Copyright © 2000 Robert G. Ferrell


So in cares of his times the son of Halfdead constantly brooded, nor might any save a good meatloaf set aside his woe. He cast about him for a way to escape his homeland and let others deal with the Royal tax auditors.

A thane of Egslacs, a fair man among the Geeks, read of the fame of Rendall on the walls of the lav-hall; for a Geek he was pretty butch, and not a bad hand with a pitchfork. He bade that a great punt be built for him, wide of hull and flat of keel, so that he might pole his way to the lands of the Dranes, where this slayer-of-furred things dwelt. The wise among the Geeks urged him on, for he was the bravest of their kind and smelled strongly of Brut; much offense did his kinsmen take at his toilette. Of the best and bravest of the Geeks did he select his war-band, strong of sinew but without skill in hygiene were they; warriors all. One of them, sea-skilled, sought the land's edge, then long did they search for their wooden haven. Not until they chanced upon a port did they discover their goal, and loud were the jests at their expense from the local wayfarers.

Men then did clamber onto the deck, bright armor shining in their minds, but cast-off farm implements dangling from their wastrel limbs. Often did they kiss the water's bosom from lack of basic seafaring skills. Yet did the ocean's thanes take pity on them, and at last their puling forms washed upon the shore of the Dranes.

A warrior, a man of lore, did meet them there, and sorely was he vexed at their arrival.

"What are you, who come from the waves like so many grotesque crabs-with-bad-hair?"

Their leader, a mighty Geekish warrior, did make answer for them.

"We come from Geekburg, and are vaguely attached to the house of Egslacs. My father was a well-known guano merchant called by the name of Egshel, son of Baensprowt. He lived for many seasons in Geekburg, then wandered off at a fair. We think he abides in France now, selling corsets. But enough about us. We have come to see the King of the Dranes, the Drane-Thane."

The border guard looked them over with humor and a certain nameless loathing.

"The Drane-lord speaks not to fishermen, but bids them bite the shields of his enemies. Get you back to your doubtful homes, you smelly Geeks."

With that, the Dranish guard stomped off to his hall, paying no further heed to the peeved Geeks.

"I am not pleased at this hospitality," said the Geek-thane, "Still, it could have been worse...Let us not forget that Frankish lord with the rake handles and pig fat."

"We were hoping you wouldn't mention that," replied his men, some of whom were still sore.

Lost and still sea-ill did the Geekish band ply their way across the lands of the Dranes until at last they came to a shining hall, whose portals saw a steady stream of war-tried men, bravely striding. Boldly did the Geeks enter that war-hall, and the Geek lord came soon before the Dranish King, who was called Hearthrug. Then spoke the Geek, and a frog did find lodgings within his voice-hall.

"Hail, Hearthrug," he squeaked, "I am Bagelwulf, kinsman to Egslacs, a thane of the Geeks, and I have heard of the monster Rendall who darkens your doorways and casts a murderous shadow over your lawn parties. Show me this terror, that I and my Geek band may slay it, leaving the Drane lands free of this fate."

Answer there came none for many minutes, for to a man the Drane host were unable to speak. The hall echoed with laughter the like of which had not been heard in many winters of boasting and mead-gifting. Indeed, there had not been such a sound in that hall since Hearthrug was but a whelp, and his brother Daekwede bit off his own finger while feasting.

Old Hearthrug tried to reply, but could not, and finally he gave the Geek thane an encouraging clap on the back and pointed to a particularly dank opening in a nearby cliff side. As the Geekish band trudged silently toward their battle-date, Dranish mirth seemed to swell and fall behind them like the tossing sea-foam. At last mighty Bagelwulf spoke.

"That went rather well, I think," he said, and peered into the hellish darkness of the death-cavern.

What he saw therein gave new life to his bowels, and boldly Bagelwulf, Thane of the Geeks, let slip his battle-whimper, for that is what Geeks do.