Author’s Note: This is all you need to know. El Scorcho is a gaming character that grew a little big for his leather britches. All stories involving El Scorcho are closely based on original RPG events and situations. 

The four travelers stared at the massive clock above the inn’s bar, disinterested in the mishmash of gears and weights, springs and sprockets. An hour waiting for the new barbarian to show. That interested them. 

Patrons and adventurers filled every corner of the smoky, dim inn…because they always did.  But the new quest smell had worn off the four travelers as the clock ticked on, and they grew sullen and snippy.

A wizard, a paladin, a ranger, and a thief sat around a square table. Only the thief seemed relatively at ease, his boots propped on the table, twitching to a melody being played off-key on a piano at the back of the inn.

The wizard leaned forward and smacked the thief’s foot sharply. “You told him three?” The wizard asked.

“I did,” the thief said and lifted his dark eyebrows. Then he smiled. “At least I think I did.”

The wizard lurched forward out of his seat. “You think you—“

The paladin put out a hand and gently pushed the wizard back into his chair. “Easy, brother. He is teasing you. Hardly a good idea.” The paladin, taller than the rest by almost a foot and wearing his usual stoic frown, cast his disapproving eyes at the thief.

The thief sighed. “He’s a little late. He’s a barbarian. I don’t even know if he knows what a clock’s for, much less read it. He said he’d be here.”

The ranger downed his mug of beer, leaving a frothy ring of dirt at the bottom of their glass. “I miss Arthur.”

The wizard nodded. “As do I.”

Now the devil-may-care calmness fell off the thief’s face. He yanked his feet down and leaned forward, pointing a narrow stiletto at the ranger. “Your precious Arthur was insufferable. I’d rather have an ogre with hemorrhoids tagging along than Arthur.”

No one said anything, because there wasn’t a defense. Arthur had been insufferable, a cleric healer who spoke with his eyes lightly closed, as though he were lecturing a roomful of freshmen rather than his fellow adventurers. A healer who would let you bleed out in a fight if he felt slighted. A healer who never paid for food, rarely wore deodorant and once got caught picking his nose and wiping it under a chair.

“It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs when we’re lamenting the loss of that booger-painting prick. El Scorcho said he’ll be here,” the thief said. “I trust him. Sort of.”

Above them, the inn’s roof creaked painfully, a massive oak beam bending and splintering. The four adventurers looked up, stood and then backed away from the table. The wood groaned again. A muffled, angry voice curse loudly on the roof above them.

A fist busted through the roof in a cloud of dust and splinters. The fist was the size of a ham hock and wore thick black leather gloves. Blood was smeared across the knuckles like strawberry jam.

The wizard put out a hand and a glowing, orange fireball filled it. The ranger nocked an arrow into his short bow, raising it to his chest and pulling the string back. The paladin drew his heavy steel war hammer and waited anxiously.

Only the thief didn’t seem anxious. He took a couple extra steps back, leaning against a support pillar and watching the ceiling. He leaned over and plucked a hunk of chicken from a nearby plate with his stiletto, then chewed on it thoughtfully.

Again and again the first came through the bowed ceiling, letting in streams of light.

Then there was a roar so long and loud that glass mugs jittered and jumped across the tables and onto the ground.

“OH, you BIT me, you little bastard,” the voice said. “That’s some nasty shit right there. If you’re hungry, tell me how THIS tastes!”

This time it wasn’t a fist but the face of a bloodied goblin that smashed through the ceiling. One eye was swollen shut, but the other rolled wildly, looking down at the faces off the inn’s patrons. It garbled something, and the confetti of its broken teeth sprinkled onto the table. It was probably a curse. Everything in goblin sounded like a curse anyway.

Before the head could disappear the section of ceiling gave one final groan and then collapsed into the inn. Two bodies, one long and green-brown and snarling, the other like a marble mountain brought to life, fell into the square table. It snapped in half, and the bodies fell hard onto the floor, amidst hunks of shingles and roof planks.

The goblin jumped up, drawing a rusted iron sword and lunged for a nearby barmaid, his single open eye red-rimmed and murderous. The barmaid screamed but before the goblin could get a step away, the gloved hand shot out from the broken table and dragged it back by its foot.

“Where do you think you’re going, Poindexter?” the massive man growled.

The goblin raised his sword again…and that was as far as he got. The massive man rose out of the roof flotsam, planted his back right foot and then swung out with his fist, connecting squarely on the goblin’s jaw. The punch was so precise it could have been diagrammed.

The goblin didn’t collapse or even budge. At least, its body didn’t. Its jaw, however, flew across the room like a meaty boomerang and splatted against the wall.

A chorus of voices groaned and moaned.

The goblin swayed, blinking, and raised a dirty hand to the twitching tendons and muscles that once made up the lower third of his face. When his fingers found his lolling tongue instead of skin and bone, its eyes rolled back and it fell face first into the dust and lumber.


The large man didn’t waste anytime. He jumped over its body, across the room and then motioned to the bartender. “Whiskey,” he said. He clutched one arm tightly. When the bartender handed him a glass of whiskey, the large man pushed it aside and snatched the bottle from his hand, upending the pungent, smoky alcohol over his punctured arm.

He hissed and poured then twisted his arm to open the wound a little and poured some more. When they bottle was empty he flexed his fingers and snatched a clean rag from behind the bar, wrapping it around his arm.

“Nasty little booger,” he said.

Only now did he look around. Now that everyone got a good look, they saw it wasn’t just a large man. Arms like tree trunks, deep, blue eyes, red hair and shoulders wider than a ox yoke. A barbarian. The biggest damn barbarian they had ever seen.

The barbarian smiled and shrugged, nodding at the dead goblin. “Goblin,” he said, as though that explained everything. “He had very poor manners.”

Then his eyes fell on the thief. “Oh, hey. Sorry about that. Goblin.”

The thief nodded, then turned to the wizard, paladin and ranger, who were blinking in disbelief at the monstrous mass that had just come crashing through the ceiling.

“Fellas,” the thief said, “THIS is El Scorcho.”


After appeasing the innkeeper with a handful of gold, El Scorcho brushed aside the offered mug of beer from the young barmaid.

“Any milk?” He asked. “Colder the better.”

The barmaid nodded and scampered away.

“Not a huge drinker,” El Scorcho said. “Not a teetotaler though. Mostly I’d rather have a glass of cold milk. I’ve got a theory that two things in life make up for everything: sex and a cold glass of milk. These make a life of toil worthwhile.”

Only the thief laughed. The other three sat silent in their chairs around the new table. 

The barmaid returned and handed El Scorcho a stein of milk. Before she could leave he said, “Wait.” He sniffed it, shrugged and downed the entire mug in three gulps. He pulled the mug away with a deep gasp, a line of foamy milk above his lip.

He handed the mug back. “Damn delicious. Could you do that two more times, pretty please?”

She nodded and left again.

El Scorcho smiled pleasantly and stared at the other three, his blue eyes falling from each to each. Then his smile flickered a little, and he looked at the thief.

“Are they stupid or something?” the barbarian asked.

“Uh, no,” the thief said and rapped his knuckles on the table. “Gentlemen, you’re being rude to our new friend. Our new, seven-foot-tall, four-hundred pound friend.”

The wizard sputtered. “You’re lecturing us about manners?”

El Scorcho raised a hand. “Hold on, let me explain. I tracked our little decomposing goblin friend and his buddy five miles away from here. They were tracking a family of halflings, which they had just been about to rob and, most likely, murder. I chased both of them here. If I hadn’t done that, those halflings, including three children, would be lying dead in a ditch right now.”

The wizard, ranger and paladin looked at each other, relaxing a little. The wizard put up one hand, his face growing red with embarrassment. “We’re sorry, friend. If this is true–”

El Scorcho laughed. “It’s not. Guy and his two buddies gave me the stink eye outside. I cracked the skulls of the first two, but that jumpy turd got onto the roof. I should have let him go, but it was a matter of pride.”

“What. The. Hell,” the paladin said, smacking his gloved fist on the table. 

“Calm down, Charlie Brown,” the barbarian said. “You want a fighter, I’m your guy. You want a hero, okay, mostly. You want a cardboard cutout that swallows platitudes and spits out grunts and sunshine, I am not your guy. But I am very resourceful.”

The maid returned with two mugs of cold milk. El Scorcho took one in each hand and downed them in seconds. When he finished, he placed a hand over his chest, politely swallowing his belch. Then he handed the maid a tarnished silver coin. “Thank you much,” he said.

“So…” he said to the table. “As the Clash once said, Do I stay or do I go?”

The thief said, “He’s got my vote.”

“Your confidence is appreciated,” El Scorcho said. “Jonas…I should say. Your name is Jonas. In case no one knows.” El Scorcho pointed at him. “Jonas the thief, everyone.”

Jonas the thief laughed at the clumsy exposition.

The wizard and paladin’s faces were unforgiving, tight and a little confused. The ranger looked a little…scared. 

El Scorcho said, “Not looking good, huh? You fellas look like a couple Puritans dropped on a topless beach.”

He pushed his chair back and stood up, his seven-foot tall frame putting the entire table in shadow.

“It’s okay. My self-esteem remains intact. Tell your mothers I said-”

Before he could finish his tactless insult, the door to the inn crashed open and two soldiers stumbled in. Between them they carried a third soldier, his face the pasty gray of near death.

Instantly the rest of the party were on their feet, weapons drawn.

“Help us,” the soldiers pleaded and dropped their friend in the middle of a table. Dishes, mugs and cards clattered to the floor. “Help us, please. He’s dying…”

That was no lie. The wounded soldier’s eyes were closed and his mouth hung open loosely. His arms were crossed tightly over his belly, tied down with rawhide over a folded blanket. He looked dead but for the small twitches and spasms of his arms and hands, like tiny electrical shocks. They lifted and strained against the rawhide.

The soldiers looked at the wizard and paladin. “Are you healers? Can you help, please…”

The paladin nodded and came forward, sliding his sword back in his scabbard. “We will help.” He gestured at the wizard. “Barnaby.”

The wizard nodded.

Behind them, El Scorcho mouthed the word Barnaby? Then shook his head and shuddered. His eyes stayed on the dying soldier and his two friends, flicking between them like a ping pong ball.

Barnaby the wizard came to the man’s side. “What happened?”

One soldier started speaking, but his words came out in a squeaking stutter. His whole body shook. The other soldier spoke up. “We found him like this. He was cut bad. Really bad. It’s his stomach. We, uh, covered it.” The soldier gestured at the crossed hands and blanket.

The paladin came forward and placed a hand on the dying man’s forehead. He drew it back, hissing. “Gods, he’s ice cold! How is he still alive?”

The hands jittered and jumped under the rawhide.

The soldiers looked at each other and shrugged.

El Scorcho backed away slowly until he reached the counter, then spoke quietly to the barmaid. He pointed behind her to the boiling cauldron of stew above the fire. She looked at him and the cauldron…and then at the two gold pieces he danced before her eyes. She pocketed them and nodded, handing him two towels. El Scorcho wrapped them around his hands and then nodded toward the back of the inn. The barmaid faded into the shadows away from whatever was happening. 

The paladin’s eyes softened, and his hands passed expertly over the soldier’s body, testing and looking for wounds. He could see nothing. He took out a tiny dagger and started working on the rawhide knots holding the wounded man’s arms down.

“Yeah, it’s his belly,” the soldier said. “Definitely.”

The other soldier tried to speak, but it almost sounded like a giggle.

Barnaby the wizard and the paladin stood on either side of wounded soldier, slowly cutting away at the rawhide.

A waft of something foul, cheesy and meaty and somehow alive, filled the inn.

“Uh, fellas,” Jonas said. “Why don’t we hold up a second?” He covered his nose, backing away from the stink.

“Shut up,” the soldier hissed.

The stink had now filled the entire inn, so thick they could taste it on their tongues, like salt and boiled cottage cheese. 

The ranger stood up, both hands clasped over his mouth. His face had gone pale. His bow and arrow fell to the ground. He gasped and heaved and then took off running, across the inn, out the back door and out of the story. 

“Barnaby. James. Stop!” the thief said.

Too late. The rawhide snapped and the soldier’s arms leapt up and out, flopping uselessly. The blanket flew off and something long and yellow and wet rose up and out of the soldier’s hollowed out and long-dead body. Boiling red sores and clusters of thick hair covered its moist skin. Dozens of stumpy arms jittered on either side of its body, ending in clittering claws. It let out a wet belch that bathed their faces in that nauseating chess stink. Several people in the inn retched. 

It stared down at Barnaby and James, both men too terrified to do anything more than blink. A slit in its face parted, and they were now looking down a stinking maw filled with needles.

“Feed! Feed! FEED!” the two standing soldiers chanted. The masks they had worn, no doubt made of real human skin, slid to the floor. Goblins. Damn goblins. “FEED! FEED!

“BON APPETIT!” a voice bellowed. El Scorcho the Barbarian came thundering across the floor, the cauldron of still-boiling stew balanced over one shoulder, his towel-wrapped hands gripping the cauldron’s iron handles.

Before the rancid monster could flee, the barbarian pitched the cauldron at him, dousing him in fifty gallons of boiling meat, vegetables and potatoes. Its body bent and twisted in agony, its boiled skin sloughing off in plate-sized chunks to the floor. It let out a garbling cry of fear and pain, flopping down, trying to whimper away across the floor.

El Scorcho stepped forward, now holding the iron cauldron in one hand. He swung the cauldron over and down in a sharp arc, crushing the creature’s head neatly. Its body jittered and twitched for a moment, then stilled.

The two goblins stood, staring at the hideous creature that was supposed to be their ace-in-the-hole. Then they glanced up at El Scorcho the Barbarian.

“That was not a smart move, fellas,” El Scorcho said.

They turned and bolted out the door of the inn into the daylight.

El Scorcho groaned. “Dammit, I hate running. I HATE it,” he said.

He ran out the door after them, banging it open so hard it snapped off the hinges. He bounded quickly after them, cursing. “You’re gonna regret making me run, you little turds. I am gonna open you like Christmas presents…”

Ten minutes later he was back, breathing heavy and covered with a thick sheen of sweat. His fingerless leather gloves were stained red with blood. Again.

Everyone stared at him without speaking.

He looked around. “What?”

Barnaby the wizard spoke. “H-how did you know?”

El Scorcho shrugged. “I am a student of nature,” he said. He walked to the barrel of clean water, placed a bowl beneath it and twisted the spigot. He stripped off his gloves and washed his hands in the clean water and looked at the earnest, waiting faces. 

“Really? The whole Pierot thing?” he asked. “I’ve been around. Someone gets wounded in the gut they do a few things. They scream in ever-loving agony, for one. Two, they pass out from blood loss. Three, they die. They do not look and stink like they’ve been dead a week and then play bongos on their belly. I didn’t know what was under there, but generally things don’t like being covered in boiling liquid in my experience.” He looked at James the paladin and Barnaby the wizard. “Told you I was resourceful.”

He rinsed his hands until the water was pink. James and Barnaby exchanged a look and then nodded.

“You’re hired,” they said in unison.

Jonas laughed and got El Scorcho another bowl of clean water.

“Bully,” El Scorcho the Barbarian said.