Oh boy, here I go fan-fic writing again! This is inspired by the latest Lohner’s Chronicle - Provisions. Immediately got me thinking about Bardin and how he’d feel about the group’s reaction to his kulgur (among other things). It came pretty quickly, and I’m reasonably happy with it. I hope you enjoy!
Muttering under his breath, Bardin threw his heavy pack into the corner of the area he’d taken as his quarters.
Bloody umgi and their small-mindedness. It was all well and good for Lohner to be picky about what he ate. He was the one who stayed behind in the Keep.
Carefully putting his main axe onto the stout hook he’d put into the umgak walls of the room, he went over to his pack and shoved his arm in. It might have seemed chaotic in there in Kruber’s eyes - bah! What a word to use! - but he did not just pack things so that they would all fit. He packed them where he knew precisely where they were!
His fingers gripped the small locked book and brought it out. Taking the key from a hidden pocket, he unlocked the book and spread it open on a small table. A troll-fat candle guttered, but as he’d learn from his mining days, they never went out. Fire liked Trolls too much for that to happen.
And the smell, foul as it was, reminded him of victory. How many of those cursed Bile Trolls had they put down? Even besides the whole mine’s worth, he had a feeling that they had killed an endless number of them.
That bothered him a bit. They had made their sorties, it was true. Some of them even had been into those Weaves that the Wutelgi and Oleysa were always speaking about, but something about those was off. They were always hard to remember afterwards, even for him. He could tell it bothered Kerillian as well, and she of all among them should remember if he didn’t.
He paused, listening. He didn’t want Saltzpyre, Lohner, or Kerillian spying on him now. They all tried, and sometimes even succeeded - and sometimes he let them succeed. Better someone think they knew all about you rather than hiding perfectly all the time. That way they’d stop trying to suss it out.
There was no sound, besides the wind howling sadly through the poor masonry of the castle.
What sad stone it was. Perhaps it had once been serviceable, by human standards. Now it was merely a heap of squared rock that was little more than shelter.
And he was astute enough to know that that was a reason it was a great place for them to hide. No self-respecting Dawi would use this sort of place as their home!
Thumbing through the book, he saw his grudges. This was the true list - opened only with the proper key. The runes that he’d paid good galaz to a runesmith for meant that if someone picked the lock or used any other key, it would show them only false grudges, ones that told nothing about himself, referred to no specific places or real beings, and would ultimately lead the reader into a state of confusion.
It was just good practice for a Ranger! Never knew who might get your book if you were slain, and the last thing you’d want is your honor book being used to give intelligence to some Raki or Grobi. Or Elgi.
He frowned. Something about his pages in the book troubled him. He had a grudge here against the Wutelgi for hitting him with an arrow. Though it hadn’t pierced his armor, and she had already launched it when he’d erred into its path, he had it down.
Or had she launched it after he’d stepped there? It was an easy, paranoid thought to have. Not alien to him, but . . . he honestly wasn’t sure.
Oh, yes, something was bothering him, and it wasn’t just Lohner’s small-mindedness when it came to survival.
But there, he had a grudge against Lohner for mocking his kulgur, yet he couldn’t remember having shown it to him before.
It must just be from the recent excitement. He must have mentioned it, and Lohner being who he was, had heard of it.
It struck him as odd about the man, though. Lohner had been a soldier before - and a thumping good one, if his actions back in the Red Moon Inn were any indication.
So why was he so bothered by something like kulgur? It was a delicacy to Dawi not because it was delicious, but because it was an embodiment of victory, in a sense. That was delicious! It was true a Dawi would eat anything, but it was not about the taste! It was not even about how it felt in the belly. Many Dawi enjoyed a good meal in the stomach as much as a man. Things meant to be eaten.
But war was not a feast! War was brutal, war was for survival. Honor was for survival. If you didn’t make it so your enemies honored you in some way, they would never stop. However low the Raki were, they knew to fear a Dawi with a shield and axe, and that was a meaningful form of honor. And having it known that one dawi was worth a hundred of them was a weapon to keep them at bay.
Just like the food. Victory didn’t always come with the glory they all hoped. And he’d seen men who had fought that way - men who were starving and facing ahordes of Gors or mindless uzkular marching at them. With no food, they’d eaten grass or even the leather boots of their own dead. Just to give them that tiny bit of strength to make that stand.
And even if the Gors and whatever cursed necromancer had brought those uzkular back didn’t know it, they remembered that those men had not gone easily. They’d sold their lives dearly. Those stories would be passed down, by winner or loser. And the next time they faced men, they’d have that little fear in their minds; “these ones might not go so easily as I need”.
It was in those moments that Bardin respected humans the most. It had to be what Kurgan Ironbeard had seen in Sigmar so long ago. When they set their minds to it, humans and even Elgi could be dawi-like.
And if it came down to it, he knew Saltzspyre, Kruber, and even Lohner would admit it. Without a word, even without hope, they’d eat some kulgur just to keep going that little bit longer.
He flipped further into his book of personal grudges. There were many in here against his own group. They were minor grudges, to be sure, but despite his current annoyance at them, they felt so tiny.
Pride was important to Dawi, even to him, failure as he was. As much as he might grumble about their behaviour, he knew that he trusted all of them as much as he’d have trusted any of his hold-brothers back in the day.
They could fail. He knew that. Even an Ironbreaker at your side could fall. In the face of horrors greater than even their worst nightmares, sometimes something in them broke. Was forced to break no matter how much they didn’t want it to.
But it would take something incredible to make it happen. Saltzpyre, a madman in some respects. Kruber, a drunk. Sienna, addicted to her own magic that would surely consume her one day.
And the Wutelgi, as mercurial as she was vicious.
They were still his comrades-in-arms, and he had a very good feeling they’d all die together. And possibly soon.
With slow, deliberate actions, he took out a very small bottle of ink. It was a special mixture - not wholly his blood, but containing it. Opening the stopper, the coppery tang hit his nostrils, and he paused to listen hard again for those who might be spying. Kerillian would smell the blood if she was out there and know what it meant. Even the humans might.
Well, let them know. They would only think he was adding to his book with some grudge against Lohner over his comments about the kulgur and candles.
But no, he was not going to add another petty grudge. That part of him, the part that was so prideful that he’d never forget even the tiniest slight, had died a long time ago. He’d just been going through the motions out of habit.
His book would be lightened before they set off to their doom.
Slowly, he struck out the grudges against them all. Lohner for his prying about Mordin. Saltzpyre for interrupting his singing. Kerillian for, well . . . largely they were because she was a Wutelgi and it was her nature to annoy him. Even Kruber and Sienna had given him a few small slights.
He struck them all out. There were many, many others, true. Ones that he knew would never be fulfilled, like killing every Grobi who lived. But that was how it was; the proof of his devotion, his truth, was in the trying, not the fulfillment.
He moved through the book until he reached a blank page. The pristine sheet seemed almost ugly in how bare it was.
His mind had been all over the place, but he resolutely set it onto a single train of thought now.
Dipping his quill into the blood-ink, he wrote a grudge that he knew would never be fulfilled, yet he would put down so that he had known he had done it.
“The Four Cursed Gods, for bringing us to this point. We are now in the Khazakrendum - the End Times.”
When it was dried, he closed the book and locked it. Looking to the key for a long moment, he did not put it back into his secret pocket, but instead onto the table.
There were no more grudges left to write.