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A Matter of Elvish - Mark Williams Fanfest 2015

Posted February 28, 2015 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Another lovely piece of story telling, this time by Sparty. There really is some good work in this little festival.

The huge orcy things armour just shook off the blow and Ben’s War Hammer shattered in two.

The next hit will end this he thought. He did a quick mental inventory. No useful weapons left, he was bleeding everywhere and the rest of his team were all down. They were on their own and no rescue was coming. Oh well, he thought, sometimes you just have to hunker down and roll the hard six.

Time to take a chance and roll the dice.

"Ok I cast firestorm"

His friends groaned -"it's a tiny room!”

Mark, the dungeon master, refereeing this particular game, snapped out an answer. “you’ve said, you've cast it- roll the damage". He was interrupted by Rico, dyed green haired, hyperactive and unable to sit still once his role playing character was out of action. Rico came rushing back into the room holding his iPad. “Jeez put on the TV now- you don’t want to miss this!”

***

They watched the coverage from the basement of a house eight blocks from the FEBA or forward edge of battle area) as Dan the ROTC cadet confidently informed them. Not in the stunned silence like most groups of viewers gathered around TV's across the United States. This group conducted a live commentary on the WBN footage of the first battle of New Orleans.

"Oh that's gotta hurt"

"Nice warbow shot, definitely rolled a critical hit there"

"Now that's the sound of an AK 47 going full auto"

"Thing is with Tbow, he may be a drug dealing gangster bastard but you know he's good to his Mom and that he's got your back when the monsters come"

I reckon that must be a warhammer"

"No look it's an axe"

"Axe hammer!"

"HAMMERAXE!"

'That must be some crowded airspace with all those news choppers and gunships"

"Oh dear, Now that was always going to happen".

When the battle had started and the first flashes and bangs had occurred, Mark, wanting to keep their focus on the game of Daemons and Damsels (3rd Edition!), he had spent to much study period time devising, had assured them that it was just downtown fireworks, probably a stag party. He now regretted that mis-undersestimation, as Bush the dimmer might say.

Halfway through, when it had seemed that the battle might come their way, the group had discussed whether to enact their apocalyptic bug out plan. Ironically they had never actually developed a protocol for middle earth style daemons, but a combination of their plans for dealing with Alien invasion and Zombie outbreak (the slow kind – being non athletic indoors kids they pretty much knew it was game over in the case of the fast kind) would have suited the situation. The problem was that the one thing more fun than trying to escape a daemon apocalypse was watching the said Daemon apocalypse, on a 52 inch High definition plasma TV in skywalker surround sound, punctuated with real time twitter updates.

Even so Dan, not having his ROTC uniform at hand, had insisted on donning the chain mail he kept in Mark’s basement and which he wore during his live action role play events.

A stoke of lucky timing had ensured that various parents were away, and the FEMA state of emergency takeover of cell phone frequencies, meant they spent the night undisturbed from "oh my god come home "phone calls.

Susannah, the token female who had been playing Daemons and Damsels (DnD for short, due to international copyright reasons) with them had become a definite fan girl of The Dave. "he is soooo toned" she purred. Mark agreed, getting a strange glance from the others. “Not that there is anything wrong with that” he quickly added.

They played back the video of Dave’s football field length leap onto the back of the pickup truck (CNN now called it his signature move) in slow motion, which meant it was pretty much normal speed on playback). They argued over his abilities. Super enhanced, but still basically human fitness and muscle or supernaturally magical. The boys not being gym types went for magic, Susannah, while not being affected over a TV broadcast by Dave’s yet to be defined pheromones, was just sixteen, so insisted it was all " natural' .

They knew better than to try and go down and watch live from the side lines. They’d all seen Mad Max beyond Thunder Dome and Gladiators 2: Aurelius rising, and knew what could happen to spectators at blood sport events.

***

It was a sleep over. The sun was well up by the time they struggled out of their sleeping bags. The TV was still on in the background, a rotund white haired author of fantasy novels was a talking head giving his “views”, the closest thing to an 'expert' the news channels has been able to find. Becoming a media commentator on the events looked like a good career move for him given that real life had just out paced the slow delivery of his fantasy novels.

Dan, rose very slowly, He’d worn the chain mail armour (with a House of Humakti Tabard, painstakingly hand sown in by his mum) all night as a matter of principal. It clearly weighed him down. He sniffed at the air, “Jesus it stinks in here”.

Susannah was pottering around making coffee, "I've opened all the windows"

Mark spoke announcing with confidence that comes from being both a games master and having just seen his world view pretty much validated the night before. , “The wind direction has changed. It's blowing in from down town” (it hadn't), “and that's the smell of burnt flesh” (it wasn't ).

Once more ADS suffering Rico burst into the basement room "Hey quick come, you'll never believe what’s happened"

***

They stood in a group around the wood shed out-back. Dan now complemented his chainmail and tabard (House of Humakti motto: "we may be arse holes but at least we are Humakti arseholes”) with a homemade morning star. Mark held a hedge trimmer (electric but the cable did have a very long extension). Rico hand in his hand an iPhone with a Startrek universal translation app running ( Klingon to human and human to Klingon being the only two choices) and Susannah sipped from a cup of coffee.

The beast had crawled into the shadows of the corner of the woodshed. Blood followed it and it was completely unmoving, not noticing them even with the hedge trimmer now rotating, and Dan’s chainmail at full clank.

"Is it one of those Slithereen?" Rico wondered

“No too thin” Dan snapped back in an authoritive fashion.

"It's a dark drow" Mark suggested.

“No it's not, too short” Dan contradicted.

Mark pondered for a moment "Definitely a dark drow"

Rico had moved closer - "What do we do with it. Its injured but I’m pretty sure it’s not dead.?"

Susannah picked two items off the shelf in the woodshed and held them up for all to see.

A roll of duct tape and plastic ties.

A little while later they were ready.

"Ok if he moves, Susannah don't wait to use the crossbow” Dan instructed. And she did indeed have a homemade crossbow- usually armed with rubber tipped projectiles for live action roleplaying but this morning a six inch iron nail sat in the groove. They had steel ones that would certainly fly further but was convinced that iron would hold mystical properties when used against evil creatures. They had debated if the horde were actually evil – after all they just came from a different belief system not based on Judeo Christian values. This led Dan to expand on his theory that the Orcs in Lord of the Rings were driven to war by population pressure and being forced to exist on marginal land, much like the native Americans. In the end they decided iron just looked better.

Sometime later they had finished trussing the Beast up who was now awake but unmoving.

There was no debate. They had a live survivor from the battle, they could hand him / it, no it was very definitely a HIM, over to the authorities or they could ensure that someone who actually knew what they were doing did the interrogation.

An hour later, having moved on from Klingon (the two languages really did sound similar), Susannah stepped a little closer and passed a carton of isotonic drink, with a straw to its mouth.

She spoke a few words softly and clearly, with an apparent Irish lilt “Gi nath lam hí ” and the beast spoke back. In Elvish. Rico ran excitedly back inside to get the Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion appendixes.

Susannah turned back to the boys. "He's a "thresh". I've told him he is our prisoner but also that under guest right we will now protect him.

They nodded sagely.

***

In the days that followed the first battle of New Orleans, the US armed forces suffered a deficit of intel on the horde. Dave, their walking Horde Wikipedia was all to often on task and unavailable. But they did get some very useful tidbits of information, the best of which usually came via anonymous emails through TOR from a user signature of “the Dungeon Master”.

10 Responses to ‘A Matter of Elvish - Mark Williams Fanfest 2015’

Sparty mumbles...

Posted February 28, 2015
Awesome picture selection Birmo- if the writing gig doesn't work out you could try being an editor!

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Nocturnalist reckons...

Posted February 28, 2015
Hah, I actually have some of the Warhammer orcs from that first pic. I cut the weapons off them and used them as blitzers for my Blood Bowl team.

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Bunyip has opinions thus...

Posted February 28, 2015
Brill. And extra geek points for the Runequest reference. Ta muchly, Sparty.

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she_jedi reckons...

Posted February 28, 2015
I so enjoyed the dig at GRRM, and the Tolkien reference. Perfection.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted March 1, 2015
Just simply loved it.

This fan fic festival is unexpected big fun.

Better than the Grantville Gazette. Enough of these would make a good companion anthology.

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted March 1, 2015
Enjoyed that one. A pet thresh for every home.

insomniac asserts...

Posted March 1, 2015
Not my thresh

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JG mumbles...

Posted March 1, 2015
Terrific, Sparty. Overtones of ET. It's great reading all the different stories and interesting perspectives in this fanfest. Great choice of pics for the stories, JB.

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GhostSwirv reckons...

Posted March 1, 2015

Lovely work Sparty, very much like the setting of your tale as a few miles away from the Miami Incursion about real characters just getting on with their daily lives.

I was wondering that since your thresh was likely going to live in the shed that maybe you might consider naming it Frosty, after say Nick from Shaun of the Dead.

Its just an idea feel free to pass on whatever intel you deem appropriate to the proper authorities.

GhostSwirv over and out.

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Rhino mutters...

Posted March 3, 2015
That was geek-tastic! The wet dream of all D&D players everywhere. (Remembers when GenCon was a couple of hundred unwashed geeks).

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