The Lord of the Socks
Episode 4: Barbarian for Hire
Our group gathered outside of the inn and behind a small grove of trees. “Okay,” Bum-stabber said, “Me an’ Fil an’ Jace will go in and arrest him. Trel and Belet, wait outside and come if we holler. Scarn, you watch the back door.” The guards nodded and started toward the inn.
“What about me?” Frederica asked. “I can help.”
“You need to stay here with me,” Korac said. “We need to keep you safe.”
Frederica let out a snort as she slapped her hand against the handle of her mace. “I can take care of myself,” she muttered.
“Wait a minute, everybody stop,” I said. “Your plan’s not going to work. I’ve seen what this guy can do with that gigantic sword of his. You don’t stand a chance.”
“Shut up, wart,” Bum-stabber snapped. “I can handle a stupid barbarian.”
“Look,” I said, “as much as I’d like to see you get pounded into the ground by Nonac, if you really want to get information from him, you’ll need me to do it.”
Bum-stabber sneered. “I don’t think so.” He turned and resumed his march toward the inn.
“Nice knowing you,” I said to his back.
Korac put his hand up. “Sergeant, stop. Myrick may have a point, here. No sense risking injuries to our already small group.”
Bum-stabber stopped and glared at me as if I’d just eaten his serving of roast pheasant.
Korac turned to me. “Do you think you can get the information from this barbarian?”
“Yeah. He knows Nut-boy and me. We could approach him and find out what he knows about the Orb without any of the other men getting hurt.”
Korac nodded. “It’s worth a try.”
“Ya can’t be serious,” Bum-stabber said. “We can’t trust this little lyin’ thief. What if he decides to run off?”
Korac smirked. “Oh, that won’t be a problem, will it, Myrick?” He raised his hand and put his fingers together as if he were about to snap them.
“Uh, no, sir,” I said.
“Okay, then go.”
I turned to Nut-boy. “Coming, Brutus?”
His eyes grew wide for a second before he swallowed and nodded.
We walked up to the inn and entered. It was well lit and filled with several patrons. A couple of serving maids were busy carrying platters of food to them. At the far end of the room, in the corner, sat a giant hulk of muscle hunching over a plate of cooked chicken and wearing only a loin cloth. There was no mistaking it, he was Nonac of Airamic. His sword, which could double as a support beam in a castle, rested against the wall.
When he saw us, he dropped his drumstick and stood up. He smiled with teeth as big as a horse’s. “Mah-reek! Broo-tus!” He stood up, put his arms out, and tromped toward us, shaking the whole room and causing all of the other patrons to look about in panic.
“Oh, cabbage,” I said. It was like looking up from the base of a cliff and seeing a rock avalanche tumbling toward you. Felt like it, too, as Nonac scooped both of us up in each arm and gave us a hug.
“Nonac vorry about you. Vhere you been?” He squeezed harder.
I felt something pop in my chest as pain exploded there. “Ribs! Ribs! Ribs!” I screamed into his armpit.
To my immense relief, Nonac put us down, allowing me to painfully suck in a breath of clean air.
“Goot idea,” Nonac said. He turned to one of the serving women. “Hanna, some boar ribs for Nonac and friends, Mah-reek and Broo-tus.”
The woman nodded and went into the kitchen.
Nonac slapped us on the back, knocking both of us to the floor. “Come. Sit vith Nonac. Talk.” As he stomped back to his table, Nut-boy and I crawled up from the floor and limped after him. He sat down and resumed munching on his drumstick.
I sat down across from him, rubbing my ribs and hoping nothing was broken. Nut-boy sat gingerly next to me, looking ready to bolt.
I said, “I’m glad to see you got away from that skeletal sorcerer. How did you defeat him?”
Nonac nodded. “Nonac crush him.” He took his drumstick in one hand and it crackled into splinters. “Evil sorcerer gone.”
“I see.” I decided to get right to the point. “So, my well-muscled friend, did you ever find that orb you were looking for?”
Nonac shook his head of shaggy black hair. “No. Nonac give up.” His smile returned. “But Nonac hunting trog-leen now. Pay is goot. Und let me show you my new loin cloth made of trog-leen skin.” He stood up and started untying his g-string.
I quickly put my hands up to stop him. “No, that’s okay, we can see it from here. It looks nice.” Sheesh, what do barbarians have against modesty?
To my relief, Nonac sat back down.
“Okay, buddy,” I said, “we need to find out more about this orb. Was it the Orb of Trineer, perchance?”
Nonac looked thoughtful as he ripped the other drumstick from the chicken. He nodded. “Yah. Dat vas it.”
“Who hired you to find it?”
Nonac shrugged as he took a bite. He said through a mouthful of chicken, “Don’t remember name. Some noble in Duragath.”
“Was his name Miloc?” I asked.
Nonac nodded. “Yah, dat’s it.”
So Miloc was looking for it, like Korac suspected. “Did Miloc give you any other directions? Like where to find it?”
“In Valley of Death. In tomb. Dat all.”
I knew that was all we were going to be able to get from Nonac. I stood up. “Well, my friend, it was nice seeing you, but we need to get going.”
Nonac’s jaw dropped, showing the contents of his mouth. “No. Stay vith Nonac. Eat ribs.”
“It’s sad to say, but we’re on a vital quest. We have to be moving on.”
“Qvest?” Nonac’s grin grew wide. “Nonac like qvests.”
“Really?” I asked. But of course he would, he was a barbarian. Isn’t that what barbarians do? “You know what? We could use you and your sword. We’re heading into troglyn country.”
“Yah?” Nonac said, his whole body perking up.
“Um, Myrick, I’m not so sure,” Nut-boy said.
“I am. It would be great if Nonac came along.” Plus, I thought, it would be good to have an ally to protect me from Bum-stabber.
“How much pay?” Nonac asked.
I grimaced. “I don’t know. I’m not in charge of that. You’ll have to talk to Lord Korac, our court wizard.”
Nonac’s face hardened. “Nonac not like vizards.”
“Well, this one is okay. Sort of. Maybe. Hard to say. So far he hasn’t turned us into anything slimy, at least.”
Nonac shook his head. “Nonac not verk vith vizards.”
As I tried to think of a way to convince him, we heard a group entering the inn. I turned to see Bum-stabber, Fil, and Princess Frederica entering, probably to check on our progress.
Nonac’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened. “Who dat?”
“Those are a couple of guards on the quest with us,” I answered.
“No. Da pertiful voman.”
“Pertiful? Oh, you mean pretty?” I turned to look to see who he might be talking about. The only woman over there was Frederica. “Oh, that’s Princess Frederica. She’s on our quest, too.”
“She pertiful.” Nonac’s eyes glazed over and a silly grin crossed his face. After several seconds, he straightened up and stopped grinning. “Okay, Nonac come on qvest vith you.”
“Great!” I said, slapping the table.
“Uh, Myrick,” Nut-boy said, shaking his head.
I ignored him as I turned and headed toward the others.
Bum-stabber came forward. “What’s taking ya so long?” He cast a suspicious glance at Nonac. “Did you find out about the Orb?”
“He doesn’t have it, nor does he know where it is. But he’s willing to come with us and help.”
Bum-stabber shook his head. “No. We don’t need some brainless fool with us.”
“But we already have you, what’s one more?” I asked before thinking.
Bum-stabber raised his hand to strike me, but Frederica caught his wrist before he could. “No. Myrick is right. We can use all the help we can get. The man looks like he’d be handy in a fight.”
“He is, trust me,” I said.
Bum-stabber yanked his hand away. “It’s up to Lord Korac.” He spun around and left the inn.
“Are you okay, Myrick?” Frederica asked. “I was worried about you.”
“I’m fine. A little sore is all.” I winced as I felt my ribs.
By this time, Nonac and Nut-boy joined us.
I pointed at Nonac. “Nonac, this is Princess Frederica. Princess, this is Nonac of Airamic.”
To my surprise, Nonac knelt down, took Frederica’s hand, and kissed it. “Nonac pledge life.”
Frederica grimaced as she took her hand back and wiped the chicken grease off the back of it. “That’s not necessary, really. But we would appreciate your help.”
Nonac stood up. “Nonac help.” He spun around and bounded across the room, shaking the whole building. He snatched up his shoulder bag from under the table and grabbed his sword from the wall. He ran back, smiling. “Nonac ready.”
“Okay, then, let’s go,” I said.
Nonac shouted back to the kitchen, “Hanna, no ribs today. Nonac on qvest!” He headed out of the inn on the heels of Frederica and Fil.
Nut-boy grabbed my arm, stopping me from following them out the door. “Myrick, are you sure about this?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“But Nonac…and the princess? There’s no way that will ever work.”
“Probably not, but can you think of anyone else you’d want with us in troglyn country?”
“No.” He let go of my arm and we followed the others out of the inn.
When we rejoined the party outside, Bum-stabber and Korac stood there studying Nonac. Bum-stabber shook his head. “It won’t work, my lord. There’s no way we can keep the savage under control.”
Korac smiled a smile that sent a shiver up my spine. He reached into his pack and pulled out a parchment and quill. “Sure we can. All we need is a contract. So, Nonac is it? How does a hundred golds sound for payment?”
Nonac nodded enthusiastically. “Yah. Dat goot. Better than trog-leen bounty.”
“Good. Then all you need to do is sign this contract here. Just put your mark at the bottom of this parchment.” Korac extended the parchment and a quill toward the barbarian.
Nonac took them, smiling with excitement.
The parchment looked the same as the one Korac had me sign, the one that somehow bound me to his will with a control spell. There was no way I could let my friend sign his freedom away like I had. “Nonac, don’t—”
“Shlabauk!” Korac barked as he snapped his fingers.
My muscles froze and I couldn’t breathe. Nonac held the parchment and started to put the quill to the paper.