the Bloodaxe Saga Book Three: Mayhem, Magic and Miracles :Chapter Six

(Out and In)

While wending their way through the Daggernasty Mountains above the valley of Heldahl, dusk one evening, found the Nissarmy hunkered down in the scrubby underbrush on their bellies. The children thought it was a fun game, but the adults knew something was amiss.

Shkowtz had proven to be a very adept scout. Coincidence? As the sun was setting one evening he returned to the party bubbling over with excitement. “There’s a monster up ahead,” he said, barely able to maintain his composure.

“Trull?” asked Chuck.

“Shkowtz shook his head violently and swallowed. “Nope, don’t think so. He’s ugly though…pretty big too.”

Skruff and Chuck traded meaningful glances. Finally Skruff said, “Okay, get the people down. Chuck, you, me and Shkowts will sneak up and get a good look at him.” With the Nissarmy hidden securely in the bushes, Shkowtz, Chuck and Skruff wended their way forward to where Shkowtz had seen the “monster”. There on a rock outcropping, silhouetted by the sunset, was a thing none of them had ever seen or even heard of before. “Wow!” said Chuck in a loud whisper.

Immediately the thing snapped its head in their direction revealing eight black, bubble-like eyes and veined ears that fanned out to capture sound. Skruff clapped his small hand over Chuck’s big mouth and they lay beneath the cover of underbrush watching the monster and listening to their hearts thud. For many moments the tableau remained frozen in time, the only sound, the whining of the wind through the heights.

Finally, the monster turned, retrieved a sword and spear from the ground and with a final glance in their direction, scrabbled forward on its six spindly legs, right over the rocky precipice and out of sight.

For long moments the trio lay there silently holding their breath. Finally Skruff voiced the question that was on all their minds. “What in the world was that?”

It was Chuck who answered, “Bgh mffnn.” Skruff saw the problem and pulled his hand away from Chuck’s mouth. The flummoxed captain shook his head and reiterated, “Bug Man.”

  • * * * * * * *

When Skruff and his ragtag little troupe reached the convergence of the Daggernasty and Voldsom ranges known as Dundermann Pass,they finally understood what they were up against. There before them, was an army that had grown from the original five thousand to one of twice that number. Many of the Second Battalion, under the leadership of a grizzled and bigoted trull captain named Dritthjernen (Dritt for short), had made the trek over the mountains to the south gate because of the arrival of the goblins to the north. Also, there had been stragglers coming in who had been missed or passed over when Igar led the army through Trullwood drafting conscripts from the indigenous population. They’d heard about the action and the spoils for easy picking and wanted their share.

The northern end of the valley was flooded with trulls and tents and a haze of campfire smoke hung over the scene like death shroud. At the heights where the Nissarmy had fanned out to take in the scene, the occasional clank of metal, shouts or bleats of sheep and oxen could be heard and when the wind shifted, the stench was palpable, at least to a nissa’s fine-tuned sensibilities.

“Gaw! Is it gonna be as smelly as this all the while?” asked Bebo, “I wish I was Sneaff.”

“Prolly. We’ll get used to it as time goes by,” said Chuck. “ We gotta find a hidey-hole big enough for the whole army.”

Skruff smiled. He knew there was some reason he trusted Chuck so much. “Right. Shkowtz, get busy looking for a good hidey-hole. It has to be super-secret and big enough for everybody. I don’t want to split us up. Ya gotta be as fast as you can ‘cause we can’t make any fires here. Take some of the others and be back as soon as you can. I’m gonna tell the rest of the army what to do to make mischief. Go.” Shkowtz took off to do as he was told and Skruff grabbed Chuck by the elbow. “Come with me.”

As quietly and quickly as they could, the two gathered the throng around them. “Okay,” said Skruff, “As soon as we find a place to settle in, we’re gonna start doin’ mischief to the trulls. You know, the usual stuff, but now we’re gonna do stuff that might make ‘em sick or even kill ‘em. It’s Okay to kill ‘em ‘cause they’re really, really bad. If they don’t die, they might hurt the people we like and that’ll stink. Remember, I told you this was gonna be war. War is a sad time. But it will be sadder if the trulls get what they want ‘cause there’s a really super evil wizard that’s their boss and he’s a real stinker.” At this news, some of the nissas laughed, some whimpered and some broke down and cried.

Chuck was getting nervous. He started waving his hands. “No, no. Shoosh shoosh shoosh! No noise.”

Skruff said, “Let ‘em go. Those trulls can’t hear ‘em. We’re too high up and the trulls make so much noise themselves. Don’t worry.”

When the emotional display leveled out, Skruff continued his lecture about putting the poop and pee and other disgusting and noxious things they’d found in the water, mead and food. Trip traps, deadfalls and booby traps of all sorts would be used. They could set fires and scatter the sheep and oxen. Soon the throng was talking amongst themselves about all manner of ways to cause trouble for the trull army. The talk of fires got them thinking and some complained that they wanted to start cooking fires but were instructed instead, to ‘eat cold stuff’.

Hours went by with no word from the scouting party. Skruff was just calling his captains to him for a search when Shkowtz and his party came walking in. All were dragging sacks containing sundry items and grinning. After they caught their breaths, Shkowtz made his report.

“Oh boy, ya wouldn’t believe it,” he puffed. “Them trulls are a mess. Lots and lots of ‘em are drunk. Anyway, we found a super-duper cave. The entrance is hidden and small enough that we can cover it up with bushes and stuff. And it’s…”

One of Skowtz’s party, a tall (for a nissa) fellow named Glaxo, could not contain himself. “Huge…it’s huge inside. You could fit that whole fat, stupid bunch o’ trulls in there.”

Skruff was finding that hard to believe but if it was even half as big as they said, he was sure it would do just fine. “What have you got there?” said Skruff pointing to the rather large sacks they were dragging. One after another, Skowtz and his party opened their sacks and emptied the contents onto the ground before Skruff and Chuck. When they where done, they stood there grinning and beaming with pride. “They got so much stuff to steal down there. We’re gonna have a blast.” Said Bonzo, another of the party.

“And we found out where they get their water,” said Shkowtz. “You right. Them trulls talk a lot.”

On the ground was an assortment of lanterns, candles, tinder kits, knives, arrows, bows, twine, rope, salt pork, salted fish, jerky, hard tack, wineskins, leg irons, chain links, nails, hatchets (more like axes to the nissas), spear heads, cloth and a boot. Skruff poked through the items, looked up at Chuck and said, “Well, we can always use the food. I guess we’ll think of what to do with the other stuff.”

Chuck looked around nervously. “We should go to this cave right away. It’ll be light soon. We’re gonna have to start working at night from now on.”

“Ja,” said Skruff. He turned to the party and said, You guys did good. I’m gonna make you sergeants. Not you, Shkowts. You already a captain.” Shkowtz huffed. He wanted to be a sergeant too. Skruff continued, “You’ll report to the captains like Shkowtz here.” At this Shkowtz bucked up a bit. Skruff bent down and gathered up some of the odd chain links and distributed them among the sergeants saying, “These are your badges. Wear ‘em proud. Now gather up the soldiers. We’re off.”

The cave proved to be exactly as reported…huge. It could have fitted hundreds of times their number. They wasted no time settling in and making it home. Little did they know that it had recently been home to one Verminard the Dire.

In the middle of the night Skruff suddenly got very dizzy and experienced what he later described as a “woofing noise” in his head. He excused himself from the hustle-bustle of setting up the Nissarmy’s home base to go off and further investigate this odd occurrence. He wandered far to the rear of the cave until the voices and shufflings of the troupe was just a distant low echo. He found a flat shelf of rock, reclined and made himself comfortable. Suddenly, “Skruff…Skruff…Skruff Fluktfinger.” The voice came from everywhere…and nowhere. Skruff sat bolt upright. Again… “Skruff, where are you”?

He looked around and realized even with his incredible night vision, it was still extremely dark. “Who there? Show me where you are.”

The voice smiled. Skruff thought of how odd that was. That’s when he realized where the voice was coming from. “You inside my head.” He covered his mouth and giggled. “How you get there? Who you, anyway?”

“Do you not know? I am Arnaald Hardrada.”

  • * * * * * * *

Snerff, who’d noticed that Skruff had been acting a bit strangely, noticed him leave and decided to follow him. As she approached his position she could plainly hear him speaking but oddly, no one was speaking back.

“Oh, nice to hear from ya…Sorry ‘bout that. Decided to go bother the trulls when I heard what they were up to…Yeah, really…Nope…Stopped by Here, then went to There and got up an army of my very own. Skruff a general now…Really good bunch too… Yeah…Couple of hundred, anyway…We just arrived yesterday…Oh yeah…How’s Garr?…Oh, that’s good…You’re coming here?… No kidding…Oh goody… We got a plan. We gonna ruin all their water ‘n’ food with poop and pee and junky stuff…A rock?…What’s a crystal?…Yeah, I can see it…Yeah, we got a cave full of it. It’s all over the place…Really?…Kill ‘em?…No kiddin’…Okay. Leave it up to the Nissarmy…Yeah, it’s what we call us…Okay…You take care too…Bye.

Snerff finally reached her husband and confirmed that he was alone. “You crazy now?”

“Huh? Oh, crazy…no. Talking to wizard. We got lotsa work to do.”

the Bloodaxe Saga Book Three: Mayhem, Magic and Miracles :Chapter Six

George Yesthal

Brodheadsville, United States

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