“…Bowman remained at Delnoch for a year, then travelled to Venturia to fight the Nadir once more. He did not return.”
There was silence in the common room as Chucky finished his tale. Then, as one, the audience leapt to its feet and roared approval. Beer and apple brandy flew in the air, and a wave of noxious body odour flooded across the stage on a tide of rotten-tooth-breath. There were howls of delight, cries for more, and several of the rowdier regulars of the Winespring Inn immediately began pretending they were the great Druss.
A not inconsiderable percentage of the audience also began crowing for the head of the ‘frilly juggling whoreson’.
Chucky turned to Thom, who was crimson with rage.
“I’ll try to hold them off with another story,” he said insincerely, “sneak out through the kitchen and don’t look back.”
“But … but…”
Mister C of 9 picked up Thom’s flute. “Could we get a bowl of butter up here, mister Mayor?” he called over the continuing acclaim. “Seems our unwelcome glee-wannabe doesn’t know where to stick his whistle,” there were bellows of laughter and further applause. Mister C bowed modestly.
“Go now!” Chucky gave Thom a shove, and the bewildered gleeman began to shamble off-stage in disgrace. “Now my friends, prepare to be humbled like the miserable curs you are by this next tale, of how Druss-”
And it was about that moment that the trollocs attacked.
“Shadowspawn!” somebody – a woman – shouted urgently, and Chucky looked to the back of the room in time to see a large man with a strange cloak run outside, right behind a small, dark-haired female shape. There was bedlam in the Winespring Inn.
“That was Moiraine,” Chucky said, grabbing Mister C’s elbow. “And Lan! They’re the ones who find the heroes and start us on the adventure! We have to stick with them!”
Mister C was looking disgruntled. “Just when we were getting warmed up,” he complained. “Well, let’s see off these Shadows Porn guys at least.”
They jumped down off the stage and headed for the main door. People were milling around and panicking, and from outside there came the sound of screams, running feet and unhappy horses. The door was crowded with people – some trying to get in, others trying to get out, and there was no way either side was going to win. Chucky looked at the seething, stinking mass helplesly.
“We should have gotten out sooner,” he said. “I knew there was going to be a trolloc attack, I just got too wrapped up in that story.”
“Window?” C asked nonchalantly.
“Window,” Chucky agreed.
Outside, the little village was in a shambles. People were running everywhere, and several houses were on fire. Chucky couldn’t help thinking it was a bit of an improvement. They hurried away from the Inn, and paused in the middle of the street. Mister C tugged off his sunglasses and drew his sword. Chucky grabbed the sunglasses and tried to hit him with them.
“Put those back on!” he shouted. “They’ll try to kill you if they see you walking around like that! What are you doing anyway?”
“I was just getting into the mood…”
“Don’t get into the mood! Don’t be an idiot! Put that sword away!” Chucky paused. “Wait! I’ve had a better idea. You can control the Shadowspawn that are attacking … you’re a myrddraal. You can tell them to go away … or turn on each other! Give it a try.”
Mister C nodded purposefully. “Which ones are the Shadows Porn?”
“I know you’re saying porn intentionally,” Chucky said. Mister C looked impossibly bland. “Oh for crying out … the big hairy ones.”
“Right,” C ran over to Haral Luhhan, grabbed him by the collar, and growled. Haral screamed and voided himself.
“Not that one! That’s the village blacksmith, you idiot! I mean the ones with goat-faces!”
“Oh! Right, sheesh, sorry,” Mister C looked around with a confused expression. Then his face cleared, he snatched something down from a passing horse. “Aha! Obey me!”
Alsbet Luhhan shrieked and fainted.
“Those ones,” Chucky said gently, turning Mister C’s head and pointing. “Those ones. The ones that look like Warhammer beastmen and Diablo 2 Moon Clan guys.”
“Oh. Why didn’t you say?”
Mister C of 9 strode over to a cluster of towering trollocs, who were busy chopping apart the door to an inoffending building. He stopped in front of them and stood with his legs apart, chest out and sword held aloft. One by one, the trollocs stopped and stared at him in dawning anxiety. Mister C hastily shook out his cloak, which he’d sort of bundled up and tied around his waist, and spread it over his shoulders. The trollocs sighed in recognition.
“Now obey me!” he cried. “Aarrrg!”
“Arrg,” the trollocs said doubtfully.
“Gather all of your friends and run away! Head for the hills! Turn tail! Get lost!”
The massive beastmen frowned down at the skinny eyeless shape. Mister C of 9, who could smell contempt three miles away, snarled and stabbed one of them with his sword. It howled and died without dignity. Agreeably enough, the remaining trollocs turned and lumbered away, shouting their new orders to their fellow warriors as they went. Chucky marched up and slapped Mister C on the back.
“Good work, old chum! Now quickly, get that stuff off and let’s find a place to hide. If that woman sees you-”
“Which woman? The one from the Inn?”
“That’s the one. She’s Moiraine, an Aes Sedai – uh, a sorceress. Main character. She’s the one who gathers up the main village guys and takes them on their quest.”
“Of course. Like Gandalf gathering up the hobbits.”
“I think we’ve established the similarities. Quickly, let’s get under cover. We can steal a couple of horses and follow the group at a distance … it’s not even as if we’ll be the only people following them.”
Mister C paused as they hurried towards the large barnlike construction that was the stables. Farther away on the outskirts of the village, the sounds of fighting were degenerating into the sounds of yellow-bellied fleeing, punctuated by several whooshy explosion-noises. “Wait, horses? We can’t ride.”
“How difficult can it be?”
“And we can’t steal horses either. Horse thief is a classical, highly professional career. You can’t just do it.”
“How difficult can it be?” Chucky repeated. He stepped into the stable and looked around, then grinned. “Don’t worry, I have a better idea.”
“Better than that crappy idea you had just now?”
“Shut up. See that?” he pointed at a large, cluttered wagon standing in the middle of the straw-covered floor, already hitched to a sour-looking old horse. “That’s the peddlar’s wagon. Padan Fain the peddlar is one of the most evil-ass Darkfriends in the books, right? He was sent here by the Dark One to find the village boys who could be a threat, and kill them or something. It was Fain who brought the trollocs here, and if I recall correctly, he leaves with them. His wagon gets burned, and everybody presumes he was killed in the attack,” Chucky paused and frowned. “It’s not burned yet, though. Maybe we scared away the trollocs who were going to do it.”
Chucky was looking across the stable at another group of horses, including a towering black warhorse. “Never mind that. The main characters will be coming in here sometime – probably tomorrow afternoon – before they leave. We can get some sleep.”
“That’s your first good idea. I’ve always wanted to sleep in a hayloft,” Mister C frowned sideways at Chucky. “Not with you, of course, but I guess I’m tired enough…”
“Don’t worry,” Chucky rolled his eyes. “I’ll be sleeping in the wagon, to make sure nobody tries to steal or burn it. Anyway, the hay would make me sneeze.”
Mister C drew his sword, clasped it in his teeth – almost dislocating his neck in the process – and clambered up the ladder into the hayloft. He looked around for a comfortable place to sleep, and spotted a familiar patched cloak. He prodded it with his blade.
Thom murmured and sat up. His beard and hair was matted with tomato, obviously thrown by disgruntled audience members. He glared at Mister C, then at his sword. “You don’t need that knife. I am not a cheese for the urrg.”
“What are you doing up there?” demanded Chucky, rummaging through the junk on board the wagon until he found something not-filthy that he could sleep on. He settled for a few bolts of blue-dyed cloth, and a small sack of flour.
“Just killing a guy,” Mister C’s head popped out over the edge of the loft and grinned down at Chucky. “How’s your death-count doing? Not too good.”