A Flintloque Short Story by Danny O'Hara
Artwork by DeviantArt User Jang Keun-Chul*
This year classic Flintloque alumnus Danny O'Hara weaves an hilarious story based on a 'somewhat better known than it used to be because that chap got his top off to scythe corn wrong' tale. Perfect for the Flintloque setting we are proud to present, for the benefit of several audiences, Poldorc.
As the stagecoach pulled through the drizzle across the windswept, sodden moor, Lieutenant Rozh Poldorc felt he was coming home. This was mostly because he was returning home to Foulmouth after years in the Mordredian Wars. Already ugly, the scar down his face did little to improve his looks, but Rozh had an inflated opinion of his attractiveness. He had already seen his return to his hometown in his mind's eye; dashing war hero returns and sweeps his old girlfriend off her feet, then quickly marries her and takes charge of the family business. Money, prestige and totty all won by the power of his handsomeness. Job done then on to drinking himself slowly to death like a proper gent.
Noisy gulls roused him from this dream as they announced the proximity of the sea. That smell of seaweed and sewage was joyous to a son of Kernwell, and Rozh thrilled at the approach of his old haunts. The coach clattered through the cobbled streets of Foulmouth, spraying mud and worse up at the townsfolk they passed. Entering a wider square, the driver pulled up before The Jolly Torturer, which was perhaps the best tavern in town (although that was not saying much). Rozh climbed down and stepped carefully on the spattered ground as he headed for the welcoming establishment. Time for a quick pint or two before he went up to Poldorc Manor and started his whirlwind charm campaign.
With a clatter, his fat and useless servant Thud landed heavily on the ground with his master's case breaking his fall. It opened and scattered his clothes and effects on the filthy street. Rozh beat the mewling orc with his cane before storming off to get royally drunk. What a start to his homecoming!
After reconnecting with the pub that had played such a large part in his youth, he walked up to the manor with a stagger and an inane grin. He had already taken his shirt off, despite continued pleas by the rest of the clientele to put it back on again, and was heading home with his over-large breasts on display for all to see. Many female orcs would be proud of such a pair, but they were incongruous on his otherwise unremarkable frame. Not that Rozh cared.
He swayed his way up to the door, knocked loudly and then leaned against the woodwork until someone answered. After falling into the hallway, he scrabbled to his feet and attempted to act sober for his confused cousin Fang, and the unexpected Lizbat.
"Halloo Fang, old fellow, and what'ye doin' here my future wife?"
"Rozh?", answered the simple-minded Fang Poldorc. "Is it really you, home from the war?"
"Abso-bloody-lutely!", exclaimed Rozh before collapsing back onto the floor.
"Future wife?", demanded Lizbat shrilly. "What does he mean, husband?"
"Oh bugger!", Rozh replied before passing out.
"Master done drank hi'self silly", added Thud, unhelpfully.
"Still doing that shirtless thing", observed Fang.
"Yes", snapped his wife, surprised to see her childhood sweetheart. "Disgusting! Put his shirt back on, servant!"
The manor owners left the drunken returner on the floor, with Thud beside him, and went back to bed. In the morning, Rozh Poldorc was left in no doubt that his cousin Fang had married Lizbat, who had assumed herself deserted by his running away to join the army. He stalked out moodily with fat servant in tow.
A little way back down the hill, they passed a ragged female orc with hair matted by spiderwebs and her eyes bulging. Beneath this, she had a maw like a squid's sucker. Her tattered dress was a collection of random coloured fragments, and the yellowy green of her skin repulsive.
"Hello handsome!", she cooed.
"I say, most gorgeous lady; can we go back to your place?"
With a cackling laugh, Dementa took the arm of Rozh Poldorc and led him to her filthy hovel.
"See?", Rozh asked of his simple servant. "I've still got it!"
"The clap, master?", replied Thud.
"No you fool. I mean IT. My skill with the ladies."
"This maid be as mad as a bag o'frogs, master. No good come of it, I tell 'ee!"
"Quiet fool! I need no advice. Today I shall view my inheritance, the Poldorc Treacle Mine."
So it was that a dejected Rozh stood looking into a silent, deserted mine. No miners toiled, no waggons carried raw treacle away, and no profit was being earned by the family business. Fang was a fool, but surely even he was not stupid enough to shut the mine? Or was he?
Of a sudden he heard a carriage draw up behind him; looking back, he saw his old childhood rival Gorge Wunleggan step down from the elegant vehicle. Dressed impeccably in the latest fashion, the new arrival smirked at the stunned Rozh.
"Your cousin is a fool, Poldorc. I advised Fang that shutting the mine would raise the price of treacle, which it did. But meanwhile I opened my pasty factory and gave work to all the miners that he laid off. Now I run a profitable business and he has no workers. Once your family is destitute, I shall buy this mine and make a killing!"
"Over my dead body, Wunleggan!"
"Oh, I doubt that it shall come to that. Come, Poldorc. Ride with me in my fine carriage and let me show you the future. There is a place for you, but not for Fang."
Rozh grunted and followed the dapper orc to his carriage. They sat inside upon leather seats, and the smooth ride afforded by sprung wheels was a pleasant surprise to the Lieutenant. He knew that Wunleggan held him no affection, but he needed some idea of his enemy's plans. This would be a scouting mission.
On the outskirts of town stood a building which Poldorc did not recognise from his youth. A monolithic structure of bare granite, it filled the skyline with its bulk, and smoke belched from the many chimneys. The gate through which they entered the yard bore a sign proclaiming the "Wunleggan Pasty Company", with the bright slogan "The Future is Pasty!".
In the yard, gangs of rough orc labourers scurried about loading crates onto great carts which then set off in all directions. All the carts bore the company logo and there seemed to be a constant stream of them. Wunleggan noted the obvious surprise in Poldorc's face.
"Come, my friend. Let me show you the workings!"
The factory owner strode through the workers, who moved out of his way deferentially, and Rozh hurried along behind him into the dark and sweaty interior. Here toiled an army of female workers, at great lines of trestle tables where they rolled the pastry, added the filling and then crimped the pasties. These were laid out on trays before being thrust into one of the many ovens which gave the building its ruddy heat. Other trays of cooked product were removed and the hot pasties placed on sheets of paper within wooden crates packed with straw. As a young orcling nailed each crate shut, the labourers whisked it out to load on a cart. Rozh admired the almost military organisation, but was also filled with a righteous anger.
"You monster, Wunleggan! What have you done?"
Gorge Wunleggan looked back indignantly as Poldorc continued. "They're not pasties; they're more like dried turds! Less than half a rat in each, I'd wager? Who buys such muck?"
"Half of Port Bristle and Londinium at least. You are quite right, it is about a third of a rat in each. But my workers produce over a thousand of them every hour, and just the fact that they are handmade in Kernwell sells them to the fools up country. Apart from rat, we also make worm and cheese, plus some specials like rhubarb and cockroach. There is a market out there, Poldorc, and it gets larger all the time. Join with me in my great enterprise; bump off your useless cousin and we can combine the Poldorc Mine with the Wunleggan pasty factory. Add treacle products to my lines and get rich. What do you say?"
"I'll think on it", replied Rozh with a curt nod as he turned to leave.
While he plodded into town from the thought provoking visit to Wunleggan's factory, Rozh Poldorc mused dark plots. As an orc, obviously that was quite normal, but these related to that fool of a cousin and his wife. Lizbat was still the one who made him stand to attention, and he had a plan to regain her. It was quite simple, really, and he could thank Gorge for giving him the idea.
Fang had inherited the family business and made a right royal balls up of running it. He would talk his cousin into letting him take over, bring in workers and get the treacle flowing again. At that point Rozh intended to invite his cousin up to the mine and push him down a shaft. Lizbat would marry him, they'd put Wunleggan out of business. Simple really, and so he set about making it happen.
On his way to Poldorc Manor, he passed a group of pedlars and hawkers including Dementa. His paramour hailed him with over-excited glee.
"Coo-ee! Lover boy! Come, give us a kiss, an' I'll give 'ee a pasty!"
Poldorc stopped in mild annoyance to speak with her, which gave the mad thing time to launch herself onto him. Her mouth enclosed his and began a mix of suction and biting that brought the former soldier to near panic. Fighting her off, they both stood panting; she with a look of triumph, he with more fear. Rozh noticed the basket of pasties at her feet. Huge things they were, like a pasty should be.
"Whole rat in each?", he enquired. "Live or dead?"
"Whole live rat, o'course!", she looked at him angrily. "Dunk 'em in the scrumpy barrel 'til they do stop wrigglin', then wrap 'em in their pastry blanket with a bit o'me special seasonin', an' then bung 'em in the oven. None better than my pasties, I tell 'ee!"
Rozh stood salivating at the thought of her juicy pasties.
"Want one?", she asked cheerily, but he had things to do.
"Maybe later, love?"
With that he set off for the Manor once more.
Despite being sober and fully dressed this time, his arrival at Poldorc Manor was no more welcome.
"What do you want, Rozh?", asked his cousin. Fang was a fool but not entirely stupid. He knew Rozh was after Lizbat, and probably money too.
"We got off on the wrong claw last night, Fang, and I am heartily sorry about that. Apologies to you too, Lizbat."
Both gave a half-hearted acceptance, but Fang continued. "What do you want though? There is no place for you here?"
"Oh, but there is! You've closed the mine; why?"
"Well, to increase the price of treacle!", snapped Fang. "And it worked - the trade price has gone through the roof!"
"So why aren't you mining it now, cousin?"
"Well...err...the thing is..."
"The thing is that all of your workers now make pasties for Gorge Wunleggan!", screamed Lizbat. "You can't find any who want to go down the mines. We are ruined!"
Fang attempted to place a consoling hand upon his wife, but she pushed him away.
"So what are your plans, Rozh?", she demanded. "You were always supposed to be the bright one?"
"Oh, I have a plan for sure; let me back in as a partner in the mine and I'll get the treacle flowing, see if I don't!"
"Fair enough,", she agreed. "But you can't live here."
"Oh, I shall stay with my darling Dementa, worry not."
"Dementa? You've fallen lower than I thought, Rozh?"
With a snort, Rozh flounced off to find his useless servant, and then Dementa and her pasties. Thoughts of wealth, power and lovely rat-filled pastry goodness made him drool.
He found Thud more than a little drunk in The Jolly Torturer, trying to convince some local doxies that he was a war hero. Rozh grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, dragged him outside and into the freezing cold horse trough. Thud spluttered and protested as he climbed out.
"What were 'at for, you bugger? Sir."
"I don't pay you to drink in taverns, Thud."
"Don't pay me at all!"
"Oh, stop whingeing! I've got a job for you. Wait while I write a note to my old mate Ben Devour up on Bogmoon Moor. Then you can take it to him."
"Bogmoon! Ain't right to send folk up there, master. Nothin' good come from Bogmoon, I tell 'ee!"
"Stop gibbering and take the message. Here it is, and folk at Bogmoon will know how to find him. Go on. Off with you!"
Anxiety his main expression, the servant set off. Poldorc sat down for a pint.
Thud returned a few days later, visibly shaken and close-lipped about his experiences.
"Ain't natural up there, I tell 'ee!"
Then the newcomers arrived by the waggon-load. Orcs are naturally ugly, but these were misshapen enough to make even orcs stare. Hairy, ragged brutes; they were the beastly folk of Bogmoon Moor. The people of Foulmouth sought shelter at their approach.
Rozh Poldorc met the first of the waggons and welcomed the grunting mass of his new workforce. One particularly thick-set monster spoke to him in the harsh tongue of the moorland tribe.
"Misser Devour send greetins, Misser Poldorc. Now where'm mine to?"
Soon the Poldorc Treacle Mine was ringing to the sound of picks and shovels. They were back in business again!
So the treacle flowed from the mine again, and with the previous scarcity they made a fortune quickly. The Bogmoon folk caused problems in Foulmouth, but mainly stayed in the mine and kept to themselves. Fang was overjoyed and kept loudly telling everyone it was all his plan from the start. Rozh kept quiet until one day he invited his cousin to come and inspect a new mine gallery.
"Oh, I don't like it down there with those awful miners!"
"Come on Fang, you need to see how things are down there. Might be on to a new seam. A quick visit, eh?"
Fang grudgingly agreed and went down into the depths with his cousin and a brutish overseer named Gothmoe or some-such. Lanterns in hand they climbed down the long ladder into the shaft. A few hundred feet down was an opening into a gallery which looked worked out. Rozh and Gothmoe stepped into it, and Fang followed.
"What've you brought me here for, cousin? This is an old working, not new?"
The hulking overseer punched his erstwhile employer hard in the chest, and Fang yelped piteously as he fell back and down the rest of the shaft.
"Oh, my cousin appears to have slipped?", Rozh observed sarcastically as he handed his accomplice a bag of coins. The brute grunted, then they both climbed back up. A gang of miners later hauled the pulpy body of Fang Poldorc up to the surface, where they laid it upon a cart. Thud led the horse and Rozh walked alongside sombrely as they took him to Poldorc Manor.
Lizbat answered his knock and looked in horror when she saw the body of her husband on the cart.
"Fang slipped and fell, Lizbat. We could do nothing to save him. Best arrange the funeral, and would it be too soon to ask for your hand in marriage?"
He gave her his best charming smile and was surprised at her vehemence.
"Bugger off, Rozh Poldorc! I know you had something to do with this, I just know it!"
She slammed the door in his face, so he left the cart and body outside then wandered down to the pub.
At Fang's funeral the following afternoon, he was shocked to see Gorge Wunleggan escorting the tearful Lizbat.
"After a respectful period of mourning, we are to be married. Wonderful news, eh Poldorc?"
Rozh kicked Thud mercilessly on his way back to Dementa's hovel. Why were things never easy?
Dementa did not seem to notice her lover's anger and bitterness.
"Halloo my sweet! Made special funeral pasty for 'ee. One fer Thud too."
Thud leapt upon the proffered treat, which he devoured in short order. Rozh ate his distractedly.
"Thank 'ee kindly, miss!", the servant beamed with a face like a loon. "Proper job!"
But no sooner had he uttered those words than his head twitched. With jerky spasms he lurched around the room, groaning in pain. His eyes stood out as if on stalks, and he choked. With a death rattle he collapsed to the floor, tried to rise and then fell still.
Rozh knelt by his fat, useless and now dead servant. "What the..?"
"Oh, it worked!", cackled Dementa. "It worked! Them mushrooms is girt strong, I reckon. How ye feelin', my love?"
With the realisation that this crazy bitch had poisoned them, Rozh tried to stand and punch her. Just about hauling himself upright, he could not decide which one of the many Dementas, or which colour was the right one to thump. The room span wildly, with amazing shapes, patterns and images. He heard colours and saw sounds as he backed into the sort embrace of the wall and slid down into a heap. In vain he swatted at dancing pixies while the bizarre drum beat of his heart made his ears bleed.
Waking later with a splitting headache and the vomited remains of the pasty on his shirt front, he tried to work out what had happened. Had it all been a dream? A quick look across the room to see the corpse of Thud told him it was not.
Dementa was still cackling as he stood up gingerly. "Ye gods, what did you put in those pasties?"
With a giggle, she held her hand out to him. On her palm lay some odd looking mushrooms. "Hangman's Noose, we calls 'em. Makes yer dead or makes yer high. Looks like you were lucky, my love?"
"How many of them have you got?", he asked, as a plan formed in his addled brain.
"Couple of sackfuls,", she giggled. "Want some more?"
"Oh yes, but not for me!"
Wunleggan ran his factory hard for long hours, but even he shut at night rather than pay for lighting. So it was that a sneaky visitor jimmied open a window and climbed in with a laden sack in each hand. Creeping up the darkened stairs to the platform over a gigantic cauldron which he had seen on his previous visit. This contained the chopped rat carcasses, sawdust and rotten vegetables which made up the filling for those grim pasties. Worse than the poor quality of the ingredients was that they were being part cooked in this cauldron, which sat on a low fire. Such was sacrilege to a true son of Kernwell!
Handful by handful, he added the mushrooms first to this cauldron, then to the others. Some held the same mix, but others the strange variants like worm and cheese. Regardless, Rozh Poldorc stirred each with the great oar-like implement provided for the purpose. Satisfied that all the batches were heavily dosed, he slipped back out and hurried home with a broad grin.
He would have revenge! Wunleggan would be ruined, Lizbat could be persuaded to divorce the bankrupt, and Rozh would become the biggest cheese in all of Foulmouth. Back on track, he whistled tunelessly as he swaggered into The Jolly Torturer for a well-earned drink. Now just to sit back and wait for his inevitable rise in fortune. So, so easy!
Two months later, Rozh Poldorc stood in the rain outside the gates of Wunleggan Manor; formerly known as Poldorc Manor. The rags of his clothing hung around his emaciated frame, and he bellowed out his anguish at the house.
The batch of pasties distributed on that fateful day caused massive changes that was sure, but not how Rozh had predicted. The jaded tastes of post-war Albion found a food which could send you into crazy visions or kill you on the spot to be irresistible. There was uproar - but only after folk realised that subsequent batches did not have this effect. Gorge Wunleggan, always the master of salesmanship, announced that they were an experimental recipe, then tried to find out what had happened. Dementa visited him, and related the tale of her special pasties, together with the fact that Rozh had gone off into the night with enough of them to kill a town. It did not take too much thought to work out, so Gorge offered the crazy pasty-maker a job on the spot. She became his Chief of Product Development, and together the pasty business boomed.
Meanwhile, the new Mrs Wunleggan was engaged in a legal battle. She claimed part ownership of the mine, due to the terms of her late husband's will. By legal expertise or bribery, she convinced a magistrate to put an order on the mine; it must cease working until the ownership claim was resolved. Rozh then had to lay off all the Bogmoon miners, who had become increasingly homesick. His only victory was that he took uncontested hold of Poldorc Manor, only to find that Fang and Lizbat had mortgaged it to the hilt. With no income of his own, he was forced to sell. The hated Gorge Wunleggan the buyer, and so Rozh stood in the rain today bellowing at his enemies.
"Get on with you, Rozh Poldorc, before I call for men to see you off!", replied the current owner of the property. "And put a shirt on, you're a disgrace!"
He turned and walked back into the house. If looks could kill, then he would not have made it that far under Poldorc's baleful stare.
By his side, the tattered figure of a vagabond known as "King Turnip" sat propped against the gate. He rose as today's ritual played out as for weeks before,
"Life", he added sagely. "Tis all shite, me 'ansome!"
A shrug of the shoulders the only response by Rozh, they shambled off towards the factory. Dementa was always working on new recipes, and Gorge required her to test them before full production. Who better than the beggars and layabouts to use? At least it was food, Rozh thought grimly. Well, sort of food.
- FIN -
This story was written exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe and was first published on the 7th December 2016 as part of it's 2016 Advent Calendar.
* Jang Keun-Chul's art is used without permission and will be replaced if requested by the creator.