Stories : The Braggart's tale, by Malakai Kincaid
This is a story geared to all those who deem it necessary to tell everyone how big & bad they are. It is a true story. Remember, tough guy, there is always someone tougher...
I have traveled far & wide in this world of ours. I have been to every port & city of importance at least once. Bucaneers' Den, where murder is as commonplace of breathing. Moonglow, where mages battle their pet demons mere feet from the town watch. Vesper, a filthy hovel (it is my home, this slum, so I may call it that), where rude people gather to talk about nothing. I have even been to the new lands and fought monsters most horrible. I have seen the inside of every dungeon & cave that burrows to the core of Britannia. Through my journeys & exploits, I have done much, seen much, and donned the drab gray robe of the deceased not a few times. I have been dubbed hero, villain, and everything in between. Through all of this, I have met many people as I wind my way toward my last resurrection. Of all the things I find most annoying of the denizens of our fair land, it is the "kewl dood" ignorant & the braggarts. Not those who loot the corpses of humans without ever drawing a weapon; cowards are expected. Nor those that hunt only human prey, for they, at least, have goals. It is those who speak a ridiculous tongue that hurts the ears (I swear I hear "Quickly, murder me now!" in that foul garbage they so wrongly call language), and those whose over-inflated egos match their over-inflated bodies. They too beg for separation of head from body & soul from flesh. I shall share with you a tale that I still, to this day, find most humorous. It is a tale of a braggart.
I, like so many others in this world, travel afoot to my various destinations. Not out of stinginess of purse for the purchase of a steed, but as I see things, if one spends their days watching everything pass by in a blur of speed & horse sweat, they are missing the finer, more detailed beauty of the world. Also, I'd hate to think that I had missed something by galloping past it.
So, I walk.
Not on our well traveled roads ( I'm usually not much of a people person...idle useless talk bores me quickly), but instead I tread where few have been, among the forests & wildlife. I was on such a walk one fine day with no particular place to be and in no particular hurry to be there, when I decided to visit the quaint city of Cove, where a vendor I know quite well on the outskirts of that camp sells me my alchemic reagents at a more than fair price, and in volume as well. On my way to said vendor, I am occasionally sidetracked by a troll or ettin, of which I dispose the world of. Between skirmishes, I gather my thoughts, soak in nature, and contemplate (it is good that one does this as one walks, it lightens the spirit), and ponder my next course of action. Being as I left Vesper, the trip was fairly short (compared to say, leaving Trinsic), and within the week I had arrived. I greet this merchant as usual, unburden him of all of his ginseng & nightshade, the life giving & life taking reagents of the alchemist, respectively, and retreat to his front steps where I commence to filling a few bottles (I frequent many dangerous places on occasion, and these two plants are my closest companions). I snap my fingers, suddenly realizing that I had forgotten to purchase some garlic in case I should slip as I attach a potent poison to my kryss ( I am rather not bright at times), so I return to the inner house to remedy this problem.
Now, I deal with the proprietor for a small quantity of garlic then take a seat he provides for me as I mix liquid life, death, and cure-all. Out of nowhere, the door bursts open as if hit with a bolt of pure energy. Unwavering, I look towards the splintered remains of the door and in it's place stands a person.
I began to listen.
She spoke of how marvelous she was, how strong & how fast, and or her savvy battle prowess.
I stopped listening.
I hate braggarts.
Without a word from my lips (my words would not have fit in such a small building, hers absolutely smothered the place), I stand & exit.
Simple, yet effective.
I quickly decide that a visit to the abandoned orc fort would be my next stop. I felt like killing now, and it was close, so off I trotted.
Reaching the fort, I see only a few people are here disposing of the few orcs who try, without success, to maintain the stronghold. These are not hard-boiled adventures; they are of course young with much to learn of the world of killing, that is why they are here. As I stroll to & fro, an orcish lord spots me and charges, knowing not his folly. I bend my knees, take his charge full on my shield, and slash him unmerciful until he falls (many pieces later), to the floor.
I felt slightly better.
That talkative woman's voice was receding from my mind as I hand out some of my newly created great heal potions, apply toxins to weapons, and generally slash& parry to help out others when needed (I have noticed that battle tends to draw me from my thoughts, whatever they may be). After we temporarily clean the fort of the smelly green vermin, I and some of these younger heroes sit upon the floor in the center of fort, start a small fire, and converse as we await the inevitable arrival of more orcs. Then, something happens to bring me back to my previously dark mood.
PRAISE THE HEAVENS, SHE HAS ARRIVED! We are UNWORTHY while she evaluates the magic of our armor, weapons, and shields and relates to us how terribly gifted she is! How can we breathe, let alone defend our miserable selves, in the prescience of such a mighty warrior!
I hate braggarts, they sicken me.
She laughs as she notices that I am the only one of us gathered with magically blessed armaments, besides her.
I stand and let her evaluate my goods.
They are better than hers.
She stops laughing.
I attempt to leave.
As I reach the once grand entrance of the once grand fortress, a slight looking mage atop a horse comes into view. His attire is a black robe & a black magicians hat pulled low over his brow, I notice at once. As he raises his head and his eyes meet mine, I see in them the look of only one kind of person, for I have seen it before...and have been known to hold that bearing myself.
It is the look of one bent on murder.
Thinking quickly (which is uncommon enough for me), I apply a thin coating of viscous green death to my kryss as he approaches. He receives the hint, or is uninterested (I'm not sure which..or maybe another reason?), but either way he rides past me and on into the fort. I realize that without good, there is no evil. Without villains, there can be no heroes. He is simply what he is, and I take no mind of that. I have been there myself. I simply shake my head knowing that at least one, probably more, of those fine fellows I had helped earlier would meet their demise at this killers' hands. Oh well, we must all die sometimes.
It tends to humble one.
I wait there, at the gates, for a spirit to emerge with a face I had just seen and a name I had just learned (death is inevitable, but it is not proud, I help when I can), when the fore mentioned mage whisks by me, his horses' hooves kicking up clods of dirt and bone in its wake. He pulls his steed to an abrupt halt and spins it around, a look of stunned embarrassment on his face.
Then she appears, battle ready.
"I love having a one hundred strength", she states, striking a double biceps for all to admire.
I hate braggarts.
I decide that this woman indeed was to don the gray hood of one who has recently shook hands with the reaper.
She needed it.
I needed it.
The world needed it.
So, I crouch and draw my kryss, holding my shield aloft. She knows my weapon & armor are stouter than hers, and she is aware of the gelatinous lime ooze that slowly drips from the tip of my magic blade. Right there, right then, one of us was going to die, of that I was certain. I was just not certain who it would be. Before I could strike, however, I hear the sounds of magical healing behind me.
Now, I am not entirely too bright, I am also not entirely too stupid either. I knew that the enraged sorcerer would not stop now until he took a life; again the question was whose. Stifling the boiling blood of definite battle & possible death that coursed through my veins, I changed position so that my adversaries were both within my sight. This, I realized, was a most unnerving situation. If I were to attack either person, the odds on my survival were slim, for we all know a mage only lets you know what it is attacking AFTER their spell is released. My situation, I concluded, was a grim one...but come Hell or Lord British, I was not not going to let up until I was dead...or was my enemy...or enemies.
Now this murderer, like most murderers, was not a stupid individual. If he was, someone would have a fat bank account due to his ignorance. He made one mistake that I had gathered so far. He had underestimated his opponent. In the hands of a capable person, this mage would have already been slaughtered. She, however, was quite incompetent, and therefor he held all the cards. If she was the "great warrior" that she proclaimed, she would have known to relentlessly throttle the wounded mage, not stop to flip her hair and pose like a bad actor in a bad play.
It cost her.
She began to proceed toward the mage cautiously (the found him the larger threat I suppose), from my right.
He cast a spell.
He cast another.
I had seen this done before on numerous occasions, and the effects were nothing short of brutal. Being an alchemist by-and-by, I am somewhat familiar with the words of power that give mages there gift. I translated them to common tongue in my mind.
As I said earlier, I knew that one of us, me or her, was going to die (odds on both). I just didn't know who. I certainly knew how though. Not by hand-to-hand weaponry as I had surmised...but by a rather nasty set of mage spells, and neither one of us a mage.
I hold my breath, hoping that it was the damsel, not myself, that would suffer this defeat. The mage then raised his head and looked at me directly.
Then he winked and crossed his arms mockingly.
He knew that she had made a far greater mistake than he had...~*BOOM*~...~*BOOM*~..., there is nothing quite like the sounds of two spells hitting one person almost simultaneously. There is nothing quite like the mess it made, either, as the magical force from the blasts blew her skin from her bones. What remained of her remains drop to the ground.
He began to loot her corpse.
I began to roll upon the grass, laughing hysterically.
He takes his fill of her belongings, and as I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes, we begin to exchange pleasantries, this mage & I. As we converse about the current price for his head (present killing excluded), that most wicked combination blast, and other things, one of those previously mentioned young heroes-in-training creeps forth from the inner fortress to inspect the damage. He approaches the still smoking corpse. "Can I loot? Will you kill me? I'm new at this, I could use a lot of her stuff." He asks rather sheepishly. "Do as you will," I say, "have it all if you desire it...she won't be needing it."
She deserved it.
The mage then pulled up beside this young man. He cowers, as one would expect, but then a strange happening took place. That murderous evil mage proceeded to hand the novice warrior all of the braggart woman's armor & weapons, plus few other odds & ends. "Here, this should help," he replies as he smiles.That particularly astounded young man began to don his armor with unfeigned glee. That was better than anything I would have done, for so it was, her shade watched the whole proceedings,making it all the worse for her.
Death humbles, but this humiliated.
As we watched the spectre glide off in search of resurrection, the wizard again points his mount in my direction, only this time he is wearing a full-face smile. "That was fun, but I have some business to take care of, I'll see you later Mal." He says, then turns to ride off. "Godspeed to you, and with luck, no, I will NEVER see you again." I say. His kind are...well...odd. I turned to see the new owner of her looted steel garments rush back into the fort to tell his friends of his immaculate luck.
I started to walk away.
Did that mage come for the sole purpose of ridding us all of a terribly enlarged head?
If not, well, he may be a notorious stealer of souls, but on that day I witnessed him do a greater deed than any hero-bredever could have, in my opinion.
Britannia for a time was a better place.
He rid us the world, if only temporarily, of a pompous ass.
I hate braggarts.