Tag Archives: Grimdark

Refilling The Chains – Flash Fiction

This story was written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge “Subgenre Frankenstein”. I rolled my virtual d20 and came up with Low Fantasy/Southern Gothic. Enjoy!

Colonel Williams looked out over his fields with a sigh. Finding good workers to pick his cotton had been such a drudgery after the war. He was lucky to still have his fields intact he supposed, not to mention just being alive. So many of his friends had died and those that lived had lost everything. It was the end of a way of life. It didn’t have to be that way though. He had the germ of an idea.

He went back inside, into his study and pulled a thick book off of the shelf. Its title, Summoning Creatures From The Great Beyond, was in the original Latin. Most people took it to be a medical book. He’d been a doctor before he’d been a soldier, so the guess wasn’t so foolish. Even before his time as a physician he’d been a student of what many called the Dark Arts. He remembered his nanny, a Haitian woman, and her own magical dabblings. Listening to her as he grew had kindled his initial interest. He saw her heal folks and their harvest had always been the best. She took the credit. She also took the credit for the one bad crop yield they had after she and Daddy had a knock down drag out.

Through university and beyond he’d gravitated towards the sorts of magic most folks would consider “Western”. The symbols and arcane language would have been frowned upon by the church where he was a deacon in good standing. He knew there was nothing Satanic about a pentagram any more than there was about Nanny drinking chicken’s blood, or the prayer of one of the Injuns trying to make it rain. None of them were Christian things to do, but it was just another way of tapping into energy God had filled the universe with.

Now he supposed it was time to try a magical solution to yet another physical problem. He cracked open the book and sat down in a wingback chair. The south had been built on the backs of slaves and free men working side by side. Now society told him slavery was wrong, and the South would suffer for the years it had used what he’d been raised to believe was a natural resource. There was nothing to be done about the past. The future would need cheap labor and if he couldn’t get it from the negroes, he would find another way.

He landed on the entry for trolls. The creatures were tall and long limbed. They would be stronger than any African had ever been. The warnings were clear that they could be crafty, but they weren’t human. How smart could they be? If he could work out the right binding spell, they wouldn’t be able to lift a hand against them. He’d try just a few and see how it worked out.

As he closed the book he thought about a future where white man and black man alike would be able to use these trolls as servants. The men might be equals one day and would both have access to the same resource the war denied them. It was the right thing to do. He stood and blew out the hurricane lamp and retired to his bedroom. The days and weeks to come would be busy. He’d have a lot of work to do if he was to have enough workers to try his experiment before planting season was upon them.

~~~~~

Colonel Williams looked over his field of cotton. The trolls had worked out better than he could possibly have imagined. They were big ugly brutes, standing six and a half feet tall on average. Their skin was an ugly bluish green. It was hard to tell the males from the females, but so long as they knew he didn’t suppose it mattered. They worked equally well. They ate whatever you fed them, subsisting best on table scraps and other garbage. He had even managed to train a couple to work in the house. Mrs. Williams complained a little about the smell, but they soon got used to them

The real triumph had been when another farmer, Jebediah Elwood, had seen the work they were capable of and ordered his own. He was able to supply the dozen Jeb ordered and had made a profit over the cost of the raw materials the summoning required. Word was, they were working as well for Jeb as they did for him. It wouldn’t be long before every farm in the South had their own workforce again.

The truly funny thing was, he had a few former slaves come back and ask to do some sharecropping on his farm. He turned them down flat. “I don’t need you any more.”

The harvest had gone well. If he had any complaints about his new workers it was that they didn’t speak English. Oh they understood it well enough. He gave them orders and they took them. He hadn’t had to shoot or beat a single one of them. He missed that part a little. Recently he’d replaced his overseers with the more experienced trolls. They knew what needed to be done and taught the new ones precisely what was needed. He didn’t’ need to summon any more of them. They bred quite rapidly. He could no longer make money from their sale, but he’d made plenty while he could.

They had picked up blacksmithing and other skills like they were born to them. He supposed where they came from, there could be such things as forges. He didn’t really know. He’d long since given up trying to communicate with them. A few of his fellow plantation owners had expressed some discomfort with the lack of speech. “Don’t you see? They’re like machines. You give them what they need and point them in the right direction. There’s no fear of an uprising and the abolitionists didn’t know what to think about them yet. Even they could see that these things weren’t human. So the arguments they’d used for the negroes wouldn’t’ work here.

~~~~~

Colonel Williams wiped the sweat from his brow. Just as he dropped his arm, he felt the lash of a whip against his back. It wasn’t enough to cripple him. The trolls were very good at what they did. It turned out they were good at everything they did. It was only a matter of time before they were running all of the operations in the south. Within a decade of the first one setting foot on the ground, they had trolls working in government buildings as servants. Even the Northern aggressors started using them in their military as servants.

He remembered the night they rose up. He’d been sleeping soundly in his bed when an unearthly scream came from the troll’s quarters. Later he would discover that the scream had been heard all over the country at the same moment. Minutes after the scream, human masters were overthrown by the thousands. The trolls had gained access to all of the weapons they needed. They didn’t kill where they didn’t have to. They wanted their former masters to take their places. They’d learned their lessons well. Thankfully for the sake of humanity’s survival, the overthrow had been largely regional. While there were troll servants in the north, there weren’t enough.

Once he would have smiled at the thought of the Yankees being conquered. Now he would do anything to join his fellow humans in fighting for the freedom of their race. He hoped it wasn’t too late. As he worked he began singing the spirituals that had once filled the air around his plantation. They told of a road that would take them to the promised land. The old underground railroad would soon be carrying former slave owners to freedom.

He hoped he’d make it. He had a few ideas about how to use his powers to aid in the trolls’ downfall. He’d managed to save scraps of his spell books and had other passages memorized. There were things called gremlins that were supposed to be a troll’s natural predator. At the rate the trolls were multiplying they’d soon have an army capable of conquering even the Northern armies. In another ten years he had no doubt Europe would be next. Perhaps the Gremlins would be able to do what he had not.