The Captain and the Gnome
He sat there on his elegant armchair with eyes glued to yet another book. “Borrowed” from a library about a moon or so before. From a distant island that he never wished to come back to in his life. The borrowing of this book was just something which he left as a little farewell gift. The book was not just your typical boring book of tales or knowledge, it was the most important book in that library. The book had solid wood cover stood with writings carved on top and on the table it was held up by a wooden stand that made the top stand higher than the bottom. The desk was filled with charts, accounts, pieces of Imperial Gold and other countless nations of Grandiia. Illuminating the items was a moonstone lamp that quietly gave out its quiet humming tune from the pale light.
The words were written by the hand of a man hundreds of years ago from the combined knowledge of others from all the distant lands. Its title was ‘War of Mortals’, it was one of the few sources of history that contained the age of unrest that followed the Banishment of Gods that took place millennia ago.
On the other side of the captain’s quarters sat a slim bodied woman. Unlike the man she was not on such a lavish seat. It was just chair of wood that stood in front of a round table that had two cups and a bottle of wine on top. Leaning back on the chair, crossing her long thin legs covered by a dark red dress that is how she sat, the woman known as Tarinavere. She was inspecting her nails after carefully having them polished to give them a mirror like shine. Curling her smile with delight of her work on the claws of she bared which more resembled talons of an owl before a night of prey.
She could not sit there just admiring her work and readjusted her long dark hair as she got back up. She then looked at Edmond who was sitting and got up to walk to him. The thudding sound of her black high-heeled boots echoed throughout the room and quickly the man noticed her by his side. The blue eyed woman stared into the words on the page for a moment, running along the words with her them without much of care for their meaning. Already bored of the text she spoke with her usual seductive tone that in the man’s head has lost its charm long long ago.
“Did you find out more about it, Edmond?”
“Nothing, absolutely nothing talks about her after the captain died. Stealing this was not much use to us in the end.”
The captain answered with disappointment as he finally released his eyes from the dazzling large pages that were not just filled with words but pictures of battles, castles, ships and monsters engraved by linings of silver and gold.
“We can always sell it for a huge amount of money.”
The woman smiled and walked up behind Edmond, lightly touching his shoulders. Edmond closed the overly heavy pages of the book, he needed a rest after hours of reading. With tired eyes he turned to the elf.
“Pour me a cup there, Tarina.”
He pointed at the bottle of wine and the two silver cups that stood on the table further away. Without hesitation she stepped over to the table and started to pour the red wine into the cups that stood on it. While doing so she spoke.
“Seems like treasure hunting is not your best occupation.”
“Yes, I guess I am just like my father. A mind of dreams but far from reality.”
Edmond stood up from his chair and took the cup in the middle of his fingers. The red liquid inside was sweet, very sweet. It was almost like juice but that was exactly how Tarinavere loved her wine.
While she tried to enjoy its taste, Edmond just gulped the cupful down and it spilled down the sides of his mouth and with his sleeve he cleaned it off after throwing the cup on the table. It resonated its empty sound as it slit to fall off the table to the floor.
“Go off to your room, I’ve had enough for the day.”
Tarina, startled by his erratic behaviour stared at him for a moment, astounded. It was not something that he’ll normally do, the fatigue brought by non-stop reading the book teared asunder his calm self. So she left, closing the doors behind her after giving a small wave of goodbye to Edmond.
Finally in solitude. It was like getting a weight off his shoulders. He stood there looking at something and those were his thoughts that came and went off. The quiet humming of the moonstone lamp that stood on the desk and the cracking of wood as the ship slowly split apart the sea were the sounds that soothed his mind. This sheer peace warmed his heart and when he went back to sit on his chair from wood and comfortable red material he saw the silver cup he threw down earlier.
He picked up the cup and closely inspected the wooden table, a small dent in the woodwork. Disappointment overthrew his mind as he placed the cup neatly on the table. His anger got the better of him again. Usually he was reserved and calm but the fact that he wasted his time by stealing that book which led him to nowhere.
He sat back on his chair and wondered. Going over all that happened and what he thought that was going to happen. A complete bundle of contradictions. That book was still on his mind, pestering him like a child that does not understand. It took so much planning, such organisation, dealing with thieves and a meaningful amount of gold to arrange that whole charade. All that effort. For pieces of paper that had no value to him. Any man would be distraught by this whole thing if he was the one that had to do most of the work.
Maybe he was just missing something out of the book, which is what he also thought. He needed someone who at least had some knowledge of the world of lore and history to help him. As time went he was realising that fact more and more. The only problem was how, any street fool would say he knows a story without even knowing anything.
The thought tore down deeper and deeper into his mind. His thoughts finally were changing pace from a gallop to a trot. Fatigue was getting to him and his eyes were like broken moonstones, getting dimmer and dimmer. All he could do is succumb to the exhaustion and so sank into slumber. With his arms on the desk and head resting on them, that is how he fell.
The sun rose the next morning lighting up the whole room from behind. The lamp stopped to hum its energetic tune but Edmond was still asleep. The sailors started their chores on deck. The nocturnal silence was gone, trampled by the loudness of the day.
The First Mate, Korshar an early riser unlike Edmond or Tarinavere. A reliable man who got the sailors to work on time, making little to no mistake. On orc of grey coloured skin, eyes yellow and white teeth that slightly stuck of out his mouth. Dressed in clothes more human than orc, a brown coat and briefs of a darker shade alongside a simple round hat with a red feather alongside the middle. The only orcish thing in his possession was the curved sword that he always kept at his side.
He was a man to be feared amongst the crew but that earned respect. The sailors went along his commands without question just as if he was the captain. They knew the pure loyalty that Korshar held for the captain.
The captain was not to be seen on deck but the ship was nearing port, the town of Ersten, their destination. The island already stood at the horizon but no commands were made to prepare the men. He became more and more weary by the moment and so decided to go into his quarters.
He gave a little knock but no response came, and so he did again a second time.
Something was up but after he opened the door the captain was still asleep on his desk. Korshar with his powerful voice shouted at the captain. It was more effective than ice cold water, the captain awoke faster than lightning tearing through the sky.
The bones of Edmund were like sticks in a forest, especially the neck. Crack, crack, crack his bones were put into their spots. Sleeping like that definitely was not a good idea.
“Damn, Korshar, you definitely have a voice that can even wake the sleeping giant.”
Edmond yawned as he stretched his stiff body. Korshar on the other hand ignored his comment and informed him.
“Captain, we’re nearing Ersten. We should get ready to make port.”
Even though he would like to rest for a little bit more Edmond had to get up and get the men ready, ready to weigh anchor.
The work at the tailor started in early morning as usual. The crystal shrieked its ear-torturing noise to wake her up. Lazily getting up from that bed she pressed her finger against the floating crystal and it instantly shut down in wait until the sun rose again.
Slowly getting up from the wooden bed with patterned material as cover she rubbed her crusty eyes. With eyes half in the land of dreams and half in the world of the living she stared at the small circular looking glass beside the bed. A sigh escaped her lips, once again her hair was unkempt as much as it can be. The long coppered hair looked more like torn up chain mail. So with a brush she started to put them to order.
While more force was required to put the rebellious ones to order some just stepped in line forming her smoothly curled hair of the copper colour. So the thrashing and caressing continued for a little longer until her hair slid down beyond her small shoulders.
Still tired after the early rise she walked over to the wardrobe where she had her clothes. From the few clothes that she had she picked out the little brown dress that wrapped nicely around her body. This little brown piece of clothing fit her perfectly, it was the size that a human child would have worn. It was sometimes hard to get clothes her size in a human dominated world.
“The body grew but the mind stayed behind.”
Was the funny motto given to Emily by her father when she was little. It always made her smile when she looked back on it. His efforts to make her less conscious of her height always warmed her heart when she looked back. And with that in mind she walked to meet her family downstairs.
With a smile on her face and hope for a bright new day she walked down the squeaky stairs that could probably tear the walls beside her. Emily’s mother noticed the noise and announced to her daughter that breakfast was ready.
The little gnome family were on their way onto a typical day with shreds of happiness and little grief. They discussed their issues and complaints of their lives but laughed along at them as their issues were cause by their own mistakes.
Unfortunately their happiness did not last, the furious knock upon the door was the cause. They knew exactly who it was there but fear pierced their hearts. The father for a moment looked at the key in the lock with hesitance, he did not want to find out what truly lay behind it.
The door swung open nearly injuring the old gnome. There stood a tall half-orc, teeth yellow and skin bright grey, almost depicting the pink skin colour of a human. His voice was harsh as he talked just like a typical orc would.
“You still haven’t payed the tax old man. WHERE IS MY MONEY!?”
Emily’s father intimidated by the voice of the much taller man and said nothing. Or maybe he said nothing as he had no answer, as they did not have the money to pay the man. No man would be able to meet such high repayments, especially in this poor town. The half-orc boiled red with fury but this time he did not roar like a beast. A wicked idea sprung into his head and a smile of a similar nature curled on the orc’s face.
“If you don’t pay up by evening tomorrow my men will have a good bit of... fun with your little daughter.”
Those were the last words before he went off with his ragged company. The old gnome’s mind was broken like a twig, clueless of the course that the next moments would produce. When Emily turned to her mother she could already see tears starting to run down her cheeks. They had no way out of this predicament other than pray that the Sun’s grace would befall them that day.
The father closed the door after the orc went away, he was angry. He was furious that words cannot describe it. He had enough of that orc and just could not wait to get at his face. Unfortunately for him there was no possible way he could get rid of those stupid thugs alone, what could he an old man do against such strong people?
And so they made port in Ersten, a small port town with a fair share of poverty running about. Edmond was only here on the job given by a guild from another city. Not ever in his right mind would he have chosen to come here. To him the town looked like it’ll fall down on its own foundations in a short while if not sooner. It maybe was a rich town back in the day but poverty and crime could already be seen at the entrance.
After paying the appropriate price for docking he set foot on land which always felt good for some reason, to stand on stable land once again. Korshar followed and so did Tarinavere.
The bells of the temple rang their ninth tune, as they walked through the planks of the dock. Their arrival was right on time with the contract, the winds were not particularly in their favour on their journey to get here. Luckily the contract was expiring in the next hour so they got off quite lucky.
The contract was to deliver goods. It was a tavern that was meant to receive their delivery of ale and food that Edmond has been tasked with transporting. Normal trade ships did not travel to this town any more due to all the crime that happened but the crew of the ‘Morning Beauty’ was not one that would be scared of petty criminals. Their history of danger went well beyond some city thugs.
The poverty here did not even try to conceal itself. You could see the starving citizens walking around and begging for some money. As soon as they set their eyes on the three of them they stormed like flies on rotted meat. Humans, dwarves, orcs, poverty wasn’t racist in this city. Wearing nothing but rags and smelling like sewers, Edmond paid little attention to them and only pushed them if they got in the way.
As soon as he got off the docks and stepped into town the flies flew off but as their disappointment was in place Edmond threw a handful of coins towards them. The clinging of coins against the stone path rung out. Like wolves they pounced at the golden circles. These people were desperate and the only thing that Edmond could do is to feel pity them while they were trapped on this small island.
So they pressed onward towards the town, asking around where the tavern might be. With ease one of the locals answered but they never averted their eyes from the suspicious visitors. The three of them were like gold amongst iron, not fitting at all.
When they entered the tavern they could feel the eyes that looked at them. Tarinavere as always smiled back to people who looked upon her perfect lusty figure. As for Edmond and Korshar, they ignored all the eyes as if all the others were statues.
The innkeeper was weary of their arrival but as soon as Edmond handed him the letter explaining the visit the man’s light up like a moonstone. It was rare to see a man light up so suddenly like that.
“I can’t thank you enough for coming all the way here to bring this to us.”
It was a pretty big delivery compared to his usual jobs but it was just as it said on the tin. The guild master told him that this was a ‘special job’ and to be fair he was not wrong.
The man offered drinks to Edmond and the two others but the three refused. That was the only trait that they all shared, the crankiness of their drink. They never liked the idea of drinking in some small dump, especially in a town of such a state. Their ale probably tasted worse than mud, at least that was what Edmond was thinking.
The assistant was ordered to check up on the order while the innkeeper had to keep some order in that place. The assistant was a pale skinned elven woman, completely looking different to Tarinavere. The facial features did not even match even though they shared the same race. Her white skin, sparkling red eyes and ears which barely had a point. Covering the body were tattered clothes that most of the people here had.
The woman was very friendly, perfectly fitting the job of a good assistant. While walking through the dangerous streets Edmond had to ask the elf what drove this town to this amount of poverty.
“So how did this town get to this state? It does seem like this town had a time of prosperity if not a couple years ago.”
The woman did not even have to think an answer up but cut straight to the chase and explained.
“When I was young this town used to be a nice and peaceful place. It was a great location for trade until that man called Jaben and his thugs started to practically run this town, now he demands taxes from the poor citizens while he sits like a king walking around threatening us.”
Edmond curiosity spiked when he heard the woman’s story.
“That is why normal merchants don’t come here since they get robbed I presume.”
The elf quickly denied him and with a quick tone she told him.
“No, no, no, sir. He will probably require some kind of payment.”
With the corner of his eye, Edmond could the smile on Tarina’s face. She knew the payment that the Jaben guy was going to get. It was either Tarina’s claws or if he is lucky, Korshar’s scimitar. After a brief moment Edmond could also not bear but laugh how low that criminal was. They just could not wait to meet him and see how cocky he actually was.
A group of men stood waiting at the ship and just by looking at them he knew their purpose. Men of different races but mostly human stood right beside the gangplank that led to the Morning Beauty. Their skin was rough just like their clothes that they probably wore since birth only patching it up when it started to fall off. They were waiting patiently for Edmond’s return.
As soon as he got close one of the men walked towards him, a half-orc with a voice more rough than unpolished wood with splinters that stuck out like hair on cold skin. They all stood aside making him space, he was the leader. That was the criminal that the elf was just talking about.
She could barely concentrate on even walking without bumping into another person. Her head was filled with thousands of thoughts but not even one helped in finding the solution. The despair engulfed her soul. A swarm of hornets kept on stinging, only deepening the pain that she started to feel from the sound that the swarm was already making.
Ever since the library that her family worked in has been burnt down, their days have been getting worse and worse. All that knowledge that she wanted to still explore changed into nothing but ashes. She still had a few tomes at home but it was nothing compared to that.
While heading towards her place of work as always she threw a few coins into the poor people’s hands who were begging on the street. She always felt lucky to have a family who could help out unlike these poor buggers.
As she got to the workshop, the tailor was already waiting for her to arrive. Usually it was the opposite and she arrived as soon as the sun pulled through the horizon. While the man started to do his work, her being the assistant either sat at the counter dwelling in her darknened mind or seaming simple material.
While sitting at the counter suddenly someone walked in, it wasn’t a customer but Emily’s friend Dana. A gnome just like her in a similar situation. After the library was burnt down she lost her job but luckily Jaben has not gotten around to threaten her yet. Dana also had a rather strong personality which shined out her.
“Hey Emily, how’s the day?”
Emily sighed at her friend, she did not want to answer her friend. Dana did not give up and started to pry more and more to scoop out the answer from Emily. After a couple of Dana’s tried, the dam broke and Emily explained.
“That Jaben came into our house, he threatened us again.”
Emily’s face started to change and tears started to build up in her eyes. Dana could only come up to her and comfort her poor friend. She wished best for her friend but and helped her many times but this time it was too much. Anger also started to boil within her, the anger at those thugs. The man had no mercy and soon their family would be left with nothing but scraps to eat and if Emily is lucky she will be in one piece by the end.
“He wants the money tomorrow, Dana. Only by some divine power we’ll be able to get away this time. We’ve been ducking and dodging all the time but this time it is done.”
Sobbed Emily as Dana took hold of her friend to warm her heart. Even though Dana was always positive, she knew little was possible for her friend.
“You came to my port, time to pay up.”
The half-orc said smiling at Edmond as if trying to intimidate him. Edmond only darkened his gaze on the criminal and refused to speak a word to him. Jaben’s temper was thinner than ice in late autumn and started to boil. He took the captain’s behaviour as insolent.
Edmond even refused to look the man in the eyes. This is when Korshar recognised that behaviour and spoke in his stead with a righteous tone.
“Captain Pravda will not pay an authority that is not subject to the common law of this land and the Empire of Gloriana.”
The half-orc started to laugh at that comment and so did the men. They stood there in stitches for a moment but Jaben’s laugh was not long.
“Well tell that thick headed mute that if he does not pay I’ll bring him law of survival.”
Korshar did not let up and started to warn the thugs but they laughed thinking that Pravda was nothing but a pansy trader.
“Lads I guess we’ll need to give them a clubbing treatment.”
Jaben called the men to do their handiwork of the only thing that they were capable, smashing heads with objects. The men smiled as they picked up their primordial weapons but Edmond still stood there without a word although something changed, it was his smile and eyes opened wide.
As the thugs got closer it was then that the captain spoke his only words.
“Have fun the both of you, this fool will only dull my blade.”
As those words were coming out of his mouth he crossed his arms and stood there looking at Jaben with empty eyes. Right after hearing the words Tarinavere’s devilish smile arose on her rose red lips but Korshar’s face saw no change but like a mountain it stood.
Tarina’s claws withdrew from her fingers more than they were, now completely resembling the talons of a bird. Whilst this took place she started to take a dancer’s pose right before the spectacle. On the other side of Edmond stood Korshar who did not take such extravagant measures. He took a gallant pose, a pose made only to fight, and drew his curved scimitar.
The thugs’ spirits were in their true nature, they were in the thought that this was going to be an easy fight. Any normal sane person would have thought the same if they did not know these two. They were raring to fight with their weapons in hand smiling at the opposition but that was not for long.
Tarina took the lead in the confrontation with movements of a dancer. Right leg to the front and a spin on her toes with the left leg right adjacent. The men were confused on what exactly the woman was doing, dancing right after a command to attack. They stood there not knowing what to do with this mad woman. Her movements got faster and faster and with a sleight of hand she cut the man’s neck. Even after it was cut he stood there confused until he started to seep out his spirit. So the thugs went at the devilish woman, trying to revenge the fallen man but only to find their other aggressor butchering them in a dance of death.
With percise movements Korshar started to slice the bodies of the thugs that went at the dancing Tarina. She was in a totally different realm not the World of the Living. Not all the thugs went at the two demons slicing that sliced across but also headed at Edmond who has not even moved his eyes ever since the fight began, his eyes were still on the same point like a statue in a temple.
One of the thugs swung a club with nails stuck imperfectly onto it straight at Edmond. The momentum of the man running and the power of the swing would crush any man in half. That is if he got the chance to get to him, a vine spurt out of the ground and grabbed him by the legs making him fall to the ground like a marionette. The pain did not finish for him there as the green vine started to surround his body like a snake. He was soon completely bound and the rest of the thugs stepped back in fear.
Shouted one of them at the top of his lungs but little did he know that the vicious bloodthirsty elf that is Tarina stood behind him, satisfied with her spell. She seductively licked her claws right before digging them right into that man’s neck. The man shook, not knowing what even hit him. The other thugs started to back away, the fear of the enemy finally got to them.
Those three were the demons in human form, they could not be mortal in their eyes. When the men started to run away they did not run far as Korshar was faster with his sword, slicing them up like a butcher.
Soon nobody was left other than that coward Jaben. He was on the ground, begging for mercy as Tarina and Korshar neared him. He had nowhere to run and on his knees he neared Edmond.
“P...Pl...Please let me live, I can do what you want.”
Yet Edmond only stared down at him with his darkened and empty eyes. He was disappointed that his enemy was so weak.
“Slice his head off clean, Korshar.”
Edmond ordered heartlessly, just as deserved. All hope was lost for Jaben and his whole body shook in the fear, judgement finally was upon him. His ruins became worse than the city that has fallen down on its foundations.
Emily was in a prison waiting for her execution. She had no hope of getting away unscathed if those filthy men put their hands on her little body. Everytime she thought about it she would shiver with disgust. Although it soon traumatised her as she knew that it will be her certain future.
She sat behind the counter barely being able to think, she just stared at the ledger book that was on the table. Her vision was blurred by the tears that did not yet drop from her eyes, there was nothing that could give her remedy. The tailor was hard at work in the back, she could not bother him. The tailor already had his own problems and Emily never wanted to pour her tar into his jar.
Her hands shook like it was a winter’s night and the white quill only trembled in her hand. The ink splattered off onto the table and some got on the ledger, but she did not even care. Her mind was in such a fuzz that only few things could bring remedy. There was one thing that could heal her mind at this point amongst the many that could put her into total despair. Minutes started to feel like days just to deepen the agony.
Suddenly the ding of the bell above the door rung throughout the room. With barely any energy left inside her little gnome body of hers she rose her head to see who it was. There at the door stood her best friend Dana with a smile that stretched from ear to ear.
“Emily, you won’t believe this! Jaben is dead.”
Dana announced cheerily nearly jumping out of her shoes but Emily at first did not even hear her friend over the thoughts shouting in her head.
“Grandiia to Emily Everwhite, hey!”
Dana shouted to get the depressed girls attention and finally the words got through the shouting spirits in her head.
“Jaben’s dead Em, I saw the guys who sailed here just cut his head clean off. That Captain, Pravda as he is called, just carried it the whole way across the city to show the governor. He must be some crazy man to do that, the guard did not even stop him but looked at him like he just discovered fire.”
The old tailor who was working at the back heard the young gnome shouting out the great news and walked out of his workplace. The man walked out with a smile on his wrinkly face.
“His thugs too?”
Asked the tailor just to make sure that all the evil within Ersten was gone.
“Yeah all his henchmen, fooled out like kids on the playground.”
The tailor, completely astounded could not believe Dana’s words. Those thugs were tormenting this city for years and one day came a lot some foreign man and solved the problem without even a minute needed.
“Is he still at governor’s?”
Asked Emily suddenly and Dana responded quickly with a yes. Without even a second thought Emily sped out of the workshop, not even saying where. Dana quickly chased up her friend and asked.
“What are you planning to do, Em?”
“I need to see the face of the man who saved me.”