The Chosen Pigherder – Part 2

This is part 2. Check out Part 1 before you read it
“Look, no need to get insulting. Anyway, what does it say?”

“Here’s the bit about you. ‘And the usurper shall attempt to raise the demon Kaceputurus, and if the true heir is not found in time then surely he will survive, and his reign of blood shall last a thousand years. The heir must sacrifice almost all to defeat the usurper.”

“Sacrifice almost all? I don’t really like the sound of that.”

“Peasant. Look, it’s either that or we are all ruled by a man who’s idea of discipline is to hang the entire family line of the offender by their ankles as rats gnaw on them making them bleed enough that they stay conscious. He’s not a good man, and you need to stop him.”

John spoke up. “Look son, like I keep saying, you have to go. You can’t stay here. You can decide to embrace your destiny, or you can decide to sleep under a bridge and starve, but you don’t have a home here until you finish this. I am not having my farm burned down by some half-wit security force because they think you are here. At least now when they inevitably follow you I can say you left and be telling the truth.”

Ricky sobbed a little as it occurred to him that he was now homeless, and an actual orphan – even these surrogate parents were abandoning him.

“Oh, now, don’t cry boy,” said Aunt June, “We’re going to send you off with all what we can spare, you’ll have warm clothing and ample food to eat.”

John walked out of the room for a moment. When he came back he was carrying a long object wrapped in cloth. “Your dad, he had a sword. I think it’s a pretty nice one, far as these things go. Probably enchanted or something.”

John pulled the cloth back, revealing a three-foot long piece of steel, heavily engraved with runes. The hilt was bound in the finest leather, inset with a single pure red ruby. The ruby and the runes started to glow as soon as Ricky put his hand on the hilt. Ricky lifted it, and it felt light as air. Talen let out a little giggle, a nervous sound, almost a titter. “What you laughing at then mate?”

“Oh, nothing… just, I have to admit you don’t really have the look I was expecting.”

“Fine then, I’ll just go and stay home then, if the way I look is such a problem.”

“No, no… I’m sure we’ll get you trim and fighting fit in no time. I have to teach you spellcraft as well. I’m sure you will take to it, the chosen one always does.”

The pair left the farmhouse, the sword now sheathed at Ricky’s waist. They had a pack full of supplies. Ricky insisted they walk past the pig pen. He said goodbye to all the pigs. He named each and every pig as they were born, and when he made bacon he always called it by that name. “Goodbye Moonchance, Goodbye Mr. Baconfeet, Goodbye Dave,” on and on it went. Talen was clearly getting irritated, which made Ricky happy so he took even longer.

After the goodbyes to the pigs, they were on the road proper. After an hour or so Ricky started to complain. “We’ve been walking too long. It’s time to stop for a snack.”

“We have to cross hundreds of miles, and time is short. We can’t stop for a break every hour.”

“Way I see it, that’s your problem. Mine is that I’m hungry and I haven’t eaten in at least an hour. I’m a growing boy, need me vittles, I do.”

“Look, do you want everyone in the entire kingdom to be under the thumb of an immortal tyrant for the rest of time?”

“Well no, but I don’t really think ten minutes is going to make that big a difference, and I’m bloody starved mate.”

“Okay, ten minutes. Sure, why not. Damnit.”

They sat and ate, soft bread with cheese and butter. As they ate a stranger walked up the road. He stopped in front of Talen and said, “So, this is him huh?”

“Yes, you would be the warrior?”

“Of course. He’s… bigger than I expected.”

“Yeah, about double what I was anticipating. Still, he’s a strong lad. Just a bit lazy.”

“I resent that. I do me work on the farm. I work harder than either of you fancy men do. Just, I don’t like long walks is all. That and I like my food, I do.”

“Okay son, I’m Galifaxis the Slayer, scourge of the seven wildernesses and the greatest swordsman of our age. My job is to teach you to use a blade. I see you have one already… do you know how to use it?”

“This? No, I just picked it up for the first time today. Give me a good axe any day, this fancy thing, it’s just not me. Also, what’s with the names? Galifaxis? You actually expect me to say that every time I talk in your direction? I won’t bloody do it. Your name is G now.”

“No, just… no. Look, what we are doing is important. Has the wizard explained the situation to you?”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’m not cut out for this sort of thing. I like taking care of pigs, I like farming. It’s noble, honest work… this gallivanting about like some sort of band of lunatics, that’s for you fancy city folk.”

Talen stood up, “Okay, look, if you’re finished your snack maybe we can push on. There’s an inn just a bit down the road, and I would prefer sleeping indoors tonight if possible.”

“Alright. Don’t make much difference to me. I don’t mind sleeping outside, do it all the times when I’m tending the hogs.”

“Yes, well, some of us don’t have your natural padding.”

Next crack about me weight and I crack you in the head mate. I’ve put up with it because you’re a fancy wizard and all, but I don’t have to take that crap from the likes of you.”

They continued down the road, Talen and Galifaxis chatting as they went. For the most part, Ricky ignored them. They weren’t saying anything interesting anyway. Finally, they reached the inn. It was a rough place called the Halfling Hole.

Inside the inn, there was a fire roaring and a handful of people sitting at tables. On a raised dais in the middle was a beautiful woman. She was strumming a travel harp, wearing a long cloak. Her long auburn hair flowed over milky white shoulders. She looked up as Ricky walked in. Her eyes met his, eyes of the purest green, like drowning in spring sunshine through dappled leaves. Ricky found his breath wouldn’t come, he knew in that moment that he was in love, that he would do anything for this woman. Her lips formed a perfect bow, the colour of strawberries at peak ripeness. She looked down, then looked back up at him through long lashes, eyes half lidded, lips half-parted. He felt his knees get weak. How could a woman this beautiful exist? Even more, how could she be looking at him that way, as if he was someone she desired?

He walked to a table near the stage, completely ignoring the group of four armoured men he passed on the way. The four of them had matching cloaks and livery, clearly soldiers of some sort, but Ricky didn’t care. He wanted to be near the goddess on the stage more than anything in the world.

Talen sat down next to him and said, “What the hell boy? Did you not see the soldiers? Those are the tyrant’s men. If they figure out who you are they will slay you on the spot.”

“Well, if Galifaxis is the greatest swordsman on earth and you are mighty wizard shouldn’t you be able to deal? I mean, there’s only four of them.”

“That’s not the point. This time it’s probably alright, but come on, this is dangerous. We need to keep you alive so we can train you to the point where you can defeat the tyrant or everything is lost. You are literally the only person on earth capable of beating him.”

“Look, I’m sixteen. That’s a lot of bloody responsibility don’t you think? I mean, for the sake of the gods, who would entrust a sixteen-year-old with the fate of the world?”

“The gods of course. It’s kind of what they do. This is what I do… you are my fifth chosen one. The other four all worked out alright, they all did what was needed, the world was saved, you got to keep herding pigs for a while longer. Imagine if they’d had your attitude? All of us would be in it then.”

“How about the other one, G?”

“How about me?”

“Well, what’s your story? I mean, greatest swordsman in the world. Isn’t that a bit arrogant?”

“No, there was a competition, I won. Really. I mean, it’s possible that somewhere there’s some guy practicing esoteric fighting styles I’ve not heard of who could beat me, but I believe that if someone doesn’t test their skill odds are good they aren’t as good as they think. In that case, I’m the greatest swordsman and they aren’t.”

“Yeah, I guess that makes some sense. Still, it’s gotta be a bit hard to know you have to live up to the hype. I mean, look at me… all I have to live up to is being good with pigs. Well, I guess until now. I think I liked living up to that better.”

“Yeah, I can see why. Look, can we can the chatter? We’ll run some sword work after our meal.”

“So, all that crap about being careful, avoiding notice, and then you want me to whirl around with a great bloody piece of steel? I know, maybe we could get me a shirt that says ‘The Chosen One’ in great big letters. I’m sure that would help avoid suspicion.”

The three of them sat in silence, glaring at each other until the soldiers got up from their table and left. Ricky said, “Right then, I’m off to bed.”

“You sleep in the stable.”

“Why? I’m not wealthy, but I have a few coins, I could pay for a room for the night.”

“Tradition. The chosen one always sleeps in the stable.”

“Alright, whatever. Ain’t the first time I’ve slept with animals. I don’t mind. I think it’ll improve the company. I suppose you fancy types’ll be sleeping in nice soft beds. If it gets me the bloody hell away from you I’ll sleep in the horse stall.”

Galifaxis followed Ricky outside. As they walked out into the cool evening air the warrior said, “Okay, let’s get started. Draw your sword and we’ll work on stance.”

“Kay,” Ricky drew the ornate blade. It gleamed in the night air, immediately giving an aura of menace, of danger.

“First, I’m pretty sure that’s the blade of Davonish, the greatest blade forged in this kingdom, heavily enchanted. It’s supposed to be unbreakable, lighter than any blade forged, but able to bite like a blade far, far heavier. It’s an amazing piece. Also, if I’m right, it should start to glow if we are around a dragon.”

“Okay, not testing that out. Dragons are scary mate.”

Galifaxis showed Ricky a proper sword fighting stance, one foot pointed to the enemy, the other at a forty-five-degree angle, knees bent, body side on to present as small a target as possible. Ricky didn’t even come close to matching it, and even when he stood side on, it didn’t reduce his profile. His large stomach protruded out, leaving a very wide target. “No, no, don’t hold the sword like that. This is a fine weapon, you are holding it like you plan to chop some wood.”

“Why not? Chopping wood is good honest innit? This fancy jumping about, well, it’s just not what a man should be doing. You think this is saving the world, but what happens if farmers stop working? You lot stop eating.”

“Look, I didn’t make your destiny, it’s who you are. Don’t take it out on me. I’m just here to make it as easy as possible for you to do what you need to do.”

“Sure, but look, I’m a good farmer. I’m not smart, that’s obvious. I’m not the kind of guy who’s good with swords and all that. Not agile and nimble. Not all fancy. Give me an axe, I can split wood all day, chop off a hogs head, that sort of thing. I’m a right wizard with the farming. This shite though, it’s just not me.”

“Okay, let’s try this another way. I’m going to show you some basic sword postures, some transitions. Really, really basic stuff though. You just try to copy the positions as best you can.”

For the next hour, they did position after position. Ricky didn’t manage a single one. By the end Galifaxis was cursing every second word, his calm demeanor broken. Ricky, of course, was also cursing, but that had been the case from the start.

“Okay, it’s okay. We’ll work more. Maybe sorcery is more your thing.”

“I don’t think that’s likely. Maybe I’m just not suited to this.”

“Nonsense. You are the chosen one. You will pick it up. Everyone picks it up eventually.”

Continue to Part 3

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