“My Lord, are you certain this is our best course?” Terrance, brave Ranger of the Open Seas motioned with a wave of one arm towards the narrow valley before them. “It seems to go against all notions of modern warfare to march an army as big as ours into a narrow valley between two, steeply forested hills. If the enemy should know we are coming-” He let it trail off.
Nectar the Barbarian, Prince of the Great North-by-Northwest Tribes of the East weighed his friend’s statement heavily, never one to marginalize the opinions of those he called friend. Yet, Terrance, for all his intelligence and skill lacked certain things that Nectar possessed; things that allowed him to transcend such petty concerns as basic military theory. He laughed the deep and hearty laugh of power that spoke unspoken volumes about their friendship.
“My sworn enemy, Lactose the Intolerant, could not possibly know of our troop movements. Our army of ten thousand has both a skill and prowess unseen heretofore in all of Tardblivia. They move with the stealth and cunning of the fox, the antelope, and the wily sloth, creeping silently over these past two hundred miles blending in with their natural surroundings making them all but invisible. It is highly doubtful that anyone has noticed our passage.” He used his most commanding voice, reserved only for such things as reassurance or courting rituals. Then, turning, he looked back at his massive infantry forces arrayed on the plains behind them, shields glistening in the waning sunlight, spears and swords held at the ready.
“I’m sorry, my lord, but I do not see how-”
“Terrance, do you see this?” Turning away from the huge troop formations, he flexed his right, watermelon-sized bicep and pointed to it with his left hand.
“Yes…” Terrance’s eyebrows knitted as he clearly grew perplexed.
“These are not mere biceps.” As an incredibly handsome and well-muscled warrior, Nectar understood such things as confusion. And in the knowing, his branium’s capacity for understanding and overcoming such things had to be thrice that of a normal man’s. He nodded sagely. “My Olympian physique is not merely represented by my impressively bulging muscles. We barbarians of the Great North-by-Northwest Tribes of the East value intellectual prowess above all else. Even as we sculpt our bodies starting at age three by lifting boulders, pulling ropes, hauling water, and bending saplings, so too do we hone our mental abilities. Indeed, by age sixteen we are capable of performing single digit addition and subtraction, reading and writing in near complete sentences, and counting to ninety-seven.”
“Truly astounding.” Terrence’s brows relaxed, his hazel eyes softened, and his frown curled up into a straight line.
“And in our learnings, we blend the physical with the scholarly as we learn the craft of battle.” Nectar flexed both massive arms now and pointed with each index finger towards his head. “Trust in my rippling brains to safely guide our armies through this.”
The ranger glanced sidelong at Acidophilus, the awe etched into his wide eyes. Standing to Nectar’s right, the Greek Priest of Poseidon stood tall, resplendent in his white, coral breast plate, his billowing green robes, and his stylized fish hat. Of all of Nectar’s friends, Acidophilus had known him the longest, having survived all that had befallen them over the years. Although not nearly as well-muscled as the barbarian, his friend was nonetheless very fit and therefore worthy of a warrior’s friendship. Acidophilus nodded to Terrence, wisdom oozing from his very pores.
“I cannot argue with such impressive logic,” Terrence said finally. “What are your orders my liege?” He pulled the great ash bow from his shoulder and held it aloft in emphasis.
“Have the men push tightly together. We move forward into this valley just after dark. Extinguishing all torches with the exception of the one at the very front of the formation should prevent the enemy from counting our numbers should any of their scouts spot us.” Nectar nodded to himself, proud of his well-muscled wisdom. As he watched his impressive army funnel into the narrow channel, he knew victory would be theirs as surely as he knew his very name.
The first formation into the valley was the Opango Fist, a perfect vanguard for the army from the forests of Vulgis Tor. With their short stature and well known mastery of cricket handling, they would have no trouble leading the charge. Behind them, the elite ranks of the Xorix: the giraffe tamers of the Panmak Plains, followed. These brave men sat proudly atop their mounts, the loping creatures filing through the narrow valley opening, their vicious necks at the ready. The tightly-packed phalanxes of the Skapior clan from the polar steppes came next. Their legions, in a lock-step formation they had learned generations ago when their ancestors had been forced to cram their nearly naked bodies together due to the intensely harsh winters of their lands. They now used this cohesion to form a tight and massive shieldless square that would send shivers of fear down the spines of even the bravest orc.
In stark contrast to the sardine-like formations of the Skapior, the lone representative of the Meekfolk, Jumor the Mild, stepped along plaintively, almost timidly, with his trademark pitchfork and what the others called his “shivering cloak”. He raised the weapon in an impressive salute as he spied Nectar. Nectar nodded, his muscular chin dipping low in respect.
Next came the Eagle Masters of Aerilovia. Normally, they would be all too happy to take to the skies and protect the other formations from above. However, they had demonstrated powerful resolve in adhering to Nectar’s strict doctrine of funneling everyone through the canyon in the dead of night, and thus they too had joined the ground units. The giant eagles waddled along gracefully as the riders walked them along to final victory.
Lastly, bringing up the rear echelon was the amazing Horde of Halibutosis. The Horde were a simple folk most of the year, living a peaceful and simple existence in a village not far from Acidophilus’ childhood home. When called to action, however, the expert fish-mongering skills had proven time and time again to be frighteningly effective in battle. The column of salmon-wielding rag-clad villagers was imposing, and Nectar had frequently heard Acidophilus praise them for their magical icthyological mastery. Turning towards his swarthy friend, Nectar spied a single tear of pride trickling down Acidophilus’ cheek. He slapped his olive-skinned friend heartily on the shoulder.
“We shall crush the vile Lactose’s armies, for not only do we have all that I have shown, you, but we have Ambrosia, my delicate and beautiful flower, barbarian princess, sorceress, and my epic lover to spur on the troops with her incredible morale building skills.” Nectar pointed to a spot near to the rear of the massive assemblage. “Harken!”
Ambrosia stood to the east of the Horde of Halibutosis, a mere several dozen feet from Nectar and his friends. Resplendent in her revealing fur and chainmail bikini, her impressive deltoids, triceps, abs and quads were enough to inspire any army, but Ambrosia would never settle for simply standing there for the troops to ogle. As Nectar watched, his queen flexed her cantaloupe-sized biceps, knelt down, and proceeded to lift a massive ox over her head. Her ripped thighs bulged even as her stomach muscles grew taut with the effort.
“She is magnificent, my friend.” Acidophilus watched with obvious love and admiration. “Truly one could bounce a gold piece off of her buttocks.”
“A keen observation,” Nectar agreed. “And I have done so many a time.”
The troops roared at this, softly so as not to alert any enemy forces nearby. Morale elevated, Ambrosia hurled the ox several yards, then struck a double bicep pose to put them over the top. Finally, she finished by placing her hands on her hips, turning her back to the men and flexing her lats. It was all Nectar could to restrain himself from sprinting down the hill to claim her and he literally had to sink his feet into the ground to prevent action. Pride at her deft handling of the men drilled through him to his core and a love borne of muscular desires blazed within him. Their beefy soul-bond would lead them to victory!
Crisis of Faith
“It is finished.” Although the words came from his own mouth, Nectar could not believe he was hearing them. Nothing even remotely similar had ever passed his muscular lips. He was Nectar the Barbarian, heir to the Dragon-Foot Chair, prince of the North-by-North West Tribes of the East, and guardian of the Meekfolk. He did not know the meaning of the word defeat. It was a word alien to him, until he had seen her die: Ambrosia, his delicate flower and one true love.
“By the Gods, what did you just say?” Acidophilus sat up from his makeshift cot near the back of the small cave. In the guttering light of the four torches, his angular features shifted strangely as if he looked up from below the surface of a lake. As with the others in the small cavern, blood stained his green robes and although he had taken great pains to wash it from his skin, spatters of the stuff still marred his swarthy features.
“I have failed her, failed them.” Nectar bowed his head and did not even bother to stand up. He closed his eyes tightly desperate to push aside the images burned into them. Ambrosia had died defending his strapping flank, even as their warriors had perished by the thousands. At the thought of his beautiful bride’s last moments, tears burst forth from Nectar’s beefy eyes. She had trusted him, as they had all trusted him. Although she had fought with her last ounce of considerable strength, hurling mage fire and ice even as she tossed her hand axes, daggers, and even a frying pan, the goblins had been too many. They had descended upon them like the striped locusts of Bellsfell, tens of thousands of them roiling through the forested hills to either side of their army and attacking without mercy. In the ensuing maelstrom of blood and gore as his elite forces had fought bravely, nearly to the last man, he had had lost track of Ambrosia. As the tide of dark warriors swept them along as a river moves leaves in the wind, so too had Nectar been pushed away from her. The last he had seen of his beautiful love had been her voluptuous, muscular form, her sturdy breasts heaving and eyes wild as a sea of swarming monsters crashed over her, drowning her as surely as if she had lain at the bottom of a lake.
Gasps echoed through the cave as the remaining twenty or so surviving rangers, knights and infantrymen, their leader Terrence among them, stared in slack-jawed horror at his words. Not only had he shocked and surprised them, but surely, they must realize by now that all of his bicep, deltoid, and pancreas flexing had been impotent against the massive power of Lactose the Intolerant and his goblin horde. His incredibly deft strategy had failed them. He had failed them. He was weak.
“Never before have mine ears heard such words uttered from Nectar the Barbarian!” Acidophilus crossed the room, carefully picking his way around the injured men who lay everywhere, some tending their wounds, others shifting in and out of consciousness on the floor. “We cannot give up, my friend! Not all of our stalwart companions-in-arms can be dead, not all of our brave warriors have fallen. Many have surely been captured and it is up to us- up to you to save them!”
“Do you not understand?” Nectar stood up slowly and looked down over his green-robed friend. “There are forty thousand hungry goblins beyond these walls… watching, waiting for us to emerge. Against that many, not even my well-oiled pecs can save us.” He let out with a sigh, “They could not save her.”
“I do not understand.” Terrence pulled himself to his feet, gritting his teeth against the pain of his gaping leg wound. He tightened the green tourniquet and hobbled forward. “Because in all the years I have known you, I have never seen you give up. Oh, you have retreated from battle when it was tactically prudent, but always to regroup so you could fight another day. Can the deaths of nearly ten thousand of our best men and women really have broken you?”
For the first time in his life, Nectar could not look his friend in the eyes. He lowered his head again as weakness spread into his bones causing his legs to shake. He was bloodied and beaten. The great game had come to its close.
“It is over.” His voice was barely a whisper. “She is gone….”
“It’s never over, my friend.”
The voice was both surprising and unexpected. Nectar’s well-conditioned heart skipped a beat at the sound of Greg of the Clan Greg’s voice. The shortling stood in the entrance to the cave having somehow found it despite Acidophilus’ powerful warding of invisibility. Blood and gore smeared the shortling’s dented armor, though most of it did not appear to be his own. He held his magical, square-shaped helmet under his left arm. His short-sword rested in its scabbard at its side.
Despite his despair, Nectar took a step forward, his joy at seeing his friend momentarily pushing his dark feelings aside, but he stopped short as the bottomless well of gloom threatened to swallow his muscular soul. It pulled at him with powerful claws, dragging him downwards.
“Ambrosia lives!” Greg hurried forward. “As do nearly one thousand of our men!”
“What!” A searing knife of joy impaled the dark foreboding despair that had wormed its way into Nectar’s rock-hard gut. He screamed as if his blood boiled in its veins and indeed, that is how it felt.
“Nectar!” Acidophilus reached for his arm but Greg waved him off.
“Leave him!” Greg did not take his eyes off of Nectar. “Listen to me, my barbarian friend. Ambrosia and our men have been imprisoned by Lactose the Intolerant and taken to the slave mines of Vaxal to do his bidding!”
“NO!” Hope embraced determination and together they burned through the black cloud hanging over Nectar. He clutched his head and screamed louder, his powerful voice echoing through the small cave and back on itself as if there were dozens of him. Finally, he stopped.
“My lord?” Terrence looked up at him, eyes wide with a mix of fear and awe.
“My friends, it is NOT over.” Nectar flexed his pancreas. “My one true love, Ambrosia, and many of our fellows have been taken and we shall set them free!”
“That’s the spirit, my friend!” Acidophilus clapped him on the back. “And Poseidon shall take this journey with us!”
“Aye, and me,” Terrence beamed. “And what’s left of my men!”
“And me!” Greg thumped his metal breastplate and nodded.
“Then prepare for battle my friends. We go to war!” Nectar thrust himself into a double bicep pose, knowing full well that such a display could inspire the men far more than meager words.
Excerpted from "The Screaming Codpiece: Extreme Magnitude Edition (The Pillars of Gnarr) (Volume 15)" by R.L. McSterlingthong. Copyright © 0 by R.L. McSterlingthong. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.