The following comes from Then A Penguin Walked In and Other Tall Tales, currently on sale digitally and in paperback.


THE DREAD LORD HOB; Scourge of the West, Defiler of the East, Plague of the North, Overlord of the South, and King of the Nighttime World had grown impatient.

With impatience came irritation. Irritation migrated over to anger and anger had been eye-balling rage for the past ten minutes. Lord Hob did not want to give into his rage so he’d been pacing with Kraxull as he saw to the battle, hoping the task at hand would keep his mind off of Commander Flank.

He paced, and he waited. 

Commander Flank had been gone for almost an hour now and Lord Hob was practically itching to get his hands on this One person so that he could run his sword through him. Once that step was complete and out of the way he could finally get on with conquering the known world already. After that? Well, there were other worlds out there just ripe for the plucking.

The thought of ruling not only Gund, but the other eight realms as well made him smile. Sure, the administrative responsibilities would be a nightmare, but the power would more than make up for it. Once he ruled all nine realms, what would he call himself? ‘Lord’ would no longer be a sufficient enough title to encapsulate how important of a man he would be. ‘King’ wouldn’t do it either. In the end he realized his only option was ‘Emperor’.

Emperor Hob, High Overlord of the Nine Realms.

Now that was a title that really sang.

He could almost cry.

Then something struck him in the back of the head and the anger that had been festering for these past ten minutes grabbed hold of rage and punched it in the face.

He pulled on the reins and Kraxull spun.

There, just a few dozen yards away, stood a very average looking man and six elves. Lord Hob hated elves. They were nothing more than savages and he dreamed of the day he would be able to remove their bloodline from Gund.

But it was the man who drew his attention. He had a rather cocky smile on his bland face and bounced a stone in his left hand. The man, who would never stand out in a crowd the way Lord Hob did, saluted in a manner that Lord Hob immediately took as cheeky.

The man spoke, but Lord Hob could not hear what he had said over the sounds of battle.

Lord Hob shrugged his shoulders and pointed at his ear.

“I said,” the man shouted. “How’s it going?”

No, Lord Hob did not like this man at all. He wasn’t showing any fear or respect for someone of his station. He would have to be taught a lesson.

“Bring me his head,” he commanded of his ogre guard.

The twelve of them drew swords so massive that Lord Hob knew deep down in his heart that even as amazing as he was, he would not have the strength to lift one. As the ogres advanced, they were met with a volley of arrows from the elves at the man’s back. The elves had obviously dealt with ogres before as they continued to fire arrow after arrow, more than a half dozen per target, until each of his ogres had fallen.

Would you like me to eat him? The dragon spoke to the Dread Lord Hob in his mind.

No, Lord Hob replied mentally. I will deal with this. You remain here.

I may be needed, Kraxull said. This man has elves with him.

If I need you, I will call you. Remain here.

I will do as you have commanded.

Lord Hob dismounted and approached the strangers. 

“I’m told that you are Hob,” the man said.

“I am Lord Hob.” He really didn’t like this guy. “Who are you who dares to speak to me as an equal?”

“Me?” the man said, pointing at himself. “I’m nobody important. I mean I am, of course, I wouldn’t be here otherwise, but really I’m not.”

“I would have your name,” Lord Hob commanded.

“Dominick Hanrahan,” the man said, that cocky smile back on his face.

“I’ve never heard of you,” Lord Hob said.

“Well, you wouldn’t have,” the man said. “Not by my real name, anyway. You may have heard of my other name, however.”

“Your other name?”

“Oh yeah,” the man said. “I’m actually quite a big deal. Probably bigger than you, Hob.”

“It’s Lord Hob, and I doubt it.”

“If you say so, but it doesn’t change the fact of who I am and why I’m here with you in this moment.”

Lord Hob looked the man up and down, his eyes pausing for a moment on the sword the man wore on his back. There was nothing exceptional about this man. His armor, chain mail under a blue surcoat, was dull and did not gleam like his own. The man’s hair was unkempt and had neither body nor luster. And his face, well, his face left little to be desired. The man before him was just a man. Yet, his bravado and arrogance gave Lord Hob an uneasy feeling. 

“Who are you, then?” Lord Hob could not help but ask.

“Around here the people have been calling me the One,” the man said.

Lord Hob laughed. “You are the One. You?”

“I know, I didn’t believe it at first either,” the man said. “But that’s what everyone keeps telling me. Plus, I do have this.”

The man drew his sword and Lord Hob took an involuntary step back as he took in the color of the blade.


“Arakis,” Lord Hob said.

“That it is,” the man said. “Now here’s the thing, Hob. Everyone has been telling me that you and I are supposed to fight and that I’m going to defeat you. But here’s how I see it. We don’t have to fight. I don’t need to kill you to defeat you. Really all I have to do is make sure that you leave these good people alone. The way I figure it, if you was to go ahead and just pack up this little army of yours, go back to wherever it is you came from, and promise never to come back, then you and I are square. What do you say?”

“I say that you are an arrogant little man who needs to be taught a lesson about station,” Lord Hob said. “You dare to speak to me as if you were not like the worm that dwells among the dirt and filth. A worm that lives its life by my whim. You are nothing to me, worm.” He drew his own sword with its alabaster blade. “You believe Arakis would impress me? Look upon Loth, the White Sword of Death and know it for your doom.”

Lord Hob struck with the deadly grace of a snake, coming in low, but the man moved at an unbelievable speed. Before Loth could taste his flesh, the man had drawn his sword and moved to block. The two blades met. Thunder crashed from overhead and lightning fell all around them, striking the earth with explosive force and sending dirt and rock flying into the sky. 

Both combatants were thrown from each other by the concussive force and Lord Hob felt weightless for a moment as he sailed through the air. He landed with a crash at Kraxull’s feet and after taking an irritated moment to fix his hair, he looked up into the face of the great dragon.

“Kill him,” Lord Hob said, and the dragon smiled.

To be continued...


No comments:

Post a Comment