"It be very chilly!" Martha said, stating the obvious once again.
"Shut up, bitch!" Lawrence shouted from the back of the carriage.
"Say one more obvious fact and I'll truncate your arms."
Martha wondered what truncate meant. She decided that she did not want to
"Calm yourselves." The wise man said. He was sitting to Martha's
left. He turned his head to look at Lawrence. "It will be a lengthy
and laborious journey, let's try and get along with each other, shall we?"
Lawrence frowned wickedly. "Don't push me, wise bastard!"
The wise man simply smiled and returned his gaze to the front. He yanked
at the reigns and slapped them downwards causing the baby grunk that was
pulling them to groan and lurch forwards. Although only six months old,
the grunk was already almost three metres in height and four tons in weight.
Its powerful legs enabled it to pull the small carriage with great ease
The carriage itself was about four metres in length and made of thick wooden
planks tied together by resin-toughened vines. Its arched cover was made
of leather stretched over an iron-wire frame. At each corner was a large
"We be farther from the village than I've ever been." Martha said.
She could see the snow-capped Mumph-Scuttle Mountains far ahead of them,
the early morning sun causing their peaks to glow a gentle shade of amber.
"We've been travelling for almost eight hours," the wise man said.
"We must have covered about fifty kilometres."
"Go faster!" Lawrence ordered.
"We mustn't wear out the grunk." The wise man said. "It may
look outlandishly strong but it needs care and attention."
"I'm in charge!" Lawrence shouted. "What I say happens!"
He aimed his gun and fired. A searing blast of red energy passed over the
grunk’s head and vaporised part of a tree at the road side. Sparks
and flames scattered all over. The grunk wailed with fright and began to
run. The carriage shuddered violently as it was hauled at high speed along
the uneven track.
The wise man attempted to slow the bolting animal down. "That was quite
a foolish thing to do." He said in a composed manner as he pulled back
on the reigns.
"I be scared!" Martha shouted, gripping onto the hand rails at
the side of the front seats. She could feel the vibrations of the carriage
passing through her folds of flab. "Maybe we die!"
"We'll be fine once I slow us down."
"Do not slow us down." Lawrence said, placing the gun in the nape
of the wise man's neck.
"We might shake apart if we don't!"
"I'll dismember you in a lingering fashion if we do!"
"Whatever you say." The wise man said dropping the reigns.
"What are you doing?" Lawrence asked.
"I need to sleep." The wise man said. He crawled to the back of
the shaking carriage and lay down under a tarpaulin.
"Get back up front!" Lawrence screamed.
"There's no point. The grunk will keep running until it dies of exhaustion."
Martha scrambled into the back. "I be tired too." She said.
"Insolence on a grand scale!" Lawrence bellowed. He aimed his
gun at Martha.
"Please, no!" She pleaded.
The wise man sat up quickly. "Kill her and I'll never tell you how
to use a Warph!"
Lawrence looked at him. There was an uneasy pause. It was obvious that the
evil cloaked man was thinking the situation over. "I order you both
to sleep." he said finally.
Martha relaxed and crawled over to the wise man. "May I sleep with
A look of disgust appeared on the wise man's face. It quickly vanished.
"Of course, my dear." He said. They both covered themselves up
with the tarpaulin.
Martha felt safe now that she was under cover with the wise man. There was
an eerie glow of dark green under the tarpaulin as light filtered through
"You be a nice man." She whispered to him.
The wise man wasn't listening. He fiddled inside his robe and pulled out
a small object. A single red light flashed on its surface.
"What be that?" Martha asked.
"Be fuckin' quiet!" He said. He thought for a moment. "I
mean, please be quiet."
The wise man seemed different. "Wise men shouldn't be rude!" She
"I'm not a wise man!" He said, continuing to fiddle with the object.
"What are you them?"
"I can't say. Now shut the fuck up! Lawrence may hear you."
The object bleeped twice. The wise man placed it back inside his robe.
"Tell me who you are or I be tellin' Lawrence of you!"
"That would not be advisable."
Martha stared at him, waiting for an answer.
"Okay." The wise man said finally. "All I can say is that
I am not of your world."
"You be a space man like Lawrence!"
"Yes, but he is evil beyond comprehension. I am here to protect you."
"What be that thing that you have in your robe?"
"It’s our way out of this mess."
"Never fuckin' mind. Don't say anything to Lawrence. He must continue
to believe that I am a wise man."
"I be wantin' him to leave." She said. "Once he be ridin'
a Warph off Mud-Paq I be happy."
"Warphs are not real, you fat fuckin' idiot!" the wise man said.
"But you said..."
"I read about them in one of your village's books. It's a fuckin' fable,
"But Lawrence thinks that..."
"He must continue to believe that they exist. Right?"
"Now, one thing that I didn't lie about was that I was fuckin' tired.
Let's sleep." The wise man put his head down and closed his eyes.
Martha was stunned by what she had just heard. What a strange turn her life
had taken. Was this excitement and danger a better way to live than the
insipid existence of a belch-berry cultivator? A difficult question to answer.
On that thought, she quickly joined the wise man in the land of slumber.
A spine chilling moan, a skin-rippling grinding of teeth and a deafening
crunch woke Martha.
She pushed back the tarpaulin and sat up sharply. It took a few seconds
for her eyes to become accustomed to the bright, midday sun. The temperature
was warm now, a beautiful spring day, and a radical change from the frigid
night air that had gnawed her to the bone.
The carriage had come to a complete stop within a deep ravine at the foot
of the Mumph-Scuttle Mountains. After many hours of high speed travel
along a twisting, rock-strewn road, the absence of rattling and rumbling
seemed almost overwhelming. A flock of strange, multi-coloured birds flew
high overhead, tweeting gently.
"That lumbering beast is dead!" Lawrence exclaimed.
Martha moved to the front of the carriage. "Poor thing." She
said. "It be only trying to help us."
"How can you feel sympathy for such a moronic piece of primeval dung?"
Lawrence asked. He pointed his gun at the deceased grunk and fired. A
red beam of potent energy slammed into the creature's hairy hide. The
hair was vaporised instantly in a cloud of black smoke. The skin, however,
"What?!" He screamed. He fired again. The same thing happened.
"Leave it be!" Martha said in a distraught manner.
Lawrence let off a few more shots. Although blackened, the grunk's hide
"You'll never cut through it." The wise man said, sitting up.
"It's a well known fact that a grunk's hide is impenetrable."
Lawrence tried a few more times then gave up. "Bastard beast of a
bastard mother beast!" He shouted.
The wise man looked around. "That grunk lasted longer than I expected."
he said. "We must have travelled almost another hundred kilometres."
"How far now?" Lawrence asked, pointing the gun at the wise
"We're actually about half way there." The wise man said. "But
the rest of the way is the most torturous. We will have to summon up the
incomprehensible subconscious entities that swirl and whirl within our
intangible intellects if we are to endure the vileness of the impending
Lawrence could not believe the nonsense he was hearing. "Subconscious
entities? Intangible intellects? Vileness?" He screamed. "Complete
shit upon shit!"
"I am wise and all-knowing." The wise man said. "You obviously
haven't realised that yet."
"And you obviously haven't realised the immensely thin thread that
your life is hanging on." Lawrence said viciously. "It may break
at any moment."
"I do realise that actually. That is why I make sure that I don't
provoke you into doing anything stupid."
"Nothing that I ever do is stupid!" Lawrence bellowed, punching
a hole into the carriage's cover. His voice reverberated through the ravine.
"Stop fightin'." Martha said. "We should be movin' on."
"Martha is right." The wise man said. He leapt off the back
of the carriage and grabbed a couple of small bags. "You should both
carry as much as you can."
Martha rolled off the carriage, dragging some baggage with her.
"You two will carry everything that we need." Lawrence said.
"I will carry nothing." He jumped down to the ground.
The wise man and Martha, fully loaded with bags and provisions, headed
off up the track.
Lawrence followed a few metres behind. "How long will it take us
"Well," the wise man replied, "at walking speed it will
probably take more than a week."
"A week is too long!" Lawrence shrieked insanely.
"If you hadn't run the grunk into the ground it would have only taken
us three days."
"Silence!" Lawrence bellowed. He fired his gun at one of the
ravine's cliff walls. An explosion sent several tons of rocks crashing
down onto the trees that lined the road.
"Very constructive." The wise man said, watching a cloud of
dust expand around the fallen boulders.
"You be harmin' my planet!" Martha said.
Lawrence seethed with fury. "Both of you will remain completely silent
from now on. One noise from either of you and I'll grill one of your appendages."
Martha wondered what appendages were. She decided that now was not the
time to ask.