At the top of the eastern tower hunched against the wind, the man in black gazed out across the grey, winter waste of his homeland. His strong hands gripped the cold stone of the battlement as further assurance against the restless elements and neither his stance nor his stare wavered.
He was a man of many names. In the hushed, excited tones of children telling ghost stories he was The Darkman. To the men who had battled at his side throughout the surrounding lands he was Nightstrike. His dear, departed mother had referred to him as Wherizzeethistimethelittleshi…
Everyone else called him Stormcrow.
Pausing on the final tower step to catch his breath and garner his thoughts a man considered Stormcrow’s resolute form. In the gathering gloom it was difficult for him to determine where black mane met midnight cloak, and the constant movement of the coat’s thick layer of feathers in the gusting wind left him in no doubt as to the origin of the owner’s peculiar, avian moniker.
It also left him in no doubt that the rare breed of barebum crows found only in the lofty peaks of Shinsplitter Mountain were the product of an overzealous haberdasher rather than genetic evolution.
After a final steadying breath the man made his approach.
“What ails thee O mighty Stormcrow as thou gazest most perturbedly upon thy land? Dost thou for thy spring rain longeth, or thy summer sun pineth?”
No sound. No movement, save the endless rise and fall of the feathery cloak.
“Bleedest thy heart in maddening rage at the fall of thy lands? Art thou lost? Bereft? Seekest thou thy salvation?”
Stormcrow sighed and bowed his head further towards his chest.
“Why do you insist on talking like that?”
“What dost thou meanest sire?” replied the man, somewhat startled at the softness of the reply.
“What I meanest is that thy oral proclamations are likenest by my ears to a dug”
“Eh?” replied the man in a tone that plainly brooked no adverb.
“You sound like a tit,” said Stormcrow with a hint of sadness. “In fact I’d go as far as to say you sound like the unwanted lovechild of Yoda and Shakespeare, and it’s starting to really get on my nerves.”
Silence reigned for a time. Stormcrow stared out over the land. The man fidgeted a little and then grew still. As is typically the case silence’s reign was peaceful but short lived. His dethronement came by way of the lone archer of unnecessary dialogue who picked him off from a safe distance.
“Please acceptest mine heartfelt apology O mighty Stormcrow, I…”.
“You’re doing it again”
Catching Stormcrow’s somewhat irritated stare the man paused, sucked in a deep breath and spoke once more.
“Ok. Look. I’m sorry about the whole long winded speech thing”
Stormcrow nodded and motioned for the man to continue.
“It’s just that, well, I’m not really involved in this tale at all after this opening scene, what with my impending comedy demise and all that, and I…well, I just wanted to make a bit of an impression”
Stormcrow nodded a second time, favouring the man with a look that from any other face could have been interpreted as kindly.
“I mean – look at me! Two pages in and I’ve got no name and not even the vaguest hint as to my appearance. I’m on the literary scrapheap!”
At this final proclamation the man dropped his nondescript head in a way that would have been defined as abject misery on any other character.
“I understand your predicament,” said Stormcrow absently scratching at his right cheek until he appeared to reach some kind of internal acceptance. “I tell you what. You try and tone it down a bit, and I’ll try and be less irritable about the whole thing. How does that sound?”
The man gaped like a flustered flounder at this, but eventually got his mouth back under control enough to answer, “Uh…O…K. Let’s give it a try,” before lapsing back into silence.
Stormcrow gave the man a few seconds grace, before a combination of nodding, eyebrow raising and general beckoning gestures along with a slightly forced “As you were saying….?” finally got the man’s attention.
“Yes..right..um..yes”. Clearly rattled the man gathered his wits and tried again. “What um…ailest…thee, sire?”
Stormcrow returned his gaze to the barren lands beyond the wall and sighed once again.
The man had expected many answers, but this was not one of them. If he had bothered to compile a mental list this would have likely been sandwiched neatly between “My inability to dance the tango on account of my gammy knee,” and “The struggle for albino squirrels to gain acceptance in an uncaring and increasingly racist woodland.”
“Yes. Hobbits,” said Stormcrow his anger increasing by the second “I mean – what’s the point of them? What do they actually do?”
The man looked helpless and encouraging at the same time, which was no mean feat on a single face. “Well…they provide much merriment at the tavern sire”
Stormcrow glared at him. “Rubbish. What you mean is they get pissed up on mead and dance on the tables before disappearing into thin air right before the bill comes. Hilarious.”
The man opened his mouth to reply but was immediately cut off.
“And those bloody pipes! I swear, I was sat there at the Jester’s Coin the other night and all I could smell was their elvish shag wafting out of the smoking section. Put me right off my hunk of bread and wheel of cheese it did.”
The man had no answer to this and a brooding quiet fell once more. After a time the man pushed himself back from the wall.
“The wind’s dropped a bit since that opening paragraph hasn’t it?” said the man.
Stormcrow nodded. The man nodded.
“So canst I take it that thou willst be unlikely to venture forth to said tavern with me?”
Stormcrow nodded once more, as did the man.
“Right. I’ll be off then.” said the man setting off towards the staircase.
As the footsteps receded Stormcrow turned back towards the land but before his gaze could settle a thought flashed in to his brain and he turned away once more, “SHIT! Jeff! Watch out for that pissed up hobbit passed out near the staircase that you didn’t notice on the way up…”
A thud followed by several screams and some slurred words about a road that goes ever on confirmed that his warning was too late.
“Bloody hobbits” he muttered.
© 2014 Nik Eveleigh