"The Sky Forge"
A Tale of Stoneheart the Slayer
A Darkestorme Short Story by Jaffa Holland
Once again returning home as something other than the hero he set out to be, Stoneheart has to answer for his actions in Jocalia. Meanwhile, deep beneath the citadel of the Slayers, something stirs.
The first chapter of Stoneheart's tale can be read here on Orcs in the Webbe.
The second chapter, "Stoneheart in Jocalia", can be read here.
So, you want to hear a tale of slaughter and dark deeds do you, well get me a drink and I will tell you a small part of my story, for I am Slayer and none will ever hold this name again, do as you are told or know death I care not which…
At the hearing where I was called Flesh Eater where Kardna, the ancient priest of the Slayer order, spoke saying that my fate was tied up with the Rat Tribes of Jocalia not even he could not know just how these vile creatures were to be a constant in my life.
The seven legendary Slayers that I had killed all had mighty weapons of power which I had dragged back as they had asked me. The problem was the priests could not determine if they were tainted by Wylde Magicke. They didn’t know if strange machine that Rats had built into and around them changed them in some way that was yet to be seen. They were unsure if they could be passed on to new Slayers to continue the war against the evil throughout Valon.
My story had begun to spread; my name though spoken in whispers was spoken often. Word of my deeds had even reached my old homes of Ureke and Barlinstatte. Word that the son of Ironheart the master smith had killed many of his own. For although Slayers, and the exact nature of what we did, were one of the most secret of all sects within Dwarven society, this deed was one that could not be kept within the Slayers realm. The wealth and associated power of owning the weapons I had returned could not be stored in the order vaults, as many previous relics had. The weapons I had returned would be coveted by those in power and dispute would surely arise if the matter was not dealt with.
So important were these relics to my people that it was decided that a moot must be held and that the all three of the Dwarven Kings needed to be called along with their great advisors to decide the fate of these weapons of legend. Not in four centuries had it even been suggested that so much Dwarf history and power be in one place.
Very few if any spoke to me in the weeks after my return, with the exception of Kardna. He kept asking, over and over, how I could understand the language of the Rats and if Kazaung the dragon killer really did ask me to kill him and the other six Slayers. He explained that their bodies had been recovered and that statues had been made but despite the details of their condition matching my report questions still abounded about why I had killed them. To be honest I cared nothing of his questions nor for what was going on round me. With each passing day, away from the open air and the threat of attack I had that same red mist building and desperately needed to hit something. I wanted to be out slaying not sitting in a cell, reading old scripts about our histories with these Rats as I kept being forced to do.
A few days prior to the arrival of the three Kings our citadel was in high readiness. Not in living memory had so many people been invited to stay with the Slayer order, extra food, beer and warriors had been arriving by the score. I was, as normal, left to my own devices during these times. Not having much liking for pomp and ceremony. It was during these days that I felt a strange pull. I wandered, following my spirit. My feet were soon taking me down tunnels that had not been walked for centuries, perhaps longer, judging by the levels of dust. The walls were getting rougher and rougher the deeper I went, the ceilings smaller and lower.
The air was so cold here and the torches had long ago stopped being replaced, I was guided by my Dwarven senses and the overriding desire to continue. All I could hear were my own metal clad boots ringing on the ancient stone work as I walked. I realised that my hammer was in my hand but did not know how it had got there. Abruptly the tunnel I was in came to a dead end, a solid wall as ancient as the path I had walked. Every part of me seemed to refuse what my eyes were seeing. I lashed out in anger again and again, hitting the wall with my hammer. Suddenly, the end of the tunnel gave way and I was looking upon a vast cavern. A cavern lit by strange green and blue glowing stone scattered throughout its walls.
In the very centre of the cavern lay the bones of a vast beast, it was so big it could only have been that of a dragon. I walked up to it and for a long time just stood very still gazing at it, taking in every detail of the bleached white bones. I was there so long that it was the deep ache in my legs that brought me back. Time did not seem to have a meaning there. When I came out of my revelry I noticed for the first time that the room also contained a forge, a forge the likes of which I had never seen. It was a relatively simple affair, made of what looked jet black stone. I felt it from within my heart; it radiated the skill that had been put into its use. It was obvious to me that every tool there was clipped along its length was of the finest design and that each item had but one purpose, that of crafting weapons and armour.
Something within me stirred, it had been so long since I had tended the forge at Barlinstatte. I could not stop myself; I set the fire and started the process of getting the heat up. Never before had I felt so sure about what I had to do. I left the flames to build and set off to tell Kardna what I had found. I came across him in the War Room but before I could even speak of what I had found he cast a spell of such power that I was frozen, I could hardly breathe. Everyone around me erupted into madness, bells sounded throughout the citadel, priests of every God and race came running into the war room. Each, as soon as they saw me, stopped dead in their tracks and hit me with yet more spells. It was as if each spell was my turning my very body to stone. The red mist flared and the beast within me awoke and screamed and fought with all its rage, I felt my hand twitch and then... nothing... something had hit me from behind.
I woke, not knowing how much later, to find myself naked and bound by heavy chains, ten feet off the floor with archers pointing steal tipped crossbow bolts pointing at me. Very slowly, I moved my head to see what was going on.
To my side, sat the three Kings who, every now and again looked up at my bound form, all the while bickering amongst themselves. Beyond them was a large council hall. Filled with not only Dwarves but representatives of other races. As I looked around they noticed that I was awake and Kardna came to stand directly below me. In a voice that could break an armies advance, he spoke my name, asked where I had been and what I had done. I had nothing to hide, I told them everything. I told them what had led me underground, what I had found and that I had set the forge to light. Again, all around erupted into activity, there was shouting and people jostling, calling for punishment. Surrounded by such action I felt the red rising, until suddenly, an Elf of all creatures, stood and called for silence.
“This Slayer has somehow achieved the impossible and found the ancient Sky Forge, guarded by Wylde Magicke and fuelled by the blood of ancient Dragons. To be found by a master smith at a time when the Rat daemon army will come forth once again. This is what was written in the Great Book of Grudgesmise.”
Questions raced though my brain but my very being just wanted the flames of the forge, to use it to create. I needed the armour and weapons of the seven; I had to destroy them to create new weapons of power. The knowledge of what I must do, and how I must do it blazed like fire in my mind. It also showed me the path that had led me here. What had actually happened when the infernal machine in the Rat caverns of Jocalia exploded. A shard of blue stone from the heavens, imbued with the purest essence of Wylde Magicke, had pierced my skin and was now lodged deep within my chest, a scant hair’s breadth from my heart.
I shook my head and focused on the here and now. I needed to make myself heard. I knew... things. I could see things, things I could not even previously have dreamt. I called to these ‘leaders’ of my people and in a voice I did not know I professed, “All of you will die unless I am allowed to finish my work, unchain me or a river of blood will flow and have no end until all join the Rat god”.
Shouting erupted once more and someone loosed an arrow which buried itself deep in my leg, pandemonium broke loose, more spells were cast, some to protect me, some to destroy me. Pain mixed with the burning knowledge and the red mist rose within me, as it came to a crescendo, I once again conscious.
I came to from a kick to the leg; I was back at the Sky Forge. The elf who had spoken stood before me. How this elf knew what was written in the Great Book of Grudgesmise I did not know. Who was this daemon that he had spoken of, was it the same creature that I had mentioned. The one which if I closed my eyes, I could see glimpses of, Writhing in the darkness deep below the earth. The room was full of the people from before, warriors, sages and wizards from all races, even the three bickering Dwarven Kings, looked upon me. As my gaze scanned my surroundings I realised I was no longer chained and then I noticed something else. The legendary weapons and armour of the seven were placed before me.
The Elf spoke in a low but friendly voice and advised me to make that which I saw in my mind’s eye, that I should know that Magicke, the greatest Magicke, was today unleashed and that magic should be used to create. He told me that each item I created would be checked, I would be watched closely and if necessary I would be killed should I even attempt to create something evil.
I sat and prayed to my Gods, time had no meaning for me. Later, when all this was done, I discovered that I had sat and prayed, focusing my mind, for two whole days. I drank nothing and did not seem to breathe. Somehow the Sky Forge itself kept me alive. I stood and stoked the fire, the flames reached temperatures I had never seen or felt, a stream of water from a hose of was directed at me and steam rose from my body. I grabbed my father’s hammer and smashed the weapons of power breaking them down, my father’s hammer should not have been able to break these weapons but stood in a circle around the forge were mages of great power from many races all directing thier magic into me.
My mind dissolved into itself, the red mist rose but this time it was focused on the task at hand. I let the blood rage take over. I sang ancient songs and screamed oaths that I did not know had existed. Kardna later told me that for the first time in ages that he felt a fear in his bones, a fear telling him that I was a creature of madness and that madness itself was crafting weapons. First a shield, then a sword, a helm and finally an axe. An unearthly quiet descended upon me and the rest of the chamber too fell silent, even the three Dwarven Kings had no words.
In an old, long dead, Dwarven language, I addressed the room, “From the seven weapons of legend I have crafted four of the weapons of the future. The Great Book tells of five, the fifth the greatest weapon of all. By my will I now create the Truth Slayer. All those that say they speak the truth but lie will die by this weapon.” The forge grew brighter than was possible, my screams grew louder than they should have and Kardna said that even if all the powers on Valon had wanted to stop me they could not have halted the ancient Magickal forces that were loose in the Sky Forge. As the light dimmed, Kardna could once gain make out my form, in my hand was a warhammer as black as night, four foot in length with a spike at its top.
I held it aloft and pain like nothing I had ever experienced raced through my body, but I endured and accepted the weapon. Suddenly without conscious thought I could feel those that had evil in them. As easy as telling if someone was alive or dead, I could distinguish between good and evil. My gaze fell on Thrangar, second of the Dwarven Kings, loved by thousands, a hero to his people since he was a mere boy, his eyes met mine and for the merest second glinted in the dying light of the Sky Forge, as my Warhammer took off his head. Before it had even hit the ground I was assaulted by over a dozen arrows, magic spells battered me, grinded away at my flesh and my essence. Kardna himself was unleashing the powers within him at me, believing me to be evil, having slain Thrangar. I stumbled, using the great warhammer for balance as part of my leg evaporated under the onslaught. I could see something, their attention was on me, I pointed at Thrangar’s corpse, mustering every ounce of strength I had left and shouted, “Look you fools!” One head turned, then another, slowly the wave of attacks eased as more and more noticed what was happening. Out of the body of the dead king rose a black mist that thickened and then straightened up into the form of a giant daemon rat.
The last thing I saw was Kardna along with the mysterious Elf and the two Kings picking up the weapons I had forged this day and throwing themselves at the beast. I knew I had done a great deed, but I now knew how this worked. I would be remembered as not just the one who forged the weapons of the future but also the one who killed a king and brought forth the daemon in the heart of an ancient Dwarven citadel - a new name would be granted me - I was the Truth Slayer, willing to slay all, including my own...
Stoneheart's tale is not over, it will continue here on Orcs in the Webbe in 2014.
The above short story is an Orcs in the Webbe original and was first published on December 7th 2013 as part of the 2013 Advent Calendar.
Jaffa is a long time friend and ex-house mate of mine who has been my opponent in many battles of Flintloque and Darkestorme. I hope you enjoyed this tale featuring his character, Stoneheart, here on OITW as much as I did.