Chapter 18

The Chief stared down at Zwain. Its massive chest heaved with each breath, full of rage and anger. Drool and snot clung to the front if its face like a gooey membrane. The feathers of its headdress were tattered and falling out.

It let out a massive roar as it charged forward at Zwain.

Zwain ducked and dodged to the left, narrowly escaping the pounding fists of the monster. The earth shook as its fists made small craters in the brown dirt. Zwain spun around and smashed The Axe into its right forearm. A loud crack pierced his ears as the arm bent halfway between the elbow and the wrist. The monster rose up clutching its arm, the lower half dangling like a heavy piece of rubber.

It lunged for Zwain again, this time Zwain ducked beneath the reaching hand and swung The Axe for its shins. The guitar struck the shin with a loud thud, but there was no bone cracking this time. Zwain rolled to the side before the beast could trample him. He popped up to his feet, turned to swing his guitar at the beast once again and was hit square in the chest by the broken arm of the monster. Shattered bones pushed their way out of its skin as dark red blood ran down its arms in little streams. The Chief let out roar of pain.

Zwain saw an opening and rushed in. He focused on the head of the monster and cocked the guitar back for a killing blow. The monster stepped back to dodge, but Zwain adjusted his swing and connected with the monster’s ribcage. The Chief staggered back, clutching its shattered ribs with its one good arm.

Zwain charged again at the staggering monster. The Chief caught his footing, and reached forward to grab Zwain by his head. Zwain ducked, spun and connected his guitar on the broken arm. The Chief let loose a guttural yell that caught Zwain off guard. Before he could even think of his next attack, a mighty green foot caught him in his chest sending Zwain flying into the side of one of the tents. The tent collapsed all around him and Zwain struggled to free himself from its tangles.

The ground shook as the monster stomped its way over to Zwain. It stopped just a few feet away and stood there, glaring down at him; its eyes on fire with intimidation. The Chief took one deep breath, grabbed the wrist of the broken arm and yanked it off. It kept its eyes locked on Zwain as the sinew of muscles popped. It sucked in one deep breath, curled back its lips and let loose a roar that blew Zwain’s hair back. The rotten smell of its breath made Zwain gag as he finally freed himself from the tent.

The Chief lunged forward with new found speed and ferocity. Zwain barely manage to roll off to the side to dodge it. The beast spun around in the blink of an eye and charged at Zwain once again. Its eyes glowed red like two burning suns in its sockets. Zwain dropped to his knees and swung his guitar into the monster’s left ankle causing it to lose its balance and tumble into another one of the tents.

Zwain rushed at the Chief with his guitar high above his head. He leapt into the air and swung the guitar in a huge sweeping arc. The guitar stopped just inches from the face of the beast, held back by a massive green hand that Zwain never even saw move. The hand grabbed his wrist and Zwain was hoisted into the air as the Chief stood up.

Being this close to the monster’s mouth made the putrid breath far worse than before. Yellow rotten teeth lined its dark red gums. The red glow of its stare intensified. Zwain flailed his body, trying to escape, but the beast’s grip was too strong. Zwain managed to swing himself up enough to plant the heel of left foot into its face. Then he started stomping down on the thing’s nose. Left foot, right foot. The bloody stump of its missing arm reached up to stop him, forgetting that it lacked the rest of itself. Zwain kept kicking forward with as much force on his heels as his legs could muster.

The Chief dropped him and Zwain hit the ground; rolling out of the way of a kicking green foot. He spotted his guitar a little ways to his left and dashed for it. The monster roared and gave chase, the earth shaking with each step. Zwain grabbed the guitar and, with no time to pick a target, swung it upwards as the beast leapt over him.

There was no bone crunching cracks or snaps, just the soft fleshy thud of the guitar hitting the beast where both of its legs met. It let out a squeal so high pitched that Zwain thought it was coming out of another creature. Zwain stood up and watched as the Chief’s knees knocked together and it keeled over in the dirt. It made no attempt to escape from Zwain as he approached. It just laid in the dirty holding its testicles, sobbing in pain.

Zwain hoisted the guitar high above his head, ready to deal the finishing blow–

“That’ll do, wizard. We can take it from here.”

The guitar froze in place and Zwain glanced over his shoulder. A group of about 6 men, all covered head to toe in metal approached him.

“Wizard?” asked Zwain as he turned to meet these newcomers.

The leader of the pack drew and arrow from his quiver.”We were approaching this camp when we saw that portal open,” he said as he let the arrow fly, hitting the chief in the back of the skull. “None of the orcs in this area would have the capabilities to do such a feat. Not even Chief Unklar here and he was damned near the smartest of this camp. Hell, not even our own wizard, Lord Finnegan, is capable of opening portals”

“Who are you? Where am I? Orcs?”

“What do you mean, where am I? Do you not know the lands of Stephen, our King?”

Zwain could only shake his head.

“Of course not. You must not be from around here, not with that ridiculous getup you’re wearing. Well then, you would not presently know that the use of unsanctioned magic in these parts is also punishable by immediate death.”

Zwain clutched the guitar, ready to strike. If it came to blows, he was going to fight his way out. He wanted to get back to the field and make sure that his friends were safe.

“Easy. Easy. We witnessed your tussle with Unklar. I have to say that it was most impressive. Especially after he turned into a berserker. Even the most skilled warriors are usually killed on the first charge of a berserked orc.”

“Well, matters of life and death do tend end up in my favour.”

“Indeed.”

“So what happens now?”

“Well, my men have arrows trained on you at this moment, so don’t try any magical funny business.”

“You don’t have worry, that portal was a one time thing and I don’t have any other spells up my sleeve.”

“Sure, and goblins make great farm animals. You wizards are the most cunning and sly people around. It’s your hubris; that you think you can out wit the rest of us.”

“Not at all. When I made that portal it required a lot of…” Zwain didn’t know how to put it. This place seemed lacking in the technology department. “… ingredients? I had to rush through when I saw these… orcs? Coming through to my lands and didn’t have time to grab any more. I assure you I can’t open another portal.”

“Well that’s all for the better. Now, if you could come with me, I might be able to make a case for you with our good King. Your unique fighting style against Unklar might prove useful. I fear dark times may be upon us. Now, come along. Don’t make me have to tie you up.”

Zwain approached the pack of knights, they let him pass and then followed in tow. The lead knight removed his helmet and rested it on the pommel of his saddle. “The name is Sir Leopold. Lead knight and heir to the throne. And you are?”

“Zwain, lead singer for A Flock of Cows, ” said Zwain taking a deep bow. It was the kind of smart-ass remark that he knew Duece would’ve loved.

“Well, Sir Zwain of the Flock of Cows, allow me to be the first to welcome you to Astarathe.”

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