“Morodin and the Thorn of Nothing”

23:54 Sun 17 Feb 2013. Updated: 09:35 15 Mar 2013
[, , , , , , ]

The shovels made steady progress. Sern and Jerym, the two locals I’d hired to dig, grumbled at my not helping, but digging is what I was paying them coin for. I needed to be free to keep an eye on them both, as they wouldn’t have been there with me if they’d been trustworthy. The lanterns I’d brought provided enough light, and the pile of dirt to one side grew until there was a solid noise, wood struck by metal.

I stood. They looked back at me, and I told them to clear off all the dirt first. More grumbling, but they did it, and when I nodded they levered the wood apart, ripping it up and revealing the body inside.

Her name was Itora, although few nearby knew that. I’d had to discover it in order to find her grave. She was more commonly known as the “war widow”—or, from those less inclined towards her, the “war witch”. I strongly suspected the latter name was more accurate, although perhaps the story that she’d been crazed by the loss of her husband was true as well. The locals owed her more gratitude than they’d shown, given that she likely saved many of them from death, but witches are rarely popular. Poisoners even less so, and that was her tool.

She’d had enough, at some point, around the wars and the troubled times after, of the roving bandits, and the bandits calling themselves “soldiers”. She didn’t care much what side they were on, and perhaps that was why the neighbors, stalwart Torinthian patriots all, didn’t celebrate her deeds.

She’d get wind of when they were coming, and through means cunning and clever would connive to provide them with food or water. Maybe out in the open, or maybe she’d make sure they stopped at a certain well, or drank from a given stream, or hunted the right game. Whatever her methods, none of them caught her at it. The locals didn’t talk much about it until after, fearing reprisal, and many of the armed bands came from far away. They came from far away, stopped nearby to eat or drink, and died.

Then the troubles died down, at least for a time, and Itora had no cause to poison anyone. She lived out her days and, as a follower of Habirta, was buried. They wouldn’t have her in the village graveyard, though, which ended up more convenient for me.

I told them to pull all the wood away. There wasn’t much left of her, small rotten bones and what had been a dark shift. She wore jewels, as expected; rings and bands and pendants. On her right side, a staff. On her left side—a sword.

It was hard to see, but it looked to be an unadorned black hilt, the pommel a plain disk, crossguard inclined towards the blade. I grinned, but that didn’t last as Sern bent to pick it up. I’d warned them not to touch anything, and shouted, “No!”, but he wasn’t listening. Jerym was climbing out on the other side, pulling out a dagger as he reached the top.

As I turned my attention back to Sern, still in the grave, something hit me hard on the side and back. The breath went out of me as the impact knocked me to my right.

During a low point for Torinth, a squad of Torinthian soldiers rode away from the front. Whether they were deserters or not wasn’t clear, and never would be. They got as far as accepting Itora’s hospitality, or so I surmised, and were never heard from again.

Torinthian perhaps, but of all of the poisonings the locals should have been most grateful for this one. They were veterans of the worst kind, desensitized by battle and led by a man they called “the Cannibal Colonel”, Sloric Verkara. Verkara was vicious, bloodthirsty, and apparently fearless in battle, and soldiers were equally afraid of him and the blade he wielded.

He wasn’t known to eat human flesh, at least not according to my researches, and my guess was that the name came from unease about the sword. It might have come from the expedition where he apparently found it, a mission into the Grimteeth mountains from which he alone returned. Of over 150 Torinthian soldiers, he was the one who came down from the snows, almost a year later. Only after that was there any note made of the sword he carried.

As I fell right I rolled, trying to put more distance between me and the accomplice I’d been foolish enough to not notice. Jerym started to run towards me with his dagger as I got to one knee.

Clear-headed despite the pain in my ribs, I focused. I said the words, felt the power, sensed the world bend around it as pillars of light left my hand to strike Jerym in the chest, sending him moaning into a heap on the ground.

I saw the sword, out of its sheath, next to the grave, as Sern clambered out, holding it in his right hand. I stood up, but couldn’t avoid the accomplice, who ran and wrapped his arms around me. He couldn’t quite knock me over, and we struggled for solid footing around the headstones. He squeezed, but while that was very unpleasant thanks to my ribs, he wasn’t quite strong enough to make it truly effective.

I got a hand inside his jerkin, against his flesh, and watched Sern approach Jerym. Despite my own struggle, I had a sudden lurching feeling as Sern casually put the point of the sword on Jerym’s chest and leaned on it.

I had enough breath for words, and now I struggled to keep hold of the accomplice as I sent the essence of lightning from my hand into him. His muscles spasmed, and he lost his grip on me, and after a moment I let him go as Sern pulled the sword free.

Before the Q’Resti Empire, when Nalend and Torinth were still part of Issilath, Orcish incursions from the north were at their worst in centuries. Most of the Nalendish forces gave the mountains, or at least the Grimteeth, up to the Orcs. But one mountain lord refused, destroying Orcish forces much larger than his and earning his sword the nickname of “Reaper”. He was celebrated, but not too much, for it was claimed that he’d made alliances with dark forces, and that vile undead tormented the Orcs in the mountains and accounted for many of his victories.

Eventually the Orcs concentrated their efforts on him, and their shamans took part in the final destruction of his fortress. They failed to capture him, and the tales were that he escaped into a snowstorm and disappeared.

At least one account of his early exploits used a different name for the sword, calling it “the Thorn of Nothing”.

I moved back as Sern approached. I could not risk the bite of that sword. He grinned but said nothing. I decided it was too great a risk to try to keep him alive.

Focusing, I began an incantation, one that would leave him mostly ashes, sword or no sword. But before I could finish, there was a white flash and I could see nothing. The spell fell from my mind, and I staggered backwards, putting my arm over my eyes but seeing no change.

In a Khodanthene temple catalog of weapons to be used only in dire circumstance, there was a sword called “Nothing-Thorn”. It was said to cause bloodlust in the wielder, to steal the essence of enemies, to have necromantic powers, and to have come “from across the ocean long ago”.

I lost my footing and fell back, my shoulder blade landing painfully on something sharp. Desperate, blind, I cast a spell to surround myself with a sphere of force. I was sure it succeeded, although I still could not see. I listened intently, but could hear little. Had I cast it too late? Was he inside the sphere with me? No sounds came to my ears.

Gradually I was able to make out shapes again, and blobs of light came into being where the lanterns were hanging. There was no movement apart from my own shaking.

I saw the accomplice, blood seeping from a gash in his neck.

Sern was gone, the sword with him, and I was alone.

Before leaving, I burned the bodies.

One Response to ““Morodin and the Thorn of Nothing””

  1. Gever Says:

    Great prologue, immediately wanted to read chapter one.

Leave a Reply