RONMAN THE BARBARIAN!
Know oh, Prince that between the times the oceans drank Boulder and the rise of the sons of Denver (Bob and John), there was an age undreamed of. An age where shining kingdoms lay scattered across the Earth like so many shining scattered things. Uppertonia with its golden splendor. Lowertonia and its grim savagery. The mighty Go City of legend, home of honorable and fractious warriors. Ancient and decadent Rhodigan. Above them all stood mighty Middletonia; with its purple-clad legions, central location and a really good school system.
Hither came Ronman the Barbarian, sword in hand. A warrior, a thief, a lover and a hero. A man of gigantic appetites and vendettas, to trip over the jeweled crowns of the Earth…did I forget to mention he was clumsy? Anyhoo, our story begins…
Prologue: The Prophet G
Over its many millennia of existence the land of Actuaria has never been conquered. Many say it is due to its soaring snow-capped mountains and deep forests. Others credit its mighty-thewed warriors. Some among the civilized lands scoff and say it is because its only treasures are steel and blood, both of which are readily purchased.
All of these are partially right; and all are wrong. The land of Actuaria is wild: a land of fogs and mists. A land of sudden avalanches along the slick mountain trails. A land where the cries of wild animals fill the night. It is a land which makes its people strong, fearless and exceedingly good at accessing risks. Do I take the high road or the low road? Would I make it to the Great Inn before the coming blizzard freezes me solid? Where is the weakness in the enemy's lines? The mighty arms and strong steel of Actuaria are rightly feared, but above all it is the calculating eyes of its people that give would-be conquerors pause.
Among the most feared of all the Actuarian leaders was the Chief of the Stoppable Clan, Dean. Of the Actuarians, he was the most calculating. The most muscle-bound warrior eagerly followed this short, stoop-shouldered man who had at the last gathering of the Tribes been awarded the title Actuarian of the Year. But at the moment his eyes were troubled. He called out to the source of his concern
"Ronman, come here my son."
"Coming, Dad!" A young man of blond hair and slight build came running through the woods. He moved with remarkable speed. His father smiled at his swiftness, a smile which faded when Ronman tripped on a fallen log. The boy rolled down the snow-covered hill. Finally he came to a stop before his father. When he rose he began to beat the snow off of his clothes and his leather breeches fell down around his ankles.
"Son," Dean began as Ronman pulled up his breeches. "The time has come. Your mother and I think we have a solution for your breeches problem."
"Really? That would be great!" The young man's face grew lined with concern. "It isn't a kilt, is it? I know Killigan the Blusterous wears one but…"
"Relax, son." Dean smiled. He surpassed a sigh as he looked upon his son's face. It was a fair and pleasant face with freckles and soft brown eyes. Eyes utterly lacking in calculation. How will he…no, it's time. "Come with me and you'll see."
Ronman followed his father to the forge where his mother made the finest weapons in all of Actuaria. She looked up from the anvil on which she was shaping a dagger blade. From time to time she placed it back into the fire. The flames were fanned by a great bellows. Ronman's baby sister Hana giggled with glee as she jumped up and down upon them.
"Ronman you're here." Barbara smiled, setting her work aside. "We've worked out a solution to your problem." She walked over to a chest. "It took a lot of doing. I worked with the village leather worker, Dan Tanner, and had Shaman Katz provide charms and spells. Hopefully this will do the trick." When she turned around she held what looked like a strap of leather, one side covered with symbols.
"What is that, Mom? And what is that metal contraption on the one end?"
"Dan Tanner called it a belt." She nodded at Ronman's blank expression. "Stupid name, I know, but it's mostly his work. This end is a buckle, you put the strap through it…"
Ronman adjusted the belt around his waist. "Hey, great idea, Mom!"
"Now, there are a few more things we want to give you." Dean drew away a pile of furs to produce a sword in its sheath. Ronman's barbarian blood sang in his ears as he drew forth the blade. He admired the sharp edges, the runes of maiming. The pommel was in the form of the tribal totem: the Fearless Ferret.
"Thanks, Mom, Dad!" Ronman swung the sword with a mighty laugh. He brought it across is body and started a return stroke. Barbara gasped as the blade flickered toward her. The anvil blocked her retreat. Only her husband's quick dive with a shield prevented her from being decapitated.
"Sorry, Mom, my bad."
"Son." His mother sighed. "You must be wondering why we are giving you your sword now."
"Is it my birthday?" Ronman's face brightened. "I thought that was next month."
His father joined in the conversation. "No, it's not that."
"It's a reward for good behavior? I've observed the laws of our clan and our great god Shrom."
"No," his mother answered, "it's…"
"To help me forget that I didn't make the clan axe throwing team? Hey, it's not my fault that only Ruthless is willing to be my shield catcher. The judges say the catchers have to be human, or at least man-sized. It's not fair!"
"NO! RON, YOU'RE GOING TO SEE THE WORLD!"
Ronman looked at his parents in confusion. "Now? In the dead of winter? Don't the young of the clan leave for the southern lands in the spring?"
"Yes, but the elders felt you've earned a head start." Dean replied.
"When did they decide that?"
Dean shrugged. "At the Fall Council."
"And why didn't you tell me?" Ron demanded.
"Son, this is our way of telling you." Barbara said gently. She uncovered another pile of furs. "I've made you this lovely shield, a pair of throwing axes, and a horned helmet. And here are furs and enough food to get you to the south. You can steal all you can eat there."
The pile of goods mollified Ronman somewhat. "But what about Ruthless?"
Dean put a comforting hand on his son's shoulder. "He's waiting for you at his cave. He thinks you two will make a killing since you're going south so early."
"Do you really think so?" Ronman looked into his father's eyes. "I mean, I know some people say I'm no barbarian. That I'm too soft, too even-tempered…"
Dean had an answer. "Son, the question is not if you're a barbarian, but what kind of barbarian are you? I've seen a lot of warriors and conquerors, but none of them have your potential for destruction."
"I'm sure of it." His father replied. "And if you don't believe me, just ask around the village."
"I don't have to." Came Ronman's reply. "I've heard them: they call me a disaster, a plague, even a buffoon! That's one of the vast storms in the south, right?"
"Uh, right." Barbara recovered. "Now, let's get you loaded up and on your way. There's plenty of daylight left."
"But, but the Festival is tomorrow." Ronman sputtered. "I've been practicing all winter."
"Time is of the essence." Dean hurriedly said as he put Ronman's backpack on his shoulders. "The sooner you set off, the better your chances of striking it rich."
They packed him up quickly. Soon he kissed his mother and sister goodbye and embraced his father. "Good-bye, Dad."
"Good-bye, son. Maybe I'll see you soon."
"But I'm seeking adventure in distant lands."
"Son, I'm a mercenary. I can work anywhere."
Ronman rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, I forgot. Bye, everybody!"
"Good-bye!" His family waved until he disappeared into the woods. Minutes later men from the village and tribal council emerged from the nearby hills.
"Is he gone?" A silver haired chief asked.
"Yes, Chief North." Barbara snapped. "Are you happy?"
"We are." He answered. "Please don't take it the wrong way. We all like Ronman; he's a fine boy who, if he survives, will make a fine barbarian. But, come on Dean, you know the odds! If he stayed and took part in the Fire Juggling Festival tomorrow, there's a ninety-eight percent chance he'd burn the whole village to the ground."
Dean's temper did not cool. "Perhaps it would be wiser if we gave up that idiotic festival."
"Don't say such a thing." Another elder hissed. "Great Shrom may hear and be angered."
Barbara glared at the man. Actuarian women bowed to no man. "Why? Shrom isn't a fire god. For all we know, a torch was what put his eye out."
"Look, we're all upset." A warrior said in a placating voice. "My son, Felix will be very put out over this. He planned to make Ronman his plunder buddy. Let's just try to put this all behind us and wish the son of Dean and Barbara luck."
"Indeed," intoned Chief North. "May your son prove as destructive to others as he has been to us."
Ronman ran quickly and quietly through the brooding woods. Soon he reached the slopes of Mt. Hissensteam. He picked his way past the hot pools to the cave where his former pet sought warmth from Actuaria's bitter winters.
"Ruthless, are you there, buddy?"
From deep within the cave came a bass voice. "Coming." A figure emerged from shrouds of steam. The small pink head rested on broad shoulders. Beady black eyes hinted of a mind every bit as powerful as the muscular body. While he was scarcely half the height of Ronman, no one in his right mind would mock a Naked Saber Tooth Mole Rat.
"Welcome, Ronman." Ruthless smiled with incisors which could serve as a weapon every bit as deadly as the two-handed sword on his back. "I was just packing some cookies for our journey south. Would you care for some?"
"Sure thing, dangerous dude!" The boy followed Ruthless into his cave. A backpack lay ready and waiting. A sack was still open, waiting for the cookies cooling on a rock.
"Just help yourself to the ones on the rock." Ruthless said cheerfully, his cuirass of metal hoops clanked as he scurried about. Ronman settled on a rock with a handful of cookies. He chewed happily.
"I thought you'd like them. There's nothing like a cookie to keep you warm. Well, there is something that rhymes with cookie, but your parents warned me about my language." Ruthless held up two furs. "Which do you think: mountain lion or snow leopard?"
"Definitely the snow leopard; its silver tones go so well with your blued armor."
"That's what I thought." Ronman's not-so-little-buddy cast aside the one fur and donned the other. The paws scooped up the remaining cookies and he was ready to go.
"Get up, Ronman, adventure, wealth and slaughter await!"
They left the cave and ran through the forest. Leagues passed beneath their swift feet. Erelong they reached a slope, its stones covered with runes. They marked the end of the tribe's lands.
"We must be careful, Ronman." Ruthless said.
"Why? The Seeing Clawers are no enemy of the Fearless Ferrets."
"That matters not." The NSTMR replied. "What you must guard is your dignity. You are now a warrior of the Fearless Ferret. You represent your tribe wherever you go. How you act affects how our fellows are treated by outsiders…"
Ronman listened closely to his friend. He paid so much attention that he did not see the patch of ice on the trail. His swift feet flew out from under him and he went over the side of the hill. The shield fell off of his shoulder and he landed on it. Down the slope he slid. The initial shock was replaced by elation as he flew past trees on his improvised sled.
"By Shrom, this is badical!"
He slowed as the ground leveled off. He could make out a dark form against the snow in the gathering dusk. It was a hide tent. The shield came to a halt before its opening.
Ronman watched as the flap opened and a figure emerged. The polar bear robe stood out in stark contrast to the tent's dark hides. It was a girl. A pale hand was at her throat just below her dainty chin. The rest of her face was just as beautiful, framed with cascading golden hair. Blue eyes sparkled as they recognized the boy.
"Ronman, what a pleasant surprise! We were on our way to your village for the Festival. You aren't staying for it?"
"Hi, Tara of the Clawers." Ronman stood up and brushed the snow off his clothes. "Hey, what do you know? The belt works!"
"Belt?" Tara inclined her head slightly, lips moist and parted. "That is what encircles your waist?"
"Yep. Mom and village leather worker made it for me. It keeps my breeches up."
The girl could not keep the anxiety out of her voice. "Forever?"
"No, that would be bad." Ronman undid the buckle. "You see, you just do this and yep…they fall down."
"Oh, Ronman, it's been too long." Tara laughed. "I'm glad we live on the borders of our tribes where we could get to know each other. My parents' tent is down the way…just out of ear shot. I am the advance watch for the clan."
He could see the tip of a bow peeking from beneath her robe. "Er, I am a friend, right?"
"Indeed." Tara's eyes gleamed. "And as a friend I offer you food and fire. Do you not wish to warm yourself by my fire?"
"I am kind of cold." Ronman looked over his shoulder. "Hey, Ruthless over here!"
"Ruthless?" The blond girl asked, her brows knitting.
The boy smiled. "You remember Ruthless, my old pet? He's accompanying me to the south. Hey, Ruthless buddy, it's Tara."
Ruthless made his way through the trees, having taken the more conventional route. An enormous backpack rested upon his brawny shoulders. Instead of a walking stick he used a harpoon.
"Greetings, Tara of the Seeing Clawers."
"Welcome, Ruthless friend of Ronman." A hint of resignation marred Tara's greeting.
Ronman did not notice her tone. "Hey, Ruthless, are we lucky! Tara's invited us to share her tent tonight."
Tara's eyes were a mixture of plea and threat as she looked at Ruthless. The NSTMR gave her a slight wink.
"Actually, Ronman, the sun has just set. I believe I'll put up our tent over that way." He pointed. "Then I think I'll go kill something."
"Suit yourself." The boy shrugged. "We'll be in here thinking about you."
"Oh, I doubt that." Ruthless muttered as he walked around the bend.
After setting his pack and fur cloak aside Ronman gazed at the tent interior. Tara's tent was as soft and light on the inside as it was dark and rough on the outside. Meat cooked on a small brazier in the center of the tent. Rich furs were piled upon the ground.
"Sit by the fire while I pour us some mead." Tara let go of her fur robe. She wore thigh high boots, a long sleeved blouse of blue trimmed with silver and a long matching loin cloth.
I didn't think it was that cold in here. Ronman thought when Tara turned to hand him a drinking horn.
"Drink." Tara touched her horn to his. "To friends and allies. May we always…complete each other."
"Yeah, what you said."
Next they tore into the meat with daggers and teeth. There was flat bread and dried apples as well. When they were sated, they cleaned their hands with the earth around the brazier, a tribute to Shrom.
"I'm so glad I found you, Ronman." Tara touched his arm. "I would have been so sad if you had left before I saw you. If that had happened I would not have been able to give you your gift."
"Thanks, Tara. It tanks that I won't be here for my birthday. My parents told me to steal something nice that day."
"It's not a birthday gift." Tara shifted as she sat beside him. "My brother told me that in the southern lands, when a warrior goes on quest or to war, that it customary for a girl to give him what they call a favor. It's an article of clothing to remember her by."
She extended her hand to him. "Here is your favor, Ronman."
"Badical!" the barbarian boy looked intently at the cloth in his hand. "Uh, Tara, won't you be cold without your loin cloth?"
"Not if you help keep me warm." She put a long leg across Ronman's chest and he fell back with her astride him. Her fierce kisses covered his face and neck as she undid his fur vest. It flew against the tent wall, followed by her blouse.
"Hey! Hey! HEY!" Ronman shouted, trying to sit up under the fair beauty.
"What's wrong?" she asked anxiously. "Don't you like me?"
"Yes, I like you. But this just isn't right." He tried to see beyond the bosom heaving in his face. "Dad says that the first time for a girl is special. It has to be done right. Not like this."
"Oh, I see." Tara said quietly. She laid a golden tress in either of Ronman's large hands. Closing her eyes, she made a half-hearted effort to pull away. All the while her hands feverishly undid his breeches and loin cloth.
"Please no, warrior! I am but a pure and timorous maiden. Be gentle!" She opened her eyes. "Was that right?"
They entwined on the furs, rolling about with wild abandon. Ere long Ronman was on top of the blond beauty, making his first conquest. Tara's eyes widened as his impassioned invasion began.
"M-Mother said you would pass by here tonight."
"Really? How did she know? Did she talk with my Mom?"
"No, silly." Tara closed her eyes. Sweat glistened on her nubile body. "Certain…women in my clan are seeeers." She gasped and opened her eyes. "A girl does not know if she has the gift until her, her first tiiiiime.
"And she cannot lie with just any boy. It has to be a special boy. He must be an outlander she has known her entire life. Someone she calls f-f-f-friend. And there are signs."
She reached down to her sides and put her hands upon his. "He must have large, strong hands." From there she grabbed his ears and pulled him down for a passionate kiss. "And prominent ears. Both indicate what is needed to unlock the Seat of Prophecy!"
"Seat of Prophet G? I never heard of it" Ronman grunted, rather pleased that he had been able to pay attention to anything she had said.
"Not G…" Tara raised her pelvis under her lover's. "It's…it's…"
And the key touched the lock.
The blond girl's face was alight with joy. "Yes! Yes! Oh Great Shrom YES!"
She opened her eyes to see the roof of the tent dissolve. In place of smoke stained furs shone a silver white light. Bathed in its glow were the spirits of her ancestresses. They called to her.
"Welcome, fellow Seer!"
"Behold! Past, Present, and Future! All are yours to know!"
"You've got a good one there, sweetie. Give your hips a little wiggle and bring it on home."
Tara turned glowing silver eyes to Ronman. Her voice was distant. "Many will fall before your sword. You will defeat the living and the dead. Men, women and beasts will fear you and love you! Your conquests will be legendary. You will draw fire…red fire to you! Darkness will also seek you out. Fire and Darkness! Which will you choose? Which will choose you?"
Her last words broke through to him, if vaguely. "Huh…wha…did…you say?"
"Nothing, dear." She whispered to him, wiggling her hips. His cry pierced the night.
A distance away Ruthless sat turning a hunk of his kill on a spit over a roaring fire. "I thought I made camp out of earshot."
Being young and new to coupling, Tara and Ronman went slowly, celebrating their passion only three more times. Spent at last, they fell asleep in each others strong arms. Shortly before dawn, Tara left the tent, wearing only her boots, robe, and a wide grin.
Sunlight spilled into the tent. Ronman stirred into wakefulness. He ate the smoked venison left by Tara, dressed and went out to face the new day.
"Greetings, Ronman." Ruthless stood outside.
"Oh, hey, Ruthless. Have you seen Tara?"
"No, but her trail leads toward her clan's encampment. It's on our way."
Ronman fell in with his friend. "You had a good night of hunting?"
"I was very successful. If last night was a sign; we will have fresh meat all the way to the civilized lands. I take it you passed the night pleasantly?"
"It was all right…who am I kidding? It was GREAT! I could have done that all night!"
"From the sounds of it you did." Ruthless muttered.
"Nothing. Now, her clan is camped just around the bend."
"THERE HE IS!"
Before Ronman or Ruthless could reach their hilts a cheer went up. The Seeing Clawers lined either side of the trail, standing before their tents. They waved at their passing neighbors. Some girls stared enviously at the favor about Ronman's neck.
Its giver waited with her family at the last tent. Ronman stopped before them. Tara's father took the boy's hands into his own, shaking them vigoursly.
"Thank you, boy! Welcome to the family!"
"It was my pleasure…I mean honor! It was my honor!" Ronman flinched, closing his eyes against the coming blow.
"You better believe it was both!" The giant chief laughed. He slapped Ronman on the back, driving him face-first into the snow with his good humor. "Let me help you up, son."
Tara's mother was next. "Thank you for helping our daughter. I knew you could."
"You're welcome. Mom and Dad always taught me to help any fellow Actuarian. The rest of the world…"
"Can go burn!" the older woman cackled. "I've always loved that joke."
After a swarm of brothers and sisters it was Tara's turn. She kicked up her heel as she kissed him. The little show that made caused several of the young men to curse the provision regarding Prophecy and outsiders.
"Wish I could stay, Tara, but there's a world out there for the taking."
"Don't worry." She smiled. "Just be back in two years, nine months, a week and two days."
"Uh, okay. Come on, Ruthless, it's off to glory!"
Ronman gave Tara another kiss and then turned back to the road. She waved until he was out of sight. Her mother came up beside her.
"I heard you, are you…"
Tara turned and grasped her mother's hands. "A girl! Blond hair, hazel eyes."
The older woman lifted her hands toward the heavens. "Shrom be praised!"
"I wonder what Tara meant by that last bit. There aren't any festivals at that date." Ronman shook his head as he and Ruthless trotted along. Their barbarian hardiness allowed them to carry on a conversation while setting a pace no civilized man could even dream of attaining, with or without speech.
"Well, I know her clan has a ritual where outlanders acknowledge their siring a woman's child. It takes place on the child's second birthday."
"But she said two years, nine months, a week and three days."
"Two days. You don't want to be late for this party: they'll come looking for you." Ruthless did a double take. "Wait a minute; Ronman, don't you know where babies come from?"
"Sure. You sack a city, pick an orphan out of the ashes and bring it home. That's how we got Hana."
"True." Ruthless sighed. "Fine. Forget it." He changed the topic. "We should make good time with this weather. With Shrom's grace we may reach the edge of the Seeing Clawers' lands today."
"And why are they called the Seeing Clawers? I mean, Tara told me about the Prophet G, but she never said anything about clawing. They use swords and axes just like we do."
"I have no idea." Ruthless lied. "Ronman, remind me to put some salve on your neck when we stop for lunch."
"Thanks, little dude. And could you put some on my shoulders also? This pack must be chafing me."
Kim Possible and related characters are the property of Walt Disney.
Shrom forgive me, but this cursed plot bunny just would not go away!