Webcomics and Stories

Heroic & Dark Fantasy and Science Fiction Character created by Kevin L. O'Brien

Untitled, © by Hajime Sorayama

Untitled, © by Heise Jinyao

Barbarians R Us

This low fantasy / sword and sorcery short story was originally published in issue 16 of Nightscapes, an Internet magazine devoted to the Cthulhu Mythos. Though technically not out of print — the site is still active — it has been over two and half years since it first came out, and a more recent issue has supplanted it. Also, it has been modified from the original version; the modified version is presented here. It takes place in the Dreamlands, in mid-summer of the second year after Medb's arrival.

"Are you Röthgâr the Reaver?"

The tall, massive woman watched the barbarian turn away from the counter of the open-air wine shop. He took a casual pose as he drained his goblet, and then wiped the palm of one hand across his clean-shaven chin. He stared hard at her with his ebony eyes.

"Who asks?" he growled in a deep and powerful bass voice.

"I am Medb hErenn." Her contralto voice was just as strong, but melodic. "These are Teehar'owan," she indicated the bird perched on her right shoulder; "Conaed, called Runt," nodding towards the Zoog crouched on her left shoulder; "and Crèmedevoyageur of the feline messenger service." She indicated the young tomcat sitting at her feet.

He grunted, swatting at an errant fly. "Never heard of you, or your companions. What have you to do with me?"

"You have made a number of enemies in Ulthar."

The barbarian brushed away a lock of blue-black hair that had fallen into his craggy face. "Should I care?"

"You owe Seidhlóch the Moneylender two hundred and fifty silver tahlers, you wrecked three—no, four—taverns, you stole a purse of jewels and gold crowns from Scylla the Hetaira, you roughed up a number of guardsmen, you got drunk at The Laughing Cat and tried to assault Eibhlín Chrón, then fled without paying your tab; I doubt I need to continue, those being just the highlights."

He hooked his thumbs into his metal-mesh belt. "And what does any of this have to do with you?"

"They asked me to collect damages from you."

He narrowed his eyes and stepped closer, until there was barely a dagger blade's width between them. "And do you believe you can do this?"

Medb gave him a cryptic smile. "Let us say they have well-placed confidence in my ability to accomplish these kinds of tasks."

Smiling coldly in return, he said, "The fact that I was able to leave Ulthar, despite the number and severity of my exploits, should tell you that I will be difficult to get the better of." He reached up and ran the fingertips of his large and powerful hand along the line of her jaw. "Let me offer you an alternative. I shall be leaving in the morning. Come feast and drink with me today, then share my bed tonight. If you please me, I shall leave you a rich reward. You may then return to your friends and pay them off, and tell them any story you like." As he spoke, he dropped his hand down to her large, well-rounded bosom and grasped one of her breasts, squeezing the firm flesh.

She grinned at his audacity. "I am amused by your suggestion, for I intended to propose something similar. We shall have three challenges. If I win all three, you must accompany me back to Ulthar to make restitution. If, however, you win even just one, I shall let you have your way with me, and when I will return to Ulthar alone I will make restitution in your stead. Is that agreeable?"

He returned a predatory smirk. "It is. How shall we choose the contests?"

"You may select the first two, but I will choose the last."


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Glossary & Pronunciation Guide

Conaed (CON-ayd) — Fiery Wisdom
Crèmedevoyageur (KREHM-deh-voy-ah-gehr) — Master of Travelers
Medb hErenn (mayv HAIR-rain)
Röthgâr (RAYTH-gair)
Teehar'owan (TEE-har-oh-wahn) — The Despairing One

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