But why recite the poems of the most-hated barbarian ever? His argument was simple: It was his cousin, and people should remember family.
Though fairly intelligent, common sense wasn't Horseless' long suit. Had it been, he would have realized that, in a modestly-sized barbarian tribe that's almost completely isolated from the bulk of humanity, everyone's a cousin to everyone else. Indeed, that's how he came by his title of barbarian prince: Before his unceremonious ejection into the wild brown yonder of the borderlands, he was 213th in line for the throne, just behind the other men, the women, all the children over four, and several well-liked pets.
Regardless of familial relations, Horseless marched off into the unknown, intent on finding something of mild interest and perhaps edibility before going back to his tribe and barbarically begging their forgiveness. He found many interesting things, but he lost his way while doing it. A fair trade-off, all things considered.
But he got lost again.
As the threat of being retconned loomed, he left for further adventures.
One night, Horseless was sleeping near a stand of trees. As he dreamt of of killing the barbarian king, this horrible something happened.
Guess what it was.
Bet you can't.
A hint? Okay, it's horrible.
A bit more? Okay, it's purple, red, darker purple, and has six heads.
Nope, it's not the bastard child of a hydra and a psychedelic zebra. Guess again. Believe me, it's horrible.
It... was... destiny!
Destiny in the shape of a pair of three-headed snakey men. Horrible snakey men. Hungry horrible snakey men! And hungry snakey men often chew first and ask questions later.
Horseless was saved from death - which would, for the record, be horrible - only by his cape. It hadn't been washed in approximately ten years. Not only was it so rigid that it was impervious to axe and mace blows, but it was also really unappetizing. Even a hungry snakey man can be choosier than that.
But the instant the snakeys realized that the barbarian was cleaner than his cape, a new savior appeared. A dark knight on a darker steed, he came barrelling through the trees and subsequently through the snakeys, who proved to be of less resistance and more squishiness than an old growth forest.
He then charged off into the night, never to be seen again.
Until he came back, anyway, without his horse.
"Mrrppphrphmmmm." The barbarian rolled over, which was an improvement at least.
"Mrrp? Kmmmrph-mrph, mrph mrph-mrph-mrph-mrph."
The barbarian sat up and looked around. "What?"
With took a moment to regain his composure. "Er, hello. I happened to be, er, passing through and I seem to have run over your travelling companions."
The barbarian looked around. "Who?"
It's going to be one of those Dark Ages, thought the knight. "The two purplish blurs I ran over!"
The barbarian looked around. "Where?"
Knight With started to spout a richly obscene tirade about poor situational awareness in the children of women who consort with sheep, but stopped short. With looked around. Where, indeed. The pale moonlight showed no sign of anyone else - whole or trampled - though there was a slowly-dissipating trace of ozone hanging in the air.
Ozone? Knight With thought back to his Forensic Monster Butchering class when he was training to be a demon slayer. When beasts from the Lower World teleport onto or out of the normal plane, there's a specific smell. Ozone was indicative of someone from the Air Realm gating in or out. Snakeys were the only purple creatures from that area. This evidence, combined with the pronounced lack of corpses, lead With to believe they had wisely gated out instants before getting crushed under hooves.
Knight With sized up the barbarian with a new outlook. Perhaps this fellow was on the bad side of someone from the Lower World. Certainly a monster magnet like that would be a perfect training ground for a monster hunter! As a bonus, he was also beefy enough that he'd probably soften up anything that came for him before With needed to jump in and vanquish it. But now With needed an excuse for the two of them to hang around together until the next assault. Lacking any better tack, he said, "I saved you!"
The barbarian looked at him. "From what?"
"From those two horrible snakeys who were going to rend you limb from limb! I gallantly fought them off!"
The barbarian's eyes narrowed. "I thought you said you ran them over."
Oh, great, a smart barbarian. "Well, yes. But that counts." Pressing on without waiting for a response, Knight With said, "Say, how'd you like to travel together for a while? I could always use a targ- er, travelling companion."
The barbarian blinked. "Sorry, I'm lost and looking for my homeland."
Thinking fast, With said, "Well, I'm not lost. Maybe it'll rub off onto you."
The barbarian considered this as he gathered his meager possessions (most consisting entirely of sharp edges and a handle) and donned his cape. "Okay, let's go."
"Excellent! Now we need to get my horse."
"Where is he?"
"At the local pub. That's why he was barrelling through the woods so fast to begin with. He's got something of a drinking problem. Oh, what's your name, anyway?"
"The Horseless Barbarian. But almost everyone I know calls me Horseless, since almost everyone I know is a barbarian, and it seems rather redundant to keep calling everyone around 'The Whatever Barbarian' when there's only barbarians around...."
"Er, sure. Well, it's appropriate. I wasn't going to let you ride my horse anyway."
Run along home.
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