The Grim Fall Ch.6 – Contribution

More Post-Apocalyptic fantasy.

To catch up: ‘The Grim Fall’ is my next major fiction project. Set in a generic ‘high fantasy world’, it takes place after Ragnarok, the Final Battle of the Gods. The obvious concept is not everything was destroyed, and the survivors are trying to make sense and survive in what’s left. Think ‘Middle-Earth meets The Road‘, and you won’t be far off.

The protagonist is a half human/half orc named Addas who found refuge with the remnants of an Orc clan in an old mine and survived the apocalypse. He, his Goblin companion Snat, and a clutch of full-blood Orc Warriors have joined a Dwarven expedition to search for other survivors. Sift the archived posts for previous scenes.

At this point, I’ve outlined the entire novel, have the first major section detailed, and – allowing for problems – plan on releasing it late this year. Once the first portion is complete, I’ll start looking for a professional cover artist, as well as someone to work up illustrations for official excerpts.

For now however, you guys get a peek at the early draft.

All images belong to their respective owners and are included for entertainment and embellishment of this free, unpublished sample. The fiction is mine copyright 2015.

Thanks.

Patrick T.

SIX: CONTRIBUTION
Two of the Chief’s bashers swatted Addas all over for hidden blades, then shoved him like a condemned criminal all the way back up the South Hole to the entrance.
In the Swap, each gripped a shoulder as they hustled him through the crowd. A wake of mutters and stares fanned out behind them. At the Grotto’s entrance, a guard hawked a gob at Addas’ feet.
“Feck is ‘e here for?” he demanded.
One of his escorts shrugged. “Snack? Mebee the hollering got everyone’s appetite up.”
The guard smirked and stepped aside.
Addas bit the inside of his cheek to stop his knees from quivering, and kept walking.
Fear is good, he heard Chalk say. But one whiff and they’ll shred you quicker than you can blink.
Addas used the blood in his mouth to ignore the ice in his gut. He trussed up his panic with the fragments of solitude he’d snatched earlier at the Boots. The fear would wriggle loose again – it always did – but whatever came, he wouldn’t let them see it.

The Chief’s Grotto was really the mine’s ventilation room, a large open cave near the surface with a packed sand floor and boreholes in the ceiling. A dozen massive rusty fans spun behind cages in the walls, put in by the humans who had chiseled the first ore out of these rocks. Sucking poison air out, wheezing good air in – without them the Black Sands Clan would have suffocated in the inky depths beneath the mountain long ago.


Addas stopped short inside the cavern. The orc trailing him cursed and shoved, but Addas was rooted in place, his fear suddenly thrashing to get loose.
Largash Goretusk, warchief of the Unaka greenskins, tyrant of the Black Sands Clan, Overlord of the Skull Throne was in a rage.
The huge orc was out of his seat, standing at the edge of the rude brick dais, shouting at a group of six Dwarves. Clad in shiny black armor with anvil icons on their shields, they were understandably tense, coiled for violence. Goretusk’s guards bristled around them, fingering their own weapons.
Bad intent was seething in the air thick as coal fumes and twice as touchy: one spark and the whole place would go up.
The brute behind Addas shoved again, and he stumbled through the crowd to the foot of Goretusk’s throne.
The Chief’s face was swollen, near purple with fury. “You have maps, but you need a scout? You Dwarves are clever bastards with your machines and little gadgets, but you ask for one of my niggle-monkeys to patch your kit? Tell me, Prince Falthen, how do two scuts represent my interests?”

The head Dwarf replied calmly. “Think of it as an investment, Largash. A contribution that won’t go unrewarded.”
“Bearded midgets don’t make demands here,” Goretusk spat.”One word from me, and I’ll take your heads, piss on your corpses and mount your skulls on my wall!”
The Dwarf Prince was as cool as ice. “Do that,” he said. “And you’ll never see another caravan the rest of your short miserable life.”
“The Unakas don’t need your stinking caravans,” Goretusk shouted. “We will make our own carts, our own treaties. Orcs grow strong themselves.”
“You will wither and die in the dark like starving rats,” Prince Falthen replied flatly. “Break the Truce, no one in the broken worlds ever trades with you. Ever again.”
He paused to study the back of his fingernails before continuing. “And the next Dwarves you see will be my folk coming to seal you in this shit hole forever.”
The orc chief smiled, red eyes dangerously narrow. “You threatening me, Stunty?”
“Call it a promise.”
Addas spied the muscles coiling in the chief’s forearms like he was ready to leap down and tear the Dwarf’s throat out with his bare hands.
Addas’ fear was chewing off its own leg, trying to get free.
Goretusk’s hand strayed to a dagger on his belt. Prince Falthen stared back, waiting. An ugly quiet draped across the cavern, the burr of fans on the moment’s razor.
Then, like the first crack in the ice scumming a winter well, the orc chief broke. Largash Goretusk sagged ever so slightly. As he turned around and threw himself back into his throne, tension drained out of the room. A shiver of disappointment, or relief, went through the crowd. Addas saw the Dwarf Prince bite back a smile.
Snat’s jibe about Stunties having everyone by the short and curlies popped into his head. Addas didn’t actually know who all was left in the broken worlds, but cowing the Chief meant at least the Stunties had one hell of a grip around here.
Goretusk started speaking, petulant. “You ride up here Prince Falthen, no trade goods, jabbering ’bout some mission. Demanding victuals, gear, a couple thralls to serve your–”
“Representatives,” the Dwarf corrected. “Black Sands was our first stop. I could care less, but my father insisted we give you first shot at being part of our expedition. Say no, and we’re off to the Craters. I’m sure Crumog would jump at the chance.”

“Representatives, you say?” The orc chieftain gestured toward several of his warriors. “Then take these.”

The Dwarf Prince didn’t respond.

Goretusk smirked, leaned over and slapped the shoulder of the huge brute standing beside him. “Kargas is my right fist. He can represent us on your little outing. But no, you only want a guide and someone to patch your bags. Makes me think you don’t care as much as you say.”

“What do you think, then?” Prince Falthen asked wearily.

Goretusk sat back in his throne, his blood-red eyes weighing the Dwarf carefully. “I think it’s your kind’s blood hunger. Gold and silver. I think it’s Dwarf-greed ”

“Dwarf-greed?”

“You the one who said this is a trade expedition.”

“Like the one that found you here last year,” the Prince noted.
The orc chief ignored that, locked on a thought like a mastiff on a leg bone. “You Stunties talk of restoring order, but feels like you’re aiming to be top of the new heap.” He started counting on his thick fingers. “Dwarves control the routes, the caravans. Get a cut of every haggle then squeeze more in tolls and tariffs. Now you’re out scrounging for more.”

Goretusk smiled nastily. “That smells greedy to me.”

Prince Falthen waved the idea away like bad gas. “I didn’t hear you complaining a year ago. Your mark is on the Treaty. You don’t like our terms, go elsewhere.”

“We got no choice,” Goretusk growled.

“You always have a choice,” the Dwarf replied. “It’s a matter of consequences.”

Goretusk spat.

The Dwarf continued, as if explaining something to a spoiled child. “More survivors mean more trade, which means more goods, which is better for all of us.”

“More mouths to feed, you mean. More brawling over fewer and fewer scraps.”

Prince Falthen shook his head and sighed. “Not if we do it right and work together.” He spread his hands and looked up at the orc. “So are you in or not?”

Goretusk stared daggers back at the Dwarf, a low rumble in this throat. Addas tensed, thinking the slop bucket was about to get kicked over again, him in the middle of it. But once again, the orc warchief backed down.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Goretusk said sullenly.

“Which one?”

“Why you need a scout, what with your maps and all.”

Prince Falthen reached into a pouch and carefully unfolded a piece of hand-inked canvas. He held it up facing Goretusk, and Addas glimpsed bits of once-familiar geography skewed, like someone had ripped up a map of the old world, then pasted it back together all wrong. Which pretty much summed up the Grim Fall, if he thought about it. There were blank portions and different colored areas with tiny, busy notations. The legend at the bottom was full of strange symbols.

“Our outriders have made it as far north as the Leveret Mountains.” the Dwarf explained. “Whole stretches of them are gone, and what’s left is riddled with Grafts, crawling with the dregs of every nightmare the treacherous gods could dream up.”

“East however,” he pointed to a scraggly blue line in a relatively blank portion. “Near the Endermer River seems clearer. For whatever reason, there was less fighting, less destruction. Our outriders believe with a little effort you could reach the Tsallian Forest.”

“Believe,” Goretusk sneered. “Going on faith, are ya?”

“No,” the Prince replied sharply. “We’re riding ponies.”

He paused and refolded the map. “There’s a huge difference between symbols on canvas, and boots that have walked the ground. You know that. We need a scout who can slip in and around the shattered bits, but isn’t afraid to step in the occasional God-shit they left behind.”

The Dwarf gestured at the surrounding greenskins then looks at the orc chieftain. “Chief Largash, your people live in the most fractured region we found so far. Yet you survive.”

Goretusk thumped his chest. “The strong survive, Dwarf. The Unakas endured the Gods’ treachery. Their trash ain’t gonna kill us.” The assembled orc warriors growled their approval.

“Good,” the Prince said. “Then your scouts would be the best in the broken worlds. Am I wrong?”

The orc chieftain didn’t answer, instead his gaze strayed to the map pouch at the Dwarf’s side. “What makes you think the survivors will trade with you? Killing is far easier these days. ”

“You did.”

“And I choke on it every day,” the orc grumbled.

“At least you’re eating something,” the Dwarf quipped. “Now answer my question: will you help us, or am I riding to Chief Crumog tomorrow?”

Goretusk stared balefully for a moment, then waved toward Addas’ two escorts. They shoved him forward. “Here’s your guide, Dwarf. Scrawny, but sneaky as an alley cat. There’s a Goblin to go with him too.”

All the Dwarves, including Prince Falthen, turned and scrutinized Addas. Addas bit the inside of his other cheek and stared back.

“If that’s your best,” Prince Falthen said. “Then I’m satisfied.”

“That runt? My best?” Largash Goretusk snorted. “Kargas here is my best.” The chieftain slapped the massive orc warrior at his side once more. “Which is why I’m giving him too. And five more just like him.”

“I told you we don’t need them,” the Dwarf answered.

“Think of them as guards for the guide.” Largash Goretusk leaned forward on his throne. “You’re the one who said my contribution would be rewarded. Well, this is me upping my investment.”

Author: ccglazier

Stained glass artist, SFF writer, wargamer.

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