When Gude Fredricsson and Odd Ingberg received the message of distress from the wizard Karl of the Mountain; the pair were in the middle of shoveling out the pigsties of Duke Francesc Vallalpando and they were complaining to one another about the work.
After all, the Duke’s war campaign had ended months before, but instead of paying them for lending their sword arms to his causes, the Duke had announced that his campaign had bankrupted him. There was no money left to pay anyone. And so, everyone could go home because the Duke was closing up shop.
Well that was nice of the Duke to tell Gude and Odd and the others, but his misfortune was their misfortune. The pair found themselves penniless and trapped along the coast of Spain. They did not have the funds to pay a ship’s passage back home.
Some of the other men they had fought alongside had whispered about murdering the Duke and his family in retaliation; about looting his castle and burning his fields to the ground in retaliation for his non-payment. But nobody actually did any of that. It was just talk. Instead, grumbling, the company disbanded, and its men wandered away; each seeking to find their own ways back home.
Gude and Odd had decided that the quickest way to raise funds of their own, without resorting to banditry, would be to work for the duke doing labor work around his lands. He had been forced to cut most of his staff, and so he was short a few men.
Well, it wasn’t quite the drudgery of peasant work, but it cut awfully close to that bone. Knee-deep in pig shit, neither man was particularly pleased with his present lot in life.
So, when Karl from the Mountain sent them his message, Gude and Odd were only too happy to help him. The message arrived in the form of a man in an air balloon. They saw the black, spherical object floating down towards them from many miles away before it finally arrived.
The balloon landed nearby. Its navigator had the wits to avoid the mud of the pig sty and to land at a distance where the craft would not terrify the pigs and create a stampede.
The man who stepped from behind the swinging door of the balloon’s wicker basket was well-dressed; a monocle in his eye and a kaleidoscopic top hat on his head. Gude and Odd knew him from previous encounters. It was Karl’s man, Goodman, the wizard’s personal assistant. Goodman observed the pair from behind the fence. He was sure to stand a good distance from the pigs and the mud.
-From “The Wizard of Xogg” by Michael Colangelo
If you enjoyed this excerpt, be sure to read the rest of the novelette along with four others in Fierce Tales: Savage Lands.
Get it Here: Fierce Tales: Savage Lands