tagSci-Fi & FantasyChronicles of the Black Swords

Chronicles of the Black Swords


Chronicles of the Black Swords

Black Steel Reborn

I can smell the smoke of the burning towns. The harsh smell of the farms we put to the torch to deny the orcs forage. They burned everything else to show us their displeasure.

It was a stupid thing to do anyway. The orcs just started eating our dead. To them it doesn't much matter. Meat is meat.

I take a long pull at the leather wine skin. The bitter swill Hakum found needs to be drank up. Before it eats through the leather. Sour and vinegary it's still wine.

I can hear the cries of the orc scout they found earlier. They have been trying to make him talk ever since. I could have told them it was a waste of effort.

I saw the foul thing bite out it's own tongue when it was caught.

What do they hope to find out anyway? We were over run at the ford, driven back into these hills. There is no way out behind us. They have filled the valley below us in the thousands. Come night they will attack. If they can't kill us all tonight they will keep us pined down here till tomorrow night then finish the job.

What more do they want to know?

The only good that has come to us in the past week was when Hakum and her brothers came up out their mine tunnels and helped us get higher into the hills, to a stronger point to make a stand.

I look up to see Hakum walking up the hill.

Never seen a dwarf woman till yesterday. Must say she's cute in a stocky, surly, bearded way. If you like that type of woman.

Don't know if I do yet or not. Maybe it's the beard that's giving me pause. Though in truth it's more like long side burns in her case. Her chin and upper lip are bare of the dark yellow hair. She has a splattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks and the most beautiful blue eyes.

She looks up from the ground to see me starring at her. She gives me a lopsided grin.

"You're too tall for my taste. Like my men short with a long beard you can sink your teeth into." She tosses me a wineskin. "Here, stop drinking that elf piss."

I pull the cork out the bag and turn it up. It's like drinking liquid fire, but oh I need this burn. After a long drink I hand it back to her.

Hakum plops down her ample ass next to me.

"Got tired of watching them try to make a mute orc talk?" I ask as I try to hold down the belly full of hot coals I just drank.

She chuckles.

"Given what they do to my people when they catch one of us I could watch that for hours. No I traded a dagger I pulled off one of those scouts for that skin of fire brandy. I owe you for my brother's life. Thought I would come pay off that dept before you die tonight."

I can't help but laugh. Not that I disagree with her.

"I was in the right place at the right time. Just glad I was." I watch her take a long pull of the brandy. I see the little droplets sparking in her beard, like morning dew on wheat.

Her eyes shift to me as she drinks and I see that lopsided grin comes back as she hands me the wineskin.

"Like what you see then? Like short hairy women do you?" She gives my shoulder a friendly slap. Thank god for my armor! "Well if we live the night out I might even give you a taste of Dwarven honey."

I stop as I raise the skin again. The orc's screaming is cut off with a wet gurgle. Then silence.

Hakum spits on a nearby rock.

"About time. He was starting to make my head hurt." She reaches into her pants and gives herself a hard scratch.

I lower the skin after taking only a small sip.

"You and your brothers staying the night?" Part of me hopes so. Part of me wants her safe. I chuckle at the idea. She's by far deadlier than I am with a blade.

"Can't let you humans have all the fun. We're going to take a stand near the opening of our mine. When things go bad we'll fall back. If they want to chase us down into there... well lets say then the real fun begins... for them." I see her eyes go hard and focus down the hill. Following her gaze I see Lord Drake coming up the path.

One of the kings chosen. A Dreadlord they call them. After yesterday I know why. In the end he was all they held the foot of the pass while we retreated higher. Even from here I can feel that sickening feeling his sword brings.

A hell blade.

I've heard the legends, didn't really give them belief till I saw him cleave through an orc like he was made of cloth.

The black armored form comes to a stop before me. I look up at dark hollow eyes.

"You two shouldn't be drinking." He looks like he might reach for the skin so I hand it to Hakum. She takes it and just to piss him off take another sip.

I hear a gleeful sound from his scabbard...from the sword. Like a maniac laughing in a nut house. I know there isn't any sound for my ears to hear. I'm hearing this inside my skull.

His eyes look holes in her for a second then turn to me.

"If you're sober enough to stand, go down to the barrier. They are coming soon."

He walks away heading up the hill. I shudder as the feeling of his sword leaves me.

"My people should never have forged those damn things." She says looking after him.

"Dwarves made them? Never heard that before." I look back at her blue eyes. In the growing dusk they glow like blue coals.

She nods.

"We were tricked. Told one thing, then a lie within a lie. We wanted to believe we were doing good. The king was a good man then. He was trying to do what was right for your race. But now..."

I nod. The king had found a taste for power and he liked the taste too well.

I'm about to get up when I feel her hand on my shoulder armor. I turn towards her.

I feel her thick fingers slip into the front of my armor just under my throat. I'm pulled to her with a strength I couldn't begin to defy.

Her lips are hot and moist against mine. Her breath tastes of brandy. I feel her hand come up to caress the side of my face.

I smell a heavy musk from her fingers. I realize it's from when she scratched herself.

She pushes me from her lips.

"Go. Kill orcs. Live." Her word are harsh, I can hear the emotions underneath.

I get up slowly; I turn to look at her. Maybe it's because I might not live through the night but the beard just doesn't mater all that much.

"Do the same. When things... get bad, get your brothers back into the mine. Give em hell." I turn and head down the hill.


I look back at her.

"You don't kiss too bad for a beardless human." She grins at me.

I grin back.

"Hope I survive. I want to take you up on that offer of some honey."

She laughs

"I said might."

My left eye is swollen shut till I can't see from it. I feel like I'm never going to get a full breath again. A mace has the side of my armor caved in. I look around me in the light of the fires.

I'm in good shape compared to most around me. All of us are bathed in blood, some our own. I feel the bite of at least a half dozen small wounds. The arrow I pulled from my side by far the worst.

Only Lord Drake stands undamaged. Like a rock, nay a column of black steel he has been. The anchor point of our line. Twice we've been overborne and had to fall back. Twice he has been all that held the rear as all others fled up the hill. We stand now with out backs to our camp. To fall back now will leave the wounded to the gentle mercies of the orcs.

I look down the hill. They seem to be in even greater numbers now that at the start of the night. I see our bon fires bathing their green skin in a hellish light.

Down bellow I see they have some of our fallen comrades. They are impaled on long poles.

Roasting over the fires.

Then I hear the scream. I look down to see them pulling someone from the piles of dead. He screams in pain. In fear. I hear their hideous laughter filling the valley below.

I shiver as Lord Drake steps up beside me.

"He's beyond arrow range. I would put a shaft into his heart if I could." He tells me. I nod. I can see the long lines of orc archers looking up at us grinning. Their bows have ours by a good dozen yards. To try to get a man close enough to shoot is suicide.

I see the orcs strip the man out of his armor. I watch unable to do anything as an orc with a mace break both of the man's arms. His screams are drowned out in the orc's laughter.

"What are they doing?" asks a pike man next to us.

I see them drag the man to a bolder and drape him over it. I see a large orc, one of their champion's, step up behind the man.

I realize a second before the man screams out.

A rage starts to build in me as I watch the orc hunching his brutish body behind the man.

The orcs are laughing.

I feel Lord Drakes hand grab my shoulder as I start forward.

"There is nothing you can do. You would be dead long before you could reach him." The Dreadlord watches as the orcs defile his warrior before the whole of our force. First the champion, then another and another. Then man's screams become whimpers, then a silence that I hope means he's dead.

He's not.

I feel Lord Drake's hand holding me back when the orc with a glowing hot spear steps up behind the man.

His scream as the fiery blade enters his violated bowels if hideous. Mainly... because it continues on for so very long.

I turn away as they carry his still twitching body to one of the bon fires.

"Avenge him. That's all any of us can do." I hear the grin voice behind me say.

"Even you?" I ask harshly.

"Even Dreadlords can die. Against such numbers as this, yes even I." He turns and walks up the hill. "Rest if you can. They will come as soon as they finish their feast."

I wake in the dark. I only know I'm awake because of the pain. I didn't hurt till I woke.

I tighten my fingers around my sword hilt. It pleases me to at least still have it. I try to sit up, but strong fingers push me back down.

"Lay down." Says a deep voice. I tighten my fingers around my sword hilt . I won't die like the man I saw. "Rest easy. You're among friends."

There is a spark of light. Like a shooting star in the pitch blackness. Then a candle is lit. I see a bearded face. I relax as I recognize the dwarf whose life I saved. He grins down at me.

"You're a mess long shanks. Here this'll help."

A wineskin is put to my lips. I only just get a whiff before the fiery stuff in flowing into my smoke burned throat.

I choke and cough but manage to keep it down.

"Good? Now you're ready to take on the whole stinky lot of them right?" he gives me a huge grin. His teeth look like white block of marble in the mass of hair that surrounds his mouth

I bring a hand to my side.

"In a minute maybe." I probe the side. The pain is indescribable.

He chuckles, I nod as he offers me the skin again.

"You have several broken ribs." He tells me this like he's describing the weather.

I nod having guessed that.

"Take strips of my cloak and wrap me up. Strap my armor down tight. I'll live long enough to kill a few more."

I hear a softer laugh from off in the dark.

I see blue eyes first then, the tip of her nose.

"No one to fight at the moment. But you may yet get your chance." Says Hakum as she steps into the light. She is covered in dried blood. Mostly on her right side.

"Any of that yours" I ask nodding towards her side.

She laughs.

"Your tall ass is drug in here half dead and you're worried about me. What you think Dain, I think this human's got some kind of feelings for me? Maybe just a fetish for short women?"

The dwarf beside me chuckles.

"You'll have to raise your ceilings at home, or he'll knock his tall ass out every time he goes to stand up." They both laugh. "Plus if he doesn't grow a beard Dad will disown you."

Hakum laughs. She comes over to me and sits down on a barrel. Her brother leaves but gives her the wineskin. He stops at the door and looks back at me. Then her. Then when he meets my eyes again he gives a shrug.

"The orcs?" I ask.

She looks grim.


My fingers tighten about my sword hilt. I see her eyes go there. A look of revulsion crosses her face.

"We tried to pry that hellish thing from your hand when we pulled you into the mine, but I couldn't make your fingers move."

Looking down I see the length of black steel in my hand. Like a shadow from the darkness that light could not make fade. I try to drop it but my hand won't respond.

"It wont let me turn it lose!" I tell her horrified.

She nods.

"Not till you've killed with it. Then you'll be like him. A Dreadlord."

I shake my head.

"Take your axe. Cut my hand off before that happens."

She chuckles grimly

"Might as well put it between your eyes. You've lost so much blood already your wouldn't live through it."

There's a loud rumble and dust settles down from the ceiling.

"What was that?" I ask looking around me suddenly aware of the tons of rock surrounding me.

She sighs.

"That would be one of my brothers giving his life to drop a section of the tunnel." She takes a long pull from the skin.

"Giving his life?"

She nods.

"Yea. To drop the pins you have to hammer them out. When you do that the roof falls down... on top of you. It also falls on a few hundred orcs. Were not selling ourselves cheaply." She looks up. Then with a grin chuckles. "They've been trying to dig us out since dawn. We've made them bleed real heavy for it."

"Will they get down here? If it looks like they will put that axe between my eyes. I won't be captured by them."

She laughs grandly.

"For someone who only lives as short a time as your kind does, your sure in a hurry to die. Look up."

She lifts the candle higher and I see an iron pin in the ceiling.

"I pop that and this whole last section of the mine drops."

I lean back relieved. I feel the wine skin at my lips and I take a slow sip. It helps with the pain. I close my eyes. I only briefly open them when she caresses my face with her forge scared fingers.

"Sleep. Dwarves guard you. You're safer than in your mothers arms." Her words are soft.

I listen as the second to the last pin is dropped. I remember Dain's face, now buried under tons of stone. Only Hakum and I remain. I've managed to sit up with her help. I wait to hear the sound of digging resume. It will take them hours to get through the ruble but orcs are skilled with stone in a crude way.

I rock nervously.

"What's the matter?" she asks me softly. Though she has not shed a tear I can hear them in her voice. All her kin are gone.

"I feel like the fox. With a pack of dogs digging it out for the hunter to kill."

She chuckles.

"Ever seen what happens when they dig up a badger? That's more like what 's going to happen here." She tosses me the last of the wineskin. I drain the last drop of the brandy.

"Well it's a good time to die. There's no drink left." She says ginning.

I wish I could laugh, but it hurts too much to even think about doing it.

She hops up beside me and leans her head back against the wall. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.

I turn to look at her face. The candles have burned down to stubs. She's saving the last few for when they come. She can see well enough in the dark, but I would be helpless.

"You're starring at me again. What is it you like about my face? Never seen a Dwarven woman before?" she turns and opens her eyes to look at me.

"Not till you." I start to give shrug, but it hurts." I just think you're very beautiful."

She chuckles.

"If you weren't half dead I would say we could have some fun to pass the time. Never had me a human before. Even healthy you might not survive the night."

I smile. I slowly reach over and lay my empty hand onto hers. I see her give me a slow smile.

I have heard it said that dwarves don't have emotion. Looking at her I know the truth. They have them. They have them even more so than us. They just hide them real well. If you know what to look for though...well they are all but shouting how they feel."

Holding her hand I fall back asleep.

I wake to hear the movement of stone. I see Hakum has climbed up and holds her large smithing hammer up near the pin in the roof. I see the grim determination in her face.

I lift the hated black sword from off the stone table I'm laying on. I pull myself to my feet; teeth clinched through the pain.

The stones fall away and a few second latter in rush, a swarm of the foul green skins pour into the room. They howl at the sight of me in the candle light. They rush across the room towards me. I lift the black sword with a snarl.

I hear Hakum strike the pin.

The orcs look up and see her. They recoil in terror. As they try to stumble away she knocks the pin out!

With a huge rumble the ceiling give way and falls into the room. I see Hakum's face. Her eyes widen with horror. I look up.

Only half of the ceiling has fallen!

Then an orc is on me. I feel the hot edge of a sword scrape my ribs. Then I hear him howl as the black blade cleaves into his side.

My screams are, by far, louder than his are!

My blood is on fire! I feel it tearing through my body like lightning through the sky. I feel every injury on me light up in pain. A huge up welling of agony drives me to my knees.

Vaguely I hear a Dwarven voice yelling a battle cry. I can dimly see her defending me. There are about twenty orcs in the chamber with us that survived the collapse. Some are injured, but all are insanely angry. They attack in surges. Her defense of me would be worthy of song.

I can hear it! Rising through the pain I hear the chorus. A song of battle, a song of slaughter. It builds in me. I feel a change begin. The pain is lessening. There is a building of rage. I'm shaking with it. I see the thrown spear sink into an opening in her armor. I hear her grunt of pain, then see her topple.

The orcs surge forward sensing the end.

They are right.

With the black blade held in both hands I come up onto my feet. All the pain from my injuries has faded. I feel alive like never before. I scream at them as I throw myself into their ranks.

The song of slaughter is ringing through me as the black blade rises and falls. Their bodies part like wheat before the scythe! They soon claw at each other to get away from me. Then I feel a blade enter my side. It burns like hot fire. But as the sword leaves my flesh I feel the pain lessening. I drive my blade into the orc and the pain fades. I feel a huge surge of strength flow through me. I turn to kill the last and find that they are already dead.

I look around and find Hakum lying in a large pool of her own blood.

I grab the spear and pull it from her side. She hardly whimpers. I turn her over. I see her eyes barely focus on me. She slowly lifts a hand to the side of my face. I catch it as it starts to fall away.

I grab the straps of her armor. They break like wet paper in my hands. I toss the metal away. I pull the blood soaked cloth off her. I, not even knowing why I do it, place my hand on her side.

There is a surge of power from the sword, through me, and into her. I see her arch her back up off the floor her eyes going wide.

Looking down I see my hand glowing.

Her strong fingers grab my arm and try to push me away. She can't!

I'm the stronger!

I lift my hand from her skin. The wound is gone. Only a pale pink scar remains, in the white imprint of my hand. She looks at it then at me.

"Dreadlord." She whispers.

I turn and drive the black blade into the stone floor with all my strength. The tip goes into stone as easily as into flesh. I pull my hands from it. I hear soft laughter coming from the blade.

My blade.

I slide back away from it across the blood slick floor. I feel her against my back. Then her strong arms are around me. She holds me to her chest.

"It will be alright. It will."

I turn in her arms to face her. I see that not only the wound in her side but every wound on her body has healed. I realize the same is true for me.

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