The last chapter for NaNoWriMo 2017, from the story called (at the time) Rangers of the Line. This portion of the story is in it’s First Draft State, without being edited for spelling, coherence, of continuity; and is just simply displayed in its rough draft form.
Hamman hated wizards. From the way they pranced about in robes flashing royal colors or the way they stored bits of fringe knowledge the way an old modran mid-wife or serving wench would store away bits of gossip, waiting to spring it up when it fit their fancy to steer the situation in their own direction, to the way they always seemed to cling onto calamity like craven birds or stuck their noses into business that wasn’t any right of theirs to be shoveling; he hated them, in and out. From as early as he could remember, which is a long reach through the fathoms of time compared to the shorter lived mordans, who only lived about an eighth of that time if they were well fed and pampered as the nobles and lords that dominated the Chaos Helm were, he had always hated them. Since he had first laid his eyes on them, back in the days when Hamman the Steward-Cleric to the Rangers of the Line in the name of the Stoneworker, was known as Detra Stoneheave of the titular named Stoneheave clan, they always caused him so much trouble in his life. His family was what the mordans would have called beggar nobility, long old family names with family trees that stretched all the way back to before the forming of the Chaos Helm, which, for a dwarf, wasn’t saying much; but in the eyes of the shorter lived mortals, these family trees might as well have started before the foundations of the world were even set… but that didn’t carry so much weight around the Helm when compared to some of the newer, more financially sound clans and nobles of the day. Still it meant that he was a breed above the rest when thrown among the common peasants and rabble one would find spread about the lowlands, which were any area in the Chaos Helm other than Gelgrohm or the Vrimt mountains in the eyes and hearts of the dwarven folk. There weren’t any ancient heirlooms of particular worth, aside from gilded show pieces and smatterings of family vestigages , there were no hordes of family treasure dating back tot he first minted coin or the first diamonds cracked away from the deep running roots of Gelgrohms towering heights; but it did mean that they were at least considered important when Gelgrohm, as a whole, were deciding how they would conduct themselves down in the low lands with mordans and their “politic structures.” He wasn’t quite old enough to remember the time before the mordans swept up from the southern world, aiding them briefly in the final march against the elves – the dwarves would have got them to submit, eventually, there was still talk about how his people were just stuck on deciding between burning down the entire forest or uprooting the entire from below; but he had uncles and aunts that did remember those times, and boy would they not let him forget it, nor would they let him forget about the wizards Sir Caribus brought with him.
“Replacing one spoiled egg with another,” his aunt Gretta Charshifd would go on to him, when the ale was running quicker than a spring vein and there wasn’t any other ear to tug worth a lick of coal to be found. “You light up the elves, beat them down to bend the knee, keep their magic pressed in their dirty green forests, and all for what? Let those wizards prance doing the same ol’ tug-and-pull with things that they oughta just let be.” She was a classy dwarf like that, spit and vinegar, salt and stone. Called it as she saw it, and by his accounts, and by hers told again and again, she had seen a lot; and Hamman, once poor young Detra Stoneheave, had listened to all of it. He was her steward then, like he was in the line. Changing her chamber pots, fetching cold water for her bathes, roasting her meals, and carrying her barrel bodied ass, knocked on its side by cheap spirits and even cheaper ale, from one clan council meeting to the next. He didn’t have a choice in the matter really, the Stoneheaves being uprooted from the council during the Foundation Wars and all – he had to forge the shame out of his family’s name somehow, and acting as steward was always a safe bet.
“If you ask me it was all a shame,” she would say, sour breath leaking out of down turned corners of her toothless, granite chissled mouth. “The wizards were behind it all. They wanted to be the ones to bend the ways of the world, but they lack what any common miner has, a set of stones and a pillar to lean over them. Those mooncracks, they were competition, and enemies or not, you can’t out your competition, where would the fun in that be. You can’t gloat over them, you can’t level taxes against them, and you damn well can’t split their skulls in a friendly spat over mineral rights if they’ve been walled up and given an order to NOT do what they do best. Trickery, I say, and Sir Caribus was a fool in allow them to continue on, knocking at the Stoneworkers feet with out so much as achknowleding him as the one true. A bad bit of business that is, through and through, and they will be the mordans ruin, as it was Caribus’s, that short lived fool.” These were messages and lessons he took to heart, along them to rekindle some of the anger that was left over from watching his family go from power to poverty the minute the baronies were established and slaving was “institutionalized.” Of course, if he would have known then what he did now about how slaving, or as the mordans like to church it a bit and call it “service,” he would have favored the new ways with a little less of his aunt’s piss and vinegar out look. But the message about wizards, well that one really did run straight through to the end of his long, particularly unfortunate life. Not that he would safe his life was unfortunate, no cleric would even if they wanted. He was a cleric of the stoneworker, and the only one for a hundred miles in any directions when he slipped on and accidentally caved in the skull of a nobles son over a petty game of dice and wound him self up in “service” to the line.
But wizards, they were a constant. An every present annoyance that trifled him through every great spoil he had dug from the mines of life. The wizard of the first baron, a “fruity looking” man that looked more elf than man, was around to see that dwarves relinquish all of their “magical heirlooms” over to the “cause,” stripping some families of great weapons they had used to forge their own way well before modrans were even a misplaced thought in the Stoneworker’s mind. It was a wizard coined the phrase “service” instead of “slavery,” and institutionalized magical implements that verified ownership and well being of creatures that, up until then, were very much property. It was a blood wizard that had coaxed his great old aunt to allow Detra Stoneheave to turn over the last remaining son of the Stoneheave clan to assist in a mining operation out in the desert ruin of Alzuur. He wanted to blame Aunt Gretta for that one really, but the coin that was offer could have been used to purchase an entire army of slaves to do his job. Can’t blame good business deals, as his aunt had pounded into the cooling core of his stoneling skull. And it was that very same wizard, not quite as “fruity” as he had come to believe most magic users were, who had gave him full freedom to wedge his axeblade down into the skull of Duke Von Gazzles’ cheating, whoring, shortlifed son for cheating at a game of dice. He encouraged it. The way he saw, now facing a wizard, or whatever he called himself, some chain magic user, it was all the same; the world would be better without them. His life certainly would have.
That old kook Gray Crow was blathering on about chains, spilling fire from his hands like some mining fire. A whole lot of useless talk, that’s what wizards like. They liked to feel like they were commanding the world around them. He had half a mind to tell that spastic to cram it all the way to the disc, but the spider poison was working his mouth like ale from the underdark. Made for the smile, drank for the pleasure, and stoneworker himself crafted the hangover. It was ridiculous, sloppy showmanship, they might as well be bards. Hamman didn’t yell “I swing my mace, bones be crunch! Skulls be split!” Just do it, the actions speaks much, much louder than words; and you save yourself the energy, energy that could be used for…
And then the memories really came back, like a spill from the peaks of Durranithzar and Galebridge, twinpeaks that were higher than the blue of the sky when the summer sun cracked away at their snowy helms and let their sweat from holding up the sky run down in clumps of snow and ice and water so heavy they shook the world when they landed. Gray Crow had twisted his thoughts, twisted his memories. He had stolen the only jewel a dwarf can horde away without molestation: his very mind. It was the worse betrayal he had ever known, it sent doubt rippling through his entire frame, strong enough to push the drayspider poison clear out of his system like cheap ale being pissed off the side of a high ledge. Before this point he believed that Gray Crow was a pretty decent mordan, aside from whatever it was that got him on the block and having to take “service” in pennance. He always talked with him in the dwarven tongue when they were alone, went to him first AND last when deciding what the value of treasure was and who was trying to troupe him out of a good deal, and he always made sure to hand him the wineskin first before the waterskin, unlike Arandur, as good as mordan lad bred in the wilds was. When he was tired Gray Crow would take his watch shifts, saying “I’ve spent a third of my life sleeping, I’ve had enough of it. Nod off like stone while I guard like a statue.” He always kept his mordan mouth shut in the matter of saints and religion in regards to whether the Stoneworker was a saint among the lowly ranks the mordans had constructed, to fit their needs, or whether he was the true and mighty, first and last. And when that damnable mooncrack made himself known as traitorous spy among their ranks in the line, he let him take the final blow, ending whatever trickery he was trying to weave. But that was all a lie. A false memory. And whether it was because the poison had knocked Hamman’s head stones loose or his own dwarven constitution, raised by the pitch of glorious combat, those false memories were pissed… well you get the point.
“You rotten fuck of mordan,” Hamman cursed. The poison was well without by this point. Surgor was next to him, that Motnirian blade, only unnotched by the magic they let be put into swaying out in front of him, still thirsting for battle. The dray spider was writhing in fire, riddled over with cuts and gashes and smashed limbs and screaming, and very much engulfed in unnatural fire. On its other side stood Arandur, the strongest mordan the Stoneworker would allow out of simple principle. His greatsword still chopping at the beast. You idiot it’s already dead, it just hasn’t accepted it yet, Hamman wanted to shout, what he would have shouted if the situation was different. Strongest Mordan yes, brightest, no; he only half glimmered as bright as the dimmest dwarf – but he was a friend, a true friend. Unlike Gray Crow. That old fool, that old liar, that old… old wizard! He was standing there, at the edge of the clearing far away from the confrontation, sparkling like a fool’s gold, and barking out commands to a creature that was… well, already dead. Dead by the hands of people who needed magic less than they needed a hole in their vault.
“You tampered with my thoughts,” Hamman stammered. His face was red, he could feel the core of his heart boiling over. If he was a stone, he would melt; but the stoneworker doesn’t make or claim any junk that bends and breaks to heat, internal or external.
The wizard was set aback by this, completely unaware of what had transpired. His face carved with the dull look of false innocence as his hands shot out column after column of cheaply earned fire. When it stopped, when the drayspider had finished its writhing and glorious screaming, it was still there, and he was shrugging. Shrugging! Like a beggar caught with his hand on a purse. Oh that boiled his piss alright, right out of his ears like steam. He wanted nothing more than to crash and smash and wallop the old fool until his head was a bowl of meat and bone and his breath was empty with forgiveness. He had played a dirty rotten trick.
Hamman charged forward, the leather binding on the hilt of his mace nearly melting in his grip.
“You fucking wizard,” he yelled.
He was double tricked, double lied to, double manipulated. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you’re as dead as coal, that was the dwarven motto. The memories flooded him, hard, even as he tumbled over the smoldering wreck of the drayspider quicker than you could spit. He wanted to spar the wizard, when he first found out what he was. They were on the old forest road, making their way to the old farm house posing as road beaten travelers. It was a fair bit of mischief, and Hamman had prayed for forgiveness. Maybe this was his penance, he thought, this his new, vein-less mine to burrow through until forgiveness had be graced upon him. But it was Surgor’s command that it be followed. They were making well enough time, he, Arandur, and Gray Crow; and then what happened – the memories were still building, almost as if he was experiencing them in double, no triple time. The rider, the fat man with a red face came. Arandur had smashed him to bits, two halves with a cut cleaner than diamond, sheerer than slate, and the upper half came back to life, or unlife. A twisted wreck of evil incarnate. He was already calling out to the stoneworker, trying to conjure some favor to turn away creatures that can pull themselves back from beyond the lowstones of eternity, when, wouldn’t you know it, that old kindly man shown what he really was: a wizard. A wizard! And turned the undead thing in a pile of ash, much like he did now drayspider. And, much like the drayspider now, Arandur and Hamman, and this time Surgor, would have had all well and handled, and his rouse could have continued, but no. Not at all. Wizards had to mettle. They had to be on top. They had to barge in, shoveling their own shit, and acting like the world wasn’t safe unless they had a hand in doing so.
Hamman was twenty paces away from the wizard now, his feet digging into the soft forest floor like spades into sand. Surgor was calling after him, begging him to stop, but he couldn’t hear. His ears burned with a high pitched ring of anger. He could barely see, his eyes tunneled, their dark, baleful gaze only noticing the wizards surrounded by an unnatural light seeming to connect in a chain like pattern that led off into the sky. The wizards eyes were no longer the easy, shortlifed eyes of a mordan in his twilight that Gray Crow had, but they were wide and empty and full of justifiable fear. Both a false jewel in a foul trade.
Arandur was the first to want to slay the wizard, Hamman remembered. There was no gray area with that one. The tall, stone worthy Galigondran mordan was as diamond and as dead as dirt when it came to the laws of his people. It was more of reason to respect him, another jewel of memory the wizard tried to steal away. If it wasn’t for Hamman, once Detra Stoneheave from the clan Stoneheave which had more family roots than the modrans had shortlife bastards, steward-cleric to the Rangers of the Line in the name of the Stoneworker, nephew and once steward to Aunt Gretta Charshifd, one of the ten clan council leaders of Gelgrohm decided by the War of Foundation; that wizard would be a head shorter and life less at this point, crawling into oblivion and being judged by the founder of the world. Arandur grabbed him, almost ran him through, but it was Hamman who had thrown a bit of rope through his mouth.
“Grab his hands,” Hamman had shouted, and Arandur’s larges hands crushed them in his grip. After a moment, when they were sure that the undead thing was done, they tied his hands, locking each finger between a coil of rope so they couldn’t squirm magical gestures; and when Arandur was convinced enough to not take his head right there on the spot, but bond him up a little more and plodded him along towards the old farm house.
“We should have left you there,” Hamman cried, swinging his mace. The wizard took a wide step allowing the mace to crash into a sapling next to him. It crunched against the wrought iron and tumbled down into the bramble around it. “We should have taken your head and taken your heart and burned you like the refuse you are!” Hamman continued to swing. Left and right, up and down, each swing mightier than the next. The wizard was on his heals, dancing clumsily away from each heavy swing, a swing powerful enough to smash earth or stone or jewel into a fine powder.
“Hamman,” Surgor was calling, “Stop, please!”
“Please,” Hamman barked out, still focusing his attacks on the wizard. “Did he ask please when he replaced our thoughts, did he ask please when he stole our memories.” His mace caught the wizard in the shoulder. There was a delectable crunching sound as the wizards left arm bent inward and his body folded over. “Did he ask please when he played us all a fool?”
He was standing over the wizard now, his mace swinging up over his head. This will do it, he thought, this will crush stone and earth and jewels and lies and put a fucking end to this nonsense.
When they had reached the farmhouse they had shoved Gray Crow into a bramble patch of thorns and weeds. Arandur had liked this, though the large mordan was as humorless as a chipped stone. That bloke only seemed to smile when he was eating or when he was plunging his blade all the way up to the guard into the body of an orc, or brigand, or wizard. He should have let him. But it wasn’t his place, not then, not now; but sometimes the body has to act when the head is stuck in the clouds. Arandur had gone on about how they should kill him right then and there, and Hamman was disagreeing with him… when another memory rushed back in, another one, back up on the hill. The Hill? The old watch tower? The elf, Randall, he was holding out magical stones, and then…
The thought rushed in so quickly that Hamman staggered. His whole body reeled with the idea of being tricked not once, not twice, but three times?
There was a burst of light that engulfed him. Painlessly his skin started to peel from his flesh, his beard sent up great plumes of black, stinking smoke, and his eyes, jewels for which the Stoneworker sees the world, they never stopped seeing. The wizard was there, glimmering like false gold, words falling from his lips like misdirection, his hands wagging like lies written in sign language.
The Stoneworker accepted Hamman, once Derta Stoneheave that day. He accepted steward-cleric of the Rangers of the line in the name of the Stoneworker. Wizards be damned, all of them.