Gaf's Tale

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Created On 10 November 1999
Last Updated On 10 November 1999
Copyright (c) Simon E. Phipp 1999

I remember first seeing Gaf as if it were yesterday. I could still run beneath a Rhino and not have my topknot touch its belly. There was a cry and I saw this man run in from the Wastes. He was sprinting as if he was chasing something, but he was not even out of breath. On his body was a host of tattoos, some shimmered like the Sun, others looked as dark as the night. He ran past me and scooped me up in one hand, greeting me as his nephew. My mother came out of her tent and embraced him, nearly crushing me in her arms. Gaf drank with our family that night and laughed a great deal. After he had drank a lot, he pulled out a shiny sword and whirled it around his head in a fantastic dance, cutting ropes and scarves, slicing fruit thrown into the air and finally throwing it at my head, severing the end of my topknot. The last thing I remember of that night was my mother dragging him outside and warning him never to return.

When I was ten, Gaf came back. He came running along a dry serpent as we were making our way back into Vulture Country and warned us that he had been following a band of broo and they were fairly close to us. His body was a tattooed as before and he carried a few more knives. He also had the head of a monster tied to his belt, I was told that it was a Troll but it was twice the size of my father's. The men in our party spoke for a while and followed Gaf along the serpent, it looked strange with twenty Rhinos running and Gaf loping along beside them. After a while, they came back with Gaf still running. This time, he had a bag tied to his belt. My father told me that it held the heads of the broos he had just killed and that he was about to challenge some Storm Khan from the Bison Tribe and needed the heads to throw at him. He also said how Gaf had leapt into the broo band before the Rhinos could charge. When I asked why he didn't use a sword like Gaf he said that a sword wasn't much use in a Rhino Charge.

When I was fifteen I followed Waha's Path and rescued Eiritha's children from the Earth. I fought a giant Troll, every bit as big as the one whose head was on Gaf's belt, and gained a gift from Waha that meant that I could speak to Rhinos as if they were normal people. As I celebrated with my comrades, we heard a noise and saw a band of monsters bursting from the scrub land and running towards us. They were trolls, but more than we could handle. The biggest was a giant, taller even than Gaf, the others were nearly our side and armed with spears. We stood our ground and fought but they were too string for us and we thought our Quest was going to end in defeat, but with a yell that rang in our ears, Gaf leapt amongst us with two shining swords, performing the Sword Dance but this time cutting heads and arms rather than pieces of fruit. When I dropped my Spear, he threw me a sword and I cut off the head of the big troll. He said I could keep the sword and that he would teach me how to use it if I wanted, but my father told me he would disown me if I even spoke to Gaf again. That night, Lisha told me how Gaf was different to normal men and had shown her how he had been cut away, although I didn't believe her words. She said it made no difference to her, but some girls liked it that way.

When I had practised with my new sword, my uncle told me how Gaf had also walked Waha's Path and had gained a Rhino that was as clever as a man and could even cast some spells. Gaf used this Rhino to perform many impressive deeds and was about to become a Khan when he had to face the Iron Man in the Marsh. He rode his Rhino and charged the Iron Man, but he simply turned aside and sliced the Rhino from nose to tail, throwing Gaf to the ground. The Iron Man then fought Gaf and left him for dead, but somehow he survived. From that day forth, Gaf searched for the Iron Man and always used swords, vowing never again to ride a beast. That day, we were to fight the Bison People as they had raided our friends. We came to the place of battle when Gaf came running to us, followed by a group of Sword Brothers riding High Llamas. They took up positions beside us and we fought the Bison Riders and carried the day. I even saw how Gaf could defeat the Bison Riders even though he never used a Lance and did not ride on a Rhino. That night, I left with the Sword Brothers and changed my life forever.

I practised with my sword until I was better than most and Gaf said he would sponsor me amongst the Sword Brothers. I joined a group of people from many tribes and we danced with our swords all night, drinking and yelling. We took our old weapons and broke them, casting them onto the fire and saying that we would only fight as the Iron Man wished. At dawn, we lined up naked in front of a bloodied rock and the Iron Man leapt in front of us with a yell that deafened us for a while. He danced and jumped around like a demon, wielding a GreatSword that caught the rays of the rising sun. I was second in line and the man before me walked to the Rock, he was held by two Sword Brothers who put his manhood on the Rock amongst the dried blood. The Iron Man swung the GreatSword and cut off the end! As he was carried off, two more Sword Brothers took me and walked me to the Rock. "Don't worry, he hardly ever misses, unless it gets big" said one as he held me in place. The Iron Man danced up and swung the GreatSword, filling my world with Pain, although I managed to walk away myself. One of the women walked up, smiling, and the Iron Man cut her chest, marking her with his blade. Each was marked and each felt the change. I knew that I could never return to my people as all would see how I had changed. That day, we ate and drank with the Sword Brothers, even with one who had feathers and carried a bright sword from the land of Sartar. I also found that the women did not mind that I had been cut and that some of them even found it better than with normal men.

The last time I saw Gaf was when he had donned the garb of the Iron Man and had gone South to meet someone who he claimed served the Iron Man in the West. I later found out he was a Lunar from the land known as Carmania and that he was a Knight who served their Wargod Humakt. Gaf had fought him and been defeated, even though he had fought as the Iron Man. We found his body near the river and carried him home. After we had burned him, we donned our paint and attacked the Lunars in a nearby village for revenge. I now know that the Iron Man must do more than fight to defeat the one known as Humakt for they are the same and who can defeat himself? I think I know how, but I must try it for myself. If I win I will tell you what I know.