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The Shaman (Part 8)
The Shaman has a greater grasp on elemental power, but before he can clear the skies of smog and acid rain, the Grimhammer clan must be restored. With the help of the New Wakefield Druids, he has hope of bringing plant-life and greater defence to Hammersfield. Will he truly earn their trust with the Taurus bikers roaming around are related to some of the Grimhammer? Are the Orcs and Taurus at home doing fine for supplies and diplomacy without the Shaman? Will Shanks ever sort out his weak bladder problem?
Find out, in the 8th chapter of John Roberts’ modern-fantasy novel, The Shaman!
The rundown cinema makes a good base, but it is highly vulnerable. It is a large building with mostly intact tinted windows, which can easily be seen. Sadly, its size lies about what it truly offers, as the first floor is the one that is used the most. The rooms above have little space between the floor and the ceiling, making it uncomfortable for rangers and even a hospital. To think that some even sleep there worries me. To me, it is a live bomb with a shell of glass and stone, ready to shatter the moment a saboteur gets inside. I don’t remember much, but I still think of the times when I used to go here.... sitting at the front of the screen watching Barney the Purple Dinosaur twice. Before I set off to see the leader, I grin as I sit in the back, taking up three seats with my gigantic size. It reminds me of how Warbosses are chosen - the tallest and widest are sent into battle, and the one who survives becomes chief. But I was chosen for my intelligence and prowess, not for my height and width.
High Treetender Maralos sits where the popcorn vendor used to be, in a throne made of twisted trees and cushioned by bright lime leaves. I stand before him, discussing how the Grimhammer clan and the New Wakefield Druids could be of use allied. And whenever I stop talking, I ponder at how ridiculous he looks with a crown of antlers, purple skin and long white hair. Still, I must show respect; these mutants are known to read minds.
“So, will you lend me aid for Hammersfield? We have little medical support other than myself, and our clan’s numbers are running thin.” I ask, on my knees. I can barely feel my left shin, I’ve been down for so long! The High Treetender rubs to rub his great white beard, further increasing my agony.
“Your training with Thréda is complete, correct?” I try desperately to resist saying ‘Captain Obvious strikes again....’, but manage to keep my jaw locked and reply with a weak nod. “Hmm.... then I suppose you’re ready to leave.” He states, raising his incredibly lengthy eyebrows. My lips open, and my teeth are surrounded in bubbling saliva. I am dying to get back on my feet . I’ve been on this shin for two freaking hours.... and people say my patience will be rewarded. Pah! The only reward I want right now is a cushioned chair and a foot massage! “Then you may. Give me an hour to choose some Druids and you shall be free.” I nod and stand. As I hit my heart with my left fist, he puts his hand out. “To salute me as a guest of New Wakefield.... especially as a Shaman in Druid territory, is an insult.” He states, keeping those damned glowing yellow eyes on me. How I’d love to pluck one out and use it as target practice for my urine.
“And to prevent me from saluting you as an Orc, is an insult.” I hit my heart again and raise my fist.
“Rokk’Shellar, Maralos.” I turn my back on him and leave. I know it will only make the tyrant even more spiteful, but he must learn his place. While he may be a king amongst his people, I am an emperor of others. At least, for now.
An hour later....
The Ranger General, Sylvia Rootwing guides us from the city and to the train station. Just as Shanks steps onto the tracks, I fall on my chest and pull him back up before he touches the metal.
“These tracks are live, Forgemaster. I feel the electricity course through them like the blood in my veins.” I warn him, staring with narrowed beady eyes at what lies before us. The train station isn’t covered in green leaves and vines like Druid turf, but with lit oil lanterns, black roses, and a purple mist inside the tunnels. Shanks inspects one of the lanterns, which flickers with his presence. The further away it goes from the gas, the more chance it flickers violet. I keep glancing at him and the lantern, then back at the tunnels. My Shamanistic power tells me this station is alive, but instinct tells me something else. Shanks looks over his shoulder and smiles at me, standing on his tiptoes to whisper in my ear. The Druids behind me, including Eloria and Ledel, are suspicious of the way myself and Shanks talk. They see us as conspirators, assassins. Rootwing slowly draws and arrow from her quiver and backs away, suspecting myself, Shanks or whatever else lies here. Chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga.... it gets louder. The noise from within the tunnels.... could it be? A live locomotive? Chugga.... chugga.... chugga... chugga... The noise is clearer now, but it is slowing down. The Ranger General draws an arrow back and aims at the tunnels. The mist clears, moving out of the way for whatever is about to emerge from that black and violet hole. It gets darker, and now a thick layer of smoke tumbles out of the tunnel. The Druids unsheathe their staves, readying themselves for a battle. Could it be what the prophecy foretold? A great black beast emerging from Hell to devour their city? No.... Damn Maralos and his blasted prophecies. This is Shanks’ doing. Whistling rings in my right ear from afar. As I turn to see where it came from, Rootwing unleashes the arrow from her bow and shoots down her target from afar.
"ARGH! OH MY.... DAYS!” But the target rises, stumbling like a zombie. Shanks attempts to avoid his own smell, and knows the other scent.
“Druids! Shaman, hold your fire!” He runs off to see the wounded man.... a human, perhaps? Shanks and the humanoid talk, yanking the arrow from his kneecap. As they approach, their rotten faces become clear. Another pale-skin to add to my book of faces.
“Which one of you inbreds shot me?!” Asks the mutant train-conductor. The Ranger General rolls her eyes and sheaths her bow. I turn to the tunnel and found the train emerging now, and what a beauty it is! A reinforced iron and steel train, painted blacker than my blood during the first stages of mutation.... hulking with plate all over, with skulls painted on and the emblems of many conductors. At the front, you cannot see the window, only a bullet-proof shutter, with a huge flaming jaw at the front. It wasn’t friendly-looking, but it was a sign of civilization returning. I turn to the recently wounded conductor, hoping to find a spot during his mutterings to interrupt.
“Do you conduct this train, sir?” I finally get to ask when he stops for breath in his punctured lungs. He looks up to me with a glass eye and a very awkward left one (the right one seems more real than his other).
"I used to conduct trains, Orc! Until I took an arrow to the knee....” I rotate my shoulders and crack my back, trying my best not to cringe at that damn phrase. The one nightmare I hoped to relieve myself of too. “Silly creature, of course I do!” He points to a brass badge on his tattered dark blue uniform. It clearly states that he is the train conductor. I nod and admire the train some more.
“There’ll be several Necropolises we can stop at. Which one do you need?” He asks, coughing up phlegm.
“Hammersfield, but the closest is--,” Before I finish, Shanks steps in front of me to speak to the conductor.
“Open the doors when we get to Hammersfield. I cannot bare to see my old town again.” The train conductor nods, and walks slowly to the train. He slides the steel doors open, and the waft of undeath and cigarettes blows straight into my eyes! I wince in agony as the white smoke burns my eyes, and clench my fists whilst hissing. Bloodshot, my eyelids open to let the tears march down my cheeks. The conductor on-board takes her hat off and reveals surprisingly clean teeth. For a zombie, she’s pretty attractive. Her hair is as purple as the tabard she wears, combed down and split at the middle. Her skin is near white, but it has the tiniest shade of mint green - she smells of it too. Every bone of her undead body is her own, and the only stitches I can see are around her right wrist. With that conductor’s cap, she’s perfect. “Sister!” Shanks calls out, greeting this lovely young lady with a hug. He wraps his bones around her, hoping he doesn’t snap the strings keeping his chest on. I roll my eyes, feeling regret for finding one of my best friends’ sister attractive.
“Good to see you, brother. How’s that new bladder of yours?” She asks, but Shanks replies with an unintelligible grumble. She turns to me with the same eyes Malaros has - a glow to them, like two whisps floating in front of her face. Her smile slowly fades, and mine does too.
“Are you a Shaman?” Her smooth lips move just as well as live ones. I nod, turning a little to show her the Grimhammer. She inspects my black robes and hood, then back to my Orcish head.
“Please, come. And bring your elven friends too....” She returns to her brother to ask how he could bring such people. I do not need to hear it to know it - the undead are as paranoid as they are treacherous.
The train rumbles a lot, hoping to make it a few more miles before I have to stop and give it a jolt of lightning. At least it’s good to know I still have a use outside of combat. So far we’ve made six stops, not including when the train has completely putt out and it needed a zap. We’ve agreed to use the old train station in Hammersfield as a hub for this train. Transport to and from my city will be an excellent gain - more contact with other clans, and evacuation of my own! But not all is glorious with this train - I’ve noticed many soldiers climb aboard, and most were wounded gravely. The undead seem to have immunity to my shamanistic healing, and the Druids gave no aid either. The zombies died in the arms of their comrades, collapsing and getting their parts gathered for spares. I get tapped on the arm with an offer for a cigarette, but I turn it down. The soldier returns to his seat across from me.
“Captain James Redmond, 112th Banshees.” He states clearly, but I don’t understand what he means. His English accent is strong, his lungs clear, but not even I could guess what topic he was on about. I lower an eyebrow and lean forward a little. “I’ve just got back from the Forsaken Front. Bloody Humans are putting up a good fight! I’ll tell you now, the moment I get home I’m gonna do some target practice followed by a mug o’ char!” I nod, remembering how people stereotyped the English. I guess I was wrong - in the near future, we’ll all be tea-guzzling zombies. But he’s not all tea and scones.... his skin is covered in tattoos, and on his chest are medals proudly pinned on. In his sheathe is a classic revolver - a Wembley. Now curious, I lean forward and hope to learn more about the undead plans against the humans.
“What is the Forsaken Front?” I ask. There’s silence.... an awkward, dead silence. The wounded soldiers bow their heads in disbelief, not able to understand that they’re dying for a cause we’ve never heard of. It’s a soldier’s life. Redmond rubs his sewn-on jaw, and leans forward to me.
“The Forsaken Front? I won’t say you jest because, well, it’s no laughing matter.” He pauses, expecting me to show a sign of happiness. But my lack of knowledge is genuine. “By Iscariot’s short and curlies, you’ve no idea, have you?” I shake my head. Well, here goes....
26th January, 2013,
The Forsaken Front, New Skullmanthorpe.
Redmond took the binoculars from his eyes, peering off into the distance without them. The smoke filled his empty lungs, but he’d gotten used to it. In that environment, you had to get used to having only 3% oxygen in every breathable substance. The fork in the road was a tactical point that was required for any kind of progress, and they were so close to it too! Only a mile, and they’d be able to grab it by its concrete balls! The image filled his mind - the undead flag, the ale ration, the grabbing! Waves of skeletal soldiers, armed with weapons from clubs to assault rifles scoured the streets, avoiding the mortar shells or being blown to smithereens by them. But the kind of dead Redmond was with didn’t stay truly dead - they’d just piece themselves together like a sick jigsaw, and continue to stumble down the road to kill who they once were. The many necromancers competed to see who could resurrect the most humans, and some fought over the same corpse when there were hundreds more in the road waiting to be brought back. The soldiers were barely older than 14, fighting with little knowledge on how to use rocket launchers, guns or cover. Their generals retreated to the high school at the top of the hill, but it was soon to be taken. The humans never suspected zombie survival to be so intense.... or one-sided. Their flesh was devoured, rendered from their bones followed by guttural laughter and cackling. This was just one of the few massacres against teens and children the undead launched, and it isn’t the last.
One hour later....
The train ride was long, but it relieved my shins after kneeling to a master I don’t serve. The Druids managed to make some bandages from the uniforms of fallen soldiers, which managed to help until they reach proper medical supplies. Our magic couldn’t help, but maybe a Cleric of the upcoming necropolises can.... if they don’t die during the ride. Smoke fills the skies, but this time, it doesn’t bother me. It smells familiar. The wood.... the general stench.... my heels pick themselves up and bound towards the place it’s coming from. As I jog through the train station, I find a huge metal tower in the centre of the grounds, surrounded by Orcish peons. Stone everywhere is being lifted up on scaffolds and make-shift cranes. Construction?
“HAHAHAHAHAHA!” My hearty laugh catches the attention of Shanks, Eloria, Ledel and the other Druids, and they come to stand next to me. The building going on makes the Druids’ jaws drop, as they’re exhausted just seeing this much labour going on. This is no construction - this is reconstruction!
Hammersfield the Third
Already balance has been restored. While I was gone, my people have rebuilt my home, our home... and this family of Taurus and Orcs are ready to move in. I approach the huge tower in the centre, and gasp in awe. From inside, an unfamiliar voice barks orders at the peons.
“FASTER! C’MON--, OK, OK, PUT ME DOWN BIG FELLA! NONONONONO--AARGGH!” The voice screams, and is projected out of the black interior. A small green figure falls to the floor, breaking his teeth on the way down. As he dusts off his dungarees, he looks at me leg for a moment, the up to me. “Jeez Louise! Damn, you’re big. Where’d you get these robes too, they look expensive!” It’s a Goblin. In my city?! Grr.... those little wretches! His tabard is unfamiliar though.... good job too, because if it was the damn Sprocketshine Cartel, I’d wrap my hands around this grubby creature’s green neck until his head popped off! No Goblin attacks my city during a bank holiday and gets away with it! I pick him up by his collar and look at the bruised creature. His skin is darker than most goblins, but still green and slimier-looking. His ears are long and pointy, much like elven ears, but grimier. They’re known for wearing big shoes and gloves that don’t fit.... this li’l thing isn’t much different. I observe him more, cocking my head at different angles to see if he’s trying to hide anything. Finally, my great hulking eyes meet his beady ones at last.
“Who are you, little Goblin? And what is your clan?” He gulps and relaxes, knowing immediately that resistance is futile in my grip. He looks down at the fist I hold his collar in, then back at me.
“I’m Helix Mechasplode, manager of the Grimegear Cartel! And you’re an Orc with a strong grip, so kindly let go of me--,” Now I know his name, the next question must be asked.
“Who says you can work on my city, and put my people to work?!” I growl, projecting spit into his face. He wriggles in my grip as he wipes his face of crumbs and plaque.
“That Growlsnarl lady! Orc woman like you, huge plate armour.... big axe!” My grip loosens, and I close my eyes to think. Has General Gorescowl made the right choice? I give a sigh, and hope she is right with this change. I nod, and lower the Goblin.
“How did you get here, Mechasplode of the Grimegear Cartel?” He tuts at the state of his clean tabard, and rolls his eyes. His eyes return to mine, glowing faintly under my hood.
“Well, it was with a rocket-ride headed for Tangiers, but silly me! There wasn’t enough fuel! So our rocket crashed and your Orcs captured us. We explained that we wanted no harm, and then I asked something about ‘how can you live in sewers?’ Anyways, that Howlskirt lady asked if we knew anything about building, and when she saw our ship, she clearly knew that we were the right Goblins to rebuild this tip!” I snarl at him again, baring my unbrushed teeth. He falls on his buttocks, and cowers.
“This tip is Hammersfield! And I take it THAT is YOUR rocket?!” I point to a huge metal shuttle which juts out of the building across from our tower. It was hard to miss, but these Goblins knew how to make something look funny. I’m angry at the mess, but just imagining a make-shift rocket crashing into one of our strongest stone buildings created a chuckle that tried to pass my lips. He stands up and looks at it. He rubs the back of his neck and withdraws his hand, now covered in oil and sweat. He gives some time to think about his answer, before looking back to me,
“Yep. Beauty, ain’t she? I call her “The Thundercrash!” Goblins.... I don’t hate them because they’re green and proud; I hate them because they’re proud in Goblin ways.
“More like the “We’re going to crash”, if you ask me.” Shanks mutters, wiping his lips looking at the rocket. I approach the tower to see hard-working Orcs, but the labour they’re doing is nothing compared to what I had them do before. At least they’re trying. They throw down their picks and each say, “Rokk’shellar, Shaman!”. Loyalty at its finest, I think to myself with a gentle smile. I raise my hand and greet them. Jorrok approaches from the shadows, and throws the cigar down, bowing before my presence.
“Good to see you have returned, Shaman.” I nod and pull back my hood. The hunter blinks and runs his right hand through his purple-ish hair. “My, you’ve aged.” He grins, allowing a snigger to speak behind his closed teeth.
“My journey has not treated me well. But that’s old news. How goes things here?” He doesn’t speak, but reaches into his back pocket and hands a letter to me. The paper is torn and covered in tea stains, marks where he’d used it as a coaster, and has the strong scent of urine. I unfold it and mutter its contents,
“Jorrok, I wish you’d stop stealing all the ale rations and feeding it to your pet--, Jorrok, this is from last year from our bartender, Whit Alehorn.” He belches in my face, and takes the note to place back in his pocket. I accept that as a “sorry Warchief”, which is his usual response to most things I tell him. He reaches into his left pocket and rummages around, finding a hole leading to his crotch, some chewing gum wrappers and a lighter. His other hand reaches into the right pocket, and from there a note is produced. I snatch it from him and see it’s the real thing this time, especially when Gorescowl has signed it. Taurus will become defenders until construction is complete; Orcs will be stationed at different points to work; Shanks [upon return] will forge metals for the Warboss’ tower; Goblins have now....
“SWORN ALLEGIANCE TO THE GRIMHAMMER CLAN?!” I call out! Preposterous! How can Gorescowl make such a bad move?! These’re Goblins.... moneygrabbers.... thieves and killers.... I have no use for them! Jorrok’s good eye blinks, and Tundra growls, looking around to make sure to peons continue work.
“I hope you don’t mind the plans, Warboss.” I turn to see Gorescowl, standing in the doorway with her signature weapon, Arcanite, the Orcish movement. No.... why must I tell her that I hate the plan? She’s a good friend, a woman I’ve known since I was an infant.... how can I tell her? Even my Shamanistic duties must be paused just to buy her a pint of milk! I mutter to myself, and approach her.
“General, I know we need more labour but really? Goblins? They’re little Orcs who like only one thing: other little Orcs who like one thing! Why must we accept them?!” I suddenly thought this is what married couples used to talk about when making moves to help with finance. With Goblins in our new family, the word finance won’t exist for very long. Gorescowl places a light green arm on my shoulder, and looks into my eyes with watering orbs. How can I turn down those puppy eyes? She may be an Orc, but she’s a good one. “I suppose you’ve never made a bad choice, it’s why you’re a general.... unlike captain beer-belly over there.” Jorrok belches, and Gorescowl turns to him smiling.
“If you’re not happy, we’ll get rid of them. But at least wait until construction is finished.” She gives me a menacing smile, and I know exactly what she means.
“You’d make a good rogue, hon.” I tap her on the shoulder and leave.