Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thraug's Head

Not so long ago, a patron at one of the saloons or beer gardens on the southeast riverfront of the City barony of Shancks might have encountered the not-quite-deceased head of a monster, preserved in a jar. If they sat close to the distorted and slack-mouthed visage in the murky liquid, they might have heard its muffled, gurgling whispers.

The head of Thraug was a fixture along the narrow peninsula that bore his name, Thraug’s Neck. Popular superstition held that the head was good luck--certainly its original owner would have agreed it was better to have it than not. Unfortunately, for the eponymous merman (or merrow, some say), his luck ran out the day he quarrelled with Jarus Shanck, one-time assassin turned landowner.

Opinions differ as to what precipitated the violent encounter, but historians and folklore agree that Jarus Shanck never did require much excuse for murder. His preservation of his opponent's head in jar of alcohol is also viewed as in keeping with his macabre sense of whimsy.

Shanck gave the head to a henchman who made it the centerpiece of a tavern he opened. And so began Thraug’s vigil: watching unblinking through smoke-smudged glass as those around him pickled themselves from inside out. Some strange magic kept the merman’s head alive and he was said to speak prophecy--usually the ultimate fate of the person listening. He could be enticed to answer specific questions at times, though his answers were circumlocutious. Other times his utterances were merely pained observations on the fickleness of fate and the ephemeralness of this world, which listeners never failed to find insightful and moving.

More than one aged barkeep will tell you (with a nostalgic gleam in his eye) that a few words from ol’ Thraug were always good for another round.


The Angry Lurker said...

Not good to hold a conversation with unless you've had a few.

satyre said...

And you know that one night, someone will have passed out with their face pressed up against the glass so that they appear to be kissing Thraug.

Very nice indeed. :)

Sean Robson said...

As always, Trey, you pack a whole lot of atmosphere into just a few short paragraphs. This is another one of those ideas that I wish I'd thought of. Great stuff!

Chris C. said...

Very cool. And "circumlocutious" is a word to make any language teacher's day.

Chris Kutalik said...

Is it wrong that I would so want to go haunt that particular watering hole myself if it was around? Having a severed, pickled head wax philosophical on you is called putting your problems in real perspective.

Nice job with this one, Trey.

Sub Radar (Mike) said...

Seeing a disembodied head while drinking sounds like my average friday night.

The Happy Whisk said...

Very well-written, Trey. Excellent. Enjoyed it from start to finish. Two thumbs up.

Trey said...

@Angry Lurker - Indeed. Nor would one want to mistake it for the jar of pickled eggs (that is, if you like pickled eggs).

@satyre - Heh. Nice one.

@Sean -Thanks! Glad you liked it.

@Bard - That SAT vocabulary stuck with me I guess.

@CKutalik - Thanks. If the urge to drink in a bar with a talking severed head in a jar is wrong, who would want to be right?

@Mike - Rock on, man. Rock on.

@Whisk - Glad you liked it. :)

Needles said...

The head is actually the head of a priest of the fishmen gifted with eternal life to spy on the surface dwellers. Things haven't gone right though. Circumstances have not work in his masters favor. Now all he can do is sew the seeds of madness

Trey said...

Nice, wrinkle there Needles. Maybe Jarus Shanck was on the right track, after all?

Justin S. Davis said...

Late to the party on this one.

Adore it.

When are you going to put all of this stuff into a book, so I can send you phat loot?

Trey said...

Glad you liked it, justin.

I hope to make a progress report with good news regarding Weird Adventures later this week. Stay tuned. :)