Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest
Nigel Skullgnasher led the way, slicing through the jungle overgrowth with his enchanted ax. “How much farther?”
Peggy Truthstalker said, “Don’t know. But it’s this way.”
Nigel wiped the sweat from his face. They’d been tramping through this jungle for days. He was hot, hungry, and impatient.
“This is almost as bad as that Ecuadorian death flower,” said James Eyestabber.
The three orcs were the last of The Wild Hunt still on the job. A few of the club had been killed. Others sidelined by serious injuries. Most had simply gone back to their lives and jobs.
“This has to be my last one,” said James, bringing up the rear. “Gary wants me home.”
“Well, la de da,” said Nigel. “It’s just the end of the world we’re trying to prevent here, but Gary is lonely.”
“Oh, screw you,” said James. “Some of us like our partners.”
Nigel grunted. He had once loved his wife. Maybe he still did. But it’d been two months since he’d walked out the door, dispatched by his gods, now by the NQB. He’d called her exactly twice since, and she’d yelled at him. She didn’t care he was saving the world. She only cared about the mortgage and how long he planned on traipsing around South America, having fun, killing monsters.
She didn’t understand. It wasn’t fun. It was necessary.
“Oh that’s bullshit,” said Peggy.
He hated when she read his mind like that. The spirits were lousy at giving directions, but they sure as hell loved giving marriage advice.
“You’re not here because you have to save the world,” she said. “Yes, there’s another apocalyptic monster somewhere out here, but there’s always a monster. You’re just running from your problems.”
Nigel’s marriage had been lousy for some time now. It was orc nature to see life as suffering, a series of painful trials to be endured. But some pain was more irritating than others.
“You need to talk to her,” said Peggy. “You can’t go chasing monsters forever.”
Nigel had quietly been hoping one of these hellish abominations would do him in before he had to deal with his personal life. He’d survived so far. Death delighted in taunting him, but it wasn’t going to offer him an easy out.
He cursed his gods and spat. Peggy and James echoed him for reasons all their own. The heavens rumbled back at them as their savage gods returned their scorn. There’d be no help there. In the end, an orc could only rely on himself and his tribe. And even the latter was considered a sign of weakness.
They broke through the jungle, coming across a decaying ziggurat under the burning sun. The bones of hundreds of skeletons littered the ground.
“The spirits say this is the place,” said Peggy.
“No shit,” said Nigel. “So where’s the bird?”
A great monster of red and black feathers soared overhead. It landed atop the ziggurat and screeched. The skies darkened as the eclipse began. If the bird wasn’t dead within twenty minutes, it’d never end.
“Don’t suppose the thing will do us a favor and come down here?” said James.
The terrible sun eater folded its wings around itself and glared down at them with its bright yellow eyes.
“Didn’t think so.”
The tired and irritable orcs climbed the stairs and killed the creature with a minute to spare.
Nigel wiped the blood off his frozen ax. “Are you okay?” he asked James.
“Yeah. How’s Peggy?”
During the battle, she’d been knocked off the top and tumbled down the stairs all the way to the bottom. From up here, her leg bent at a weird angle, but it was only a few broken bones. She waved up at them.
“You know, she’s right,” said James. “You can’t keep running away.”
Nigel slung his ax across his back. He and James limped their way down the steps. Nigel thought he might die in this forsaken jungle. But he was an orc. He didn’t have that kind of luck.
The sun came back in the sky, burning them with its cruel heat as they dragged themselves back to civilization.