The Last Laugh of King Glotar
Glotar inspected the handful of dirt he held in his broad, thick hand. He let dust spread as he rubbed the dirt between his fingertips, sniffing it as the wind carried it away. Satisfied, he ate the remaining ball of dirt, chewed thoughtfully, and then swallowed. The enormous lump traveled down his throat. He rose from his crouch and hopped on to his horse. He inhaled deeply, then chuckled loud and deep with a rumble that shook his armor.
“What a glorious day to die!”
His attendants glanced nervously at each other. One cleared his throat, but said nothing.
“Pardon, sire?” Crade, his manservant and confidante in all matters of state, or anything for that matter, eventually asked.
Glotar grabbed him by the scruff of his cloak and drew him closer, suspending him between the two mounts. Glotar licked his finger and stuck it in Crade’s ear and rubbed it. Glotar then drew Crade’s ear to his mouth and hollered, “I said ‘What a glorious day to die!’”
He tossed Crade back into his saddle.
“Of course, sire, but why might that be?” Crade asked, rubbing his ear.
“Well, aren’t you a sorry sot, Crade? Can’t you see it? Can’t you taste it?”
“I’m afraid not, sire. I did not partake in the mud with my bread this morning.”
Glotar laughed, spittle and said mud flying from his mouth and hanging on his grizzled brown beard. “Of course not, Crade. Why would you? You have no sense for these things anyway. Look at the sky, my friend, and the beautiful white clouds. Gorgeous, plush, and enormous in their whiteness, like a great pair of tits. And the earth you can really feel it. It’s ready for blood. Ready to be tramped upon and ridden by the limbs of men and beast ready to die on the spear. It’s ready to drink their lifeblood as it ebbs out of cuts and missing limbs. Oh it makes me feel young and fresh again like when I would bathe with my sister and lick honey off of her—”
“Sire, they’ve come to parley,” Crade announced as three riders detached from the opposing army and rode halfway across the open battlefield the King had been ecstatically describing.
“Why it seems so! Come, Crade, let’s teach them some diplomacy!” He kicked his horse, Butterhooves, into motion.
Butterhooves, though he normally struggled to support the King’s impressive twenty stones, went off at a rapid gallop towards the three, who carried the raised standard of the House Martuvan, marble dragon on green. Crade and the rest of Glotar’s retinue were slow to start and could not catch Butterhooves before Crade saw Glotar draw Morning Glory, his flaming bastard sword.
Crade raised his hand and slowed the riders. “No point in running the horses to the ground.”
“Are you not worried for the King’s safety?”
“Whose safety should we be concerned about?” Glotar asked as he rode up, blood running down his chin as he tore meat off a long bone.
“Our safety, sire, not yours, of course.”
“Ah, I like a man who knows who they need to keep safe,” said Glotar as he chewed, spitting chunks of cloth as he encountered them.
Crade cleared his throat. “Sorry, Crade, did you want some?”
“I was but clearing my throat, sire, but thank you.”
“Really now, there’s still a bit left,” he said, gesturing with the bone.
The three horses grazed peacefully where Glotar had engaged the riders. Garret Thim, the attendant who had raised concern for Glotar’s safety, bent over his horse and relieved himself of his breakfast.
“Weak stomach? Here, have some meat. Freshly cooked. Morning Glory does a fine job of preserving the flavor.”
Another guard joined Thim in his retching.
“Yes, Crade? But speak up. I can’t ever hear you when you mumble like that.”
Crade cleared his throat. “What did the riders have to say?”
“Not much really. They jabbered something about surrender, and truce, or something of that sort, but I wasn’t listening.”
“And why was that, sire?”
“The man’s moustache infuriated me, and I was trying to figure out how to let him know politely that I wanted to remove it from my sight.”
“And you told him so?”
“I did. He seemed to take offense to that and he muttered something in his gutter tongue.”
“And that was when you struck him?”
“Well, my sword was already out, no point not to use it once aloft.”
One of the knights in the retinue choked.
“Of course, sire, as in all things, you know best.”
“Of course I know best, I’m King!”
Trumpets sounded from across the fields and Martuvan’s host appeared atop the crest of a hill and began to move. Crade and the King’s men now sat between the armies, each occupying an opposing hill. Glotar drank the air and bellowed out an earth-shaking note. His forces raised their voices in reply.
“Come, Crade. It’s a glorious day to die, for them. Charge!”
This time, Crade was ready and he charged alongside him. Dear Keira, he thought. I’m sorry for not coming home. And he let out a scream to mirror his King.
“That’s it, Crade! Again!”
Glotar howled over the wind, laughing. Crade screamed louder.
Crade opened his mouth, but before he could utter another word, a fly flew into his open mouth and he hacked on the galloping horse as Glotar laughed.
“Cat got your tongue did it?” he said before speeding away.
Crade recovered and hastened his steed to keep up with Butterhooves.
Glotar approached the front lines of pikemen on the right flank. They halted and lowered their spears to the ready. Glotar did not slow, charging straight into the ranks, cracking through shields and shafts. Butterhooves died instantly, impaled by half a dozen spears in the chest, but Glotar vaulted over the heads of the soldier, prancing on their pauldrons. As he stepped on heads and shoulders, he slashed necks and faces before landing in the midst of the stunned army, where he began to cut his way through the men with the intricate dance of Morning Glory against leather and steel.
Crade and the Kingsguard breached the bewildered front rank, jumping over Butterhooves’s corpse to join the fray. The trail of corpses gave no indication to the king’s position as the pikemen reorganized to meet the new threat. As Crade ducked blows and severed hamstrings, he spotted bleeding helmets erupting from further in the right flank.
“Kingsguard! See those heads? Get to the King!”
They pressed after him, cutting through the thicket of soldiers as Glotar raced on. When they broke through a thick clot of men, they came across a clearing of bodies and a circle of men inching away from the berserk, and always chuckling, Glotar. Amongst the twisted limbs and shattered shields, Glotar’s cape, thick and heavy with blood, was painting a macabre tribute to his craft on the churned earth.
“How good of you to join me, Crade. I’d almost thought you were giving me all the glory as a gift. Come, let’s find this lily-livered pansy who calls himself king and hides behind this miserable example of a right flank.”
Together, they began to eviscerate the right flank and enter the core of the army. Though better trained and armed, they fell before Glotar’s childlike fascination and enthusiasm. He laughed as he killed, though he never lingered to watch a man die. Crade’s job was to finish off the mangled men who grasped at life by sheer, bitter will.
“Come out, Martuvan! Face me like a man!”
A giant shouldered his way past the cowering soldiers. Crade swallowed. The man stood a head and half above Glotar and must have weighed twenty-five stones without the plate mail or the war hammer he wielded with one hand. Martuvan said nothing, but crouched down before charging forward like the bull he resembled, dragging his war hammer behind him to build force.
Glotar locked eyes with the beast-man, but stood stock still as the distance between them closed.
Martuvan slowed slightly and brought his hammer forward as Glotar pounced, toeing the head of the hammer with his left foot and kicking off Martuvan’s head with his right. It flew in a high arc and then disappeared amongst a fist of archers.
The Kingsguard discussed the distance, and Crade made his own calculations.
“Well, what’s your best estimate?” Glotar yelled.
“101 yards, sire,” Garret shrieked out.
Glotar frowned furiously. “Get me another one!”
He charged the troops.
The Kingsguard kept counting. “97, 102, 85, 63, 135.”
“Looks like we have ourselves a winner!” Glotar said with a deep laugh.
Glotar’s men, who had routed Martuvan’s vanguard and left flank by then, rounded up the remaining men as the sun ebbed, and Glotar continued to laugh.
Crade organized the troops to loot what they could and burn the bodies. They started the fire at dusk. Crade was lighting it when he heard the cries from a group of men surrounding Glotar.
The air was quiet. There was no laughter to be heard.
They cleared as he approached.
Glotar was flat on his back, his arms spread to his sides, and a grin as only Glotar could produce split his face in two. Crade examined him, and finding nothing remarkable, closed his king’s eyes.
A soldier cried out from the crowd, “Is he dead?”
“Yes, and he died laughing.”
The men cheered before removing their helmets and caps. They fell to silence.
“His sister will not take this well, I fear,” one of the guards remarked.
Crade faced the man. “No, my wife won’t. Find me a horse and fashion a litter from Martuvan’s armor. He will come as he his, borne on the shields of the men he slew, in all his glory.”
The men saluted and prepared the king to lie in state for the journey home.
Crade looked to the west as the last vestiges of the sun twinkled away. “All for a little bit of land, Glotar. Just a little bit that you didn’t really need, but decided after breakfast that you wanted.”
About the Author
Nicolas Kostelecky began his writing career early with the musing poems of every twelve year old. Having been told his work was dark and he had no sense of rhyme or meter, he put it aside and moved on to biological sciences instead. He picked it up again, completely by accident, in college with a writing workshop. Remembering his lessons from his youth regarding his dark overtones, he decided to go off his usual train and "The Last Laugh of King Glotar" was born.