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First off a big thanks to Atilla from Imp Lit, he's helped a lot on this story and even by doing a little he helped. This is my longest yet, clocking up 20 pages in open office. And it's on the first chapter; so to speak. Anyways a few things about the story -
I wanted to do a dwarf slayer story that is different to the others, most stories written by fans or even by GW they never seem to look passed the first cover. Fighting. It's easy and exciting, but not always a good idea.
So I decided I was going to do a saga with a difference. Starting before he was a slayer to his death, over as many 'chapters' (ie short stories) as I think the story will support. These will be different as I plan not to have that much fighting in them (I need to practice those scenes though), and explore more the world of the Empire, World Edge Mountains and the surrounding areas and all through a slayers eyes.
Hopefully I can pull this off, sucks if I can't. Anyways, I've given it my final edit and to give Atila a rest I've decided to put it out on show. So here's the first section, it should hopefully be in three parts (or more depending on which forum I post it on and the character limit.)
I hope you all enjoy it, feedback welcome as always and be honest. I like that in posts.
Zagaz A Kadrin Grimjaw
Remembering of Kadrin Grimjaw
Told By Thargri Greybeard
Thargri Greybeard wandered down the long corridor, the guard had told him this was the way to the King's audience chamber but he maybe too late to see him. With a muttered thanks he had started off down the corridor. Thargri was a dwarf of elder years and to many â€“ manling's mainly â€“ he would seem old and decrepit. But of course all dwarfs knew this was wrong, for the strength of their race increased through their age and Thargri was now a prime aged Longbeard. A long off white beard wound it's way around him, tying off at the waist. Also around his waist was a belt bearing various pouches, many of which held tobacco or a pipe â€“ and spare ones â€“ leaving a couple for gold and jewels. Dangling from a small loop of leather at his hip was the only weapon he owned, a hammer. Its steel head was marred by the use it had seen in recent years as the wooden handle was notched and the once rich oaken wood now was a pale shadow. He wore mainly green -and well worn â€“ travelling clothes, only his brown cloak was noticeable due to the golden runic boarder woven in a fine thread around the cloaks edge. Upon his back was a pack, which constantly jingled as the items inside jumbled about â€“ many of them were cooking instruments, others were clothing. But one item stood out above all for it was wrapped in a rich purple cloth, a good length of it stuck well out of his pack â€“ and it swaying back and forth with each step.
Looking about him Thargri could see why the city was named Kazad a Zunthrum â€“ the City of Statues; for every few dozen of steps loomed a figure . Most were carved from marble â€“ the artisans had lovingly carved every feature of the dwarf, who were presumably great heroes or previous kings, down to the very rune's upon their armour. Then there were the few who truly stood out for they were carved in gold. Among these stood the Ancestor Gods, but a few others filled in the numbers as well. Also along the passage he noted the presence of guards, the elite Hammerers of the king stood silent and stern looking in hidden alcoves. Finally he approached a door twice the size of a dwarf with the words â€œHere In lies the King, speak and he shall listenâ€? in runic script across them. He noted a small door used for entry into the hall and pushed his way through.
The first thing that struck him upon entering the King's Hall was the immense size of it, but that quickly past as he had seen a far more impressive sight in the lost hold of Kadrin a Izril. Even so by his judgement this single hall could hold a large portion of the manling city of Altdorf; an impressive feat none the less. Lining the walls were axes or hammers, below each weapon was a shield and a plaque stating who they had previously belonged to. Great pillars rose from the floor to support the roof above them, each one represented a clan within the hold. The clan's entire history was carved upon them - every name, every deed and every death. At the very top was the icons and name associated with each clan, many of them were very old; the names of the dwarfs from that line stretched well over half the way down.
In front of him stood a large crowd of dwarfs, it appeared most of the clans had appeared to hear the King. Each clan stood two hands breadth away from any other, leaving a small avenue down which Thargri could see. As he gazed down the gap he spied the King, and what a sight he was. His throne rose high off the floor and the steps leading to his seat each bore a name of the kings who had previously reigned here. At the top of the stairs was the Seat of Armongth, so named after the great golden dragon that sat perched upon the top of the throne back; the wings of the dragon were at full stretch catching the light and making them seem as it they were on fire. The throne itself was covered in golden runic script with words of strength, of power and of kingship. Seated upon red velvet, deep within the large chair was King Balain. A heavy crown of gold and gromril was firmly set upon his head, a long white beard fell from his face like the rushing waters of a waterfall. Two deep, knowledgeable eyes peered from beneath a brushy brow. Even within his own court he wore his armour, it's silver surface still shone as brightly as the day it was forged. Two golden patterns intertwined as they wound their way down the polished surface. Standing leant against his throne was an axe. All could see it was runic as the icons and markings caught the light making rainbows dance across the hall. A long sturdy handle struck from the axe head to finish in a plush leather handle â€“ icons to the Ancestor gods dangled from the weapons pommel.
As Thargri watched the aged king began to rise, indicating the session was over. But Thargri had to see the King. Barging his way past the dispersing crowd he began to call out to King Balain.
â€œM'lord! M'lord!! I request to speak with you! Please!â€? Turning the elder dwarf had heard his call,
â€œPlease come back tomorrow. Today's business is doneâ€? he replied. Not willing to give up Thargri pushed on through the milling dwarfs, and again continued his quest to see the King.
â€œPlease M'lord, tis important!â€? his pleading took a desperate sound to it. As he exited the throng of dwarfs, who had now stopped to see what the commotion was, he found his way blocked by two Hammerers â€“ their great weapons crossed in front of him, blocking his path. The King carried on walking while waving his hand in acknowledgement that he had heard him. Thargri had but one chance;
â€œI bring news of Kadrin Grimjaw, your Majesty!â€? The mention of that name stopped King Balain in his tracks, turning he waved the guards to permit Thargri. A longing look of concern had entered the King's eyes,
â€œKadrin? You know him? Where is he?â€? the questions spilled from the old leader's lips.
â€œHe is safe M'lord. Last time I saw him he was well on his way to the Iron Halls, he remained so that I, his friend and rememberer, may escape and return word to you. Alas I never saw his dying moments but I am assured he acquitted himself in the eyes of the gods.â€?
The King seemed to physically sigh, as if a great weight was lifted from his shoulders. Returning to his seat he looked down upon Thargri and with a click of his fingers a table, chair and a barrel of ale was set before the steps of his throne.
â€œCome my friend, tell me. Twas a long time since I last saw Kadrin. If you were indeed his remember I desire to hear his tale. You shall stay until it is told, and you will be looked after.â€? The last words were said with such certainty that Thargri knew he would not leave the city till his tale had been told. The elderly traveller strutted forward, dropping his pack to the hard stone floor with a metallic clang. He drew himself an ale from the tap and sat down heavily upon the chair and then with a deep sigh he began;
â€œI met Kadrin when he was in the manling city of Aldorf, in an inn. I mentioned to him that I was a scribe, forced by family tradition â€“ but I wanted to have a bit of adventure. Unfortunately my father didn't see this my way and banished me from my family and clan, but that is by the by. Kadrin took quite an interest in my recording skills, and after a few more drinks I discovered why. He told me of a city; the lost hold of Nar Kazad, the City of Gold. He spoke of a once great city in the lands of men, thousands of years before even the manling Sigmar was born Such was the city's wealth it was rumoured to match that of Karak Eight Peaks or Karak Agzul but it was ultimately doomed. In this time the greenskins ruled the manling's lands, a great host was gathered and as one they fell upon the fair city. The warlord had 'employed' Night Grobi to tunnel into it from below and the dwarfs were trapped, so they had no other choice. They fled.
The city's Runelord remained to seal the vaults himself, the king had been swiftly taken by his bodyguard to safety by hidden routes known only to the dwarfs. Kadrin told be more about a number of certain relic's from the city. Two were weapons, he spoke of them in a hushed whisper â€“ as if to speak their name aloud would invoke some curse or draw unwanted attention. One was an axe, Drakkghalaz, The Dragon Skull Axe. It was forged from the remains of a great dragon, that the throne the king sits upon takes its name from, amd the dragon was felled by a great warrior â€“ his name was lost through the ages â€“ them the Runelord Skalli Fellhand took up the beasts skull and with all his skill he wrought a weapon. An axe of immense power, the blade was sharper than any forged before or afterwards â€“ runes known only to Skalli were inscribed upon its head. A solid ash handle extended from the white head, golden runic script ran the length of the wood. A hard leather grip finished the weapon off and the binding was believed to be the scales of the slain drake. It was said no armour or weapon forged by a mortal could withstand a blow from Drakkghalaz for the opposing force was shattered before it's might.
The second was a hammer, a hammer larger than any others. Only the strongest of dwarfs could wield this weapon and even then only those pure of heart could truly use it. Grimnir's Fist it was named, for the twin heads of the hammer were stylised in the form of a clenched fist. A shaft twice the length of a Hammerers weapon held the elegant head, the power of the weapon could be felt through the handle aloneâ€? An odd look entered Thargri's eyes it was as if he spoke like he himself had held the weapon; â€œKadrin told me that as the rumours went the hammer was powerful enough to rival that on the weapon the High King gave the manling's Emperor Sigmar. If the true wielder was enraged it could level cities, nothing could withstand the wrath of the Fist. Alas these two weapons were lost, for all the treasure but these two were locked away by Skalli. These two were given to the two greatest warriors in the hold and they were forced into a fighting retreat. As records go these two fell mere feet from the exit, here the weapons were lost into legend.
Bah! Look at me! I start from the middle and not the beginning. Forgive me, M'lord. Now I swore an oath to tell his tale, and tell his tale I shall â€“ as he told me. And like all great tales this one begins with a battle...â€?
Kadrin stood looking out over the assembled horde before them: Thousands of Orcs had gathered from the mountains to feast on dwarf flesh. Even at this distances he fancied he could smell them and their stench angered him. Instinctively his grip tightened upon the shaft of his hammer, the icon of his position as loyal Hammerer to King Balain. His gromril armour was covered by a lengthy ash grey beard, with flecks of white and black were laced throughout, it was held into place by golden clips. The purple cloth signifying royalty or protectors there of stuck out from underneath his protective shell and the small helmet upon his head was engraved with the rune of Kingship. Encased by the helm his face looked squat, as wrinkles lay in furrows across his forehead and his high brow protected his ice blue eyes. A shuffle to his left caused him to look that way and then behind him as a dwarf moved rattling his armour. As he did so, he was reminded that the greenskins would not find breaking this wall an easy task. A solid line of steel waited them as the dwarfs all stood there with fierce determination written upon their faces; this battle would determine the lives of their families. Looking to the right Kadrin gazed upon his King's face, Balain's sight had not wavered from the enemy before them for many moments.
â€œM'lord?â€? Turning to face the head of his bodyguard, and close personal friend, King Balain of Kazad a Zunthrum spoke.
â€œIt will be bloody old friend. I fear we may not hold out. Look at that..â€? Balain gestured towards the waiting host before them, â€œThat field of green. What hope do we have my friend? Can we hold them this time? Our numbers ever dwindle whilst theirs ever increase. Do we fight for nought?â€? The King sounded old and frail at that moment. It was widely known that he was prone to fits of depression and Kadrin knew how dangerous one of these fits would be in battle.
â€œTis only a few grobi M'lord. Well and the odd urk too. Nothing we can't handle, though I was thinking maybe we send just the young beardlings to deal with them. They need the experience after all.â€? he finished speaking with a chuckle and looked once more upon his lord. This time the frown that had previously creased his lieges brow was replaced with a broad grin, the brief bout of doom and gloom was washed away by his friend's light hearted manner.
â€œWhat and let them have all the fun? Nay my friend, while I am still strong enough to bear my axe I shall not let the young un's face our foes alone. Wouldn't want to be upstaged now would I?â€? Balain winked at Kadrin and began to walk down the line of his troops, the elite bodyguard following his very footsteps.
The King's calculating eye passed over his troops. Proud dwarfs were these, all who were able had taken their arms to defend their home; the greenskins will have a hard time breaking these lads Kadrin mused as he shadowed Balain. Calls of greeting and praise were called out from the throng as they passed by, the King returned the calls with challenges and jokes of his own. Finally he came to the end of the line to where the artillery sat waiting, the crews of the renown weapons busied themselves with the preparations and the calibrations for the machine to be most effective. The King nodded to the crews as he passed in an indication that they should continue with their work for at the middle of the battery was who Balain sought.
â€œAh, Gurni there you are.â€? Turning at his name Gurni Blackbeard bowed. Gurin was the Master Engineer of the hold, he was in charge of every great machine that was upon the field, for a dwarf he seemed slightly odd. His manner was different to the other engineers; he refused many to touch the machines least they 'curse' them. His accent was also different. Northern by the sounds of it, Kadrin thought. . His black beard seemed never to grow any longer than it's current length, looking at it as they stood there the hammerer could see why â€“ it was on fire. Fortunately Gurni had noticed too and quickly padded it out.
â€œSo Master Engineer, tell what we are facing.â€? the King once more serious. Gurni handed Balain his telescope and began to tell him;
â€œWell, ye Majesty, I's sees many grobi and urk. But nothin' special there eh? And beings an Engineer I's been looking at whats theys haveâ€? he spat contemptuously on the floor â€œApart from the odd stone thrower, if yous could call those things war machines â€“ whichs I's don't mind you â€“ we haves nothin' tos worry aboot. I's also spies somes of those wolfie riders lurkerin' over yonder near those treesâ€? with his hand he indicated where and Balain trained the scope upon the small corpse, in which he could see goblin wolf riders â€“ many of which were fighting one another; poking and prodding with their spears.
â€œSo, this is the great host that threatens us? Bah! I've seen more fearsome elgi than this lot!â€? he drew a nervous laughter from those nearby and then he turned back to the engineer â€œI trust you know what's best to target Gurin my friend, so I shan't tell you otherwise. May Grungni, Grimnir and Valaya watch you and guide your aim.â€? shaking the engineers hand he turned back to rejoin the main battle line.
The two sides stood still watching one another, nothing moved â€“ apart from the odd squabbling greenskin â€“ as they all waited for the order. At the front of the orc lines, sat atop of a large snorting boar was the so named warlord. Raising it's axe high into the air it silenced it's entire army, there they stood silent. Suddenly it levelled the weapon at the dwarven lines and with their traditional roar of â€œWAAAGH!!â€? the greenskin army charged and it was as if those words started an avalanche of green. At a single command the entire dwarf army tightened their formation, their shields interlocked unto a solid mass of wood and steel. They waited for that green tide to wash upon them, each dwarf running through the grudges they will avenge against their ancestral foe that day in their minds.
King Balain stood staring at the on coming foe, his hands tightened their grip upon his weapon as he began to mutter curses and grudges. Beside him his loyal guard steeled themselves and closed tight to the King. To the far left a loud crack followed by a black cloud descending upon the dwarfish lines marked the opening of the Thunderers and artillery. Kadrin glanced up as watched as a stone almost the size of the weapon that fired it arced overhead, it sailed almost gracefully thought the air before it's rapid descent was cushioned by the floor â€“ and those greenskins too slow or stupid to get out the way. Black blurs flashed across the land as cannonballs bounced their way across the mountain floor; spattering orc and goblin alike. A black shadow passed overhead and Kadrin thought it was another stone passing over but when he heard screams from behind he realised his error, the orc crew had found their range and landed their own attack deep into the dwarven lines. Kadrin prayed that they didn't have brains to keep doing the same. But such thoughts became secondary as the orc lines were almost upon them. Even as the gap closed he watched as black clad goblins clinging to large balls by a length of chain were expelled from their kin;
â€œFanatics!!â€? he bellowed. In response many of the crossbow and handgun wielding dwarfs adjusted their aim, taking many down. But a few still connected with the dwarf line, and they unleashed mayhem. Where they touched the solid dwarf line it crumbled into dust. Fully armoured dwarfs were tossed about like rag dolls, their bloodied and battered bodies landing back among their comrades with a crunch. The odd brave dwarf stood his ground and tried to take them down and instead they received a iron ball in the gut or head. Two finally collided mid-air and fell to the floor in a mangled heap, yet another was brought down with a well placed throwing axe and the final few were quickly overcome. But their deaths came at a great price. At one point the shield wall was shattered, and the greenskins had a way in.
The orcs fell upon the dwarfs with a vicious roar, attacking their ancient enemy with claw, choppa or tooth â€“ in fact with anything at hand. But true to their nature the dwarfs held, their solid line held and the greenskin bodies began to pile up. In unison axes and hammers rose and fell in time, each swing ending a life â€“ their skulls bludgeoned or their chests carved open. Here and there a dwarf fell to a spear thrust between the gaps or a momentary break in the wall but in all the line was still intact. Except for one part. Where the orcs saw a weakness they pounced upon it and tore it apart like a troll with a human; and they spared no dwarf. Soon the section was no longer possible to save and there were only but a score of islands of dwarfs fighting for survival in the sea of green, but ultimately they were lost. The numbers swamped each ring and one by one they fell, drowned under the waves of orcs. There was nothing to stop them now and they rolled up the flank and lashed at the burly dwarfs already in combat.
But these were dwarfs, no manlings or weak links here, and with true determination they fought back. Outnumbered but not beaten for as each dwarf that fell he took two greenskins with him, and soon the orcs began to falter. They had thought it would be easier, slaughter a few stunties and then feast on the spoils. The dwarfs had other ideas. As the greenskins drew back for another charge a change took over the dwarf lines, for they knew they was going to die but they would make sure they acquit themselves in the eyes of their gods and go down fighting. Right then, in that time they knew nothing else but hatred and vengeance. It started slowly, a solitary dwarf, a death chant; his weapon upon his shield as his voice rang out. But then another took it up, and another, then another. Suddenly when the orcs began their charge their found their war cries drowned out by the bass tone of death and death they got.
Kadrin heard the rumble of dwarven voices chanting to the gods. Turning his head towards the noise he silently prayed. In his heart he wept, many of those brave dwarfs would die. From his fears came a fierce determination, he swore their sacrifice would not be in vain for he shall not let them down. Turning back to face the front he stepped forward once more and into the maelstrom of battle. To his left an orc hacked down a warrior in a fierce frenzy of violence, in two swift moves he had landed a sharp blow on it's ribs - breaking a few in the process â€“ before his second swing shattered it's skull. Leaving the orc he waded further into the throng of greenskins, his shield and armour blocked blow after blow while his hammer shattered skulls or splintered ribs with each crushing swing. Suddenly Kadrin realised he had been separated from the King, as he looking up he spotted him and began to swing himself in the King's direction; dealing death where ever he met an orc or their smaller cousins.
Then the fighting split and Kadrin saw an orc that towered over all - even it's own bodyguard. The warlord. And it was heading towards the King, meanwhile Balain had his back to him and was faced off with two other burly orcs. Shouting a warning could end badly for the king and doing nothing could mean the same thing. Seeing no other choice Kadrin moved as quick as he could to intercept. With an upwards swing he almost tore the head of an orc, it's body toppled before the leader. Kadrin stepped out in front of the warlord and placed his foot upon the corpse, his hammer pointing at the larger being.
The two warriors stood eyeing one another up and down, the orc stood a good three feet taller than the dwarf. His weapon crackled and jerked as primitive energies granted from the twin gods if its race coursed through the dull metal. Patches of metal plating from various places were strapped to its chest, shoulder and thighs, all of the armour were scavenged from its defeated foes. Kadrin swallowed hard as he faced the towering beast, he would not shirk his duty. Taking a deep breath he began to circle the warlord, the two combatants eyes locked then in a screaming war cry from them they clashed. Kadrin's weighted hammer was at a disadvantage, and instantly found himself of the defensive as the axe struck time and time again. Gripping the hammer two handed Kadrin held a downwards strike that would have split him in two. The warlords mouth split into a toothy grin, and its rank breath rolled over the dwarf. Gagging Kadrin twisted the hammer slightly and gained a purchase, then suddenly with a sharp drop of his left shoulder and a twist the orcs axe swept past him and down onto the muddied floor. As he turned he lashed out with his trusty hammer, the strike caused the beast to bellow and for a number of crudely attached armour plates to tumble away from the iron herd flesh.
Once more they parted, Kadrin's muscles ached as a numbing pain entered them from blocking the attacks. Knowing he could not face many more strikes like he had been he found only one course open to him. And with a bellowing cry in Khazalid the diminutive warrior lashed out. His attacking caught the warlord surprised and unaware, his speeding strikes clacked against the hard wooden shaft the the orcen weapon time and time again. Spinning his hammer in a circle of silver he swiftly danced to the side before reversing the blow as it avoided the warlords clumsy counterstrike and instead connected its ribs with a wet crack. Unfortunately Kadrin couldn't keep the pace and his attacks lost their vigour and sting until they faltered altogether, drained of all his energy he stood groggily awaiting the replying death. The orc's reply was fierce. It's long swing smashed aside Kadrin's weak defences each time, leaving long marring scratches along the hammerers chest plate â€“ and leaving the dwarf inside gasping for air. His eyes shut of their own accord, he was either dying or passing out, he didn't know which but knew he'd never wake up again. Stars fluttered past Kadrin's eyes and just as they opened once more, he was just in time to see a deft flick of the warlords wrist before his world exploded into pain. His chest felt as if he had been struck by a meteor whilst naked, once more his eyes opened and he found himself laying propped up by a rock his hammer lay a few yards to his right.
With each movement the pain in his chest increased and he could feel himself passing into the other realm, his eyes rolled in his head as he hissed words of pray. Slowly and painfully he raised a hand to his chest, he could feel the impact the strike made. His armour had split open like it was a melon, his chest now pumped out fresh, red blood with each breath. It was ruined and he was defenceless. Then a tall shadow fell on him, looking up into the orcs eyes a slight moan escaped his lips as he watched his executioner carefully. Then as it raised the brutal axe above its thick skull Kadrin screwed his eyes shut and prayed, he heard the wind sliding along the axe as it rapidly descended before it stopped sharply with a clang. Frowning his slowly slid his eyes open and there blocking the path of the orc's weapon was the faithful axe of king Balain.
â€œHe's not yours to take, scum.â€? the old king muttered and with strength belying his size he pushed upwards and backwards forcing his opponents weapon away from his downed bodyguard. For the second time that day the warlord found itself facing off against a brave and defiant dwarf but unlike Kadrin, King Balain had over three centuries of experience against the greenskin menace. It had been orcs that had ravaged his father's hold and as his son Balain had inherited the intense hatred and loathing of the race, he had been schooled in the ways of killing an orc quickly and swiftly. He knew everything about them, and now he showed it. His axe sang as it swept through the air, the musical note changed sharply as Balain's axe reversed to block a low swing from the warlord then in answer his own attack swept the orcs axe up and over the dwarf's head before slicing the abdomen of his erstwhile opponent. The orc reeled in pain, the runic axe had slipped through the armour as if it was nothing and dug a furrow in the hard flesh. All thought left the orc's mind at this point, the pain drove it out and it returned to what it knew best â€“ fast and strong attacks. Leaping forward it swiftly lashed out of Balain, but the old king knew better and twisting his axe he pushed the attack away and readied himself for the next. Again and again he turned the strikes, his precise blocking and counters were taking their toll on the larger fighter. The orc bled from numerous cuts and grazes whilst the dwarf had barely been touched, a few scratches upon the enchanted gromril amour was the only evidence that he had been struck.
Time passed and still the two danced their dance of steel and death, the heavy armour and years of experience saving the dwarf numerous times whilst the sheer thick skinned and dense mind saved the warlord â€“ despite the fact it should have been dead by now. A turning point in the fight opened up and was swiftly taken; the dwarf feinted an high strike towards the greenskins neck but at the blocking weapon was raised he swept his axe lower and ripped through the tendons and muscle in a thick tree trunk sized leg. With a anguished, bellow of pain the orc fell to one knee. With a flourish Balain now used his momentum to turn his armoured body in a full circle, his axe set to remove the head of his opponent â€“ but orc are never the easiest of creatures to put down. Especially a wounded one. As the king spun with axe raised the warlord used it's remaining strength and pushed forward, and as Balain faced his opponent once more it wasn't a defeated orc he saw -but the face face of the enchanted axe. With a resounding clang the weapon struck Balain in the face and the sheer power of the attack flung him off his feet and onto the dirt, his prone body didn't move.
The warlord hobbled over to the prone body and its face split into a tooth grin, raising its axe it prepared for the final strike. It prepared and so did Balain. Rolling to his left he lashed out at the wounded leg with all his might, a jolt of pain ran through the orc as the gromril armoured foot of the dwarf struck the wound hard. Again it refused to accept the pain and instead leapt at the old king. Having managed to gain a knee Balain was in a better position and pushing from the ground he let his weight drag his form upwards, his axe met that of the warlord. The two weapons hissed and spat as the two magical elements of them fought for supremacy, green magic pushed and struggled against the stout dwarf runic power. Flashing green and red light flickered across the two weapons time and time again, but ultimately it was ancient dwarven power that won through. With a final push the greenskin blessed weapon shattered asunder the power of their ancient rivals power in a blinding flash of light and as shock slid onto the warlords face Balain was already reversing his strike, with a final cry his blessed weapon swung backwards â€“ striking the head off the orc. The body fell heavily to the floor, the red eyes sunken deep into it's thick skull had a dazed confused look in them as if it didn't know what had happened. Balain stumbled over the the cooling corpse and looked it in the eyes, â€œNo. No peaceful death for you.â€? Picking up the defeated greenskins head he clambered onto the body, brandishing the trophy in one hand and his axe in the other he bellowed;
â€œUzkul a urk!! Dawi a kazak!! Death to them all!â€? The last thing Kadrin saw was the orcs falling back from the furious dwarfs and then he fell into the dark oblivion.
A jolt rushed through his body forcing his eyes open with a groan. Kadrin's blurry vision first encountered the dark skies; night was beginning to creep across the heavens like a dark bruise. Again he was jolted and it took him a couple of moments to realise he was on a carriage of some sort, beside him he could hear the mutterings of the dwarfs the tramped along in unison alongside the slow moving wagon.
â€œAh! The sleeping hero awakes. Welcome back to the real world Kadrin my old friend.â€? came the chuckling voice of King Balain beside him. A wide grin split the elder dwarfs face and he looked at his wounded companion. Kadrin shifted slightly to get into a more comfortable position and pain flared in his chest; forcing him into a hacking cough. A slight twinge of concern had now entered the King's voice.
â€œWorry not Kadrin, the priestess of Valaya has seen to the wound. Nothing to worry about she said, although she did mention that you were lucky. Something about the blade should have carved you in two, but tis just mutterings eh? How do you feel?â€?
â€œLike I've just tried to out drink King Kazador of Karak Azul.â€? Kadrin moaned, forcing a roaring bout of laughter from his liege. â€œTell me M'lord, how long have I been out?â€?
â€œHmm.. about two days I'd say. We still have two more days march left to home, the Priestess said you should be fully healed by then. Yet another wound in the service of your King to show off the the wife eh?â€? the old King carefully nudged his bodyguard in the ribs with a wink. High above them night had firmly taken it's dark grip now, the sky was all but black â€“ only the few red rays of the sinking sun remained. Slowly the column of dwarfs halted for the night, one by one the tents went up. Barrels of ale were rolled off many of the carts travelling with the bearded army, before being cracked open and their contents disappearing at a frightful rate. A solitary tent was erected for the wounded, many of the young and untried beardlings were inside, some with minor wounds â€“ which their old kin berated them with stories about how they fought for days with such wounds they bore â€“ others were more serious, limbs missing or a wounds that failed to heal due to infection. Now they had stopped the numerous Priestess present set to work healing and blessing those who were in need of the Goddess Valaya.
Kadrin was forced to stay in the healer's tent, but his wound was no longer viewed as a danger to him and so was placed with the younger dwarfs. As the elder beings came to see those wounded, be their family or the veteran's of the young one's unit, all nodded to Kadrin as it appeared the tale of his heroics had spread throughout the throng and he now had earned even more respect from the longbeards. Many dwarfs had even congratulated him by sneaking in the odd ale and pipe with full weed for him, much to the chagrin of the women present. The only treatment for his wound he had received was a single application of an ointment, the priestess had pulled back the bandage covering the wound and appraised the wound with an expert eye â€“ then she told Kadrin that it was healing well. He may even be able to stretch his legs for a short while soon. This cheered him up no end, he even treated many of the wounded young ones to a tale or two to take their minds of their injuries. This was welcomed by the priestesses as well, he was just finishing up a tale about King Balain and a giant when he huffing came from the doorway.
â€œPff! Nothing like it was when I was young, that 'thing' was nothing like a giant. Now my grandfather fought a true giant, alone mind you. Aye, they don't exist like they use to. Now days any bloody manling with a sword can take these ones down.â€? the old dwarf's comments drew a number of muttered agreements from the gathered veterans and a few chuckles from others present. At the Kings entrance all present began to bow, but were cut short when the king waved them to stay as they were â€“ he then proceeded to drop heavily into the chair seated beside Kadrin's cot.
â€œSo then young Kadrin, feeling better are we?â€? the King waved his near empty tankard about as he slurred his words, the ale inside slopped about and on occasion leapt out the drinking mug. â€œI take it you've heard the news passing through the camp? About you and this warlord which I slew?â€? Kadrin was about to reply but was quickly cut off as his drunk leader continued, â€œThey're sayin you killed it! You! Taking credit for my hard work whilst you lounged about on the floor. Hurum... Sorry my old friend, you did your part and I should not be blaming you for such rumours. Tis just an old dwarfs ramblings.â€? Draining the last of his ale he smacked his lips and bellowed for another drink, he was slightly shocked to have one thrust in front of him in mere moments; his servant had already got one ready. Balain grumbled something into his drink that brought a smile to the wounded hammerer's face.
â€œI'm holding up well, M'lord. Unlike some of these young beardlings.â€? His jibe drew a number of shouts from the younger dwarfs present and these in turn yielded chuckles from the veterans. â€œI just want to get home, I think Brodrika will be missing me a fair bit by now. Also I'd hate to miss the birth of my second child.â€? The King started slightly at the last part,
â€œAnother one? Well someone's been productive with their time offâ€? he said earning a rye smile from Kadrin. â€œWhat will it be this time? Boy or a girl?â€?
â€œA boy, Grungni willing. I shall train him personally, hopefully he'll earn a place amongst my current ranking.â€? pride and longing crept into his voice as he spoke, it was clearly evident he wished for a child to carry on his legacy after he had passed. The King chuckled and slapped Kadrin on the shoulder before rising;
â€œI'm sure he will. Now, get some rest my friend for we leave early in the morning.â€? Taking one last look around the hospice he nodded to all and slipped out the tent he was followed not long after by Kadrin slipping into sleep.
Then next day the camp had dispersed long before the sun had woken, the long column of dwarfs â€“ all in various states of being hungover or sober â€“ began the final two days march back home into the mountains. Kadrin found himself back on the cart once more, this time alone as Balain had decided to mingle with the troops, and his mind began to wander in and out of sleep as it did strange dreams came to him. Dreams with a feel of loneliness or loss, then dreams of exultation and celebration swept over him and yet he could make no heads nor tails of it. Twice he was woken from them, once for a priestess to apply the balm to his wound once more â€“ which was now little more than a scar â€“ and the second time he was disturbed was for something to eat. Each time he closed his eyes be felt a cloud of foreboding drape his shoulders, a feeling he failed to shake and his mood seemed to darken due to it. Many believed it was just that he was unable to join the King, but Kadrin knew different; It'll all go away when I return to Brodrika he constantly thought. But he rarely believed it.
The next day passed the same as the previous one, finally the mountains could be seen in the distance. Their great snow capped topped were shrouded in mist, their feet hidden by the thick cover. All rejoiced for they would soon be home and back into the arms of their families and lovers.
The train of dwarfs finally rounded the bend leading towards their home, here the fields that they used to grow their crops in stood. The fields were hidden out the way but close enough to the hold that a single lookout from the mountain looked out over the farmlands, a hidden passage known only to the dwarfs who tended the field was situated in the guise of a clump of rocks just off the main road that lead through the land. Kadrin looked up and across the fields in the hopes of finding his wife, Brodrika, tending them but all he could see was the crops they yielded. Corn and maze rank in ranks along two of the largest fields, these were mainly used for the baking of bread; the next field held potatoes and carrots as well as other vegetables that grew under the ground. On the right side of the track was an orchard; the fruit that fell from it's branches were apples, pears and apricots. As Kadrin looked over the farmlands he could see it was buzzing with life, dwarfs of all ages and sex ran to and fro toiling in their endeavour to keep the bellies of the hungry occupants of their home full. As the weary dwarfs passed by the workers stopped and waved, many of them moved towards the column and asked how it went and yelled in celebration at the new they received.
But still Kadrin has a bad feeling, it was as if something was eating at him from the inside â€“ or was missing altogether. The further into the fields they moved the more the variety of stock they found, they had moved passed the fruit and vegetables they now entered another section all together â€“ live stock. Either side of the road stood herds of pig, cow, sheep and goat â€“ each one being huddled into small groups by a number of shepherds and their trained hounds. Then once more the scenery changed as the flat fields gave way to a new vine covered land, here the ripe strawberries and grapes the grew only in this part of the mountains were harvested. And yet unlike the others that came to greet the warriors with cheers and smiles these dwarfs approached with sad and dour looking faces, it was in sombre words they drew the King away and spoke quietly to him. A small gaggle of females had drawn close the Kadrin's cart, he could clearly see that they had been crying recently.
â€œTell me, m'lady, what ails you so? Are you not glad to see the menfolk returned from war with few deaths? Does that not lighten your hearts?â€? he asked with a puzzled look upon his face. Looking up at his grating voice, two of the women broke down once more and sank to their knees sobbing. One stepped forward and placed her hand upon Kadrin's arm with a gentleness belying her looks,
â€œForgive us m'lord. We could do nothing. She..she was too far away, when the alarm was raised she failed to hear it 'til it was too late. They came from nowhere. I'm sorry.â€? then she too broke down in tears, leaving Kadrin even more perplexed than before but now the foreboding feeling was slowly creeping back in;
â€œWho couldn't you save? Why was it too late? What came from nowhere? Who? What's going on?!â€? this time he looked up and caught King Balain looking at him, a sadness clung to his face and he looked upon Kadrin with a deep sorrowful gaze. The weight of the gaze struck the wounded dwarf like a hammer. Suddenly he stood bolt upright frantically looking at the faces of all the women present, his wife worked in these fields.
â€œ Brodrika? Brodrika?! Where is she?! Where's my wife?!â€? now Kadrin was screaming his wife's name, his gaze swept over the fields time and time again. His bellowing calls drew loud and great sobs from the womenfolk about, the King even broke off from his conversation and began to walk towards Kadrin in hopes of calming him down. But it was too late. Kadrin suddenly stopped stock still, his gaze rested on one place. A white mound lay among the green of the fields around it and then he knew the feelings he had borne for the past day all crashed upon him at once.
â€œBrodri.....kaâ€? his voice broke. Then without warning he surged off the wagon and sprinted as fast as he could towards the white mass, he tore his way through bushes and ripped his tunic numerous times as it snagged on thorns and branches. The wounded dwarf sprinted through the fields, his chest throbbing and pounding as his heart threatened to rip itself through the recent wound but he refused to give in for he knew it was her. Ignoring all the cries coming from behind him he came upon the body â€“ a woman and child â€“ and he stopped. In stuttering footsteps he edged closer to the body, his heart was ash for inside he knew it was her and she was dead. He stood staring at the corpses that were once his beloved wife and child for now he was in no doubt it was them. Then it was as if his world had collapsed upon him, his heart had been torn out leaving a gaping wound â€“ he sank to his knees beside the bodies; the tears ran freely down his face. Everything he loved was gone. His family gone and he was now alone. Around him the foundations of his life were shattered in one blow, raising his head to the skies he roared in pain and anguish. Floods of tears washed down his cheeks as he bellowed skywards from behind him his old friends voice filtered through his screams;
â€œI'm sorry Kadrin. I would have told you sooner, but I did not know. They say it was grobi, wolf riders. They came from the mountains, no more than ten. The alarm was raised but she... she didn't hear it. I'm so sorry. Two grobi were killed as the wolves fled, but...â€? Balain trailed off as he realised Kadrin was not listening, he had stopped his cry towards the heavens but now he lay collapsed upon the corpse of his wife; sobbing into her clothing and muttering the word â€œnoâ€? over and over. Their ruler gestured to the crowd gathered that they should draw back and let Kadrin mourn her passing.
Kadrin held handfuls of her dress in his grip as if in fear of loosing her again, the pain had not subsided nor did he expect it to; he laid sprawled across her body sobbing his heart out. He had heard the King's words but failed to understand or recognise their meaning through his pain. He looked deep inside and found nought but ash, no strength was left within him and he realised his dreams were this moment at this time. He felt his wife's death and always knew it, but refused to believe it. He had failed her and his daughter but more so he had failed his unborn child; anger, pain and failure wracked his body. He had sworn an oath to defend her and care for her for their lives and he had failed. Finally he rose to a kneeling position beside her, still the tears ran down his face and he sobbed over and over but as he did he looked up at the mountains that were his home and that of the greenskins who had killed her. That was all it took, a single spark of anger and from the ashes of his heart a new emotion rose like the phoenix â€“ hatred. Looking down beside Brodika's corpse he saw a knife, taking it in his shaking grasp he lent over his wife's body and began to hack at the hair on his head.
Balain now heard the rest of the story behind his friend's wife's death, and it bit him to the core. He never knew her that well but he felt a keen pain of loss ache in his own heart and he cast his head down as he looked deep within. He was quickly drawn out of the soul searching by a number of gasps before him, looking up he spun and followed their gaze. He quickly wished he had not, for now yet another piece of him died. Walking towards him was Kadrin, former Hammerer of his as now he had no hair upon his head bar a single stripe running from his forehead to the nape of his neck. No longer was this Kadrin Grimjaw, Hammerer to King Balain who stood before him for now he was none of that; he was but a name. His old friend had taken the slayer oath. He was dead to the world now.
â€œKadrinâ€? Balain choked, â€œWhy? I..â€? he was cut off by his former guard forestalling him with a raised hand.
â€œBalain, there is nothing here for me now. My family are dead, what life can I have here? I swore an oath when I married her, I swore that I would die in protecting her and I failed. I broke my promise. No, the pain to too much and too fresh so I cannot stay least I dishonour my family's memory and your hold. I must leave.â€? The pained look in Kadrin's eye showed that the decision was not an easy one but one he must take; even if his lord disliked it.
â€œMy friend! If that be your reason then I too should take the oath for it was I who kept you and she apart. It was in my name you went to war, and in my name did you march beside me in honour. If you must that this oath then I too shall join you.â€?
â€œNo. You are a King Balain, you would be breaking a stronger oath should you take the same oath. Besides who would rule in your stead? There are very few suitable my old friend, and long may you reign for many years to come.â€? Kadrin replied.
â€œKadrin, you want revenge don't you? If that be it then we can do it together! I have an entire army at my disposal, they wouldn't live a day longer.â€? But he stopped himself short, the stern look Kadrin was now giving him reminded him of a look his father use to give him, he would never convince Kadrin now. Beckoning over a servant he whispered into his ear before sending him running off, then his attention was turned fully back to Kadrin;
â€œBefore you leave you will need to know they are the correct greenskins and where they went will you not? Well this here is Firgil Masrunsson, he saw them flee.â€? A young dwarf stepped forward and nodded to Kadrin yet his eyes never met Kadrin's; it appeared even the young were more intelligent than to look upon the disgraced dwarf;
â€œAye I saw them yer Majesty, they were nought to speak of. Scrawny things, underfed I'd say and their wolfs looked little better, each one bore a shield with a single device upon it â€“ a black claw with yellow nails. They were from the Black claw tribe, all grobi I heard. Though recently I heard they were no more, maybe it was the tail end of the broken tribe or a new fragment altogether â€“ I don't know. Anyways these grobi came down, fast they came too not slow and with purpose but fast and reckless.â€? Kadrin lost his temper at this point;
â€œFor Grungni's sake lad!! Which blooming way did they go?! I need not the tribes history just a direction!â€? indignation flashed in Firgil's eyes before he grunted and pointed towards the mountains
â€œI expect you'll find them on the Western side of the mountains.â€? As the young one finished the King's servant returned with a back brimming with food and a small barrel of ale; raising Kadrin's eyebrow.
â€œWhat? Just because you think you're leaving doesn't mean I cannot see that you won't starve â€“ not a honourable death that eh? Now here's your hammer. If you must go then we part here and now. May the Gods smile upon you and you regain your honour my friendâ€? the two dwarfs clasped hands at the wrist, the warriors handshake and the King turned away with the group in tow but occasionally one would glance round to see if he had gone.
Kadrin hefted the hammer in his hands, the familiar weight felt good and if he should kill with any weapon then he could have no betterr weapon. Looking down upon his wife he called out to his former lord;
â€œBalain. See that she gets the proper funeral. That she deserves at least.â€? the solemn king nodded once then watched as his old friend lifted the pack and hammer onto his shoulder and then begin his long journey. Balain never moved from his spot until Kadrin was no lover visible. As he was slowly dragged back towards the army by his servants he muttered something;
â€œYou shall be always welcome within my halls Kadrin. Always.â€? and with that he clambered aboard a wagon and the column began to move once more. Home. Finally.
Kadrin walked slowly through the field of strawberries, the red fruit reminded him of the red wound staining the body of his wife and child. Slowly the green and luscious bushes gave way to brown, aged and dying foliage followed by a hard rock floor. Which crept into domain of the soft mud of the fields until it had consumed it all. Now the only scenery Kadrin could see were rocks and dead bushes, the barren ground seemed to reflect his mood as he stalked his prey. Before half light had even been cast upon the valley he had reached the foot of the mountains, the steep slope rose high above him and into the heights of the rocky spire. Using his hammer as a staff Kadrin began the long climb to the top. Upon reaching the pinnacle of the path he stopped and turned, his long gaze washed out over the fields. . He watched as a small detail of dwarfs bore the bodies of his wife and child upon a wooden pallet and laid them upon a cart. He stood watching until the last of the dwarfs had passed from the valley below, by this time the sun had sank and night crept it's way into the sky.
Kadrin stumbled about in the cool night air as he tried to continue his pursuit, that was until his failed to see a rock sticking up and fell flat on his face.
â€œBy Grungni! Bloody stone!!â€? he uttered as he ran his fingers over his sore toes, grimacing he stood and realised he could not walk in these conditions. Glancing about he saw an shelter formed from a shelf of rock, a quick look didn't disturb anything so he began to settle down for the night. After a short forage he came back with some dry twigs and berries, not long after he had a warm blazing fire in front of him. . Opening the pack given to him he lay it's contents out before him; strips of meat, bread, fruit â€“ apples mainly â€“ as well as enough pipe tobacco to last a while and a good solid pipe but probably most important of all was the small barrel of ale. In an orgy of hunger Kadrin devoured all but a few strips of meat and bred from his pack, before sparking up the pipe. He sat staring into the flickering flames recounting the memories of his lover and daughter and as he did the ale barrel slowly emptied as he drank himself to sleep but a fitfully sleep. For when he closed his eyes he saw the face of his wife then witnessed her being brutally slain, time and time again the dream replayed in his mind and each time he was too slow and too late to save them. In his sleep his slowly sobbed, the weight of her death was heavy upon his heart.
Opening his eyes the drunk dwarf groaned as the grainy daylight touched the sensitive organs as he slowly pushed himself to a seated position he grunted. Slowly the memories of his drinking and of the dreams filtered back into his mind â€“ which drew yet another groan. Splashing a bit of water on his face, from a canteen he found in the pack, he slowly began to pack up his camp. As he emerged back onto the pathways he checked both ways for a sound or sight of another being yet all he could see was a light grey fog, a blanket of the vapour has descended overnight. Bending down Kadrin expertly ran his hand over a number of tracks on the hard stony ground, he had spent his youth up in these mountains and through this he had learnt the skill of tracking â€“ even the hardened ground upon which he now stood was nothing to him. Rising one more he set off at a brisk pace with the trail always in sight but occasionally he would stop to check he was on the right path, for at times there were many branches of pathways that would lead to various areas close by the the mountain but still the tracks went onwards and upwards. And as he followed the more he became to realise their intent â€“ they wanted to pass over the mountain.
The days blurred into a week and food was becoming scare as he had polished off the gift from his former lord on the second day. For over a week his tracking of the goblins had revealed nothing but markings for him to follow. The mist had yet to abate, instead it seemed to thicken to such a degree Kadrin could barely see a foot in front of him â€“ a fact which led him to stumbling and falling over a number of times. Then to add to his misery the temperature began to drop, at first it was barely noticeable. In the dead of night, whilst asleep, he would shudder at the cold and then it began to creep into the day, the warm sun was filtered by the mountain and only a cool glow hung in the skies â€“ when he could see it. The further he pushed on the colder it got, he would wake to find frost clung to the ground around him or his blanket was damp due to the cold. His hunt was bare thread, the small creatures he could find would barely sustain him - only a score of rabbits or hares had fled from him. Even still he had become a good shot with his sling, an improvised weapon made from a strip of his shirt and a stone, and he had claimed enough.
Kadrin stopped in the fog and looked up, again the bright sun was high in the sky and it's warm glow mocked him and his quest. Pulling his thin shirt about him he trudged onwards, praying for a sign he was still on the right track as two days past he had lost all sign of the greenskin's trail; it had all but vanished. His sigh was visible in the cold climate as a cloud of white formed in the cold air before vanishing. As he moved he saw dark shapes in the fog close by, touching them he discovered they were stalagmites of rock. Rows of them lined each side, the dark blots looming out of the cover unnerved him slightly â€“ his hammer was griped firmly in both hands. He past a score upon score of the striking rocks and he began to get an uneasy feeling, a strange tingle between his shoulder blades and on pure instinct he stopped and listened. Although muffled he could hear something, the displacing of stones underfoot maybe or the clack of a claw upon the hardened ground? He strained his hearing in hopes he could discover the direction of the sound, but he needn't have bothered for the closest blur to his left suddenly leapt out at him with a fierce roar.
Turning at the noise he instinctively brought the wooden haft of his weapon up to block but instead of a weapon notching it he could see it was a head that bit into the wood. A bear! His realisation was but a blink of an eye and as he came to his senses the creature lashed out, it's taloned paws barely missing the slayer by an inch or so.
â€œWooha! There big fella, I meant no harm. Nows why don't you just go back to sleep eh? I seek a mighty death, not to become a bear's scratch post.â€? but the bear didn't agree with his opponent and once more struck the dwarf, who was a little bit slow this time. He twisted himself away from the attack yet it was too little, three claws caught him high on the scalp before dragging their way across his face and ripping an eye out in a shower of gore. The slayer fell backwards as he screamed in pain, his previous wounds were nothing compared with that what he now felt. His roars or anger and pain seemed to startle the bear as it hesitated - something which cost it dearly - for that split moment Kadrin saw his wife and child's bodies flash before his eyes and the pain flared into anger. Picking the hammer up from where it lay in the snow the wounded dwarf stood and faced his opponent, his one good eye focusing it with a steely gaze;
â€œYou should have done as I saidâ€? he grunted through clenched teeth, then with a bellow that echoed through the alleys of stalagmites he leapt at the oversized mammal. The bear seemed to recover its senses, then in a feeble attempt swung once more for Kadrin; but he wasn't there. Using his size and superior skills he ducked under the swipe, his hammer hit the lower hind leg and with an audible crack the bones with shattered. With the sudden loss of it's hind leg the bear seemed to look puzzled before the mess of meat collapsed beneath it, a soft mewling whimper hissed from its lips as Kadrin stood above it. He felt nothing as his hammer descended upon its skull crushing it's tiny mind. As he withdrew the weapon - matted with shards of skull and pieces of brain - a wry smile slid onto his face; he had food and a coat as he drew a knife from the bottom of his pack, then began the process of skinning such an animal.
The wind howled through the mountainside, Kadrin was really beginning to get the impression he wasn't wanted there. He adjusted the bearskin cloak draped around his shoulders as he did his left hand went to the left eye socket, the empty chamber in his head itched since the loss of the eye housed there. It had been two days since his encounter with the bear, the wound it left upon his face was healing slowly and he had used his last shirt to bind it. His eye, unfortunately, couldn't be saved as the three claw marks that now ran down that side of his face had mangled the socket and eye. But on the lighter side of things since he left the ranks stalagmites he had once more happened upon his quarries trail. The markings of wolf feet marked the light snow that lay on the ground, they were faint but to a seasoned tracker like Kadrin they told him all he needed to know. They were only a few days ahead of him. Of course this was before the wind began to pick up.
At first the breeze troubled him little in his new warm protection, but slowly the breeze turned into a strong wind followed by a gale. And to add onto this it started to snow once more, the cold flakes struck his face as the blizzard intensified. The snow became harder and harder the more north he went, until the flakes were hail and the hardened balls of water struck him hard with every passing moment. Each night, when he could find shelter, he would remove the coat only to find scores of small bruises from the weather. Each step he took was akin to lifting an ogre on his back, the weight of his weapon, his pack and the sheer force of the tempest worked against him. His muscles felt weak, his breaths came in gasps that stung with each intake of air; again it felt like something worked against him as if he wasn't wanted upon the mountain.
Slowly he climbed over a snowdrift sinking almost waist deep in the soft white powder, his cloths were soaked and he had developed a cold. It started little more than a sniffle but now he would stop and have bouts of sneezing, something that annoyed him no end as he slowly pushed through the freezing snow. Using the hammer to clear a path before him until he had moved onto less dense ground, stopping he shielded his eyes and gazed upwards towards the mountain cap. It looked ever increasingly elusive, the wind rattled passed his tiring form but he would not sleep for he feared he would never wake and he would not rest for fear of giving in. There on the steps of the mountain he stood - open to the elements, he felt the cold whispers of Lady Frost in his mind and in him muscles; if only he sat for a short while. Slowly his drained body began to droop as a numbing feeling slid across his aching muscles and mind. The hammer fell from his numbed fingers, his eyelids â€“ iced and his eyes snow blind â€“ slid their way down as if weighted, his knees could not support him any more; they were like pillars of ice. He tried to force himself to move but as he took a step forward he simply just fell. The soft powder of the snow sprang up about him and he fell rushing to meet its cold embrace, it took hold of him and slowly calmed him. No frantic cries, no feeling and no resistance. He was under its spell. A lethargic sleep overcame him and his mind slowly drifted off into darkness;
'Singing. A woman singing. Who?'
Slowly Kadrin's eyes flickered open and he divulged the scene before him. He sat with his head on a solid table, made of a deep rich oaken wood with fine patterns engraved throughout and this was reflected upon the four sturdy looking chairs. A bowl of fruit sat in the middle and the other chairs were laid neatly underneath. With a great difficulty he lifted his head, his gaze left the table before it begun to roam the room, first settling on the main design and build of the place he was in; a solid stone floor slowly mixed with bricked walls and then back to stone for the roof. He could see two door's to his far left, one stood ajar revealing a bedroom; with a large bed.
'Two people live here. Do I?'
A bright sun poured in via the second room, its yellow glaze making it near impossible for him to see what was in the room but he managed to spy a child's toy. Moving his gaze along he could see shelves full of clutter; letters, stones, oddly drawn pictures in bright colours â€“ by a child presumably â€“ as well as golden statues of a dwarf holding a tankard high, if fact a tankard was sat next to it a golden plaque was attached to the front.
â€œYou're not still obsessing over that drinking contest are you Kadrin? It was over a month ago now.â€? A woman's voice appeared from right behind him and in shock he shot up like a fox fleeing a hound. But once he was face to face with his companion he stopped, it was Brodrika, his dead wife The image of her and his daughter lying in the field flashed before his bewildered eyes.
'What? How? She's...' His mind was in turmoil.
He stood there with his mouth hanging open, a shocked look upon his face; her face creased as she frowned at her husband.
â€œWhat? You look as if you've never seen your wife before, now stop looking at me like that and close your mouth. I don't want you choking on a fly or something, you've got work today. Now hurry up and get this down you.â€? As she was scolding her staring husband she had laid the table with a steaming bowl of porridge and an ale, then turning back the stove that was behind where Kadrin was sat she called out;
â€œGwenelyn, Garik. Breakfast.â€? Once again it was time for Kadrin's jaw to drop open as from the second room came two children, a boy and a girl. The pair raced one another to the table â€“ which earned them a scolding from their mother, and earned Kadrin a glare â€“ before they sat down and dug right into the food.
â€œWhat are you doing Kadrin? Sit down, your food is getting cold and I'm not making a new batch up just because you didn't like it. Well?!â€? The slayer's jaw worked soundlessly before he obediently sat down and began to eat, seemingly satisfied Brodrika turned back to the stove; she put a tin in the oven. As he ate his mine wondered, his eyes flicked from the children to the woman at the stove.
'Is this some kind of a trick? Am I drunk? That is my wife, Brodrika, but she's dead; I saw it with my own eyes not two moths past. The girl was my daughter, but the boy?
Then it struck him - 'The unborn child!!'
Such was the revelation that he almost choked on the thick, oaten liquid he was eating; this once more earning him a harsh stare from the woman. Wiping the food that dribbled out the corner of his mouth he risked a wry smile at her.
â€œGo on children, off you go.â€? she dragged their bowls away to the sink before helping them with their coats with a smile, but after they had gone she turned a stern gaze upon her husband;
â€œKadrin! What is wrong with you today? First you stare at our family like you've never seen them before, then you almost spray us with your food what next? I told you not to try Old Orin's home made brew.â€? then her face and tone softened and she slowly shook her head, with a sigh she continued â€œCome along now, you'll be late. The King should not be kept waiting, especially by his best friend and bodyguard.â€? she kissed the dazed Kadrin on the cheek before disappearing into the second room.
Slowly he wandered out of the door and into the city. He was home. Everything was there, the traffic of the miners â€“ many hailed to him - heading down to work ; the women and children about; the odd cart running through the city. A sudden call of his name to the left made him jerk round, coming down the road with a large grin on his face decked out in full Hammerer trappings was Furgil Drakkisson, Kadrin's face fell as he recalled seeing Furgil die on the battlefield â€“ his head was split in two by an orc axe. Panic surged through him, something was wrong. This place wasn't real, there was a falsehood about it. His breath came in gasps and he would have fallen if it wasn't for the hammer in his hand to support him; in a blind panic he stumbled backward trying to escape from something ; then he turned and ran back into the house behind him.
Brodrika poked her head round from where she was doing the lining, a confused and puzzled look crossed her face as she was confronted by a wild eyed Kadrin. A fevered madness burnt bright in his eyes as he frantically ran round the house; his hands padding at the walls and floors as if searching for something. Then once more the door swung open and through it stepped Furgil and a number of other dwarfs, all had a worried expression written upon their faces.
â€œFurgil, what's going on? What's wrong with Kadrin?â€? the concern was heavy in Brodrika's voice.
â€œI don't know, we were hoping you could tell us. I saw him outside just staring at nothing and everything but when he saw me he almost fell over then he just turned and fled back into here.â€?
'What do they want? Why am I here? What kinda a cruel trick is this?! Its not real!!' Kadrin screamed in his head, panic and fear gripped him; he was torn.
â€œKadrin my love, are you feel alright?â€? Brodrika took a tentative step towards her frantic husband, her voice seemed to snap him out of his madness.
â€œI'm fine. But who are you? And don't say Brodrika. My wife and daughter died little over two months ago, I saw their bodies with my own eyes.â€? his tone and firm stance added to the words, he meant them. His wife 's mouth gaped and she almost fainted. The words were like her heart had been torn out, her face suddenly turned to an ashen grey;
â€œDead? Look at me! Do I look dead? Why are you saying these things? Kadrin, why?!â€? she broke down into tears and slowly sank to the floor, but it had no effect on Kadrins demeanour. He turned his eyes from his whimpering wife and lock onto his friend;
â€œAnd you, what about you eh? You're dead too. Yes I saw you, on the ground with your head split open. So, what is this? A spell? Or has the snow turned me mad?â€? his tone was once more as strong as rock, each word seemed to give him strength. Furgil had no idea what to say and it was his turn to stand there opening and closing his mouth as he gazed upon his mad friend.
â€œI shall not play this game! I do not belong here!! You hear me?! I will not give up!!â€? Kadrin screamed at the roof , then suddenly he griped his hammer with both hands and spun; the weapon swung out and crashed into the wall with a dull crump. The screaming sobs of his wife was drowned out by the cries of the men inside as he struck the wall over and over again. Slowly he felt it. A coldness in his hand, a tingling of the chill that permeated his body. Then his other hand, the weapon fell from his numbing fingers and he turned to face the others once more. He flexed his fingers at the tingling sensation within, a strange forlorn look crossed his features and an almost pained sadness filled his eyes. His breath steamed in the air and he could now hear a whistle rushing passed his ears, whatever had held him was now weakening as his resolve strengthened and the power was diminished. With a last gaze of longing upon his wife, he smiled. Then it all went black.
It started with a finger; a solitary digit twitched. Then two, three before finally a hand warmed once more. As one hand formed a fist the other hand began to awake as well and before long both were tightly clenched fists, slowly his eyes flickered. At first there couldn't stay open, his eyes rolled in his head as the effort of opening them punished him. But he was stronger than that and again he saw his dead family and the honour which he had already lost just slip from his grasp and his anger grew, it's warmth flooded him. Inch by inch he dragged himself to a kneeling position, quaking as the cold floor had soaked him to the bone, his first foot thudded hard against the floor sending a wave of pain through the deadened limb and then with a grunt of effort he was on two feet once more.
As if it was waiting for him the blizzard suddenly intensified once more, it whipped him with ice and the cold winds stung his cheeks and bare flesh but he refused to go down. Instead he spread his legs wide in an uneasy stance, he was a dwarf, a stout and stubborn warrior who was now a seeker of a mighty death. He would not lay down and die. He would not go meekly into the oblivion. His anger boiled over and standing there he bellowed at the elements opposing him;
â€œOr a Drengi! Or a Unbaraki! Or an na drung!!â€? Over and over again he bellowed his words into the wind, his defiance to the very elements showed the pure stubbornness of the dwarven race. Slowly the winds abated, not entirely but it was enough. Kadrin sank to his knees once more, a tear trickled down his face only to be frozen solid half way down the cheek by the cold, a single word was torn from his lips by the rushing winds;
Picking himself up he searched for his hammer, fishing it from the snow he once more continued forward with a new resolve. He had barely moved a few feet when he heard a noise on the wind, a high pitched squeaky, nasal tone. Goblins. As quickly as he could he followed the sound as best he could, then he saw a light over the edge of the cliff and he knew he'd found them. He looked down over the edge and he looked upon seven goblins sat around a fire, and for the first time in a short while he smiled. Vengeance was at hand. Looking down at the obstacle before him Kadrin spotted a small ledge below him and to the left. Slowly, he moved until he stood directly over it. It was only about six feet below his current position, confident in his climbing abilities he clambered down the small precipice. Now he was but five or so feet above the goblins, but ever cautious that his prey should not see him yet Kadrin dropped onto his front and slid forward to watch them for a short while.
Before him was seven goblin sat in front of a fire and underneath where Kadrin now lay he could smell that the wolves were sheltered there. His gaze returned to the goblins warming themselves, they all sat devouring an animal they had caught â€“ but what it was was impossible to tell from the skeletal form that was now the remains of their meal. He knew enough and eased himself from the edge of his hidden shelter, but unfortunately as he moved backwards his hand knocked a rock off the ledge. The large stone bounced down the rough and steep cliff face, it knocked a pile of smaller rocks loose adding these to it's descent. Finally the miniature avalanche was halted by a well placed boulder, but it wasn't quite finished as the snow atop of the blocking rock slid off and onto the head of a goblin sat below. Much to the amusement of it's fellow companions.
Standing the goblin's eyes narrowed as it tried to spy the cause of its cold shower, but all it could see was the wind whisking through their small shelter and decided that it must have been the cause. Behind it the others of the group were in fits of laughter at the misfortune of the goblin, as it turned one of them threw a well aimed snowball â€“ which crumpled it's large pointed nose. Again this sent the others into hysterical laughter, but failed to amuse the affected goblin. Who in turn threw a snowball at his greenskined companion, alas it was the wrong one. What started out as a bit of harmless fun quickly escalated into a brawl as the two goblins leapt towards one another, gesticulating and screaming in their high pitched voices. As the two hapless goblins rolled on the floor beating each others oversized heads on the floor in turn the others made a haphazard circle around them and chanted for one or the other.
Meanwhile above Kadrin stood waiting with bated breath until he was sure that none were coming to investigate the cause of the snowfall. Once fully confident he had failed to be discovered he once more approached the edge to survey the scene below. A sly grin slid across his lips as he witnessed the ensuing brawl, he watched as they moved until they were almost right underneath where he would drop down. Pushing himself up he walked back to the cliff face, confident he wouldn't be spotted, and began to strip himself of his pack and cloak. Standing with his back against the cold, unyielding rock he weighted his hammer in his hands as he took long, slow deep breaths. In his mind he prayed to Grimnir for deliverance or a good death, he also prayed to the keeper of the dwarven spirits that his wife was in good hands. Then with a sudden push he sprinted to the edge of the shelf and leapt off it â€“ a bellowing war cry being expelled from his lips as he quickly descended towards the fighting goblins.
His war cry was torn from his throat by the wind and his presence was undetected until he actually landed among his opponents, they all stood there gawking at him instead of attacking. This was their second mistake they made, the first was to kill the slayer's family.
â€œUzkul a Vengryn!!â€? Came his cry - whilst his opponents were dumbfounded at a near naked dwarf dropping out the sky, Kadrin was tensed like a coil. His first strike caught one of the fighting goblins high on the head, the blunt weapon sent it's head snapping round in a viscous semicircle â€“ resulting instantly in its death. Suddenly the others gathered their wits and ran for their weapons, their eyes wide open in fear at the pure visage of hatred that Kadrin portrayed. Fuelled by his anger and the pure delight of vengeance Kadrin wasn't about to let them flee, but instead bounded forwards still screaming oaths of death and hatred, catching a hapless goblin in the centre of the back. It's spine folded under the stress of the hammer like it was nothing but paper and with a loud audible crack it fell face down into the soft snow with a thud; never to get back up. The one in the forefront of the fleeing goblins managed to get hold of its sword and, in what was possibly an act of bravery - or insanity - charged the maddened dwarf. Things didn't go well from the the diminutive creature. Kadrin's reach of his weapon was a slight advantage, as was his berserker like fury â€“ he didn't even flinch when he took a deep wound the ribs as the goblin swiftly darted close. But not even that could keep Kadrin at bay. His hammer and superior skill kept the goblin on the back foot before a feinted over swinging strike caused the goblin to leave it's defences wide open. Kadrin's hammer was quickly thrust into the stomach of his opponent before the up swinging weapon shattered the goblins jaws in a spray of blood, he left behind a mangled, gaping wound where the goblins lower face was. The body had barely graced the floor before the dwarf was onto his next victim.
He surprised the next goblin as it drew it's weapon, the swing of his hammer splintered its arm before a backhand swipe pushed the shattered bone of it's eye socket further into its skull. The other's seeing the mask of terror in the dwarf tried to mount their wolves, but Kadrin would brook none escaping. Moving swiftly he hamstrung the first wolf before crushing the head of the rider who had become trapped under the beasts bulk, the next wolf he struck it full on the skull. The shattering blow killed the furry animal, with its mounts sudden death the riding goblin was thrown over the saddle â€“ Kadrin barely paid it any attention as he stamped on the greenskins throat throat. His final quarry was swift, as Kadrin slaughtered its kin, the last wolf rider fled leaving the others to the mercy of the maddened slayer. The wolf's baying caught his attention, turning he flung his hammer with every last remaining ounce of his strength â€“ he was rewarded with the sight of the goblin sliding from the wolf's back. The virgin white snow turned a bright crimson as the blood leaked from the crumpled hole in the back of the goblins head â€“ its wolf fled into the storm riderless. Exhausted Kadrin shuffled towards where the wolfs were held, the remaining ones seemed to have fled with the deaths of their masters, in the hole it appeared there was some hay or straw from somewhere but Kadrin was past caring what it was. His vengeance was sated and he collapsed into a welcoming slumber.
Kadrin's eyelids fluttered open with a groan, a weak light from the sun peaking through the foggy day caused them to snap shut once more. A numbness ran down his right side, the side that was now upon the cold, hard stone floor. Leaving himself a few moments Kadrin recollected his memory. He remembered leaping from the ledge, it then seemed to blur together; the death of the goblins and finally darkness. Once more he opened his eyes, only slightly to minimise the suns glare, and with a visible effort his forced his aching body into an upright position. Gingerly he touched the numb arm, the result of which caused him to wince and slowly he began to massage life back into the cold limbs. In doing so he looked around him, before he never noticed the kennel in which the wolves had been kept; now he could see it in the full glory. It was in fact a shallow cave, it went back maybe ten feet. The floor was covered in a thin layer of grass or hay â€“ what it was he didn't know, nor from where they got it from â€“ this was the only thing that had kept the slayer warm, or mostly so, last night. He felt the warmth slowly return to his leg and decided to venture outside, the act of standing was a little more difficult than Kadrin had considered and more than twice he fell back to the floor with a thump. Finally though he did force his legs to support him, though it took more vigorous rubbing to get the feeling in his leg enough to walk â€“ or stumble as it were.
Outside he limped towards a rock jutting from the ground and sat down heavily, his body was still weary from the exertions he placed upon it last night and the lack of food. Kadrin realised he hadn't eaten for over a day and he was slowly beginning to get that gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach. Looking around the goblins camp he saw carnage and slaughter â€“ the evils that he had wrought â€“ but no food, except the hollow skeleton of what may have been a boar. Sighing he hung his head in his hands and muttered
â€œRevenge is sweet. Bah! I'd settle for a roasted boar about now, revenge fills not my stomach.â€? Kadrin remembered he had a few strips of the bear left in his pack but in his current condition he was in no state for a spot of climbing, so instead he hobbled about the goblins camp in search of anything edible. The leg began to warm more and the numbness seeped from it but Kadrin was still limping badly, silently he wished the leg wasn't damaged. Fishing his hammer from the back of the goblins skull he began to poke at the green corpses, a white glaze covered them from the snowstorm â€“ which had now abated â€“ and their limbs were stiffer than his. But no food. Kadrin kicked each one then winced at the shooting pain in his leg. After a thorough look through the camp he designed himself to the fact that there was no food, and instead he lit the fire once more in the hopes of it warming him up quicker.
And warm him it did, within the hour he had climbed up and fetched his cloak and pack â€“ the bear was food but bland and each bite was harder to swallow than it was for a dwarf to admit a wrong to an elf. With the cloak wrapped around his shoulders Kadrin once more slipped into a sleep, this time leaning against a rock. The sun rose and fell but Kadrin slept still, he slept well into the night and was only woken by a loud scuffing of something big on the solid rock floor. His first thought was instantly that the goblins were back, but he then remembered they were dead and this sounded a quite a bit larger than a goblin. It then fell silent. Sitting up he rubbed the sleep from his face and flexed each limp in turn, this time they all seemed to function as they should. Again the sound echoed through the rocky outcrops and this time he recognised the sound. A troll. He had hunted the dumb creatures enough times to know that sound even in the deepest and most echoing caves in the mountain range. A smile played about his lips as he once more considered his fate, his revenge was sated and dying to a troll wouldn't be quite that bad, he mused.
The shuffling was getting closer and he fancied he could see the troll's outline to his left, with a yawn he pushed his hammer's steel head into the hot ashes and flames. He knew how to catch this troll â€“ play dumb. If he didn't know it was there then it would keep coming, idly he turned the hammer in the fire as if he was stoking the embers back into life. Instead he was watching it intensely, the head was quickly absorbing the heat and was glowing a bright red. Suddenly the noise had stopped, all he could hear was the crackling of the flames before him; but he knew he was not alone in the encompassing warmth of the fire. Turning he now looked upon the troll. Where as most he encountered had a stony complexion covering its flesh, this one was smooth. A smooth, silken coat of pure white flesh covered its hardened skeleton, claws of pale bone extended from each of its fingers; all a good four or five inches in length. As their eyes met Kadrin noticed a mild interest that they were pure black; black, white, blue or yellow â€“ a troll is a troll. He thought, then rising he withdrew the hammer from the flames. Its silver head glowed brightly in the night air, a light drizzle of snow had begun; each time one of the frozen flakes touched the weapon they fizzed and melted instantly. For moments the two stood watching, one tense and ready the other slack and drooling. Then without warning the two charged forwards with bellowing war cries.
The trolls longer legs gave it a loping gait and covered the ground quicker compared to the dwarf, it's oversized arms swung wildly as it gained speed. In the firelight the creature's skin took on a colour akin to a blood red, it's eyes failed to reflect even the slightest hint of light. The pair were a few feet apart now and the white skinned troll raised one of its deadly tipped claw ready to strike Kadrin down, and strike him down it would have â€“ if the slayer was not a seasoned hunter of it's kind. Whilst it looked different it was still only a troll. Its movements had been anticipated by the orange haired dwarf, and as the clawed arm struck he was skipping over it and commencing with his own attack. The fiery hammer was brought down with such force that the snapping of the trolls knee could be heard halfway down the mountainside, along with its roar of pain. But Kadrin wasn't done, knowing that a wounded beast can still be dangerous he swiftly took measures and his second, backhanded, strike caught the downed creature on the underside of the biceps; the strike burnt its way through the flesh until it struck bone. Once more pain rolled from the trolls maw as a second bone was shattered, severely wounded it collapsed into the snow. Kadrin stood to the ruined side of it and looked down into it's eyes,
â€œI know what you're thinking, how you'll heal in a matter of moments and tear my head off. Not likely. See fire burns and you don't heal, but then you knew that right?â€? the slayer smirked as the steaming hammer was raised above his head for the final strike, and with all his strength he brought the heavy weapon down on the trolls throat. A muffled gurgle was issued from the crushed larynx as the creature thrashed about in its death throws, the ruined arm flopped about as the troll vainly tried to take its murderer with it until finally it lay still and its eyes glazed over in death.
â€œAbout bloody timeâ€? muttered Kadrin was he grabbed hold of the trolls heels and slowly began to drag the corpse closer to the fire. Fortunately the goblins knew the merits of pots and pans and had brought various cooking utensils with them, Kadrin smiled;
â€œYou won't be starving tonight Kadrin my old friend. Tonight you feast!â€? and with that he began to dice the troll up and toss it into a pan, other one he set over the fire with snow in it. A quick forage about and he came up with a few wild berries, this was to be a meal fit for the Gods. For not only was Kadrin one of the best hunters of troll in the mountain range he was also one of the best cooks of it as well, and that night his troll stew was the best he had ever tasted. For the first night in over a month Kadrin had a good sleep and a content stomach.
After that the troll sustained him for a good number of days as he wandered down the mountainside, he began to head towards a dwarf trade route passing through a clef in the stone goliath's. Finally he stood above the track, a well used route with regular traffic â€“ both dwarf and human â€“ here he figured he could at least find his way out of the mountains. He no longer felt at home in the foreboding towers of rock. Turning he cast his one good eye back across the range he had crossed, looking where his former home was;
â€œGood byeâ€? he whispered in a trembling voice, wiping a tear from his eye he headed down towards the road below him. A steep but semi used pathway led to the road, here he stood waiting at the roadside until some convoy passed. Which didn't take long. Hearing the slow clopping of steel shoes on the hard ground Kadrin raised his gaze from the rock he had been staring at for the past hour or so, before him a dwarf bedecked in gold and silk looked down from a high ladened cart.
â€œLooking for a ride, slayer?â€? he enquired in a rich, powerful voice. Kadrin didn't blink as he nodded his answer, â€œThen you can get onto the last cart as it passes. We're heading to the manling's Empire, we stop in Nuln.â€? With that he muttered to the driver next to him and with a crack of the whip the train was off again, Kadrin watched as covered carts rolled past â€“ over a score of them. Finally his ride appeared and halted, a dwarf with a lopsided grin manned it and with a flick of his head he motioned that Kadrin was to ride in the back. Clambering up the slayer looked down into a hay covered decking, inside his new accommodation were to be shared with three sheep and a black and white dog â€“ with a jolt he was thrown head long into the hay as the driver started forwards. By the bleating of his companions Kadrin assumed they wasn't too pleased about sharing their comfort with anyone else, but a stern eye soon calmed them down. As the convoy exited the mountains and ran into gently sloping grasslands Kadrin looked back the way they came and then rolled over and closed his eyes.
Thargri looked up at the King, his tale finished and his throat hoarse. The king returned his stare, he and the entire hall were enraptured by the yarn the long bearded dwarf had spun.
â€œAnd ? What happened then?â€? asked the king impatiently. Thargri regarded him coolly and spoke in a soft tone
â€œNow, now m'lord. One story's enough for one day do you not think? There's plenty yet to Kadrin's tale but I'm old and need my sleep, of course there's always tomorrow.â€? The King blinked and slowly nodded,
â€œSage council my friend, guard. Find him a room, we shall hear the rest of the tale tomorrow.â€? With this he stood, nodded at the gathered crowd and left the hall. Meanwhile Thargri was taken to a beautifully furnished room, but he never noticed as he walked over the the feather stuffed bed and collapsed into a deep sleep.
Last edited by Blackhat; January 7th, 2006 at 17:36.
Wow. Just, wow.
That was a great read. You are a skilled writer! You seemed to capture what I always imagined a Dwarf to be like, which is so important in this kind of story.
Well done, I look forward to reading more of your work!
Lower/Lesser rating always ships first!
Thats a genuinely good read, King Ulrik. You keep a good narrative flow, you use interesting and unpredictable words and as a reader one feels rewarded for continuing to read. You allow the reader to immerse themself in the 'reality' of the Dwarf experience, and its obvious you have spent a lot of time and mental effort in thinking that through.
Well done! I'll be looking out other imaginative work of yours.
Ryan Dancey, Vice President of Wizards of the Coast, believed that TSR failed because of "...a near total inability to listen to its customers, hear what they were saying, and make changes to make those customers happy." Are you listening, Games Workshop ?