[In honor of my blog fans (all seven of you) I have decided to post my brand new short story, "Twenty-five Wolf Steaks," for your amusement. If you like World of Warcraft, or any MMORPG, I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it. Share it around. Let me know what you think.]
TWENTY-FIVE WOLF STEAKS
I have an epic destiny. I know this because one morning I was standing in front of the church where I grew up and a raven flew down and perched on a fence post and said, “You have an epic destiny.”
“Really?” I said.
“Caw-caw,” the raven said. Birds don’t usually talk to people, even if it’s for just a second. Those kinds of miracles are reserved for heroes and adventurers. By that logic, I was a hero and/or an adventurer.
I’m a pretty logical guy. At least, when thinking abstractly, I am. For instance, growing up I knew I wanted to whack things really hard with a sword, so I focused entirely on weight training and body conditioning. So now I can lift one thousand pounds easy (it comes in handy for carrying all sorts of stuff—carrying stuff is a sign of a true adventurer) and when I get a thumping, I can take more hits than most people before falling down. Of course, I’ve never read a book in my life, I can’t jump very high, I think two plus two equals grapefruit, and I’m pretty darn ugly. Still, if all you need to fulfill your epic destiny is the ability to whack things, do those other skills really matter?
When the raven flew away, I ran to find the Abbot, the head of the church where I grew up. The Abbot was like a father to me, and he never turned me down for a private meeting. I always thought that was nice of him, considering that over the years, more than eleven-and-a-half million orphaned children had been dropped on his doorstep, but he managed to find time for all of us.
The jewel-encrusted archway of the church’s entrance twinkled in the morning sunlight. I jogged through the open doorway and into the church antechamber. A few dozen of the Abbot’s adopted children were milling around inside. It was so crowded, some of them had to move in the traditional method for crowded areas, herky-jerky steps, one at a time; an arm moves, then the body holds still for three seconds, then it jumps across the room in the blink of an eye.
Don’t ask me, I didn’t make tradition.
Brother Carl stood at the base of the long staircase that led up to the Abbot’s study, his long, pencil-thin arms folded into the sleeves of his robe. “What ho, Brother Carl!” I said, stopping suddenly in front of him. “Can I speak with the Abbot?” He always let me speak with the Abbot.
“I cannot let you speak with the Abbot,” Brother Carl said. “He is very busy. Dark clouds hover over the Black Mountains. Trouble brews abroad. It may have something to do with your epic destiny.”
“Yes!” I said. “I was about to suggest that!”
“You must leave the Church grounds and explore the mountains. Deep inside you may find a dragon, or a demon! Slaying such a creature would surely fulfill your epic destiny.”
I drew my sword heroically. “It shall be done!”
“Not so fast,” Brother Carl said. “No one is allowed to leave the church grounds without the Abbot’s permission. Believe me, I’ve tried. You just hit this invisible wall. You keep walking, but you can’t go forward.”
“What devilry!” I exclaimed. I do a lot of exclaiming.
Brother Carl said, “I cannot let you speak to the Abbot until you have performed a task for me. Consider it your first quest in achieving your epic destiny.”
My first quest? I liked the sound of that. “On my honor, I will do my best! What is my duty? Slay an ogre? Rescue a fair maiden? Liberate a town enslaved by the Orcish horde?” Orcs never travel in groups or packs or platoons or legions. It’s always a horde.
“None of those,” Brother Carl said. “I need you to acquire twenty-five wolf steaks, and bring them back to me.”
“Twenty-five what?” I asked.
“Wolf steaks,” Brother Carl said.
“I didn’t think wolves had steaks,” I said. “I mean, I’ve heard of collecting fangs, and claws, and pelts, but steaks?”
“Apparently, they are quite a delicacy in the North.”
“But dwarves live in the North!” I exclaimed (see? I told you). “Are you going to trust the dietary habits of a dwarf?”
Brother Carl said, “Hey man, I was divinely guided to offer you this quest. It’s part of your epic destiny.”
“I don’t believe you. This is some kind of trick.”
“It’s not a trick! Look, there’s a gold exclamation point floating above my head and everything.” Sure enough, the golden punctuation mark, about the size of a goose feather, hovered above Brother Carl’s head — a sure sign that he had a sincere quest to offer.
“Fine!” I said, beaten by this new discovery. “I’ll go get your wolf steaks.” Brother Carl’s exclamation point blipped into a question mark. As I jogged away, I said, “But I still don’t get what this has to do with my epic destiny.”
Outside the church, the fields were covered with wolves. Funny, I didn’t remember them being there a minute ago. Monsters tend to fade into existence at random moments. It’s a bizarre method of reproduction that I don’t entirely understand, and it can be a real bother if you go camping. Anyway, there were a bunch of the wolves in front of the church. They were all exactly the same size; they had the same gray coat, the same mean snarl, the same menacing walk. They weren’t hunting or hiding or prowling or communicating with each other. They were all just standing around the field, looking stupid. A few of the Abbot’s adopted children, all about my age, hung around the wolves, beating them with sticks and swords and war hammers, throwing knives at them, or shooting arrows at them from afar. Most people just ran past the wolves ignorantly.
Thinking the front yard was a little too crowded for my liking, I circled around to the back, where a number of wolves stood, looking at me. I must have gotten too close to one, because it growled and charged at me. It leapt forward and chomped at my chest. I stumbled back. My vision went red. “Urk!” I said. I felt eight percent weaker than I had a moment before. Twelve more attacks like that and I’d be a goner. With a dynamic sound, that metallic shiiing, my short sword suddenly appeared in my hand.
Like all peaceful monastic orders, mine had trained me in the art of war. Thanks to my awesome combat lessons, I learned this really cool trick. What I do is I hold my sword just like I always do, and approach whatever it is that I want to whack, a fighting dummy or a wolf or an ambling mushroom or whatever. When I get close enough, I shout “Mighty Strike!” and wind whips behind my sword in little white spirals. I do this little hop and come crashing down on top of the whack target. I’m not sure what it is about shouting “Mighty strike!” that makes an attack hurt something more than a regular strike, but it always does. Of course, I can only do it once every five seconds.
A mighty strike, two regular strikes, and another mighty strike later, the wolf yelped and fell dead at my feet. Aw, man, I thought. Four hits? Twenty-five wolves? That’s like, twenty-nine hits! This is going to take forever! I reached out a hand and searched the wolf’s belongings. Sure enough, inside a little leather pouch (that I hadn’t seen the wolf carrying a second ago) was a wolf steak. It looked like a big juicy slab of rib-eye, the bone bright white against the colorful red meat, all one color straight through. What an awesome chunk of meat. Somehow I automatically knew that eating it raw would make me feel fifteen percent healthier, and that I could sell it for five bronze coins. That’s a pretty lousy deal, I thought, for a thirty-ounce steak that never spoils, ever. But oh well. If each of these wolves has one in its possessions, such steaks must not be all that…rare? Get it?
I made my way through the wolf pack, mighty strike-strike-strike-mighty striking, and collecting steaks. It was easy to carry all the steaks. They were remarkably stackable. As my sword delivered a fatal blow to the tenth wolf, a man strode up on a mighty white steed. I stared at him and his stallion in awe. This must have been a truly great hero. The horse was plated in gold armor, and the man wore an ersatz collection of mismatched gear: tortoise shell shield, a long spear with a fierce blade at the tip, a silver breastplate, red leather pants, and a skull mask. He looked down at me, and said, “Lolz En Zero Zero Bee.”
“Hail stranger!” I said, bowing at the hip in greeting. Suddenly, the horse vanished and the man was walking towards me. His armor started to vanish, each article in a blink, one at a time. Soon he stood before me, his super fit body hairless and shining. His name floated above his head. It was (\/)ean Dude.
The stranger said to me, “hey At-Sign Dollar Sign Dollar Sign Pound Percent Ampersand, ruh oo a mass turd baiter?”
“I have never baited turds in my life!” I exclaimed. “In large or small numbers. You sir, Mister Open Parenthesis Backslash Forward Slash Close Parenthesis ean Dude, are a mean dude.”
He started hopping up and down repeatedly, like someone running hurdles in place. He kept this up for several minutes as I went about slaying another wolf, but (\/)ean Dude never fatigued. At last he approached me, still hopping, and said, “Why you killin wolfs?”
I snorted at his obstinacy. “Why, because it is part of my epic destiny. I must investigate the Black Mountains, and defeat whatever evil resides there.”
“Dood that ain’t no epic destiny. Everyone here is trying to do that. And it’s not an evil. It’s a giant ambling mushroom called Fungasaurus. I killed it like eleven times for the ex-pee.” I wracked my brain for references to the obtainment of former urine, and why this would benefit anyone, but none could be found. (\/)ean Dude continued, “Your epic destiny is shared by millions of others across the continent, all trying to slay Fungasaurus, to beat back to orcish horde, to get lots of gold, to defeat the ultimate evil that will not be revealed for many months. Everyone’s trying to do the same thing. And Fungasaurus, the horde, the ultimate evil, they all keep coming back, magically spawning infinitely. So you ain’t special, noobie. Everyone has an epic destiny.”
“Blasphemy!” I cried, raising my sword to mighty strike, but something restricted me from attacking.
“Hey! You cant just go attacking people. We don’t live in a pee-kay realm. I have to give you permission.”
“Grant me permission so that I may smite you!” I said.
“Okay, but oo ruh gonna die.”
I felt the witchery cease, so I lunged forward and swung at him. He stood stationary, waving his arms in front of him, but still I missed. He stood there. I swung again, but again, I missed.
“My weapons seem to have no effect,” I said, staring at my sword in disbelief.
“Plus seven defense, baybee,” (\/)ean Dude said, thrusting his nearly naked body in my direction. I swung again. Missed! Again! Missed! I growled curses at my adversary. They came out as a string of symbols and punctuation marks.
(\/)ean Dude cocked his head back and crowed, “LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLZZZ!” He took a step forward and punched me in the face. I died instantly.
The world looked strange in the afterlife. Everything had this spooky blue-black tint, and I heard whistling. Other sounds were muted, and I was a translucent spectre, identical to my former self. I looked down at my corpse, lying in the back yard of my former home. My sword vanished from my cold, dead hands as (\/)ean Dude looted my belongings. My clothing disappeared one item at a time until I wore naught but my loincloth. Then (\/)ean Dude blinked and he was back on his horse. He rode off and out of sight.
Grumbling, I tromped over to the graveyard on the western side of the church, and asked the large floating spirit there to restore my soul to a human body. The spirit’s smoky limbs floated around her. She was very beautiful, and very serious. At great expense, she agreed, and I felt my corporeal form return. The world is a dangerous place. It would be pretty hard to fulfill an epic destiny if you had to worry about dying all the time.
Still grumbling, I made my way back to my old body, which was still lying in the yard, nearly naked and dead. The wolves were there too, but they didn’t pay me any mind. I searched my corpse’s belongings. My sword was gone, my clothes, my boots, my belt, even the few bronze coins I had to my name. (\/)ean Dude took my pride and my livelihood. I had a new epic destiny. I was going to hunt down and destroy (\/)ean Dude.
But first I had to punch a bunch of wolves to death with my fists. With a heavy sigh, I picked up the remainder of my meager belongings and considered the upside. At least he had left me the wolf steaks.