A Short Story by Kyle Viveiros
“Chief Clancrusher! We’re under attack!”
Voman slowly turned around to face the goliath that had burst into his personal tent. He was bruised heavily and covered in blood, although it was not clear if the blood was his own or his enemies’.
“And what enemy would be idiotic enough to attack the full-might of the Vunakavi clan on our own soil?” Voman said as he started to don his leather pauldron and bracers.
“It’s your top advisor, Mokhal. He’s recruited help from goblins and orcs outside of the clan, as well as some goliaths who aren’t happy with your leadership,” said the bloodied goliath, struggling to stay standing. “They mean to kill you and put Mindcarver in power.”
Voman’s muscles tensed at these words. As he began processing this information, he could hear the cacophonous sounds of battle start to grow closer and louder outside his tent. Mokhal Mindcarver, his best friend and top advisor.
The goliath at the front of the tent finally collapsed and fell to the ground, his breath shallowing until it ceased all together. Voman stared at the hulking grey body that lay there for a moment. He felt like he should say something, but he didn’t know this man and didn’t care to know him. Instead, he picked up the goliath’s maul that lay beside him, stepped over his body, and into the main clearing of the encampment.
The abnormal, radiating heat was the first thing Voman felt as his tent flapped closed behind him. The surrounding tents were engulfed in flames. Blood stained the snow beneath his feet. Screams filled the night sky; some of fear and anguish, others in a battle cry or war scream. Bodies of goliath men, women, and children filled the clearing in the center of the encampment.
As if the fire was boiling his blood itself, Voman let out a roar of anger.
A small troop of five goblins in the clearing turned to find the source of this rage and instinctually ran towards Voman with their spears raised. Voman, his vision turned red in fury, smirked and while brandishing his maul said,
“Good. Some target practice to warm up.”
Voman swung once. The first goblin flew to the ground unmoving, rib cage in a state of disrepair. He swung a second time. The second goblin’s lower jaw dislocated from its head and fell. He swung his maul three more times in rapid succession, each with more aggression and hate than the last. All of the goblins fell easily. After the fifth one fell, Voman roared out again,
“Mindcarver! I know you hear me! You want to be chief?! Fine, come face me like a man! And then maybe, I’ll let you leave this camp alive after I’ve broken every bone in your miserable body!”
Voman breathed heavily as he scoured the clearing in front of him. From the opposite side where he stood, he spotted movement. Then, from out of the shadows, stepped the goliath known by Mokhal Mindcarver. An even taller and muscular brute than Voman, he lumbered into the center of the clearing accompanied by a number of goblins, orcs, and goliaths.
“So Clancrusher, you want to parlay” Mindcarver snarled. “What’s wrong? Too scared of being faced with your own war tactics?” Mokhal’s warband of betrayers all started cackling behind him.
“You dare stand in front of me and challenge my conviction? My tactics?” Voman’s grip tightened on his maul “I’m the one who has led this clan to prosperity! The one who has protected this clan in the hardest of times! Who crushed others who stood in the way of our freedom!”.
“You were only able to achieve these things because of my consultation.” Mokhal began pacing in front of his cronies. “Without me this clan, and moreover you, would have been destroyed years ago. Yet you have the audacity to call yourself Clancrusher.” Once more the warband laughed heartily at these jabs against the goliath chief.
“Enough talk. We could have this pissing contest forever. There’s only one way we’ll solve this. Single combat to the death. You versus me. Winner becomes chief of the Vunakavi clan. Do you have the balls, Mokhal?” Voman said as he assumed the offensive stance that had been used to kill thousands of enemies before. Mokhal grinned and pulled a great axe off of his back.
“My friend, I thought you’d never ask!”
They began slowly approaching each other, the warband fanning out into a giant circle around them. Only one person was leaving that circle alive.
Voman made the first move, rushing forward and swinging his maul at Mokhal’s side. Mindcarver leapt to the side, bringing his axe down across Voman’s back. The blade cut deeply and easily as blood began to cascade from the open wound. Voman let out a howl of rage and pain. He wildly swung his maul back and caught Mindcarver in the right knee, causing him to fall onto the ground. Voman quickly rushed up and kneed the brute of a goliath in the face, breaking his nose. Blood pouring down his face, Mokhal heaved his great axe into Voman’s left leg. With the great weapon buried into Voman’s leg, fear began to take hold; swallowing him whole.
What was wrong with him? Wasn’t he supposed to be stronger than this?
With one swift motion, Mokhal pulled the axe free of Voman’s left leg, swinging around and completely severing his right leg. The goliath chief toppled to the ground. Mokhal held his axe aloft while betrayer warband began chanting,
“Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!”
Mindcarver turned to Voman with a sinister, sly smile.
“Any last words, Clancrusher?”
With a stern, unmoving face, he turned his head toward Mokhal and said,
“Yeah Mokhal. Go fuck yourself.”
The chants grew louder. The fire started to burn brighter and feel hotter. Voman’s heart was pounding in his ears. Mindcarver brought down the axe. And then-
Voman’s body was adrift in an empty, endless sea that seemed to be made of the darkness between stars. Suspended in the void, he desperately tried to make sense of where he was. Deafening silence filled this realm. Voman attempted to speak, yet nothing escaped his mouth but his visible breath as he exhaled. Suddenly, a sweet, honeyed voice entered his ears and began to wrap around his mind like smoke incarnate.
“Well, well, well. Chief Voman Clancrusher has arrived in my realm at last.”
Voman’s feet finally found purchase on solid ground below him. Sixty feet ahead of him, a small dark flame of purples and blacks ignited; the first sign of light or life that he had seen since he arrived in this place. The flame slowly started to approach Voman, accompanied by the clicking of footsteps along the smooth marble-like floor. Each step echoed out into the nothingness that surrounded the goliath.
The footsteps and flame stopped about ten feet away from Voman, and he finally had a visual on the seemingly only other source of life here. Holding the flame in her right hand, a tall, pale human woman with dark hair that hung below her waist stood gazing at the brute. She wore intricate, multicolored robes that dragged across the floor behind her. However, the most striking thing about this woman were her eyes. Her eyes were solid black, as if her pupils had swallowed them whole. She wore a smug grin across her face as the sweet smoke-like voice reentered Voman’s mind.
“Welcome to Hell, Clancrusher.”
Voman’s eyes widened as the memories of the attack on the camp rushed back to him. The woman chuckled at the look of fear on his face as she began to pace around him. She started speaking once more.
“Don’t worry, I doubt you’ll stay here for long. Especially when you hear the offer I have for you.”
Voman’s expression changed from that of fear to one of suspicion. He eyed her curiously and waited for her to continue
“I’ve watched you for some time Voman. You are quite strong and cunning. But it appears to me that your life has been cut short. Not only that, but it was cut short by one who is not worthy of victory over you.”
She finished her pacing in front of Voman, cocking an eyebrow at him. The beast of a man who stood before her was breathing heavily and bore the face of warrior who was ready to charge into battle. Voman knew this already. Mokhal was not worthy of victory over anyone, let alone him. What was this woman’s point?
“I would like to see you back in that spot of power where you belong. Here’s what I offer you: I will resurrect you and lend you the power necessary to defeat Mokhal and any other foe that stands in your way. In exchange, you will be my champion. You will represent me and be my will manifest.”
Voman’s voice finally rang out after struggling to push out any source of noise.
“Yeah? And who exactly are you?”
The woman started chuckling as the dark flame in her right hand began to burn bright oranges and yellows of a roaring bonfire. She dropped it at her feet and the flames grew in size to tower over both of the humanoids. Her chuckling had progressed into full on maniacal laughter as the flames surrounded them both; the laughs and crackles of flame echoing all around them. The woman’s black eyes shifted to a bright yellow with a slit down the center of them. Her form disappeared in the flames, but those bright yellow eyes pierced through and stared into the soul of Voman. He watched as they grew in size with the blazing fire until they towered over him. Then, the pair of eyes were joined by another. And another. And another. Finally when a fifth pair joined, they pushed forward past the roaring embers. It was then revealed that attached to each of these glowing, slitted pairs of eyes was a gargantuan dragon head of different coloration. Black. White. Blue. Green. And, in the center, Red. They lowered down to be at eye level with Voman and that same sultry voice, now with a tinge of harshness, echoed all around him now.
“My dear boy. I am The Dark Lady. I am The Queen of Chaos. I am The Avaricious. I am The Undying Queen. The Bane of Bahamut and The Dragon Queen herself. I am Tiamat.”
Voman stood there in awe and fear for what felt like eons. Tiamat narrowed her eyes at him standing there before saying,
“Now Voman, what say you about my offer?”
A moment passed. A small smirk formed on Voman’s face, that grew into an all encompassing, menacing grin.
“Where do I sign up?”