Akbash and the Golden Empire

by Leo David Orionis


  1.  The Coming of Akbash!
  2.  Troll Cuisine and Culture
  3.  Leaving Home
  4.  Oops!
  5.  Bear!
  6.  Tree!
  7.  Ducks!
  8.  Yep. Örks.
  9.  Loot
10.  The Conference
11.  Wolves!
12.  The Ambush

About Akbash!

Chapter 1:
The Coming of Akbash!

In the year 753 of the Golden Empire, six fafut wandered south out of the Örkasti, the stony Black Mountains far to the north of the Golden City. The leader of this band was named Akbash.

The great 16th-century loremaster, Mallorios, who produced the first compendium of the Akbash legends, The Death of Akbash, presents this as a pivotal moment when the noble barbarian is inspired by a glimpse of the outside world to go forth and seek his fate, accompanied by his loyal companions.

Scene: a southward-facing ledge, at the southern edge of the Black Mountains. Onto this stage steps the Barbarian Favored by Fortune, great Akbash himself, peering intently. He is tall, with mighty thews; his arms are as big around as an ordinary man's legs, and his legs are like tree trunks. He is clad only in furs, for his people don't know how to make cloth, and he bears an axe chipped from obsidian (for which the Black Mountains are named), with a shaft of ironwood. His gleaming black hair is hacked off roughly whenever it gets into his face, but falls to his shoulders at the back. His eyes are black, with keen vision.

His five companions step out beside him, until they fill the ledge. They are also magnificent barbarians, nearly as mighty as he. South of them, the great forest stretches on and on, with an occasional glimpse of rivers that combine and recombine on their way, until they become Father Ebur, that flows under the many bridges of the Golden City, pouring into the Ocean at the Harbor of the Emperors.

The sun is setting. Something reflects the light to the eyes of the watching barbarians, making them squint and look away. Akbash alone does not look away, though he holds his axe up to block the worst of the glare. One of his companions asks him, "What is it, Akbash? What do you see?"

"My destiny!" Akbash declares in ringing tones.

Mallorios, as any historian will tell you, was a hack. He made a fortune in the dried-fish industry, and dreamed of making another by entertaining the public with plays of Great Historical Significance. He, of course, would write the plays, directing his hired actors in the Theater he owned, on the very site of the Temple where Akbash had lived in his early days in the Golden City. Mallorios always described Akbash and his companions as human beings, albeit ones of supernatural strength and virility. The Death of Akbash is full of peasant women, temple dancers, noble ladies, female pirate captains, and other such persons who float in and out of Akbash's life. Indeed, there's a truly forgettable, and completely unhistorical set of plays featuring Karatepe, Son of Akbash by one of these liaisons, in his own adventures.

Any dubious literary merit aside, it must be remembered that Mallorios lived eight hundred years after the events in his plays, and a good thousand years after the wars between the humans and the non-humans, which wiped out most of the latter and drove the survivors either into the Örkasti, or across the Ocean. When Mallorios wrote the Death of Akbash, "orcs" or "trolls" were considered mythical. No human of the Golden City had seen one in at least four hundred years.

What human beings variously called "trolls", "orcs", "goblins", etc. called themselves fafut in their own language, singular faf. A typical faf of the Örkasti, in Akbash's day, was a short humanoid, between 4 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 6 inches tall, with grey or white skin; literally white, like something found in a cave or under a rock. Typically they were almost as wide as they were tall.

Fafut had undershot jaws with protruding tusks in the lower jaw, one in each corner of the mouth. They had big noses, and their beady black eyes peered out from under big shelflike brows. Their hair was lank and coarse, and was worn hacked off in something resembling a bowl cut. In color it ranged from matte black to a lustreless grey to a flat white. It was usually unwashed, greasy, and smelled bad.

Fafut had big, pointed ears that started level with their mouths and stood up half a head's height above the top of the skull, usually. They could move these independently, in ways eloquent of pride, joy, smugness, skepticism, etc. However, when a faf was unhappy, angry, or feeling put-upon, he would fold the tops of his ears down. A human being needed to recognize this as a danger signal, like a cat lashing her tail, only more so. After all, a cat won't rip off your leg and beat you to death with it!

Replacing the noble human barbarians in our minds' eyes with the actual appearance of the Örkasti "trolls", we could rewrite Mallorios' introductory scene as follows:

Strip 1, a single full-width splash panel. Our "heroes" are seen from a little above, a little behind them, and a little to their right. Behind them is the path leading deeper into the mountains; we can see the cliffs on either side of it. The fafut stand near the edge of a sheer dropoff, Akbash a little in front of the other five. Far below, a mighty river shows as a gleaming silver thread that weaves in and out of endless forests. At the limit of sight is a blinding gleam: the sun reflecting from the sea.
Örkaf: "What that, Akbash?"
Akbash: "It shiny!"

Chapter 2:
Troll cuisine and culture

Akbash and his crew had come to the southern part of the Örkasti chasing a bear late that afternoon. As soon as they saw it, they took out after it, howling. If they'd caught it, maybe they would've stayed there for a week, eating every last little bit of it except the fur; the fur they'd have made into new clothing. Then they might've ambled back the way they came, and never disturbed the history of the Golden Empire

As it was, this particular bear had seen what a troll could do to a bear. At the sight of six of them, it turned tail and ran for its very life. A bear is faster than a man, let alone a troll; it got away. Akbash and his gang kept on chasing it for as long as they could see it, or hear it crashing along. But their only chance of catching it would've been to ambush it before it knew they were there, or slow it down or break its legs with the rocks they threw.

So when the sun went down, they had nothing to eat but rocks. The Black Mountains are a barren place, and the trolls who lived there dined on rocks much too often, for lack of tastier food. Rocks filled their bellies, but didn't give them much nourishment. Grumbling, they threw themselves down on the ground and went to sleep. Akbash dreamed of the shiny thing he'd seen; perhaps the others dreamed of eating a nice, fat bear.

The fafut of the Örkasti were very, very strong, and ridiculously tough and hard to kill. They hadn't been so strong two hundred years before, but an all-too-frequent diet of rocks will do that to you. However, they'd never been very fast runners, with their short, stumpy legs, and they were probably even slower in Akbash's time, with all that rock in them. Nor did they jump very well. They were all right at climbing things, because they could make handholds with their hard, strong fingers in all but the hardest kinds of rock; and, obviously, they had no fear of falling. Like chimpanzees, they have weak grip strength compared to dafut—human beings, "Skinny People" in the faf language.

Trolls weighed way too much for their height, even before they began to learn the flavors and texture of rocks as a matter of cuisine. Like some breeds of dogs and cats, they had solid, dense muscle, and lots of it. Because of this weight they didn't ride horses, even when they could get their hands on one. Even if they found horses that could support their weight, they'd rather eat a horse than ride one!

Fafut are no more stupid, on average, than any other race, but they are very ignorant. Their technology is nearly non-existent: chipping stone to put an edge on it, and binding the stone to a branch with wet rawhide, so that the hide shrinks and hardens and holds the stone firmly, is for them high technology. They haven't perfected the art of curing leather, so their clothing rots and eventually falls to pieces. Forget about baskets, nets, cloth, and ropes; they don't have those arts.

Troll culture consists of drinking songs, songs about stealing cattle from dafut, songs about fighting, practical jokes, bad puns, crap jokes, fart jokes, making noises with their armpits, and pissing on their buddies when the buddies are passed out drunk.

But, just as chewed-up berries, mixed with saliva, and spit into a bowl, will ferment if yeast drifts into it, producing an alcoholic drink; so would one of the faf in that sleeping gang go on to change the Golden Empire forever.

Chapter 3:
Leaving Home

The next morning the gang got up, relieved themselves, and headed out. Akbash wanted to go see the shiny thing, and the others saw no reason not to keep following him. It was the habit of years, after all.

Trolls usually move in a kind of aimless, almost Brownian motion, wandering all over the territory they're used to, snatching up anything edible, occasionally turning over a likely-looking rock to see if there are any grubs underneath. If there aren't, the rock itself might fill their bellies for a while.

Not this morning, however. Akbash had gotten an idea in his head. Finding itself alone in that great, cavernous space, the idea took the controls, and steered the whole gang south by the most direct paths it could find. By noon, they were out of the Black Mountains, in the hills below them.

Akbash steps out into the wider world first. He's the strongest of the group, and the most bossy, so the others find it easier to go along with him than argue with him. Besides, he isn't a troll that likes to beat his followers half to death for the fun of it, as some do, nor does he fly into rages and start killing people. He's not the sharpest blade ever knapped (his names means—

"Great Leader!" he snaps, looking right at Yours Truly. "In daf speech, Akbash is 'Great Leader'!"

Really? I thought that "Akbash" meant—

"Great Leader!" he insists, showing all his sharp, pointed teeth, and curling his lips back from the tusks in his lower jaw in a menacing snarl.

Very well, Akbash, whatever you say. It's your name, after all. Satisfied, he grins and walks on. (Whew!)

Akbash isn't the tallest of the group, nor the widest, at 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, but he's definitely the strongest one, the one with the hardest skin, and the most difficult to injure. His skin is medium grey in color, his eyes are dark brown, and he has straight coarse black hair hanging almost to his eyebrows in front. He weighs 300 pounds, and none of it is fat; between their primitive technology and remote mountainous habitat, few if any fafut ever get plump, let alone fat.

Like any troll, Akbash is dressed in badly-cured animal skins; fafut don't really know how to make leather, they just scrape all the fat off the inside of the skin, soak it in piss for a day or so, and then wear the results until it rots away. Add this to the fact that fafut haven't discovered bathing, and you have the essential ingredients of the definitive eau d'Örkasti. Akbash wears the skin of a really large wolf, tied together at one edge by cut strips threaded through holes punched through the hide. It covers him from the base of his neck to his knees. The tail of the wolf skin was hacked off the first time someone yanked on it; the head was discarded because other trolls laughed at him when he tried to wear it as a hat, because it looked so akb—, er, stupid.

Akbash's pride and joy, besides his really tall, pointed ears, is his axe. This is a typical faf weapon, although most trolls don't bother with weapons, they just use their hands, or pick up a handy rock. The head of the axe is made of the hardest stone they can find, roughed out by percussion flaking and then given an edge with pressure flaking. It's a stone tool that clearly shows that faf technology is about to make the change from the Old Stone Age to the New. (Whether hand axes will be replaced by smaller, finer blades used as spear heads and arrow heads before humans wipe out the trolls is questionable. If the fafut weren't so ludicrously hard to kill, they'd be mythical already.)

Akbash's weapon would be called a hand axe if found by a modern archaeologist, but it's attached to a handle. This is simply a branch, or sapling, of the hardest wood that grows in the Black Mountains, roughly trimmed at the lower end, and stripped of bark. Leaving the bark on would give a better grip, but bark can come off when the weapon is being used. This can be fatal. Fafut can learn a lesson, if it's lethal enough. The axe head is attached to the handle with rawhide, tied when wet so it shrinks and turns hard when it dries. How long this will hold depends on how well this batch was cured. When Akbash holds the axe handle near the bottom end, the head of the axe rests on his shoulder. The head of the axe is only a little smaller than his own head; it's a large, heavy weapon.

Behind Akbash is Dafang, a tall, skinny fellow (for a troll), with pale grey skin, whose name means "Skinny". Next comes Örkaf, or "Blackie", who has shiny black skin, like obsidian. Then Gamlang "Grouchy", who has corpse-white skin and a bad temper; Wollfat ("Sneaky"), who has skin colored in different shades of grey almost like a camoflage pattern, and is very light on his feet; and Shukash ("Fatty"), a dark grey glutton who puts his stomach first. He actually has a tiny bit of a pot belly, almost unknown amongst fafut. Here's a table to sum them up:

Name Meaning Height Width Skin
Akbash "Great Leader" 5' 0" 4' 0" Medium grey
Dafang Skinny 5' 6" 3' 0" Light grey
Örkaf Blackie 5' 2" 3' 10" Obsidian black
Gamlang Grouchy 5' 2" 3' 6" Grub white
Wollfat Sneaky 5' 3" 3' 8" Various shades of grey
Shukash Fatty 5' 1" 3' 4" Dark grey

Chapter 4:

Akbash stands in the middle of the trail. Both his arms are raised, with his great axe in his right hand. He shouts, "Look out, world! Akbash comes!"

As Akbash continues to declaim, Dafang comes down the trail behind him and steps around him to their left. Dafang is used to Akbash's boasting and not paying attention to bombast he's probably heard hundreds of times before.

"Akbash bold! Akbash fierce!" says Akbash, boldly and fiercely.

"Akbash strongest one of all!" Akbash flings his arms wide as he says this. His left hand, balled in a fist, catches Dafang right in the side of the head. The shorter, skinnier faf goes flying off the trail into the underbrush, fetching up against a tree with a loud CRASH!

Akbash is in the same position as before, except his head is now turned to his left, and he looks chagrined. "Oops!" he says.

Dafang calls back, "Akbash clumsiest one of all!"

Chapter 5:

Wandering down the trail, the trolls come upon a bear in front of a bush full of ripe berries, which he isn't about to share with a band of mangy human beings, or whatever the heck these things are. He's twice as tall as as any of them when he rears up on his hind legs, as he does now when they don't run away. He weighs twice what any of them do, too, and he has lots of long, sharp teeth and long, deadly claws.

"GRROWWLL!" said the bear

Dafang says, "Look, Akbash! A bear!" (Trolls are Masters of the Obvious.)

Shukash and Gamlang walk up, and stop just out of reach of the bear's claws, and look up at him with scared faces, cringing postures, and their ears laid low.

Shukash says, "Bear big!" "Bear mean!" Gamlang agrees. The Bear is growling and showing its teeth. A string of slaver drips from one corner of its mouth.

Then the fafut stop pretending to be afraid. They stand up straight, put their ears up, and grin great big you-have-no-idea-how-much-trouble-you're-in grins at the poor dumb animal. The bear's expression changes to "Uhh?" or "Did I err?" or even "Why are they smiling like that?"

A couple of hours later, all the trolls are lying on their backs with round bellies stuffed with bear. Full bellies are rare occasions for fafut, so they've gorged themselves almost to bursting.

Akbash makes a pronouncement on having enough to eat: "BEELLLCCHHH!"

Gamlang, for once not feeling the least bit grouchy, agrees. "Bear good!"

Shukash, who can always find a spare corner for a bit more food, is sitting next to the berry bush, having dessert. "Berries tasty, too!" he says.

Chapter 6:

What goes in, must come out. The morning after eating up a whole bear, the gang rises late and disperses to relieve themselves. Akbash does so, then returns to the trail they've been following. He passes Gamlang, heading off the trail on the same errand. Down the trail from camp comes Wollfat, looking for his own spot to take a dump.

As Akbash and Wollfat are about to pass each other, Gamlang bellows "AAAAARRRGGGGGHHHHHH!", startling both of them.

Akbash recovers first. He grins, and confides to Wollfat, "Akbash 'drop log'."

Gamlang hears him (those big ears have excellent hearing!) and shouts, "Akbash drop TREE!"

Chapter 7:

Gradually the wind-stunted trees and the thorny scrub of the highlands began to yield to real forest as our "heroes" continue south, following the river. A few days later, Wollfat (the sneaky one) and Dafang (the skinny one) are peering out of a bush at two fat, juicy ducks sitting on the river. Wollfat says, "Ready… Get set…"

"Go!" shouts Wollfat. They come crashing out of the bush as fast as they can go. Dafang goes splashing right into the stream with his hands out. The ducks take off. Wollfat leaps, trying to catch a duck in flight.

We see the surface of the river. The ducks are gone. All that shows of Dafang is his hands sticking up out of the water. Wollfat went into river head first, and all that shows is his lower legs and feet, sticking up out of the flowing current. Both trolls think, "Ducks FAST!"

The next day, we see two ducks sitting peacefully on the surface of the river.

PLUNK! One duck disappears straight down into the water, which comes together behind him and splashes into the air. A few feathers begin to float away. The other duck reacts, but before he can do more than jerk in surprise, and throw up his wings…

PLUNK! He disappears the same way!

After the trolls have walked around the bottom of the river for a few hours, grabbing ducks and fish, they have a feast. Now you might not consider raw duck and raw fish a feast, but these are fafut; the only time they have fire is when a forest fire happens, maybe from lightning striking.

So, once again, the gang lies around with full bellies. Akbash says, "BBBBBEELLLLLLLCCCCCCHHHHHH!" Örkaf says, contentedly, "Ducks good!" "Fish tasty, too!" Shukash says brightly.

Chapter 8:
Yep. Örks.

Enter an Outrider, an officer not of the Golden Empire's regular military, but one of their mobile cavalry forces. The Outriders roam around the Empire's borders, looking for threats that have crept in from the outside, and rousing the regular army at need. This one is part of a contingent stationed near the Black Mountains, the Örkasti, to keep an eye on the trolls that live there.

Tall and nobly born, with a patrician beak and a haughty expression, the outrider wears a suit of fine mail over a padded tunic, a steel cap with a nasal over a padded coif, a tabard embroidered with the badge of the Empire and his unit over his mail, and the best sword the Empire can make, which is very good, indeed. He reins in his horse, and alights from his saddle in one smooth, athletic motion.

Something goes SQUISH! under his boot.

"Well, noble steed," he says, "either the pigs are breeding in great numbers this year, or…"

A foul stench wells up from under his boot. He grimaces in disgust. So does his horse.

"Yep. Örks," he coughs. The horse snorts in agreement.

The outrider wipes his boot, and goes looking for a vantage point from which he can spot the crafty örks. They can't hide from his keen eyesight and his trained powers of observation. We next see him leaning on a grey rock with his left hand, staring into the distance and shading his eyes with his right. He thinks, "I know there are örks around here somewhere!"

Zooming out, we see that the outrider is actually resting his left hand on Akbash, whom he's mistaken for a big grey boulder. Akbash's ears are flattened out in disgust, and he's looking very disgruntled. The outrider is thinking, "But where can they be?" Akbash is thinking, "Akbash hates stupid dafut."

"Get off Akbash, daf," Akbash growls.

"Yikes!" the outrider yelps, when the rock he's leaning up growls at him! Then he realizes that the rock-hard, grey thing isn't a boulder, but an örk! He leaps back in horror, and draws his sword, a fine named blade crafted in the Golden City's famous Armory.

A flurry of swings and stabs in excellent form ensue, showing the outrider to be a true credit to his instructors in swordsmanship. They don't bother Akbash a bit, but they cut up his wolf hide some.

"Take that!" says the outrider. "And that! And some of that, too!"

Akbash is getting really steamed, now. "Stop cutting Akbash's best shirt, daf."

The outrider senses weakness. The creature hasn't dared to raise a hand to him! He raises his sword overhead and swings it straight down, aiming to cut the vile creature in two. "HI-YEEE!" he screams.

Akbash catches the sword in his open left hand. His hand isn't hurt a bit, but his patience, and his politeness, are all used up. "Akbash said STOP, stupid daf."

Akbash is still holding the outrider's sword in his left hand, with a disgusted look on his face. His ears are still down; he's too annoyed to be having fun.

The outrider has one foot on Akbash's shoulder, and is pulling with all his might, trying to get his sword back from Akbash's grasp. "Ungh!" he says. "Arghh! UUUNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!"

Akbash thinks, "Stupid, stupid daf."

With no change of expression, Akbash grabs the outrider by the throat, cutting off his air. The man goes purple, his eyes and cheeks bulging. He makes an "URRKKKK!" noise with what breath he has left.

Akbash assumes his throwing position, the first time we see it (but not the last): standing on his left foot, right foot in the air, his left hand in the air for balance, his right behind him, holding the purple outrider by the throat. He lets the magnificent sword fall to the ground, where it lands point first and sticking up.

With a grunt, Akbash brings his right arm forward, as hard and as fast as he can, and flings the annoyance away. The outrider is high in the air before he recovers enough breath to begin screaming, so the first noise we hear from him is the sound of the tree branches he breaks on the way up: SMASH! WHAM! CRASH! BLAM! Then he's clear of the trees nearby, and we hear his scream of horror, fading into the distance.


Then the hapless wight descends into the trees far, far away, with sounds like CRRRASH! SNAP! WHAMMO! "SQUAAAAWWWWWWKKK!" and "MMMOOOOOOO!"

As Akbash watches all of this, Wollfat wanders up, drawn by the commotion. "Good distance, Akbash!" he says.

Akbash says, "Cow worth three points," with just a hint of smugness.

Chapter 9:

Soon the whole gang is standing around the noble sword, standing upright where Akbash let it fall. It's a whole kind of beauty they've never seen before, with its long, sharp-edged blade of polished steel; its elaborate cross guard; its hilt, wrapped in gold wire and set with jewels; and its pommel, emblazoned with the outrider's arms in cloisonné enamel. All but Akbash go "Oooooooo!" Akbash says, "Bah!"

Örkaf: "Akbash not want shiny sword?"

"Daf sword…" Akbash says, plucking the noble blade from the ground.

"Daf steel." He takes the sword blade in his two big hands and crumbles it up into sharp shiny pieces, taking no cuts as he does so, nor getting any splinters.

"Sword no good," Akbash says. He rubs his stony hands together, and toothpicks and splinters of finest Armory steel pile up at his feet. He pulls the sword furniture apart, and drops the cross piece, hilt, and pommel onto the rest. His gang goes "Awwwww" in disappointment, except for Gamlang, who says, in a heartbroken voice, "No loot?"

"Akbash didn't say that," the boss troll tells him, grinning widely. He looks at the fine horse, with its horse armor, barding, saddle, etc., etc. The others look, too, and also begin to grin. The horse, on the other hand, looks terrified.

A couple of hours later, the stallion has been reduced to the skull, a couple of the hooves, and a bunch of big bones. The trolls are lying on their backs with bellies full of horse parts.

Akbash makes a speech to the others: "BEELLLCCHHH!"

Dafang seconds the motion. "Horse good!"

Shukash says, with the air of a connoisseur: "Saddle tasty, too!"

To be continued!

About Akbash!

On April 14, 2015, while teaching English in Turkey, I sent the following email message to my sister and one of my brothers:

This will crack you up…. or at least it seems to crack everyone ELSE up, so you might as well join the club!

The other day I wanted the address here, so I could have Suzanne send me the DVDs of all the "Forever" episodes so far. So I asked Liam, the head teacher, who's the first-line boss and general go-to guy around here. He got me the business card of one of the staff, and told me where each line of the address should begin and end. So then I sent it to Suzanne.

Next, I broke out laughing, because the last name of the staff person is Akbash. Now, I'm sure this is a perfectly ordinary Turkish name… but somehow, it sounded like a perfect name for the king of the Orcs, as in:

"Akbash hungers! Bring Akbash food, miserable slaves!"
"Akbash cold! Akbash make fire now!"
"Puny human soldiers try to stab Akbash! Akbash laughs at puny swords!"

Anyway, I said a few things like that, and Liam said, "What are you ON about?" So I explained why I was saying these things with broken syntax and a gravelly voice, and he decided, "You're mental."

Stephen and I have been talking about doing a web comic for a while, and I think Akbash would be a BIG HIT! He's a cross between the old green Hulk's attitude, and Cerebus' attitude, and he moves in a medievaloid fantasy world, and like a 600-pound gorilla (or Cerebus) he does whatever he wants and the people around him have to pick up the pieces. It'll be a RIOT!

I even had a dream about Akbash, a couple of nights later. In the dream, he came down from the mountains where his people live, with 5 or 6 companions, and started wandering towards the sea. Along the way, his companions disappear one by one, so in the end Akbash enters the city all by himself. There he sees the temple of the local gods and decides it's a nice house, so now it's his. The temple soldiers object, so he throws them out. Then he tells the temple slaves (women and children) that they're HIS slaves now.

In the long run, the temple slaves are going to decide and/or discover that they live better under Akbash than they did as temple slaves, and they're going to help him resist attempts by the temple soldiers, and then the city soldiers, and then the King's soldiers, etc., etc. to remove Akbash or kill him. In the VERY long run, that whole society is going to be turned upside down…

Akbash is already very popular here at English Time. Liam and Sofian (my room mate) are already quoting Akbash and egging me on to do my "Akbash voice" for anyone who hasn't heard it before. Today Liam was complaining that his teeth hurt from laughing, but he kept urging me to do Akbash, anyway. I told him, "Even if I left here TOMORROW, I've made a contribution to this place!" He said, "That's true. I'll never forget Akbash."

Anyway, beware! Beware the coming of AKBASH!!!

Love, Leo

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