The Wall: Part 1

 

No family should have to depend on the labor of its children to put food on the table and no person should be forced to work in captivity.’ 

- Hilda Solis

 

THE WALL 

A DWARFHEIM STORY BY:

ROBERT BISHOP

 

 

Day 267 – Summer

(At sea)

 

I still remember the day his name was crossed off the wall . . .

The day the world stood still, frozen in terrible shock. 

He wasn’t the first dwarf to die in the mines of Pith, but his disappearance was strange and different . . .

It sent shockwaves throughout the entire group, changing things forever. Changing me forever.

The trolls did it!’ People screamed. ‘They killed him to set an example!’ I still remember that day like it was yesterday: Everyone watching the pit, slack-jawed and terrified.

Then we saw the wall . . . 

Bertrand was everyone’s friend.

No . . . he was more than that. He was a true brother.

You see, life under the trolls wasn’t as bad as you'd think. Sure, we lived in capture, barely ever seeing the light of day. But if we got them the minerals they craved, they’d leave us in peace. For the most part.

We worked ourselves to death nearly every day, but the trolls rewarded that work by giving us food and shelter. Bertrand liked this life. He found it uncomplicated and safe. 

Not everyone saw it that way, however . . .  

- The Familiar

 

 ‘Any news?’ Thomas asked, wiping the sweat from his brow.

Not a damn thing!’ Eirik replied, swinging his pickaxe in a wide arc. People don’t go missing around here, though. Something must’ve happened. The axe hit the rock with an all too familiar clink, revealing another layer of drab, gray rock. ‘Are you sure this is the spot?’

Thomas leaned closer. ‘I’m positive! Now, will you please keep your voice down?’ He looked around, the cavernous hall empty and barren, long since abandoned by the rest of the miners.

Sure, I would hate for the spiders to tell on us.’ Eirik swung again, breaking off another piece.

That smart mouth of yours is going to get you killed one day, Eirik.’ Thomas hissed. ‘I heard about it last week. Something about the smell. The trolls congregate here like flies on fresh dung.’

Eirik paused, resting the pickaxe against the wall and grabbing his canteen. He took a swig and poured another over his forehead, rivulets of water dousing his braided, black beard. ‘Sure, sure,’ he mumbled, looking around. ‘That must be why we’re pissing surrounded by them!’

Thomas gazed at the emptiness as well. ‘Oh, for the sake of the five . . .’ He shook his head and tossed his pickaxe to the ground. ‘They ain’t here because just like us, they don’t want everyone else to know there’s something here.’

Eirik sighed, taking another swig from his canteen. ‘I understand your logic, Thomas – even if that sentence made my head hurt a little.’ He ran a meaty hand through his beard, tugging a little at the braid. He would always do that when he got nervous; especially when he was going to say something negative. Scared of conflict, much? Thankfully, Thomas was about as daft as a barrel of rock when it came to noticing these things.

But?!’ Thomas frowned. The question was thrust at Eirik like the business end of a sword. ‘There’s a but there, ain’t it?’

At least, Eirik thought he was. Maybe there’s hope for him after all . . . Eirik shook his head. ‘But this all sounds absolutely, pissing ridiculous, my friend!’ He waved his arm in a half circle around the room, spilling some water on the stony ground. ‘There’s nothing here!’

Thomas’ face twitched in anger. ‘Step the hell off my tits, Eirik! I know what I heard, and I know it was the damn truth!’ He retrieved his pickaxe from the ground and started swinging again. ‘Now help me, before I ram this pick up your rear!’

Eirik took a step forward, his fist moving from his beard to his chest. Then he thought better of it. There were enough dangers lurking in these murky caverns. Best not to add infighting to the list. ‘How did you hear about this, Thomas? And how can you be so sure it’s real?’

Thomas hesitated for a few seconds. ‘Olav told me,’ he mumbled. ‘He heard it from Kragg.’

Kragg?!’ Eirik tried to stifle a laugh, but couldn’t. ‘You’re talking to the bloody trolls now?’

No . . . Olav just heard it when . . .’ Thomas’ stern visage started cracking as well. ‘Okay, so I know this sounds bloody ridiculous, but-’

Thomas . . . it just went from ridiculous to completely unbelievable! You do realize the trolls can make us mine wherever they want, right? If there were minerals behind this wall, don’t you think we’d all be here, picking it apart?’

No, because then we’d have to . . .’ He sighed and dropped his pickaxe to the ground again. ‘Son of a bitch!’

It’s dawning on you, isn’t it?’

I’ll kill that bloody bastard!’

Eirik shook his head. ‘If you do that, we can’t get back at him.’

Fair point.’ Thomas sat down, smacking his forehead. ‘How could I be so stupid?’

Don’t sweat it. I know Olav can be extremely convincing when he puts his mind to something.’ He shook his head. ‘Damn fool should’ve been a diplomat.’ He sat down next to Thomas and clapped him on the back. ‘Nary a fool among us he hasn’t played.’

Really?’ Thomas seemed to perk up a little. He adjusted the dual braids going down his back.

Most dwarves grew both their beards and their hair long. No one could really tell why, at this point, but it was a tradition. For the miners living in captivity in Pith, braiding their hair and their beards was also a way of showing defiance, of not giving up on their ways. Thomas had perfected this, with both hair and beard in dual braids. Eirik settled for his beard, opting to keep his red hair cropped close to his skull.

Yeah . . . him and Halvor got me and Bertrand good a few years back.’ He looked at Thomas, struggling to hide the worry from his voice. Bertrand had gone missing a few days prior, something that seldom ended well in these mines.

What did they do?’ Thomas appeared too enticed by the story to notice Eirik’s concern.

Well . . . as convincing as Olav is, Halvor is ten times worse.’ He shrugged. ‘I suppose there’s a reason those two can get away with harassing the trolls every week.’ Maybe that’s what happened. Maybe the trolls decided to remind us of our place in these forsaken dungeons again, and they chose Bertrand as an example. It’s a poor example if no one can bloody find him, though. The two of them had discussed escape on several occasions, but in the end, they always opted against it. Far too dangerous . . . Besides, the trolls were easy enough to avoid if you just did what they told you. Exactly the opposite of what we’re doing now. ‘Maybe we should get out of here . . .’

After you finish the story.’

I suppose his ego really needs this. Eirik nodded. ‘We were exploring this new passage, and Olav came screaming out of one of the shafts. We asked him what had happened, and he claimed to have seen ghosts.’

Ghosts? Here?’

Yeah, in shaft C, mine eighty-six. We asked him about it, of course, hoping to get a laugh.’

What happened?’ Thomas’ blue eyes lit up.

Halvor shut us up, asking Olav all these questions as if he believed the story. We tried to make light of it, but they wouldn’t have it. The story got more and more surreal, including hidden passages and glowing runes.’

I think I see where this is going.’

Yeah . . . eventually, we both got the crap scared out of us.’ He shook his head. ‘They just kept piling and piling on that story, until they got us hooked. They’d even drawn a map on the wall down one of the side passages.’

A map of what?’

A map showing the way to DwarfHeim.’

Thomas snorted. ‘DwarfHeim?! What a load of steaming piss!’

I know. They claimed the ghosts were from one of the original clans and so forth.’ He looked at Thomas, smiling. ‘You won’t believe how far they went to put all of it in motion. Weeks of manipulation and strange sounds coming from the shafts.’

Thomas smiled. ‘Sounds like someone was played worse than me.’

Yeah . . . but then again; you’re pretty damn daft, Thomas. Didn’t need all that much manipulation.’

Screw you, Eirik.’ He stood up and started packing his gear. ‘And screw Halvor and Olav!’

Yeah . . . someone needs to put them in their place.’ Eirik slid his pick into his belt and adjusted his grey tunic. The trolls were mostly liberal when it came to the way the dwarves dressed and styled themselves, but fashion items were in short supply in the mines. The trolls had agreed – after years of haggling – to let some of the dwarves find materials and weave simple tunics they could work in. These particular trolls seemed smarter than most, but still didn’t grasp the simple concept that clothes wore out, and that dwarves couldn’t work naked.

Hey! What are you two doing?’ A booming voice came from down the hall.

We’re just on our way back to-’

Why were you here to begin with?!’

I thought trolls were supposed to be stupid! This one’s keener than Thomas. Eirik turned around, swallowing hard. ‘We thought that . . . um . . .’ The sheer size of the things always gave Eirik the creeps. Standing tall, measuring at least four times the height of an average dwarf – not to mention width – the thing’s rocky face loomed high above Eirik, looking down at him with disgust behind those yellow eyes.

We learned of a hidden mineral deposit right behind this wall!’ Thomas exclaimed, looking smug.

Idiot!

This wall?’ The troll slammed a rocky fist against the side of the cave, hard enough to shake the entire mines. ‘Nothing but grey!’

That’s what I said,’ Eirik mumbled.

We realize that now . . . after seeing for ourselves. We just wanted to make sure.’

Who said?!’ The troll leaned closer.

Eirik felt a knot in his gut. He’d never actually touched a troll before, but he imagined they felt as rough and coarse as the mountain itself. As far from something living as you can possibly get. Watching the giant, rocky head in front of him made him queasy. He wondered what it would be like being bitten – or worse, devoured – by that black void. How many dwarves has this one killed? He cleared his throat and took a step back. ‘No one. We just-’

No!’ Thomas placed his hand on Eirik’s shoulder, whispering, ‘I ain’t taking the fall for them . . .’

Thomas-’

Enough!’ The troll said, hammering the wall again. ‘Tell me.’

Olav . . .’

The troll leaned even closer, its breath smelling like a musty old basement. ‘And how did he know?’

Thomas cleared his throat nervously, stepping forward, so both of them were just inches away from the thing’s mouth. ‘He heard Kragg talk about it . . . but I don’t think that-’

Without warning – and scaring the life out of both of them – the troll threw its head back in laughter, the sinister roars echoing throughout the cavernous hall surrounding them. ‘Kragg! Good old Kragg!’ Eirik and Thomas had to duck to avoid the giant fist swinging through the air to clutch the trolls stomach.

Wait . . .’ Eirik said. ‘Why are you laughing?’

Kragg never speaks!’ The thing shook its large head. ‘He can’t!’

That sounds about right . . .’ Eirik shook his head and couldn’t help laughing a little himself. He opened his mouth to speak again, but was interrupted by the troll.

Kragg never speaks, because some smelly dwarf took an ax to his jaw! Almost hacked it off!’

Shit . . . what the hell have you got us into, Olav?

We had nothing to do with that . . . sir . . . we just-’

Shut up!’ The troll rumbled, slamming the wall again.

Then, like a savior sent from above – at least he would’ve been if he hadn’t been the very dwarf that got them into this mess to begin with – Olav came running down the hall. ‘There you are!’ He yelled. ‘What the bloody hell are you doing here? I’ve been looking for you for almost an hour!’ He ran a hand through his hair, frowning.

You know damn well why we’re here, you piece of shit!’ Thomas turned his back to the troll and walked toward Olav.

What?! What are you bloody on about-’

Shut your damn mouth so I can punch you in it!’

Not good! Eirik was about to follow Thomas, but suddenly felt the looming presence shift beside him. Definitely not good!

We were looking for minerals behind this wall! All because of-’

A large boom stopped everyone in their tracks. ‘Need I remind everyone where you are?!’ A deep voice thundered. ‘Because I’m happy to!’ The troll crashed past Eirik, stopping right behind Thomas and Olav. ‘Telling stories and making jokes!’ He breathed in and out a few times, as if speaking was tiring him out. ‘Maybe you lot need to be disciplined!’

Silence.

Finally, after some agonizing seconds, the troll opened its mouth again. From what facial expressions Eirik could read, it seemed to have calmed down. ‘That’s better. Maybe I won’t have to-’

Is that what it was, huh?’ Olav screamed at the troll, shivering. ‘You know, this is low, even for you lot!’ He ran a shaking hand through his long, blonde hair. ‘And what the hell did Bertrand ever do wrong, huh?’

The troll didn’t answer.

Bertrand? What’s going on?

Answer me, you piece of shit!’

The troll bent down again, massive hands resting against massive knees. ‘Careful, dwarf!’

Or what? You’ll make an example of me, too?’ He spat at the troll’s feet.

Eirik felt a jolt of terror. The trolls mostly let the dwarves be, true enough, but they were captives in every sense of the word. Mostly they just steered clear of their captors, but in the event they encountered one, they made sure to keep quiet. At the very least, they didn’t talk back like this. Still, Bertrand was the best friend Eirik had in this hole, and he needed to know what was going on. ‘What happened, Olav?’ He asked, pulling him away before the troll had a chance to react.

They killed him, Eirik . . . they killed Bertrand.’

The curtain came down, and Eirik felt a piece of himself let go. He’d known since Bertrand missed the first roll call; but he’d clung to hope like the mast of a sinking ship. An entirely futile endeavor, as it turned out. Bertrand . . .

Eirik!’ Thomas cried, running between the legs of the troll to catch the stumbling dwarf. ‘It’s alright, Eirik. Everything’s going to be fine.’

No, it bloody won’t . . . not this time.’

 

MISDEEDS

 

The dank space was eerily quiet. Eirik thought he could hear a steady drip coming from somewhere far away. It felt like this room wasn’t real at all, especially not the somber crowd gathered around him.

Or his friend’s lifeless body, resting on the stony ground in front of him.

Did you find him like this?’ Eirik asked, his voice barely a whisper.

Halvor nodded solemnly. ‘We haven’t disturbed anything.’

Eirik looked up, squinting in order to see the ledge above. If not for the heads poking over it, trolls and dwarves alike, he wouldn’t have seen it at all. The pit . . . indeed. There were many pits in these mines, but this one was by far the most dangerous. It wasn’t all that deep compared to the others, but it was the only active one. This meant the dwarves would work here on a regular basis, giving them ample opportunity to fall to their death.

Not that anyone had . . . until now.

Bertrand’s body was in bad shape. His skull was caved in – in several places, from the looks of it – and both of his feet were broken. Eirik wasn’t a doctor, but he’d seen quite a few injuries in his time, and Bertrand’s looked consisted with a fall. It also looked like he’d hit the wall once or twice going down.

How can you be so sure it was murder? These rocks are slippery, and the pit is dark.’ Eirik asked.

Olav – always by Halvor’s side these days – stepped forward. ‘No one has fallen to their death before. Slipped? Sure. Broken a few limbs? Of course. But no one has been careless enough to die here, Eirik.’ Olav ran a hand through his hair and pointed at the battered corpse. ‘And now our best climber suddenly falls to his death?’

Eirik took a deep breath, struggling to remain on his feet. He didn’t want to be down here at all, but he had to see Bertrand for himself before the corpse was moved. Accident or murder, his best friend was still dead. Even if the trolls did it, he was in no position for retribution. ‘Someone had to fall sooner or later . . .’ He mumbled. The trolls wouldn’t have bothered chucking you down here . . . they would’ve made a display of it. He blinked a few tears from his eyes.

Are you kidding me?!’ Olav grit his teeth. ‘I thought he was your friend! How-’

Olav, that’s enough!’ Halvor pulled Olav back and placed his hands on Eirik’s shoulders. ‘There’s more,’ he whispered. ‘His name has been crossed off the wall.’

Eirik’s eyes widened. ‘What?! Why would the trolls do that?’ He shrugged. ‘They know how much the wall means to us. It’s the only thing we have left of our heritage.’

Exactly . . .’

Eirik frowned. ‘I’m not feeling too good here, Halvor. If you have something to say; please don’t make me guess.’

They did it to break us. To crush our spirit.’ Halvor let go of Eirik’s shoulders. ‘Think about it. We’ve been given almost free reins lately. We no longer have to stow away our picks at night, we can go wherever we want in the mines and we’re not under constant supervision.’

Yeah, because we’ve proved our damn loyalty! Do you think screaming bloody murder is going to help the situation?’

Loyalty?!’ Olav cut in. ‘Do you hear yourself, Eirik? Your friend is dead and you’re talking about loyalty? Loyalty to the same bloody things that killed him?’

Eirik felt a surge of anger, but he was too tired to do anything about it. ‘So you think I should start fighting the trolls, then? Commit suicide?’ He glanced up again, several pairs of yellow eyes gleaming down at them. Out of respect – allegedly – they’d given the dwarves a few minutes to themselves down there. ‘After you, my friend.’ He said, pointing to the trolls above.

Oh, I see! It’s like that, huh?’

Calm down,’ Halvor mumbled. ‘The both of you.’

Eirik ignored Halvor. ‘Like what?’

You have new friends now, right? Going to be a lapdog for those things, huh? Deliver their messages and whatnot?’ Olav ran a hand through his hair, rubbing his neck. With his long hair flowing free and beard cut short, Olav looked more human than dwarf. Apart from his height, of course, and the broad shoulders supporting his even broader head. ‘Maybe you can kill a few more of us while you’re at it, huh? I’m sure the trolls would appreciate it!’

That did it.

Halvor stepped forward, but was too slow to intercept Eirik’s punch. Olav tried to sidestep it, but caught it right on the jaw.

Eirik moved to hit Olav again, but this time Halvor had time to get between them. ‘That’s enough!’ He yelled. ‘Step down! Both of you!’ He leaned closer and whispered, ‘Do you really want the trolls to come down here?’

He does.’ Olav said.

Fuck you, Olav.’ Eirik stepped forward, but Halvor placed a stern hand against his chest.

Stop! Please!’ Halvor nodded toward Olav. ‘If not for him, then for Bertrand. He wouldn’t want us to bicker like this.’

Eirik slowly backed away. Bloody hell, Olav! What the hell are you trying to do here?! He raised his hands and turned away – from both Olav and the lifeless corpse of his friend. ‘Can I see the wall, please?’ He mumbled. There’s more to this . . . you’re up to something again, Olav.

Halvor nodded. ‘Olav, you stay here and make sure there’s no more trouble.’

Olav nodded, but didn’t look pleased.

And Olav?’ Halvor raised a finger.

I understand . . . I won’t make any myself, either, Halvor. Not until we know for sure.’ He cast a final scowl at Eirik and then knelt down next to the corpse.

 

 * * * 

 

I’m sorry about Olav,’ Halvor said.

Don’t worry about it. I’ve known him for as long as you have. He’s an ass, but he’s mostly harmless.’

Halvor nodded slowly. ‘And he really doesn’t like trolls.’

Eirik shrugged. ‘Who does?’

A fair point, I suppose. They don’t even seem to like each other all that much.’ He placed his hand on Eirik’s shoulder, stopping.

What is it?’ Eirik frowned.

I don’t know exactly what point you were trying to get across back there, but you’d do well to remember that the trolls are our captors. Our enemies.’

And?’

You went above and beyond to exonerate them back there.’

Eirik snorted. ‘Exonerate? I wasn’t aware they were even on trial.’

Eirik-’

No! Don’t you pissing go there!’ Eirik looked around, but apart from two trolls standing by the wall a few hundred feet down the shaft, there was no one around. ‘What is it you hope to accomplish here, huh?’ He leaned closer, his face inches from Halvor’s. ‘If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were trying to start a revolt.’

Halvor squirmed, backing up against the coarse wall. He was tall and skinny for a dwarf. A far cry from tall and slender, to be sure, but quite lanky compared to his clansmen, and the polar opposite of his constant companion, Olav. With his thin-framed spectacles and long, black hair, Halvor looked more like a bureaucrat than anyone who worked with their hands. Then again, he was the dwarf doing the least amount of manual labor in Pith. ‘Keep your damn voice down, Eirik! I swear to the five, it’s as if you want to bring the trolls down on us!’

I just want to find out what happened to my friend! I’m a damn miner, held captive by a group of creatures five times my size! I don’t give a bloody rock about politics and all that rubbish! I just want to find out how my friend died, Halvor. And from the looks of it, he tasted the sour end of lady luck and fell to his death.’

From the looks of it, yes, but-’

I won’t let you turn his death into a bloody spectacle, Halvor! Not him! Not Bertrand!’

I’m not trying to, Eirik! I swear to you!’ He pointed down the shaft, were the trolls were now standing alert, gazing toward the bickering pair of dwarves. ‘Let’s go see the wall, and you can draw your own conclusions from there.’

What the pissing hell are my conclusions any good for? Even if I can somehow prove he fell, it seems you lot have made up your minds! He opened his mouth to speak, but soon decided there had been enough arguing today. Best to keep the situation stable.

The trolls stood firmly in place as the two dwarves approached the wall. A dwarven life wasn’t worth all that much to the trolls, but they had a stoic respect for their traditions and values. As long as the dwarves did their job – finding and extracting minerals – the trolls let them be. The wall had always been sacred to them, and as such the trolls left it alone. They barely even ventured into those parts of the mines.

Halvor had always preached that this wasn’t a sign of respect, but rather stemmed from the absolute lack of a threat the dwarves posed. Why should the trolls bother with what they did around the mines, when they could squash them like bugs any time they wanted?

Doesn’t matter why they do it. We have freedom here. We have traditions. Why jeopardize all that in an attempt to go against them? How could such a thing possibly succeed?

One of the trolls shrugged solemnly as the dwarves approached, then stomped away from the wall, giving the dwarves some space.

I’ll be damned . . .’ Eirik mumbled, placing a hand against the wall, feeling the coarse runes carved into it.

The wall contained the name of every single dwarf captured by the trolls, the entire clan meticulously carved into the jagged rock. The surface had been smoothed out as much as possible to make the carving easier, and Eirik thought it looked more like a piece of art than just a list of names.

Several of the names were yellow, painted over with a paste made by crushing mushrooms that grew in the mines. Destroying angel, Eirik thought. A species of amanita mushrooms that could dull your senses if you tasted just a tiny amount. If you tasted more, they could kill you in hours.

Someone went through a lot of trouble to do this . . .’ He continued, his hand slowly tracing the list, until it stopped against the rough scars covering Bertrand’s name.

Yes . . . and unless Bertrand knew he was going to fall . . .’ Halvor let the implication hang in the air. He always did that when suggesting sinister things.

The wall was an ancient tradition among the miners. They would always keep lists by the entrance of their mines, listing every worker currently assigned there. When a worker died in the line of duty, his name would be filled with a golden inlay, signifying he had now paid his dues in this world.

The dwarves in the mines of Pith had scarce access to gold, of course., but they managed as best as they could. So far, the amanita paste was the most golden-like color they’d managed to process. Seven names were painted over, some killed by the trolls, some by sickness. All in the line of duty. Because down here, the shifts never end.

Several lines ran through Bertrand’s name, going deeper than the runes themselves. In addition, the surface was scratched and flaking off. Whoever did this had used a tool of some kind, as well as a lot of force.

No matter how he died, or what his intentions were, he would never deface the wall like this.’ Halvor said.

There was a slight taste of metal in the air, emanating from a spattering of blood on the bottom portion on the wall. It looked like someone had either crushed their head against the wall, or been beaten really bad. ‘Are you sure the blood is his?’

Halvor shrugged. ‘It wasn’t there before he disappeared, at least.’

Eirik closed his eyes, drawing in the familiar musty smells of the mines. Why? Why do any of this? It doesn’t make any sense!

A brazier was placed on either side of the wall, the flames flickering idly in the darkness. Eirik could hear the dancing fire and feel the waves of heat emanating from it. It all felt like a bad dream. He never once imagined he would live to see a death they couldn’t explain down here. Let alone that it was his best friend who had perished. ‘None of this makes any sense!’ He said, taking a deep breath, trying to calm himself.

It didn’t work.

It makes no pissing sense at all!’ He yelled, drawing the attention of the two trolls. ‘What the hell happened?’ He asked, opening his eyes, pointing at them. Did you kill him?’

Eirik . . . calm down.’ Halvor placed a hand on his shoulder.

Did you?’ His finger moved to the other troll. ‘Why cover it up like this? Why desecrate our wall?!’ The trolls stood dumbfounded as Eirik moved towards them. ‘You knew how much this meant to us! Couldn’t you just let us have it?!’

Eirik!’ Halvor repeated, grabbing Eirik’s arms. ‘That’s enough!’

It makes no sense!’ Eirik screamed again, a tear falling to the bloodied ground. ‘It makes no sense, Halvor.’ Another tear fell. ‘He was my friend.’

I know, Eirik. I know . . .’

He was my best friend . . . and now he’s gone.’ He fell to his knees. ‘He’s just gone!’

The trolls finally gathered their wits, coming back towards the wall.

Halvor held up a hand. ‘I got him. I’ll take him back to our quarters and-’

Mine!’ One of the trolls said.

What?’ Halvor shook his head. ‘No, he’s-’

You mine! Both of you!’

We’re not property! We work for you, but-’

Yes! Minerals! Go mine! Back to work!’

Oh, I-’

Just do what he says, Halvor.’ Eirik mumbled, his voice cracked and sore. ‘Let’s just get away from this place.’ Away from those things.

 

 Day 271 - Fall

(Port of Ghanesh) 

 

The trolls had killed Bertrand. That much was clear.

I couldn’t really understand their motivations; none of us could. They’d taken lives before, both as punishment and as a mercy. (Although, the mercy part could be debated. If you were injured when working the mines of Pith and the trolls didn’t think you’d recover properly . . . that was that.) 

Even now, after everything, I feel resentment in my bones. The trolls call me The Familiar, which doesn’t quite mean friend, so I suppose they feel the same way. Sworn enemies since the dawn of time, according to the legends . . . that sits deep.

 The trolls can’t be forgiven for what they did to my clan.

But my clan did a fair bit of damage to them as well.

But worse than that, my clan did a lot of damage to itself. 

I swore to rid myself of all enemies, small or giant, and that’s exactly what I’m doing now. We leave the port of Ghanesh in six days, and sail for the Erd sound. After that, I will find the one who wronged me, who wronged all of us, and I will have my revenge!

- The Familiar