Dirge

by Paul Bryant

 

Ever since being a little kid, Rendenbrandt felt out of place. His mother and father were tall, elegant, and well respected by all others in the farming community of Farmsworth Village. Unlike his parents, Rendenbrandt was short, fat, and the butt of childhood jokes. Even his name was large enough to only be carved in the thickest of trees, away from the other kids names.

Rendenbrandt dealt with the situation as well as any boy his age he ignored the other children. Still, instead of being dark and moody, he set his mind to studying his father’s books. His father’s books made him a well respected man in the community. Rendenbrandt, however, greatly disliked his father’s books, which almost strictly involved the use of magic.

As he grew into a teenager, life didn’t become easier. The village youths were a constant irritation; often calling him Jockel, after a disgusting creature that burrowed in the dung. He felt degraded an grew to hate any that used meaningless cruelty and violence. Still, there is only so much burden that anyone can bear and the day finally came when Rendenbrandt struck back.

The warm autumn day was almost over and the skies were filled with a fiery red sunset. Rendenbrandt was hurrying home from the millers’ with a bag of flour. The village was uncommonly quiet that night, with not a soul in the village commons. Sounds could be heard from neighboring houses and the village inn, but no one was in the commons itself.

That’s when the Young Thom Morganson crept up upon him and made a slit along the entire length of the bag, which caused the brown powder to fly everywhere. He stood staring at the falling flour and never heard the other kids gather in the commons to laugh at him. His mother’s face kept appearing before his eyes, then it vanished as his arm raced with fire. Young Thom had stabbed him with the small knife that had slit the bag of flour. All the insults and humiliations of a lifetime flooded to the surface as he felled Thom with a single blow.

Panic stricken, Rendenbrandt ran farther and faster than he had ever run before. Thoughts of failing his parents chased him into the night. The daylight had just begun to appear when exhaustion dropped him to his knees. As he huffed for air, several orcs stepped out behind some trees and his world exploded in a shower of darkness and stars.

Pain brought him out of unconsciousness he expected to be in the orc’s encampment; instead he was surrounded by dwarves. Not knowing where he was, and not caring to return to his village, Rendenbrandt stayed with the dwarves for ten years, earning his keep around the camp. They adopted him to a new name of Dirge, which means founding stone.

The dwarves worked long and hard hours in some nearby quarry. After a few years, the boyish fat that had plagued his youth turned into rock hard muscle. Dirge’s body became stout, with wide shoulders and a thick waist. His fellow miners appreciated his small skill at magic and encouraged him to read more. They especially liked the way he could light the quarry at all hours.

The time came when responsibility for his actions began to trouble Dirge. Upon explaining why he fled his village to the elders, they agreed that he must clear his past. Dirge packed up his few belongings, plus a few gifts from the dwarves, and departed for his village. On the road, Dirge made a commitment to himself to make amends for what he did to poor Thom.

Upon reaching the outskirts of his village, Dirge only found the burned ruins and the stench of decay. His village had been sacked by raiders only a few months ago. He ran to the his parent’s home and discovered that wild grasses were the only residents. The vultures had picked the bodies of his parents clean.

Too late to help, Dirge sat and wept for the rest of the day. The next morning he built a funeral pyre for his parents, which mimicked the fire in his breast. He would make amends by seeking out all those cruel and bring them a swift justice. He set forth upon his quest with grim determination. His amends would be made, even if his life was to be forfeit.

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