Short Story One
Thorngrim knelt on the sandy bank of the small creek. He groaned as he leaned over, and dipped his stubby fingers into the cool running water. He let the water run through his fingers before hoisting a small handful to the back of his neck.
The mirewood trees around him were creaking as they swayed in the light breeze. He lifted a mouthful of water, and swished it around, then spat it back.
He straightened his back, and heard it pop. He gazed around him, into the trees, sucking on his two front teeth. He felt one pop loose. He poked at it with his tongue, then gently bit down onto his thumb. He felt the boar-bone piece slip back into his gums.
Suddenly, Thorngrim’s eyes squinted, darting to the trees around him. The sound of the trees, and animals faded.
“In the trees, across the clearing.”
He glanced across the nearby expanse of tall grass, and into the swaying beams of mirewood beyond.
“Aye, eyes or nose?” Thorngrim asked, as he pulled another mouthful of water from the creek, letting it drip through his fingers.
The gruff voice came back, “Bit of both.”
One of Thorngrim’s hands slipped slowly to the small of his back, unhooking a leather-clad tool. He flexed his hand gently, hearing his knuckles crack in protest and he gripped the shaft of his first axe.
“How close…” he muttered as he glanced back and forth along the tree line.
Fagui was sitting, obscured by tall ferns, only a number of paces behind Thorngrim. His squat, rust-coloured helm sat next to him, long braided locks of graying hair trailed down the sides of his face. His cheek rested on the wood and brass of his wheel-lock.
“Two points south” he whispered, closing one eye, and peering down the barrel.
Thorngrim could now see the shadow. He had made the mistake of searching too low along the grey trunks of the mirewoods.
By the Gods.
The legs of the thing were as thick as the tree trunks it strode slowly between. Its trunk, tall and wide. The arms were quite spindly by comparions, thought Thorngrim as he popped his tooth back out, and spit it into the water.
“You’re going to miss that.” came another whisper, nearby.
“I’ll have your lady whittle me a new one,” he grinned.
Thorngrim glanced quickly to his right, and spotted Bulfist squatted in a small depression on the opposite edge of the creek.
Bulfist was the youngest of the group, and hefty. He was quite round now that Thorngrim took a good look at him.
Quite fitting for the son of such a successful merchant.
Thorngrim’s wandering thoughts were interrupted quickly.
“He sees you.”
If the giant was excited by the appearance of such easy prey, his demeanor did not portray it. He strode with long, ungainly strides into the open of the clearing.
Standing fully eight-men tall, the giant put forth a fearsome visage. Thorngrim’s eyes quickened to the countless scars which adorned the beast’s body. He did not miss the trophies which adorned the legs and arms of the creature. Trophies from men foolish enough to attempt what he and his partners were attempting to do just now.
Short Story Two
Thorngrim squinted in the darkness. His heavy brow furrowed as he peered down into the deep black of the hallway behind him. His nostrils flared slightly as he sniffed the air.
Thorngrim carefully lifted his stubby hand and placed it on the chest of Filfut, “Quiet now boy.”
Beside him, Thorngrim could hear Bulfist and Fagui sniffing the stale cavern air. Filfut shifted his weight nervously until Thorngrim took him by a shoulder and held him fast.
This boy is far too anxious and young for one carrying such an important message. No matter. His legs are long, and his lungs are young.
Thorngrim slowly let go of Filfut’s shoulder.
“What are you thinking, Bul?” whispered Thorngrim as he peered into the darkness beside him.
“Something foul, but maybe not yet so close.”
Thorngrim grunted in agreement, and pushed Filfut down the hall. Fagui and Bulfist fell in behind him as they continued down the cold dank passage. Filfut stumbled along ahead of him, anything but sure-footed.
Under his thick leather boots, Thorngrim could feel the rock becoming moss-covered. This passageway was old. Very old.
“Two more days of this, and we’ll see the light of the Gate.” whispered Fagui as he patted Bulfist with his heavy, gloved hand.
Bulfist, the grumpiest of the party, ignored the cheer of his old-aged friend, and stumbled on in the darkness, following in Thorngrim’s footsteps.
Thorngrim only let go of Filfut for a second.
Filfut felt his weight thrown back as his foot slipped on the damp moss which lined the age-old stone passage. He felt his hand lash out, grasping for the wall, catching only the leg of Thorngrim’s trousers. He yelped, and felt a heavy, strong hand grab him by his pack. He looked up, seeing the vague shadow of Thorngrim’s heavy-set head.
“Boy, you’re a bit more trouble than-“
Filfut could feel his pack shift, and then heard a shattering crash as his jug of ale shattered on the hard stone beneath his feet.
Thorngrim dropped him like a trapped hare, and he fell to the ground.
Thorngrim dropped to a knee, and slapped his heavy hand across Filfut’s mouth.
“QUIET!” he whispered harshly.
Thorngrim looked down at Filfut in the darkness. Even in the deep black of the passage he could see the young dwarf’s expression. Fear.
Fagui was moving now. Slowly. He lifted a powder horn to his lips, and very slowly bit the cap, and let it drop on its cordon. His old, stumpy thumb very slowly lifted the strike-plate on his handgun. As he started to quietly tap the powder horn onto the strike-plate, they heard it.
A shrill cry, deep in the dark. There was an eerie whistling in the air, and Thorngrim felt something rustle his beard. The air hissed again, and a loud clattering erupted from nearby, as Thorngrim felt something pierce his cheek.
He couldn’t help but slap at his face, and he stumbled for a minute, before grabbing a small stone chip and tugging it from his bearded cheek. He licked the stone chip, and spat.
Bulfist was already tugging his hammer from its leather-bound sheath on his hip, “There, they’re coming.”
Filfut’s jaw chattered as the other three calmly prepared. Thorngrim grabbed a fistful of Filfut’s tunic and tugged him to his feet.
“Boy, listen…you have to run. There’s no more of us. We’ll earn you time for haste.”
“But…but Grim, I…”
Filfut messed with his tunic, and gathered himself. He clenched the message parcel in his small traveling pouch, and gritted his teeth. Then, he ran.
Fagui was huffing madly when they came to the first bridgeway. He stumped over, resting on his knees as he tried to regain his breath. Bulfist was in no better shape. He let his hammer hang at his side as he heaved inside his heavy armour.
“Yes, as good a place as any.”
Thorngrim dropped his axe between his legs, and spat into his gloves. He rubbed his saliva into the gloves. He glanced behind him, and could not see Filfut. Good. The boy can run.
“Ay, don’t fall off,” laughed Bulfist as he punched Thorngrim in the shoulder.
They stood on a narrow bridgeway over a deep crevasse. Beneath them, darkness. Behind them, the bridgeway spanned a hundred paces before disappearing into another rock passageway.
“How long do you think th-“
A shoddily crafted goblin arrow whistled out of the dark, and glanced off Thorngrim’s massive shoulder plate, whistling into the dark. He tugged his helm and hoisted his heavy axe.
“Not that long.”
Now they could hear screaming, and the patter of a dozen feet. More than a dozen. The shrill, angry cry of the goblins was echoing in the massive cavern. In the shallow light which emptied into the bridgeway, Thorngrim saw Fagui grin, as he tugged the hammers back on his handguns. That I had lead such a life…
Fagui was several ages older than Thorngrim. He had been a warrior in days long past, and even now, he would go on to die a true death. Thorngrim would have to settle for an early death. But, if Filfut got through with the message…he would not die in vain.
The first goblin never even made it onto the bridgeway. A dozen paces from the bridge, a ball of lead punched through his jaw, shattering his spine. The goblin to his left suffered a similar fate.
“Lo, do we go unto the land of our fathers…” the three chanted.
The goblins charged down the passageway, crude weapons clattering along the walls as they hurled themselves into the bridgeway opening.
Bulfist was the first to move, his hammer collecting two hapless goblins, sending them over the bridgeway into the abyss below. There was a sickening crunch as Fagui kicked the nearest goblin in the groin, and clubbed him with his handgun.
Thorngrim barely noticed the goblin arrow pierce his leg as he brought his axe down, cleaving the arm and shoulder of the nearest goblin, clean off. He saw Fagui tug another handgun from his belt, and send the top of a goblin’s skull clattering into the dark.
“Bul!” Thorngrim shouted, watching two goblins leap for him.
Bulfist may have been the heaviest of the three, but for a dwarf, he was more then agile. With a quick step back, the nearest goblin landed, face down on the mossy stone beneath him. He grabbed his hammer tight, and thrust it into the chest of the second goblin, forcing him back. A quick stomp from his heavily studded boots ended the life of the goblin at his feet.
The goblin lunged, his sharpened bronze sword jutting into the side of Bulfist. He gritted, and grabbed the green skinned beast by his ear, ripping it clean off. The creature screamed, and Bulfist swung fast, clubbing the creature off the bridgeway.
Thorngrim saw Fagui die.
Fagui had taken a spear to the thigh, and had twisted, the goblin dangling on the spear end, over the abyss. Fagui howled madly like a dwarf possessed, and raised his fist to break the shaft, sending the greenskin to his death. Before he could strike, another goblin spear punctured his back, and he was flung forward, over the edge of the bridge.
Thorngrim saw Fagui fall into the abyss, two greenskins clutching madly at their spears, embedded in the old dwarf.
“Grim…run! Protect the boy!” howled Bulfist as he elbowed the teeth out of a nearby goblin. Thorngrim could see crimson leaking from Bulfist’s armour.
He glanced over his shoulder one last time, into the long dark of the passageway.
For the sake of us all, boy.
Thorngrim stepped into a strike, which sent body parts from several goblins spewing into the melee. He could hear Bulfist being stabbed. He used his axe to sweep another goblin over the edge as he felt a deep stinging pain in his shoulder, and felt the shaft of a spear being worked into his wound. He swung down with his gauntleted fist, and snapped the shaft, tugging the speartip out. The goblin shrieked and then went silent as Thorngrim thrust the speartip into his throat.
The next time Thorngrim saw Bulfist, he was dead.
The cavern was spinning. A spinning maze of darkness, and howls and shrieks.
Thorngrim felt heavy. He dropped to his knees, his fingers going weak on his axe. He felt a stiff tugging at his back. He was being stabbed. He couldn’t feel it. He felt his chest plate hit the dirty moss beneath him. Now, he could taste blood.
Thorngrim took one more look down the bridgeway as he felt a crunching pop as his spine broke.