“When I Met a Barbarian”
by Liam G. Martin
This story is taken from Scrapbook of Dreams. _Scrapbook of _Dreams is a collection of stories and poems. There is a poem about robots reading poetry and a story about a ghost ferret called Alfonso. There is a barbarian that lives in a quaint cottage and a knight that rides a donkey! Plus, much, MUCH more…
The book is available through Amazon, and all royalties go to supporting the Alliance of Inclusive Education.
More TTTV stories by Liam Martin
This was the place. Josh was sure of it.
It’s just that it didn’t look like the sort of place you’d expect a barbarian to live.
It was a quaint little bungalow with a brightly coloured flower garden. There were at least a dozen garden gnomes, and it had a doormat that said home sweet home. Maybe I’ve got the wrong house, Josh thought.
He looked around the street, expecting to see a house covered in metal spikes, or with a sign outside that said, enter at your own risk. But every house there just seemed so boring. There was even an old woman sitting in the garden next-door doing a puzzle book.
Josh rang the doorbell. Even that made a pleasant ding-donging sound.
He was about to leave and try somewhere else when the door opened.
An old man with long grey hair and a bushy beard stood on the other side. He was so tall that he had to stoop, so his head didn’t touch the ceiling. His arms were almost as long as Josh’s entire body. His hands were like shovels and his feet like boats.
‘It is you! Bobar the Barbarian! I knew this was the right place!’
‘I—I think you’ve got me mistaken with someone else. I’m no barbarian,’ the old man boomed in his deep barbarian voice.
He glanced at the next-door neighbour. She was peering at him over the top of her puzzle book. He shrugged his shoulders at her.
‘I know it’s you. I’ve got your posters all over my bedroom wall. Your hair’s greyer, and you’re a lot thinner, but I don’t think there are many people around that are seven foot tall!’
The old man quickly pulled Josh inside. ‘Ok, you’ve found me. I am Bobar the barbarian, but keep your voice down! How do you think the neighbours will react when they know they’re living on the same street as a barbarian? They’ve only just come to terms with the fact that the postman rides an electric bike.’
‘It’s not like you’re any barbarian though, you’re the barbarian.
The saviour of the Golden Realm.
The champion of the Four Kingdoms.
The man who single-handedly took down the Dak Empire.
I’ve read all of your stories.
I’m like your biggest fan!’
Josh pushed up his glasses, which had slid down his nose. ‘To think I’m in the same room as the legendary Bobar the barbarian.’
‘It’s just Barry, now,’ Bobar said. ‘So, do you fancy some tea?’
‘No, thanks. I don’t drink tea.’
‘We’ve got some freshly-squeezed orange juice if you’d prefer that. I made it myself this morning.’
‘And would you mind taking your shoes off before coming into the sitting room, please?
Josh slipped off his shoes and put them beside a pair of fluffy size fifteen slippers.
‘The sitting room is through here,’ Barry said, leading him through the hallway. ‘I’ll nip into the kitchen to get our drinks. Make yourself at home while you wait.’
Josh sat down on the sofa and looked around the room.
It had sky-blue wallpaper with a flowery purple trim. There was a bookcase at the furthest corner filled with books. The walls were covered with pictures. Some were of Barry cuddling up to a woman with dark hair and kind eyes. Some were of spotty-faced teens trying their best to smile. There was even one of a Yorkshire Terrier wearing a fourth-place rosette at a dog show.
Barry came in carrying a tray. It had two glasses on, and a plate piled high with cupcakes. Each of the cakes was decorated with white icing sugar and pink sprinkles.
He ducked to avoid hitting his head on the light shade.
‘I’ve been baking my famous fairy cakes,’ he told Josh, sliding the tray onto the coffee table. ‘They’re supposed to be for my wife’s book club meeting later, but I’ve made plenty, so I thought it’d be nice if I brought some out for us.’
He sat down on a green armchair opposite Josh and took one of the fairy cakes.
‘So, what did you come all this way for?’ Barry asked.
‘I wanted to meet you. To see what you’re really like. You’re my favourite hero of all time. My mates at school all like Cyril the Cyborg, but not me. I’m old school. Bobar the barbarian’s the only hero for me.’ He leaned over and had a drink of his orange juice. ‘Although I have always wondered what happened to you? It’s like you just vanished off of the face of the earth. One day you were riding high, righting wrongs, slaying sea monsters all willy-nilly, and the next, nothing.’
Barry smiled. ‘Do you remember when I captured the four-headed lioness of Lyria?’
‘Sure,’ Josh said, reaching for a fairy cake.
‘Well, when we were fighting, I threw my back out dodging one of her fire blasts—it was a right nasty one too, my left eyebrow still hasn’t grown back properly! Well, as soon as I got back to the settlement, I went to see my healer about my back. He said, what I needed was some rest. He told me I should go on holiday.’
‘So, I did, and I ended up staying in a little cottage in a foreign land. At first, I was a bit nervous. I’d never been over the boundary before, but it ended up being a real game-changer for me. I went to pubs, I played bowls on the village green, I watched television for the first time. I really enjoyed it.’ He took a sip of his tea.
‘So, you liked it so much that you never went back to being a barbarian?’ Josh asked, picking up another fairy cake.
‘I did,’ Barry said proudly. ‘And I never looked back. I managed to get a job at the local council office. I got a mortgage. And then I bought this bungalow. I even put my name down for an allotment. A few years later I did go back to pick up some of my old things, you know the sentimental stuff. My old swords and shields.’
‘Eventually, I got married and had kids, then my kids had kids of their own, and I became a Grandad. Best job in the world if you ask me. But yeah, that’s my life now. In the morning, I do a bit of baking or gardening. Then, in the evenings, I sit down to watch TV with my wife. It’s a much quieter life than when I was a barbarian, but,’ he looked up to the picture of the woman with the kind eyes, ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way.’
‘Is that your wife in that picture?’ Josh asked.
‘It is. She’s the love of my life. It’s a pity you couldn’t meet her. She’s at a dog yoga class all morning.’
‘Then, all these pictures of children, are they all your grandchildren?’
‘They are,’ he said. He pointed to a photo of a boy standing on a basketball court holding up a trophy. ‘That there’s little Stefan. He takes after his granddad, you know. Ten years old and he’s already-six-foot-two.’
Josh finished off the last dregs of his orange juice.
‘Would you like another?’ Barry asked.
‘No, thanks,’ Josh said, checking his watch. ‘I’ve got to go now, anyway.’
‘I can put it in a flask, so you can take it with you when you go if you like?’
‘I’m ok,’ he told him, glancing out of the front window.
Josh got up.
‘I could plate up some fairy cakes for you to take if you want?’
‘No, thanks. My mum says I need to stop eating so much sugar because it makes me hyper.’
‘Fair enough,’ Barry said. He followed him out of the room.
‘Thanks for having me,’ Josh said. He picked up his shoes.
‘No, I should be thanking you. It’s not often I get visitors that aren’t relatives.’
Josh had almost put one of his shoes on when a thought came to him.
‘I don’t suppose you still have any of your old things lying around?’ he asked Barry. ‘If you do, I would love to see them’.
‘I think you might be in luck,’ Barry said. ‘A few days back I put some of my old weapons into a box, ready to the charity shop. If you like you can wait here a second and I’ll go and fetch it so that you can have a quick look through.’
‘That would be awesome!’ Josh said.
Barry went back up the hallway and ducked into the spare bedroom.
While Josh waited, he laced up his other shoe.
Eventually, Barry came back carrying a big cardboard box. It clinked and clanked with every step. From the sound of it, the box must have been jam-packed with stuff. Josh didn’t even want to imagine how back-breakingly heavy it would’ve been for a regular-sized person.
Barry gently put it on the floor as if it were a box full of air. ‘Now, be careful. When I packed it the other day, I made doubly sure that all of the weapons were sheathed, but you never know.’
Josh flipped the box open and began to rummage through.
‘You can have whatever you like. I was planning on donating all of this to charity but looking at it again today, I don’t think any of it is the kind of thing that’ll go down too well in an Oxfam shop,’ he told him.
After some frantic rummaging, Josh pulled out a small hatchet in a dusty leather wrapping.
Josh’s eyes widened, and his breathing quickened.
It can’t be. The Golden Hatchet!’ he panted.
‘The one the Queen of the Golden Realm gave you for rescuing her daughter?’
‘It is,’ Barry said.
Josh unfastened the wrappings and inspected the axe.
It was made entirely of gold.
‘I can’t believe I’m actually touching the Golden Hatchet of the Heroic Hunt,’ he said.
‘You know, it’s not actually gold. It’s just gold-plated. If it was made completely of gold, you wouldn’t even be able to pick it up! They wanted to keep it small and light so it could be used in battle. I don’t think they really thought it through. I mean, what pillock would go into battle with a gold axe! But then again, it is very pretty.’
‘Can I have this one, then? Please! Please! Please!’
‘If that’s the one you want. You can have it.’ Barry put his hand in his pocket and took out a Waitrose bag. He handed it to Josh. ‘Put it in this, though. People might start talking if they see a boy walking around with a hatchet.’
‘Thank you,’ Josh said. He put the hatchet in the bag.
Barry went over to the door and held it open for Josh. ‘If you are ever in the area again, do pop in for a chat,’ Barry said.
‘I will do. Bye, Barry.’
As Josh was leaving, a pink car pulled into the driveway.
When the engine stopped, he looked back. Barry had stepped outside. He was helping his wife into the house. Their Yorkshire Terrier was running around him, yapping excitedly.
He looked happy.