The Dying Disaster

The horribly disfigured features of the hill giant’s face were contorted with agony as his head sailed through the air, trailing blood and bits of gore like the tail of a comet. Gorith the Walking Disaster, as the hill giant was known in the valley, fell to his knees as his decapitated ten-foot tall body finally died and then fell forward into the muddy courtyard in front of the tavern.

All eyes in town rested on the strange dwarf who had ended the giant’s 15-year reign of terror in the valley beyond the mountain stronghold of Kelgrond. Over the course of those long years, not one single request for help had been answered by the Queen. The dwarves in the small town of Dowtan had begged numerous times through emissaries and letters. Offerings had been made to the ancestors and the Gods that kept them. No one had ever tried to stop Gorith from tormenting the residents of this small, insignificant town.

Until today, that is.

There was not a dwarf standing in the courtyard watching the death of their most feared enemy that even recognized the unusual savior in their midst. He was not one of the kingdom’s popular heroes. He didn’t wear the clothes of a hill dwarf. He didn’t wear the armor typical of the royal army, either. This stranger was dressed in such an odd assortment of items that, when he had arrived earlier in the day, the residents of Dowtan had mocked him mercilessly.

"Where’d ye get them silly rags ye be wearin’, stranger?" the town’s constable had asked as the newcomer entered town that morning. Constable Toram had grinned his broken smile and twirled his war hammer by its strap, as was his custom.

The odd dwarf had only returned the smile and replied, "I found them amongst yer mother’s small clothes, officer. She bid me keep them for the good work I’d done on her the night ’afore." The newcomer had then spit at the constable’s feet and continued on to the pub in search of a drink, all the while trailing that unusual weapon of his.

That was the most unnerving thing about this funny-looking dwarf. His clothing was off-putting, to be sure. He wore a bright red shirt with puffy lace at the collar and wrists that clashed dreadfully with his shiny calf-high purple boots, and his black pants were so tight you could tell his ancestry at a glance. But the massive sword he carried over one shoulder would have been big if Gorith the Walking Disaster himself had carried it. On a four and a half foot tall dwarf, the sword was comically large. It dragged in the mud behind him, leaving a strange trail in his wake; two sauntering footsteps and a swerving line cut into the ground wherever he went.

Once he reached the pub, the stranger didn’t even order an ale, as was the custom for a dwarf in any land; mountain, hill, or sea. No, this outlandish fellow ordered a bottle of human whisky. He sat quietly in the corner, his gigantic sword leaned upon the table with the hilt in easy reach, and casually drained the entire bottle of booze over the course of two hours. His eyes had flitted across every face that entered as if he were searching for someone.

"Who are ye, then?" the buxom bartender had asked of this dwarf that stood out ever so much amongst her regular patrons.

"Why, I’m the fuckin’ one ta save this shithole, lass. Now, do us a favor and piss off, if ye don’t mind," he replied with an unkind grin.

Merryander had huffed and spun on her heels at such a rebuke, having never been spoken to as rudely by a customer. "I wonder what’s up that one’s arse," she muttered while storming off.

Around noon, per the norm, the resounding boom of footsteps echoed through the middle of town. Gorith had come for his bribe.

The hill giant had originally come to town years ago in order to kill and eat a few helpless dwarves once a week. Now, dwarves are a race bred for physical labor, making them strong and excellent fighters, but the people of Dowtan were farmers. They had never been trained in the ways of war. Folks in these parts relied on the constable to protect them, but Shamrun had been the first to die those long years ago. The Queen, bless her majestic heart and the Gods that keep her, had never sent more than a single dwarf to help the residents of Dowtan; a replacement constable. Toram had arrived two months after Gorith’s first attack. Having been trained as an officer, the new constable was skilled in negotiations, and so struck a deal with the fearsome hill giant. They would let Gorith have whatever he wanted and would not fight back if he would refrain from killing any more dwarves.

After smashing the new constable’s mouth for such an insulting offer, Gorith the Walking Disaster had agreed to the deal with a laugh. He now came once every other day, as he had for 15 long years, to eat freely from the market, drink as much ale as he could, and generally terrorize Dowtan and it’s peaceful residents. But at least he didn’t kill and eat the townsfolk anymore. It was an improvement.

But the gluttonous hill giant had not visited town in three days, and the people of Dowtan were hopeful that he had at last died in his sleep. Every night the mothers, fathers, children, and elderly alike all prayed to their ancestors and the Gods that kept them, begging for Gorith to fall down a ravine, stop breathing in his sleep, or ingest some bad mutton and die from a painful bout of dysentery. But today they all understood that, once again, their prayers had gone unanswered, as the grotesque hill giant stomped into the town square around lunchtime.

As he began demanding his customary meal of several live sheep and three barrels of ale, Gorith slapped and kicked at any dwarf without something to offer, if they were foolish enough to come within his reach. The townsfolk ran and screamed as he threatened them, which made the hill giant roar with laughter. He turned his head to the side and blew a rocket of snot from his nose that covered the doorstep of the town’s healer.

The elderly dwarf leaned out the window upon hearing the splat, and shouted to Gorith, "Ere now, that is fuckin’ disgusting, that is! This be a place of healing and must be kept clean!"

The giant chuckled while pulling down his pants to squat in front of the windowsill the healer had shouted from. Before he could produce an even more repugnant gift for the old dwarf, Gorith heard a name being called. A long forgotten name that sent shivers of fear through the huge creature.

"GRENDEL! GRENDEL, COME AND FACE ME!" the unusual dwarf called from the courtyard in front of the tavern. His massive sword was now held out in front of him in one hand while an odd shimmering glow surrounding the long blade.

Gorith stared at the dwarf without recognition, confusion clouding his judgment. "And who are you that uses the old name of my ancestors’ tribe? Who are you, puny dwarf, who wields God’s Feather, the bane of my people since ages long past?"

As he said this, the hill giant stood and pulled his trousers back up, thinking that he must come back after devouring this new fool to finish shitting by the healer’s home. Or maybe he would rip the roof off and shit in the bastard’s hovel. Either way, he would need to kill this strange new idiot first; some ridiculous dwarf who actually thought anyone would believe he was one of the legendary Wolves of the Bay. Though, it seemed peculiar to Gorith that a dwarf would wear the same kind of silly, brightly colored clothing as the humans who had long hunted the Grendel.

"I have been trained since birth by yer sworn enemy, Grendelkin. I know the truth of ye. I know yer no’ a hill giant, and I’m here to put an end to ye. 50 years ago ye murdered a sea dwarf with a golden beard while he worked the docks. Bit his head right off. Do ye even remember? That were me own father, ye bastard. I was hidin’ behind a crate nearby, monster. A member of the Wolves of the Bay came by later in search of ye. I begged her to take me along and teach me how to fight as they did. Ye see, not all of the Wolves are gone, Grendelkin, but our numbers are quite few these days."

"Because we destroyed the Wolves of the Bay and feasted on their bones, fool. Just as I shall do with you now," Gorith said, his blood beginning to boil with the memories of what the Wolves had done to his people. And all because the Grendel enjoyed man flesh. Who cares about a few humans dying? There are so many of them, Gorith thought to himself.

"Nay, ye devil. Ye won’t be feastin’ on me bones. Ye see, I carry this blade because I earned it. Yer entire clan is dead and gone, Grendelkin. I killed them myself with this very sword after ripping it from within the crypt of your long dead chief, where yer monstrous kin hid it. Yer the last of the Grendels, far as I can tell," Yintal the Hunter said, baring his teeth in a snarl. "And I aim to end the line, here and now. In the name of my father, Hatten, prepare to die, ye fuckin’ bag of orc shite."

Wordlessly, and full of rage, Gorith dashed towards this lying, thieving dwarf. As he did so, Yintal leaped into the air and spun his body around, bringing God’s Feather forward in a mighty swing with a sound like a whip slicing through the air, followed by the thud of an enormous head slapping into the mud. Yintal then landed by planting the sword’s wide tip in the earth, using the handle to slow his descent by pulling it down with him. As his feet touched the ground, the sword now rested at an awkward angle, protruding from the courtyard.

Without even a thanks from the townsfolk, and not really wanting any, Yintal the Hunter grabbed the handle of God’s Feather, which no longer glowed, and pulled it out of the mud. He walked slowly away from Dowtan while dragging the massive blade behind him, leaving an unusual set of tracks in his wake; two sauntering footsteps and a swerving line cut into the ground.

Next Chapter: Broken Destiny