Anyway, Eggsic is my world, and it's basically a cross between Warcraft, LOTR, Discworld, and some other things I have either forgotten or don't care about.
Let's see how this goes; it's the first novel, and it's nowhere near completed, but it's the best I've written so far, I think.
The Unending Road in Bucketshire should be dismantled because of blatant false advertising. It does end, and it doesn’t even take up much time to do that. It’s about three hundred feet, all told. The residents didn’t mind though, it was a talking point in conversations that had run out of steam. Currently, it was dark. This is a common characteristic of night-time, it tends to be dark. This was not an unusual night. It wasn't any different from any other night. It wasn't darker, or lighter, louder or quiter. It was simply a normal night.
Apart from the three hooded men standing outside the garden of Jim Harris.
Jim Harris was an executioner at Bucketshire city jail. It was, surprisingly enough, not a pleasant job, but it paid well; and at least he didn't have to clean up the blood from the scabby walls afterwards, that horrid job was left to the consistently cheerful Mrs. Perkins, who come rain or shine, always laughed. She laughed all the time. And she shook her finger happily in a 'oooh, you;ve been a cheeky boy' fashion.
Jim tried to make his executioners clean and simply, and strove to avoid the "golden rule" his mentally insane boss had given him when he had just started out. 'If you have to kill someone, at least do it with a smile.' Jim knew this was rubbish for a few reasons, chief of which being that if the tables were turned, and he was the one being violently beheaded, he certainly wouldn't want some bloke with an offensive weapon standing over him and grinning away like some sort of unhinged sadist.
The three men standing outside his humble abode and looking thoughtful were all wearing long dark red hoods which rather conveintally covered their faces with thick, black shadows. They each had their hands held behind their backs, and a good observer would see that their hands too were covered, in black, studded gloves, which were all the rage among prophets seeking to show the world the complete, and genuine, prophetting experience. There appeared to be a faint golden glow around the three, a circle of dim light, waving mysteriously in the air, like clear water.
'Not what I was expecting,' said the first. His voice didn't have an accent, it was just spoken, there was no character to it. It was a voice that showed that it's owner's only purpose and only experiences was in his job.
'What were you expecting?' asked the second, a small fat man who never the less looked omnipotent, possibly about pork pies. His voice too was devoted to his job, and had very little time for anything which didn't involve head accessories that shielded the world from a blank complexion.
'Either a glorious mansion, aborned with beauty, majesty, and paintings of noblemen lining the walls, or a small damp hut.'
There was a snort from the third member of the unknown trio. The first and second looked at him with some distaste. They didn't really like him, he told jokes, he didn't speak in riddles, and he gave rather extreme opinions. They also had a strong sense, that one day, he'd become more successful than both of them combined. They especially didn't like that.
'What was the meaning of that intrusion, may I ask?' asked the first (or did things as he asked whether or not he was allowed to do them).
'Life isn't a fairy-tale you know,' the third prophet smirked. Now this voice was full of life. It was optimistic, but also aware of injustice, and hated the world for it. It also didn't see the point in respecting its elders.
'I didn't insinuate it was,' replied the first, looking away sheepishly. He tried not to sound annoyed, just icy.
'You thought our man was going to be either rolling in cash, or rolling in turd, admit it,' said the third.
The first man's body language failed to avoid looking embarrssed, although he put up a pretty good fight. 'It was a hunch,' he said, defensively.
'I didn't think us prophets did hunches,' said the third. The second man rolled his unseen eyes, this always happened. He whispered a request to the great God Jek; he felt his call being acknowledged, and then denied. Git.
‘Don’t be daft man,’ the first said, folding his arms, ‘it’s only right for us to have hunches.’
The third man, always wanting to show his "superiors" he knew a thing or two more than them, pressed on. 'Remember last decade? You told me off when I predicted that Ian the Average Wizard would take the title of King of Idlewind from his master, King Rog, when he died.'
'I did? It must have been an off day.'
'And it turned out to be true, as well,' added the third, who got quite worked up about things like that.
The second man, who had no wish for the conversation to continue (he was always brought into it one way or another), took off his fetching black backpack, and looked inside.
'Sandwich anybody?' he asked. He was the picnic carrier of the group, it was not a demanding role, and besides, he was the one that got to choose what the food was, and where he got it from. There was a grunt of please and thank you as the other two members took them graciously and started nibbling on them aimlessly. A sniff came from the first man.
'Who made these?' he asked, looking at the contents of them.
'I got them from a sandwich shop just down the road,' answered the second, munching happily.
'I don't like cheese and pickle,' said the first, chewing with a look of disgust on his face (or rather, the shadow of his face).
'Tough cookies,' said the second.
'I also do not approve of you from buying from a... mortal shop,' he continued.
The third man, who had been quite enjoying the previous argument and was a bit upset that it had to end, leapt back into action. 'Three years ago, you went into a bakers in Rompton and came out full of crumbs.'
'That was different,' his victim replied, 'I was hungry.'
'Oh good,' the third man beamed, 'so am I.'
'Enough, please,' groaned the second man, 'I can't be bothered with the constant bickering. Seeg, are you ready for your first major challenge as a prophet of the Great and Really Important Order Keepers?'
The third man shrugged. 'Yeah, alright.'
'Bravo.' muttered the first man, 'now, can we please get out of here, it's cold.'
The sound of Mr. Eli’s rabbit roaring away in the morning would wake anyone up; it would wake dead people up. It would make dead people wish they were dead, and then they would realize they were and get depressed about it. It was unlucky for Jim that he lived next door to Mr Eli, and so waking up was a terrifying experience; earmuffs didn’t work; they just muffled the sound, they didn’t quieten it.
And so it was that Jim sat up, and put his head in his hands. What a night. He went to sleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow, but it wasn’t a nice sleep. It was full of dragons, and zombies and goblins and¾ well, he didn’t want to think about it.
A drink, that’s what he needed, a nice drink. He stood up dozily, stretching his limbs in all different directions, giving the impression he was trying to do a standing star jump. He had a quite plain complexion. He had hair, but it wasn’t styled. It was just there. As was his stubble that covered his lower face. He had never occurred to him to cut it. If it wanted to be cut, why did it grow?
He wasn’t a particularly butch man either. Yes, he had muscles, but they weren’t notable, they were once again just there. It was his eyes that people noticed. They fitted him perfectly. Moody. Cynical. They were dark blue.
He lived in a bungalow. It wasn't very big, perhaps just big enough for two people. Not that he used it as such. It was just him; his parents lived in Idlewind, at least that was where the last letter came from.
That's better, he thought, as he ate a bit of elvish chocolate and drank a glass of milk. A nice proper breakfast. Proper by Bucketshire standards at least. It wasn’t a rich city. It used to be; back when Eggsic was fuelled by war and people who thought violence was the only way to solve things (they still did, but decided it wasn’t worth all the hassle). It used to supply weapons and ships to all the major nations, and it made a bucketload in cash (hence its name). But now, it was swept aside. No-one was interested in it. It's chief export was mud and it's chief import was anything cheap enough. The only use for Bucketshire, and it's population of two hundred and fifty thousand and one, was to keep the inept Dark Lord Simon out.
Calling Simon inept was a bit cruel. Even inept people had more pride than Simon. No one knew quite what he was. Whether he was a bitter human that had always been classed as an outcast and picked on at school, or a mad little goblin with big (albeit flawed) ideas; no-one really knew.
He had an army consisting mostly of goblins, orcs and trolls. All of which made a nice squelch sound when you stabbed them and practically leaked blood. Bursting open a troll was like shooting a water balloon. Buckets of the red stuff came out. Unpleasant to say the least. They were also pretty inept, swinging their weapons around manically, and not actually hitting anyone, except via accident. They were quite good at accidents.
Simon himself was something of a joke. He was the world’s most unsuccessful megalomaniac, the only land he owned was devoid of crops, or anything that was edible. It was embarrassing, he actually had to trade with his supposed enemies. He was so bad, he wasn’t feared as a heartless ruler that would step on a gingerbread man; instead he was laughed at. Plays were written, and performed, where the foolish villain would die in hilarious, innovative and interesting ways. Songs with lyrics in them that would make a tourettes sufferer blush were sang by drunk men in pubs, men who really should have know better.
He had tried though. Propaganda was high on the agenda, but it didn’t really work. Most goblins can’t read, and when trolls saw posters, they didn’t see recruitment posters, intended to sign more people up, they saw food. All this was tragic because ever since Simon was an ugly toddler, he would bang his toy soldiers together, goo goo ga ga'ing about world domination and enslavement of all other races. He just wanted to conquer the world, was that so much to ask?
Jim adjusted his tie. He might not have worn a nice grin, but he did at least want to look respectable; to make sure the victim of his sharp axe didn't feel like Jim wasn't putting the effort in. What he hated doing was having a conversation with the soon to be deceased. Nowadays it was normally goblins that had been sent by Simon to stir up trouble. Having talks with people you were about to behead was a little uncomfortable in any case, but having a conversation with a confused, incoherent goblin was even worse. It was always the same; they always thought that by some stroke of luck they’d not be killed. Jim didn’t want to dispirit them, but he didn’t want to tell them lies either. He normally kept his mouth shut when such instances arrived.
He stepped out his house and took in the clean, fresh air. Then he remembered that Bucketshire air was anything but. It was awful. There were gas chambers that smelt better than Bucketshire.
He walked on the cobbled streets, performing repetitive actions, actions he repeated every day, and probably still would until the day he died. The dirty look at Mr. Eli's rabbit was particularly prominent, but it wasn't looking. Instead it was biting at a carrot, rather viciously Jim thought. He smiled absently. I hope it chokes to death. That'd be good. Then there was the wave to the deaf old Mrs. Fredrik, who gave her usual psychotic and worrying smile. It wasn't a long walk to deathrow, and JIm passed it all in a trance, his routine practiced to perfection.
He paused outside the prison walls, where Nigel Seeves was selling the Bucketshire Gazette and shouting the words "Gazette" as though it was going to help him sell more. On the front page was a picture of The Farting Gnome. Jim wouldn't have known this if he hadn't seen the caption underneath, proclaiming that it was indeed the leader of Bucketshire. The Bucketshire Gazette was known for it's art. It was notorious for it. It could have came from a children's sketchbook of appaling and deeply distressful drawings.
'Farting Gnome's state worsens, said Jim to himself, 'I didn't know Bucketshire could get any worse.'
'Er,' said Nigel, 'it means his health.'
Jim looked up. 'I know. I was making a joke.'
'Oh right, haha,' said Nigel. He didn't hold the belief that the customer was always right, but he did hold the belief that telling the customer that the customer was always right sold more papers.
'He's been ill for a while, hasn't he?' asked Jim, picking up the paper and reading the other headlines.
'Oh yes squire!' replied Nigel, 'we've got a dead in-depth report about it!'
'Oh yes?' asked Jim, raising a cynical eyebrow.
'Of course squire!' beamed the salesman, 'loads of ananal-'
'Analysts, Nigel,' said Jim.
'Yeah! We got loads of them to say stuff!'
'Not Bob "He can't half fart" Miller from Pickish Street, surely?' asked Jim sarcastically, flicking through the paper. Page three had really decreased in quality lately, the portraits ranging from the hideous to the downright wrong. The actual news stories themselves were about as interesting as pencil shavings. Cat stuck up trees, cats falling down from trees, and job losses. Always job losses.
Nigel said nothing. He didn't want to say anything, because saying something would hurt the respectibility of the paper (insofar as it could be hurt more). Everyone knew Bob Miller was a complete nut, but he was one of the only people that would touch The Bucketshire Gazette. Which was lucky, because they were the only people that would touch him.
'I couldn't say squire,' sniffed Nigel, holding out his hand as Jim dropped twenty pence into his palms, 'I only glanced at it.'
'I don't know why I bother,' commented Jim, taking the free breathmint that came with the paper (tha kind of mint that actually makes your breath smell worse, and your stomach to feel like it's just had a rather nasty encounter with a sledgehammer).
'Thank you, squire,' beamed Nigel, 'may you, your friends and family, all be blessed with the love of Jek!'
'Thank you Nigel,' nodded Jim, and went inside the prison.
Bucketshire prison was a strange, strange place. It wasn’t your typical prison. It wasn’t very big, which meant that people would be crowded into cells. Cells that were made to fit two people would somehow be filled with seventeen. The place needed a good scrub, but no one was prepared to do it.
Then there were the guards. They weren’t threatening at all. They were honest, but they weren’t threatening. These kinds of people are hard to trick, because they always think of what they should be doing, rather than what they could be doing. They could be taking a bribe of several thousand pounds, but what they should be doing, and what they will be doing is sticking to the guard rules. These are self-explanatory; you need to guard.
‘Morning Mrs. Goodings,’ Jim mumbled as he stepped past the sign in gate, ‘how are you today?’
‘Alright,’ she muttered, with the air of one that means the opposite.
‘What’s wrong?’ Jim asked, trying with all his might to sound the least bit bothered.
‘Oh nothing,’ she sobbed, ‘just my husband, he died yesterday night.’
‘Oh that’s terrible,’ said Jim.
‘It would be wouldn’t it,’ she smirked, ‘if it was true!’ She burst into laughter. Mrs. Goodings was a born practical joker.
‘Hohoho,’ said Jim, ‘you are a one, Mrs. Goodings.’
He walked on, and wiped the grin from his face. Jim couldn’t stand Mrs. Goodings. She was a nice enough woman, but she held the iron-clad belief that any joke she attempted to make was infinitely amusing. No-one really had the nastiness in their body to tell her that her self-made jokes were in fact pathetic bowel-turners. The person that would tell her this, Jim thought, would be heartless, but a verified Saint.
He walked through the dark, damp prison, and into his office. He would have liked to call it a plush arrangement, with comfy, inviting seats, and a nice, homely atmosphere. It wasn’t. The seats were fine, but that was about it. The wallpaper, designed by someone who thought mauve was an excellent choice, was almost as harrowing as the ceiling, which, for some reason, and Jim would never actually find out, was bright pink. The situation wasn’t helped by a desk that rocked violently whenever you rested to write something on it.
His black coat was ready for him, and so he climbed into it, and sat down. Paperwork, he thought, and stifled a yawn. A nice time for reflection, a time to ponder about exactly how many people he had actually killed. It was mostly forms and reports. “How did the execution of Mr. Jerfies go?” “Swimmingly, there wasn’t much blood on the carpet, and the effect of his eyes rolling into the back of his head wasn’t too bad…”
There was a sharp knock at the door.
‘Enter,’ he said, in a monotone voice maybe only trolls could beat.
Mr. Humpress, the assistant and chief whisperer of the boss slowly opened the door.
‘Yes?’ Jim asked. He and Mr. Humpress never really got on much. The man seemed to sneer a lot, and look down on people who didn’t hold his apparently “very important contribution to the public sector.” And Jim couldn’t stand how the man was always smiling about something, especially considering how he had all the comedic ability of a mute frog.
‘Good morning Mr. Harris,’ Humpress said sickly, ‘I know you must be dying to get all that paperwork done, but dear old Mr. Irvines want to see you. It sounds very important.’
‘Oh good,’ replied Jim, smiling back at the man intruding in his doorway. ‘I’ll be there right away. My word, that’s a nasty mark you have on your nose,’ Jim looked at the invisible spot with some interest. ‘You want to get that sorted out, Mr. Humpress.’
The clerk patted his cheek carefully. ‘I can’t feel anything,’ he said, worried.
‘Oh, it must have just been a trick of the light,’ said Jim, exiting his office. Mr. Humpress always tried to make himself look impeccable, to “set an example.” It was mostly just to gloat.
Mr Irvine was mad. Not officially mad, he was far too mad to be called officially mad. He was in fact, so mad, he was given a place in public office, on the basis of people that mad couldn’t possibly be failures.
Upon entering into his office, you could be mistaken for surmising you had accidentally stumbled upon the set of a children’s TV show. While not going as far as bright pink, eye-bleeding colours were certainly high on the agenda, with red, green and blue all getting a rather sickening look in.
The man who owned the office, Mr Irvine was similarly bright and cheerful. He was delighted when Jim came into the door after being told to enter. He wore a bright yellow waistcoat with pink spots. His face wasn’t much of an improvement. He had bright ginger hair, with a comb over and sideburns; thick, Lincoln-like sideburns. Adding to this, in imperfect harmony, was a stupid grin you’d like to punch into submission and a red nose you’d normally associated with a festive animal.
The man wasn’t just off his rocker; he had thrown it down a steep hill.
‘Ah, Jim!’ he said happily, standing up and walking round his desk to meet his only executioner, ‘how are you?’
‘I’m fine thanks, sir, yourself?’
‘Excellent, excellent,’ he said, ‘take a seat, hard times ahead my boy,’
Jim blinked, ‘Really sir?’
‘Oh yes, yes,’ Mr Irvine said. And please my boy, dispense with the sir, just call me Fred!’
‘Thank you,’ he coughed, ‘Fred.’
‘I’ve noticed you’ve been looking at my teeth,’ Fred grinned, ‘not 24 carrot gold obviously. But no one else know that, do they?’ he chuckled gently.
‘Where’d you get them from sir?’ asked Jim dutifully, Fred got upset if you didn’t put some effort into a conversation.
‘Oh, er, that blacksmith down the road,’ he said vaguely, ‘you know the one, John I think he’s called. John the Blacksmith. Yes, that’s right. Funny bloke he is.’
Jim said nothing. Irony. What a cruel little thing it was.
‘Anyway,’ said Fred, his voice becoming more serious, or at least as serious as it could be for a man whose normal dress was a pink and yellow waistcoat, ‘as I said, hard times ahead. Yes. I gather you have been reading the papers, my boy?’
Jim nodded. Fred always thought you knew he was going on about.
‘So, then, what do you think?’ Fred asked.
‘I’ve read the papers sir,’ said Jim carefully, ‘but I don’t know what it is I should be thinking about.’
‘That damn Simon,’ Fred grunted, taking a swig of his cider, ‘causing trouble again.’
‘What, his annual killathon?’ asked Jim. He stopped. Words like killathon didn’t really brush with bosses.
‘Yas,’ said Fred, banging his bottle back onto the table. Jim remembered that Fred wasn’t your typical boss, ‘Damn that blighter eh?’
‘Yes,’ agreed Jim, and then, for emphasis, ‘damn him to hell!’
‘That’s the spirit my lad!’ cried Fred, getting all excited, ‘anyway, I know you know what this means?’
‘Being nice to goblins and not hurting them at all?’
‘Exactly right! Now, I know you don’t do that stuff! And neither do those guards we’ve got! And neither do I of course, or my friends, or the people that pay me to come into this nice prison! But, just to make sure, I’m telling you now! No cruelty!”
‘Of course, Fred.’
‘Yeah, we don’t want that damn useless Ian the Average Wizard onto our backs! If he wasn’t the King of Idlewind*, well, I bet he’d get several good hidings!’
‘I’d calm down sir,’ said Jim.
‘What? Oh, yes. Thank you Jim. Can’t speak ill of Idlewind’s king. Such a nice man he is!’
‘Bah, I hate this time of year you know, Jim.’
‘I mean, we have to give the damn goblins proper food, and not dog biscuits or any of that other cheap stuff! Sausages! They say we need to give them sausages!’ Fred’s face had gone redder than usual. He slammed his fist against the desk.
‘Calm down sir!’
‘I’m sorry,’ said Fred, shaking his head, ‘It’s just all this injustice in the world my boy. It’s up to people like you and me, you and me boy, against the world.’
‘Very true sir,’ said Jim, and looked at this watch. Eight o’ clock.
‘I’ll expect you’ll be wanting to get back home then, my lad. Have a nice night. Back to work tomorrow, fresh and ready.’
Jim stepped out into the cold, intoxicating night air. Bucketshire was a town without a purpose. After the great wars had finished, it had tried to reinvent itself several times. Entertainment had been first on the list, but had failed miserably because no one with any ounce of sense would come. Why go to a town like Bucketshire when a far superior one was available? Bignim ruled the Entertainment industry.
It wasn’t a dead town. It was very much alive. Most of this ‘life’ came from rats. You couldn’t be a respectable former great city without a few rats crawling about, upsetting everybody. Bucketshire had decided that in the end, that it was its own town, and didn’t have to be anyone else’s. If it meant being a useless, resource less wreck than so be it; at least no-one relied on it to do anything. It could just wallow happily in unemployment.
He walked along the cobbled streets, through the back alleys and back into the street. He dreamily kicked litter in front of him, yawning after a hard day at the office. On the edge of hearing, he noticed a very angry voice coming from above.
‘Get out of the way, you bloody idiot!’ the voice yelled, it sounded dazed, confused, and very, very slurred. Jim looked up suddenly, to see the owner of that voice standing on top of the building above him. He squinted to see the figure better. A goblin? It certainly looked like one, with its green hide adorned with scratches, bruises, and what looked like bite-marks. His eyes were blood-shot, there were bags under them, and he looked to be a very effective but very unlucky mud-magnet. The face, Jim would always remember the face. It looked as depressed as the shrilly voice that spawned from it. Its body shook uncontrollably, and his legs looked like they were about to give way any second.
‘What the hell you doing?’ shouted Jim, resolutely staying in the way.
‘What does it bleeding look like?’ screamed the goblin, he spat in frustration. Jim, in the light of a street lamp, could see little beads of tears running down the goblin’s cheeks. ‘I’m warning you! I’ll jump!’
‘You moron! You don’t want to go jumping off a building?’
‘Don’t call me a moron!’ bellowed the goblin, waving an irate, drunken fist, ‘you don’t know what I want at all!’
‘I probably don’t,’ conceded Jim, ‘But I know you don’t want to do what you’re raving on about.’
He hit the ground with a depressing, harsh and above all unnerving thud. Jim shivered. The goblin almost bounced as he hit the unforgiving ground. There was a long, awkward silence, before Jim knelt down. The goblin’s eyes seemed to be strained shut. They opened slowly.
‘Am I dead yet?’ asked the goblin.
Jim thought about the possibilities, ‘No,’ he said, ‘I don’t think you are.’ He picked the goblin up off the ground and dusted him off, ‘you should really watch where you’re going.’
The goblin shoved Jim’s hands away. ‘I knew what I was doing, you idiot,’ it sat down heavily, back against a wall. ‘Why do you people have to be so stupid?’
‘You’re the one trying to top yourself,’ said Jim frankly, he stared at the goblin, knitting his eyebrows. ‘Why were you trying to top yourself?’
The goblin shifted away from Jim. ‘None of your business. Get lost.’
‘I know my way about this city too much to get lost. Now, if a goblin got lost, he’d probably find himself in a back-alley with people who don’t particularly like green-skins.’
‘They’ll die like the dogs you people are,’ said the goblin, still looking away.
‘And how do you propose to do that?’ asked Jim, preparing himself to be amused.
‘It will be easy!’
‘I’m sure it will. I’m sure that you will have no problem killing a group of angry attackers when you yourself don’t have a weapon.’
The goblin hesitated.
‘Now,’ Jim pressed on, ‘tell me why you want to kill yourself.’
‘It’s none of your business, I just told you,’ said the goblin, although with not as much force or confidence as last time. He seemed to be eying Jim’s axe suspiciously.
‘You’re right; it’s not my business. But it’s the mayor’s business. And then it will turn into my business when I have to execute you.’
‘You think that your pathetic race can take out a goblin?’ sneered the goblin, ‘it’s impossible!’
‘Oh, you shouldn’t have said that my friend,’ said Jim, folding his arms, ‘we humans have a special want to test out the so called impossible. And in my experience, it’s not impossible at all. I have been the last sight of hundreds of goblins; they probably all thought the same as you. Untouchable. My axe touched them. Still sure of yourself, are you?’
There was a pause, as the goblin worked out his limited options. When he found out there were two, one being certain death, and the other uncertain life, he chose the one that suited him best.
‘Yes, we’ve established that,’ sighed Jim, ‘what I want to know is, why?’
‘It’s because no one wants me,’ hiccupped the goblin, on the brink of bitter, depressed tears, ‘I tried to sign up with Simon to fight the good fight, but he said he was looking for something “a bit better this year” and denied me. He basically told me to see if the horses were planning on a rebellion this year, but they weren’t.*’
‘And after that?’
‘Well, then I decided that I should fight the good fight for the other side, and that’s why I came here, but the people here told me to drop down dead,’ the goblin took a deep breath, and wiped his eyes. He was obviously fed up, ‘but these buildings aren’t tall enough.’
Jim stared at the goblin, who was trying to look away. He was embarrassed, both of them were. The goblin was crying because he felt degraded, and Jim was sagging because this wasn’t really the situation he liked. It’s like this: You don’t ruthlessly murder defenceless goblins, and then have a nice conversation with one. It’s a bit daunting. Jim put his hands in his pockets gingerly.
‘Come with me,’ said Jim.
The goblin looked up, ‘Are we going to some taller buildings?’
‘No. Just follow alright?’