Scar Gill risked a quick glance over his shoulder as he ran across the wasteland, desperate to reach the safety of Gold Thor’s perimeter and the warriors who protected it. He wished he hadn’t; the scabbed ones were gaining on him. So close he could almost taste their stench in the back of his throat. Pus flew from the weeping sores on their emaciated arms and legs as they gave chase, a whole flock of them stretched out as far as he could see.
Scar Gill had never seen so many of them this far north before. In the stories, handed down from generation to generation, the scabbed ones of Notty Ham were in league with The Snatcher and had plotted with her to bring down the Under Dwellers of Yarkshire during her war with the mighty warrior Scar Gill was named after. Legend told how even on her deathbed, The Snatcher vowed revenge on the people of Yarkshire from beyond the grave, and that her evil spirit lived on in the minds of others.
Had The Snatcher taken on a new form and driven the scabbed ones north to destroy Gold Thor? Was the mighty town of Barn Slay, birthplace of the Scar Gill of legend, next on her list of targets for extermination? Scar Gill had to get home so he could raise the warning, rouse the village’s warriors before it was too late. He ran on, the scabbed ones screeching in their pursuit.
Arms pumping, breath wheezing, the stitch in his side burning agony, Scar Gill looked to the horizon, where the first traces of Gold Thor’s fields were visible against the setting sun. An oasis in the barren landscape, spared from the great Gee Had, some say, by the spirit of the legendary Scar Gill himself, Yarkshire’s protector and The Great Num’s ambassador on earth.
Scar Gill cursed himself for roaming so far from the safety of Gold Thor’s boundaries. But it was every citizen of Yarkshire’s duty to kill the scabbed ones of Notty Ham on sight, in revenge for their traitorous ways during the great war between The Snatcher and the Scar Gill of legend. So when he saw one sneak into Gold Thor and make off with one of the newborn lambs under its arm, Scar Gill gave chase with his trusty axe. He knew it was too late to save the animal as he followed the clumps of bloody fleece ripped from its body while it was devoured, but he had to do what was right. He had to rid the world of the thing that had taken it and avenge his ancestors.
He just never expected to come face to face with a whole flock of them nesting among the rubble of the wasteland. He skidded to a halt and turned and fled, but it was too late. The scabbed army had already seen him. They screeched and moaned, blackened teeth gnashing and scabbed arms flailing pus as they gave chase.
Now Scar Gill ran, spurred on by the sight of home, the pain in his side dissipating with renewed hope. Almost there …
A gnarled hand clawed against his back. Its owner’s fetid breath rasped in his ear. Scar Gill cried out and spun with the axe. Its blade thudded into rancid flesh and something warm and wet splashed onto Scar Gill’s face and chest. The stench was unbelievable, the taste of it in his mouth even worse. He gagged and spat, and almost stumbled as he ran on.
A shout came from the village ahead. One of the watchers, it had to be. Thank The Great Num someone was still on duty. Help would be on its way soon, Scar Gill just had to survive until then. More shouts. Then the glint of axes in the fading sunlight. The outline of figures with spears running toward him.
“Over here!” Scar Gill yelled, waving the axe above his head.
The warriors shouted the ancient chant of The Great Num as they ran into battle against The Snatcher’s scabbed army, just like their ancestors had done in the times of yore.
“Coal not dole! Coal not dole! Coal not dole!”
“Coal not dole!” Scar Gill repeated, overcome with emotion. He didn’t know what those words meant, nobody did, but he knew they would strike fear into the hearts of the scabbed ones of Notty Ham and give power to the Yarkshire warriors when the two armies clashed.
A dozen warriors ran past him. Axes swung through scabbed flesh as they continued the chant. Spears were plunged into blackened, traitorous hearts and ripped free. Arms, legs and heads were hacked off and sent spinning through the air. The ground turned red with diseased blood. Scabbed bodies twitched where they lay.
“Coal not dole!”
Scar Gill joined in the fray, his axe eager to taste blood once more before it was all over. He raised it above his head and ran at a scabbed one, embedded it in the thing’s face. It squealed and flailed its arms as it fell to its knees. Scar Gill placed his foot on the thing’s chest and wrenched the axe free. He looked around for a fresh victim.
The scabbed army were retreating. They screeched and squealed as they ran back across the wasteland in the direction they had come from. Yarkshire warriors chased them and cut them down with their axes and spears as they fled. Scar Gill watched, his arms and face slick with the enemy’s gore. It was over too soon, he had hoped to claim a few more lives before the battle ended. One or two scabbed ones managed to get away, but most lay dead or dying among the rubble. The scabbed army were defeated once more.
Scar Gill swelled up with pride as he looked down at his bloody axe. He had proven himself worthy of the name bestowed upon him, and there would be a new tale for the village elder to tell the children in the morning. Perhaps one day, when Scar Gill became a man, he would lead a charge into Notty Ham and destroy the scabbed ones forever. Then he too would go down in legend, just like his namesake.
But for now, it was time to party. And to celebrate once more the death of the evil witch known as The Snatcher.