“Verily tis the forlorn truth, my misshapen colleague; thou art ensorcelled by elven enchantress yonder. Thou art insensate in Belsha’anna’s beauteous fascinations, your will is subsumed by her feminine thaumaturgy, your breath a ballad singing her glory to the gods. Belsha’anna! Belsha’anna! Belsha’anna!
“And for what, these breaths, these ballads? For naught, Isoako, for naught! Your exertions go unrecognised, your dreams go unfulfilled, your existence goes unnoticed. The sorceress’s demeanour remains glacial, her heart hyperborean!
“I weep for your misery, my ugly half-orc brother-in-arms… I weep.”
Slouching, eyes red-rimmed from beer and heartache, Isoako Hardbark, Half-Orc ranger, stared at the bard over a table of empty pints. He regretted drinking now; Theseus was difficult enough to follow sober.
A response slurred from under the table, “You’re in the Charm Person Zone you miserable git!” Beauregard the dwarven rogue clambered up his bar stool holding aloft some stale bread rescued from the floor. “And hells Theseus, speak normally can’t you? Hyperborean? Really?”
Theseus the bard took the rebuke with good humour. “Beauregard is correct Isoako; the Charm Person Zone is a fortress of loneliness, and you are its sole occupant.”
“Wait a minute,” Isoako held his hands up, regretting mentioning his heartache to his friends, “are you saying that she cast a spell on me?” Isoako clung to the idea like a protective talisman. If his desire for the beautiful sorceress were magic, he could be free of its torment with an affordable blessing from priests.
Beauregard quickly killed this hope, “Oh no Hardbark, you’re not actually ensorcelled… but you may as well be. Think about it; a charm spell convinces an enemy that they are the mage’s best friend, and would do anything for them, right? But the spell’s victim is really just a slave. So, tell us – what did you do today, hmm?”
The half-orc jutted his tusks out and pouted. He did not like where this was going.
The bard picked up the game of torturing the half-orc with glee, “Methinks I saw our comrade on this rainy day picking mushrooms and flowers in the forest today. Were you perhaps planning a soup Isoako?”
Isoako muttered into his beer.
“What was that Hardbark? Nice and loud!”
“They… they were spell components. She didn’t even ask me for them, she just mentioned that she was low on mushrooms, and I just… helped out…” Isoako trailed off as the others looked at him eyebrows raised. The ranger slumped further.
“I know. Pathetic. I hate mushrooms, they give me hives.” Isoako took another long drink from his beer, “God’s, I even hate the damned forest.”
“Waitaminute… aren’t you a ranger?”
The half-orc twisted in his seat, wishing for some distraction. When one was not forthcoming, he reluctantly continued, “Well that’s not strictly true. When I signed up to get close to Belsha’anna, I just said I was a ranger. I thought women liked men who were a bit… ‘outdoorsy’. I hate the outdoors. It’s full of monsters and dire-wolves.”
Theseus and Beauregard stared at Isoako, then started to laugh, long and hard, attracting attention from other tables.“Isoako. My friend.” said Theseus between guffaws, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”
“Stop it guys, please! Help or I’ll be in this Charm Person Zone forever!” The lovelorn ranger looked over at the beautiful elf sitting alone at the other end of the inn. Belsha’anna was reading a small leather-bound book, and he despaired anew. “Do I go over? Do I make my move?”
Theseus spoke first. “Do not. Love is like the theatre my friend; it has player and played. And like theatre, its foundations are falsehoods, lies. Acquire a glamour potion. Pray to dark gods for looks. Polymorph your hideousness into handsomeness.” Theseus closed his eyes sadly. “I am sorry my friend, but your only hope lay with the magical arts.”
Beauregard shook his head, “You’re wrong Theseus. Playing pretend wont help – remember this is a battle! You’ve been putting her on a pedestal which only places her further out of reach. Every dwarf knows that when your target is too high, you need to knock them down to your size first. Undermine her confidence; ignore her when she speaks to you, match any kindness with cruelty. Love isn’t different to dragon slaying – attack her weak spots. When she’s low enough, she’ll be begging for your attention. See, women…”
“You are fools.” The words hissed from a darkened corner, a sibilant whisper carried on a chilly tone. They turned, startled. “You seek the attention of a mighty sorceress, who has dedicated centuries to occult studies, risen to undreamed of power, conquered the very limits of reality… how? Carrying spellbooks? Gathering mushrooms? How juvenile.”
The speaker leaned forward revealing bright eyes and voluminous black robes bearing dark, twisting, iconography.
“This advice… bah! Attempting to fool a spellcaster with chicanery is asinine, if not fatal. Base insults will not challenge such a woman’s self-esteem. Morons!
“No woman of character would be interested in your weak gifts, no woman of confidence will be challenged by your petty games, no woman of intelligence will be tricked by your frail theatre. Begone! Leave! Become a man of substance, worthy of notice. Come back when you have something of value to offer her.”
Finished, the dark-robed speaker disappeared back into shadow. Shamed, Isoako glanced down before turning to the lovely figure of Belsha’anna. He made a decision. He stood, throwing coins on the table. “I’ve got… some thinking to do.” He strode towards the exit, pausing only to address the darkness, “Thanks friend.” Theseus and Beauregard scrambled to catch up.
The dark mage watched them leave. “Idiots.” he muttered. Standing, he dismissed the cloacking miasma and pushed back his cowl, running fingers through greasy hair.
Robes swirling around him, he moved to the sorceress’s table and with a flourish produced two crystal glasses of elven wine. Smiling, he held one out Belsha’anna.
“Excuse me fair maiden, are you dryad? Because I’ve got an ‘enchanted wood’ in my robes…”
Word count 1000.
Ah, this was a load of fun to write! And possibly my first foray into the traditional Tolkienesque fantasy genre for this blog.
Ok, the challenge was put forward by Chuck Wendig on January 9 (the first Terribleminds Flash Fiction challenge of the year) – right up my alley with the “Who the F**k is my D&D Character” challenge. Writers were required to click the following random Dungeons and Dragons character background generator ‘Whothef**kismydndcharacter‘ for a character to write about. Simple enough.
Clicking the link, I was prompted with a:
MISERABLE HALF-ORC RANGER FROM A COMMUNE WHO SECRETLY BECAME AN ADVENTURER TO IMPRESS A LOVE INTEREST
And thus Isoako Hardbark was born.
The plot then fell out naturally. It’s pretty light on the action, but I am happy to get back to something with a bit of humour in it – I hope that others find this at least a little funny. I really enjoyed creating these characters too, the heartsick Isoako, the loquacious Theseus, and the cynical Beauregard, it was a really satisfying exercise in writing.
What was also interesting was the editing process. We were given 1,000 words, and my first draft of this was nearly 1,700. Cutting this down was an education in ‘following instructions’. I could have posted something with more words, perhaps it would have been better… but if this were a piece I was being paid for, then I wouldn’t necessarily have the freedom to exceed word limits. I figure there is a lot of value in actually following the rules, and trying to make the story a tighter piece of work. Whether I succeeded or not will ultimately up to you readers!
Spending the time on editing does mean that whilst I have spent some hours on this, I wasn’t writing the whole time. I might need to factor in some recognition of editing time in my 5000 words a week new years resolution!
So, let me know what you think in the comments. Is it funny? Does it make sense? Do you get a sense of the characters? Is it interesting or compelling? Or is it a big miss?
Thanks for reading.