• Published 1st Oct 2014
  • 3,634 Views, 435 Comments

Story Shuffle - FanOfMostEverything

Thirty-one one-shots inspired by thirty-one random Magic cards.

  • ...

Last Trump

Balanbos trudged into the camp, his steps heavy with more than mere mass. The news he bore was almost more than even an armodon could bear. His four tusks felt frivolous now, his crown of horns weighed not with honor and responsibility but despair. His trunk all but dragged in the dust.

And yet, as he passed through the first ring of tents, how the many peoples of the savannah rushed out to greet him! Zebras made lean and hard by war, warriors and shamans alike. Giraffes humbled by circumstance into consorting with the "low-minded" races. Okapi, gazelles, quagga, all forced together by circumstance. And of course, the common elephants, his charges and subjects, their reverence unmarred by the long struggle.

And now approached one of his peers. His heart cried out, for it was sweet Mtala, gentle Mtala! None deserved to hear what he had witnessed, but least of all she who protected the orphans and destitute.

"Balanbos," she said, her sweet voice unable to disguise the pain in her eyes, brought by all the suffering she had seen. "What news?"

He wished to spare her, to spare all of them, but it would be no kindness to leave them unprepared. He moved close to her ear and whispered, "Grim tidings, my friend. We must speak with our fellows."

The pain in Mtala's eyes grew, but she nodded her crowned head and laid her trunk upon his shoulder. "I will gather them. Go rest."

Balanbos watched her leave, biting back a bitter laugh. Rest? Even if he had earned the right to rest. he wouldn't. He couldn't. None of them could, not with the Monstrosity still at large.

Balanbos waded through the camp, deaf to those around him. Yes, such was the tragedy that even wise Balanbos, the righteous judge, could not maintain his constant vigilance. Though he knew it not, his presence left near-silence in its wake, nervous whispers the only sound.

He entered the central tent, hung on a ring of twenty poles, held in place by twenty stakes. Each of the noble armadons had personally set one or the other. Though nothing compared to the palace they were forced to abandon, it stood as a testament to their united might.

Only four waited for him now, seeming almost small within the grand structure.

"Well?" asked brave Donot, his mighty tusks shamefully broken by the Monstrosity. "What is it, then?"

Balanbos shut his eyes. "Queen Ferana is dead."

The others followed suit, their heads bowed. "Then the terastodons are no more," whispered once-beautiful Lezu, who had but one eye left to shut. "No more can be elevated to join us. To replace those lost."

"Did she die well?" asked Du, all jests forgotten.

"She challenged the Monstrosity to single combat," answered Balanbos.

The others gasped. "To what purpose?" Lezu cried.

Balanbos slumped to the ground, his shame grown too heavy even for him. "Her last words to me were, 'A queen with no country is a sorry sight. Go, my friend. Live well, for that is the best revenge.' It was my duty to obey."

"She never could take her own advice," Donot grumbled, blinking back his tears.

Mtala was not so reserved. "What do we do now?"

"We honor her memory as best we can." Du smiled, a grim mockery of his grin of old.

"How so?" asked Donot.

Du told him, and Donot's answering smile was even worse.

A storm brewed on the horizon, a nightmare of impossible colors and improbable smells. The light of the setting sun was not blotted out by the billowing clouds, but instead was twisted and made unwholesome. That the sun was setting in the north only emphasized this perversion.

Rank after rank stood in defiance of the storm and the one who had brewed it. At the vanguard were the five armodons, and leading them was Balanbos. He held back his own storm, one of fury and righteousness, until he could see the Monstrosity.

There he was, riding his storm of chaos, serpentine and misshapen. The fiend laughed, a fang jutting out of one end of his mouth, a tusk from the other.

Du's original battle cry had been similar to his proposal: "We go out as damn foolishly as Ferana did." Balanbos had something different in mind.

He trumpeted and began the charge. As the thunder of angry feet met that of utter madness, Balanbos cried out.

"We will not go quietly!"

Author's Note:

Alternate title: How Discord Lost That Tooth

This one was fun, in that it made me come up with headcanon for elephants on Ungula. Nowadays, the elephants are a much more democratic nation, and the return of the old castes would upset their society just as much as when they left.

Also, I tried for a mythic voice. Not sure how well that worked out.

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