Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Down in the Darkness Deep--Part 22

The guards came as Aethelstan and his brother were eating their stew.

"All right," snapped the hatchet-faced Erl who went by the name ‘Abgar’, as he strode into the cave, glancing around it at the dozens of Milesians therein. "We’re looking for the one of you who they call ‘the Graharz’!" He rolled his eyes, and slapped the cudgel he carried in his hands. "Whatever that means."

"The grey-haired," answered Aethelstan softly. "It is a title of respect."

If he’d had a stray hope that Abgar wouldn’t hear him, they were quickly dashed. "What was that you said, Milesian?" he said, the younger, better-dressed Erl who’d come in with him following swiftly on his heels.

"Graharz means grey-haired," said Aethelstan. "As I said, it’s a title."

Abgar snickered. "Well, we’re glad that you’ve instructed us in how to speak to your lordship…"

"Except he isn’t the Graharz," said his brother. "I am."

The other Erl glared at him. "Then why didn’t you say anything when called?" snapped the young man.

"I would have, but then my brother answered your questions, and you became quite preoccupied with him," noted the Graharz.

Abgar narrowed his eyes, and raised his cudgel. "What is it that makes you two so very clever for Milesians, hmmm? Most of your fellows keep quiet, and do as they’re told…"

"They aren’t our fellows," said Aethelstan. "We’re of the Revered Band, sworn to the Great Mother of Night." He shrugged. "As for why we talk to you when others are all but silent--we know your tongue, just as we follow your faith. Of course we answer more fully than the others. We can."

"Well, aren’t you clever," hissed the other Erl.

"He’s not really," muttered the Graharz. "Merely talkative." He rose calmly to his feet. "Now… it was my understanding that it was I you were seeking…"

"Slave Graharz," said the young Erl, "We decide what we’re seeking. Not you."

Abgar fixed his younger counterpart with a withering glance. "Actually, it is Lord Nycetus who decides what we’re seeking. And he said the Graharz." He turned to the Graharz. "So come with us then. Quickly."

The Graharz gave a deep bow. "Of course, sir. Of…" And then he tossed the dirt he’d gathered in his hands at Abgar’s face. The Erl reared back, blinded for the moment--but that was all it took. The Graharz leapt at him, and bore him to the ground. The younger Erl gave a startled cry, staring in shock for a moment, then at last gathering his nerve to rush at the Milesian warrior. The Graharz lashed out with a powerful kick that sent him toppling to the ground. Abgar, still pinned by the Milesian’s powerful arms, gave a shriek.

"My hand’s… gone cold! Gone… cold…" muttered the older Erl.

"Help! Help!" shrieked the younger one. "He’s gone mad! Mad! Help!"

Other guards rushed in, eventually, and wrested the Graharz from Abgar. "Cold… cold… can’t feel my legs…" muttered Abgar, whose neck was laying at an angle necks generally did not go in.

The pale-haired Ogre they called Isengrim glanced at the younger Erl, who was still laying on the ground. "Lady’s name, you twit, you let one man do this…?"

"He… he had help," muttered the young man nervously. "A…" He looked around, but Aethelstan was gone. "It doesn’t matter. Bring him up. He’s only dug a deeper hole for himself…"

"Isn’t that his job?" said the cross-eyed Goblin.

Abgar said something indistinguishable, and then shut his eyes, his breaths coming shallower, and ever harder, leaving all to wonder when the last would come.

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