by Michael Kingswood
Henry ran as hard as he could remember ever running. His heart pounded in his ears and his breaths came in gasps as he pushed himself to greater speed, but above even the cacophony of his racing pulse he could still hear the footfalls behind him, the mocking shouts as his pursuers raced to catch up.
Catch up, and catch him. And then…
He fairly leapt off the curb of the sidewalk he was running down, splashing through a puddle leftover from the rain that had fallen two days before, and froze in shock and terror for a second when the blaring of a car horn from his left made him turn, and cringe.
Screeching brakes, and the little blue coup that had been cruising down the four-lane road that split his suburban hometown in two fishtailed as the driver clearly fought to avoid hitting him.
Henry just stared for a second as the car drew nearer…
Then his mind snapped and he hurled himself to the side. His shoulder struck the pavement and he rolled up to a sitting position.
The wind of the car’s passing carried the smell of its exhaust to his nostrils as it finally came to a halt ten feet past where he had just been standing. The driver’s door flew open and a 30-something guy in jeans and a green collared shirt, bulging with muscles, stepped out, glaring at him.
“What the hell do you think you’re – “
But the man’s words were lost on Henry. Past the car, he saw his pursuers. Ben Thompson and his two cronies.
They had pulled up short as the scene unfolded. But seeing Henry was ok, one of the toadies nudged Ben, all six feet of muscle and zero brains, and Ben smirked.
Then they started moving again, in Henry’s direction.
He pushed himself up to his feet, not bothering to wipe the muddy grime from his shorts and t-shirt, and spun away from them.
Another car had stopped in the second lane, this one much farther away from him. The driver was an older women, who was raising her hands at him through the windshield as if to ask the same thing Mr. Muscles had started to ask.
The lanes going the other way were clear, though, so Henry sprinted across them, and away from Ben and company.
Or he tried to. As he began running, his left ankle shouted in protest, and he winced at the pain flaring up.
Despair welled up. There was no way he would get out of this. He was a dead man.
But that didn’t mean he was going to stop at least trying to get away.
He got up onto the sidewalk and turned left, pushing himself to go faster even as his ankle cried out for him to stop. A woman pushing a little kid in a stroller recoiled as he shuffled around her, and sent an exclamation of irritation after him, but a louder shout from one of Ben’s cronies blotted that out of Henry’s attention.
“We’re going to get you!”
There was an intersection up ahead. Main Street. There would be more shops there, more places he could go and maybe get away.
He glanced over his shoulder, and winced. They were coming up fast, moving for all they were worth.
Henry veered right at the intersection. The street ahead was straight, four-lane, and lined with lush trees of some sort or other. Beneath their spreading limbs were the shops, restaurants, and occasional bar of the Main Street business section.
It was a fun place to walk. When you weren’t being chased by the meanest bully in the school and his toadies.
There was a storefront to his immediate right. Henry didn’t bother looking at what it was; he pushed the door open and darted inside. Closing the door immediately behind him, he pressed himself against the wall to the door’s left and turned his head just enough so he could get a glimpse out the broad windows that looked out onto the street.
His heart was still pumping in his ears, his chest heaving, and he could feel the sweat pouring off his body now that he had stopped moving. He wondered if –
Three figures shot past the window. He didn’t need to see more than the shapes of their bodies to recognize them as Ben and company.
He craned his neck a bit farther, and saw that they were continuing down the street, not slowing yet.
Henry smiled for what felt like the first time in years. He’d given them the slip. Now to just go back the way he’d come, and then shoot on over home. Against all odds, he was home free.
Henry was just pulling the door open again when a voice from behind brought him up short.
“Can I help you, young man?”
Henry turned around, and finally had a look at the store he had just crashed into.
Or rather, the cafe. The walls were painted yellow, with multicolored flowers painted up near the ceiling and landscape prints hung up in several place. There were four tables, round and white with matching white chairs surrounding them. In the rear was a glass-fronted display case and counter, where he could see pastries and other bits of yumminess on display.
The place exuded warmth and relaxation, and he felt the tension of his flight begin to drain away.
The speaker was behind the counter. She was elderly; probably in her 60s, with gray hair pulled up into a bun. She wore a pastel green apron over a white collared shirt, and pink-rimmed glasses. And she looked at him with a pointed, but not unkind expression.
“Oh,” Henry said. “I’m sorry. I was just – ” He stopped, not sure how to explain, or whether he even wanted to.
The woman smiled in understanding, and nodded. “Just looking for a place to get away,” she said.
Henry shrugged. “I guess.” He suddenly felt the tension return; her statement was a bit too on-point. Was he that transparent?
But if the woman disapproved, she didn’t show it. Instead she turned and bent over behind her counter for a moment. “The world is full of troubles,” she said as she did. “It’s good to get away sometimes.” She straightened and turned back to him, and Henry felt his eyebrows rise when he saw the stack of chocolate chip cookies on the plate she held.
His mouth watering, he stepped toward her—and the cookies—almost as if his feet were doing it of their own volition.
But when he reached the counter, he got a sinking feeling. “I don’t have any money,” he said, feeling the fool. He’d left his wallet at home again when he went to school, and here it was going to bite him in the butt.
But the old woman smiled and held the plate out to him anyway. “First visit is on the house, dear.”
Henry blinked. “Really? That’s awful nice of you.”
She just shrugged. “I’m Miss Melody,” she said.
“Henry.” He picked up a cookie and sank his teeth into it. And could not hold back a groan of enjoyment as the chocolate chips, still warm and flowing as if straight out of the oven, burst and filled his mouth with deliciousness.
Before he realized it, he had devoured the entire thing and was reaching for another. “Wow, that’s about the best cookie I’ve ever had!”
Miss Melody smiled at him again. “That’s what we do here.” She gestured to the wall behind the counter, where a sign that Henry hadn’t paid attention to earlier read, “Food for the body. Healing for the soul.”
“Well, I don’t know about the soul healing, but you’ve sure got the food part down.” He stopped midway into raising the next cookie to his lips. “Did you just open up? I hadn’t heard of this place before.”
Miss Melody shrugged. “We’ve been around for quite some time.”
Henry nodded and finished taking a bite from the cookie. “Well, sorry I hadn’t found you sooner,” he said. Then he looked down at his hand and was surprised to see it empty.
Another cookie gone already?
Henry took a step back from the counter. If he wasn’t careful he’d spend all afternoon just standing here eating cookies, and he needed to get moving. Ben would figure out he’d ducked into a shop soon, and come looking. If he was still here when that happened…
“Well thanks. I need to get going,” he said.
Miss Melody just looked at him for a second, then nodded. “Do come again, dear,” she said. “Here. Something to remember us by.” She turned to her left, where one of those pull-off day calendars was sitting atop the counter. The top page was for today, and it had a cool picture of a knight on a horse, his armor glinting in the sunlight and a red and white banner flying from the end of his lance. Miss Melody took hold and pulled the page off, and for a second golden sparkles seemed to flash in the air around it.
She held the calendar page out to him, and Henry took it. He looked down at the picture, and felt a stirring in his soul. The way the horse’s hooves seemed to tear at the ground. The proud way the knight sat erect on his steed. And, somehow, through the slits in his helmet, the stern and determined look in his eyes.
No quarter asked, and none given from this man.
And there, beneath him on the page, was the address to the cafe.
Henry looked back up at Miss Melody and grinned. “Thanks. I’ll be sure to come back.”
She raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
Henry turned and walked back toward the door to the street, feeling her gaze on his back. Did she expect him to do something? He wasn’t sure. But he knew he had to get going, before Ben came around again.
He reached out and pulled the door open, and stopped. The calendar page was definitely sparkling now. What was going – ?
He stepped through the door, and the world vanished in a flash of white-gold light.
* * * * *
Henry’s foot came down onto soft earth, and he stumbled forward in shock.
This wasn’t Main Street. This was –
What was this?
He did a complete circle, and his bafflement grew. All around was wilderness. High rolling hills lay off to the west—or he presumed it was west because the sun was only a small distance above the hills in that direction. Trees, covered in leaves that were turning to the yellow and red of autumn, covered the hills and ran down past him to the north. To the east and south was grassland which descended into a valley many miles away. The glint of reflected sunlight from down there made him think there might be a lake in the distance, but he couldn’t be sure.
The air held the cool of autumn and carried the scents of grass and wild growth, and blew in steadily from the south.
“What the hell?” he said to himself, and even his voice sounded strange to his ears.
He did another full circle, but the scene remained the same. Then he pinched himself on the forearm.
It hurt. This wasn’t a dream.
But what – ?
The cracking of wood, and guttural words from a gravelly throat, brought Henry’s head back around toward the woods, and the bottom fell out of his stomach.
The creature stepping out from beneath the forest canopy was huge. Probably seven feet tall, and two-thirds that across the shoulders, which were muscular to make Arnold Schwarzenegger ashamed. It was like a human, in that it had two legs and two arms, but its skin was green like the Hulk’s, and had a protruding jaw from which two tusk-like teeth shoved their way skyward. Its eyes were small, and sunk deep into its face.
It was dressed only in brown leather pants; its extremely muscular chest and torso was bare to the elements. And it was completely bald. It carried a huge double-bladed axe in its right hand, and rested the haft on its shoulder so that the axe blades glinted in the sun from behind its head.
As the creature stepped fully into the clearing, it spied Henry, and stopped.
It studied him, and Henry took a reflexive step backwards, away from it. The thing’s beady little eyes traced up and down Henry’s body, and a thick purple tongue licked up the inside of its rightmost tusk.
Then it let out a guttural roar and raised its axe over its head.
That could only be a challenge. Henry knew exactly how to respond to it.
He turned and ran.
The creature, whatever it was, bellowed, and Henry imagined he could feel the increased air pressure from the thing’s exhalation. He propelled himself to greater speed, and part of his mind questioned why his ankle wasn’t hurting.
But he heard the things’ footsteps behind him as it ran in pursuit, and those thoughts fled his mind beneath the necessity to run. To hide. Whatever it took—GET AWAY!
He ran downslope, toward the distant lake that he wasn’t sure was even there, and the creature followed.
It would get him. He couldn’t escape. It would get him and then it would take that axe and –
Ahead, surging through the grass further downslope, he saw movement. He couldn’t make out what it was, and he didn’t have the time or capacity to figure it out. He was running flat out, faster than he had ever run before.
Another roar from behind, louder now, proved he wasn’t fast enough, and he tried to go faster.
His toe hit a rock. Or a dip in the ground. Or something. Whatever it was, he stumbled, pinwheeling his arms to try to avoid falling.
For a second, he thought he would succeed, and keep his feet. Then his ankle turned, and he felt a pang of protest from the joint.
He went down, flat onto his face. He skidded for a couple feet, then came to rest with his cheek dug into the moist soil and his nostrils full of the scent of the earth.
Then another scent eclipsed that. Rank, powerful, and unclean. The stink of a creature that hadn’t been bathed in weeks, if not months.
Henry raised his head and looked over his shoulder, and saw the creature that had been chasing him. It was slowing as it approached the spot where Henry was lying, its chest heaving from the exertion of chasing him.
He felt a flash of satisfaction that he had at least caused the creature difficulty in running him down.
That satisfaction faded, because though it clearly had exerted itself, the creature wasn’t in any way slowed. It stepped up to him smoothly, and rolled its shoulders, bringing the axe up.
Henry forced himself to roll onto his back, though he wanted nothing more than to bury his face into the dirt and just await the end. But something within him wouldn’t let him just cower that way; if nothing else, he’d watch the killing blow come.
The creature’s lips twisted, and it took hold on the axe’s shaft with both hands. Raising it up over its head, the creature inhaled in preparation for the killing blow.
Henry’s heart was thumping hard, the staccato bass thundering in his ears. He was entranced by the curve of the axe blade as it rose, and a flash of sunlight glinted off its killing edge.
And then, suddenly, the creature was falling backwards, a huge shaft of wood piercing its chest as the thunder that Henry now realized wasn’t his heart at all came to a halt, and the white horse whose hooves had produced it cantered past the stricken creature.
The green creature turned, one hand leaving the axe and grasping at the lance that pierced it, the other redirecting the axe to try to cleave the horse.
But it was already past, and its rider, a man covered head to toe in gleaming, polished steel, reined it in and turned it with a quick and practiced tug of the reins.
He slipped down from his saddle and drew a sword from the scabbard on his left hip, then strode forward toward the creature that until a second ago had been about to kill Henry.
The creature snarled, then brought its free forearm down onto the lance, snapping it off half a foot out from its chest. It stepped forward to meet the knight.
Henry watched in amazement at the two clashed. Wounded as the green creature was, it still had strength and speed. But the knight had skill and courage…and time. He danced away from one axe cut, then parried a second.
Then a third. And the creature began to slow, its wound beginning to take its toll.
Finally, it swung just a hair too slowly, and the knight stepped beneath the cut and ran his sword into the creature’s body, all the way to the hilt.
The two stood staring at each other for a long moment, then the creature slumped, its knees giving out beneath its bulk. It slid to the ground, and the knight let it pull itself free from his blade as it went.
Its last breath escaped its lungs in a sigh, and then it lay still at the knight’s feet.
“Holy shit,” was all Henry could think to say.
The knight bowed his head for a moment, and Henry heard mumbled words that he couldn’t quite make out. Then the knight straightened and turned toward Henry. He pushed the face mask of his helmet upwards, revealing a round almost boyish face framed by a black beard, and blue eyes that twinkled in the sunlight.
“Are you well, lad?” the knight asked, in a deep baritone.
Nodding slowly, Henry pushed himself up to his feet and brushed his hands off. “Thank you for…” He trailed off, but gestured at the fallen creature.
The knight sniffed and looked back down at it. “Good for you that I was coming this way. A full grown Orc is more than a match for most grown and trained men.” He paused, and something strange crossed his face briefly. Then he looked back at Henry and extended his hand. “I am Gabriel, of Montesque.”
Henry accepted the shake and had to hold back at wince at the vice-like pressure of the man’s grip. “Henry,” he said, feeling the lack of title distinctly.
Gabriel released Henry’s hand and nodded. “Well, Henry. Where are you bound?”
That was a good question. Henry turned his head left and right, and again the countryside was the same unfamiliar terrain as before. “I’m not sure,” he said, lamely. “I don’t know this place.”
Gabriel looked at him in silence for a long several seconds. Then he grunted and turned back toward his horse. “In that case, come with me. I will see you to civilization, and a comfortable bed at least.”
Gabriel practically vaulted up into his saddle, then walked his horse over to where Henry still stood. He reached down, offering Henry a hand up. “Or did you have a better plan?”
Henry wasn’t a rocket scientist, but even he could see his alternatives were severely limited. He took the knight’s hand and allowed himself to be boosted up behind Gabriel on the horse’s back. Then he held tight as Gabriel kicked the horse’s flanks, and they sped off downslope toward the lake that Henry had glimpsed before.
* * * * *
The horse moved quickly, and Henry felt every pulse of the animal’s muscles. Every bounce over uneven terrain.
He’d never even seen a horse in real life before, let alone ridden on one. Very quickly, his legs began to tire, and he had a good idea he’d understand what they meant by “saddle sore” before much longer.
“How came you out here, lad?” Gabriel asked from in front of him.
How to answer that question? Or rather, how to answer without coming off as a complete lunatic?
Henry wasn’t so certain he hadn’t gone insane, actually. How else to explain going from the inside of a pleasant cafe to…this…in the span of a step?
“I, uh,” he said, then paused, unsure how to proceed. Finally, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “I was out for a walk and got turned around. Then I saw that thing and,” he swallowed back a sudden sense of shame, “I ran.”
Gabriel nodded. “There is no shame in running from such a beast as that,” he said, almost as if knowing Henry’s thoughts. “Especially when one is unarmed.”
Henry found himself nodding in agreement. Yeah. No shame. No shame at all.
He was beginning to feel a bit better about himself. Then Gabriel spoke again.
“But neither is there honor in it.” The knight shifted on the saddle, and Henry had the notion he was turning around to look at him, as much as was possible in that armor, anyway.
Henry didn’t respond; there was nothing he could say to that.
They continued down toward the lake, which was beginning to become clearly visible now as the horse burned up the miles from where Henry had initially arrived. It was wide, at least a couple miles across, and it stretched out to the horizon before its far edge could be seen.
So maybe it wasn’t a lake after all, but a bay.
But did it really matter?
“Where are we going?” Henry asked.
“To my castle,” said Gabriel. “There is no safer place in all the realm, and none more pleasant.”
Well, that sounded like a good idea. If –
From the grass in front of them rose three shapes. They were tall, and muscled. Henry had just enough time to notice their skins were green before the leftmost of them let fly the bow he carried, whose string he had drawn back to his ear.
The arrow streaked faster than Henry could see, and then the horse was rearing, screaming out a nicker of pain as the shaft struck home.
Henry lost his grip and flew from his perch behind the knight. He struck ground on the same shoulder that had hit the street earlier, then he rolled to a stop, flat on his back.
Somewhere behind him, he heard thrashing as the horse flailed around on the ground. Then he heard Gabriel’s baritone voice swearing mightily.
And then came the roars of the orcs, as the three of them charged.
Henry pushed himself up to a sitting position and turned around to look at what was going on.
The horse lay on its side, thrashing in the grass as the knight fought push himself away. It looked like his leg was pinned beneath the horse’s torso. There was no way he’d be able to fight, immobile as he was.
Henry looked up from him toward the charging orcs. The one with the bow was hanging back, but the other two were running toward them full out. Both had battle axes, though they were smaller than the huge axe of the orc Henry had met earlier.
Still, though they were smaller, they would be plenty to finish the knight off—and Henry as well—with the knight pinned as he was.
Gabriel knew that for truth; it was plain in his eyes when he turned his head to lock gazes with Henry.
“Hold them off, lad,” he said. And he tossed his sword over toward Henry.
It landed in the grass a few feet away from him, the setting sun reflecting off the sword’s ruby pommel stone and seeming to ignite a fire within the stone’s depths.
Henry ran his tongue through a mouth that had gone dry from fear. He looked from the sword to the knight…and then to the orcs.
They were maybe twenty yards away; they’d be on Gabriel in seconds unless Henry did something—NOW—to stop them.
And if they got Gabriel, they’d surely get Henry next. He knew without question he could not escape them even if he turned to run right that second.
So he got to his feet, bent over, and picked up the sword.
It was surprisingly light.
Heavier than he was used to, and he had no idea what to even do with it. But still, it was lighter than he thought it would be.
That was some comfort, at least. A little.
The orcs were ten yards away now, running full out toward them. Gabriel’s leg was still stuck beneath the horse from just below his knee, though thankfully the horse’s thrashing was growing less.
Or maybe not thankfully, considering –
Five yards, and no time to think on that. Henry took hold of the sword with both hands and stepped forward to put himself between the orcs and the fallen knight.
The first of the orcs swung its axe. Henry clearly saw the razor-sharp edge cutting through the air toward his neck.
Instinctively, he ducked, and he felt as much as heard the killing metal pass overtop him.
He had the sword, but no idea what to do with it. But it had an edge, so he tried cutting upwards.
The orc’s roar become a yelp as Henry felt a touch of resistance to the swing, and then black fluid spewed out from the orc’s underarm where he had somehow managed to score a hit.
Henry stood staring, dumbfounded, as the orc backpedalled away from him, its free hand going to clutch at the wound.
Had he done that???
And then the other orc was on him, its axe blade arcing downward toward his shoulder.
He jumped to the side, and the axe embedded itself into the ground with a solid-sounding thud. The creature pulled upward on the axe’s haft, then grunted when it would not come free.
No time to stop now. Henry advanced, and thrust.
But the orc released its hold on the axe and leapt backward, the tip of Henry’s sword just coming short of its ribcage before its feet struck the ground and it backed away further.
“Holy crap,” Henry said. He’d somehow managed to survive their initial charge. If he could –
A hissing sound caused him to duck, and he felt he air move over his head as the third orc’s arrow just barely missed him.
And then the orc’s shoulder struck his side, and he went tumbling to the ground beneath the beast’s bulk.
Henry’s breath left his body, and he saw stars. Then his vision cleared, and he wished that was all he could see.
The orc was on top of him, its face just inches from his. It breathed out hot against his face, and Henry smelled rancid meat and something worse.
The beast’s lips drew back, revealing smaller fangs among its upper teeth, a counterpoint to those two great tusks. It reared upwards, and Henry all but felt the headbutt coming.
Instead, the orc stiffened, then fell over onto its side, black blood flowing out from its torso to cover Henry.
He blinked, uncomprehendingly, at the axe blade protruding from the dead orc’s torso, then he traced the axe’s handle up to the armored form of Gabriel.
In a rush, Henry recognized the axe as the one the orc had lost into the ground.
Gabriel winked at him, then pulled the axe free from the corpse with much more ease. He turned around, and caught the other orc’s axe on his steel-encased forearm.
If the blow caused him injury, he didn’t show it. He just chopped the axe into the orc’s guts.
It dropped with a bellow, and Gabriel charged away.
Henry pushed himself to his feet and saw the orc bowman nocking an arrow. But Gabriel was running hard toward it, and even he saw that by the time the orc was ready to fire again, Gabriel would be on it. It tried all the same, and got its shot off.
If it had struck him straight on, it might had penetrated Gabriel’s armor. As it was, the arrow just nicked off the pauldron on Gabriel’s left shoulder.
Then he was on the orc, and it fell moments later.
Henry watched in something like awe as Gabriel walked back to him. The knight had the black blood of three orcs on him, yet somehow his armor seemed to shine in the waning sunlight, like a beacon in the encroaching darkness.
When he came to stand in front of Henry, Gabriel inclined his head to him.
“Thank you, lad. If not for your bravery, we both would have fallen this day.”
Henry, embarrassed, looked away, and made a dismissive gesture with his left hand. “I’m sure you could have handled it.”
But when he looked back up at the knight, Gabriel had a deadly serious expression on his face. Their eyes met, and Henry knew he had meant every word. A warm feeling flowed out from his belly to every corner of his body, and he returned the knight’s initial nod.
Apparently satisfied, Gabriel turned and looked at his horse. Its twitching had stopped; the beast was clearly dead. Gabriel let out a sigh.
“I would have you feast with me in my castle tonight,” he said. “But without my steed…” He shook his head and looked back at Henry with a regretful expression. “I have no way to get you there before nightfall.”
“Oh.” Henry glanced around, and saw that the knight was correct. Already, the western sky was red with sunset. And was that the first star of night off to the east?
Gabriel held out his hand toward Henry. “Instead of a feast, know that you will always be welcome in my realm, Henry.”
“Thanks.” Henry accepted the knight’s hand, and again was impressed by the man’s grip.
“Fare thee well,” Gabriel said.
And then the world exploded in golden white light.
* * * * *
Henry took a step forward…and found himself back in the cafe, facing the counter and Miss Melody behind it.
He blinked, unable to comprehend what he was seeing.
Part of him had expected it the second the light flashed into his eyes. But still…
He shook his head. “What was that? What – ?” He stopped, flummoxed. Had it been real?
Miss Melody put on a warm, knowing smile. “Exactly what you needed, dear,” she said, and gestured toward the sign on the wall behind her.
Henry followed her gesture to the words. “Food for the body. Healing for the soul.”
Healing for the soul.
Even in his confused state, he still felt the pride of accomplishment from fending off the orcs. He hadn’t vanquished them. But he had given Gabriel the time he needed to free himself, so he could take care of business. As Gabriel had said; if not for him, both of them would food for the orcs’ cook fires tonight.
That feeling hadn’t gone away, and looking down from the sign to Miss Melody, Henry thought it never would.
Her smile grew a tad larger, and he found himself returning it. “Thank you,” he said.
“My pleasure, dear. Now, you’d best be getting home. You’ve got important things to attend to.”
Henry supposed she was right. But still… “How late are you open?”
“Come back any time, if you have need,” she said, her eyebrows lifting.
Henry looked down at the calendar page that was still clutched in his left hand. There at the bottom, instead of the cafe’s street address, was written, “Located wherever souls have need.”
He looked back up at her, and she made a shoo’ing gesture with her hand.
Bemused, he turned and opened the door.
He was almost surprised when he emerged onto Main Street, though he shouldn’t have been. The door swung shut behind him, and he glanced back.
And felt his jaw drop open in shock.
That wasn’t a cafe. It was a shoe shop. What – ?
“Well. Look at what we have here.”
The voice, boyish but trying to sound manly and tough, came from Henry’s left.
He turned, and sure enough there was Ben. Ben, and his two cronies. They were staring at him the way a cat stares at a mouse it’s about to pounce upon.
“Thought you could get away from us, huh?” said the toady to Ben’s right. “You thought wrong.”
Henry felt a surge of fear, and the urge to flee. He glanced over his shoulder, and saw the sidewalk was empty; he’d have all the room he needed to make a dash for it.
The sound of movement brought his eyes back to front, and he saw Ben had taken a step toward him. The bully wore a confident smirk on his face that said he was going to enjoy pounding Henry’s face into pulp.
He was big. He was strong.
But he wasn’t nearly as big as an orc.
Henry took a deep breath, and set his jaw. Clenching his fists at his side, he stepped forward, to make his stand.
Ben’s smirk faded, replaced by uncertainty.
And then fear.
A collection of Michael Kingswood’s published stories are available here: