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Ninefinger's Tale

Author: 
Jon Paradise
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
145

"Moradin's balls, boy, you look a fright."

The dwarf had no idea. I'd have remedied his ignorance, but my teeth were still chattering, whether from the chill outside or from the fear twisting my stomach into a hard writhing tangle, I couldn't tell. I pulled my cloak tighter about my shivering torso, wincing where the cloth brushed against the strange burning cold still embracing my shoulders.

"So did you get it?"

It was Soulreaver, rumored to have been located in the tomb of the great wild warrior Palvius—conceivably the single best-known warrior in this town or in any other for a hundred miles in any direction. Palvius' feats are, as you know, the stuff of legend; it is said he'd stood off an entire Orcish army at Killborn Pass, abetted only by his ancient rune-etched greataxe and a handful of brigands who'd overcome their thieving ways to preserve the mountain villages that lay beyond the pass.

Palvius was half myth and half legend, the subject of the childrens' tales that had weaned me—and you, I'd suspect, from the look on your face—from my mother's breast. The dwarf glaring up at me, his flint-black eyes deepset in his craggy face and expressing the beginnings of a killing rage, was somewhat less heroic. I shivered again.

"Come now, boy. I paid you good money for that axe. Now where is it?"

How could I begin to tell him of what I had faced that night? The forboding of the unguarded tomb, stark white marble rising into the pitiless moonlight. The scurry of rats the size of my arm as I pried open the door and entered into the darkness. The panicked clawing at my web-shrouded face. And the shock and horror at what had been within?

He jabbed his hand into my chest, granite-brutal fingers pointed into a cruel beak. "Let's have it, boy."

I staggered backward with the force of the blow, coming up hard against the cottage wall. Loosely bound thatch shook loose, dropping into my hair and pelting with feather-light agony my tender shoulders.

The tomb had been easy enough to crack, though it was imposing, looming there in the night. There were no guards; the miserable cold of the evening had ensured that all but the most devout in their duties would remain safely indoors with hot mulled wine in front of them and a warm lass at their side. Not I, though.

The name of Tharn Ninefinger has always been known for the professionalism of its owner. Me. Once I took on a job, the job got performed, or I got dead. Since I was never overly fond of getting dead—I've heard it's a real mess—I had a distinct tendency to finish the work I undertook. Consequently, I was very well paid for the jobs I decided to take. Soulreaver's recovery had seemed an easy, if somewhat grim, way to some quick jingle in my pouch. So the unusually cold, blustering southerly wind, and the flakes of snow that wisped in on it, were an opportunity for me, a blessing rather than a curse.

The marble lid had been easy enough to pivot a couple of feet to the side to create an opening I could slip into. I had slipped into the awful, reeking darkness, hanging in the opening with bits of enchanter's web a thick piece of black cloth, so that the light from my lanternstone would not betray my presence. I had known the crypt was large—it had been erected by a grateful populace to celebrate their hero's life and remember his in his repose. I had not known, however, of the catacombs sprawling beneath it.

 

 

I will not tell of my time in the catacombs. Suffice it to say that it was a nasty, brutish time, and that my emergence from them was bought with more blood than I had ever thought to inflict on man or monster. As to the men and the monsters lurking there� they shall remain, for the moment, undescribed. It is my personal and professional opinion that the town in which I undertook this adventure would be best preserved if those who refuge there are not named.

 

 

Using his substantial mass like a battering ram, the dwarf pinioned me against the wall. His teeth bared in a snarl as as he prodded me again in the chest with his horny fingers. Again. Me. The finest thief in the county, being backed against the wall of my own home—my known home, anyway—by some undersized, overhaired excuse for an adventurer. "Look, boy. You will come forward with the axe, or I will thread your kidneys and wear them as jewelry. I, Virgil Stonefist, demand it."

At the mention of his name—a fact which he'd not given me before—it was as though a wizard's firebolt had detonated inside my skull. This was the dwarf. The very one.

With that firebolt of knowledge came a memory, a blazing recollection of that which had been forced from my mind by the sheer terror engendered by the spectre I had discovered deep in the vaults beneath the tomb. I staggered under its force.

 

There, in the dark, the spectre had grasped me by the shoulders, its touch burning through my cloak and blistering with cold the flesh beneath.. Its deep, dark eyesockets had seemed to seek my own eyes as the creature spoke to me in its sibilant, otherworldly tongue.

 

The dwarf's beaked fingers jabbed at me a final time.

"Virgil Stonefist? Companion of Palvius himself?"

The dwarf's baleful glare intensified. "Aye. And what of it?"

In less time than it takes to think the thought, the greataxe, stored in the thatch above my head in the very spot the dwarf had pushed me to, was in my hand. A flick of my wrist brought the weapon, burning hot and cold at the same time, crashing down upon the head of Virgil Stonefist, splintering it with a ghastly cracking splatter, the like of which I hope to never hear again.

The voice that came from my body was not my own—its funereal mourning keen could not have come from human lungs. I stood pushed-aside in my own body, a mute witness to the dwarf's death and to the spectre's howl of triumph voiced through my own throat.

So is treachery repaid . . .

 

Ninefinger's Tale © Jon Paradise

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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