Monday, 2 June 2014

The False Moon War: Chapter 11

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Chapter 11.  Da Bloo Shaman

Chapter 11. Da Bloo Shaman

Fawlty Spelchekka looked at the "guests" through slitted eyes.  With the larger orcs away with Warhuh's Waaagh! he was interim leader of the remnant of the Hawkhatz tribe.  The presence of a new shaman and three greenskin warriors, one of whom had a regal totemic headdress, and all of whom were bloo, was not welcome.

Neehai Tuacrikket had taken Rychek and his escort back to the Hawkhatz' shanty town to present them to the goblin Great Shaman.  "' da wun wif da Hork Hat sez he speaks for da Bloo Shaman wot is da boss..."

Fawlty held up his hand to silence his subordinate.  "Bring dem too da shrine."

The centre of the squalid Hawkhatz village housed the Shrine to Mork and Gork.  This was  surrounded by a wide apron of earth.  The soil had been beaten down to form a hard reddish crust.  Glowering idols of the twins flanked the low timber building which was decorated with skulls and other trophies of war nailed to or heaped against the walls.

The inelegant structure contained all of the magical 'Fings' of the tribe, with the exception of those which were 'Owt on Lone.'

The idols prevented entry by the uninitiated.  To gain access, a supplicant needed to greet each idol by name.  As noted earlier, differentiating the pair was challenging, even for priests.  Most others had even odds of getting it right first time.  Paradoxically, the most cunning would-be temple thieves were the least successful because they would try "Hail Mork and yoo too Mork," reasoning that "wun outta two ain't bad." 

In any case, a misspoken name would lead the speaker to find themselves embedded in the beaten earth by one or both of the idols.  Even though 'remembring' is not a valued skill among greenskins, it is possible that some might have been able to recollect that "dat wun is Gork,"  after observing another supplicant.  However, the idols would routinely exchange position when no-one was watching.

Mahtis was protectively clasping Rychek to restrain his twitching dance, with Bob and Joe standing to one side.  Bessie hung further back as she defoliated a leaf-thatched hut.

"If...IF he's a shaman, ther's gotta be a challenj,"  Fawlty intoned menacingly.

Mahtis clenched his mighty jaw and handed his spawn brother to the sauri to hold.  He stepped forward, flexing his trunk like arms.

"Not yoo!  Him!"  The goblin wizard indicated Rychek.  "A shaman challenj!"

"Oooh!"  The crowd of goblins were impressed.

Fawlty turned to address the press of eager greensins.  "Ya all knowz me!  Wot's my name?"

"Fatty Skulchukka!  Farty Spilsloppah!  Basil Fawlty!  Frilly Suspendah!"  The goblins huddled together to argue it out.  Presently they pushed the smallest of their number forward to present their consensus.

"Yoo is.... Fawlty Spelchekka?"  The goblin cringed.

"Dat's rite!  And am I a shaman?"  He continued to warm up the crowd.

"Yah!  S'right!  Dunno!  Finkso!  Woss a shaman?  Ouch!"

"I yam a shaman!  But... ow do ya know e'z a shaman?"  the evil goblin stabbed a gnarled finger at Rychek's chest.

There was a pause.  "E...lookz like a shaman...?" a timid voice called out.

Goblin Shaman Fawlty Spelchekka had a deep green complexion.  His hooked nose had a bone thrust through its nostrils and its snotty tip almost touched his outthrust chin.  His bat-wing like ears were pierced with bits of bone and animal horn.  His tattered cloak was made of the hide of a dwarf, with the beard part turned outside in to make a scratchy but warm lining.  From his waist hung several shrunken heads.  His bandy legs were bound with strips of rag which continued down swathe his grubby feet like bandages.  About his outstretched wrists and upper arms were fetishes made of the scraggly feathers of long dead vultures.

Even in his absent state, Rychek, looked normal. At least, he looked normal for a skink of Lustria.

Clawed feet supported sinewy legs.  His lean, ice blue torso was balanced by a short muscular tail.  Across his shoulders and back were tougher, darker coloured scales than were found on the rest of his body.  He was completely innocent of clothing.  His wide grinning mouth was studded with a regular row of needle sharp teeth.  He had a bright crest of skin stretched between a long spine of bone on his head and the nape of his neck.

It was clear that someone would eventually notice that Rychek did not look terribly shaman-y at all.  Bob felt the need to divert them from this line of enquiry.

"Well... He turned me into a newt!"

Every eye turned to study Bob in disbelief.  There was a long, uncomfortable silence.

"See," Bob pointed at his tail.

"Oooh!"  went the gawking throng as they pressed forwards for a closer look.

Fawlty chose to ignore him.  "Dere arr ways of telling if 'e iz a shaman!  Wot do shamans do?" the goblin leader asked.

"Burn!  Dey burn!  Shhh!  Nah, dey do... magick!  Yarright Magick!  Magick!"

"Wot else duz magick?"

"More shamans!  A duck!  Shaddup!  Shamans and....Mork!  Yah Mork!  Mork!  Mork!  And pozzibly Gork!  Yerr him too!"

"So, why doo shamans doo magick?"  Fawlty was sure he had them now.

"....Becoz....becoz dey knowz Mork, or pozzibly Gork?....."

"So, ow do we know dat he knowz Mork, or pozzibly Gork?"

"Cos he duz magick....?"  Spelcchekka silenced this one with a withering look.

"...we could...we could...ask 'im?" someone in the crowd murmured uncertainly.

"Procisely!  A Mork, or pozzibly Gork test!"

Fawlty scurried to the two idols in front of the shrine as the spectators gasped and shrank back several paces.  The shaman studied the statues carefully.

"Praize Mork!" he said to the statue on the right.  The other statue turned its glowering eyes toward him and balled an enormous stone fist as he blurted, "an' Praize Gork!" to his left as quickly as he could get the words out.

The idol returned to its state of dormant menace.  Fawlty ducked inside and returned moments later with one of the tribes most precious fings.

This was a sceptre which was surmounted by a representation of one of the twins.  The dark wooden shaft was decorated with the obligatory shrunken heads and other fetishes.  The likeness was crowned with feathers to denote that it was the property of the Hawkhatz tribe.

Fawlty thrust the sceptre into Rychek's hand and scuttled quickly back.  The crowd retreated another few steps.

"Wot wun of da twinz is da image on the stik?"

All of the goblins knew that if he invoked the wrong twin, there would be one less bloo shaman, and one more bloody crater in the town square.

Rychek looked uncertainly at the rod in his hand.  Bob and Joe instinctively tightened their grip on his arms as an eerie hush fell across the assemblage.  The tense silence stretched until every nerve in Mahtis's body jangled with apprehension.

"Gawk?" suggested Len, helpfully.

"Gork! Gork! Gork! Gork!" Rychek burbled happily.  After a few seconds the tense onlookers released a collectively held breath.  He knew Gork from Mork, and possibly Mork from Gork.  He was a shaman!

Fawlty snatched the sceptre of Gork from Rychek's hand in annoyance.  "Yoo are a shaman iz ya?  Then wez'll hav to hav a shaman challenj ta see who'z boss owt of uz!"

"The Bloo Shaman accepts your challenge!"  The Bloo warrior with the Hork Hat spoke for his tiny master.

The crowd tittered and stepped even further back.

"It shall be....a staring competition!" Joe declared.

"Wha'?" gasped Fawlty.

This was a new one.  Usually a shamanic challenge would involve an exchange of curses and magical missiles which would often leave both challengers with nasty injuries, if indeed the bodies could be found afterwards.

The goblin shaman considered his opponent and an evil smile crept onto his crooked face.  This bloo shaman lacked focus and discipline.  Fawlty was sure he could best his opponent in a test of concentration.

"I axcept da challenj!"

It was agreed that the first challenger to blink or turn away would concede to the victor.  A wide circle was scraped onto the rusty earth.  Bob and Joe continued to restrain Rychek as he was manoeuvred in one side of the ring.  Fawlty positioned himself opposite.

Under the malignant gaze of his gods, the greenskin shaman prepared himself.  As the sun reached its zenith, he raised the sceptre and screeched, "Da challenj baggins!"

After the first hour the contestants remained with eyes locked.  The crowd was finding it difficult to maintain their own focus.  Most challenges would be over by now, and the population would be able to get on with the task of rebuilding their town and recovering their scattered livestock.

This challenge while obviously very important was actually, incredibly dull.  Boredom was a new experience for many present, because they had rarely gone more than a few idle minutes before getting a solid boot up the backside from the nearest orc.

Another hour passed.  The only movement was the incessant lashing of the bloo shaman's tail and the odd bead of sweat on the goblin's brow. 

By the middle watch of the afternoon, Fawlty's shoulders had hunched and his forehead was creased with effort.  He had to shift weight from side to side to alleviate the ache in his legs.  Rivulets of sweated trickled down his beak like nose to splash into a growing puddle at his feet.  Rychek continued to lash his tail and grin enthusiastically.

Soon before the fourth watch, the goblin developed an uncontrollable facial tic.  He screwed up his face to try and alleviate it.  This dislodged sweat from his bushy brow.  The salty liquid trickled into one eye and started to sting unbearably.  To his credit, Fawltyh endured for four more minutes before staggering out of the circle, blinking furiously.

When he had regained some semblance of composure he turned back to his vanquisher with slumped shoulders, ready to pledge obedience to the victor.  The Bloo Shaman was still maintaining his uncanny stare. 

Fawltyh looked closer and gasped.  He pointed the sceptre in his hand at Rychek's face and shrieked, " 'E don't even hav eyelidz, for Mork's sake!"

With a roar of supernatural rage, the icon of Gork-on-a-Stick sprouted a pair of colossal green arms.  The enormous hands clapped together on the greenskin shaman as if he were a mosquito to be swatted.  The arms shrank and disappeared just as quickly as they had appeared and the sceptre clattered down onto the blood sprayed earth. 

Bob and Joe had recoiled in alarm and released Rychek's arms at the manifestation of the aggravated god.  The disturbed skink swooped to clutch the sceptre in his bony hand. 

"Gork! Gork! Gork! Gork!" he chirped as he waved his prize and capered around his friends and into the crowd of admiring goblins.

Mahtis boggled, "He IS the Bloo Shaman of Gork!"

Neehai Tuacrikket and the assembled goblin tribe chorused, "E'z Rite!"

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