Holiday in Orkrania (Oldhammer Fiction) – Part 1

So in my last post I said that I’d given up on my recent experimentation with Oldhammer fiction. Well this morning, I was thinking maybe that was a bit premature. So instead I am going to persist and finish the thing!

For those who want to start reading this story, below is the first part of it. Holiday in Orkrania is essentially a novella – 15-20,000 words – sitting in between a short story and a full novel, so rather than splitting into chapters I am going to call each section a Part instead. I’m going to post each Part of the story two or three times a week. This is not a finished product – so there maybe some typos and inconsistencies, but I hope you enjoy reading it.

Here’s what Holiday in Orkrania is about (the blurb/backcover copy):

Prince Hardlee thought a holiday in the Orkranian highlands would be lovely at this time of year – especially when his favourite actress, half-elven Maegana Vulpon was taking a break at the temple of eternal youth in Nstaad. But his father the King does not approve of the relationship choices of his only son and heir, so the Prince has travelled in disguise—yet there are traitors about—an uncle who has eyes on the throne has learnt of the Prince’s destination and despatched a band of cutthroats. Other dangers lurk in the Orkranian highlands as well – Orc raiders eye the wealth of the little village of Nstaad – the Dwarf miners who work there have uncovered deposits of gold, and the Orc chief Grim Bearit would take it from them. Can a mixed band of princely retainers, halfling inn-keepers, dwarven miners and elven priests and actors resist the Orc raid?

For lovers of old style fantasy and Oldhammer everywhere.

And here’s the first part entitled, Hardlee seeks out Meagana.

Arfur Shilby knew there was something unnatural about the grove of trees as soon as they walked underneath the branches of the carefully spaced trees. They were fair birches, elms and fine oaks, a contrast to the dour firs that had flanked the road to Nstaad for most of their journey. Instead of thick bracken to push through there was soft yielding grass underfoot.

“This is an elven wood,” he said.

“Of course, dear Arfur,” replied Prince Hardlee. “The Pool of Life is sacred to the Elves. Can’t remember the name of the goddess though—Aefwinna maybe?”

Arfur shook his head. He wasn’t going to correct the prince, not that he didn’t know the answer, or had any qualms with correcting his master, but he had no truck with elves, and the sooner they were gone from there the better.

“We should have brought the men,” he said.

Hardlee slapped Arfur on the shoulder and laughed. “Why ever for? Quite enough of you been nannying me on the journey so far. If you don’t mind I would like to visit my lady in private—once we get to the Temple you should go as well.”

Arfur scowled. He would see about that. His prince was already bewitched by the charms of that half-elven actress. What could a whole Temple of elves do to him?

Hardlee was striding ahead through the trees. Arfur could see the ground sloping down to the bank of a pool that looked like a mirror glass. He hurried to catch-up. He was a short man compared to the prince.

“You have duties back at court, sire, don’t forget,” he said hurriedly, a little out of breath. “Would not be good to linger here to long. Especially after the incident with the Duke. Can’t you just wait until she comes back from her … holidays or whate’er you folk call them?”

They were on the bank of the lake now—a narrow fine sanded beach lead gently into the water, which was broken only by the faintest of ripples. Across the far side of the lake—perhaps fifty paces a small domed temple sat, fine white columns like stems of a flower supporting the portico, all of the finest white stone, but so delicate and smooth that it appeared almost alive.

Hardlee punched Arfur on the arm. “Really Shilby, you think I should go back to the fustiness of court and wait …”

Hardlee gestured to the centre of the lake where the ripples spread from around a figure floating in the water, staring serenely up into the blue sky. Arfur gulped. She was naked. Long, brunette hair, spread out in the water from her head like a fan. Her breasts rose above the water like …” Arfur turned away. No, no, he wouldn’t let himself fall under the same spell. She was beautiful, he couldn’t deny that.

Hardlee skipped almost like a little boy to the water’s edge and pulled off his boots. He began wading into the water. “Halloo,” he shouted. “Meagana! It’s me!”

For the briefest moment the sky turned dark as if heavy rain clouds had appeared from nowhere, and a voice heavy with menace shrieked across the waters from the Temple. Arfur couldn’t distinguish the words spoken, but it didn’t sound very welcoming. A tall woman with robes of pale green covering her head and body strode from the Temple door and raised a hand in warning.

Hardlee froze and took a frantic step back and fell over, getting tangled up in his sword belt. Arfur pulled him back from the beach. They wouldn’t bewitch his master. He wouldn’t allow it.

“My feet,” wailed Hardlee, “it feels like they’re frozen.”

“We must flee this place, sire,” said Arfur, glancing frantically across the lake. The woman in the green robes was striding swiftly along the beach towards them.

Arfur stood up and drew his sword, and pulled his shoulders back. “If you come any closer,” he spat, “then …”

The woman kept walking. Her hand raised slowly from her side, and the sword flew from Arfur’s grip to pirouette harmlessly ten paces away point first into the sand. He felt like a great wind was forcing him backwards. He tried to resist it.

“You won’t get me with your …” he spluttered, but the force of the unseen power was too much for him and he was knocked to the beach where his master still laid sprawling rubbing his cold feet.

The green-robed woman stood over Arfur. She didn’t look like a witch, he had to say. Her face was beautiful in an aquiline way like many elves, but there was no cruelty or malice in the soft skin, and the deep blue eyes. A smile played on the woman’s lips. “I am Thania, priestess of the Pool of Life. State your identity and your purpose or begone for ever.”

“I am Arfur Shilby, equerry to the Prince—this here is the Prince—Prince Hardlee of Hyperia. Heir to the throne of Hyperia he is. But don’t tell anyone,” he bumbled, “we’re here secretly to see the floozy—the actress I mean. Meagana Vulpona. She’s his lady, you know. The Queen ain’t happy about it I can tell you—King don’t mind too much—as long as he gets me grandchildren I don’t care he says.” Why was he saying so much, he wondered. “But we got to be careful, you know—travel in secret. Assassins—threat to the prince’s life. I blame the uncle—the Duke Leerin. Have I said too much?”

The elven priestess, Thania, nodded. “Perhaps, but also you have said enough. Enough for you to be able to stay here a short while. Your master may greet his lover.” She held out a hand and with a stronger than expected grip hauled Arfur to his feet. She did the same for Hardlee, who stared at her sheepishly, not saying a word.

“Hardlee, you came,” called a voice from the water. Meagana Vulpon strode naked up the beach out of the lake. Arfur didn’t know where to look, but he couldn’t keep from staring this time.

“Meagana,” Hardlee stuttered. “My goodness, so could to see you—umm.”

“The lady could do with towel,” Thania suggested to Arfur.

“Uh yes, right away.” Arfur looked around—there was wicker chair—more of a couch and a soft, white towel that looked as deep as very fine fur. He picked it up and put out his hand to pass it to Meagana.

“Thank you,” she said as she took it and wrapped around herself. “I remember seeing you in Uparee—always hanging outside the theatre.”

“Uh, waiting for the prince, my lady,” Arfur said. He looked away from her staggering gorgeous face and began examining the dirt under his fingernails.

Hardlee recovered himself and pushed past Arfur. “Meagana I have been so lost without you—come kiss me.”

Meagana took a step back and put her hand to her lips. “No. Not until I have finished my worship to the goddess. She will give me new life and youth.”

Hardlee shook his head. “But you have such youthful vigour already, what could you do with more?”

Meagan laughed and Thania smiled knowingly. “I am older than you think, my prince. Twice your age, but I look …”

“Younger, no more than twenty.”

“But that will fade unless I am careful. No go. There is an inn.”

“Yes we’re staying there.”

“Wait there for me until I have finished my worshipping. Another day, is that right?” Meagan enquired of Thania, who nodded in affirmation.

“But Meg, Meagana. I can’t wait,” whined Hardlee, sounding like a school-boy rather than a grown man. Arfur winced.

“Good things come to those who do,” replied Meagan. “Now be off,” she laughed. A beautiful, tinkling laugh, and Arfur couldn’t help glancing at her. For a moment their eyes met, but he grabbed the prince’s arm.

“Now then, let’s do as the lady says. Back to the inn.”

Hardlee shrugged. “So be it, but then we will stay a whole week—we will go walking in the mountains and camp under the stars—and find waterfalls to swim in.”

“A week, sire?” said Arfur. “I don’t think that is wise. What about your uncle?”

“Uncle?” enquired Meagana.

“Nothing. Come sire, let us go.”

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