Title: The Sagas of Surgard the Traveler
Author’s Name: Robert Collins
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Sample Short Story:
SURGARD AND THE STRANGE SAVAGE
Surgard’s quest to learn all he can about the many Gods that walked the Earth put him in contact with many strange and interesting people. He met kings and queens, common men and uncommon ladies, rogues and heroes. But, early in his travels, when he visited the land just south and east of his Northern home, he found a most unusual sort of savage.
He was in a smallish town where several roads intersected. The town stood on the fringe of a number of lands and kingdoms, and as such was a great boon to Surgard. He took advantage of the opportunities presented. He learned much about the peoples of the surrounding countries and their Gods. (As this town was in the middle of many trading routes, the locals only god was Money.) He found possibilities galore, and spent much time trying to decide where he would go next.
While trying to make a choice Surgard happened into a small tavern along a side street. It wasn’t a pretty place. The chairs appeared older than the Earth; the tables were worse. The floor was coated with food and drink, some of which appeared permanent. There was a pungent smell in the air. The tavern was awash with sights and smells. Many of the sights were distressing, and most of the smells were disgusting. Despite that, Surgard ventured in and approached the bar.
The barkeeper was fifty pounds overweight, half a head too short, and three-quarters bald. He wore a grungy apron over grungier clothes. “What’ll it be?” he asked. His tone was nasal and disinterested.
“Something mild.” Surgard had learned not to drink the local brew, which they called “Vredkoh.” It was better suited to cleaning metal than ingesting. Unfortunately, it was the mildest drink the tavern served. Surgard took a table as far from the bar as possible, sat down, and began to think.
Moments later a group entered the tavern. Three of the party were armed with swords, a fourth carried a bow, and the last wore wizards’ robes. One of the swordsmen asked the barkeeper something. He mumbled a reply, the swordsmen asked what he said, and the barkeep shouted, “They went with Thud.”
The wizard then approached. “Who is this Thud we’ve heard about, good sir?”
“It’s ‘Thood,’ you bed-wetting fool!” a humongous male voice bellowed.
Rising from a nearby table was a giant redwood of a man. He wore a tiny fur loincloth, boots caked with brownish somethings, a silvery headband, and nothing else. A sword as tall as a deer was slung across his back. His dark hair was uncombed and unclean. He was a barbarian, and very proud of that fact.
“Who calls for me?” he asked in an accent as thick as an old oak tree.
“They do, mighty one,” the barkeeper said helpfully, pointing to the group.
“Really? And who are you, small boy?”
“My name is Dinwald. My friends and I are searching for a guide…”
Thud interrupted them to shout, “Ho! I need a wench and a tankard!” As his needs were being satisfied, he led the group to his table. “You know, wench,” he said to the tankard under his right arm, “did I ever tell you about the time I almost defeated an adult dragon?”
“No,” she gasped. “Was it dangerous?” She nuzzled close to his broad chest.
“Oh, yah. The dragon was guarding a vast store of treasure.” His savage pronunciation made comprehension of his story difficult, but he made up for it in volume. “Gold, silver, gems bigger than your… loveliness,” he smirked, giving her loveliness a squeeze. She squealed, urging him on. “If only I had some help back then, that treasure would have been mine.”
Dinwald’s back stiffened. He leaned close to the loud savage. “Did you say you once faced a dragon? Single-handed?”
“No, not single-handed. I used both my hands.”
The swordsman and his friends laughed at the poor joke. “My friends and I have traveled all over. We’ve heard plenty of tales, and most were so much hot air. We’re searching for a guide to lead to adventure and treasure. Is there some way you can prove your story to us?”
Thud leapt up, dropping the wench. “Do you call Thud a liar?”
“No! No, it’s just, well, if you are telling the truth, we’d like to hire you.”
Thud sat down slowly. “I see. Well, that’s different.” He leaned close to the young man. “Are your friends very good with their weapons?”
The man nodded solemnly. “Oh, yes. We are the best our homeland could produce.”
Thud smiled broadly. “Celebrate tonight, friend. Tomorrow we will show that dragon a thing or two.”
Watching the scene unfold, Surgard sipped his bitter brew. That’s strange, he thought. I’ve never had an easy time finding a guide. Especially one that would lead me to a dragon’s treasure. Perhaps I should trail behind them, and see what sort of dragon that boisterous barbarian will them to.
They traveled for three days. For the past two they’d been far from any sign of civilization. Surgard had no difficulty keeping pace with them; one man can move faster than a group. Not much had happened since leaving town: Thud and the adventurers would travel from dawn till dusk; they’d camp in a forest grove and sleep through the night; and they’d be off again after a short breakfast.
But this night Thud awoke from his sleep. He nodded to one of the swordsmen who was keeping watch. The man nodded back, and Thud disappeared into the forest.
A cry came from behind the man. He turned in time to see a large amount of what looked like dust fly into his face. The man dropped to the ground and began snoring. Thud emerged from the woods carrying a fistful of empty sacks. The barbarian appropriated the adventurer’s weapons, food, personal items, and anything else not permanently attached to something. Once his sacks were full, Thud dashed away into the night.
What a despicable coward! Surgard fumed. What sort of foul trickster would resort to that kind of robbery? Why, even the wicked and spiteful Favig would not stoop to such thievery! I must put a stop to this.
Surgard paused to think. Clearly he cannot sell all those goods he’s stolen in town. Those fellows will head right back. They’d be fools not to recognize their own property for sale in the market. Therefore, Thud will hide himself and the stolen goods. He’ll return to town to sell them once their owners have left the area.
But how to overcome him? Wait! Thud used some sleeping potion to make sure that no alarm was raised. He must have more hidden away. Surgard decided to follow the false savage, watch him like a hungry hawk eying fat mice, then pounce when opportunity presented itself.
As he woke up Thud knew that something was amiss. First, he couldn’t move his arms or legs. Second, his back was to a tree. Third, it was broad daylight, and he always rose with the sun. And last, he was standing up, more or less.
He looked around. He was facing the small shack where he kept the loot he stole from adventurers. He couldn’t see anyone, but he knew someone was out there.
“Who are you?” he called, his accent gone. “What do you want?”
Silence replied. He jerked his right arm and felt his left leg move. He jerked his left arm, and the right leg moved. He tried to grab at the chains that bound him, but there wasn’t enough lead on them. He pulled to no avail.
“It’s no use, Thud,” Surgard said as he came into view. “You can’t break those chains. Nothing can, except the flaming breath of a dragon.” He smiled maliciously. “That would kill you, of course. Should a dragon decide to free you.”
“Who are you? What do you want with me?”
“Who I am is not important. What is important is that you are going to face justice for your thievery.”
“Wait! I can explain! We could share in the profits! I could use some help. Let me go, and I’ll share my wealth with you. Both of you! How does forty-sixty sound?”
Surgard kicked him in his family jewels. When the first wave of pain had subsided, Thud gasped, “Me thirty, you seventy.”
“Why should we split anything? I’ve got all your ill-gotten loot. I can return what you just stole, and sell the rest alone. I also have your two horses. I’ll use them to carry your loot into town. You probably stole them too. Even if you do manage to break free, you can’t catch up to me. And you wouldn’t dream of it, right?” Surgard drew his sword and held the blade against the con man’s neck.
“Yes, certainly,” came the fast reply. “If I break free, I won’t follow. I’ll go the other way, honestly!”
“Though I’d still like to be your partner.”
“Don’t press your luck.”
Surgard loaded the loot onto their horses. Fortunately most of it was in the form of small jewels and personal effects. One ring did fall out of one of the sacks. It caught Thud’s eye. For a second, he thought it gleamed gold. Then he noticed it was a brass guild ring. As Surgard rode away from the clearing Thud muttered, “Rotten thieves.”
The Northman halted his mount, turned around to face the false savage, and smiled. “It takes one to know one.”
And so it was that Surgard ended the thievery of Thud the plundering savage. He returned the stolen property to the adventurers, sold what was left, and donated most of his profits to the various foreign temples in the town. And, to the great relief of all but that one tavern owner, the bogus barbarian has never been seen again.
— end —