I fold my pillow over my ears, grit my teeth, and keep my eyes squinched tightly shut.
AARGH! I throw my dinosaur covers off me and sit straight up in bed.
“You said you’d wash the dishes, wipe the counters, and clean up Bitefighter’s shit!”
“Bitefighter’s a highly trained Attack Raptor!” I yell. “His shit strikes fear into evildoers’ hearts!”
“I DON’T CARE!” my Barbarian wife Selilah yells back. “THERE’S A PILE OF RAPTOR SHIT IN THE BACK YARD, AND THE COUNCIL OF ELDERS IS COMING OVER FOR DINNER! CLEAN IT UP OR I’LL SPIT-ROAST YOUR BALLS OVER AN ENCHANTED FIRE!”
My mouth opens and closes, and I barely stop myself from answering with a wise-ass retort. Even though I’m chief clansman of the Elthor Barbarians, I’m still no match for a Barbarian wife—when they say they’re going to spit-roast your balls, they mean it.
I swear inaudibly under my breath.
Her voice rises an octave, now infused with a dangerous tone of warning. “WHAT WAS THAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY???”
I clear my throat and awkwardly reply, “Nothing, dear! I’ll get right on it!”
“Don’t test me, Kent—not unless you want to get pegged with a rusty halberd!”
FUCK! I yank my loin cloth on, strap on my war-sandals, and break into a light jog. As I scuttle down the stairs and pass Selilah, I give her a quick kiss. She returns it hungrily (Barbarian wives are like that), then pushes me away and boots me in the ass, causing me to stumble toward our yard (Barbarian wives are like that, as well). I rub my rump and retrieve the poop shovel that’s propped up against the side of our hut.
Bitefighter’s outside, snoozing on the grass. He raises his head as I walk by, and grumbles querulously.
I give him a quick scratch behind the ears. “Price of having a kickass wife—they might be a demon in the sack, but you gotta pay your dues. And honestly, it does help to have someone remind me to clean up your dook. Remember when it was just us? All our trees were black and wilted, and they grew dried skulls instead of apples.”
Bitefighter gives me a searching look, as if he’s trying to comprehend why that’s a problem. Finally, he gives me the velociraptor version of a shrug, then lowers his head to the grass and goes back to sleep.
I start scooping poop and mutter, “Yeah, sometimes I miss those days; skulls are kinda cool when they’re hanging from trees.”
After an hour of scooping, Bitefighter wakes up and nudges me with his snout. I shake my head.
“Can’t play, buddy. Gotta finish this or Selilah’s gonna shove something long and rusty up my booty-hole.”
He lets out a plaintive caw.
“Yeah I know, buddy. I wish I could play too.”
He studies me with a sad gaze, causing my heart to break a bit, then his eyes brighten up. He scrambles out of view.
Goddammit—even my pet velociraptor is sick of chores, and he’s not even doing any.
But a second later he returns to me, a weathered scroll clutched between his teeth.
I stop scooping and plant the shovel into the earth. “Whatcha got there, buddy?” I wipe sweat off my brow with the back of my forearm.
He lets it drop to the ground and noses it open. Suddenly I remember—I’d been working on this story a long time ago. I’d completely forgotten about it until now. It was a story called…
The top part of the scroll unfurls and reveals the title: Echo.
Suddenly, a quartet of X-Wing S-foil wings sprout from Bitefighter’s flanks, and a cybernetic flight helmet appears on his scaly head. My eyes catch movement through the cracks of our fence; it takes a moment to register, but then I see it—a fast-approaching army of our sworn enemy: the Kai’tok Insectoids.
I hop on Bitefighter’s back and we take to the skies. As we zoom upward, I see Selilah burst outside, a furious look on her beautiful face. Before she can say anything, I yell:
“Sorry honey! Gotta go repel an Insectoid invasion!”
Her mouth opens, closes, then her frown melts away and she gives me a smile.
“I’ll be right with you! Gotta change into my war-bikini and grab my great-axe!”
Thank Crom for Barbarian wives!
(And also for well-timed hordes of evil monsters that excuse me from having to scoop up poop!)
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