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Old 07-04-2004, 06:58 AM   #1   [permalink]
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Favourite Customers (Shattered Vengeance)

Well, it's been a while since I posted anything, especially here. However, I thought maybe it was time to ask for some opinions on another of my short stories set in the Shattered Realm (although I only got a single reply for my last one).

Other than their setting (the Shattered Realm, the setting for my fantasy RPG, 'Shattered Vengeance'), the stories are unrelated, so there's no need to go and read the others first.

Please, let me know what you think!

------

Favourite Customers

Henrik, the Shopkeeper, leaned heavily on his hand. His eyelids were drooping as boredom threatened to pull him into the land of dreams. Business was a bit slow for the only shopkeeper in the Shattered Realm. If only someone would NEED something…

Suddenly booted feet could be heard outside the door. Henrik’s head snapped up to attention. He adjusted the leather cap on his head and cleared off some junk from the worn wooden counter-top. His face lit up with a big, wide smile just as the door to his shop was opened.

An Orc walked in cautiously. He looked rather angry, but also made a point of looking non-threatening and politely shutting the door behind him. Such behaviour might be seen as unusual for an Orc in the presence of a human, but the fact was that most of Henrik’s customers showed him a lot of respect. Henrik had several experienced companions who were quite capable of dealing with any threat. Besides, rumour had it that the last Orc who attempted to rob Henrik had been blasted apart so thoroughly by one of Henrik’s Magic-Users that it took three days to pick his remains from between the cracks in the flagstones.

Henrik beamed as the Orc walked in.
“Why, if it isn’t my favourite customer, Dak! What brings you to my store this fine day?”

The Orc glared unhappily. He growled a response.
“It’s Gark. He’s gone too far! Today I found some hidden stash stuffed behind a loose brick up at the Murderer’s Corner… a whole fistful of tender bats! But when I got it out and started eatin’, Gark suddenly walks around the corner. He raved and charged at me like crazy, shoutin’ and howlin’! The swine drove me off, and I bet he ate the bats himself!”

Henrik nods sympathetically as he listens to Dak’s story.
“I see… how terrible for you. But… how can I help you through this difficult time?”

Dak’s eyes glitter with anger.
“I wanna smash Gark’s head in, that’s what I want! So I want you to get me a weapon! My old sword’s had it…”

Henrik eyes Dak’s notched and rusted blade.
“Yes, I see. Don’t worry, I have just the thing.”

Henrik reaches behind him and unhooks a polished wood club from the wall. Steel bands reinforce the head.
“A fine specimen, I assure you, and priced very generously! I think this is just the solution you need to your problems!”

Dak’s angry eyes narrow and a cruel smile forms on his craggy face.
“Yeah, that looks just right! How much?”

Henrik happily completes the transaction, his eyes lighting up as a tinkle of shining coins travels from Dak’s large hand into his own. As Dak leaves, Henrik shouts after him, “Thanks for you business! I hope you get ‘im!”

Henrik, now in a much better mood, spends the next hour cleaning up his shop, polishing the suits of armour on the wall until they gleam. Suddenly, his door is thrown open.

Henrik whirls around, his face already fixed into his salesman’s smile. Without losing a beat, he welcomes his new customer – an Orc with a bruised head and swollen lower lip.

“Gark! How great to see you! And what brings my favourite customer to my store?”

Gark sneers as he recounts his sorry tale.
“It was that worm, Dak! He’s been making my whole day a misery! I manage to catch myself some juicy bats for my lunch, but when I stash ‘em away for a few minutes while I get myself some water, I come back and find Dak stealing it all! The stupid thief probably watched me hide it, an’ came for it when I wasn’t looking! I chase ‘im off, but a few minutes ago he comes back an’ smashes me over the ‘ead with a big wooden club!”

“My, my! How awful! I’m glad to see you’re still alive!”

“Yeah, well, me skull’s stronger than he thought. But now I’m gonna teach ‘im a lesson he isn’t gonna forget in a hurry!”

Henrik looks at the Orc in an exaggerated quizzical fashion.
“So how can I help? Do you need some healing?…”

Gark growls, “Nah… but you can get me that axe you got hanging on the wall back there! No, not that one… the big one… yeah, that one!”

Gark’s hand goes to his bruised head.
“And get me a helmet too.”

After he finishes making his sale, Henrik grins at Hargath, his Blacksmith, who simply shakes his head in disbelief and gets back to his work.

Not surprisingly, a dishevelled, beat-up Dak soon returns to the shop. His clothing has been ripped into tatters, and he is bleeding from several cuts. After being ministered to at a ‘special rate’ by Henrik’s Cleric, Henrik hears Dak’s story of how Gark attacked him with a terrible, gleaming axe. In response to this, Henrik offers his sincere sympathies, as well as suit of heavy plate-mail, specially crafted by the finest artisans of Telior, and apparently priced so reasonably that he could barely bring himself to part with it.

Clanking loudly, Dak walked back out of the store. Henrik meanwhile pocketed the sizable pouch of gold Dak had given him in exchange.

Henrik was already waiting expectantly when Gark arrived.

He was sweating and wounded. He recounted how he had been ambushed by Dak, and how his new axe was no match for the hellish suit of armour that Dak wore. He had thankfully managed to escape, Dak having given up his clumsy, ungainly pursuit after a few steps.

Gark asked for a massive two-handed broadsword, enchanted if possible, to crack open Dak’s armour like a nut.

That’s when Dak clanked his way into the store, huffing loudly.
“Henrik! I need this armour enchanted! It’s too damn heavy! I can hardly – WHAT IN INFERNO ARE YOU DOING HERE??!!”

“DAK! I’ll carve you open and eat your guts!!!”

The two Orcs rush at each other, fists flying. Henrik grits his teeth, and quickly gestures to his massive Blacksmith, Hargath, who steps in and separates the two. Hargath knocks Dak to the ground and holds him down with one foot, while lifting the swearing Gark right up into the air by the back of his tunic. Henrik, looking very cross, addresses the two.
“No fighting in my Shop! You know that! You’re lucky I’m in such a good mood, or I’d really have Hargath lay into you two!”

He settles back in his wooden chair, calming down a bit.
“Anyway, how are you planning to pay me for those expensive wares you both just ordered?”

Dak and Gark both look somewhat uncomfortable. They speak at the same time.
“Ah, well, you see, I don’t have the gold right now, but I could…”
“I was thinking that, since I’m such a trustworthy customer, you might…”

Henrik’s smile hardens. His eyes become decidedly cold.
“Oh, I see. What a shame. Well, come back later. But for now… Hargath, throw them out!”

Hargath nods his head, sending Gark sailing out the door with one massive throw. After picking up Dak beneath his arm, he also dumps him outside. Dak makes a loud crashing sound as Hargath drops him onto the stony ground.

The blacksmith comes back in, closing the door on the two sorry customers.

Henrik sighs, but then brightens.

“Shame they’re out of money, but even so, profits were pretty good today. Time for a bottle of celebratory ale, I think! Come on, Hargath, get the others… drinks are on me!”
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Old 13-04-2004, 03:44 PM   #2   [permalink]
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Well, that was kind'a funny... In deed, radically different from the ones before, that not necesarilly being a good thing. I still like the first one the best.
The narration could have some more spark. You never get to choose between past and present, opr to alternate them in a logical way. Add some speed and lose respect to your characters, maybe that will make it.
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