Back at the end of May, the picture at the right was unveiled to the world by John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton at Phoenix Comicon. And while the picture itself is incredibly awesome, it was made even more awesome by the revelation that there would be a fanfic contest to come up with the best story describing the events in the picture. And then, just to prove that whatever we might be able to come up with for possible awesome things would pale in comparison to this new awesomeness, John and Wil revealed that the culmination of the contest would be an e-book of stories, the proceeds of which would go to benefit lupus research. Not just the profits. The proceeds. All the money.
That culmination is finally here. So if you want to help find a cure for lupus while getting a collection of awesome and funny and silly (and occasionally a little blue) stories about two of the nicest guys on the Intertubes and their epic battle, head on over to unicornpegasuskitten.com and download and donate. (If the occasional cussword puts you off, you don’t have to download the book to donate.)
Below the fold, my attempt to be immortalized in fanfic history. (So you know all the stories in this e-book must be better than this.)
No one has come this far before.
Bazmur was the first to try. Young and brawny, built like a barrel with legs, and a dangerous mix of brave and stupid. He thought his strength would be enough. He made it two steps outside the cave entrance before he was carried off to the griffons’ aeries. Strength is useless when your foe is stronger.
Each of us since has used one of the secret exits we have discovered during our internment. The enemy never ventures into the caverns as long as we keep up the supply of his precious rocks. The strong spend their days mining and separating ore to sate the demand. Most of the rest try to maintain some semblance of society. But we few, the cunning and agile, spend our days practicing for our turn, our chance for glory, and an end to our misery.
It was not always like this. To be sure, we have always been oppressed, forced to flee our ancestral lands when we would not yield to invaders, nor labor under their whips, nor bow to their customs or their gods. But we found these islands many generations ago and built a home here, a haven from a world that hates anything different. The volcanic soil proved as rich for farming as it did for growing jungles thick with game, and over the years we forged our own place on this earth, our own shining city on the slopes of a dormant volcano, with a palace at the top as a beacon to our people, a symbol of victory after long struggle, and hope for our children, and for our children’s children.
I found Grollt on the outskirts of the city’s ruins. What was left of him, that is, bones split by crushing jaws, marrow rasped clean by rough tongues. He had made it further than any, but he too had fallen. His failure was the most disheartening, for he had been our best hope. When strength had failed, we practiced stealth and cunning instead, learning to blend with the shadows, to sneak up on the griffons unawares and end them before they could react. Grollt had taken seven in all, three more than anyone else could claim. The two notches in my axe hilt had given me little hope of success where Grollt had failed. Yet I have passed him, navigated the rubble of the city, evaded piercing eyes and searching ears, scaled the great stair, to stand within sight of the castle gates.
No one has come this far before.
None have seen that grand entrance, not since the Usurper came, with his army of creatures, his “pets,” as he called them. Great horned civets, with huge wings black as night, and claws that can gut a man in a single swipe. We tried to stand, but they were many, and strong, and those of us who did not fall were herded like cattle into the caves, forced to bring him tribute in exchange for what can barely be called lives. For twelve years now we have suffered.
Suffered, but learned as well. Learned that the griffons are powerful but stupid. When led by their master’s call they act in unison, a precision force of destruction. When caught alone, however, they react as any brute beast, and though they are dangerous, they are still mortal and can be dealt with. If we kill or even injure one, another soon replaces it, always from the palace, and always their numbers remain constant, as though there is cost to breeding them. Indeed, they are replaced so quickly, some of us believe they are not bred so much as made, conjured up by some foul magick.
And thus the plan is formed. If the monsters must be made, destroy the maker. If the monsters must be led, eliminate the leader. We cannot prevail by throwing ourselves on the enemies’ horns. We must strike the serpent at its head, and once it is removed, we can carve up the body at our leisure.
So it is here I find myself, a mite upon the serpent’s back, inching toward its neck to inflict the death bite. Two kittens guard the entrance, their horns not yet grown, their wings pulsing gently with the slow breath of slumber. They will not notice this leaf upon the wind. I am a shadow of a bramble, a wisp of fog clinging to the cliff face. I am almost there.
A pebble skitters across the path. Damnation! I freeze, pressed back into the cool rock. They will not notice. I try to will them to believe it was just a tremor, a rumble from a mountain not quite dead. My lungs burn for the breath I dare not take. I curse my sloppiness, my inattention, my overconfidence. Seconds seem like an eternity, but they do not stir. My clumsiness may not make an end of me yet.
And then I hear it. Claws raking against stone, the low thrum of dark wings beating the air, and then piercing the night, the battle-cry, “Whil-oo, Whil-OO!” Four glowing eyes spring open at the gate as their lord wheels overhead, singing my doom.
And so it begins. When my people sing the great song of our triumph to my children’s children, it will not be I whom they laud in the last chorus. I hold no hope of victory without surprise as my ally. But I shall stand, and I shall fight, and I shall earn a stanza for Skallz, and they will sing that I fought with all the bravery of those who had already fallen, and that I shattered the Usurper’s spear, and that my axe shone with the blood of the beasts I had slain.
And that no one had come this far before.