Read The Dark Lord's Handbook Online

Authors: Paul Dale

Tags: #fantasy humor, #fantasy humour, #fantasy parody, #dragon, #epic fantasy, #dark lord

The Dark Lord's Handbook

BOOK: The Dark Lord's Handbook
13.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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The Dark
Lord’s
Handbook

 

 

Paul Dale

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2008 by Paul Dale

 

Paul Dale has asserted his moral right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, without prior permission in writing of the author, not to be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being impressed upon the subsequent purchaser.

 

 

For my mother,

who told me to do what I enjoyed most.

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

I would like to thank the following for their help and support along the way: Bodhiketu, Jon Spence, Jim Grimmett, Louise Dower, Andrew Dale, my parents, Kate Frost, Judith van Dijkhuizen, Tamsin Reeves, Lucy English and the Bath Spa University Creative writing staff, Chris Bagnall, Adam Reynolds, Jaq D Hawkins and Kath Middleton.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Nixon for permission to use her skeletal hand artwork.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 Good and Evil

 

RTFM

The Dark Lord’s Handbook

 

In the eternal war between Good and Evil, things were not going so well for Team Evil. While Death walked unseen by mortal eyes among the dead that lay on the sun burned field of battle, Evil mooched around as Death went about his work gathering souls. Death would be at it for quite some time as men and orcs bled out slowly, voicing their pains and thirst. If they were lucky the scavengers would help them on their way as they looted the dead and dying.

Evil made his way to where it had all ended. A neat ring of corpses lay around the blasted ground where the Dark Lord had fallen. Evil sighed. He’d had high hopes for this one. The early signs had been good, with notable successes, but then this? How had the Dark Lord managed to get it so wrong? It wasn’t that hard. All he had to do was read the fucking…

“Loser,” said a voice from behind him, interrupting his thoughts.

He didn’t have to turn to know who had come to gloat. “I wondered when you’d turn up,” said Evil.

“Loooooooooser,” repeated Good.

Evil turned to face his old adversary. “Is that necessary?”

Good shrugged. “You had me worried there. For a while. Attacking from the east at dawn. That’s my trick.”

“Nothing in the rules says I couldn’t,” said Evil. It was one of a number of small things that had all come together to give him real hope he would win this time. “The burnished shields were a nice touch.”

“Thanks,” said Good. “I had them up all night polishing. It was close.”

“Not close enough. And I honestly thought this one was different. He seemed to be doing so well.”

“They always make a mistake.”

Evil sighed. “I even wrote it all down, in easy to read chapters.”

“Pictures?”

“Of course.”

They had come to stand where the Dark Lord had met his end, stabbed in the back by the Hero that he had mistakenly thought defeated. Evil scoured the ground. It had to be around here somewhere, he could feel it.

“Looking for something?” asked Good.

“Nothing,” said Evil. Now where was it? He could feel it close.

There it was, half buried under a corpse, the edge just sticking out. He had to work quickly now. He could see Good trying to nonchalantly kick dirt over it, but Evil wasn’t going to let his opus get buried and lost.
Over here
, he called to a weasel of an orc that was trying to hack a finger off a nearby dead knight.
OVER HERE
. The orc looked up and sniffed.
HERE, YOU STUPID CREATURE
. The orc scrambled over the dead, arrowing in on where the book lay.

“What have we here?” said the orc to no one in particular as it tugged at the book. The ogre body that lay over it belonged to one of the Dark Lord’s bodyguard. With a final tug, the book came loose and the orc fell backwards. When the creature saw what he had, he squealed and let it drop. A skeletal hand still clutched the book; a hand that ended in a stump at the wrist.

Take it and go
, instructed Evil.
Quickly
.

The orc looked up. A troop of knights was riding across the battlefield, scattering the scavengers, and adding to the dead as their lances caught those that would dishonour the fallen. The orc grabbed his prize and fled.

“No matter,” said Good. “You could wait a millennium before another one is born, still longer before one that can read as well.”

“I’m very patient.”

“Until next time?”

“You can be certain of it,” said Evil. There would always be a next time.

 

Chapter 2 The Fat Lamb

 

Even a Dark Lord has a mother.

The Dark Lord’s Handbook

 

The snow storm had passed and left a clear sky, a bitter wind and a blood moon. The Fat Lamb, with its blazing fire and warm beer, was enjoying a busy night. The storm and the blood moon, its red light reflecting disturbingly off the fresh snow, were all the talk among those that sat huddled over their mugs.

“It’s not natural, I tell you,” declared Jurgen. There was a murmur of agreement. When Jurgen was in this mood, his voice solemn and brow knitted, everyone paid note. He was a big man with a moustache that hung low either side of his mouth, framing a smooth shaven chin. “I’ve seen many things, as you all know, and I’m not one to keep quiet when something is not right. Mark me. It’s not natural.”

“Right you are,” said Tibault. “Not natural.”

“What isn’t?”

Heads turned to Kristoff as he planted his mug on the table and eased himself into a gap on the bench. There were grumbles as he squeezed himself in. Unlike Jurgen, Kristoff was a slight man, and he’d been educated away in some fancy college. Many were surprised he’d come back to the village of his birth at all. Tibault had asked him why, but on this matter he was not forthcoming; his wounded expression the only clue to a mysterious past. A broken heart or wanted by the law were the current favourites being wagered on.

“What do you mean?” said Jurgen, pulling his shoulders back. He was not used to his pronouncements being challenged, least of all by a lad like Kristoff.

“What isn’t natural?” continued Kristoff. “This isn’t the first time we’ve had such a storm, or a harsh wind from the north.”

There was silence at the table as these facts were digested.

“But what about the moon?” said Jurgen, somewhat triumphantly. “The blood moon!”

There was a collective sigh of relief.

“Aye, the moon!” dared Tibault. “Jurgen’s right as ever. It’s the moon.”

“Ah, dear moon,” sighed Kristoff, gazing off into space. “What sadness have you seen?”

“See, I told you,” whispered Tibault. “He’s had his heart broken and no mistaking. Let’s just hope he doesn’t start with his poetry.”

Jurgen sat back, his chin jutted out, and folded his arms. “It isn’t natural.”

Heads nodded all around. Kristoff seemed lost in melancholy and made no reply. Just then there was a scream and heads looked to the ceiling.

“She still at it?”

“Aye. Sounds like.”

“How long has it been now?”

“A good few hours, I dare say.”

“First one’s always the longest. Least that’s what the wife says.”

“Harold seems happy enough.”

“Wouldn’t you be? Look at the place! With this many customers he’s too busy to be worrying about a first born.”

“My round?”

“Aye, it is at that.”

“Harold! Five. No, six more ales over here when you have a minute, would you?”

There was another scream and Harold looked with the others heavenward. For a heartbeat there was silence.

“For the LOVE of the gods will this never end?!” came a woman’s cry, quite clear through the thick beamed ceiling. Sympathetic glances shot in Harold’s direction, who ran one hand through tight brown curls, a worried look on his face.

“Could be a while yet.”

“Aye.”

“Did you get that, Harold? Six ales if you would.”

“Right you are,” said Harold, tearing himself away from the worry and setting out mugs in a line on the bar. The chatter in the bar resumed and Harold set about pulling the pints.

Harold was young to be a landlord. He had inherited the inn that spring as a result of his father’s sudden death. Heart failure was the general consensus, as pronounced by Jurgen, as to why Harold’s father had died so unexpectedly. He’d been found by the first of the lunchtime customers, eyes wide, standing perfectly upright, hands rested on the bar, his apron tied around his massive girth as though ready to serve. Quite how he’d managed to stay upright when he died was a mystery until they tried to move him and found his hands and feet solidly stuck in place; the soles of his boots had burned clear through and on closer inspection his hands had melted into the bar top. Still, heart attack was what Jurgen had reckoned and who was to doubt his keen insights? So Harold and his new bride, Jesobel, had inherited the business sooner than expected. Harold had put a beer cloth over the burn marks his father’s hands had left until his wife had insisted he didn’t as people came a good distance to see them.

Jesobel had taken a keen interest in the business. Right from the start, she made everyone welcome and takings soared. There were times when Harold had to knock the side of his head to get sense into it. The most popular girl in the village, if not the county, had married him, and almost immediately announced she was with child. Harold was the happiest man alive, the recent tragedy forgotten. The only worry now was the birth of his first child.

Kristoff got up and offered Harold a comforting word, something about being lucky in love, and began to carry the ales over to the table when the main door clattered open and a sharp blast of air blew in.

“Shut that door!”

“Bloody freezing!”

Annoyed patrons looked over to see who had upset the warmth. A tight group of four brown robed men shuffled in, the last turning to close the door. They stood, heads bowed, hands clasped in front of long, hanging sleeves. One took a step forward from the rest and threw back his hood and set his gaze upon the patrons. He had rime on his goatee beard, a red flush to his cheeks and a pudding bowl haircut that immediately placed the men as being of an Order of brewing monks.

“I am Francis of the Seekers. We seek a child born this evening.”

There was a momentary pause and the patrons returned to their drinks.

“Has a child been born here this night or not?” asked Francis somewhat angrily, his voice rising forcefully above the commotion.

One of the other monks nudged Francis and whispered something.

“Ah yes. A child born of a maiden?”

The monk’s question silenced the room.

“A virgin birth,” continued the monk.

Heads turned to Jurgen.

“What do you mean, exactly?” asked Jurgen.

“Good grief,” sighed the monk. “A maiden’s birth. A child born of a woman who has not known the intimacies of a man. Her maidenhood intact.”

BOOK: The Dark Lord's Handbook
13.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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