One-Minute Epics: “Blink of an Eye”

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…


Blink of an Eye

“Three farns a bunch!” cried the blind old woman, hawking her bruised, rotten fruit on the side of the road. “Pepper pears! Ripe blood poms!” But the village folk all passed her by as usual, like she was part of the dusty landscape or some crumbling landmark they’d learned to ignore. After all, she’d been there forever it seemed — since before the Governor’s death squads, the blight on the orchards, the darkness taking Nord. She’d owned this spot for seventeen years from the day when the specter first appeared, that eye in the sky most people called the Pendant, which watched but never blinked.

This morning some boys saw fit to taunt the hag, or “Pommy” as they called her. “How ‘bout a sample?” one snickered. “They look so yummy.”

“Yeah, Pommy, we’re really hungry!”

She stabbed at their voices with her crook stick but missed them. They toppled her barrel and laughed. “Make us some pom jam, you ancient prune.”

“Curse you!” She shook her fist and spat.

Moldy blue poms spilled in all directions, some rolling way down the road where the boys had run. The blind woman picked up a plump one and hurled it. She didn’t miss this time.

Just then the noon bell tolled in the village square; the old crone pulled on her shawl. She expected the specter’s long shadow to fall any moment and turn the day to dusk. But somehow she still felt sun on her weathered skin and screwed up her blank white eyes.

Other townsfolk took notice and stopped in their tracks. They gawked at the changing sky.

“Look at the Pendant!”

“It’s different.”

“Why is it spinning?”

“Something’s going on…”

The witchy old woman knowingly sniffed the air. “Prepare yourselves, fools. They’re coming.”

To be continued…

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.”