Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bron IV

Bron looked at the flask on his desk. An ordinary flask, but the content troubled him. He'd sniffed it, given a splash to a dog to lap up and nothing had happened. Everything spoke for it being plain water, but he just couldn't shake that feeling that it wasn't. It was different somehow.
    He grabbed the flask and winced. His arm was no longer in a sling, against the surgeon's advice. It seemed he should have heeded it. He unplugged the stopper and sniffed the liquid one more time.
    It still smelled the same. Odorless. Why was he so obsessed with this damned water? He sighed and put the plug back in the flask. He knew the answer to his question. The men they had found had died of dehydration with a giant lake only feet away. There had to be something wrong with it.
     Bron slipped the leather thong attached to the flask onto a hook on his belt. He got up from his seat and took three quick strides to his door. He needed to get out and breathe. Sitting in there and thinking about all that wasn't doing him any good.
    He closed the door behind him and stepped out into the entrance of the mine. His office was no more than a hole in the mountain. The same soldier who built the boat they used on the lake had also built him a desk and a bed. The desk wasn't much to look at, but it stood. The bed creaked and was uncomfortable. He really just needed to get outside where there was fresh air.
    The men had gotten used to him and his rounds. He didn't like it when they saluted. It was better if they just kept on working, which was what they were doing now. Some of the soldiers, those that were fit enough, were training in a fighting pit they had cleared.
    As Bron passed he heard the clash of metal followed by a meaty thud. Someone screamed and several men rushed to his aid. As Captain, Bron needed to stay on top of things. He had to make sure his men were alright.
    A few brisk strides brought him to the wounded man. He was on the ground, legs jerking spasmodically, helmet dented into his skull. The man he had been fighting against had to be Tod. He was huge with bulking muscles. Tod sat a few feet away, shield and sword lying next to him, head in his hands, rocking back and forth, muttering.
    "It was an accident. The swords... they slid past each other. The hilt... it broke. I used too much force. Oh by the Gods, what have I done!"
    No one seemed to care about him. They were all surrounding their dying comrade. Bron stepped through the gathered soldiers to helplessly watch. Now he could see who it was. The man's name was Swindon and he was about to die for no reason whatsoever.
    "Captain!" Rud was holding Swindon's crushed head in his lap. He looked up to Bron pleadingly. "The water. There's something I didn't tell you."
    "What are you talking about? It can wait."
    "No it can't." He was urgent. "The water from the spring. I drank it and it healed my wound from the battle."
    Bron couldn't believe it, but his hand was already reaching for the flask. If there was a chance to save one of his men then he would take it. There was no risk involved. If it didn't work Swindon would die anyway.
    Rud took the offered flask and pulled out the stopper with his teeth. He held the lip up to the dying man's mouth and slowly let the water trickle in. With his other hand he propped up the head and slowly removed the dented helmet.
    Blood flowed freely over Swindon's face, but when his head was free a bald patch with pale white skin could be seen where his skull should have been caved in. It was a miracle. His legs stopped twitching and his eyes blinked, looking back and forth at all the people around him.
    "What happened? Why am I on the ground?"
    Nobody spoke. Bron had no words for what had just happened. Everyone continued to stare at their comrade in disbelief. The drawn out silence was slowly being broken by whispers. Bron heard his men mumble about the water and the spring. Questions were arising to which the soldiers expected answers, but he had none.
    He looked at Rud who was trying to explain to Swindon what had happened. Rud had known. He had drunk the water against Bron's orders. Bron had to do something and quick. The men were becoming more uneasy by the second.
    "Alright men. Back to your posts. Get Swindon to the surgeon to have him looked at." Rud helped him up. "Not you, Rud. You're coming with me."
    The soldier nodded and followed as Bron turned to go back to his office. They strode through the camp and when they were inside, Bron quickly shut the door and confronted Rud.
    "Tell me all you know."
    "I already did, Sir. I'm sorry I disobeyed your order, but there was this uncontrollable urge. I was fascinated by the spring the moment I set foot into the cave. When I had the chance to drink from it, I didn't hesitate." Rud stood rigid, arms behind his back, chin up.
    Bron paced back and forth in front of his man, sighed and took a seat at his desk. "How do you feel now? Anything unnatural? Sickness or dizziness?"
    "No, Sir. I haven't felt this healthy in a long time. I think the spring is a gift from the Gods."
    Bron tapped his fingers on the desk. He looked up at Rud, who was resolute and burning with vigor. There was a spark in his eyes. "You're dismissed."
    "Yes, Sir." Rud turned to leave.
    "And no talk of the spring or of the Gods. I don't want this to get out of control."
     A curt nod and he was out. Bron hoped he would keep his mouth shut, but even if he did, twenty other men saw the miracle. He didn't know what really happened. Was it the Gods or some kind of magic. It didn't matter. Bron didn't have enough information to know how safe it was. He needed to find out more before deciding what to do.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Skard

Skard twisted his hands around the hilt of his battle axe. Today was the day. His day to prove himself. He would succeed where the others had failed. Every day, since the Brogdah Clan went to march to war, one of the younger grunts had to challenge the Giant. And every day the human won.
    Not today though. Today Skard had challenged him and he was going to beat him. He was sure of it. He heaved the axe onto the plate mail on his shoulder. He was more used to wearing a leather jerkin, but a chain mail vest and plated shoulder pads and bracers were the safer choice, considering the longsword the Giant had taken from Borkin.
    After every fight the Giant claimed whatever he had managed to take from you. He now had a longsword, a leather cap, an iron gauntlet and a shield. With every day and every fight he became more daunting as an opponent, but Skard wouldn't let himself be intimidated. There was no way the Giant would be taking his beloved battle axe.
    "You ready, youngin'?" Mexta stood between him and the Giant. A crowd had gathered, building a circular fighting pit around them. Everyone was excited to watch the daily spectacle before they had to pack up and go back on the march. Even Elder Gwarr was among the viewers, although he didn't look pleased.
    The rising sun glinted off the sharpened edge of Skard's axe. He scrunched up his face and snarled at the Giant. The human didn't react. He had a solemn look, but there was a glint in his eye that spoke of wildness. He would do whatever he had to to survive.
    Skard didn't have to worry about his own survival. Mexta's deal with the Giant was that each fight could be his last. Every grunt had the right to kill him. He on the other hand had to beat his opponent and leave him alive. If he killed anyone it would be his own death sentence.
    Skard stuck out his tusks in a wide grin. He had studied the Giant in each fight and knew his strategy. He was always defensive and careful. He waited for the grunts to strike first and then when they gave him an opening he would defeat them. Skard wouldn't let it get that far.
    Mexta roared for attention and signaled for the fight to begin. Skard was overcome with yearning for glory and charged with determination. He'd attack the Giant so fast he wouldn't have time to look for an opening.
    His feet stomped the ground, his muscles burned and his eyes widened as he saw the Giant do the same. Too many thoughts raced through Skard's mind to follow. The Giant never charged, why was he doing it now? The whole clan is watching. Should he stop or try to evade the human? He had to win.
    His thoughts didn't matter. There was no more time to react and the two heavy combatants screamed for blood as they clashed together. Skard swung his axe, wedging it into the Giant's shield, his feet carrying him onward. The Giant delivered a painful blow to Skard's head with the flat side of his sword as his own strides brought him crashing into the grunt.
    Both were knocked to the ground in a tangled heap. Skard had lost hold of his axe and a long gash over his left ear was gushing blood. The Giant struggled with the straps of the now broken shield. The crowd erupted in a bloodthirsty uproar.
    Skard was half blinded by the blood covering his eye. This was not going as he had planned. He wanted to think about what to do next, but his body was forced to react on instinct as the Giant once again lashed out with his sword. The thick metal of his bracer blocked the flat side of the blade just in time to stop the blade from knocking him senseless.
    His legs were still tangled with those of the Giant and he kicked him where it hurt. The human howled with pain and swung his sword anew. This time with the sharp edge coming dangerously close to cutting off Skard's hand below the bracer.
    Luckily, he rolled to his right and the blade only scraped across one of his shoulder pads. The onlookers howled in outrage while others grunted in excitement. They were enjoying the show while dread started to sink into Skard's stomach.
    He scrabbled away from the Giant on all fours and managed to get his hand on his axe once again. He turned just in time to see the human get up and swing his blade downward. It caught on the haft of the axe as Skard lay on his back and held the weapon above him with both hands.
    With a twist he made the Giant's sword slide off to the side and the human went off balance. Quickly Skard got up onto his feet. Breath rushed in and out of his lungs. This was his moment. This was his chance. He heaved the axe up over his head and brought it down with a crushing blow.
    The Giant dashed forward, under the falling axe. With all his weight he rammed into Skard and lifted him off the ground. Together they came crashing down, the axe falling from Skard's hands and his breath bursting out of him.
    When he came to, he was on the hard packed earth. The crowd was a loud incoherent jumble all around him. He could only see through his right eye. The Giant stood over him, a smile on his bloody lips. Skard's beloved axe in the human's hands, the sharp edge hovering over his neck. The fight was over. Skard had lost.