The Story 2
Nine adventurers from House Orpheus walked out onto the fresh snow-covered plains of the Skarragh. They were a strange crew to be travelling together, and several looks from the guards were directed at them, though no one would deny them passage. Brother Eldjárn was draped in an old wolf cloak, torn and frayed at the edges and coated in dry blood, with a long and worn spear on his back. Anselm carried with him a walking staff and a small axe on his belt and looked strange considering the warlike temperament of his companions. Dag walked with a spring in his step and a smile, while also sporting two axes and a bow. Harald walked ahead, with a fast and long stride, his bow strung on his back and his eyes sharp. Marc walked into the wild with his bow in hand, looking to the sky for any birds, as though he was looking for information. Ixion carried with him his shield, a longsword, and a massive blade on his back, his face long and grim. Uthar’s sword and shield clanked against his long chain coat. Jan ran quickly to catch up with Harald, looking out of place as his fists crackled with electricity occasionally. But the strangest of all was Ivar, a large cook, carrying with him several large axes and cleavers and a satchel full of cooking goods. Together they left the safety of the city, in search of a future they were only beginning to understand.
The newly found silver mines were about sixty miles to the South and West of Mecone; a three or maybe four day journey for most. House Orpheus traveled it in two. On their way to the mines, little discussion was made, as so little information had been given, but one evening as they sat around a campfire, Anselm was curious.
“What do we anticipate finding?”
“Probably just bandits. They commonly will hole up in mines or shafts, striking out at merchants and miners that happen nearby.” Uthar was confident. Eldjárn ignored his companions, choosing instead to stare into the fire and wait. Anselm looked upset, though at what no one could tell.
“Hoping to find more than just bandits, adviser? Our tale would be all the better if it was the case.” Dag spoke with a joviality that he had hoped would ease the heavy mood. It did not.
“Glad to see you are so unaffected by our Lord’s death, Skald.” Ixion spoke with a venomous tongue that Dag easily ignored with a shrug.
“I have sung many of Akademos’ songs and will tomorrow, as he would want me to. I chose not to mourn his death, but celebrate his life, even if it was ended early. You may chose to brood if you wish, and I will not think the greater or lesser of you.” Silence fell on the group as Ivar cooked them up some beans and fried vegetables. Dag wondered if he traveled with heroes or dissidents. Perhaps both.
“This was not bandits.” Jan bent down and examined the ripped reigns of a mining cart, frozen blood caked onto the spokes of a broken wheel. House Andromeda had expressed previous concern about one of their new inventions; a cart that used a rudimentary gear system to provide an easier time carrying and loading goods onto the cart. Currently, the cart itself was undamaged, though the area were there should be horses attached had been heavily ripped apart.
“Hard to see, but there are drag marks here.” Harald saw the slight depression in the snow from where someone had been dragged away almost a day ago, now mostly covered over with fresh snow. The mouth of the mine was dark and ominous and the group crowded around the empty entrance, wondering what next to do. Finally, Ixion and Uthar readied their weapons and approached the entrance.
“Come, we accomplish nothing by waiting.” Ixion sounded curious and walked into the dark mine, disappearing almost immediately. Only Jan, Harald, and Eldjárn remained outside, refusing to enter, as it seemed to have nothing to do with their mission. Dag, Ivar, Marc, and Anselm all lit torches as they walked down the carved and dirty path.
“So, still think it’s bandits?”
“Shh! Listen…” The group paused and listened close. They could almost hear something strange, an unearthly noise that echoed. It sounded like something slithering, or perhaps dripping onto the floor, they couldn’t be sure. Ixion walked on, fearing nothing and feeling as though he had already lost everything.
Soon, they came to a large room where stores of wood, small carts, a few broken tables, and a few piles of silver ore rolled around. The light from their torches revealed a creature standing in the center of room, body parts and blood splattered all around the area in grotesque patterns. The creature was gnawing on a severed human arm, breaking the bone apart with its massive teeth and ripping flesh off with a lower jaw far too large. The creature had contortions of muscle and juts of bone sticking out in seemingly random places on its body. What it was, no one knew, but everyone knew it was bad.
Marc dropped his torch and fired an arrow at the strange creature, causing it to shriek in pain and throw the arm at the group. As it did, four other pairs of luminescent eyes appeared in the darkness behind it. Ixion, his massive greatsword in hand, charged at the eyes and swung in a downward arc. Black vile blood sprayed across his chainmail and cloak. Dag, Uthar, and Ivar ran to engage the creatures as Anselm threw his axe with surprising precision.
“ARGH!” With a loud yell, loud enough to alert the three standing guard at the entrance to the mine, Ixion ripped a small rusted sword out of his side that one of the creatures thrust into him. He felt nauseous, the world spun, and he fell to his knees as Uthar and Dag came to help him. Ivar chopped at one and shattered bone and blood everywhere while Marc fired arrows into the dark shapes that cut and clawed at his companions. Soon, the creatures had been felled, though Ivar had taken a cut to the leg. Ixion held his side close, feeling like death and wishing he had died defending Akademos.
Eldjárn ran into the room and looked at one of the creatures with an increasing sense of hatred. As everyone attended to the wounded, he walked up to one of the creatures and lifted into into the air, looking into its dead, faintly glowing eyes. He began to shake as he crushed the creatures throat. He wept as he ripped out its eyes. He screamed as he threw the creatures body against the cave wall. The only word he said for several minutes was “Goblins!”
While Eldjárn continued throwing the goblin corpses against a wall, Dag walked over to the central area, looking at the piles of offal and discarded body parts. With a gritted face, he bent down and examined the remains. Pieces of clothing characteristic of House Andromeda and House Perseus (the co-venture House for this establishment) could be found in the biological refuse, and he pushed through the piles with a discarded sword. It was when he saw pieces of a human head, crushed in with brain matter spilling over it, that Dag stood quickly and tried to breathe deeply. He walked away, gagging and spitting.
Jan looked around the room with a concerned and introspective look. It was a look that showed his training kicking in, though few would recognize it. Seidhrmenn are trained at the Ephebeia to resist fearful or disgusted impulses. Realizing there wasn’t enough light, Jan conjured up a trail of flame to circle around the ceiling and across adjacent halls. Illumination showed the violence and devastation of everything that had happened. Everyone looked around mournfully, wandering what next to do.
It was Marc who first heard the sound; it was like a whimpering. Quietly, he stalked down a hallway with a torch in one hand and his bow in the other, several others following him. After a second they stopped, Marc able to sense something was strange. Anselm, however, was the one who bent down and looked at the floor. Just at the edge of the floor and against a wall was a small hole, barely large enough to fit a person. Inside was a man, filthy and hardly recognizable. After some coaxing, he came out, his face blank and emotionless.
“Come on, let’s get you out of here.” As they led the man away, they questioned him on what had happened. He didn’t respond in any way. Jan and Anselm shared a look that suggested both thought the man was too far gone to answer anything, let alone assist them. As they came to the large room, the man looked at the remains and stopped.
“There’s no reason to see this, son. Let’s just move on.” Ivar spoke softly, sharing with the young man a sense of grief, but he refused to move. Finally he walked over to one of the goblin corpses that Eldjárn had not decimated. Everyone turned to watch as the man lifted the head of the goblin and stared at it.
“I couldn’t stop them,” he said, his voice hollow.
“The goblins. I couldn’t stop them. And I couldn’t fight, so I hid. I heard them screaming. My friends.” Everyone looked at the man not knowing what to say. Only Eldjárn approached him. In a flash, he impaled the man through the back with his spear, a loud crack resonating through the mine as his spine was severed.
A few heard the man whisper “thank you.”
“Eldjárn, what have you done?”
“I have spared the man. No true Ymiron should live to tell his tale.” As soon as Eldjárn was finished speaking, he seemed to fly backwards against a wall, his stocky form pressed into the rock. Most looked around, confused. Only Jan and Anselm had looks on their face; Jan’s of interest, and Anselm’s of anger.
“We don’t execute men.” Anselm spoke emphatically, his eyes lowered and dangerous as he stared at Eldjárn. Eldjárn, in response, looked at the adviser with a look of wonder and surprise, but felt no particular fear.
“I didn’t. He was already dead.”
“Listen!” Harald had his ear to the rock and spoke harshly at the group. When they stopped, they could hear a skittering noise in the walls, as off other creatures crawling along the caverns below.
“There will be more. There are always more.” Eldjárn spoke with conviction as he released himself from the wall, Anselm no longer looking at him.
“Then we go kill them,” said Uthar, gripping his sword and shield with strength.
“That would not be wise. We should leave.” Marc did not sound frightened, but knew when he was being hunted and had no particular interest in staying.
“Are you a coward?” Eldjárn readied his spear, done with talking. The others mulled about, unsure whether to continue down the mines or leave.
“We were sent here to gather allies for House Orpheus. What better way than the defeat of a goblin force and recovering a silver mine?” Dag sounded optimistic and many agreed with him, though Jan and Marc continued to show disinterest. Ixion was now standing, his wounds bandaged. He looked pale but seemed eager enough to continue, much to the discouragement of others.
Finally, Eldjárn and Harald walked forward, unconcerned with the deliberations of the group. Reluctantly, everyone followed them into the dark mines. Most knew instinctually it was an unwise move. Only Eldjárn knew for sure of what it portended.