Angry by Bob Johnston

Lord Serriorth’s name originated on an island far to the west. It related to anger, and he embraced that without even knowing the fact. He was simply a furious person, from the moment he woke in the morning, until the last moment he fell into bed, huffing, puffing and enraged about something or other.
       He was not a bad man by any means, and his household and his lands concerned him greatly. He was also generous and never cruel to those under him. Apart from his fury, few could think of a better lord to live under, especially given the perilous state of the world beyond Serriorth’s lands. But, dangerous as the world outside was, it knew about Serriorth and it stayed out. He had no tolerance for trespassers and his brutality towards thieves was legendary.
       So, apart from its angry lord there was a haven of relative peace and security deep in the heart of a Europe long since restored to the rule of demons, ghouls, vampires and all the other unpleasant nightmares humanity had once thought mere stories. And there things might have remained, were it not for the fact that the creatures of our dreams, the exiled other-peoples of the distant past, and the things that had never stopped moving in the shadows envy the places of humanity.
       When the inevitable outrage happened Lord Serriorth had been away battling a dangerous immortal in the northern mountains. In that short but savage encounter the immortal discovered two things – Lord Serriorth took no prisoners, and the immortal was, to his utter but short-lived surprise, not immortal after all.
       It was a moment of change. Serriorth looked down at the pale creature whose sullen defiance was being replaced by real fear. Even living under the misapprehension that one is immortal, that immortality is no protection from the realities of sharp blades and a man completely intolerant of what is his being interfered with.
       “Nancarrow, I warned you years ago to stay away from my northern valleys.” His sword flashed and a short scar opened up on the grovelling creature’s cheek. There was no blood. Nancarrow was not the sort of being that bleeds. “I broke your wretched army a decade ago and banned you from the eastern heights.” Another flash, another scar, but still no blood.
       He glared down at Nancarrow and thought of the world outside this dark, filthy keep. An entire world over-run by creatures humanity had once beaten back into the shadows and into the dreams of children. How many other places were there where humans still lived in happiness and peace?
       His blade now slashed, and did not stop slashing until Nancarrow lay in pieces on his own stone floor. Pieces that were most definitely mortal. Serriorth strode out onto the crumbling steps in front of the keep and addressed his soldiers.
       “No looting, no cruelty. Kill them all. Kill everything.”
       His troops obliged.
       A sullen mood had replaced his anger as he made his way home. Along forest trails they were watched but the word had spread long ago. The humans were gone, except for Lord Serriorth and his people. Leave them alone. For the sake of heaven, and the sake of a peaceful life, leave them alone.
       Only one group stayed out in the open as they passed, a group of eight mountain dwarfs who stepped aside and bowed respectfully. He nodded back at them and threw down a bag of gold coin that the one in the purple cap and monk’s cassock plucked out the air. “Thank you, my Lord,” he croaked. “I wish we could entertain you in some way.”
       Serriorth waved a hand at him and nodded in understanding. These people, historically miners, had always found it difficult to find conventional work and so tended to entertain with comedy skits and magic acts. They had been good at it, but now there was no Berlin in the west to guarantee regular income and they had become travelling jacks of all trades. He looked back at them and smiled at their colourful jackets, baggy trousers, and bizarre floppy hats.
His mood lifted for the next few hours and was only extinguished when he discovered the outrage those same dwarfs had perpetrated in his home during his absence. His daughter, Frances, had been abused, although he was pleased to find her upset but not physically harmed. The affront committed in his council chamber was easier to fix but almost as offensive.
He brooded on the offence for a few minutes and then ordered his troops rested, re-equipped and ready to move at sunrise. He remembered Nancarrow grovelling at his feet just before he killed him. Nancarrow whose only offence was infrequent trespass on the borders of the Serriorth lands. He stood in the council chamber a moment longer, considering its desecration, then he looked at his beloved Frances, who was standing with her mother, her pale hands pressed to her thin chest.
       Lord Serriorth kissed his wife and daughter and then left to prepare for the hunt. The dwarfs could look forward to the same fate as Nancarrow, perhaps even worse.


It was a hunt that found its way into the legends of north-eastern Europe for generations afterwards. It was a hunt that secured the privacy of the Serriorth lands for further generations. Humanity continued to decline in the world, and the old peoples returned, but one enclave of the human race was left alone for the simple reason that everyone else was terrified of them.
The dwarfs’ path was easy to follow as they were not the tidiest of travellers. Serriorth gazed down at one abandoned campsite and wondered at how eight such small creatures could make so much mess.
       Lord Nancekivell stopped them on the borders of his lands. This great ghoul warrior could have destroyed Serriorth’s glorified hunting party in minutes but, upon hearing of the offences committed by the dwarfs, it offered supplies to assist with the hunt. These were gratefully received and then burned as soon as they were out of sight of Nancekivell’s troops. The gesture was gratefully received, but rotting and not yet dead flesh can’t fill a human belly.
Serriorth gazed down at the burning supplies and saw a severed hand escape the flames. The long nails suggested vampire. He called to one of the soldiers and had her kick it back into the fire. He didn’t want that following him about Europe.
       They caught up with the dwarfs on the eastern bank of the Elbe and were briefly pleased to find them being held prisoner by another human group. It quickly became apparent that not much had changed from the days when humans ruled the world. This lot called themselves Germans but Serriorth was not sure what language they spoke among themselves. They agreed to converse in the common language from across the ocean.
       ‘King’ Bolitho was unimpressed with Serriorth’s complaint against the dwarfs and insisted that his was the more serious. Lord (a real one) Serriorth knew that he was far from home and, although his reputation for anger had reached even this far west, he was going to have to negotiate here. Human to human relations were complex, as it still wasn’t held to be good form to just kill one another. Serriorth smiled to himself. If only this pretend king was a vampire or, better still, some irritating troll screwing around with river crossings.
       The dwarfs were eventually hauled out in front of both human groups. Whatever King Bolitho had done to them there was no cockiness about them now. They looked roughed up, filthy and completely beaten. Serriorth had a sudden idea. He stood up between the dwarfs and Bolitho.
       “You know what they did to me, King Bolitho, and you know I am only looking for two of them to punish. Give me the two I am looking for and you can keep the other six.”
Bolitho stood and made a non-committal shrug. “I already have them, Lord Serriorth. What do I gain by handing any of them over to you?”
       Serriorth smiled. “My friendship, forevermore. It seems to me that we humans are in short supply these days. You will have a friend in the east, and I will have a friend in the west.”
Bolitho considered the deal. Whoever kept the captives they were all going to be killed, quickly or slowly he hadn’t made up his mind yet. Six executions instead of eight, and he would have a friend beyond the horizon.
       “My Lord, you have a deal.”
       Serriorth smiled and bowed slightly. Then he turned to the cowering dwarfs, his sword scraping out of its scabbard. His mind filled with the image of his tearful daughter and the affront one of these wretches had committed in his council room. He pointed the vicious blade at the dwarfs.
       “Right! Which one of you bastards is Gropy, and which one,” he grimaced, “is Dumpy?”

Bob’s work has been published by Andromeda Spaceways and the Sci Phi Journal. A further story is coming out soon through Amazing Stories.

He can be found at: & Facebook

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