Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Berserker Part 5

“Hold!”, bellowed an accented voice in front of Jarn. Suddenly he was looking down the shaft of a crossbow. His eyes followed down the crossbow and rested upon his assailant. He was a tall blond young man, wearing an out of place coat of animal skins over light leather armor. He also carried two sabers in sheathes at his waist and what looked like a spear across his back. Jarn looked up to realize that he was surrounded by a group, equally armed with crossbows.

Well this is the end of me. Funny, after surviving the goblin warriors I’m going to be shot while leaving after a terrible battle. The irony was thick enough to be cut with a knife. Jarn heaved a resigned sigh. “Hurry and finish it.” he said, suddenly feeling very tired. “My people haven’t made much headway in the next world, if you hurry I can catch up to them.”

“Wait”, said the man. “We’re not going to kill you if we don’t have to... understand?”

“You’re not with the goblins?”, Jarn asked hesitantly.

“Not at all”, replied the man, bridling under the suggestion he would be affiliated with such loathsome and depraved creatures. “Is that what happened here? Goblins attacked?”

Jarn nodded his head, shuddering at the memory of such carnage. “Aye”, he said. “Those little cowards attacked during the night and gutted the lot. They must’ve known the men were away at the time. When we returned everyone was dead, except for the goblins. I’m the only one left.” He fell to his knees and openly wept, exhausted beyond words.

The man guffawed with laughter. clearly not believing him “You jest, yes?”, the man asked incredulously. “Why do you live and nobody else does? What is special about you?” He raised his crossbow and released the safety pin for emphasis.

“I wish I knew”, Jarn said. He lowered his head and waited for the arrow to come.

“Stop!”, cried another man’s voice beside Lars. “Don’t shoot him yet!” He addressed Jarn. “What clan does this town belong to?”, He asked. His voice is familiar, where have I heard it before?

“This was the only home of the Flameheart clan”, Jarn replied.

“Jarn!”, the voice cried. “I thought it might’ve been you! It’s me, Karnar!” Jarn felt a tendril of hope worm through him at the man’s statement. He looked up to confirm it. Despite himself he smiled, he knew this man. They had been good friends since they could walk, Karnar had married Jarn’s cousin not more than 3 years ago. He was from the Crushbone clan, just south of the Goblin mountains. They were notorious for reclusive behavior, so it was strange to be seeing one anywhere from home, but Jarn’s eyes couldn’t be tricked. He stood there, plain as day. His short stature made him easy to pick out when compared to others of his clan, it had also made him the target for a lot of bullies when they were very young, but he made up for it by being more than twice as thick as anyone Jarn had ever known.

“Karnar!”, Jarn shouted back with as much force as he could muster. “It’s good to see you, but do you think you could get him to keep from shooting that thing down my nose before we get aquatinted? I’m going cross-eyed looking at it.”

“Go easy Lars”, Karnar said with a huge grin plastered across his features. “I know this man and personally vouch for his trustworthiness. Although I wouldn’t exactly be sure of that when he’s drunk.” Oh no, not this again.

“Oh not again”, Jarn moaned, wondering if he was dreaming again. “Just because I got drunk and woke up next to a sheep doesn’t mean I did anything.” This had haunted him for years, and he could feel the blood rising to his face.

Karnar’s wedding was a time where he indulged in a little too much merrymaking. When he was walking back to one of the Crushbone villages from the wedding site, he tripped and fell. Being very tired and more than a little inebriated, he decided to stay where he was for the night, on second thought, Jarn wasn’t really sure he had a choice. Anyway, when he woke up, he found that he had wandered into one of the livestock pastures and a flock of sheep had bedded down next to him. Needless to say, when the shepherd got back to town with this news, nobody could stop laughing. Except Jarn of course, he had never been so embarrassed in his life.

Lars reluctantly complied with Jarn’s wishes, as did all those around him. Jarn rose back to his feet, not bothering to brush the mud from his legs or the tears from his eyes. He walked over to where Karnar stood and clenched the man in a bear hug that would’ve surely crushed a lesser person. Karnar returned the gesture and held the other man back to get a look at him. Jarn’s face was haggard and pale from little sleep or food, it looked as if he hadn’t attended to any of his wounds either, the number of infected cuts on his arms and legs must’ve been weakening him too. The dazed sense of prolonged horror that seemed to hold his facial muscles in thrall made him look years older, and nearly unrecognizable. His eyes had changed too. At one time they showed the great inner peace and happiness that made Jarn such a good person to know and be around. His eyes now held such a desperate ferocity, they belonged to someone who had flown over hell and made the devils run for cover. Karnar was strangely frightened by them.

“What happened here?”, Karnar whispered in Jarn’s ear.

Jarn broke away from the man. “I told you” he said, obviously frustrated. “Goblins came and slaughtered them all.” He turned around and started jogging down the line of huts. “If you don’t believe me then follow!” He called over his shoulder. Stopping at one particularly large hut, he beckoned to the group to look inside.

Karnar cautiously poked his head inside the hut, withdrew it with blinding speed, spun to one side, and vomited. The group quickly clustered around the grounded man after he finished. “What was it?” Questioned the old man.

“Goblins.” Came the weak reply. “Dozens of corpses. Must’ve been dead for some time, that was what we smelled earlier.”

Jarn leaned against the hut. “Believe me now?” He asked.

The noble looked inside the hut as well, wrinkling his nose in disgust but managing to hold onto his meal. “You mean to tell me that you have killed all of those goblins? He asked in wonder.
“Not all of them,” Came Jarn’s reply. “The other warriors vanquished roughly half before they were killed.”

“But that leaves at least 20 that you killed.” The noble gasped, his eyes big as plates.

“What of it?” Jarn asked.

“Oh, nothing.” The noble said, edging away, making sure to keep his guard between him and Jarn.

“It’s all a kind of haze.” Jarn said. “I can remember fragments, but I’m still not sure why I’m alive.”

“You look like you’re are traveling somewhere.” Karnar put in, indicating his traveling pack. “Where would that be?”

“There is nothing left in this village.” Jarn replied. “I intend to take revenge.”

“You mean you haven’t already?” asked the noble dryly, indicating the hut full of decaying goblins. “Hey!” He shouted at his bodyguard. “Get away from there!” The bruiser had been investigating the hut further and already carried three pairs of rather small boots, some assorted bits of jewelry, a few knives that might fetch a good price, and his purse looked a little bigger than it had been.

The bruiser looked over at the group and grinned. “It’s not as if they’re going to need anything.” He said. “Yet I found something strange, all of the goblins had tattoos.”

“Tattoos?” The woman in the group said. “I didn’t think goblins would trust anyone with a needle. What did they depict?”

“A small copy of the world,” the bruiser replied. “With a fist of smoke holding it tight.” He looked back in the hut to confirm his thoughts. “They all have the same mark” he reported. The idea that goblins had anything in common with one another was disconcerting. Although lacking in combat skill for the most part, the only reason their sheer numbers hadn’t overrun half the Dominion yet is that they were such untrustworthy, backstabbing, and disorganized little whelps, and spent most of their time squabbling amongst themselves and trying to keep from being killed in their sleep.

“I took note when I moved the bodies,” Jarn interjected. “Whoever could get goblins to submit to wearing that mark probably sent them this way. If I’m right, then that’s the bastard I’m lookin’ for.” He picked up his fallen pack and made to leave. “If you have no more questions, I’ll not take any more of your time.” He said acidly.

Jarn faced to the north and began walking away. Karnar ran to catch up to him. “How will you find this person?” He asked. “Its not as if you have a definite idea.”

“I’ll head up to the mountains and ask the goblins.” Jarn replied.

“What if they don’t want to tell you.” Karnar asked.

“I’ll insist.” Jarn said, with an evil glint in his eye and a cruel smile that frightened Karnar more than the prospect of facing down any goblin.

“What if they really have no knowledge?” Asked Karnar, playing his final card.

The horrible glow of bloodlust in the dirtied and disheveled youth’s eyes faded, showing only fatigue, pain, and how desperately he was clinging to one coherent thought.

“I don’t know!” Jarn screamed, his shoulders slumped and his head lowered.

“Come with me, come with us, we’ll help you.” Karnar replied gently, leading the boy back to the caravan, the other fighters in tow.

Jarn’s lips parted slightly, Karnar thought that on the cusp of hearing he detected the whispered words, “Thank you.”

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