Here begins the third (official) tale of the accumulated adventures of Stormcrow.
I guarantee* that by reading Any Crow In A Storm first you will find this episode 19.73%** funnier. Episode 2 was rubbish. Just ask the Literally Stories editors. Go on, I dare you***
* not an actual guarantee.
** not an actual accurate number.
*** an actual dare.
Either way, in this episode we find our halfling-hating legend so full of his own splendour that he can’t even be bothered to turn up until the last couple of paragraphs…
“Will he be long d’ya reckon?”
“How the bloody hell should I know?” The large-headed swarthy guard rolled his eyes and snorted only to have the effect ruined by a migrant rope of snot who, in excitement and glee at having found a hitherto unknown trap door, smacked straight into the guard’s epiglottis. Mucusy dreams of the bright lights of throat town were shattered in the hawk and spit moments that followed, and as he lay dying, drying, against the stump of an ancient oak the plucky little gobbet found solace in the fact that he had, at the very least, had a go.
“Did you say something?”
“That’s what I thought.” The large guard scratched his swarthy head and waited for his larger headed, but no less swarthy companion to stop coughing.
“Cold,” said swarthylargehead propelling another phlegmy dreamer to his doom. “Been troubling me for weeks it has Ken.”
Ken – or to give him his full title, Kenn – nodded. “Y’know Jeff, it strikes me as a bit weird that they named a condition related to the common cold after one of the bloodiest skirmishes in history.”
“You what?” said Jef gritting his teeth in an attempt to overlook Kenn’s annoying habit of adding a second f onto his name.
“The battle of Nazelle?” Seeing the blank look on Jef’s face Kenn continued. “Four hours was all it took for every man, woman, child, goat and squirrel to be slain. Raiding bastards stuffed all of ‘em into the Prince’s tower after their throats were cut and left them there to bleed. There was so much blood it was still splashing into the congealing pools in the courtyard below when the King’s guard arrived three days later. Every man who was there that fateful day is still haunted by the awful sound of that post-Nazelle drip.”
An awkward pause arrived shadowed closely by an uncomfortable silence. “Bummer,” said Jef. “Where is Nazelle anyway?”
“It’s about three days’ ride south from Mordor. I stopped off there once on the way back from one of those open days the orcs keep having. Lovely gift shop.”
“Open days? In Mordor?”
“Yeah. Load of old bollocks really if you ask me,” said Kenn with a rueful chuckle. “Thing was after The Fall the orcs had a bit of a rough time of it as you can imagine. Tourist numbers were down, transport costs to bring in fuel for the forges skyrocketed…anyway some PR company spotted an opportunity and went in to give them a bit of a rebranding.”
“They rebranded orcs?”
“Not just orcs. The goblins were in on it and there was pretty decent support from the troll community although in fairness they’re still a bit shy in the daytime. Anyway, these open days are there to showcase community projects and the like. Let people know that they’re not all as bad as they’re made out to be.”
“You’re winding me up.”
“No! I swear it. Look, I can’t say I was totally sold but the ones I met seemed genuine enough. And if the plans to turn Mount Doom into a theme park complex with a casino and day spa get approved I’d be keen.”
“The boss would be up for it that’s for sure,” said Jef nodding his head somewhere between refusal and assent. “I’ve always got the sense he had a bit of a soft spot for orcs. Probably linked to his irrational and grievous dislike of all things hobbit.” More headshaking ensued and somewhere miles away a butterfly stopped flapping its wings. “A theme park in Mordor…whatever next. No mention of a golf course I suppose?”
“They’ve still got some irrigation issues but it’s not beyond the realms I reckon. Where does the boss stand on golf?”
“On the ground mostly. He’s got a good eye but that massively unnecessary cloak of feathers is a bugger in the summer.”
“Yeah,” said Kenn scuffing up dirt with a worn boot. “So d’ya think he’s going to be much longer?”
“How the bloody hell should I know? All I know is he needed to have a quick chat to Sir Nigel Badgersweat and we were to wait here for his return.”
“Sir Nigel Badgersweat? He’ll have a job.”
“How d’ya mean?”
“Well he’s dead for starters.”
“For starters? I’d say that was a lot more like enders. What happened to old Stinkyrodent?”
“Succumbed to soup related injuries by all accounts.”
“How the bloody hell do you die by soup?”
“Quite easily if your missus is the castle cook and she finds you tanked up on mead in the kitchen late on a winter’s night with your bits in the vegetable peeler. Who happens to be her sister.”
“Ah. Yeah. That would probably do it.” Jef knuckled the gaping canyon of one giant temple. “In that case then Ken I’ve got no bloody idea where he is let alone when he’ll be back.”
“Here,” said a voice darker than the smoke filled dreams of a blind tobacconist holidaying in a bucket of pitch. “And now. I think that covers it.”
“Evening Sir!” Jef and Kenn saluted with as much co-ordination as a rhythmically challenged otter starting up a mexican wave. On ice.
“At ease boys.”
“We was just chatting Sir about maybe making a trip through to Mordor,” said Jef quivering somewhat with excitement. “They’ve got rides and whatnot…”
“Top of the range spa treatments as well,” chipped in Kenn eliciting a thumbs-up from his friend.
“There might even be golf Sir! And we can stop off for a night at Nazelle on the…”
“Nazelle?” said Stormcrow, feathered cloak writhing in anguished memory. “Dreadful business that.”
“Yeah Kenn was telling me all about it earlier, weren’t you Kenn?” Kenn nodded and beamed a smile at Jef’s perfect pronunciation of his name. “Hard to imagine what those poor sods in the King’s guard go through every night.”
“Well…yes sir. Kenn was explaining all about the raiders and the blood dripping from the tower an’ all that.”
“Bah,” said Stormcrow. “Is that old wives’ tale about the post Nazelle drip still doing the rounds? Honestly…”
Jef looked over at Kenn and eyebrowed in Stormcrow’s direction with all the melon-headed subtlety of Jupiter trying to oscillate.
“Well…” began Kenn, swallowing. “What did happen in Nazelle?”
Stormcrow sighed. “Mount up boys and I’ll begin.”
The three men plodded east for half a league before Stormcrow began his story. “Twin brothers born in Nazelle were cast out on the occasion of their fifteenth name day. The boys were fools and had been caught attempting to steal the peas from a broken down wagonload of whistles. The penalty for their crime was banishment into the hills surrounding Nazelle never to return. Embittered and enraged the brothers Onzer and Enzer vowed to have their vengeance and as Spring Day approached they hatched a devilish plan. Tradition in Nazelle dictates that the entire town gathers in the Prince’s courtyard for a fireworks display at midnight on the equinox. Fireworks are deadly things at the best of times and as usual that daft old git Gandalf had left everything unattended at the entrance to the courtyard while he popped off for a smoke. Onzer and Enzer fashioned themselves some wings and, armed with burning torches, they launched themselves off the nearest hill and over the walls of Nazelle.”
Stormcrow shook his head and sighed. “It was dreadful. Onzer got a chasing wind and cleared the walls first, but he overshot and missed his target. That was Nazelle’s final piece of luck. The second brother hit his mark perfectly and that was the end of the town. In flew Enzer…killed the lot of them. Boom.”
Not a word was spoken until Stormcrow in an unusual display of cheeriness and with a complete disregard to the laws of physics governing the width of horses versus the standard arm-span of a fictional, becloaked warrior, clapped both men on the shoulder. “Chin up lads! Worse things happen at sea I’d imagine. Did I ever tell you the one about Raymond Beeze and his mouthful of extra frothy sherbert? No? Oh you’ll love this one. It all started in the small village of Tettnuss…”
Header Image: By Fieldington at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22415026