strong encircled the sunbaked site like a restless sea, some having waited weeks or more. At last they had something to cheer for. The younglings, the wee ones, marched in with songs on their lips and flowers in their hair. They waved and bowed and the crowd ooed back adoringly, as if graced by angels.

That’s when the Lord himself appeared — from out of nowhere. And he spoke.

“Welcome!” gestured the dark-robed man, “You honor me, Underlings, with your presence. Yes…” The multitude rose in a great ovation. “Ah,” he drank it in. “Women, men, and tender spawn of Nord, I treasure this adulation and more so your subjugation to our cause — the end of this phantom menace.” The Governor shook his fist at the sky while the celebrants fell to their knees before him. “The heavens shall be ours again, this home world purged of the specter’s agents, I promise — my Legion will see to that…”

Then Lord Plesh suddenly paused a moment. “But this is a day meant for child’s play,” he laughed. “Let the festivities begin!”

On cue, a column of captives in chains was led out onto the plain by guardsmen with whips, the Governor’s own Grim Stormtroopers, who were known to show no mercy. The prisoners, all from the Wide Eyed cult, were skin and bone — they barely looked human. Those too weak to walk were dragged by the Grims. The cherubs danced out to greet them and showered the chain gang with petals of lillylorn white as snow. The crowd was enchanted.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” somebody swooned. “Precious, just precious,” another one gushed.

Then the younglings, wielding child-size gutting knives, gored and quartered their Wide Eyed guests.

“We’ve taught our children well,” the proud Lord nodded. “Treat them all to sweets.”

One-Minute Epics: “Grimhaven”

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…


Grimhaven

To say that Jury and Morio were not the finest foot soldiers in the Nord Lord’s dreaded Legion would be an understatement of epic proportions. And yet they were given a plum assignment — to take a special cargo by ox cart to the Governor’s secret retreat, Grimhaven. They’d heard it was a place of wonder, a palace with spires that rose to the sky and fountains that flowed with sweet red wine. So neither one could wait to see it.

“It’s said there are gardens beyond your wildest dreams,” chirped Jury, who steered the oxen.

Morio studied a map. “We must be near! I hope they serve refreshments…”

They came to a great stone arch and passed under it, leaving the highway to follow a winding road that climbed through a wood to a wide plateau where something used to be. Now it was barren except for a gash in the ground where the long lane seemed to continue. So they headed down below deep into the shadows and stopped at two huge doors.

“Hello!” sang Morio. “Anyone home?”

Jury knocked three times. The doors opened.

They entered and found themselves in an underground chamber as vast as the sky itself. In the distance churned a crimson ocean beyond which loomed a castle with towers like spikes that stabbed at the pregnant storm clouds above them. It thundered and started to rain. But it was not a rain like any they’d seen. “It’s red,” said Jury. “Blood.”

Just then the doors slammed shut behind them.

Morio shrugged, “I’m sure there’s an explanation… Ah! Here’s someone now.” And he waved to the tall cloaked figure gliding toward them. “Where should we unload?” The figure howled and pointed down the road. “Much obliged,” Jury shuddered.

The ox cart creaked up a rocky slope that was strewn with bones and shards of brimstone. It made for a bumpy ride, upsetting their cargo, which thumped around behind. But they crested the hill nonetheless to discover a freshly plowed farm field ready for sowing.

Somehow the same dark figure awaited them there. “Plant here!” it shrieked like a banshee.

Jury shielded his mouth with the blade of his hand. “Must mean what’s in the wagon,” he whispered, “plumpkin seeds or something.” Morio cheered, “I do fancy farming; I’d say that things are looking up!”

So they broke the locks on the ox cart’s tailgate and out rolled its load of unmarked blackwood casks. One hit a brimstone boulder and spilled its contents on the soil. It was a pile of something unthinkable. “Are those really… hearts?” gasped Jury. Morio nodded, “And they’re still beating.”

“Plant them!” ordered the angry wraith. Jury and Morio had no choice.

They dutifully buried the hearts in thirteen rows. “Whatever they’re trying to grow,” muttered Jury, “they won’t need scarecrows here.” Morio wiped the blood from his hands. “That’s the last of them,” he announced to the howler — but it was nowhere to be found. Jury jumped up. “Looks like our friend is gone. Hurry, let’s get going!”

They ran for an adjacent sea of beanstalks, which stretched back toward the giant doors. But what really lurked there was a sight beyond their wildest nightmares. “These aren’t peapods, are they,” Morio stared. “No, man, they’re pods of men… warriors by the looks of them,” blinked Jury, inspecting a big ripe pair.

Just then a hand poked out of the closest husk and clawed at the dumbstruck chums. They didn’t look back as they raced for the exit but Grimhaven’s bloody reign had come.