An extract from 'The Silver Horn' by Ricardo Victoria. This story won first place in the Literary Creation Contest in the Fantasy Short Story category, sponsored by the IMJUVE and the Tolkienlindi Society, México in 2003. It is one of the stories in Tales from the Tower from Inklings Press.
During those times lost in the mists of the ancient legends of incongruent events, there was a folk tale about a journey of certain legendary status. Now, these kind of stories are a well-known set-up for inspirational tales about courage, friendship and heroism. But, those only work if the heroes portrayed are charismatic and ooze epicness with a single glance. Those kind of heroes were the shiny beacons of hope for despairing lands. And telling a story like that would be fine. Of those, there are plenty and they are more expensive and expansive.
But not this time, not in this case. While this is a story about a journey involving a mystic item (another cursory element in such tales), the heroes are hardly charismatic and far from being paragons of anything. The only shiny thing coming from them were their false, golden teeth. If you met any of them in a bright alley, you would run away. Because for every epic hero with good public relations, there is also a poorer, run-down version, equally worthy of praise, but not as marketable (so no movie deals for these folks, centuries later when their stories were rediscovered). Fraog was one these run-down folks on a mission. He had scruffy hair, languid features and a disproportionately tall height for a regular 18-year-old who wore tattered clothes and worn leather boots. His face was full of freckles and he had a few crooked teeth.
In fact, the only sign of having a quality beyond the rest of his peers was his bright green eyes that gave him an eerie, almost feylike visage during the nights. He had been living at the monastery since he was a newborn after his mother passed away in a cruel winter outside the nearby village, her origin or name unknown. He got his name from a dog-tag tied to his tiny hands (now hanging from his neck) that the monks suspected, were from his father, though the name wasn’t recognized in the region by anyone. It was almost as if he just appeared one day next to a dead body, like those old nursery rhymes that talked about lost princes. However, one thing was sure: Fraog wasn’t a lost prince, because he could sleep soundly, no matter how many peas were placed under his bed.
On his eighteenth birthday, instead of receiving a gift that marked his inclusion into the not-so-responsible adult world, he got a mission. He had been tasked by the Archpriest of the monastery where he was an inmate, as many orphan often were, to carry the neither-so-fabled nor well-known Silver Horn to That Place, located deep into the Humbagoos rainforest, before the next lunar eclipse.
Fraog was chosen because everybody in the monastery and the nearby village knew he wasn’t going to fail. And they were so sure because he was more stubborn than a mule with authority issues. That was the main reason behind the Archpriest’s decision to send Fraog… well, that and the barely mentioned fact that he was eating too much food, especially the abbot’s favorite chocolate dessert and needed an excuse to get rid of him, and while the mission was really important, the abbot was a lazy man that preferred to spend his time reading magazines instead of you know, carrying out the Archpriest’s mission.
In all honesty, Fraog didn’t have any remarkable magical ability and he was a lousy warrior to be fair. But his stubbornness reached level of mythic proportions, to the point that his own body refused to acknowledge any injury so it simply healed it as fast as it happened.
Fraog was surrounded by his own legends among his peers because of this. For example, the other orphans used to scare each other telling the tale of their older ‘brother’ who once grew back his left pinky finger that he cut off while practicing with a rusty sword as if he were a legendary warrior of the ancient times. In hindsight, his ability was certainly useful, since the road to the rainforest was plagued with dangers, wastelands, evil towns of inbred mutants, cannibal deli restaurants and every single non-touristic spot any travel guide worth travel writer would actually go there and verify the entry cost to the local attractions).
Other than that, Fraog was a simple boy with simple dreams: travel around, meet a lovely girl of the sorcerous kind, have a lot of sex and a couple of kids and a castle, you know, the whole Grenadian Dream often dreamt by boys in monasteries.
Fraog had been traveling for several weeks now, as he lost his transport early on when he traded his donkey for a bag of magical potatoes that had the properties of always pointing to the place you didn’t want to go in first place and of looking like the faces of a popular folk band of itinerant bards. Not very useful indeed, but Fraog, although a good person, was as naïve as they come and the donkey ended in the hands of a poor married couple that were trying to get to some old farm where the wife would give birth to a legendary once and future king as prophesized. But that is other story and you paid only for this one.
You can find Ricardo Victoria on his website, his blog or follow him on Twitter.