A Tale of Stoneheart the Slayer
A Flintloque Short Story by Jaffa Holland
Artwork by Todor Hristov*
Stoneheart's tale, now in its eighth year, sees Stoneheart finding a place for himself in the Third Age of Valon within the Orc and Rat Army of Great Britorcn...
Avicii was a thin Dwarf and was looking miserable. He, in my eyes, lacked anything that would cause me want to help him except that he was of my own race. He was having stones thrown at him by a group of Orcs and Rats. He could do nothing but accept his punishment as he was tied to a pole, wearing nothing but his breaches. His beard had been cut off and blood ran from a half dozen small cuts on his face. His head was hung low, not a trace of defiance left in his body. As I say, my initial impression was not good.
Hamish, the large rat that had employed me this last year, I had come to see as a gifted engineer. I disliked him and he disliked me for neither of us gave ground and we had come close to blows on many an occasion. I sensed that Hamish was perhaps a little scared of me, as were many of the Rats. I could not and, in truth, did not want to get over my hatred of Rats. Every time I saw one, I thought of the creatures they had been in the time before, my time, and my long dead battle brothers. The war was not going well for either side. The grand campaign that was meant to have swept the enemy of the allied forces of Orcs and Rats had stalled. Spring had come but the rains that started last year had not ceased for five months and the cannons had stayed silent. Many of the cannon mounts had broken, horses had died, as had many troops trying to get the massive weapons down the mountains where they had been stored over the Winter.
The Summer had been no better, the heat had caused many wildfires that had ravaged the baggage trains and large amounts of what they called gun powder, the black magic that made the cannons work, had exploded. I was told that battles had taken place, but that neither army had made any ground and then both armies retired back to their winter bases. I saw no logic to this, why did they not send out smaller forces that could attack fast and destroy weapons, cause fear and deplete troop morale and numbers. I was told that this was not how war was fought anymore, especially by ‘civilized’ nations.
The Rats came to stay away from me as although I had not been in battle, I had been in many many fights. The first week a group of rats tried to steal my dragon armour, chainmail and Deceit (my war hammer) while I slept. Although this new world had changed me and somehow made me weaker, I was still far from weak. I was resting near the forge when they crept in, I don’t sleep as such, I rest so that I am fully aware of what is going on round me even if I seem asleep to others. As the five Rats picked up my armour one of them moved slow and quiet to where I rested and slashed down with a short sword. As his sword came down, I was up and moving and smashed my head into his nose. I felt both it and his teeth break. I grabbed his wrist and smashed his hand against the wall. As he dropped his sword, I caught it and drove it into his neck. The other four stood frozen to the spot with the sudden violence. I ran at them, grabbed Deceit, and screamed in my own language the Dragon Slayers war cry, Zarrrakack. A word I doubt had been heard by any creature in living memory. Deceit smashed into the head of the Rat closest to me and his head exploded. I rammed the spike at the top of my hammer into the stomach of the next. The other two tried to attack me but in seconds I had felled them with Deceit. Three lay on the floor bleeding, I smashed their heads in, finishing them off. The whole fight had taken no more than a minute. Guards came running in and found themselves faced with a scene of carnage and gore. Hamish came in moments later. When he saw what I had done he turned purple and I could see he was about to order the guards to attack. I screamed the word halt. I was used to commanding armies and my tone caused the guards to freeze. I took in a deep breath and spoke slowly and calmly explaining that if they made a move to arrest me, they would all die. That the scum at their feet had attacked me while I slept. If any of their friends wanted to come and have a chat about that on a one to one or, hells, all at a time basis, they were more than welcome.
Over the next month I was attacked half a dozen times. Over thirty Rats were killed. Eventually Hamish had to order that the attacks be stopped, but I think to be honest no one wanted to come near me. I was allowed to keep working as they had realised that I was not any old blacksmith but a master. It did not matter what they needed to have fixed I was able to do it. I learned how guns and cannon worked and saw that although they were deadly, they missed most of the time, were prone to exploding and if you charged a soldier - even on the rare occasions they hit you - they never expected you to keep coming and often dropped the weapon, before I reached them and they died. I had been shot five times and the small balls of lead had hurt like hell but I lived. Fear of me grew and I let it.
It was in my second winter when a small dwarf called Avicii was caught and my life was to change, as I said my initial impression was not great, blooded and tried to post. But he was, after all is said and done, a Dwarf. So I decided to see if there was anything I could do.
‘Hamish why is that Dwarf tied up?’
‘Shit if I care.’, Hamish was not one to mince his words.
‘Well I care and want him freed. How much coin will it cost?’, Hamish always thought about coin and how he could get it. He stole all the time from the stores and sold the items on. He had no intention of getting any higher rank in the army as he was getting very rich exactly where he was right now.
‘Five’, the cheeky bastard had started high.
I had just bought my first, and not my last, Dwarf. Luckily I also was rich, I fixed things that couldn’t be fixed and made things no one else could make. Yes Hamish paid me one shilling a week, but I earned closer to ten times that by doing other work. Officers especially liked thin shiny blades with lots of detail. They did not seem to know that in a proper battle these shiny elaborate swords would not last long. I hated them all of them, but took their coin happily.
Hamish walked over to where Avicii was tied up and hit one of the Rats there and just cut him down. Whatever else could be said might was still right with Rats.
I introduced myself by clearly explaining that I thought Avicii was a disgrace to the Dwarven race and that he should, by all rights, be allowed to die. I even offered, if he wanted it, my blade so that he could do it himself. Allowing himself to be captured what would his ancestors think. Whatever Avicii had though I was going to say to him this was clearly not it. But to give him credit he did not plead for his life but instead asked how I carried a weapon of old. This stopped me in my tracks.
‘What do you know of this weapon?’
‘It looks to be a weapon of old, something that should not rightly exist. What is your name? your armour and your tattoos are none that I have seen and I have seen most, which clan are you?’
‘Stoneheart of the Ironheart clan, a name that I have not used in hundreds of years.’
‘Hundreds, what do you mean hundreds. You look no more than eighty Winters.’
‘That does not matter. What do you know of my Warhammer?’
‘Nothing really. Apart from it must be old looking at the outline of those runes although I have never seen runes quite like them.
‘My name is Avicii and I am a lore master and songsmith, I record our races history and pass it down through my clan, we are few in numbers now. Since Blookha became Artur the importance of war has grown but my clan still hold the lore of our race. The Dwarves are growing fewer in number with the passing of time, a fact only expeditated by this damned war, and one day may we may be gone for all time. This is the time of the Orcs, they replace their numbers like the rain fills the rivers each spring. We may be the mighty Dwarves but the long lived don’t produce the numbers that need to be replaced, war is destroying us.’
‘Well I have bought you and if you are as travelled as you say do you know this land? Can you draw maps? I have great plans, I know that our ancient ancestral home Ureke is out there somewhere and within the citadel is one of the twelve mighty Dwarven tomes, the Great Book of Grudgesmise. I plan on finding them all and giving Dwarves a new home. The mountains are our natural home, numbers don’t mean shit there. Orcs , Elves, whoever, they can all come but we can defend if we’re in the mountains. We can dam the rivers, I know now how to build cannon, I have learned the magic of gun power. We can create a fortress so strong that we will be left in peace. But, I need maps first. I need to find Ureke.’
‘You are mad, how do you even know the names Ureke and Grudgesmise. They are mere legends even to me. What are you?’
‘I am a Demon Slayer, Killer of Dragons, Lord of Dragons, cast out by our people only to save them, now I have come to save them again. Dwarves won't come to my banner though without cause, you are a songsmith, Well I will give you plenty to sing about. I need your word though, I will give you back your freedom and you won't speak of this to anyone but me. Are you with me or not?’
‘As I say you are mad but something tells me that you speak the truth, I will follow you and record your history till you die. Or a better offer comes along’
‘Fair enough, fair enough’
Over the next few months I learned all I could from Avicii. It was true he could sing and play many musical instruments, and he knew the world, this new version of it. From his drawings I realised that Ureke, if it still existed, was in the high mountains at a place some of the Orcs called Injii. I felt alive, I had the start of my band, now I needed more Dwarves, it was time to leave the rag-tag army of Orcs and Rats and make a new home for my people. Avicii was right, we as a race were in decline because of this war against the Elven Bastard Mordred, and I planned to change that with his help.
So much for Initial impressions.
Stoneheart's tale will continue here on Orcs in the Webbe in 2019 as Stoneheart begins his search for the Lost City of Ureke...
The above short story is an Orcs in the Webbe original and was first published on December 9th 2018 as part of the 2018 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 over the years (although not for some time I am sad to say). I was particulary looking forward to this year's installment as it sees Stoneheart coming to terms with being in the Third Age of Valon, the time of Flintloque.
You can see the previous Stoneheart tales, in chronological order by clicking on the maroon Stoneheart tag just below.
* Note that Todor Hristov's artwork was completed for the Digital Trading Card Game Tarraforge and has been used without permission and will be removed if rquested by the artist/copyright holder.