It has been 15 years since the last installment of Brigands of the Bog_, the epic series of sprawling fantasy novels by acclaimed author Jack R. R. Pendarvis. VICE is especially proud to present _The Dragon's Hump,the 11th and final book in a series that many have called "the only work of its kind written entirely under the effects of gin." All 1,000 chapters will be presented here in weekly installments, after which _The Dragon's Hump _will be published in a single volume, in or around 2031, shortly after the death of the author.
It was time to stop thinking and start doing. That’s what being King was all about. Stiffly King Samsor’s fingers tightened on the scepter of polished wood, a carving in its hilt representing his sigil, the raging beefalo.
He was required to keep a straight face, but deep within he marveled at the sight on the stage before him: 50 girls, chosen for their emblematic beauty, shedding their feathers all at once.
In the sacred dance of the Fortuitous Moulting, the maidens of Folo ceased to resemble large baby ducks and at last became women. But someone had misplaced the sheet music. The orchestra stood by with silent fifes and horns. Without the dignified choreography sanctified by tradition, the beautiful and natural spectacle would degenerate into nothing more than a cheap thrill for jerks. The crowd pressed forward. The King could feel their heat around his Throne of Watching.
Onstage, one young woman gave a little squeal, not altogether fearful—in fact there was some triumph in it—as she lifted her foot in time to watch the webs melt and dissolve between her toes like spun sugar in a summer shower upon carnival day.
For the first time in her life, she had a shapely bare foot. Who could begrudge her the impulse to hold it up and admire it?
Yet King Samsor had to consider its effect on the public, who stirred and jostled loudly now, some of them waggling their eyebrows in sinister tribute to the supple foot.
Swaths of down covered the more provocative attributes of the dancers’ bodies… but for how long? They maintained their poise as best they could, still braced for the opening notes of the overture, though all was in vain. Beaks began falling off and shattering with an almost lovely sound, like bells, revealing lips so fresh and moist and the cutest upturned noses dusted with insouciant sunny freckles.
All who witnessed the astounding scene might be forgiven for overlooking the fact that one poor duckling did not moult at all. From the waistband of her crinoline tutu she stealthily removed her letter opener of death.
This had not been the plan, precisely, but Veronica Hapgood had always been one for thinking on her webbed feet.
Now was her chance. All eyes on the lushly blossoming adolescent girls in feather bikinis—none on the King!
How easy to approach. How delicious to slip into the hollow of his throat the point of her favorite little weapon for the motive she would only reveal into his ear as he lay there gurgling his last.
She hopped off the stage and waddled swiftly toward him with intentions of unfathomable maliciousness.
“Wait!” the King exclaimed, arising at once from his Throne of Watching, scepter ascendant.
Veronica held her ground, so absolutely still as to render herself invisible amongst the throng of yeomen, daring not even to breathe with her breath. But he had not seen her.
“Wait!” the King cried out again. “Guards! To the royal wardrobe! Fetch these young women some dressing gowns of modest length and opacity upon the nonce! And let them keep said robes as souvenirs, free of charge!”
Off dashed his coterie of guards to adhere to Samsor’s wishes, leaving only his fat and dull-witted sergeant-at-arms for protection.
Meanwhile, from the crowd, a reluctant cheer rose up. How wonderfully their ruler had acquitted himself. Yet some portion of their base nature wished secretly that no robes would be forthcoming as the feathers kept fluttering tantalizingly to the ground.
Taking advantage of the confusion and ambiguity, Veronica leapt for the royal jugular. Deftly the blade did race for its target, clutched in the hand of the determined assassin.
There were screams and much baffled pointing as things dawned on everybody.
Suddenly, from high above, a lightning streak of blood red and snowy white. It was none other than the King’s wife Linda, dropping with all due alacrity from where she had been hiding crouched for some reason in the enormous upraised arms of the great burnished chandelier festooned with candles of tallow softly burning.
She was wearing her fashionable crimson cape, which billowed skyward as she dropped, revealing her clinging bodysuit of whitest samite, emphasizing the figure of which she was still justifiably proud.
“I’m not getting older, I’m getting better!” she shouted as she fell, coming to land on the back of the startled duckling, her queenly knees locking themselves around the younger woman’s neck. They tumbled to the floor and rolled around making sounds like, “Ungh! Ungh! Ungh!”
The letter opener flew across the floor, but Veronica Hapgood continued to fight with something like valiance. No matter. She had met her match. At last Queen Linda’s powerful knees gained anew the necessary purchase. She twisted them with a mighty twist and a sickening “pop” rang out across the Great Hall.
Veronica was still and silent. Blood dribbled from the corner of her beak. Queen Linda slowly rose and gazed down upon what she had wrought with her knees.
“Well fought, strange hatchling,” she solemnly intoned. “Clouds take you to their misty bosoms.”
As if to break the awed silence, the enormous oaken doors of the Great Hall creaked open. In rushed none other than Claron Pard, the handsome brigand, holding aloft the secret scroll of the Vermillion Witch and striding unchecked toward the Throne of Watching.
“The plot continues!” screamed someone in the parting crowd.
“Seize him!” cried the King.
The fat sergeant-at-arms looked back over both shoulders then returned his glance to his King. He pointed toward his own chest as if to say, “Who, me?”
“Yes, you!” shouted the King. “Or is my wife supposed to do everything around here?”
“Oh, honey, I thought you didn’t appreciate me anymore,” said Linda.
“Maybe sometimes it seems like I take you for granted,” said King Samsor. “I’m an idiot.”
“You’re my idiot,” said the Queen.
They had a smooch.