These are the first two in what I hope to be a series of short stories. I would appreciate any feedback. This is my first real attempt at writing comic fantasy, with most of my experience being writing for D&D campaigns or reviews. If any of you are interested in seeing more (when I get round to writing it) you can visit
, although I wouldn't bother too much as I don't update too regularly and I will probably just post the next instalment here as well. Hope you enjoy reading this.
Rhev exited the pub. Through the window. On the second floor. His broad frame made an undignified sound as it hit the mud below. "Shit", spat Rhev, not literally of course. "Ack, at least I won't be paying for the, cough, broken window again". Indeed, the proprietors of The Salty Wench had long given up replacing the glass in the windows of their respectable establishment, as they were more often than not broken by people like Rhev who couldn't keep down their ale, or their fists. The dwarf patted his leather jerkin to check that his gold was still safely tucked away, and then picked himself up. Although, I say picked himself up, verily, it was himself that was picked up by someone else. Someone else with very large hands and a very loose understanding of personal hygiene.
" 'Ello, Rhev. 'Dat li'l disappearin' act o' yours usually works better when we're on da bottom floor, 'dun it?", growled the filthy goliath, his face resembling a rather disgruntled potato.
"I forgot to wear my magic underoos, 'din I?" Rhev retorted. "Anyways, I fell, ahem, walked away an honest man. You knows I don't cheat where my old pal Grint is concerned, eh? Those dice were legit, and you know it."
"Except, 'dey walked away Rhev"
"Eh? Whaddya mean? Talk sense you lummox."
"I means, 'dey grew legs and walked off the table. We's all saw it, you little shit."
"Well, it ain't my fault if they were making an independent bid for freedom, what with all the upheavals the dice society is going through at the minute..." Rhev was silenced with a sharp jab from a small gnome who could only be described as distinctly gnomish; that is, absurdly stupid.
"We ain't here to discuss the finer points of the societal rights for inanimate objects, mate, even if they have been proven to be decidedly animate. You know magic is banned in gambling, mate. I mean, at least have a little subtlety, like using a magic charm or something. But don't go 'avin dice with legs mate, that's just going too far", quibbled the gnome. "Where d'ya get 'em from anyway?"
"Monty's, of course", replied Rhev. "Got mighty lucky when I bagged me those beauties. Paid good coin for 'em too, mind you. Actually, I wouldn't mind 'em back now, if it's all the same to you..."
"Look 'ere, dwarf. You ain't gettin' those dice, or our bloody gold", Grint slobbered, saliva hitting Rhev's beard.
"Well, in that case: up yours", and with that Rhev unhitched the heavy iron tankard from his belt and swung it up into Grint's vegetable of a face. The sound of metal on stodgy flesh made a satisfying thwack as it hit his jaw, causing the goliath to loosen his grip on Rhev's dangling body. After landing squarely on the ground, the dwarf turned to the gnome and without hesitation delivered a powerful kick to the balls. His stupid little gnome face crumpled into something that looked similar to an angry scrotum, which Rhev thought quite appropriate at the time before bolting across the square. He leapt onto the nearest downward bound goods lift which began to descend mere moments after he had landed on a sack of turnips. As the lift was lowered into the underground cove know as the Underport, Rhev saw two sour faces lean over the railings surrounding the surface opening. Two globules of spit fell down from the heavens, both missing Rhev, and instead hitting a rather perturbed merchant. The dwarf chuckled to himself.
Velheim's huge subterranean harbour is even more dilapidated than the town above, with many of the old buildings clinging to the wet rock like barnacles, covering the walls of the cove in a sea of rotting timber. From Rhev's vantage point the docks appeared to undulate as the men moved to and fro like a tide, unloading cargo from the galleys and cogs anchored there. A few members of the Cliff Guard ambled around the workers, every now and then tripping up the younger lads or trying desperately to light a cigar in the damp air. The goods lift thuds down onto the cobbles, and Rhev departs into the throng.
As he passes some of his fellow guards they acknowledge him with a doff of the helm, and he returns the sentiment with a tug of his beard.
"Hope you been behaving yer self, Rhev. We wouldn't want another strike on your spotless record eh?" calls one of the guards, an overweight orc by the name of Arseface (note: do not call him this to his face, or his arse for that matter).
"Aye, and we wouldn't want my brass knuckles imprinted in your spotless mug, would we Arseface?" grinned Rhev.
"Why you good fer nothing greasy bearded...". Rhev ducked underneath a crate one of the dockworkers was carrying, and was soon out of sight. Rhev and Arseface did not have the best of relationships, as was well known amongst the guards. The wily dwarf was in fact the creator of Arseface's most venerable title, and Arseface himself was not best pleased. Although, in fairness, the orc's real name was Feculent Buggerhat, so he wasn't going to be best pleased either way.
After a few minutes of traversing unconscious drunkards, fighting drunkards, and Steve the harbour cat (he is somehow everywhere, all the time) Rhev reached his destination. The smithy's workshop was a small affair attached to the husk of an old ship that had been taken ashore and converted into affordable housing. The owner, a bald man with one arm the size of a cow and the other the size of a smaller yet equally impressive cow, looked up from his work as Rhev approached.
"Aha! Rhev! You're just in time to see the vegetables of my labour", said the blacksmith, smiling. Unfortunately, the smithy had a strange upbringing that resulted in the development of his unique dialect, leading to the belief that he was fundamentally stupid; this was, in fact, largely untrue: in his own words, he was as "bright as a cucumber".
"Afternoon, Hoskin", hailed Rhev. "That's a fine looking weapon you got there. I'd like to cut through a few hundred scallywags with that."
"Aye, it'll cut through a dragon like a spoon through wood", said Hoskin gleefully.
"I...see. Well, as you've finished it I'd like to take my order now. So if you could just pass it over and I'll hand you the coin..."
"Yours is in the back. Hang on, I'll be back in a jiffy-tick", and with that, Hoskin strode off to grab Rhev's order. After a what seemed like a few minutes but could have equally been a "jiffy-tick", the broad-shouldered man came out holding a greatsword that look infinitely worse than the one he walked in with: its blade consisted of an unhealthy amalgamation of different metals.
"I had to recycle some of the old swords to get the metal for it, but that's what you get for the kind of price you were offering me. You robbed me deaf, you did", Hoskin grumbled. "Although, I did do that engraving you wanted."
Hoskin handed over the mongrel sword to Rhev, who turned it over to inspect the blade. Engraved near the hilt in terrible handwriting were the words "Honr nd boozze". Hoskin wasn't very good at spelling either.
"That's some...grand work you done there mate", encouraged Rhev, patting Hoskin on his hairy back and looking dejectedly down at his new sword. "Here's the gold". He flicked the small purse up in the air, and it landed in Hoskin's calloused palm. The two said their version of goodbyes, although Hoskin managed to imply that he was going punch a wizard in the face without actually realising it, and Rhev hurried away with the greatsword strapped to his back.
Back on the surface, Rhev strapped on his armour inside the barracks on the cliff edge, and headed outside towards the Keep. The stronghold atop the sea stack came into view like the prow of a great ship cresting the waves in a storm, its lofty towers hanging precariously over the endless drop towards the roaring sea. The dwarf called to the guard standing watch in the gatehouse, and an alarmingly rotten drawbridge was lowered across the gap between the cliff and the tower of rock. Rhev sauntered across, patting the hilt of his new sword to check it was securely in its scabbard, and made his way to his post on the other side of the castle.
Settling into his alcove in the wall, the dwarf looked down into the uninviting waters below him. At the bottom of the sea stack was a small harbour sheltering a sleek, single mast red ship, a golden stag leaping from its prow. The Staghart was the flagship of the Baron from which it took its name, a man with a disturbingly unnatural lust for money and a sick fetish for raising tariffs: he was not well liked, to say the least. Rhev shifted irritably at his post. It was time for a drink.
After emptying his tankard an unknowable amount of times into his vast belly, Guardsman Rhev felt the need to answer the call of nature; or as Hoskin would call it: pissing off the trees. Unfastening his breeches, Rhev did his business into the sea below him. Suffice to say, his aim wasn't good.
A voice flew on the winds from the ship below. "I say, I'm getting wet. What on earth... Good lord! O,Villainy! That bloody dwarf up there...spit...SOMEBODY GET HIM!"
"Rhevington Hornblower, I hereby strip you of your rank as Guardsman of the Velheim Cliff Guard".
The dwarf shuffled uneasily on the flagstones of the great keep. "I still think you're overreacting a tad: a dwarf's gotta go when a dwarf's gotta go. I mean, you could even go as far as to say that it was your fault for standing there, you know...", objected Rhevington Hornblower.
Baron Staghart did not look pleased. His pursed lips and sour expression suggested that he had been sucking on a particularly large lemon, although this was unlikely considering lemons are expensive and it would be a shameful waste to use them for sucking purposes.
"Captain Ardein, remind me why we ever hired this wretched oaf? I can't see how a man of his ineptitude could have possibly joined the ranks of our esteemed Cliff Guard."
"Guards like Arseface? Esteemed? More like effluent - " "Quiet Hornblower! Sire, we hired the dwarf after we observed his fighting prowess in ... ahem ... a tavern brawl. He really is very proficient with the sword... and his fists... and chairs... halibut, even. But I can see now that it was a regrettable mistake, and clearly he is still the untrustworthy rapscallion he was two years ago." said Tolstad Ardein, hard faced captain of the guard and total bastard. "Hand over your badge Rhev."
Rhev patted himself down and explored his many pockets. Unsatisfied with the current speed of badge finding, the dwarf turned all his pockets inside out in the hope that it would come up somewhere. What came out was an unruly assortment of fluff, sharp objects, brass knuckles, a small unspecified rodent, and a little bronze disc. "Aha!" Rhev handed over the tarnished badge, the motto "Criminals, Piss Off" emblazoned on its grimy surface. Tolstad flipped the badge in the air with a deft flick, a smarmy grin plastered across his face. "Get your things Hornblower, I want you out of the barracks in one hour."
One hour, two minutes later, Rhev was in the pub called The Jolly Foreigner. He sat forlornly at the bar with his possessions, which all fitted into a small haversack.
"Another flagon, Rhev?" asked Bensen McKrath, the proprietor of The Jolly Foreigner. After a brief nod from Rhev, Bensen hobbled over to the kegs on his peg leg, and poured a drink with difficulty, using one hand and one hook that didn't screw in properly. The tale behind the publican's injuries was often told around Velheim, not as an inspiring tale of heroism but more as a Public Safety Announcement concerning the folly of single-handedly fighting a Kraken with nothing but a head full of narcotics and your fists. Bensen returned, sloshing much of the mead out of the cup as he staggered across to Rhev. "So what's the course of action now my boy? Not planning on returning to your less than legitimate ways again I hope?"
"All I'm good for is a fight, Bensen", sighed Rhev. "And now that I've officially lost my licence to rough people up, I'm lost. I ain't planning on spending any time in the tanty, I'll tells ya that much."
"Sounds like you need to do a bit of good ol' fashioned merceneering, boy! I know a few caravan owners that are in dire need of some hardened lads like yerself for security", replied Bensen.
"Mercenary work, eh? I guess it could be fun, as long as they don't expect me to stay sober" chuckled Rhev, clearly delighted by the opportunity to kick ass for a living. "So who's hiring?"
"As a matter of fact there's a group out back in the den. Why don't you go over and introduce yerself? Tell 'em McKrath sent ya. Although fair warning Rhev, they've been in there a while, so you might have some trouble talking straight business with them..."
Rhev tapped his nose and nodded knowingly before downing the last dregs of his mead. He hopped off his stall with a thump and shimmied between the sticky tables towards a blackened red velvet curtain. As he pulled back the curtain the smoke from the pub and a dense purple smog on the other side met, looked at each other for a moment, and decided to go their different ways. Rhev stepped into the supernal mist, letting the heavy curtain waft down behind him. A light beckoned to him, flickering through the purple and creating new colours indescribable to the human mind, although possibly comprehendible to some mythical beasts. The smoke parted as Rhev neared the light to reveal a towering silver and bronze contraption covered in valves, pipes, and other assorted miscellanea that probably didn't do anything. It was from the top of this metallic monolith that the purple cloud was emanating from, and it was from its base that the magical fire was burning. Around the pipe-to-end-all-pipes sat four figures, looking like pilgrims at the altar of some really far out god.
Rhev found this disconcerting.
"McKrath said yous were hiring for security and such like", Rhev tried. He was met with a "Woah" from one of the figures. Rhev's patience was waning. He wafted away the mist that was descending about him and finally got a good look at the figures in front of him. The first was a brawny middle aged man sporting a jet black moustache and equally black hair, highlighted with lightning streaks of white. Slowly falling off his head was a battered top hat, and a stained pin striped shirt was covering the majority of his torso, with some wiry chest hair poking through.
"You've got a sword" he said, in a matter of fact tone. "And a beard. Dwarf?"
"Nah, dwarfs carry axes. Well known fact that is. Can't be a dwarf without an axe..." mumbled a second voice. This belonged to a young halfling, a striking blond goatee perched on his chin underneath even more striking cheekbones, framed by flowing blond locks. Undoubtedly he would have been very popular with the ladies, if only he hadn't been a halfling.
"I knew a dwarf once that, like, didn't even have an axe... or a beard. Apparently his beard like, totally froze to his face and then just fell off. I was surprised that the shock didn't kill him. Aha, talk about a close shave!". The third stranger's witty reply elicited far too much raucous laughter than should be acceptable in sober society. The hilarious elf was attired in the finest coloured silks; purples and greens decorated with glistening black whorls that seemed to move like vortexes when caught in the corner of the eye. His long black hair appeared to wave slightly, as if some localised breeze ran through his locks.
The queer gentlemen paused, took puffs from the formidable pipe and exchanged a few more woahs. Rhev didn't really feel like he was getting anywhere. Fortunately, a damsel saved the Rhev in distress.
"Enough jest. What is your name, dwarf?" The inquiry came from a startlingly beautiful woman whose dark red hair covered much of her pale face. Her attire suggested that she was fully prepared to see off any unwanted advances, especially if those advances came from a horde of ravenous daemons from another plane of existence. Her sword was bigger than Rhev's.
"Rhevington, m'lady. Rhevington Hornblower. Rhev for short. You can call me Rhev, if you want. Or Rhevington. Whatever you want, really... m'lady", stuttered Rhev, not quite knowing how to react to such a woman. The sword was putting him off.
"Rhev. That is a good name for a mercenary. I am Mercy Faradein, although I can't say my namesake reflects my nature. These inebriated men before are -" "Name's Steem. Steem Vennts" interrupted the middle aged man, his whiskers bristling with every word.
"And I am the honourable Sterling hiccup Panthelios", the halfling said with a bow.
"And I am the not so honourable Kevin of Yedforth, third of my name and wielder of the Magick of Pingle, the forty-seventh mightiest god," said Kevin, his Elven mouth twisted into a wry grin, his chin turned up in an attempt to portray arrogance, although his elaborate collar rather limited his head movements.
Mercy turned to Rhev: "Now that we are done with the pleasantries, allow me to outline our contract. You are to act as security for our caravan in conjunction with myself and Kevin. Mr Vennts is the boss, Sterling is, er, short. Our cargo is to remain a secret, and so is our destination. You will be paid five gold pieces a day, and all expenses will be paid for. I would ask for some sort of résumé, but McKrath's word is good and I know a good fighter when I see one. The only question that matters is: are you in?"
"All expenses paid for you say? Aye, I'm in alright."
Rhev liked all. All included booze.