It had been such a good day.
Work on the guard towers was nearing completion. The mechanics were busy preparing traps for the next inevitable goblin invasion. The windmills were creaking in the crisp mountain air, the crops were in full bloom, and food and ale were plentiful. The marksdwarves complained good-naturedly about having to practice in the sun, but the glare and heat were far preferable to the horrors of cave adaptation. From the barracks came the clanking and grunting of the melee squad honing their skills.
A sudden goblin attack had left the fort wary, and several dwarves had been found in their beds, bloodless and desiccated. A vampire was on the loose somewhere, but it had yet to slip up.
Ringwild’s walls were strong. Its forges were hot, its craftsmen were legend, its halls were vast and opulent. The Windy Grains knew of these treasures, of the riches to be had. And so they came.
The smell of death on the air.
The horror of fifty corpses, trudging in unison towards the walls.
The shrieks of the goblin ambush as they were torn to shreds by rotting hands.
The shouts of dwarven panic as they attempted to close up the walls.
The masons were the first to fall. Fearlessly running to the open wall, hauling stones, attempting to shore up the open wall. Bolts whizzed past them, lodging uselessly in shambling flesh. Decaying hands, ripping, tearing, striking.
The melee squad charged forward. Two corpses fell, three, four, and then the horde was upon them. Dwarf after dwarf, ripped apart, lives cut short at the hands of the undead.
The rest of the fort was soon among the ranks of the dead, raised back into unholy motion by dark powers.
He still stood in the main courtyard, axe flashing left to slice off a leg, right to sever an arm, back, forth, an impenetrable wall of razor-sharp iron. He darted from zombie to zombie, reducing the undead to piles of butchered meat. To Ringwild, he was Nomald Cobaltseasons, the elderly, battle-scarred master of the axe.
For months he fought the undead, searching for the invisible masters of the rotting army, to no avail. He fought without tire, without food, and without drink, single-mindledy crushing every undead abomination in his view, seemingly blind to their inevitable reanimation moments later.
Until, one day, he stopped. He hadn’t eaten, hadn’t drank, hadn’t laid down for months.
He dropped his axe.
He wandered, thirsty, back into the halls of Ringwild, but the stocks of alcohol did not beckon him.
He passed the great dining room, with its barrels filled to the brim with the feasts of master chefs, but did not slow.
Nomald walked (slower, now, than before) on the familiar smooth rock towards the masonry, ignoring the piles of furniture that had never been used, would never be used…
And, as the spirits of his restless comrades swirled around the room, he began to carve, slowly, painstakingly, a coffin, and a large slab of rock.
He dragged them both to the center hall of Ringwild; once the Stronghold of the Sabres of Helping, now the Slaughterhouse of the Windy Grains.
He took up hammer and chisel with shaking hands, carved the slab as best he could. Four hundred thirty-two years of life, and not a single engraving to his name.
And, with a final effort, he hauled himself into his coffin. He closed his eyes, and waited for the wailing spirits to end the long, bloody history of Nomald Cobaltseasons, known to the world as Das Clincheddreamy: the Unkempt Word of Splashes, murderer of five dwarves in Ringwild and thousands more across the world; vampire.
Written by Vondre
If this story inspired you,
Learn to Play
with Peter Tyson's new book.