Trying something a little different with a bit of humor in the fantasy genre. I’m a huge fan of writers like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.
Gerrod the Goatherd
by PC Wheeler
“It is your destiny,” the old man said. “You are the last of a line of hidden kings, and now the time is ripe for you to seek out the sword of your forefathers and stand against the rising darkness.”
Gerrod raised the brim of his wide hat, spat out the bit of grass he’d been chewing, and turned his gaze from the valley spread out below. “Can’t. I’m busy, you see. Goats don’t herd themselves.”
In reality, the goats would have continued on whether he was there or not, but the geezer who kept going on and on about magic swords and birthrights didn’t know a thing about goats, Gerrod suspected. Goats did what they bloody well wanted and you pretty much had to let them or you’d be nudged and butted until you found yourself plummeting off the nearest cliff.
“I’m sure we could find a replacement from the village,” the old man said with a cough.
“Look,” Gerrod said, “I didn’t want to say this before, ’cause I was being polite and all, but what you propose sounds like a lot of bleeding hard work. I mean, take this missing sword business. You’re talking of slogging halfway across the world through haunted forests and oceans infested with enormous shrimp -”
“Actually it was colossal squid”
” – yeah whatever. Still – not exactly what you would call a summer holiday, would you?”
“Well, no, but for the chance to reclaim your heritage, surely such a quest would be nothing. Why, you could restore honor to your name.”
“The goats don’t care about honor and stuff, so I why should I?”
The old man sputtered into his beard which was of the flowing white variety. He also wore a tall pointy hat with stars and moons elaborately embroidered on it. Gerrod thought it was a bit ridiculous.
Settling back onto his customary rock, Gerrod folded his arms over his chest to indicated that the conversation was over.
With a sigh, the old man turned and trudged back down the muddy mountain path.
Gerrod was reclining on the same rock when the old man returned a year later.
“The sword has been found,” he said, brandishing a fancy blade encrusted with jewels. “You are the long lost heir to the throne of Hammerling. Now is the time for you to claim your birthright and lead the armies of good and against the dark forces that mass under the banners of Lord Azorexl.”
Gerrod grimaced. “Put that thing away, will you. You’ll scare the goats. Besides, I don’t think I’m up to commanding armies today, thank you. All that flashy armor and yelling and stuff. It’s enough to give you a headache.”
“The prophecies say that you will strike the hammer of good against the anvil of evil and the anvil will shatter beneath your blow. It is not too late to return to your people and save them from tyranny.”
“Yeah, but what’s in it for me?”
The old man gave him a deprecating smile. He must have expected the question, Gerrod thought, because he drew out a bag clinking with gold and threw it at Gerrod’s feet.
“That, to start with. And there’s a lot more where that came from. Riches beyond your wildest dreams. And women. They’ll throw themselves at your feet.” He waggled his hairy brows.
Gerrod gestured to his hovel. “I have everything I could need here. The farmer’s daughter brings me food in exchange for milking the goats and if I’m in the mood I’ll even let her tumble me, if you know what I mean.” He waggled his eyebrows back.
“But the riches and…”
“Look, I don’t think you got the hint last time I was here, but I’m not interested.” Gerrod reached down to tuck the bag of gold under his belt.
The old man looked sad. Probably because he’d lost the gold. He turned and went on his way.
It was another year when the old man returned. Gerrod noticed that his beard was singed and he no longer wore his spangly hat. He had a limp, too, but Gerrod was not inclined to pity him as he himself was a little hungry. It had been a while since the farmer’s daughter had brought him any food and he wasn’t feeling up to making the journey down to the village to purchase any himself.
“All is laid waste,” the old man intoned. “Lord Azorexl rules in your stead while cities lie in ruin and villages burn.”
Gerrod shrugged. “Can’t say I’ve heard of him.”
“But all is not lost. A band of the faithful few remain in hiding. They are ready to follow you into the halls of evil so that you may slay the usurper with the sword of your forefathers. Please, do not refuse me now. I beg you.” The old man dropped to his knees.
“Oh, right then. Give me a sec and I’ll grab my cloak and we’ll get right on that.”
“Um, no. Sorry. It’s not you, honest, it’s me. You see, I’m just not the type to sneak into someone else’s abode and, you know, kill them. Doesn’t seem right, does it?”
Tears were streaming down the old man’s face, finding pathways through the network of wrinkles. “People are dying, and more will die.”
“People die all the time. My mother did, years ago. A goat butted her off a cliff.” Gerrod shrugged. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”
The old man left, saying he would not return. At was all the same to Gerrod. He sat back on his rock and watched the twilight settle into evening. He could see the whole of the valley from his vantage point, and when the fires from the burning villages began to glow, it was a beautiful sight.