As I use the rib bone of a retrorax to pick my teeth, I throw a casual glance over at my fight brother Kor’Thank. “What would you like to do today, fight brother?”
He gazes amiably at the fire, its steady lash of flames reflecting off his gleaming irises. “I know not, Kent. Perhaps we should play soccer with some severed darkling heads.”
“Mmm, I’m a bit tired for that. Mayhap we could hire a minstrel to sing for us.”
Kor’Thank’s eyes brighten at the prospect. “It has been an age since I have heard the strum of a lute. That is a grand idea, fight brother Kent!”
Conveniently enough, we hear the soft rustle of pads against sand and the rill of a harp floating through the desert night. We both stand up from our fire so we can look towards the source of the noise. Sure enough, it seems to be a minstrel on a stegosaurus coming our way. When he gets close, we see that he’s dressed in billowing striped purple sleeves, a vest, and a beret. He lifts a hand off his harp and hails us.
“Ho! Coin for a song, if you’d have me!”
I nod. “Our ears could stand to bask in some soothing melody. Come, minstrel! Partake of our kill and have some mead!”
The minstrel dismounts his stegosaurus, looks at both Kor’Thank and I, then at the racks of picked-clean bones lying by our feet. A slight grimace passes across his face. “No thank you. I do not eat flesh.”
Kor’Thank and I exchange a derisive grin, but we both feel comforted by these words: Obviously, this man is not a physical threat. No true warrior would refrain from consuming glorious mouthfuls of fresh-roasted retrorax.
I throw a cinched bag of coins toward the man. “What did you say your name was, minstrel?”
The minstrel bounces the bag in an open palm, appraising it with a professional eye. “My name is Starlilt.”
Kor’Thank and I exchange another knowing nod and a grin—no man named Starlilt would ever be able to threaten two warriors that have graduated from the Forge (the academy where all budding barbarians are shown how to swing sword and axe). On top of that, we’ve bloodied our blades in countless battles, fought everything from Insectoids to snake-liches.
Starlilt sets his harp aside and stands up. I raise an eyebrow in curiosity: is he not going to play for us? Maybe just his voice to start with.
Things become stranger, however, as the minstrel begins speaking. “Loam furrows and dances—running, writhing, seeing. I, red-beating pain of the mother. Green.” He pauses, and a sinister grin breaks out across his face. “Lifedeath. YES.”
I scream in pain as boils break out across my body. “AAAAARRRGHH!!!” I look disbelievingly over at Kor’Thank, who’s clutching his stomach as it bulges with hideous lumps. He locks eyes with me, giving me a desperate, pained glance.
“Fight brother Kent, this is no minstrel, this is an emo-poet! ‘Ware, for he is springing a tra—AAAAAAHHHH!!!” His belly bursts open, letting loose a hideous collage of red-soaked organs and entrails. Blood spouts from his lips in foot-high geysers and he collapses onto his side, fixing me with a glassy-eyed gaze.
My vision warps as I stumble to my feet, reaching for my short sword on my right hip. The emo-poet’s face contorts into long runnels of color, and he keeps speaking.
“Fiery leaves…burning, twisting…darkness. Blast of worth-soaked chamomile.”
Mother of Ballach! How did I know this wasn’t gonna fucking rhyme? I vomit blood as I collapse to my knees, desperately rooting through my pack for something, anything…I think this is it. This is the end. May Crom deliver my soul into the Enchanted Booty Fores—
My hands close on a scroll I attained after defeating a 40th level dracolich. As my trembling fingers open it up, my perception collapses so that I experience time as it truly is—simultaneous and acausal. My psyche rockets forward through thousands of incarnations, all blurring before me, and I see that in one of them I will write a science fiction epic, an epic about two-gun cyborgs soldiers called…
“ECHO!” The word leaves my mouth in a cry that is half triumphant, half death-knell. Magic flash.
Eldritch swirls crawl across my body, healing the withered, boil-infested skin caused by exposure to heinous, shit-infested half-thoughts. A giant cluster of steel barrels appears strapped across my chest, and I intuit that this is a weapon known as a “gatling gun.”
I point it towards the emo-poet, who backs away, both hands raised in alarm. I press the trigger and the barrels begin rotating into a circling blur. Rounds slash apart this foul wizard’s torso, causing him to jerk like a marionette gone mad.
“FOUL SERVANT OF ASTAROTH! TO THE PIT WITH YOU! MAY DEMONS HAVE NONCONSENSUAL SEX WITH YOUR BUTT AND FACE, PRAISE CROM!”
I stop speaking, losing myself in a hellish, deeply satisfying war-scream. Once I am done, I praise the Barbarian All-father Akanax. Most of us warriors who are set upon by emo-poets are typically rendered into witless thralls, and eventually turned into beta-males through the darkest of magicks. Not today, my fellow barbarians-warriors-to-be, not today.
Science has determined that 3.8% of chill-ass campfires are interrupted by a stream of Force 10 mind-shit that can be classified as emo-poetry. Protect your mind, protect your soul, and if you’re a man, protect your testosterone levels. Get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle