Holly Dent was pretty damn evil, but she wasn’t a caricature. There was a spark of good inside her twisted, malicious heart. If she’d taken a long, honest look into her distorted psyche, she could have traced her dark inclinations back to her five-year old self, when Peter Lee had…
She didn’t want to think about it.
But even so, “The Event” haunted her throughout the day, nagging at the edges of her malevolent mind. Sometimes, vague details would come to the fore—she’d killed something, Peter had been involved, but beyond that…
The Event had incepted her with a secret attraction to Peter Lee. She only expressed it in the confines of her room—when the lights were out and no one could see her. Under her bed was a customized vault. For her thirteenth birthday, she’d asked dear old dad to equip it with lethal deterrents. He’d agreed in a heartbeat—anything for his sweet little angel.
Inside the vault were stacks of dildos—seven inches in length, five and a half inches in circumference. When they made contact with her bodily fluids, they began to disintegrate. She’d scoured the dark web for close to a year before she’d found a craftsman that could manufacture the cocks to her exact specifications. Instead of a dickhead, they all sported a miniature version of Peter’s face. His eyes were extra squinty, his expression was extra angry.
She held a “pildo” (short for Peter-dildo) up to the light, and turned it back and forth in front of her face.
You will pay for your crimes, fucker.
She inserted it between her legs. In less than a minute, she worked herself up to a raging orgasm. Once she was done, she stared at the pildo again. As the material disintegrated, Peter’s features went from angry to sad. This was her favorite part.
That’s right, you cunt—you fucked with the wrong cheerleader.
She pushed her thumb against Peter’s brow. His head snapped off like a cheap pencil. A shuddering moan escaped her lips.
I can’t wait to destroy you.
Kor’Thank spun into a crouch, shooting his greatsword past his side and into the belly of an attacking Orc. His weapon seesawed away, still lodged in his assailant’s torso. The king hammer-fisted another Orc on the bridge of the nose, knocking its eyeballs out from their sockets. The Orc ran away gibbering and screaming, its eyes dangling on its cheeks like macabre Endyear ornaments.
Krul’Dar, a dozen yards away, started in alarm. The king had lost his sword—a sure sign he was in dire straits. The Chronicler turned to the escort; they were busy playing boulders-parchment-blades, bored as usual by Kor’Thank’s workout.
“ARCHERS—LOOK ALIVE, DAMN YOU!”
“NO!” Kor’Thank roared. “NOCK YOUR BOW AND I’LL PUNCH YOUR ARM!” He ducked a sweeping slash and threw a leg-kick, splitting an Orc’s femur into red-washed jags that protruded from the skin.
The guardsmen, all of whom had snatched an arrow from their quivers, holstered their missiles just as quickly. An arm-punch from Kor’Thank would mean a month in a sling, followed by half a year of rehabilitation. If you were sparring with the king, there was no such thing as “blocking a strike.”
An Orc jumped onto Kor’s back, grabbing a fistful of hair and exposing his throat. The king bowed forward, coiling his legs, then twitched backward in a powerful leap, sandwiching his assailant between his muscled body and the unforgiving earth. The monster howled as its ribs broke with a resonant CR-CR-CRACK.
“COME AT ME!” Kor’Thank reached under a fifth Orc’s kilt, yanked off its genitals, and blattered it across the face with its own scrotum. “GIVE ME A CHALLENGE, GODS DAMN YOU!” He dropped another one with a hook to the liver, slipped a stab, gouged a throat, and ripped out a string of gore-covered vertebra.
The last Orc lay on its belly, face turned sideways. Its eyes were closed but it was still alive, evidenced by the rise and fall of its green torso. Kor’Thank knelt beside it, lifting its head up by its warrior’s queue.
The Orc’s eyes fluttered open. Its fearsome underbite hung loosely down. Its lower set of fangs—they would have extended an inch up its cheeks if its mouth were closed—barely touched its upper lip.
He shook the Orc by its queue. “Where’s your horde? WHERE?”
“We…are…all that’s left.”
Kor’Thank shook it again. “Lies—LIES!” He stood up, pulling the Orc up by its hair until its feet dangled above the earth. “WHERE ARE THEY???”
“I…agh!” It tried to pry his hand off its scalp. “I…speak…AGH! TRUTH!”
Kor’Thank dropped the monster and it fell to its knees, rubbing its leathery skull with yellowed claws. The king stared at it, his chest heaving in slow, heavy pants. Two years back, he’d repelled an offensive by the Orc Alliance. Now, all that was left were these beaten-down stragglers. Mopping them up was a task for first-year guardsmen. They could use the practice, he’d had plenty.
So let them do it.
The thought resonated dimly through his mind, but it was washed away by a tide of rage. He cocked a fist and the Orc flinched back, shielding its face with a scaly pair of hands.
“Quarter,” it rumbled. “I beg quarter.”
Kor’Thank was silent for a long moment.
He extended his hand. The Orc took it and rose to its feet.
“Your name, Human, so I may regale my people with tales of your strength and prowe—”
“My name means nothing,” Kor’Thank grunted. “I am naught but a soldier.”
The Orc raised a wart-speckled eyebrow. “Never before have I seen a soldier as formidable as—”
“Go.” A flap of the arm. “Before I pull your guts out through your nose.”
The Orc turned and ran. Kor’Thank watched as it crested a hill, rage smoldering in his shadowed eyes. Unsurprisingly, the men had all found something to do.
The king swiveled on his heel and strode to his war-raptor. He shook the saddle, making sure it was firmly seated, then leapt up onto Bitefighter’s back.
“Mount up!” he yelled. “Killing Orcs rouses my thirst!”
The barbarians scrambled onto their raptors. The king squeezed Bitefighter’s flanks with his thighs, and the troop set off for the nearest town—Olgor—which lay three keltins west. As they rode across the desert, the guardsmen exchanged excited looks. Of late, the king had become increasingly fickle. The men didn’t know if they were in for a grueling training session, or if they would stand idly by as Kor’Thank finished his murderous “workout.” A trip to the pub was a welcome treat.
“HYAAAHH!” Kor’Thank squeezed his thighs, and his mount ran faster.
As saurian talons beat the earth, gritty particulate funneled skyward, heralding their passage with a low-hanging haze.
Kor’Thank chugged another stein of ale. Krul’Dar—sitting to his right—gave him a worried look.
“Kor…don’t you think that—”
“Don’t I think what?” The king’s bloodshot eyes bored into Krul’s. “We’ve defeated every threat, both great and small. Flaysac’s bandits,” he muttered, turning away and facing forward. “They’re all that’s left.”
“We have discussed this at length,” Krul said. “His men have fortified the mountains with bulwarks and barricades. A war with Flaysac would gut our forces.”
Kor’Thank sighed. “I know. It’s just that—”
“We are free to enjoy ourselves. To enjoy our lives.” Krul’Dar glanced over his shoulder and looked at the men; they were slurping ale and chattering boisterously. It wouldn’t be long before they started wrestling.
He turned back to the king. “And yet still I worry.”
Kor’Thank scoffed. “You nag me like an old crone in a tired parable.”
“You need a challenge, Kor. Else you risk becoming the very tyrants you’ve vanquished in the past.”
“I will never!” Kor’Thank snarled. He gulped the rest of his ale and gestured for another. The innkeeper slid him a fresh stein.
“It is not a question of willpower,” Krul replied. “ ’Tis simply our nature—we wither without struggle. The greatest hell lies on the ceiling of heaven. For as deep as you go into the realms of misery, you can still crawl up.” He took a deep breath. “You are in grave peril, my liege.”
“I told you, Krul: call me by my name. Enough with the fancy-sounding—”
“I cannot, old friend. For in this matter, I am your servant.”
Kor fell silent. After a few seconds, he turned and looked at the Indashi warriors. They were brave men, one and all. Yet as he watched them laugh and drink, he began to condemn them.
They’re soft. Weak. They need adversity. They need—
Krul laid a hand onto his shoulder. “My king—what malice fires your gaze?”
Kor looked down, suddenly ashamed. “I…nothing.” He gave Krul a weak smile, then looked irritably around and locked eyes with the barkeep. “Ho!” The king reached into a lizard-skin pouch affixed to his waist, and held up a gold drogo. It bore a rough semblance of his face on one side, and a snarling velociraptor on the other. “Another round!”
The barkeep stepped forward, hands folded meekly before him. “I lack the change for an entire drogo, my king, if you have something a bit sma—”
“Keep the change, you prevaricating dundernonce!” Kor’Thank snapped.
The innkeeper took the money and shuffled away.
Krul trailed him with his eyes. “A little harsh, don’t you think?”
“I am the Indashi king,” Kor’Thank retorted. “My people should be grateful that I don’t order them to don their armor, and march them through the Rakarian Bogs.”
Krul shook his head. “Many do so of their own accord. There are countless youth groups dedicated to following your example.”
A mean glint arose in Kor’Thank’s eyes. “So they want to be me, eh? They want to traipse around the countryside and rip apart weaklings? Akanax’s balls!” He slammed the counter with a gnarled fist. “There is no peace in battle…none in victory, even! I need…I need…”
He looked guilty, then dour.
“I need another beer.” He turned to the barkeep. “Another round! And make it fast, gods damn you!”
More beer was placed before him. He drank it down in a single draught. “Another!”
Another stein came sliding across the counter. Kor’Thank stared at its foaming head, watching the froth calm and vanish. “I need a worthy opponent,” he muttered. “One I can fight without laying waste to the entire kingdom.”
“You’ll find none in there,” Krul said.
Kor’Thank grimaced. Gulped his beer.
I know, he thought.
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
So what in the Seven Hells am I supposed to DO?