Rants, raves, fiction, and laughs

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Dagger (teaser)

This is the first part of an upcoming short-story featuring the heroes of CRIT! For more adventures of Linus and his team, check out CRIT! at “Does it ever bother you that we searched the pockets of the people we’ve just killed?” asked Kiyana. Her educated brain was wrestling with philosophy that the others would have just as soon ignored. “Well, it does when you put it that way,” said Linus, the senior member of the party. The middle-aged Ranger frowned at the blonde buxom wizard. “I mean, it’s not as if we killed them just to rifle through their possessions. That’s just barbaric.” “Hey!” cried Quince the barbarian. He looked ready to cry at the accusation. “Present company excluded,” added Linus hastily. “But yes, killing people for their gewgaws is wrong… but looting the pockets of the people who’ve just ambushed us? I’d say that’s restitution.” “Besides, sometimes they have cool stuff!” added her brother, Bart. The ten-year-old rogue was holding up a severed ulna which was sporting a diamond-studded bracer. The little Elf had actually pulled out a jewler’s eyeglass was examining the cut and water of his find. “Thanks for backing me up there,” sneered Linus. “Wotcher,” said Bart. “From the mouths of innocent babes…” quoted Kiyana with a smug smile. “If he’s innocent I’m a bloody penguin,” said Linus dryly. “Morfindel, what’s your take on this?” Kiyana whined to the Cleric. Morfindel, Elven Cleric of the Ardellan Mission, stepped over the bodies of the dead Scath A Dannen. These particularly nasty Fallen Elves from the Dark Dimension had popped up out of nowhere and Morfindel had unleashed his holy fury upon them. The Cleric was smiling grimly with satisfaction at a smiting well done — so much satisfaction in fact, that the others were giving him a wide berth as they searched among the pile of limbs and entrails. He wasn’t blood-thirsty by nature. The Elf had an easy-going temperament that bordered on “wishy-washy” at times; that would disappear the moment that duty called. Morfindel performed his duties with a glad heart. “Morfindel?” Kiyana ventured a second time. “Huh?” asked Morfindel, lost in thought. “I said what’s your take on our ghoulish tendency to steal from the dead?” asked Kiyana. The others groaned at her grim exaggeration. “I don’t really care so long as they’re not proper Elves.,” said Morfindel, and that was basically that. The world came in two flavors for Morfindel: “Elves”, and “everything else.” Morfindel’s holy duty was to protect all Elves from harm and to do no harm to Elves himself. This included Elves who wanted to kick his ass and/or do very bad things to him. It didn’t matter. Morfindel knew he was a racist—he’d often commented on the fact—but that didn’t give him one moment’s pause when it came to blows. Unfortunately it forced Linus to pause quite frequently. Bart and Kiyana were exempt from fighting Elves, being High Elves themselves, but Linus was only Half-Elven and given no leeway. During battles amongst the pointy-eared Children of the Sun, Morfindel would often shout to Linus, “Don’t kill any Elves or I’ll have to kill you! Sorry!” There were a few loopholes in his dogmatic law, but Morfindel was often forced to search for them in the heat of battle. Linus was currently nursing a sizable gash on his bicep that he’d received while fending off blows from the Scath A Dannan and shouting, “CAN I PLEASE HIT THEM BACK?” By the time Morfindel had answered in the affirmative, the battle was half-over. Now that Linus knew that Scath A Dannan were fair game, he filed that information away for future use. Maybe I should write them all down on an index card for quick reference, he thought. Elves: No. Elf Assassin bent on my destruction: No Brainwashed Elves controlled by a vampire: No Fallen Elves from Dark Dimension: Go nuts. While Linus was mentally writing this out he became distracted by the flicker of reflected sunlight. Looking for the source he spied a dagger lying a few feet near its owner’s severed hand. Linus bent down (to a chorus of popping noises from his knees) and retrieved the weapon. He immediately recognized that this was a dagger of superior workmanship. It was light, well-balanced and practically new, judging by the flawless sheen and the fresh leather wrappings. It mimicked the shaped of a typical naval dirk with a reversed guard (somewhat fancifully executed) and had a large red cats-eye jewel at the junction of the hilt and blade. The blade was both artful and diabolical. Hooks, serrates and barbs had been stamped into the metal that spelled instant disaster for internal organs and ribcages. The metal itself was like nothing Linus had ever seen —he couldn’t guess its name or its origin— it was a dark black that glistened with a purple sheen when held to the light. The light played on the greasy purple cast, giving the blade the illusion that it was in constant motion, like liquid. Linus was a practiced dual-wielding fighter, currently favoring a spatha and a ballock dagger. The latter was giving him trouble; the blade was notched and dull, the point had been snapped off, the wrappings kept coming loose, and the blade was off-balance after a plethora of re-sharpenings. It was small wonder then, that Linus made experimental swipes in the air with this new dagger, tossing it in his hand a few times to get a feel for the balance and the weight. After a few minutes he seemed well pleased with it. The old ballock was unceremoniously chucked among the corpses. Linus hunted up the dirk’s scabbard and was strapping his new conquest onto his leg when he heard a shrill voice pipe up behind him and curl the hairs on his neck. “You’re not keeping that, are you??” cried Kiyana. “It would appear that I am,” said Linus. “You’re not serious!” protested Kiyana. “I generally am,” returned Linus, arching an eyebrow. “Why?” “’Cause it’s evil!” Linus blinked. “Run that by me again.” “The dagger is eeeevil!” repeated Kiyana, waggling her fingers for further emphasis while her voice trilled like a sibyl. This gave Linus genuine pause. Kiyana was a university-educated woman which meant that she didn’t have enough imagination to outright lie. She was prone to exaggeration, however, and Linus wanted to know more. “What makes you say that?” asked Linus. “Just look at it! It’s got hooks and squiggles and a big red eye on it!” “Ah. So we’re just arguing about aesthetics, are we?” said Linus relaxing. “I got it off a Scath A Dannan. They just like to put their own little eldtritch stamp onto everything that’s all.” “Evil,” insisted Kiyana. “Look!” grunted Linus, growing annoyed with her. “It’s a tool, alright? A tool can neither be good or bad. It’s all in how it’s used. Now I don’t want to hear another word about it!” “Fine,” said Kiyana coldly. “What do the rest of you think?” she asked the other men. “I don’t care,” said Morfindel with a shrug. “It’s not my call.” Linus smirked at Kiyana. “Bart? ‘Talky-Tim’? What do you think?” he called to the other two. Quince said nothing until realization dawned. “Me? Oh I—I’m ‘Talky-Tim’?” he said eventually. “Yes,” said Linus. “You needed a new dagger, didn’t you, Linus?” asked Quince. “Yep.” “That’s alright then,” said Quince with a shrug. “Bart? How ‘bout you?” called Linus, trying to find where the boy had got to. “Would you shut up?! I’m trying to count up here!” Bart shouted from atop a tree. “The vote stands four-to-one. Motion carries,” said Linus. “Two-to-one with two abstentions,” corrected Kiyana, pointing to Morfindel and Bart. “Not saying ‘no’ doesn’t count as saying ‘yes’.” “That’s a double-negative, princess, so in point of fact: IT DOES,” crowed Linus. “Put that in your thesis and mark it, Miss Coed!”

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