Sonn ov Thumbs

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Excerpt from "Name of the Waste" Chapter 86 - Son of Thumbs How Lox who was known as Locks became "Son of Thumbs"

Submitted: October 03, 2017

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Submitted: October 03, 2017

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An Excerpt from -”The Name of the Waste “

 


Chapter 86 - Son of Thumbs

 

 

This story began when the sun was low over the walls of the nearby city. It ended with the sun high in the sky, light rolling off the furled covers of the massed desert tribes.

 

It will not take much of your time to listen to it in full.

 

A stranger hailed me as I returned to camp after finishing my morning prayers for the Priests of Holy Rust Ash and Grease. He asked me if I was the one who, he had been told, was open to any challenge. I cautiously agreed stunned that my reputation had spread the breadth of the Wastes. He proclaimed himself Null, Lord of the Thumberdome and He challenged me to Trial by Thumbs.

 

 


I dubiously accepted. He was a veteran of the waste, strong and seasoned by years of what you might call living. I was not above a challenge in those days, and I felt no danger only the thrill of contest. We walked over to our tribe's beloved Saucy Wench and pressed elbows down onto the tailgate. The Saucy was a chain covered dented beater with a saw mohawk and our company logo painted lovingly on the front but She provided a stable platform and I was excited to show off my growing prowess in front of the company elders. I was probationary and I still feared they might give me the boot at my next review. We put our elbows on the metal of the back-end of the truck and Null shouted out the holy rites of combat.

 


"Elbows down" he chanted in trained practice


"Your hand to mine" he spoke with certainty and anticipation 


"Repeat my words " he cried aloud, voice thick with holy fervor


"Battle, blood, blackened, bomb"


his words echoed out each more awful than the last


"I declare a thumb war"

 


The word was ruin and chaos and old demons. It spoke of the cursed practices of the ancient empires. The trial echoed these horrid apparitions that killed the world with holy bombs of smoke and brightest fire. It was ceremonial but still represented the basest element of the old ways. A struggle between the dead and dying past and the brightest burning future. We displayed our weapons, the most important of digits, hard-won bone and flesh cooked but not reduced by a long life in the swarming corpse of the sun-baked Waste. They crossed once, twice, a further six until the chant ended and Nulls thumb went stiff in sudden readiness.

 

 

The fight was immediate and intense. I lost instantly, first technically when my elbow raised in fear and panic, then practically, overpowered by his sudden attack my nail suddenly pinned to my hand. I broke free and looked for options realizing my elbow had left the table and freezing at the fact. His thumb came down once again and this time there was no escape. I struggled as the count hit 4 and collapsed in sudden defeat. He released my hand, sneered and thanked me for the match. Null told me to come to his camp for a gold star as a consolation prize for my defeated pride. I was beaten for the first time in front of my brethren. I was momentairly chatised and rembered a similar occurence the last night at the casino craps table.  Eager and confident I swaggered in, only for the smooth operators to "Take my money". My mind snapped back to the present. The loss had shaken me, but it was yet early and I still had many tasks to complete before that evening when the great gathering of tribes would end. If I wanted to earn my badge there was more I had to do, much much more. I set out to complete unrelated tasks and found much satisfaction in their completion and the company of my fellow mercs.

 

 

On my rounds about the camps before the city gates, I thought of the first match. I tested my thumb’s strength on my hand and realized I would never be a match for Null's mighty grip of rusted tangled iron; I would never be able to force his weapon down and he would always be able to pin mine. I put it out of mind. I had found the shrine of my god’s enemy and there was a cryptic clue to unravel. I would deal with the problem of thumbs later.

 

 

Returning from a morning of scavenging and barter I passed by the Thumberdome, on my way back to the headquarters. It was a twisted steel cage written in veneration to the most brutal of the waste shrines to the spirits of battle and blood. It further evolved with spikes of bent wire, sharpened to deadly perfection and set at wrist height with only two openings, ensuring the completion of any bout declared within. The intent was clear. Two thumbs enter. One thumb goes down, the other remains unmarred, nail pointed proudly skyward. The victor. The other thumb would be cast against the floor, pulled from the safety of the cage and thrust against the stained wood. The heavy ceremonial blade nearby would raise then fall creating yet another notch in the arena floor. I looked at Null, the towering figure before me, the purpose of the many stitches in his hands now brutally obvious. I called out to Null for my promised gold star eager to be gone from the ruin of heroes, the terrible stage of man's destruction.

Null offered me a challenge instead.


Several days in the desert had left a strange hollow in me and I was tempted by Null’s brutal challenge. To wager my appendage to the floors of the arena to bet the strength of my hand vs his. If I were to win the coffers of his tribe would pour open to me. He pointed to the notches in either side of the wooden floor. An uncountable number on his and a single one on mine. If I were to lose, my thumb would join so many others on the arena floor. He spoke momentairly of the one man to walk the other path, the story of a man known only as Thumbs. The mention of this man gave me hope and my hand unconsciously clenched as Null repeated his ultimate challenge, to descend to the blood-soaked floor in wretched defeat, or to rise up as the champion of the dome.

 

 

As he finished the tale, several wandering tribes-people approached. They were either drunken raiders fresh with spoils or curious merchants thick with wears, the dust coating my goggles made it impossible to tell. They offered a prize to the victor, slices of cold crisp cool melon stored on a clay tablet covered in dampened cloth. as . The melon glistened, golden yellow like deep desert sand. It had mottled green rind that spoke of far off places. I licked my parched lips, considered the price of glory, and staring directly into Null’s terrible eyes, agreed to his challenge.

 


I realized this strange sandy hollow growing in my heart could only be filled by victory. Victory and Melon. The fight was once again immediate and intense. Our elbows were locked down by the confines of the arena. As a result of this our thumbs were free to dance my own thumb suddenly rising in anticipation of deadly glorious battle. Both thumbs crashed against the steel, danced through the holes always seeking an opening. The twisted confines of the dome proved a surreal battlefield and I felt old senses awakening, unknown skills unfurling like tattered desert sails. The world slowed and my earlier reflections suddenly focused, providing a lens through which I could see the weak point in my titanic opponent's defense. I was ready and my thumb lept out of a protective burrow in the dome's ceiling and darted forward.

 

 

My weapon locked instantly onto the base of Null’s thumb, the weakest point of his strength. I whispered a prayer to Holy Fulcrum saint of distance. I prayed the gods that are not might use the length of my thumb to trim Null's overpowering strength. Then I felt that the powers of Pizzicks were with me and I looked finally up at Null’s ferocious countenance. Null looked down straining as the combined count of 4. His eyes meet mine, connecting over the blackened twisted roof of the terrible cage as his blackened ruin collapsed. The craggy stub rested, peaceful in the certainty of defeat.

 


Null starred at my face impassively, his eyes somehow looking the breadth of me without moving, judging my stature and worth. I nearly flinched when he pulled my hand free from the dome. He held it for a moment, dropped it and reached down to his notched discolored hand chopper, hefting its weight upwards once and then twice and then more as if by habit before handing it to me. He set his thumb on the wood and handed me the machete. His proud eyes met mine once again and never flinching even as I swung the machete in the inevitable completion of the terrible rite.

 

 

It bit into the wood with a heavy thunk. Two notches on this side now, some small mark of me now etched into the wastes. The drunken crowd passed the cool heavy clay platter over their heads. I lifted it with my unmarred hands and lifted aloft a single perfect shimmering slice. I distributed the remaining prize to the growing crowd starting with the man who had offered the melon. I waited for him to take a bite before joining him in relishing its cool crisp texture. Always best to be careful in the waste all the more when flush and careless with sudden winnings. A man flush and stupid is a man soon dead.

 


Null still gripping my victorious hand, raised it over my head. "All behold the new champion of the dome" he shouted, his bellowing shaking some of the thick dust from my clothes. His voice rose again This time carrying my name. "Hail Locks" his words tearing at the impassive crows, arms raised shaking with intensity. I repeated it softly dumbfounded as the crowd could only stare in shock. "Hail Locks" he shouted again, this time the closed-in crowd speaking the words. The crowds swelled with noise. "HAIL LOCKS" he cried a third time, the third time loudest of all.

 

 

I stood silently as the roar of the crowd filled my ears. It was a situation unique to my many years, and I relished it. He then lowered my hand and presented me with an artifact. A token of Ronin a mighty pugilist and indeed a further challenge. He told me where Ronin might be found and the nature of his prowess in the sand arena It was a prewar device I had envied when I saw it hanging an the shoulders of others. It used the holy principles of Pizzicks and the gods that are not to turn the weight of water into nothing but the weight of a feather. No longer must my canteen constantly weigh at my hip, now its ponderous mass might be distributed leisurely on the breadth my shoulders.

 


With the formalities of the Thumb war completed, Null grinned and welcomed me as a brother, to rest in his tribe’s shade. The members of the Apocalypse Auto so named after their mighty war-beast, a drinker of that thick dark wine that so intoxicated the old world before its noxious fumes uncontrolled, consumed it utterly. I was impressed by its terrible countenance and its surprising quiet gentle nature as I parleyed with the men of Null’s tribe. They distributed to me additional trinkets of victory gift. Null himself bestowed not one but 5 golden stars. He explained in serious tones this was the ultimate rank in the Trial of Thumbs. This blasphemous symbol was the mark of the Jyn'r'll. I recognized the name from whispered secret lore. This was the terrible mark of the Supreme Warlords of the Old World Empire

 


It was little past noon when I left down the dusty road away from my new friends and allies. I would be welcome the next year in their camp, with promises of spirits and battle. I did not know if and when I would be back as I finished the last bite of the sweet thick green rind. I wondered whether I should tell my captains and realized I had not saved them their customary ten percent tithe. I resolved not to tell them about the melon as I began the long dusty trek back to camp.

 


That is not the least or the last of my adventures but it is how I came to be called the Son of Thumbs.


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