Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Red Rogues In Winn-Dixie
A long lost tale of Garce the Barbarian
by Robert E. Howard
The clamour of battle died away, shouts of victory mingling with the cries of the dying. Men lay as they’d fallen, like broken branches after a great storm. The fluorescent lights glinted coldly off gilt chain mail, helmets of burnished bronze , smashed shields, severed limbs and broken swords.
Brooding over the carnage stood a grim red bearded, horn helmeted Norseman, clad in barbaric black wolf pelts, clutching a great broadsword that dripped fresh gore. In his other hand was an open bag of kettle fried potato chips.
A brooding sun burnt giant iron thewed and beetle browed, in tattered leather and torn chain mail armor listened sullenly to the sounds of the field as though to dancing girls strumming a lyre. In his right hand he gripped what was left of a scarred battle axe. He held no shield, nor had he ever needed one.
“By Odin’s bloody beard, friend Garce,” growled the Norseman. “There’s many a brave man feasting in the halls of Valhalla tonight.”
The big man adjusted his corslet. Spit blood on the ground. “So you say, friend Scotchgaard. May they feast in Valhalla or mayhaps rot in hell, so please the gods.”
The red beard held up the bag in his hand. “Chips?”
The dark mooded man waved him away. “Not this day, old friend. Watching my cholesterol. Still.” For a moment he stood regarding the dead, and cursed. “By Mitras big hairy tits,” he intoned wearily “I feel maybe like a pizza.”
“By Birdseye's Buttered Peas.” rumbled the Norseman grimly.
Garce looked thoughtful. His brow darkened, and furrowed pensively. “Don’t think I’ve heard of that god."
“Birdseye? No, I mean pizzas are two aisles over next to the Birdseye frozen peas section.”
“So the gods would have it,” Garce said, grinning mirthlessly. He shook fragments of skull and brains from the axe and hefted it lightly.
“Right next to the beer and wine aisle,” said the Norseman.
“So! Now I’m of a mind to quaff a flagon of ale or two!”
“And some wenching!” said Garce. “Let’s find some jolly sleek bellied wenches and quaff until we're shit faced.”
“Red wine for pizza,” said the Norseman, with imperturbable Nordic wisdom . “Or a dark ale, say porter or stout. Or Marzen should be in season by now. Anything else would be, well, barbaric.’
Garce laughed until the broken links of chain mail tickled like a dancing girls ankle bells. He raised the great war axe over his head. “Quaffing and wenching!”
They journeyed through the aisles to the North, the glass case of ice and frozen food. As they rounded the corner of the seafood aisle, a circle of dark gaunt warriors looked up at them from a fire. They howled like the great hyenas of the Khemitic steppes and seized their pikes.
Neither man spoke. Scotchgaard grinned wolfishly and drew the great blade from its leathern sheath and with an inhuman berserker scream hurled himself into the mosh pit of howling devils.
Garce shifted the haft of the war axe from hand to hand and waited for the first man to come to him. Scotchgaard’s blade whirled and heads flew. Steel rang like great belles as the Pict warriors surrounded them in a circle of death. The first man came, holding the iron pike on high for a fatal thrust. “Crom damn me for a meddling fool!” cursed Garce. “All I wanted was a pizza. So be it then, ye dark dogs! I'll give your hearts to the wolves!”
Garce knew the only way to take advantage over such a number of men was by putting his back up against a glass frozen food case. Like a cornered tiger he wheeled and met the Pict warrior head on. With the first swipe of Garce’s fighting axe the man’s hand and pike flew from him, and with the second the great heavy blade dropped and split the Pict’s skull to the teeth. Garce wrenched it free and kicked the body away, twisted and the next warrior’s pike glanced off a rent in the battle shorn chain mail. The axe whistled and the man’s head flew into a cooler of gourmet cheeses.
The Pict warriors broke into a chorus of inhuman howls, but their numbers were far fewer than before. Scotchgaard the Berserker, spun a whirlwind of singing steel that left death and dismemberment in its wake.
When the last man fell he collapsed exhausted yet with an unholy light in his eyes.
When he was sure the mood had passed, Garce approached him and held out his hand. Scotchgaard grasped it firmly, and leaning on his sword stood, his breast panting. His bosom heaving provocatively. He stared strangely at the barbarian and held his hand.
“I haven’t fought like that for a moon or two,” said Scotchgaard.
“Nor have I,” said Garce. “All that action has got me really ready for some serious quaffing and wenching.”
“Garce, my companion. We’ve been through many battles, back to back, beard to beard, balls to the wall, have we not?”
“Aye, Scotchgaard. That we have.”
The red beard looked lost. “I . . . I feel strangely close to you, friend Garce.”
“And I to you, Scotchgaard, you old dog.”
“Very close and warm. And . . . and . . .What I mean is, I think of you as . . . what I mean to say is . . . much more than a friend. You are much man, Garce the Barbarian.”
Garce regarded the man and felt strangely uncomfortable. With an effort he pulled his hand away. “Well. This would be a good time to find us some wenches. What say you to that? Some wenches eh? Eh? Some wenches, and pussy and quaffing and manly things, right? Right Scotchgaard?”
“What a big manly man I see in you. More than you see in yourself I think. Those mighty thighs. Those powerful buttocks. . grrr. . . You can call me ‘Tonto’ if you like. If it helps you feel comfortable with me.”
Garce coughed and hefted the axe a little higher. “I think I saw some wenches nearby. I think just right over there. Let's go look.”
“They say the sails of old sea-dogs like us, blow both ways.”
“They say that do they?”
“I see. Okay. Imagine that. Wow.”
“Some men prefer snails. Some men prefer oysters. Which do you prefer?”
“Clams. Yes! Bearded clams. Do you like to eat bearded clams, Scotchgaard?”
“I see things in you Garce, I can help you discover things about yourself. If you’ll . . . if you’ll just trust me for a night.” Scotchgaard loosened the wolf pelt that covered his loins and let it fall.
Garce raised the axe. “Stand you back, old friend or by Ishtars perky nipples I swear – “
“Cash or credit, sir?”
He looked at the cash register. “Wha?”
“Credit. No coupons.” He blinked and looked around. The people lined up behind him with their shopping carts were staring at him impatiently. God, life was dull. Money, money, money. Where had all the adventure gone?
“Did you find everything you were looking for?” said the girl behind the register.
“You’re a fine looking wench, you know that?” he said.
“Don’t make me call the manager, sir.”