Dropping a few coins on the soot-stained bar, the last of the regulars got up to leave the Slagpit, a small, smoky tavern in the forge district of Silverspear. It was late, even for the pit, and Weltan just wanted to go home.
“Last call.” He said with a quiet urgency to the only patron left sitting at the bar.
The dwarf woman looked up from her empty cup and with a slightly puzzled look on her face, before tapping the rim of the glass a few times. Weltan topped her off with the good whisky that came from across the sea. He knew she had the coin. Her type always did.
She smiled as the cup slid back to her grasp, her ruddy cheeks reaching back toward her ears in a huge smile. She looked up at Weltan, pushing back the blond hair that was falling in a mess across her face. When she grinned that way, the scars about her became very pronounced, some ragged, some clean. She had seen a lot of fighting, against beasts and blades alike.
“I ever tell you about the time me and my friends fought against the darkest death?” She was loud. She was clearly drunk and Weltan had heard this tale before.
“Sure have, twice now tonight.” He hoped there would not be a third as he finished wiping down the bar. Heedless to his response, she continued.
“Four days we marched… or was it five. No matter. It was past the wood, up the maw, right down its gullet!” The bartender sighed as she rambled on. “That old path led to the deeper parts of the mountains, the forgotten parts where none did tread. None but us lucky seven, the seven from Aubenglade. The company of the glade.”
She said it with a certain pride, puffing out her chest, but the moment quickly passed. She took another sip from her glass.
“That’s where we found it. The fane, at least that is what that little bastard Kir kept calling it. You ever heard his tale about it? I heard he still tells it, leaving out the rest of us as if he were the biggest hero in the whole damn world! Earning coin off our tale.” She spat and took another pull.
“Where was I?”
“The fane.” Weltan replied, hoping she would hurry it up.
“Ah yeah, the fane. Darkest damned place I ever saw. Nothin’ but creeping darkness that even I could not see through. There were more of them ragged bastards there. I tell you about them?”
“Three times now.”
“Good. They were everywhere, worshipping that black stone, chanting in their cursed tongue”. As she spoke, her hand slipped down the haft of her axe on which was a dull, black stone.
“I chopped ‘em down, me and the Mother, fighting as one. This was back when she was still with me ye see.” He did not. She was making less sense with each retelling of her tale. He kept cleaning the glasses.
“But we were too late. They had opened the stone and the darkest death was pouring out. We had to hold it off while the mage tried his magic to close it. Its tendrils, they were everywhere.” That last word was but a whisper as she lifted her cup again.
“That weren’t the worst of it. No. That was the voices, the things it said. The truths it told. They made me afraid for the first time in years. I still hear them. They never went away.” Her voice trailed off for a moment.
“Valtirus, he broke. His magic failed him. In the panic, poor Eadmar was grabbed by the thing. It squeezed and squeezed until blood was pouring out of him. It tossed his broken body at the feet of his brother. I’ve never seen Ren so angry. He lost it then. Picked up Ead’s blade and charged right at it. We all followed. If Ead was going to die, then we were going to make sure that thing paid.” She lifted up her cup, closing her eyes in painful remembrance. She downed the last of the amber liquid and set the cup upon the bar.
“But I’ve told ya this tale before.” She said, with a note of sadness. “And I got ta travel home in the morning.”
She looked at the bartender, waiting for him to ask what happened next, waiting for him to care, but there was only silence.
Dropping a pouch of coins on the bar, Karwyn got up to leave.