Tuesday, October 5, 2010

David, The Goliath

Hey all,
Well here is a minor re-draft of a story, which I posted here a while ago. I hope you enjoy it better this time around.

David was born to the Bloodstone Clan in the Godless Glaciers. He was named for the shepherd boy that killed the first hero of his race: Goliath the warrior. Goliaths believed in honoring their enemies, especially if they overcame great odds to win. Even so, David was not a common name among Goliaths as it denoted a great victor. Only the augurs were allowed to grant this title to a newborn. His parents were very proud to birth such a babe. He was a healthy 28 inches long and 20 pounds. His parents were not thrilled, however, when the augurs took their son to the sacred cave to be trained there – away from outside distractions. David was to become a fact toter or something, his father would drunkenly recall. What did my son need facts for? He would ask, he had an axe and could break any humanoid’s skull in his fist, what else did he need to know?
David’s mother didn’t take it much better, but her strict warrior training prevented her from complaining too loudly. After all, she didn’t want to lose her position as a Guard of the Sacred Flame. It was the highest position a woman could attain in the Bloodstone clan.
David set himself apart from his colleagues at the augurs’ temple. His quick mind would make him an excellent monk so that he could one day join the order of the augurs, but his attention wandered often and swiftly. He could best any student in a quick fight, but longer matches wore him down. When David wasn’t sparring, he would visit the Magorium and study cantrips and utility spells with the other fledgling wizards, but after an hour the books would lose his attention, and he’d be off to the next activity. The only training that kept him occupied for more than an hour at a stretch was Rogue training.
David would run along balance beams and swing from ropes for hours before getting to the chest at the end, disarming the trap, and stealing the completion certificate. David completed the Rogue training day after day during his recreational time. After he could do it blindfolded, he stopped.
After a few years of training, there was very little to keep David entertained. The augurs told him that he was a Factotum by nature, which would set him apart from his clan for the rest of his life, but that Factotums sometimes returned when the Bloodstone’s need was great. Until that time, David was told to venture out into the world and make his clan proud. David picked up his sack of miscellaneous food stuffs and asked if he could take some items from the armory. The augurs consented mostly, David suspected, because they wanted to be rid of him. His short attention span drove the focused monks up the walls (sometimes literally).

For years David wandered the high places of the North without purpose. He joined with several mercenary groups, adding intellect to muscle to achieve his objectives. As his talents grew, he became more interested in using brain over brawn to achieve his goals. This, he knew, further separated him from his fellow Goliaths, but didn’t care. They had disowned him already.
In the North there was precious little work. Often David went without work for months on end. His hunger made him brutal. He developed a short temper to match his attention span. If negotiations failed to yield results in a few minutes, he would simply turn to bullying and mugging to get his way. He never killed if he could avoid it, but if food was scarce enough or the promised take heavy enough he would not shirk from that option. Among his fellow highwaymen he earned a reputation as “The Hand that Feeds” because he would share his spoils in exchange for an oath of allegiance in the future.
Woe be to anyone who did not keep his oath! After a few foolhardy bandits failed to keep their oaths, David’s title was changed to simply “The Hand.” He served out highway justice ruthlessly. He sneaked up on those who failed to keep their oaths and strangled them in their beds.
One day, The Hand was patrolling the largest trade route within a hundred miles of the Godless Glacier. This was his big break. He had caught wind of a big shipment due to come through that week. The shipment was a relief package sent to the dwarves living deep inside the Glacier range. That meant a couple things to David: food, first and foremost; healers, which were always in high demand; and potions. David called in all his favors to assemble a crew large enough to handle this job. He would distract the caravan drivers while the stealthier members of the group would sabotage the wagons. The archers would then pop up from the snowy wastes and volley fire the caravan. Four sharpshooters were chosen to eliminate the drivers of the front- and back-most caravans, effectively blocking the caravan in. Somehow, two alchemists had come to be in the Hand’s service; they had been busily making smoke sticks to mask the fight the numbers of the band. They would break the smoke sticks in the center of the caravan, while the Hand summoned the wailing souls of those who died along this path. In the cloud of confusion the stealthy members would have free reign to backstab as many guards as they could. The Hand would use his uncanny ability to fight blindly at the front of the caravan. Perhaps he would shoot gouts of flame from his hands to set the front coach aflame. He hadn’t yet decided. The plan was set, victory was nigh at hand.
Snow dropped heavily to the ground, hushing the earth like a mother would her swaddled child. The Hand saw the caravan lumbering towards the ambush point. They would be here in less than an hour. David produced some kindling from his hefty pack and rolled a small boulder into the center of the path.
By the time the caravan showed arrived, a warm fire crackled merrily, casting mad shadows across the white snow-covered boulder. The Hand sat straight-backed as the augurs had taught him. “Hail, wanderer.” The caravan mistress cried out. The Hand sat unmoving. “Hail, wanderer!” She called out again, agitated. The Hand remained stationary while he waited for the last wagon to stop. “I say,” she began, “if you do not answer my call at once, I shall have your head by order of the king.”
The Hand ponderously raised himself to his feet. “You’re welcome to it if you can reach.” He laughed. The caravan master turned so white as to be almost imperceptible in the snow. “No need to panic, missy. Come, join me for a drink. It’s a foul night to be riding.”
The woman turned red at being addressed thus. “It is day not night, and I will thank you not to offer your filthy spirits to either me or my men, sod.” She said haughtily.
“My men or me.”
“My men or me. You said ‘me or my men.’ That’s improper grammar.” David looked straight at the flushed caravan driver. “Even an idiot giant like me knows that, missy.”
“Kill him.” The Caravan mistress commanded.
David shrugged and sat down, legs crossed, hands resting lightly on his knees. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” He said to the two approaching soldiers. They paused then continued their advance. The Hand changed his voice to a deep baritone and shouted. “The dead rise to protect their speaker!” The keening wail of a thousand dead whistled through the windswept waste. Smoke billowed from the center of the caravan.
A driver shouted, “Fire!” The archers complied. The caravan mistress fell to the ground, blood welling from her throat. Chaos reigned. David rose and drew his Greatsword in one swift motion, felling the soldier closest to him then waded into the mêlée. Cries of death rang out as blood stained the unadulterated snow.
The Hand listened appreciatively as the battle raged around him. He focused. He was the eye of the storm, chaos billowed about him like a cloak. Everything was going exactly as planned. Something interrupted the Hand’s blood drenched reverie: a cart carrying vials of orange liquid. David wracked his brain to place the obviously viscous substance. “Alchemist Fire!” He shouted. A knife slid into his muscular calf as he made the realization. The Hand spun around, fire in his eyes. The flames spread through his body and erupted from his finger tips, smiting the fool rogue full in the chest. David prayed to the first god that came to mind for healing. Pelor’s healing jolted through his body, ejecting the lodged dagger in a gleam of light. The Hand rushed to the volatile cart, seeking to push it away from the valuable load of potions and food.
Panicked horses kicked at anything that came too close. A helmet from one of the guards – now unconscious – careened towards the explosive cart. David threw his shield into the path of the helmet and miraculously deterred the helmet from its deadly course. The Hand praised Olidimarra, goddess of luck, for such a remarkable save. David put his brawny shoulder to the cart and began to move it away from the booty just as he realized that the helmet had flown straight up.
His realization came too late.
Fire knocked The Hand flat on his back. Clouds of steam shot into the sky. Pain blinded David. The shockwave ripped through his massive frame, and when it collapsed, so did the world.

“When I came to, my left eye was useless, charred ash, but even with a missing eye I could see that the booty was gone. My rudimentary knowledge of survival told me that my ragtag crew had won – the note attached to my bare chest didn’t hurt either. ‘We won at the expense of our leader. Joyous day! Our treachery worked. We are free of the tyrant. Sic semper tyrannis.’ I recognized the flowing elven script as that of the Pro Letariat – the jerk. The Pro Letariat had always thought my methods heavy-handed. He claimed that the people ought to rule themselves or some such griffoncrap. His ideas had gotten him exiled from his grey elven homeland – as well it should! Normal people are fools and imbeciles. He was an empowering speaker though; I have to give him that. Apparently some others from my team thought so as well, which would explain the knife I got in my leg from a foolhardy rogue.
“Once I got my bearings, my next order of business was to track and kill the Pro Letariat. The Pro Letariat would rue the day he crossed me.” The Hand downed his mug of dark stout in one quaff. “That’s the stuff!” He stood and ran his hand over his charred left eye socket. “Well, if you gentlemen will excuse me, I have some business of which to take care.” The Hand bowed unsteadily to his drinking compatriots and headed upstairs.
Eight hours later he returned downstairs with an Arcane Mark covering his ruined eye. The Hand smiled at the reactions of the bar patrons as they gazed upon his intricate tattoo. The red mark stood in stark contrast to his granite grey skin. The hand faced palm out with the thumb wrapping over his left cheek. Around each digit wrapped a design. Coiled about the thumb was a black dragon, horned head pointing towards the palm. A jet of shimmering green acid erupted from its toothy maw splashing against the final ridge along the base of the thumb. Ruby red slits gleamed in the abyssal sockets. A great sword lay along the pointer finger, point down. The straight guard gleamed blue as under a winter sun. An icy gem adorned the pommel, winking with a cold, deadly light. The middle finger depicted a blizzard over a wintry wasteland. If one looked hard enough one would see the faint outline of a giant creature nigh invisible in the windswept snow. Along the ring finger golden ivory twined gracefully about the knuckles. The pinky finger denoted pure simplicity. A plain iron band encircled the finger, constricting its movement. The palm covered the gaping hole which had once held an eye. A burning river of lava flowed between two onyx pillars. In the middle of the river stood a thin emerald dais upon which sat a large, impossibly balanced tourmaline. The yellow jewel winked purple in the Hellscape covering any trace of the empty socket. The Hand had his calling card now: the Arcane Mark.
The search for the Pro Letariat was an arduous one. No matter how fast David gathered information, Pro managed to be one step ahead. Finally, the Hand had tracked the Pro Litariat to Feldcrest, where he came to sell the remainder of the stolen potions. David burned to collect his share of the loot – with bloody interest.