“This excerpt is from a fantasy called The Cock of the South. I hope to have it published on Amazon by the end of summer. This involves a group of dwarves who become refugees from the humans. The setting is Greco Roman, and it gets pretty violent in places.
“The dwarves, a few other fantastic creatures, and some downtrodden humans are on an exodus away from their pursuers. In this scene, they meet one of the supporting characters who isn’t from around these parts. I hope you enjoy it.”
“What are you building here?” Cobby asked.
“It’s dem camels, by golly,” the fellow said in a nasal tenor. “They gets all jumpy when the mountain shakes and the whole string runs off into the lake.”
Cobby smiled at the way he said “dey, yumpy, and ven”. The story didn’t make much sense. The fellow kept his back turned and focused on his job. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“Big string comes from the east.” He pointed without looking up. “When the mountain shakes, those camels goes crazy. They running around knocking down porches and everything. Then one of the boss camels, she runs into the lake and they all follow her. They’s all carrying silver bars and they sink just like an anchor, by golly.
“Then this here smart guy comes who says he can get the silver. He makes this pump and some tubes out of ox gut. It blows air into a funny hat he wears and now he looks for the silver. He pays me to work the bellows.”
Cobby silently studied the machinery. I’m coming back with some paper to make drawings. He headed for Uncle’s wagon and turned back. “Has he found any?”
“No, but he find a camel skull just last week.”
Cobby returned with his paper and drew a picture of the pumping mechanism. When the man came out of the lake, he wore a brass helmet that went low enough to cover his collar bones. He had on some sort of tar covered suit that almost kept the water out. Cobby made a picture of the helmet along the edge of the same page. The man turned some winged screws along his face and opened a little glass door. He sucked air in repeatedly. He heard him say, “That’s it for today, Roald. I can’t go down again. Nothing but more junk people throw off the dock.” He undressed and pulled on a heavy black cloak.
The helper approached Cobby, “We’s done today. What you think of this project?”
Cobby didn’t answer right away. The helper was obviously a dwarf of some kind, but he didn’t look like the Southerners. He had blond hair, and a thick beard that only came down to his collar bones. There were no ringlets in it at all. He wore leather trousers and heavy hobnail boots. His grey cable knit sweater seemed as out of place as the rest of him.
“I’m Roald.” He stuck out his hand. Cobby shook it.
“Sorry, I was just looking over the equipment. My name’s Cobby. It seems like a gamble to me.”
“We’s all gamblers though. Get up early and maybe the trolls is still out. Get up late and the deer are all asleep. He pays me good, so I work hard.”
“What do you usually do?”
“I grow cows sometimes. Right now I’m wandering around.”
“Have you ever been over the mountain?”
“Oh yah, lots of times. There’s a lake up there of pure lava. It’s kind of scary, but good to look at too. It’s time for a beer now though, I think.” He slapped Cobby on the shoulder.
“I’ll have one with you. There are more of us in the tavern,” Cobby said. He saw Kephas and Pat trying to squeeze Kephas’ ox into a harness so they could replace his shoes. Amazing people, everyone just pitches in and does what they have to.
Nikeas sat with Sibyl and Athene in the tavern. “Bar keeper said we’re too late to go over the mountain. What do we do now?”
“I’m working on it,” Cobby said. He introduced Roald and they sat down.
“That barkeep, he only trying to get you to stay and spend money,” Roald said. “The mountain is always bad. He shakes and rumbles all the time. Just don’t wait till the snows come.”
“Can we get over with our wagons?” Athene asked. Roald slid his chair closer to her and said, “The main road’s pretty good, by golly. There’s a couple places where you need to get some hands on the wagons to keep them from flipping over though. You don’t have any camels do you?”
Athene laughed and said, “No”. She placed a hand on Roald’s knee and said, “I’d feel better if someone could show us the way though.”
“I gots a job to do here. That crazy human, he pays me to pump his air.”
Athene turned to her father, “Couldn’t we pay Roald to show us the passes?”
“We just don’t have anything,” Nikeas said. “Our riches are more of the community and family kind right now. We had to leave everything when Remus attacked.”
“Those dirty buggers wants everything, I think,” Roald said. “I wonder what they’ll do after they get it? My tribe was attacked by humans once too. We got Balts, and Saxons, and Slavs all fighting with everyone else.”
“Must be human nature,” Cobby said.
“But not dwarf nature, I think. Dwarves ought to help each other,” Roald said.
Athene moved even closer to Roald, “I think you’re right, and we could really use your help getting over the mountain. We’re wandering- you’re wandering. We could wander together if you like.” Athene batted her eyes as Roald looked at her.
“Okay then. I tell that goofy human he can find someone else to pump his air. The five of us can start tomorrow.”
“Roald dear,” Sibyl said, “There are nearly two hundred of us.”
“Oh, well then, where we going to get all that food? Someone has to hunt and forage somewhere.”
“We’ve got a wagon full of fruit, but could use some meat,” Sibyl said.
“We should send some folks ahead by a couple hours. They can go quiet like and could see a goat or even a pig. We’ll bring the noisy group later and maybe they catch something. I got some mountain cows that pack for me. Two of them are milking and we can have that too.”
“Thank you, Roald,” Athene said, “Why don’t you show me your pack string. I’ve never seen mountain cows before.” She grabbed his hand and headed for the door.
“Ask around town about Barbara,” Nikeas said.
When Athene and Roald were gone, Nikeas said, “Sounds like he’s a Tribesman. Where’d you find him?”
“Down by the lake,” Cobby said.
“Do you trust him?”
“I don’t see anyone else available. Besides, we have him outnumbered about two hundred to one.”
“Sounds pretty smart, I suppose.”
Nikeas woke Cobby in the dark. “I sent Simon and Uncle ahead of the main group. He’s pretty good throwing that harpoon. Athene’s with Roald milking cows. Uncle asked you to help the woman with his wagon.”
“How early is it? I never heard Gallicus.”
“Too early for him even,” Nikeas said. “Too many people pass through here. I want to leave before someone talks about where we’re going, where we’ve been, or what we might be up to. Remus doesn’t need to know we’re going to help the Goths.”
Cobby hitched the mule and got Ruth ready to move out. “I’ll walk ahead,” Ruth said.
“There’s plenty of room up front,” Cobby said. “It’s going to get steep and rocky.”
“It’s Saturday. I’m not supposed to ride anywhere. I’ll just walk and pray today.”
Cobby thought, Bah, Saturday. I’m not even sure what day it is. What a blunt custom. He looked around in the predawn, I wonder how many other ideas fill this camp?
Roald led the group with seven of the tiniest cows Cobby had ever seen. They were only four foot tall at the shoulders, and covered with thick wooly blond hair. Their little horns protruded beyond the hair and turned up at the ends. Two of them had udders that swayed from side to side. All of them carried packs filled with ropes, tents, and other items.
Uncle and Simon managed to get two pigs. One had a clear harpoon mark through the side, the other was ripped to pieces.
Simon said, “Uncle skewered the big one, and I killed it. The Gryphons flushed them from the brush, and they dropped the other one. It’s pretty torn up, but it’s still a fresh kill.”
“Sounds like a good hunt to me,” Cobby said. “Maybe we can make the mangled one into scrapple. It’s going to take a lot to feed this many people.”
“I’ll see if Athene or Sibyl can help me make it. Ruth won’t have anything to do with pigs,” Uncle said. “I’ll see if I can get a hen of some kind.”
Roald handed Simon a wicked looking pick. It was pointed at each end, and had considerable weight around the shaft. The steel of the shaft was engraved with knot-work patterns.
“By golly, I got something for catching stuff.” He opened one of the packs and pulled out a net with weights all around. “Just twist it some when you throw. It opens right up and catch that chicken.”
Cobby looked down and smiled. Yust and tvist, he’s definitely not from around here.
Simon gave back the pick, “That’s quite the weapon.”
“It works pretty good too. Mostly it’s for climbing in the mountains though. I had the smith add some weight so I can break through armor. Those trolls have pretty thick hide sometimes.”
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“Ever since I was old enough to read I’ve loved escapist fiction,” says author Craig Boyack. “There’s just something about travelling to a magical realm or distant planet that appeals to me. Some of the stories I grew up with are considered pulp fiction.
“My goal is to offer readers that same experience. I want to take them on a journey to places that are both unsafe and wonderful at the same time. To introduce them to characters who have a choice in how the story turns out. To let them experience both success and failure.
“I call my blog Entertaining Stories, because that’s the goal, to entertain. There aren’t going to be a lot of morals and thought changing events in my stories. I want readers to escape from lives where they have little control and have to worry about whether their retirement funds will still be there when they reach that age. Even if it’s only for a few hours.
“My stories are all either science fiction, paranormal, or fantasy. If you’re interested I’d appreciate you checking out my links.”
Thanks, Craig, for giving us a sneak preview of your latest novel, The Cock of the South, I really enjoyed reading it, and can’t wait for the book to be released!
If you are a writer and would like to have your work featured on my Friday Fiction, please contact me here. Have a great weekend, everyone!