Hey, Action Force. Here’s a short story I wrote that I had nowhere else to put. Have a look. And if you have friends who you haven’t convinced to take a chance on one of my books, send them here for a free taste.
It’s titled Bob and Meg, though that’s only the working title. Hope you enjoy it.
The knight’s noble army swept across the farm, slaying the necromancer’s undead minions with righteous efficiency. At the forefront, the army’s warrior general, clad in shining golden armor, galloped upon his powerful ebony steed. His mighty sword cut a swathe of destruction among the undead as his mount killed just as many with powerful kicks of its metal clad hooves. So swift and brutal was the attack, the minions were slain before one could raise a hand against their determined foes.
The knight’s steed rose up on its rear legs and whinnied triumphantly. The knight held his gore drenched blade high in the air and roared. His soldiers roared back.
Bob surveyed the defeated undead scattered around him. A few still twitched. A hand dragged itself by his foot, and a foot hopped around in short circles.
“Why did you do that?”
The knight dismounted and clasped Bob on the shoulder. “You’re free, my good man. Return to your lands before the final battle begins.”
“This is my land,” said Bob.
The knight laughed. “No longer. You need not till this accursed soil. For I come in the name of the rightful king to end the peril of this necromancer once and for all.”
Meg, his wife, kicked open their cottage door. She brandished a butcher knife in her hand and a harsh scowl on her face. “What the hell is this? What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Good news,” said Bob without enthusiasm. “We’re free now.”
“Oh, not again.” Meg rolled her eyes. “Look, you idiot, we weren’t enslaved in the first place.”
The knight glowered. “You mean to tell me you live here by choice?”
“Choice?” Bob laughed. “We’re peasants. We don’t really have a lot of choices.”
The knight appeared genuinely confused by that sentence, and neither Meg nor Bob were surprised by that. Knights always were.
“But this land is touched by death,” he said.
The black soil was rich and easy to plow. The skies churned with ominous gray clouds more often than not, but there was always plenty of rain and just enough light to grow their crops. While it was never exceedingly warm, neither was it ever terribly cold either. They didn’t bother explaining of this because knights fed themselves via taxes, not farming.
“Who asked you to free us?” asked Meg. “What god told you we needed to be free?”
“It is your good and noble king who has charged me with this sacred task.” The knight smiled in that certain way that only true idiots could manage.
“Our good and noble king hasn’t done anything for us,” she countered. “Before that tower sat there, there was a baron’s castle. He wasn’t very much good for anything. Then he was overthrown by somebody—”
“I think it was a peasants’ revolt,” said Bob. “Or maybe some rival house.”
“Does it really matter? After the baron fell, they built a senate hall and said we were now a representative democracy. Oh, gods, was that annoying. The baron didn’t do much, but at least we didn’t have to spend all that time listening people tell us how important we were because we got to vote for whoever ignored us.”
“I still like the idea,” said Bob. “Democracy, I mean.”
“Oh, it’s a terrific idea, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.” Meg grumbled in general and then aimed her grumble at the knight. “That didn’t last long before some liberators came around and put an end to that. Then there was a new castle. Ugly thing.”
Bob said, “Hardly seems fit to judge it, considering it was only half finished when those orcs came along.”
“Now, those were a nasty group,” said Meg. “Very rude and always trampling about. We could’ve used a little freeing then. Where were you?”
The knight explained, “This land was bequeathed to them as part of a treaty.”
“This land?” Bob stamped his foot. “This land that we live on. Where my father was born and where his father was born?”
The knight shrugged. “It was deemed necessary for the greater good.”
“Oh, well, greater good. Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” Meg eyed the knight for a good place in his armor to slip her knife, but before she could, Bob pulled her away.
“We’re certain you mean well—”
“I’m not certain,” said Meg.
“—but if it’s all the same to you, we like the necromancer. She stays out of our hair, and even sends down undead to help us with our work now and then, which is more than anyone else has done. Oh, I know the land smells faintly of rotting flesh, and she’ll probably do something horrible to us one day, but we’re peasants. Horrible things happening to us is to be expected. We’re just happy with things the way they are right now.”
“So get lost,” said Meg with far less subtlety. “Who needs you and your soldiers and your great black warhorse tearing up our land, slaughtering our very helpful undead workers? At least with a necromancer, we know where we stand.”
The knight nodded to himself, and for a moment, Bob and Meg thought he might have understood, but they were also not terribly surprised when he didn’t.
“You are surely bewitched by the necromancer’s presence.” He turned his steely gaze toward the corkscrew tower of gray stone just over the horizon. “When we cleanse this blight, you shall see the errors of your ways. If not, we can at least offer you a merciful execution.”
Bob said, “Very charitable of you.”
“It is the least we can do.”
The army rode off toward the tower, trampling the farm under hoof and boot while its horn player sounded the march.
“What a bunch of idiots,” said Meg.
“Do you think we should’ve told him the last four armies that tried to take that Necromancer’s tower all failed miserably?” asked Bob.
“Why bother? I know the type. He wouldn’t have listened.”
Bob nodded. “I suppose you’re right.”
They retired to their cottage porch, had some tea, and watched the tower. The skies darkened above it and lightning bolts blasted. Very distantly, the clash of arms and the cries of battle reached them. The earth occasionally rumbled, and once, the howl of something unearthly rattled the dust from their cottage.
And then, silence.
“That must’ve been a good one,” said Bob.
“Indeed,” said Meg. “Doesn’t usually take the old girl that long.”
A little while later, the knight and a few of his soldiers came shambling back. The horn player tooted weakly on his instrument and the flag bearer carried the shreds of a once glorious banner. The knight trudged to the cottage and with milky white eyes and pallid flesh, he moaned miserably.
“We warned you,” said Bob.
“No, we didn’t,” said Meg.
“Well, we meant to warn him.” Bob nodded to a bucket of seeds beside the porch. “Do us a favor and help us plant the corn, would you?”
The undead knight picked up the bucket and shuffled toward the fields while Bob and Meg finished their tea.