Frederik, Champion of the Gods
(It’s Always Coca-Cola!)
Frederik gulped. He felt his britches grow warm and then the snow between his legs turned yellow. Someone behind him laughed. He tried to swivel his head but the hand gripping his neck held firm.
“He’s pissed himself!”
Fredrick’s cheeks grew red, matching the heat he currently felt in his crotch area.
“The son of the Bonecrusher himself, gents. Pissing himself in the snow. Pasht Fred, we’ll be doing you a favour ending your crummy life!”
That was a voice Frederik recognised. Ander Kneebreaker. The hate Frederik felt for the man almost fuelled his muscles into movement. Almost. He stared at the forest opposite. Snow still drifted onto the bare branches and great white mounds built up against the trunks of trees. Frederik loathed it. So cold and pointless. Already his toes were beginning to freeze in his leather boots. His thick socks were soaked through and dripping with icy water.
Something cold, hard and sharp pushed against the back of his neck.
“Walk,” a voice hissed in his ear, accompanied by the smell of onions and rotted teeth. That’ll be Oleg Deathbreath then.
Frederik began to walk. He could hear the men and women behind him cheering and calling out lewd comments. Hands tied, it was all he could do to keep his knees from buckling beneath him. He fought against the snow and his all-consuming terror. Surprising everyone, including himself, Frederik made it to the tree Ander Kneebreaker had marked without once tumbling into the thick white snow.
Spread out in front of him, in a rag-tag attempt at a semi-circle were some of the ugliest, scariest and most downright vile people Frederik had ever had the displeasure of doing business with. Well, business was perhaps a generous word for scamming them out of their savings. Still, they had stolen the money from a hundred others, leaving a pile of dead bodies in their wake. So who was the real bad guy here?
“Look at him, shivering like a newborn fawn,” Ander Kneebreaker shouted to his loathsome group.
Beside Ander a huge brute of a man with an egg-shaped head and a chicken-shaped brain giggled manically. “Maybe me can skin ‘im. Wear ‘im like deer fur.”
Frederik watched as the giant lifted a knife to his lips and licked it menacingly. The effect was lessened somewhat when the idiot tried to pull his tongue away.
He pulled some more, but try as he might the giant couldn’t detach his tongue from the frozen metal of his own blade. Frederik saw Ander Kneebreaker frown and shake his head in disbelief. “Pasht’s balls!” Reaching out a hand, Ander grabbed the blade and yanked.
Frederik winced, sure half the giant’s tongue came away with the knife. As the man shaped boulder flailed, the rest of cutthroat crew laughed and heckled.
Frederik scanned his surroundings, wondering if he could use the distraction to escape. He was still formulating his plan when something landed with a twang between his legs. He jumped back, too late saw the arrow was too far away to cause any damage, lost his footing and, without his hands for balance, fell into the snow. This was met by an even louder wave of laughter. He could feel the cold leaking into his clothes, water dripped into his eyes and his nose. He spat out some snow and flailed wildly on his back. White tumbled over him and he kicked out, sending up a shower of snow—most of which returned to land on him.
Something grabbed the rope at his wrists and, with great strength, yanked him back into a standing position. He wrinkled his nose as he found himself at mouth level with the rotting teeth of Oleg Deathbreath. The man grinned, a vision that Frederik was sure would haunt him until his last day. A day that might not be very far away, if things didn’t improve drastically in the next few minutes.
“Thanks,” he said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Die soon,” Deathbreath replied.
“Yes, I had sort of gathered that.”
“Soon,” Deathbreath burped.
Frederik though he would vomit. “Could you make it now?” he grimaced, doing his best not to breathe in the noxious gasses currently sallying forth from his enemy’s face.
Deathbreath grunted and returned to his gang.
“Kill him now?” Frederik heard him ask.
“No.” Ander Kneebreaker turned to face Frderik. “First, we have some fun. Knives, bows and axes lads. Let’s see who can get the closest to him without actually making him bleed!”
A loud cheer as a dozen weapons were waved skywards.
“What if we cut him?” Frederik heard Shana Poisonsheath ask as the cheering died down. Frderik was grateful for the question, for he had been wondering that very thing myself.
“Well, you throw again then don’t ya? And you keep trying til you don’t cut him. Clear?”
“Not really!” Frederik heard himself call out.
“You don’t get a say, Frederik Pissbritches!”
Frederik swore, hoping his new name wouldn’t stick.
“Pissbritches!” Shana Poisonsheath echoed with a laugh.
Fuck. Of all the people to mock someone else’s name, the Poisonsheath doing it was particularly galling. Her given name was arguably the worst of all.
“Ok lads,” Ander lifted an arm to air. A dozen sharp points of steel aimed themselves at Frederik.
“Wait!” Frederik shouted in desperation.
“What is it Pissbritches?”
Frederik closed eyes and breathed in a gulping mouthful of air, as if it might be his last. “I have a proposition,” he declared, opening his eyes once more and adding hurriedly, “money! Lots of money!”
“I’m listening,” Ander’s hand still hung in the air. Frderik couldn’t take his eyes off it, wondering what would happen if the man forgot and lowered it. There were still an awful lot of weapons pointed at Frederik.
He thought carefully about what he was to say next. They were going to kill him, of that there was no doubt. His life was a bargaining chip he no longer possessed. He had to gamble carefully with what little he had left.
“It wasn’t just your crew I scammed. There were four others. I stashed the money,” he paused, allowed the Kneebreaker time to think about the importance of his words. “It’s a lot of money,” he continued when the Kneebreaker’s face had stopped contorting in what passed for thought inside that large skull. “If you promise to kill me quickly, I can show you where it is.”
Kneebreaker frowned again and Frederik found himself holding his breath. Nobody dared say a word. It seemed even the forest held its mouth at that moment. Thinking was something Ander Kneebreaker wasn’t particularly good at and interrupting him during those rare moments usually resulted in a gruesome death.
“Ok,” the Kneebreaker grunted after several moments.
“Then set me free,” Frederik said, offering his hands out.
“You can. I just need my hands to draw you a map in the snow.”
Another frown. “If this is a trap, I will kill you.”
Despite his fear, Frederik couldn’t help but smirk, unsure what effect Ander thought the threat would have given the nature of their agreement. “It’s not. I assure you.”
Ander approached him, knife ready, suspicion written across his face. As he felt the bindings fall free, Frederik rubbed at his wrists with relief.
“Now draw!” Ander Kneebreaker ordered, kicking at Frederik’s knee and causing him to tumble into the snow. Frederik drew- cutting what he hoped appeared to be a very convincing map in the snow with his finger. With one last flourish and a moment of inspiration, he etched a big X to indicate where the hidden wealth was stored.
He stood, dusting snow from his clothes. “There!” he declared.
Ander tilted his head, his bottom jaw working furiously as he tried to make sense of the image. “What is this?” he barked.
“It’s the map!” You see, this is Breakermaker Cove—”
Ander’s forehead wrinkled.
“And this—” Frederick gripped Ander on the shoulder and looked to the heavens, “—is where you die.”
“A trick!” Ander snarled, reaching for his knife. He would be too late, even now Frederik could see the man’s death plummeting towards him. Frederick leapt back. Ander unsheathed his blade and lunged, just as something large and white fell from the sky and reduced him to a red paste. It splattered on Frederik, caking him in gore. He flicked what could have been intestine or possible brain from the corner of his mouth and fought down the urge to wretch.
The clearing erupted in cries and curses. Already Anders’ men were rushing him. Frederik looked to the skies once more and clapped once, twice, three times.
Three black objects sailed towards the earth at unbelievable speeds, each mushing men and women alike. Skulls exploded, bodies broke and in seconds Frederik was the last man standing. Though, at that moment, he was more red than man. Blood, guts and lord knows what else dripped from him, just as it stained the world all around; a huge splash of crimson that cast a strangely beautiful blotch over the otherwise virgin snow.
Frederik approached the first black object carefully. It was a strange shape; curved and surprisingly heavy. Four legs seemed to suggest some sort of giant table, though how people could possibly sit around it he did not know. A row of white ivory shapes stuck out from the front of the thing, looking a little like giant teeth. Frederik reached out a hand cautiously and pushed the first white shape. It receded slightly at his touch and a loud note echoed into the mid-morning air.
Frederik jumped, before laughing. It wasn’t a table- it was some sort of giant musical instrument. How wonderful! He stepped forward again, pressed a bunch of the teeth. He was met by a clamour of notes, combining to make an unpleasant wall of noise. He frowned. Maybe it was broken. Deciding to leave it, he returned to where Anders lay. A leg still poked out from underneath the white chest, twitching slightly.
“Well, that’s thoroughly disgusting,” Frederik remarked. Approaching the giant white trunk, he was surprised to see it made of a sort of smooth metal and something else; something softer and strange to the touch that he didn’t recognise. He spied a handle and, being careful not to touch what remained of Ander, edged towards what he took to be the chests’ door. With a yank, he pulled it open.
To Frederik’s astonishment, he saw the thing to be full of food. There were greens and yellows and browns that made up vegetables and fruit- some of which he recognised, some of which he didn’t. It was a red object that caught his eye though. A perfect cylinder that, when he touched it, was still cold. He pulled it out of the trunk and examined the item closely. There were white markings etched onto it that he didn’t recognize. Holding it to his ear, Frederik shook the thing. It sounded like it was full of water.
“Must be some sort of strange canteen,” he muttered. Finding a small piece of metal atop the cylinder, he turned it.
He tried again. Still nothing.
Frowning, he pulled at the metal. There was a snapping sound and then, to Frederik’s horror, a brown liquid burst free. It hit him in the face and he dropped the cylinder, jumping back as the canteen’s contents leaked into the snow. He watched it uncertainly, before deciding whatever it was was better left alone.
As he stood, surrounded by death, Frederik couldn’t help but wonder at the unusualness of his life. He didn’t know why the hill people had a deity that was in charge of both time and mischief. He often wondered what could have possessed them to imagine such an odd combination. It didn’t matter. What Frederik did know was that having the God of Time and Mischief owing you a favour was a useful thing indeed.
Whistling to himself, Frederik exited the clearing, leaving the God’s carnage behind him.