The Snook

The modern day picturesque village of Snookington was known as the Snook. It used to be a charming little place set in beautiful countryside, but large swathes of forest had been cut down and housing estates now surrounded the original characterful cottages. An urban sprawl joined the village with surrounding towns in almost every direction. It was regarded as one of SmogCity’s leading urban villages. At one edge lay a token farm besieged by the metropolitan expanse. But the local powers-that-be intended to bulldoze the farm and replace it with more houses in order to stamp out any semblance of green.

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Two Schoolboys

The Gronks and Nobodys lived in Snookington Village right up to modern times with an enduring legacy. Each Gronk was riddled with resentment, while every Nobody had stubbornness running through their veins. The origin of this animosity had long since been forgotten in the mists of time. But one thing was sure. If a Gronk and a Nobody met, they never got along.

Guido Gronk was a tall, thin fifteen year old boy. Leaning against a wall, he looked at the gates of Snookington School on a dusky evening. He had just unwilling taken part in basketball practice. Smirking, he was proud his school the better of the two in the area. A group of boys wearing the blue blazer of Snookington School walked past and laughed. Guido’s face dropped. He was often the brunt of jokes about his first name. He preferred to be called Gronk, but some schoolboys Insisted on Guido. Or worse, Gweirdo. His peers thought Gronk was prickly and difficult, but he knew greatness was in store for him.

“Let them laugh,” he muttered. “When my genius is recognised, they’ll all want to be my friends.”

Gronk sighed and looked idly over the road. He saw Steve Nobody with scuffed shoes, a football and, inexplicably, wearing a blue blazer. How they let someone like him into Snookington School was beyond his comprehension. He hated anyone with the Nobody name. Steve was shorter than Gronk, about the same age, and shy. But he had a large group of friends, which irritated the hell out of Gronk. Beyond the confines of school, Steve spent time in the outdoors and played football with boys from the nearby Dundiston School. Most Snookington schoolboys looked down on Dundiston School and it had not gone unnoticed that Steve was fraternising with the enemy. Gronk looked at Steve Nobody as a soft touch, and intended to put him in his place.

The two boys knew each other only in passing, but were well aware of the long-running feud between their families. Stories passed through generations where a Gronk won an argument at one point or a Nobody got the upper hand at another. There had been a recent lull in the dispute, notwithstanding the underlying animosity. Guido Gronk was outraged when he heard anything positive about a Nobody. He figured they must be called Nobody for a reason; they were worthless losers. Whereas, he had been told the good name Gronk was synonymous with bravery and honour. He felt sure a Gronk was always right. About everything. Guido Gronk had a particular talent as a trouble-maker. And he was determined to continue the long-running enmity and break those no good Nobodys once and for all. Then dominance would enable his brilliance to shine.

Feud

Bolstered by money and contacts from Lord Snookington, Ned left the Snook and trained in the city courtrooms. Although clearly of a lower class, he was received well on account of stories emanating from the Battle of Snookford. Ned learned about laws, court procedures and etiquette. It was a slow process, during which he returned to the Snook at regular intervals to inform Lord Snookington of his progress. In time, Ned became a lawyer and, with a natural sense of fair play, settled back into the Snook and applied local custom with conscience.

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Opportunity

As Lord Snookington rested up, he walked through the Snook and watched the poor workers with heads down and rich folk parading around the High Street. He thought about the lack of opportunity for peasants, even though some had shown themselves to be capable of great things. He did not think the award given to Ned Nobody fully repaid the debt he owed. After all, without the actions of one peasant, he would not be here and the battle may have been lost. Harry wanted to change things. As Ned returned to work on a farm, Harry summoned him to the manor house once more. Ned stood in an enormous room overlooking the walled garden, wondering why he was there. Lord Snookington paced around and then stood in front of Ned.

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Homecoming

During the night, as he tried to sleep at the edge of a clearing, Ned looked at the silver and blue pendant he had received. He thought about the troubled past which led him to this moment. He sighed at the thought of killing Big Nose and Kroll in combat. Ned had avenged the death of his family, but it would not bring them back. At least the long-lived anger was beginning to lessen. He had the blood of many Malaxian soldiers on his hands and his demons were being laid to rest. Krea was his one regret. There was no going back to her in Malaxian territory. He reflected as the fire crackled, its flames dancing in the light breeze.

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Medals

The king’s army cheered in the valley. Swords waved. War dogs growled. Some coughed up blood.  Many were sick. Others put their head in hands and wondered how they were still alive. Gobba scrambled from his hiding place and joined the celebrations. He smeared blood on his face and tore some clothing so he looked the part. Ned walked back to where he had last seen Lord Snookington. He sat in a pool of blood. Ned grabbed his arm and patted the nobleman’s back. A tear ran down Harry’s face as he was led back to his knights. They took Lord Snookington away to be cleaned up.

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One Versus Two

Despite his valour, Lord Snookington’s leg was slashed and the nobleman fell to his knees. An enormous Malaxian warrior stood over him, about to deliver a fatal blow. The warrior looked up and saw Ned. A hint of recognition caused a split second delay. It was Big Nose. His face was creased with age beneath a darkened helmet. Ned focussed on the uniform as everything seemed to slow down. He leapt forward and kicked Big Nose in the chest. Spinning around, Ned cut him down.

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Battle

The order came for the King’s infantry to advance. Rough barks of war dogs pierced the morning air. Soon the battle raged in the valley. Swords clashed and it rained arrows. Ned cut Malaxians down with his sword, ever looking for their elite unit. The savagery struck fear into Gobba so he held back. At the forefront of the fighting, it was ferocious and blood flowed, but neither side yielded so knights on horseback entered the fray. Lord Snookington led his knights thundering downhill and stormed toward the Malaxians. The sound of battle was everywhere. Shouts. Screams. Grunts. Sobs. Thuds. A smell of death burnt nostrils. The former farm and mine workers from the Snook had never before witnessed such butchery.

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Ready

Ned and his fellow soldiers settled down in the camp. A light wind swept over the soldiers as Ned built a small fire using his flint and steel. The flames warmed him and he ate well. Afterwards, he cleaned the short sword and arranged his kit so he would be ready at short notice in the morning. He had a broken sleep, thinking about Kroll. It was time for revenge.

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Journey

All too soon, it was time to join the rest of the King’s army. Led by Lord Snookington on horseback in a full suit of armour, his knights followed on their horses. Villagers waved flags and cheered. Trumpets reverberated the air and church bells rang. A ragtag rabble of semi-trained peasant soldiers brought up the rear in leather and chainmail. Toward the foot of the High Street, they turned right to march North. Once beyond the village, Lord Snookington called a halt so the knights could take off their heavy armour and load it all onto horse-drawn carts. Feeling lighter and more comfortable, the noblemen mounted their horses and continued. Orders were shouted at the soldiers laden with bags and weapons to speed up.

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