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. For Part the First and the adventures of the princess and Serval Lancet, go here.
The handsome brigand quaffed his grog from a tankard of marvelous heft.
The scroll in his cloak nagged and needled at him, as if he were concealing an afflicted weasel. In sooth, it was nothing more than a soft and pliant roll of kidskin. How unlike him to be troubled by such a thing, a document of officiousness, a product of the boring, regular society of men from which he had fled.
And yet there it burned against his breast.
There was but one cure for a plethora of minor ailments such as a pang of conscience:
“Another tankard, Mistress Squandish!”
There were two inns in Folo. The brigand preferred the more run-down one, The Otter’s Head; it had character, and so did plump and bawdy Mistress Squandish, who ran it.
Mistress Squandish had goose fat on her apron and warts on her chin, which she applied herself every morning as part of her “look,” and her eyes were swallowed by fleshy folds, but everybody slapped her behind when she walked by because she was so bawdy. Brigands loved that sort of thing. In a way, Mistress Squandish was the original marketing genius.
She brought the handsome brigand another tankard posthaste. He repaid her with a pinching of exceptional vigor and duration, to which she acquiesced with the ribald rejoinder characteristic of her profession.
Yet he took no joy in it, this curious sort of brigand. His mind was heavy laden. The handsome brigand was not given overmuch to brooding, but this seemed to be the rare evening for it.
The funny thing was he didn’t even like tankards, not really.
The problem with tankards was they made everything taste like a tankard. All the grog he had ever quaffed out of a tankard had tasted at least as much like the tankard as it had like grog.
His perplexing case of the mopes was interrupted when a ruffian walked into the tavern in the company of a fop. What an unexpected pair! Yet one was liable to see anything at The Otter’s Head.
The fop looked around appraisingly at how dirty and awful everything was.
“I love it!” he said.
“I told you,” said the ruffian.
“You know me so well,” said the fop.
“Well, happy birthday,” said the ruffian. “Would you like your birthday surprise now?”
“Why, nothing would please me more,” said the fop.
“Okay!” said the ruffian. He produced a blindfold and swiftly secured it over the fop’s eyes.
“What’s all this?” said the fop.
“It’s a surprise!” said the ruffian.
He signaled for his friends. There were four of them, dressed exactly like the ruffian. They pummeled the fop and turned him upside down and collected all the valuables that fell from his pockets. Then they tossed him in the alley out back.
“What a terrible birthday!” said the fop.
“Haw, haw, haw,” laughed the vile ruffian, slamming the door.
The brigand, ever watchful, saw a perfect opportunity to take his mind off all his problems, such as the woman who had died in his arms earlier in the evening and the mysterious scroll he must somehow deliver to the king.
He rose from his stool and threw back his hood in glorious defiance, for up until that moment he had been cleverly disguised as a member of the priestly class for brigandry purposes.
“Claron Pard!” gulped the leader of the ruffians, for that was just whom the handsome brigand had revealed himself to be. “Why didn’t you say so? We’ll gladly give you some of these ill-gotten doubloons, sir.” Even the dastardliest ruffian became meek and polite when in the presence of the notorious Claron Pard.
“Oh, I shall have all your doubloons,” remarked Claron Pard, his eyes and teeth sparkling in their famous way. “I shall certainly have them indeed. Upon the nonce, lest I mistake myself!”
“Now see here,” sputtered the astonished ruffian. Claron Pard was making him look bad in front of his ruffian friends!
“Yet it is not mere greed that moves me, but justice for my kind,” Claron Pard continued with unnerving calm. “For you see… I myself was once a fop.”
A collective gasp rose upward from the drooping mouth-holes of the assembled ruffians.
It was true that Claron Pard did not as a rule discuss his secret past, but so much was coming to the surface this evening. Claron Pard really needed to talk to somebody. But how does a brigand make a friend? In a very real way, Claron Pard was nothing but a little boy that no one loved. But these were considerations for another day. Now there were more practical matters at hand. Ruffians gathered all around him, giggling threateningly at his admission of foppishness.
“I see that you are not comfortable with your masculinity!” observed Claron Pard. “Methinks you will soon be less comfortable still.”
With that, he laid his hand upon the hilt of his cudgel. They all laid their hands on the hilts of their cudgels. So many cudgels! There was about to be a lot of cudgeling.
Previously - Part the First