THEN A PENGUIN WALKED IN #18

THE STENCH OF LOYALTY - PART TWO




There came a tentative scratching at the tent flaps and the Dread Lord Hob sighed. The sheer meekness of the act was just the fuel needed for a kill crazy rampage, but Lord Hob kept his head.

“Come,” he said. His voice clear and commanding as he stepped to his chair.

The chair, a throne really, had been ornately carved from a massive block of white marble and needed more than ten men, or four ogres, to carry it about with them from place to place.

As the Dread Lord Hob sat upon his vast throne, the tent flaps parted and an eight foot tall ogre entered on cautious feet. It had skin like craved granite and wore a simple loincloth made from the hide of some unlucky woodland creature. Accompanying the colossus was the nearly overwhelming stink of the thing, which wafted into the tent on swift winds and brought tears to Lord Hob’s eyes.

The amount of ground between the tent opening and the space before Lord Hob’s throne was about six paces for a man of average height. The ogre crossed it in two.

The thing went down on one knee before Lord Hob and bowed its head.

Lord Hob tried his best to look down on the ogre in disgust, but truth be told, even kneeling the thing towered over him in his throne.

“Dread Lord,” it began in a voice like a small avalanche. “Captain Branch has arrived.”

The Dread Lord Hob and all of his lofty titles attempted a reply but could only choke on the putrid smell that rose from the creature in great waves.

Ogres make great bodyguards and soldiers for a variety of reasons. First off, at an average height of seven-and-a-half feet and an average weight of three hundred and fifty pounds, the ogre is built like a tower of iron and muscle. You stand a half dozen side to side and you’ve got yourself a fairly impenetrable wall.

Beyond their impressive physical attributes, the ogre is a fiercely loyal creature. They aren’t afraid to die, and the art of killing is so ingrained in their society that it is taught in what would be the ogre equivalent of elementary school. There’s a casual savagery about them that Lord Hob found both chilling and exciting at the same time. They know hundreds of ways to kill, and will at times use combat as a way to compete with each other over which one can find the most creative way to end an enemy’s life.

The problem with ogres, the extent of which cannot be stressed enough, is that they stink. Like nobody’s business.

Ogres don’t believe in soap. Or water. Or adding soap to water, heating it to near intolerable temperatures, immersing their tough, leathery bodies into it, then wasting away the evening with a favorite book and a good, long soak. Ogres have no word for bath, or tub; not to mention wash, scrub, rinse, or even loofah. It is said that nothing precedes an army of ogres like the stench, the likes of which can often be enough to drive an occupied force out from behind the walls in which they have become entrenched.

But Lord Hob could stomach a great many things, and he often prided himself on his preternatural ability to enclose himself in a small room with three or four of the stinky beasts and resist the urge to vomit. He was, in fact, known for it. So, he choked back his desire to send this particular ogre off to throw itself immediately into the nearest body of water, and found the strength to respond.

“Send him in, soldier.”

The Dread Lord Hob did not know the ogre’s name, nor did he want to. Putting up with the stink was bad enough, having to remember all their names he felt was a little much. He had more important matters in which to occupy his brain.

Captain Branch entered the tent with more than a little trepidation. The Captain was not an ogre. While Lord Hob could fully depend on the ogres to keep him safe or to depopulate a village, they didn’t quite have the intelligence for leading others, and Lord Hob believed in putting the right people in right positions.

Branch, the Captain of the Dread Lord Hob’s armies, was one of his lizard men, created by magic in the jungles of the South, and bred for war. He wore mail over leather, but no boots. The feet of the lizard men had such thick soles that footwear was not required. Besides, their razor-like toe claws kept poking through whatever they tried to put on their feet.

Captain Branch had a small sword belted at his waist and he moved it aside with one clawed hand has he knelt before his Lord Hob.

To be continued . . .



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