Collaborative Carnage

Mutation 21: All About Cows and Hogs

by Stephen van Ham

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - PRESENT DAY, EARLY EVENING:

In a warm mansion somewhere in a quiet town deep in the bowels of mother England, a smouldering brand rolled against the hearth of a roaring fireplace, shooting a blossom of sparks into the air and sending the fire roaring higher. The rosy glow kept the winter chill well and truly at bay, forcing jack frost to nip morosely at the windows but never come any closer.

CowLord reclined in his favourite chair, snuggled up among three large fluffy cushions. These days he was able to sit in utmost relaxation, the danger of past days long behind him. Dressed in tan slacks and cashmere sweater, he looked the picture of studious good health. His only concession to his past life was a tiny bronze figure of a guitar playing calf sitting on the mantel. In this facet of the shard that is reality, CowLord had taken on the persona of Sir Bryce Holstein, former rock idol and presently a writer of political commentary. Among other things.

The home in which he sat was a place of refined comfort, of polished wood, books, stylish figurines and smoke, smoke to which he now added as he raised his cigar to his lips, taking a long puff. As the wisps of smoke circled each other in their endless dance, Sir Bryce lowered his eyes to regard his guest. Sitting across from him, beyond that cloud of drifting hazey smoke, was the reporter, a small, attentive man who had introduced himself as Clark Spent. The man, inclining his head respectfully upon being admitted into Sir Bryce's home by the faithful maid Gillian, had quickly positioned himself in the nearest chair and was now eyeing Sir Bryce intently, determined not to miss a word or an antic of his legendary host. A battered satchel stuffed full of spare notepads leaned against his feet and running tape recorder chittered beside him on a table.

Sir Bryce watched the man through the cloud of cigar smoke, marvelling at the man's ability to twirl his biro around his lean fingers in almost constant motion. Although Sir Bryce didn't know it, the reporter's biro twirling was a nervous habit, caused by being present at one of the few interviews that Sir Bryce had ever agreed to give over the course of his long career.

"Thank you for taking the time to see me," the reporter said suddenly.

"It was my pleasure. I do, after all, serve the people, and you are the voice of the people, are you not?"

The reporter nodded uncertainly. Then the pen suddenly stopped in mid-twirl as he learned forward and plunged into his first question. "Sir Bryce, what do you think was the most defining moment of your music career?" he interviewer asked, pen poised above the page like a serpent poised over a victim.

Sir Bryce in turn leaned forward. Frowning reflectively, he reached for his brandy. "My most defining moment? When I defeated the Zerg Queen of course. Such a long and sordid affair it was, all that stalking and bad press and dueling guitars. I'm pleased to say my band and road crew stuck by me the whole time."

(It being common knowledge that the "Zerg Queen" were a band of "Queen" impersonators that used to dress up in bug suits and climb out of vats of slime at the beginning of each performance).

The reporter leaned over to his tape recorder to check it was working. "Yes, I've read extensively about that. Particularly Eddie Mercury's comments about your abilities as a singer/song-writer. 'Back woods hack with his nose in the brandy glass' was I believe the way he most recently refered to you."

Sir Bryce waved the remembered insult aside and shrugged. "I've heard worse. And in all the places I've been in my time, I've SEEN much, much worse. When it comes down to it, some people will forever be jealous at the success of others, and it is that jealousy that will prevent them from ever achieving that same success." Sir Bryce looked sorrowful. "I feel more of a sadness for Eddie for his comments than anger."

"No anger at all?"

"None." Sir Bryce sent another puff of cigar smoke up to join that above him. "And I'll add this: people such as Mr. Mercury no longer need to concern themselves with how I might usurp their musical success. That part of my life is over and done with. Finished."

The reporter leaned forward on his chair intently. "Do you have any regrets, now that you have turned to serving the people?"

"Only that I couldn't spend more time with my fans. We were always on the road, travelling from one concert to the next, without rest or relaxation. The price of stardom is so very high."

"So your fans are what you miss most now?"

Sir Bryce sighed. He put his cigar into an ashtray and steepled his shapely hands together. "Yes. Absolutely. Monetary gain cannot replace companionship, and the sharing of a fine wine of conversation with a like-minded group. That, and the ability to sit back and peruse life at your leisure. Now that I have the time, I have done such a perusal. It's unfortunate, in many ways, that the heads of state, the governors, and the statesmen, cannot see the world as it is through their consitituents' eyes. If they did, then perhaps then we wouldn't have such problems we have now. With their power, their financial backing, perhaps we could rebuild the world as a much better place."

"You have a vision for what the world should be, Sir Bryce?"

It was Sir Bryce's turn to lean forward intently. "I do indeed. A simple place, a place free of polution and all the burdens of the industrial age. I have seen such a place, young man. Let's just say that I had a vision, and the name of the place in that vision was Tristram. Let me tell you about it ..."

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - PRESENT DAY, LATE EVENING:

At a little after nine o'clock the interview was over and the reporter and his notepads and reel of recorder tape had been sent on their way. Sir Bryce was in his study and just finishing a light meal and medicinal brandy.

Sir Bryce's faithful maid, Gillian, let herself quietly into the study. "Did the interview go well, Sir Bryce?" she asked quietly.

Sir Bryce swallowed a mouthful of pheasant and washed it down with a swish of brandy. He stared into the fire thoughtfully. "Yes it did, Gillian. The political front is now well established and should serve to channel media focus away from my other activities."

Gillian smiled. "This is good news, sir. Will you be venturing out this night?"

Sir Bryce drained the remainder of his brandy and glided to his feet, dabbing at his mouth with his napkin as he turned to face his maid. "Yes I will, Gillian. There is word in the papers of a string of burglaries on the south side. Three cheese factories and a baker have been turned over in the last week, although why any robber would want to steal cheddar and puff pastry is beyond me. Nevertheless I want to survey the area and look for clues, since the local police seem to have come up short in their investigations. Please bring the car out front while I get changed."

"As you wish, sir." Gillian departed for the rear of the building while Sir Bryce walked to his inner chambers. Flicking on a light Sir Bryce crossed to a mahogany cabinet, drew a tiny key from his pocket and unlocked the top drawer. Pulling it open he nodded in satisfaction as he gazed at the disguise waiting within. "Oh, how I've missed you," he murmured. With sure hands he drew out the various garments and changed into them. Three minutes later he was he stepped to the mirror to admire his reflection. The tight fitting black silk shirt and pants showed off his impressive physique to full advantage, and the gold belt with cluster of udders on the buckle, the white leather gloves with gold trim, the holstein patterned scarf, and the steel visor with a pair of floppy ears on the crest completed the stylish emsemble. "Moo!" he whispered, chuckling to himself.

Moving quickly down to front passage of his mansion and out into the night Sir Bryce crossed the gravel entrance way and strolled down the forest path. At the foot of the hillock, beneath a moonlit vista of evergreens and a babbling brook Sir Bryce's maid Gillian waited in Sir Bryce's custom-fitted sports car, the black-and-white BMW with the "BVNKNG" number plates...

TRISTRAM - AFTERNOON, PRESENT DAY:

The were-hog Spite pulled herself wearily to the shore, blood oozing from her many wounds. She was tired, she was bleeding, and most of all, she was angry. Very angry indeed, and in her anger she turned to the one thing that gave her the most pleasure - cursing. She cursed the barbarian and his battle-scarred good looks. She cursed the sunlight that bore into her eyes like a knife. She cursed her weak, although attractive, human body. And most of all, she cursed her ugly, hulking, animal body.

Spite reached up with a shredded left hand to pull herself free of the chill waters, then saw the flash and ripple of a small wave as another pike crested the surface of the water and then descended again in a ripple of water. The were-hog felt a moment of panic as she clutched at a bank of wet reeds sink in an attempt to escape the feeding frenzy. Then she hissed as the pikes teeth bit hungrily into the were-hog's vitals. Those teeth sunk deep, and then the pike sawed back and forth in a blood lust, ripping more searing flesh from Spite's already mangled body. Spite howled and thrashed in agony, her arm spasming against the sand, thin pale fingers clawing to find purchase.

As the pike continued to feed, Spite felt herself slipping back into darkness, fading away forever. But summoning one last surge of strength, she howled in defiance and lashed out with a massive webbed paw (the only part of her still locked in beast form when the pikes attacked). The ravenous fish was caught for a moment against the coating of adhesive slime, and Spite reversed her revulsion field, pinning the pike fast while she devoured it in a clash of teeth, blood and scales.

Finally, Spite pulled herself free of the river and lay in the sun, the warm rays a soothing balm against her battered body. She'd lost a massive amount of flesh and blood in her escape from the pike swarm, but she'd killed and devoured many of her hunters as well, and once her wounds were healed, the sustenance would fuel another growth spurt that would increase her mass to a new level.

Moving ponderously on the shore, Spite shambled back and forth, oozing ichor. Shielding her eyes with her human hand, she peered around, searching for a spot in which to rest. There, to the left. The were-hog dragged herself to a secluded area between some boulders, settled under an overhang, pulling her form back as far from the light as she could. It was cool, this place, it was dark, and most all, no one would disturb her as she healed herself of her horrific injuries.

Spite fell into a frenzied sleep, and her dreams were filled with visions of terror, of bones and flesh shredded and robbed of life, and of blood, seeping down her muzzle as she fed.

Within hours, the magic that cursed a body with two forms, once again blessed it with a healing power sought for centuries, but never perfected, by shamans across the realms of Sanctuary. Bones knitted back together, thin tendons reattached themselves to muscles that reformed themselves apparently from the very air itself. Skin closed over the most horrific wounds, scarring instantly, building humps that fuelled the bestial body with additional mass, mass that could be used to sustain an animal through the dark winter months, or, if need be, to overwhelm a foe.

Like a well-oiled otter, Spite - now all nine hundred pounds of her - slithered up the shoreline, the orifice that passed for her nose scenting barbarian spoor upon the air. Her eyes flashed as she tensed in anticipation of the hunt. "Man-thing Dolt, fear me, for I will feast on your succulent man-meat while you beg for the darkness to come," she promised, plotting her revenge.


Dolt woke to find a canine face full of very sharp and dripping teeth looming over him. He raised his fist to bat away the demonic thing before he saw the characteristic tongue loll and realised this was the real Deathspit this time. With a curse that would make his father proud, he staggered to his feet and looked around. The sun was already on its way down again, and Dolt realised that the Lifesuck's life-draining bile had knocked him out cold for many hours.

He was just about to head back to town to put a poultice on his ankle when a massive shadowed bulk erupted from the corner of his vision and bore him to the ground. Molt's axe when flying end over end from his hand as Dolt hit the ground hard, and his breath exploded from his lungs as he instinctively rolled. Whatever it was that had hit him, he thought quickly, it was big and lightning fast. He'd only just managed to get his knees under him when he was hit again, and this time he felt a chasm of pain open from armpit to hip as his ribs cracked. He gasped and rolled again, his side crunching against an upthrust stone as he tumbled to a stop.

As the stars cleared from his vision, Dolt got his first glimpse of his attacker, all twelve hundred pounds of it. Spite! But a much bigger Spite that the barbarian remembered, and even more ugly than the first incarnation, with parts of its hide criss-crossed with seeping wounds while other parts of it had bulges and warts on top of the existing bulges and warts.

Deathspit, ever gallant, leapt on the creature's back with a snarl, but his ferocious yapping was no match for Spite's booming howls and massive bulk. The brave dog was soon sailing through the air with his paws backpeddling uselessly. He hit the ground hard, rolled across the field in a whirl of fur and reeds, and disappeared into the trees, either dead or stunned, Dolt couldn't tell.

The brave display gave the big barbarian an idea. Ignoring the pain in his side, he half scrambled, half crawled across the battle field, zig zagging back and forth, apparently randomly. Spite was at his heels all the time, the ground shaking as massive creature pounded ever closer to the evasive barbarian. The hunt looked ended as Dolt lurched on one leg and fell heavily to the ground, and Spite's maw split in a triumphant snarl as she sensed victory. She leapt forward through the air, her hurtling bulk moments from squashing the barbarian flat.

But the fall had been a ruse. Springing quickly but slightly unsteadily to his knees, Dolt rolled towards the airborne creature, his body passing inches under the living, yowling missile as Spite hit the ground where the barbarian had been but moments before. Ignoring the pain of his injuries, Dolt rolled to the axe laying just a few feet from the end of his supposed random flight, scooped it up and was already charging at Spite as the creature pushed herself groggily to her massive webbed feet. Using the beasts tail as a springboard, Dolt launched himself in the air with a yell of "DOOOOOLLLLTTTT LUUUUNGGGEEEENNNN" and landed in a bull rider's stance on Spite's back. The massive beast lurched with a yell and twisted her head to snap at the wincing barbarian, but he was too far back for the angry were-hog to make contact.

"Gidday up, beast," Dolt grunted as he slapped Spite hard on the rump with Molt's axe. "Gidday up!" Spite twisted and struggled before shooting off at a fast trot, yowling what sounded to Dolt's weary ears to be a lot like an old Lungren war medley. He joined in for the choruses as Spite bounced off boulders, twisted, shook, howled, and bucked, trying to dislodge the heroically annoying human:

Dolt LungrenRAW HIDE (alternate)

Moving, moving, moving,
Keep those reed whips hewing,
Keep the horse hooves grooving,
Raw hide!

Round and round the fields,
Wavings swords and shields,
Swordsman burn and steal,
Raw hide!

Chop 'em up,
Slash and cut,
Blood and guts,
Loot their huts,
Raw hide!

Mow 'em down,
Break their crowns,
Burn the town,
Walls fall down,
Raw hide!

Swing the mace,
Break a face,
No saving grace,
From boot well placed,
Raw hide!

RAW HIDE (alternate)

Riding, riding, riding,
Flush peasants out of hiding,
Flesh and blade colliding,
Raw hide!

On threat of blood congealed,
I love the axe I wield,
Down on your knees and yield,
Raw hide!

Chop 'em up,
Slash and cut,
Blood and guts,
Loot their huts,
Raw hide!

Mow 'em down,
Break their crowns,
Burn the town,
Walls fall down,
Raw hide!

Swing the mace,
Break a face,
No saving grace,
From boot well placed,
Raw hide!

The barbarian and the lycanthrope circled and weaved and dodged and bucked and sang for what seemed like hours before Spite finally gathered enough momentum for one enormous shake that completely unseated Dolt and sent him flying through the air. That would have been the end for the massive barbarian if he hadn't lunged out and down with a wild swing of the axe, embedding the razor sharp blade deep into Spite's back as she swung around. Dolt flew out to the side of his unwilling mount, but hung on for grim life as Spite howled in agony and shot off with renewed vigour.

The ground careened wildly as Dolt was rocked from side to side. He twisted and flailed about wildly with his feet, desperately trying to find purchase on the beasts back before he lost his grip on the axe handle. It was not to be. With an audible snap and gushing of blood the axe ripped free at the exact some moment that Dolt lost grip of the handle. Axe and barbarian when spinning away in two entirely different directions.

Spite, her backbone now exposed to the sun and her blood raining down in scarlet fountains, had had enough of such defiant prey. Howling angrily she kept on running away into the shadows, shedding blood and great tears of green ichor all the while.


Dolt again awoke to the tickling feel of acid drool blistering his face. Opening his eyes, he saw the puppy Deathspit looming over him, fuming maw opened wide as it prepared to lick Dolt again. With a yell, the barbarian scrambled to the river's edge on his knees and splashed water on his face to wash away the noxious saliver. He discovered that the tongue bath had made him a little bit more close shaven than he prefered. "Bad dog," the big barbarian hissed. "Bad dog!"

Deathspit circled around the barbarian, his furry head down almost to the ground. "Ruff ruff, arf, yap yap yap" he whined. (Translation: "My humblest apologies. I would have cleaned my fangs this morning, but, alas, I was unable to locate a toothbrush.")

Dolt, weaving unsteadily, patted Deathspit on his bristled back. "All is forgiven, mutt" he added. Straightening, he groaned at the sharp pain his limbs. "Uuuggghhh, what hit me?"

The puppy was most happy to contribute information. "Grrr grrr, ruff, arf yap arf grrr" he explained. (Translation: "I believe you are refering to the rather rock that, alas, collided with your head during your rapid descent from the beast's fleeing back.")

Dolt looked around and found his blood stained axe lodged in the branches of a nearby tree. He pulled it out and wiped away some of the blood with his sleeve. "At least the demon is gone. Maybe bleeding to death, if the Lungren elders deem it a day of fortune. But we'll go, in case the foul demon returns." He turned and stared off towards town, a grimace on his face. "Well, I can walk. I need a bath and some sleep..."

Deathspit sat down on his haunches and barked happily. "Bark yap bark, ruff arf whine!" (Translation: "I am most pleased to see you have made a speedy recovery.")

"...and a meal as well. And an ale."

Deathspit was not convinced. "Ruff ruff snarl whine yap whine yap ruff ruff grrr yap yap!" he insisted. (Translation: "I'm afraid there is no time. We must now proceed at great haste to a meeting with our companions. I do hope that they have faired well and are free of serious injury.")

Dolt staggered as he set off to the east. He'd taken but two big barbarian steps before his vision blurred and his legs sagged. The battle with Spite had taxed him greatly. "By the gods, I ache." He leaned on his axe and waited for the weakness to pass.

Deathspit was ever persistent. Polite, but persistent. He gnawed on Dolt's right boot, soaking the cured leather with acidic goo. "Ruff ruff. Orrrrooowwww ruff ruff." (Translation: "I am sorry to hear of your distress. You have my heartfelt condolences. Now, as I was saying, we must be off...")

Later, stalking through the shadows as her wounds magically healed, Spite sought easier victims...

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