The Shards of Jarn

the shards of jarn

The screams and roars woke Jond from his sleep. Peering through his frosty window, he saw twisting pillars of orange and red spreading over the city and licking at the night sky.

Downstairs he found his father strapping on his armor. “What is it, father?”

“It is nothing to fear, my son,” Jarn said. “Some goblins have foolishly broken through the city gate. Will you hand me Bearclaw?”

Jond grabbed the mighty sword from the table and nearly buckled under its weight. With two hands, he strained to get it to his father who grabbed it with one hand and strapped it around his waist.

“Into the cellar until it passes,” Jarn said.

“But father, I can help. I – “

“Into the cellar, Jond. Now.”

His father’s voice sent shivers through his body and at once he rushed downstairs. He knew it was that same voice that kept the ragtag Green Army alive when the Necromancer landed at Spiral Shore.

In the cellar, Jond stood atop a barrel and peered through the street-level window. He could see half-naked goblins with gnarled bare feet and wooden clubs chasing after terrified townsfolk. Other goblins snacked on the goods from abandoned food carts while others threw their torches onto thatched rooftops.

Jarn limped down the stairs of the house and into the street where several goblins came after him. With Bearclaw in his hand, he made short work of the menaces. A few more tried him and failed and the pile of dismembered goblins surrounding him kept others at bay. From afar, they hurled rocks and apples and yelled profanities, but they looked defeated.

“This city is under my protection. Leave at once and I will not chase you and exterminate your race,” Jarn shouted. “Have you no idea who I – “

A gurgling roar shook the house and sent the goblins scattering. A goblin, four times the size of the other goblins, appeared in the street. Atop its head sat a crown of twisted metal and in its hand it held a club that looked to be as tall as Jarn. Parts of its tattered armor were alight with flame but it did not seem to notice.

“Identify yourself,” Jarn shouted.

The goblin king roared something unintelligible and advanced. Jarn slashed at the monster’s torso, opening a wide wound. The goblin king laughed and with one mighty swing it shattered Bearclaw and left Jarn a crumpled, bloody mess.

Jond suppressed his urge to run outside. He spent the rest of the night watching the goblins run amok as they burned houses, stole valuables and carried women and children off to the forest.

He ventured out at daybreak after the goblins had left, the fires had burned themselves out and the ash had settled on the street like the white blanket of the first snowfall. His father’s corpse was stiff and he dared not look at the eyes.

Instead, he picked up every shard of Bearclaw and went to look for a forge.

 

 

 

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The Control Room

Parliament Clock

“Father,” the grunt at the computer console said, “The work day is about to begin in the Eastern Time Zone. Your orders?”

Ned adjusted his glasses and smiled as wide as his taut, wrinkly skin would allow. “Let’s see, let’s see… ah, trying to make it through the day in a good mood so you can get home and spend time with your family? I don’t think so! Slow it down!”

The grunt at the computer input a few commands into the console. “All done. Early indications are that people are already dragging their feet.”

“Excellent,” Ned said. “What else have you got for me?”

“Well, we’ve got a birthday party kicking off in London. Shall I run interference?”

“Do I want you to run interference?” Ned ran his fingers through his long white beard. “Do I want you to run interference? Hmm. Hmm. Of course I want you to run interference! Speed that up! I want that party to be over before they know it.”

The grunt clicked away at the keyboard. “Okay. That party should be speeding up.”

“Excellent. Can we check in on the Eastern Time Zone?”

“Yes, Father, it looks as though people are miserable.”

“Wonderful!” Ned cackled. “Can we pipe in audio?”

The grunt turned a dial on the console and a man’s voice came over the speakers. “I can’t believe it’s only eight thirty. I thought at least an hour had passed, but when I looked up at the clock only ten minutes had passed. This day is going to drag and drag and drag and drag. This sucks.”

Ned doubled over and wailed with delight. “What about the party? Please give me audio.”

A few twists of the dial and another voice came through the speakers. “Aw, man, I can’t believe it’s time to get going already. I don’t know where the time went. I did have a lot of fun even if it was short.”

“So wonderful. So wonderful and juicy,” Ned said. “What else do you have for me?”

The grunt scanned the screens. “Well, there’s a woman who is trying to work out, mow the lawn, take her mother out to breakfast and pay some bills all before noon. Should I let it slide?”

“Absolutely not. Not on my watch. She only gets enough to do two of those activities. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir, and before we continue do I have time to run to the bathroom?”

Ned look down at the minion. “Normally you get three minutes to run to the bathroom. With the negative multiplier added, you’re down to two minutes and five seconds. Subtract the time I’ve been talking and you’re down to one minute fifty-nine seconds. Fifty-eight. Fifty-seven…”

The grunt jumped out of his seat and ran out of the control room.

photo by: Aldaron

Swapped

hospital hall

Are you sure this is theirs?” Nurse Jackie asked, looking over the tiny, pink faced bundle.

Nurse Ray leaned over to examine the newborn. “Yes.”

Are you sure? Because if not – “

I’m positive.”

You really should have tagged them right away so we don’t have this uncertainty.”

Yes, I know. Stop rubbing it in.”

Nurse Jackie shrugged and took the baby down the hall to its “parents.” Nurse Ray picked up the remaining baby in the nursery and carried it down the hall. It cried and squirmed the whole way and he was more than happy to dump it into the laps of the exhausted, but amazed and happy parents.

I’m glad it’s quiet and empty in here now,” Nurse Ray said to Nurse Jackie back at the desk.

We’re leaving. Thank you!” a voice called from the end of the hallway. The two parents were dressed in black and the mother clutched the baby that Nurse Jackie had given them.

Okay. If you could just sign out…” Nurse Jackie started walking towards them, but the father opened up a window and the family floated through it and into the night sky towards the moon.

The two nurses looked at each other. “I really hope we got that right,” Nurse Jackie said.

 

Photo credit: Martin Howard