November is the month to look forward to doing really weird stuff.
There's that Movember where one spends the month growing a mustache because it's more fun having a fire hazard on your top lip when dealing with flaming balls of fried turkey guts.
Or if you're even crazier you could spend 30 days coming up with 2,000 words a day so you can call yourself a novelist.
The less said about the tradition of plucking and covering poultry carcases in saline water to consume enough to feed small villages before crashing in front of the television programs the better.
Being female and technically always doing movember if you think about it I decided to try that middle one again. My first attempt lead to well that book over there in the upper corner so I'm at it once again.
I don't want to give much away but I will say that it is technically a prequel to the first, yes you may all hit me with wiffle bats now. But I sort of prefer the Pratchett take of jump around a world in location and time and see what happens.
Not certain if it's a good sign or not but I came into it with a title already in mind. Apparently these can be best called the T series.
Branches yielded back to the tracker on the scent of new prey - a strange slide of leaves here, a broken blade of grass there told a story anyone literate in the adventuring game could read.
“I’m gettin hungry, it’s been ‘ours. Canna we take a break?”
Or it would have had anyone been bothering to crack open the cover.
Cas, just Cas - try and call her Cassandra and look forward to a few years of soup dinners - was fielding off a mass of mosquitos with one hand and a giant with low blood sugar on the other. She was what some with stars in their eyes would call an adventurer. Those that are more grounded would merely spit on the ground and grumble about being a public nuisance after checking to make sure none were around. It was a job like most others, the hours were lousy (most monsters only seemed to like a good killing around dawn or dusk) you were always on the road (though most in the profession considered that a perk) and there was a good chance you could learn what color your insides were. But the pay was good (if you could get it out of a farmers grubby mitt), you got to work out your aggressions and occasionally meet some very interesting people before stabbing them in tender areas.
Like the giant sliding down onto the ground next to her. Well not an actual giant, a nickname he picked up at one of the many taverns named after various beasts heads. All adventurer’s need a good nickname to carry their heroic deeds through towns and spin the tales until it’s unrecognizable. The fact that Cas managed to shake off all that people tried to pin to her spoke volumes and kept the physicians in coin when a rather foul mouthed drunkard had an alliterative moment with her name that traveled far faster than any winged horse.
“We can eat later, back at the inn. This shouldn’t be a long job,” Cas shifted her weight staring into the eyes of probably the closest friend she ever had. It took about three hours of stumbling into each other on the first job to decide that Cas was in charge, the fact that he had a good two feet and ten stone on her didn’t matter much. If anything it helped cement the idea of Humphrey the Giant of Ganosha as a big ol’ cuddly bear in town and Cas as the kind of customer innkeepers woke screaming about. They never had the chance to realize that while Cas was staring at them cooly the giant managed to swindle them down to a few coins for a room a night with board.
Humphrey smiled lopsidedly at her, trying on his best ‘stupid puppy’ face that tended to get him all the drink he wanted and all the girls he didn’t but there was no budging Cas the Can’t Believe She’s Standing Behind Me. The summer heat was pressing in hard on the bit of forest left to thrive in between hilled farmland, this was supposed to be a get in and get out fast mission but as usual the client had chose to leave out the rather pertinent information that would have cost him a few more coins.
“Gods, I hate these little buggers. Next thin’ ya know they’ll be poppin’ up in towns smashing windows and chasing skirts,” one of many expertly stashed flasks appeared in Hum’s hands, a belt to get him through lunch and another for dinner too. Cas narrowed her eyes, it’d been getting worse lately.
“Didn’t you see all those little plots of land in town? They’ve already gotten in,” she sneered a bit, her early days as a farm girls hatred of useless flower patches slipping through.
“Oh yeah,” Hum giggled, “with the pointy hats and funny little wossa. You know the pants but with the strappy things to . . .” He tried to mimic suspenders but at Cas’s stone face stopped and smiled wide again. If it didn’t turn blades or arrows Cas’s knowledge of fashion could fit inside an imp skull. Hum shrugged and picked up his sword, a giant two handed steel he liked to slug around with his humongous right hand just to watch the little pissants turn white.
It was almost bollocks at any actual fighting as it couldn’t keep an edge and was next to impossible to get a full swing of. He wasn’t entirely certain why he brought it with for this job - it seemed a good idea back in the cool dark inn. Out under the burning sun Hum came to really regret the unspoken rule that a Barbarian never learn what a razor was for, he couldn’t help his unruly genes for height and hair production.
Cas sighed, as she was wont to do when on a mission with Hum anymore. He’d been steady as a rock back in their early days traveling through the countryside answering whatever missions the Court Approved Slayers wouldn’t touch with their 10 foot halberds. Lately, though, he seemed to view everything as a joke slipping off to quaff with the locals at the inn instead of trailing her as she staked out the terrain or gods help her sneaking off with one of the locals to a quieter place for some alone time leading to a lot of running generally before they got paid. It was getting on the only nerve Cas had.
“Whatever they keep in town are barely gnomes anymore. It isn’t a gnome if it doesn’t nick off a few sheep when everyone’s asleep,” how quickly they forget in their cozy towns the dangers out on the road, the trolls under the forgotten bridges, the harpies nesting in the trees, the Ogres crunching deep in caves, and even the forest gnomes roaming from farm to farm decimating an entire crop in under a week. Now they were cute little rosy cheeked grandfathers in funny clothes that, gods she didn’t know, offered advice or watched over the front door. To Cas, anyone who lived in town had about as much intellect and common sense as a new born kitten with a penchant for taunting the dog.
Now one of the more nefarious bands of roaming forest gnomes had gotten a bit too close to the local Baron’s fields and suddenly they were a big problem and needed to be eradicated as soon as possible. Tacked to one of the big sanctorium boards flapped a call to rid the town of Clump of a few gnomes and off Cas and Hum rode visions of an easy breakfast in their heads.
That was 6 hours, a missed meal, and about 4 gallons of sweat ago. Now the two were seriously considering abandoning the few bits and leaving the little camouflaged twerps for some other hapless soul trying to break into the business. Cas unsheathed her small dagger and rolled it in her fingers as she settled next to Hum, for the first time letting on to the fatigue the quickly rising temps dug out of her. The giant laughed to himself watching her change, she always had to be in control especially when no one was watching or cared. He passed her the flask, and while she’d usually demure for fear of what that rotgut would leave her with in the morning the temptation of any bit of moisture overrode her common sense.
The silver flask glinted in the elevening sun catching the eye of a small creature hiding carefully in the leaves below. Anything shiny spoke to one of the three compartments in its brain (Eat, Mate, Steal) and despite the large possible threats above unearthed itself. The two humans paused, the rustling catching them both (even exhausted from a long ride and heat some instincts couldn’t be ignored), sharp bits got ready.
A forest gnome looked more like a small fox without all the fur. The skin was a mottled mix of greens and browns the better to vanish into the underbrush and while they would on occasion steal clothing no gnome ever thought once to slide on a pair of oversized trousers and belt a tunic. When faced with a garden gnome a roaming forest gnome wouldn’t think it had found a long lost cousin, it would probably test it cautiously to see if it was alive and then nick it when no one was looking.
Hum smiled at the lone little guy, “Come for a bit of what ails have ya?” he asked tipping the flask towards the gnome that crept closer on all fours its sharp nails digging deep into the ground. Cas watched it curiously, she’d never observed one in their wild habitat. Anyone worth their salt would either attack the horde as they were in the middle of their raids or more smartly leave a few poisoned sheep out for them and let the problem take care of itself while waiting in some place cool. Then why in the hell are we out here?
The gnome, still watching the two humans with its gigantic eyes carefully balanced up onto its back legs. It looked almost comical, like a dog doing a trick for a treat. How quickly humans forget that wild creatures remain alive by relying upon a balance of cute and danger. Hum leaned forward again, the gnome stood his ground its eyes on that shiny object. “Whatcha think?” he asked it.
In the blink of an eye the gnome told him exactly what he thought of it, slicing Hum’s finger and snatching up the flask that fell from the giants fist before diving back towards the leaves. “HEY!” the giant yelled, all entertainment replaced by pure rage, “THAT’S MINE!” Gnomes are notorious for being faster than the human eye but there was no animal, bird or quantum particle faster than a Berserker who just had his flask stolen. He flopped forward, catching the back legs of the gnome its nails slicing up his fist but there was no way the giant was letting go. “GIVE IT BACK!”
Cas had just enough time to draw her sword when the gnome realizing its predicament relied upon the only other defense it had and opened its mouth to an eardrum shattering squeal - it called the horde. The ground erupted in a mass flash of leaves and dirt as gnomes hidden in their underground lairs burst through and not needing long to asses the situation jumped on the only non-gnome thing in the vicinity. Teeth and nail met leather, steel, and flesh and the two found themselves in an unexpected fight for their lives.