It’s been another inconvenient week for me to work on something I’m happy to put out as a part of The Winds of Chaos, so in addition to my apologies, here is a piece of fiction inspired by last night’s session of Dungeons and Dragons. I fully intend to put out the next chapter of my TitansGrave adventure next week. In the mean time, enjoy!
The first blow from his hammer sent cracks speeding through the ancient stonework. He grunted and swung again, chunks of stone falling at his feet.
‘Come on.’ He growled, throwing a glance over his shoulder. The third swing went straight through one of the arms holding the portal, a spray of rubble and dust flying through the air. The surface of the portal quivered and he smiled as he saw his erstwhile companions dealing with the problem on their side. The tear in reality widened slightly, free of the confines of the stone frame and then collapsed in on itself.
He turned to face the crowd of people running along the terrace, one hand wiping the sweat from his tattooed brow, the other readying his hammer.
‘Come on, Bertha, let’s show these idiots what the afterlife really looks like.’ The ornately decorated skull tattooed onto his head stretched as he grinned, the effect causing a few of the closer guards to stumble as they neared the heavily armoured dwarf. ‘You dare claim this to be the Raven Queen’s realm?’ He yelled, his voice carrying to the back of the crowd and out into the Elemental Chaos all around. ‘You dare blaspheme against death Herself? Run, so I can hunt you down as She hunts all. Run and pray for Her mercy. Run now and repent. Or face Her will in person.’
As he spoke, he opened his mind to the divinity of the Raven Queen, channelling her power through his stocky frame. Radiant silver light began to glow from his eyes and his warhammer, the energy filling him with strength.
A few of the onrushing mob threw down their weapons and ran, scattering from the terrace. A larger number stopped, their faces confused, clearly waiting for an order.
Grimmauld took a step forwards, his eyes flickering from one face to another. As Lavinia had once pointed out, he might not be clever, but he knew how to fight smart. He judged each opponent with a practiced eye, picking out the threats, ignoring the weak links.
‘Well? Are any of you man enough to face me? Or does it take a mo-’ A bolt of arcane energy cut him off, the force of the blow staggering him.
‘Your weak goddess has no power here, dwarf. I have the power. I am Death in this realm. Not you.’ Another bolt flew through the mob, the assembled soldiers parting for a robed figure. Grimmauld spat blood and looked up, trying to the find the wizard’s eyes in the shadows of his cowl. ‘I have been here for decades while my plans were enacted over centuries on the other planes. I have had years to practise my art and perfect my plots.
‘I will not be deprived of my revenge. I will not have my sacrifices be made worthless. I have lost too much through the time distortion in this plane for a stupid, blind, ignorant dwarf to come between me and victory.’
‘I may be stupid, but I know to dodge a hammer.’ As he spoke, his spare hand flashed to his side and unhooked one of the light hammers hanging from his belt, throwing it in one smooth movement. The hammer sped through the air, a metallic blur, and cracked off the wizard’s collarbone.
The wizard screamed in pain and fell backwards.
‘KILL HIM!’ He shrieked.
The mob stirred itself, blades shining in the bizarre half-light, and charged towards the lone paladin.
Grimmauld gave himself to the rage he had been holding in check ever since they had entered Sigil.
‘Bless my strikes, my Lady, so that I may do Your work.’ He whispered, funnelling the radiance of his goddess into his hammer as he bull-rushed towards the charging guards.
The first rank collapsed as the full force of a berserk dwarf slammed into it. His hammer broke legs, caved in skulls and sent weapons flying. The mob pressed against him for a few minutes before withdrawing and regrouping. It bought him enough time to notice the myriad cuts and bruises he had suffered.
‘That the best you’ve got?’ He called out, panting heavily.
‘No, you fool. This is.’ The wizard, leaning on a burly human woman, pointed a finger at the dwarf. A thin beam of green energy slammed into Grimmauld’s left hand. There was a slight tingling sensation and then, as he watched, his arm began to turn to dust and blow away in the breeze. A cold numbness formed at the edge of the wound and then began to spread, racing the effects of the spell to his heart.
Standing on a terrace, surrounded by dead and dying men, abandoned in the Plane of Elemental Chaos, Grimmauld Stonehammer died.
He awoke as something warm brushed over his face.
‘Welcome back, Grimmauld Stonehammer, Champion of the Lady.’ What sounded like a thousand voices crashed through his head, the discordance forming words and then dancing away as soon as understanding arrived. ‘She has need of you yet. Death does not welcome you as you welcome it. Wake up, Paladin of Death, wake up and bring Her justice on swift wings.’
Grimmauld’s eyes snapped open. Above him the sky boiled as fire fought with earth for supremacy,
‘How?’ He croaked, his voice hoarse. ‘There was a spell and-’
‘Belief.’ The voices interrupted him. ‘This is the birthplace of life and potentiality. All that is, was and may be came from here. With so many people believing that She was here for so long, She was able to manifest a part of her essence. When your conviction and faith called upon it, She was able to act. And when you gave your life in Her cause, She found Her Champion.
‘Rise, Grimmauld Stonehammer. Accept your destiny. She has called, do you answer? DO YOU?’ The cacophony in his head reached a crescendo and he stood, feeling the radiant vitality coursing through his veins.
‘Then go and accept your new name and title, Grimmauld Stoneraven, cleanse this place of evil. She will aid you whilst She can. This place is powerful for now, a nexus of belief and fate. This will be your realm until you are needed once again. Know that She loves you and will welcome you to her Hall, as Her Champion, when the time is right.’
He doesn’t know how long it has been, he doesn’t know when he last ate, or slept, or spoke. He doesn’t know when he made the false hand attached to the stump of his left wrist. He knows only the eternal roiling chaos around him, the faces of the dead filling the palace, the love of his goddess in his heart and the companionship of the golem.
He halts his endless pacing as something shifts in the air around him. The room shimmers and ripples as if something is forcing reality apart.
‘Come on then.’ The querulous voice of a long lost friend cuts through the silence as an oval opens in the air next to him. ‘I don’t know how long it will last. If you’re coming home, do it now.’
He grips Bertha tightly and looks at the golem. The two share a moment of silent understanding and he turns to the portal.
‘Took you long enough.’