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Compartment 114
Compartment 114
The Music Of Destiny

The Music Of Destiny

A Story by SGCool
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A young boy meets his hero, who is not quite as he expects him to be.

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On a hilltop overlooking a valley, a horse and rider sat. It was nearing nightfall, and the hazy glow of the dusk light reflected off the gently drifting snowflakes like an infinity’s worth of tiny mirrors. The rider shifted in the saddle, scratching the who-knows-how-long’s growth of hair on his jaw and gazing down upon the encampment at the bottom of the hill. The people inside had just finished lighting the torches, and beams of lamplight escaped from the flaps of the tents to dance excitedly along the frozen ground.

With a slow movement, the rider spurred his horse into a trot. Its breath came out in great plumes of steam, stark against the frigid air before dissipating like ghosts in the wind. Its powerful hooves left deep marks in the ground despite the hardness of the dirt. The rider pulled his cloak tighter across his chest as he cantered into the muddle of tents. He reined the horse to a halt in front of the biggest one and tied it to a nearby post.

He pulled aside the flap that hung in place of a door and strode in. The tent was packed with men sitting at enormous tables; laughing, shouting, and playing cards. It was impossible for him not to notice that conversation stopped when eyes befell him, to be quickly replaced by hushed whispers that were audible nonetheless. Even with a fur lined hood obscuring his face they knew who he was. He couldn’t hide his giant frame, and he made no effort to hide the gigantic two-handed sword slung across his back.

He stopped just inside the entrance, as the other men pretended in vain that nothing was out of the ordinary. Eventually, he walked to an open spot at a table and sat down, the bench creaking under his weight. His benchmate, a boy who looked to be barely out of his teens and clutching an oversized backpack, stared noticeably.

The young man leaned in a small bit closer, as if imparting a great secret. His eyes bulged.

“You’re Krohm, aren’t you?”

The rider first looked as if he would take no notice of the intrusion, then his head turned slowly until he faced the boy. The boy could see his face from the nose down; the salt and pepper stubble, the slight frown, the ugly scar down the cheek that he knew started on the opposite side of the forehead. The rider’s nod was barely perceptible before he returned his gaze to the far wall.

The boy’s eyes threatened to fall out of his head. “My dad used to tell me stories all about you, sir! Krohm the Insurmin-...the Insurmantl-...the Great, who slew the frostwyrm Byrbaxos, and conquered the citadel of Mortagrar, and wrestled the dire wolf Filtanvi to the ground!”

The rider did nothing to respond, only took a small piece of jerky from a pouch at his waist and put it into his mouth.

“...And defeated the dark wizard Zolt in his vile stronghold,” the boy continued,  “And ventured into the den of Zaerax to make off with his treasure, and threw king Whisslementh of Prance into the river Ytsl!”

The rider took a drink from a skin of water from his belt.

“...And bested Furmint the Brawler in a duel, and rode a horse off of the peak of mount Griermiff, and slaughtered the entire army of the Necromancer of the South with nothing but a toothpick and an acorn from the Brblnrg tree!”

The rider sighed and pulled the hood off of his head, revealing a long mane of shaggy, graying hair. He looked at the boy, his iron gaze causing the young man to sputter into silence.

Krohm stared for many moments, unblinking, until the boy felt that he might melt into a puddle and dribble onto the floor. Finally, Krom turned his head back to the table.

The boy kept staring. What felt like an age went by, him terrified into silence, but nothing could stop the rush of pure, unadulterated hero worship. It was only a matter of time before it overcame his intimidation.

“Sorry to bother you again, Krohm the Great, sir,” the boy said at last, “It’s just...you’re the best. You’re THE hero. You’re the one who can slice through dragons and swim oceans and punch monsters into jelly. I’ve got all of your cards from Gallants and Gaunts, including the shiny ones, and I’ve even got the one where they drew your picture upside down and backwards, and they only made twenty three of those before the artist realized his mistake so it’s really hard to come by, sir. It cost me all of my allowance for three months.”

The boy hesitated, momentarily, waiting for a reaction. None came.

“Sir,” he said, “What I’m trying to say is that ever since I was old enough to hold a stick and pretend it was a sword, I’ve wanted to be like you. I mean, you’re the greatest hero who ever lived, or who ever will live. And I bet that you never get scared, or nervous around girls when you want to talk to ‘em but you just can’t, sir, or called names by the other boys who live in the neighborhood because they can knock you down and you aren’t strong enough to beat them up. You’re the reason I want to be a soldier. You’re an inspiration to me, sir.”

Krohm said nothing. The boy turned back to his plate of food, now cold, feeling like his soul had been wrung out.

“What’s your name, boy?” the voice was deep and worn, like a windblown crevasse where ancient secrets dwell.

The boy looked up, frightened and amazed. “It’s Drif, sir.”

Krohm shifted on the bench. His massive frame towered above Drif, making him seem just as much of a giant in size as in reputation.

“What’s in the bag?”

Drif looked down at the backpack in his lap, the head of a stringed instrument poking out of the top. “It...it’s a lute, sir.”

“You any good with it?”

“I won the Battle of The Strings five years running in my hometown.”

Krohm leaned back and put his arms out in front of him, stretching his weary, road worn muscles. “I’ve been a warrior all my life. Born on the battlefield, that’s true enough. Orcs on one side, dark elves on the other, and an angry bear that got caught up in it somehow. My mother was in the middle of wrestling it to the ground when I was delivered. Can you believe that? No fireplace, no concerned relatives gathered around the bedside, just plop and suddenly I’m in the cold snow and there’s a bunch of idiots running around shouting and my mother is slightly more bloody than she was beforehand. She didn’t even stop fighting until a few hours later. I had to learn how to run really quickly. How’s that for a welcome to the world?”

Drif stared in stunned silence.

“Then there was the fact that I was the biggest person in the whole damn village by about a foot and a half, and that’s really saying something when that village is made up of a citizenry that eats rocks and trees when there are no animals left to hunt. Did they ask me what I wanted to be? Of course not. It was all ‘he is the one spoken of in the ancient prophecy’, and ‘he will bring us honor like never before’, and ‘once you’re done hacking apart that ogre, could you hand me down the raspberry preserves; I left them on a high shelf again and my back isn’t what it used to be, you know, there’s a dear’.”

Drif wasn’t quite sure what he had been expecting, but it definitely wasn’t this.

“I mean sure,” Krohm continued. “I’ve killed more than my fair share of monsters. I’ve slain demons, gods, kings, wizards, and fell beasts ripped straight from the underworld; I have bathed in gore and waded through oceans of blood, slaughtered foes both physical and ethereal. I have held great treasures and lost them, trampled thrones beneath the soles of my boots, and conquered nations with naught behind my back but the biting winds of my birthplace, yadda yadda. Romantic garbage.” Krohm took a deep swig of the mug in front of him. “It’s not like I had much of a choice though, did I? Did anyone care what I wanted to be when I grew up? You’re six foot six and two-fifty pounds by the time you’re eleven years old, you’ve already got a beard you could hide a goat in, you accidentally trample one hut to the ground and they’re all ‘he’s the chosen one, make him the chief!’, as if destructive capability was any real indication of competent political capacity.”

He took in a great breath of air and then exhaled, sounding for all the world like a beast from ancient eons long since lost to mankind’s knowledge. Drif didn’t know what to say.

“Maybe I would have liked to have been a potter, or a cobbler, or a hairdresser, even. I would have even been willing to name my shears Swiftfang the Fell or something sufficiently legendary. I could have thrown in some apostrophes for good measure.” Krohm pursed his lips in thought.  “You’ve never been on the road before. I can tell. Sure it’s pretty glamorous, until you get wet, or hungry, or cold, or all three. And don’t get me started on running out of toilet paper. Seriously, don’t get me started. You don’t want to know some of the things I’ve had to wipe my sensitive areas with. And then there’s all the foul beasts that want to murder you in your sleep; they’re probably in the same predicament that you are. It’s always been ‘make into a coat or be made into a coat’, unfortunately. There’s really no bathing, either. After a while your leathers start to smell pretty weird, let me tell you, and that’s not all from the type of animal hide they are, if you catch my drift. Best case scenario is that your nose kind of shuts down and you can’t tell anymore.”

Drif, wide-eyed and shell shocked, finally managed to find his voice. “S-sir, why are you telling me this, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Krohm looked directly into Drif’s large eyes and blinked slowly. “I’m telling you all of this because, kid…” His eyes cast about as he tried to think of a way to word his thoughts gently, and then settled on Drif’s lap. “Because…” He stood, slowly, unfolding his body from the legs up, a titan rising above the treetops. His hand fell upon Drif’s shoulder, and for a moment he did not speak. Finally, his face broke into a slow grin, inexorable as the sun breaching the horizon. “I’ve always wanted to learn to play the lute.”

With that, he strode to the flap of the tent, and in an instant he was gone.

Drif remained at the bench, unsure of what to think and unable to pin down what he was feeling. He looked down into his pack, and there, old and worn but as loved as the day it was made, the lute called his name.

© 2017 SGCool


Author's Note

SGCool
Follow your dreams, or you could end up like Krohm.

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Reviews

Furmint the Brawler ... epic.

The story gets better with every re-read. Fantastic.

Posted 7 Years Ago


SGCool

7 Years Ago

Thank you so much! I'm really glad that you liked it!

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Added on June 20, 2017
Last Updated on June 23, 2017
Tags: Humor, Comedy, Satire, Fantasy

Author

SGCool
SGCool

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