ICY DEATH by Julie Dollar
The icy wind blew across the snow white battlefield. The blackened skeletons towered over the men, as they swung large hammers and smashed the human’s fragile bodies. Magnor stood with his battle axe in hand and slashed at the blackened giants. But the edged weapons did little damage to the skeletons. In the distance, over the snow banks he could hear the chants of the Hellion priests as they enhanced their undead army’s battle prowess, with spells.
A giant skeleton—Gramush, they were called—crashed his hammer into Magnor’s side and sent him sprawling into a snow bank. He lay unconscious, in the bank for several hours dreaming of his beloved Ryana as the battle raged on.
Magnor awoke to find himself lying in a pile of hay in a small cavernous room. In the distance he could hear the sound of metal clanging against stone. Remembering the battle with a sudden urgency he struggled to lift his torso. His body ached all over as he fell back into the bed.
A small humanoid man came into the room. His grey beard was so long it almost dragged on the floor.
“So you’re awake,” said the dwarf.
“How long have I been here?” asked Magnor.
“A few days,” said the dwarf.
“My village was under attack, there was a battle. What happened?”
“You lost,” said the dwarf as he laid a tray of food on a small table in the corner of the room.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean your people are dead. The village is gone.”
“That can’t be, my people are the best warriors in all of Farina.”
“Not anymore,” said the dwarf.
Magnor struggled to his feet. “I’ll need a sword or a battle axe. I need to get to my village.”
“You need to rest and to eat. Gather your strength, and then you can go out and die.”
“Who are you exactly?”
“I’m Barin. I guess you can say I’m the leader of my people. At least of what is left of them, anyway.”
“I’ve heard of your kind. You’re the small men of the mines.”
“We prefer to be called dwarves.”
“Well, Barin, I need my clothes and a weapon of some quality, if you please.”
“Fine. How you choose your own death is none of my concern. I just wished I hadn’t wasted my good ale and bone broth on a soon-to-be corpse.”
Magnor rose to his feet and found his clothes lying on the floor. He struggled to put on his tunic and trousers. His body still ached from the battle. Barin watched him struggle, then threw up his arms in disgust and walked out of the room.
The food in the corner sat on the table. The aroma of the ale and bread was tempting. Magnor walked over to the small table, grabbed the tankard and downed the ale in a quick gulp. He was hungrier than he thought. He finished off the bread and bone broth, then began to search the room for a weapon.
He wandered out of the cavernous room and out into an open area. A dwarven woman sat in a chair, breast feeding her baby under her beard, while the other dwarf women played with their children in the room.
Magnor continued on down the stone corridor. He found a room full of dwarven men playing a dice game of chance. He stood and watched for a while and noticed one of them had a battle axe hanging from his side.
“Say, can I borrow your axe, sir?” asked Magnor.
“Now what kind of dwarf would I be if I let a perfect stranger borrow my axe?” replied the dwarf.
“A very kind and generous one,” said Magnor.
“No, I’d be a stupid dwarf, to say the least.”
“I really do need your axe. My village was attacked and I need to get back and help my people.”
“You mean that village that was destroyed?” said the dwarf.
“You don’t know that,” said Magnor.
“I do,” said the dwarf. “I’ve seen it myself. The place is nothing but carnage.”
“Please, sir, I need your axe.”
“The name is Dunken, and seeing you seem to be desperate. I’ll give you this axe for a month’s worth of mining labour.”
Magnor weighed his options. He was in no position to bargain. He agreed and headed off back to the village, axe in hand.
Frozen bodies lay in the snow. Burnt skeletal remains of women and children were scattered about where the longhouse once stood. Upon seeing the gruesome sight, Magnor dropped to his knees and wept. Memories of his kin folk and Ryana flooded his mind. The grief was overwhelming and he sat in the snow crying, until his thoughts were taken over by plans of vengeance and feelings of hate and anger.
As promised, Magnor went back to the dwarven caverns and began his mining work for Dunken.
“No one is safe,” claimed Magnor.
“Bah, not this again,” said Dunken.
“One day they will come for your people, Dunken.”
“That day will never come. We are safe here deep in the Mountain. Nothing can get to us”
“The priestess can breach the defences of this underground keep they have powerful magic. They can transform into dark mist. If they wiped out my people they can certainly wipe out yours.”
“Bah, even if they could, why would they want to? We have nothing they want.”
“They are a cult of death. They worship death and they will not rest till all are dead.”
“You are too fearful, my friend,” said Dunken with a smile as he handed Magnor a tall tankard of ale.
“You are not being wise,” as he drank the ale. Then he stood from the table and walked to his small alcove where his cot lay and went to bed for the evening.
Magnor spent months in the mines, trying to rally support for his cause, making his case to the dwarves that the Hellion priests needed to be driven from the lands. But the dwarves were content with the way of things and saw no reason for war.
One night after a gruelling day of swinging a mining pick, Magnor woke. He heard a loud clatter and screams coming from the northern entrance of the underground keep. He quickly rose to his feet, grabbed his axe and went to where he heard the screams.
When he got to the Northern entrance he saw several dwarves lying dead on the stone ground floor, with their throats slit. He looked around the hall. A dark mist swirled in the room, but he saw no movement nor heard any noise. The dark mist surrounded Magnor and from the darkness a cold hand grasped his shoulder. He could not move. As he stood paralyzed, the hand left his shoulder and standing before him stood a naked woman. Half her body was pitch black darkness and the other half cold and pale.
The Hellion priestess smiled, touched his face, and the world went black as Magnor fell dead to the floor.
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