ByJacob Griffitt, writer at

The bar was filled with the smell of fresh cooked steak and cigarette smoke. The billiard balls cracked somewhere in the back. The place was well lit but the shadows it did have were deep. I walked over to the counter heading towards the middle A big burly man sat at the end of the counter watching everyone one carefully. I caught his eye as I passed and he stared back. Then he looked and saw the the marking on my forearm, and nodded his head. The mark of the Pioneers is a well known and respected symbol in some regions. In others it was feared and extremely unwelcome.

As I sat down the sole bartender started her way over. She was rather tall for a woman. She had wide hips and small breast. She was fit and had to of been in her twenties, or so it seemed. "Mr. Venator, how may I help you today?" I have a reputation unfortunately, that gets me known by many people." I would like some information". The bartender laughed at my request which caused the burly man to look this way. "What kind of information would a bartender have especially here in this run down shit hole of a town?" She asked while wiping her eyes. I dropped a bag filled coin in front of her " The kind that wants out of a run down shit hole of a town". I could see that my bribe had worked by the look in her eyes. She took the bag and quickly put it in her apron. " What kind of information are you looking for?" she had come closer so we were talking in whispers. I told her that I heard talk of a beast around here that had slaughtered an entire military regiment. "The attack happened a fortnight ago about a days walk south from here. The people here have been scared and if it wasn't for the rarity of fresh steak no one would be here tonight. A few men have said that they have laid upon it. Say its back looks like armor and its belly thick as a tree." She picked up a glass from the far end of the bar and brought it back and started to clean it " I haven't heard much more about it, but its due for another attack" I looked at her quizzically " The beast attacks 16 days apart, and its been 14 since the last one. Hey stop that you two!" A fight had started at the end of the bar. I took this as my cue to leave. As I did so a many whom I hadn't noticed grabbed my arm. My hand automatically went to the hilt of my sword hidden beneath my coat "Do not go after this beast. At least not until you go here" He shoved a piece of parchment in my hand then left. I walked out without even looking at it.

The air was chilled from the coming winter. The town has falling apart, once great buildings now fall in shambles. The few lights came from boarded windows where families had take shelter from this beast that was roaming. I looked around for my horse and whistled when I did not see him right away. He came trotting around the corner water dripping from his mouth. He stopped in front of me and snorted, his black main waving as he shook his head. This buckskin horse of mine had served me well on many hunting trips. Now it was time for one more. " You ready for a for another hunt Viteaz?"

After I was heading south out of town I remembered the paper the man in the bar had given me that was still in my coat pocket. I took it out to examine it. It was a map leading to what seemed to be an old house or something. Why was it so important that I go to this house before the beast? And how did the old man here me and the bartender talking and not be closer? I pulled Viteaz to a halt giving a soft low "Whoa". I looked at the map longer as those questions rattled around in my head. I left out a deep breath and turned my horse towards the direction of this house. I needed answers and the longer I waited the more questions that came.

. . . . . .

It took us almost half the day to reach this shack, that was barely standing and by then it was dark. Half of the trail to the top of this small mountain that it was located on was to dangerous to ride so I got off and walked. The shack was full of dust and mouse shit on the floors. It was completely empty, from what I could see, other wise. I lit a touch and kept it low as not to burn the ceiling and light this place up. AS I said it was completely empty. I walked around looking for anything but nothing. Then suddenly I felt my foot snag something and an ax hidden behind old cloth tore though and came straight towards my chest. I went to jump back but tripped over something on the floor. When all the dust had settled I stood up and looked around. The ax was stuck in the wall a good 4 inches. That would have hurt a lot. Speaking of, what did I trip on. I looked at the floor, and sat a handle. I stared at it for a minute before reaching down and opening the door it was connected to. The hole beneath was even darker than the shack its self but a warm breeze blew from within. Hesitantly I jumped and hit the ground with a thud misjudging how far down it was. I was in a tunnel, a very long one. If I listened I could here some noise coming from the other end. As I got closer the warmth grew into a heat and the noise into singing, but it might as well been rocks scraping each other. I came into an opening further ahead. The heat turned out to be a fire and a big one. The singing was coming from Mountain dwarfs. I stood and watched for a while before deciding to approach. I have met a few mountain dwarfs in my life whom were friendly but not all are this way. I tread carefully and cleared my throat. Twelve eyes turned to me all at once " Hello My name is Giasone..." Then I learned that they were not very friendly. They attacked me with an amazing amount of force. Hammers and axes and some weapons I have never seen before came at me from all directions. I was able to pull my sword out just in time to block a hammer to my ribs. Left and right I blocked attack after attack. Then someone hit my knees extremely hard causing me to fall to the ground. The dwarf I landed in front of raised his ax. I grabbed the hilt before my head and body became two, I balled my fist and bunched his bulbous nose. This seem to enrage the little man even more. Before to long it became a one on one fight but this didn't last long "STOP". Another dwarf approached from behind the big fire. This one was much older than the other but scrawnier, but still had decent muscles. " Do not fight anymore. Is this how you great guest Gur? With a fight?" This dwarf seemed to be the leader of the group. He walked over to me " and you sir should learn to knock and not intrude into others homes" I had stood before he came over to me but now bowed " Stand up boy. I am no King" I looked up in surprise "But Sir...." I began "Not now. Gur rally everyone and clean this place up. You" He pointed a finger at me " Follow me, we have a lot to discus".

"Sir I must ask, Why did you say you are no king? You are Kral king of the southern Mountain Dwarfs are you not?" I asked as soon as we were alone "Because boy I am no longer the King. That day was long ago. but that is for a different conversation and a different day. For now you must learn something before you go on your journey." The old dwarf walked forward and it was then that I really saw him. My grandfather had described him as a young and strong man. One who had his presence felt as soon as he entered the room. Now though I see an old an hunched body with thin limbs and long hair but no hair on top of his head. His short hands were still thick and it has those hands that reached towards a blue gem and turned to hand it to me. I took it in my hands and raised it to my face. I could feel the power that this gem held. It was cold to the touch but I never was cold but warm instead. The gem grew more bright as the moments passed until it was to bright to look at. My head began to spin shortly then it was all black. I open my eyes to a dusty old shack with an ax in the wall above my head. "What the hell" I sat up and rubbed my head. What had happened? Did I dream everything? I looked around for the hidden door but could not find it. I walked out of that dusty old shack and walked over to Viteaz and grabbed his reigns and started to walk but before to long I heard a clanking in the saddle bags. I stopped Viteaz and checked the saddle bags. I opened it and reached in. I felt something cold to the touch but I warmed.


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