By Cameron Kirk
The Waxed Anus attracted a rough clientele, even for a dwarven pub.
It lay nestled in the depths of the very mines themselves and was, not surprisingly, frequented by the grime-hardened mining class. The pub held the honor (among dwarves anyway) of being the deepest ale house in the land, or under it, and was frequented by the type of short-arse who liked a beer and wasn’t willing to wait until he made it sky-side before he got drunk, which was every dwarf in the mines. Very few outsiders even knew of its existence, let alone would bother taking the winding, subterranean journey to drink in its piss-stained halls.
Therefore, the appearance one evening of six human strangers gave the regular patrons of the Waxed Anus cause to remove their beards from their tankards and take note.
“Are they allowed in here?” said Duvon Axe-Grip to no one in particular.
Bogon Axe-Smith, in a drunken fog, squinted at the six strangers. “Isn’t no law saying who can or shan’t drink here.”
The third dwarf at the table, a female, rubbed at her ginger beard and sat back in a wooden chair, the weight of her broad shoulders and equally broad buttocks causing the chair to protest in a creaking whine. “Ho, they’re cute. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sky-sider before, not this close up.”
Duvon looked askance at the female. “You can’t fancy those hairless bastards, Garthila.”
Garthila Axe-Hewn spat on the floor and turned to Duvon. “And why not? Can like who I like.”
“But they’re thin, wormy things.”
Garthila scoffed. “Hah, so’s your dick, but that didn’t stop Bogon sucking on it last night.”
Bogon Axe-Smith slammed his scarred fist on down on the sour-smelling table, furrowed his brows and stared angrily at Garthila. A moment later the fierce expression on his square face relaxed and a puzzled look overtook him. He raised an eyebrow at Duvon. “Was that last night?”
Duvon turned to Garthila, whispering, “Why are they here?”
Garthila shrugged and turned her mouth down at the edges. “Dunno, maybe they’re looking to live it rough and try a dwarf lady for a change.”
Duvon laughed. Garthila smashed him in the face with her tankard, spilling its contents all over the table – and Bogon’s head. Bogon pawed at his face and licked his hands like a cat cleaning itself while Duvon staggered to his feet, blood spilling from his nose.
The strangers turned at the commotion and Garthila smiled shyly, waving a stumpy hand in the direction of the most handsome human.
“Why you do that for?” said Duvon, pinching his bleeding nose between forefinger and thumb as he regained his seat at the table.
Garthila sniffed delicately. “You’re casting aspersions on my attractiveness.”
Bogon, who had not been paying attention to the conversation, looked around the bar and innocently said, “What attractiveness?”
A moment later the black-bearded Bogon picked himself off the floor and slumped back in his seat, a red welt beginning to appear on his forehead.
Garthila watched the strangers ordering drinks from Bagur Axe-Strike, the barkeep and proprietor of the Waxed Anus. She said, “We’ve all been fucking each other like the old gods for years, so don’t be telling me I’m no fragile nor beautiful flower.” Garthila’s eyes grew wide. “Lord, one of ‘em is coming over here. Don’t embarrass me you bastards. Play your cards right, and we could all be going sky-side tonight.”
“I won’t do no human,” sulked Duvon, his nose no longer bleeding.
Garthila snorted. “Pah! You and your four-inch would jump at the chance if you were fortunate enough, now shut up and let me do the talking.”
The man was tall. He wore no beard or facial hair of any kind; Garthila felt her loins begin to heat at the sight of his aquiline nose, and refined jaw, so unlike the dwarves.
Carrying two flagons, the man smiled and said, “May I join your esteemed party for a short duration?”
Garthila nearly forgot to breathe. “Esteemed? Gor, I like how you put things. Yes, of course you may join our esteemed party for a short duration, or a long one, if you like. The longer the better, or so I’ve heard about you men, eh?” Garthila winked lasciviously.
The sky-sider continued to smile and said, “You are too kind.” As he took his place at the table, he pushed one of the flagons across to Garthila, and then raised his own mug in a gesture of friendship. Duvon Axe-Smith and Bogon Axe-Grip touched flagons reluctantly; Garthila Axe-Hewn was far more enthusiastic in the way she brought her mug to his, causing beer to spill onto the exposed skin of the human’s arm.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Garthila. “Waste not want not.” Leaning across the table, she took the man by the hand and licked the stale beer from his wrist, looking up at him with a leering grin the whole time.
The sky-sider maintained a beatific smile.
Duvon noticed the other humans begin to disperse around the pub, each sitting at a different table, chatting garrulously with the locals.
Garthila, meanwhile, could not take her eyes from the exotic stranger. “I’m Garthila Axe-Hewn.”
“Well met.” The man looked expectantly at the other two dwarves.
Duvon nodded. “Duvon Axe-Grip, at your service. And this is Bogon Axe-Smith.”
The man continued to smile. “Charmed. I am Sebastian.”
Garthila said, “And what brings a fine gentleman like yourself to the hairy arsehole of the world?” She leaned forward, giggled and whispered conspiratorially, “Never you mind what the sign outside says. Not a waxed bunghole in the place.”
Sebastian did not miss a beat. “My companions and I have heard news that the dwarves have come upon something of interest to King Martin.”
Bogon sobered immediately at the mention of the man-king. He took a long draught of ale to compensate for the unwanted clarity. He said, gruffly, “What would his royal majesty be wanting down here?”
Sebastian turned to Bogon. “Reports say that the dwarves have discovered medalum.”
Garthila sat back in her chair. “Medalum? You have the wrong mountain, Sebastian, for we have not uncorked that particular metal, if such a thing exists.”
The man brought his deep green eyes to bear on Garthila. “It exists.”
A shrug. “Well, that may be so, but you have the wrong mountain, and the wrong dwarves.”
Duvon, who sat to the side of the human, noted the man’s sword under his robes and recognized the care with which the hilt had been carved. This weapon carried prestige in its very making, the hand that wielded it, therefore, belonged to no ordinary swordsman. Duvon measured the stranger a second time, more carefully, and came to the conclusion that, despite his hairless jaw and fragile features, this man was dangerous. Duvon, understanding the sky-sider was not here to socialize, tried to catch Garthila’s attention but she was too busy fawning over the newcomer.
“Cheers,” said Sebastian, raising his mug once again.
As they drank, Duvon surreptitiously kicked Garthila in the ankle.
The female dwarf shot him a lethal glance, but did not, to her credit, say anything to alert the man.
“I need a piss,” said Duvon. “Where are the bathrooms?”
An incredulous look overcame Garthila’s face. “Out…outside. Anywhere you like.”
Garthila’s forehead screwed up in contempt, but relaxed a moment later into a normal day to day scowl. She looked from Duvon to Sebastian and back again.
Bogon sat alone with the tall stranger and farted.
“Sorry,” the dwarf said. “Too much ale.”
“Forgiven,” smiled the man.
Come to think of it, thought Bogon, this bastard hasn’t stopped smiling since he came in here.
Glowworms like sprinkled stardust limned the high cavern roof, shedding suffused light upon the two dwarves standing outside the Waxed Anus. A breeze created by flow through caressed the cheek, rustling dwarven whiskers.
Looking up, Garthila said, “Duvon, this is very romantic, but it’s not a good time. I think I’m actually seducing the sky-sider. I think he likes me.”
Duvon suppressed a laugh. “You heard him. He’s not here to shag some mad dwarf woman; he’s here for medalum.”
Garthila rounded on Duvon, who took a step back.
Garthila pouted like a child. “There’s no such thing as medalum. You’re just jealous because he wants me, not you.”
Duvon snorted. “They’re armed and ready for a fight. They’re not here to fuck.”
“There are a hundred dwarves in there,” said Garthila pointing at the Waxed Anus. “Sky-siders just don’t come to our house looking for trouble. You’re a xenophobe. A racist. That’s what it is.”
Duvon opened his gnarled fists in a gesture of placation. “Hey, I got nothing against man. On any other day I’d be trying to get in his trousers just like you. But this is wrong.”
Garthila sighed in exasperation. “There is no medalum.”
Duvon rubbed his short black beard. “I’m not so sure.”
A frown. “What do you mean?”
“Two weeks afore, do you remember? Gromuck and his crew found something.”
“Aye, but no one said anything about medalum.”
“No one said anything about anything. Where is Gromuck?”
Garthila thought for a moment, and then shrugged.
Duvon said, “We haven’t seen him, nor his crew since then.”
“What are you saying?”
Duvon looked back towards the Waxed Anus. “I don’t know. But the hair is prickling on my arse. They’re here for something, and it ain’t dwarf pussy.” He began to make his way back to the Waxed Anus. “Or dick”
Bogon was gone. As was Sebastian, along with all of the other sky-siders.
Duvon and Garthila scanned the pub, but there was no sign of the intoxicated dwarf.
Garthila raised an eyebrow and looked at Duvon. “You don’t think he’s scored, do you?”
Duvon scowled. “What, with Sebastian? And the others? Six on one? Even Bogon’s arsehole would struggle to accommodate. No, something far more sinister, I wager.”
“He’s been taken.”
Garthila looked around. “Who would want to kidnap a flatulent, drunk dwarf?”
Duvon was moving towards the secret back exit to the Waxed Anus, a secret back-passage that, ironically, everyone knew about, even first-time humans it would appear.
“There!” shouted Duvon. In the dimmed distance, a group of tall figures on a path, disappearing into the blackness of one of the myriad lower-cave entrances.
Garthila turned to Duvon.“I didn’t see Bogon with them, did you?”
“Where else would he be? Come on,” said Duvon beginning to move down the path towards the mines.
Garthila grabbed Duvon by the shoulder. “Hang on, we need help. If you’re right about those men, then the two of us will be outnumbered in battle.”
“You’re right.” Duvon sprinted back into the Waxed Anus, Garthila at his heels.
“Bogon has been taken against his will!” shouted Duvon.
Few drinkers bothered to discontinue their sotted conversations; others just laughed thinking the call to arms a jest.
Duvon looked to Garthila and shrugged.
Garthila leapt onto the nearest table with surprising agility, kicking aside tankards of ale as she did so – much to the consternation of the dwarves drinking them – and shouted, “Those fucking sky-siders have looked down their snotty, gorgeous noses at us for long enough! Tonight, they waltz right in here and take one of us! This is an act of war!”
Every eye in the Waxed Anus was now on Garthila. She had them, for now, but knew they were on the edge of drunkenness and apathy.
She boomed, “We may be perverted, swinging drunks with low self-esteem, but we’re perverted, swinging drunk dwarves, damnit and I say enough is enough!”
She was losing them, some returning to their conversations in hushed voices.
“A blowjob for everyone who joins us in this fight for liberty!” She gestured at Duvon. “On your friend and mine, Duvon Axe-Grip!”
Dwarven men and women reached for their weapons.
“Wait a minute,” said Duvon.
“And free ale all night long, on old barkeep Bagur!”
The publican, axe in hand, whipped his head around at Garthila, his brows knitted together, but then he shrugged and nodded.
A moment later, five-score dwarves were running as fast as their dumpy legs would carry them down to the entrance to the lower mines, all in the name of freedom, justice, sexual debauchery and inebriation.
All the good causes.
“Never thought I’d be down the mines in me off hours,” said Mamir Axe-Handle. Mamir was perhaps the largest dwarf in the mines: he stood five-foot-tall and could wrestle a miniature horse to the ground, or even ride it if the mood took him, a feat not many dwarves were capable of, but the massive Mamir was an exception. He patted Duvon on the shoulder. “But it’s for a good cause,” the giant dwarf said, smiling.
Duvon silently cursed Garthila and wondered if stretch marks around a mouth would be visible through a beard.
“How do these humans move so quickly through the mines?” mused old Bagur the barkeep. “We should have caught them up by now.”
Standing at a cross tunnel, Garthila looked both left and right, glass lamps lit earlier in the day still giving off feeble light along the mineral-laden walls. “We need to split up.”
And so, the dwarves split, and split again at the next intersection, and split again until they swarmed through the mines in smaller groups, searching for the humans and their captive friend, Bogon.
On a hunch, Garthila headed towards the vein recently opened by the now vanished Gromuck, feeling that somehow his disappearance and that of his crew had something to do with the arrival of the sky-siders. She knew it was in the lower east section, behind the water walls. Sure enough, within minutes, the sound of human voices, effeminate and enunciated, came to them in the passageway up ahead, along with the whooshing of falling water.
Dwarves do not understand the concept of stealth. You would be better off asking one to don a tutu, climb a tree and prance like a fairy upon the end of the most fragile branch than you would have of hushing a dwarf and asking him or her to creep soundlessly in the darkness to surprise their foe.
Stealth is for elves, and the elves can go fuck themselves.
The four of them, Garthila, Duvon, Mamir and Bagur rushed, wars cries upon whiskered lips, through a curtain of water into a large area serving as the intersection for several tunnels.
Among the group of men before them stood Sebastian, a rock in his hand, his face lit by a ghostly, shifting light emanating from the minerals within, his handsome features turning purple, azure, magenta, silver, all within the space of a few seconds.
He seemed enraptured by the object in his palm, unaware of the dramatic entrance of the four dwarves.
Bogon had been forced to his knees, hands tied behind his back and a blade at his throat. Steam rose from the bound dwarf, the humid air of the mines meeting the soaked clothing and hair.
Everyone began to steam in the close, sauna-like atmosphere of the mines.
Everyone stared at the rock in Sebastian’s hand, each man and dwarf feeling an inner voice whisper of beauty, wealth, sex and power.
Sebastian looked up slowly, as if waking from a dream. “By the right of King Martin, this medalum belongs to mankind.”
Duvon stepped forward and brought his axe to bear, gripped in both fists across his chest, and said, “Over our dead-” but before Duvon could finish his utterance, Sebastian opened his robe and reached within it, pulling out an item resembling a small cannonball.
Duvon stopped, mouth agape.
To the dwarves horror, he threw the explosive device against the support beams in the middle of the tunnel crossing. The explosion caused the entire chamber to shudder, and a moment later, the roof caved in.
When the dust cleared, Garthila found herself alone and wondering what kind of idiot would attempt to bring the mines down when he was still inside. She coughed and tried to make out sound and shape in the haze. Duvon’s voice came to her from through the pile of rubble. He and the others, including Bogon, were unharmed. The humans had vanished.
Garthila saw a flapping of robes receding in the darkness of a side tunnel in the grit-obscured distance. Grabbing her axet, she followed the figure.
She came upon Sebastian at another cross tunnel further down. He still held the strange amorphous rock in his hand, in his other hand his fine sword now gleamed darkly in the lamplight. His head swiveled one way and then another. He turned at the approach of Garthila.
“Lost, honey?” said the female dwarf.
“You shall guide me back to the surface. King Martin must have this,” he said, glancing at the arcane metal in his hand, “immediately.”
Garthila realized that Sebastian and she had been cut off from both friend and foe. They were now alone in the passageways of the mines.
“Listen, Sebastian. I don’t know what this is all about, but I don’t care. You can’t just come down here demanding this and that and taking my friend at knife-point. Not to mention nearly blowing up the mines. That just ain’t polite.”
Sebastian sneered, his handsome dust-caked features taking on a poisonous aspect, brows sharp, teeth bared. Garthila caught her breath, taken aback by the transformation on the man’s face, realizing the polite veneer of earlier in the night was a mask, a hoax. A pretense. At least with the dwarves, what you see is what you fuck.
Was this man? Two-faced, a barely civilized façade that became savage as soon as you scratched the surface? She had heard many good things about mankind, supposedly superior to the dwarf in culture and sophistication. Now, she doubted the society from which they came.
But Garthila was nothing if not libertine in nature.
She said, “Sebastian, I’m prepared to overlook your, uh, infractions against dwarven, what’s the word, um…morality? I’m easy, really.” She looked around. “It’s just you and me, why don’t we …uh, …”
Sebastian’s face became repugnance carved in stone. “You propose a sexual encounter? Now?”
“Well, you want to get your precious little rock back to your precious little king. I can get you to the surface.”
“You disgust me! I shall broker no such bargain! Do as I command, dwarf bitch!”
Garthila raised ginger eyebrows. “I’m pretty thick-skinned, but that is uncalled for. Don’t make me do you in, Sebastian.”
The man spat a twisted laugh that echoed and bounced off the walls of the mine. Garthila waited impatiently until the laugh had dissipated.
She said, “Am I really that unattractive?”
“You have a beard!”
Garthila shrugged. “And?”
Sebastian lunged with his sword and Garthila parried with her axe. The tall man came again, swinging his blade, kicking out with alternate feet and slashing once more, uttering curses that made even Garthila redden in embarrassment.
Garthila had no desire to kill Sebastian, but that attitude was clearly unreciprocated on the tall human’s part: the man had murder in his movement. Garthila could not allow his attacks to continue, for sooner or later one of his strikes would find its mark.
Garthila knew the mines, knew all its whims and upsets, its foibles and fancies, its fears and dreams. She knew where to step and where not to, knew which section of wall would offer grip, and which would repulse all touch. Knew how the shadows moved and from whence they sprung.
She knew where flame could be released safely, and where it would prove lethal.
The mines, these mines, she called home.
She tore a glass-lamp from its hook and, in the same movement, sent it arcing head-over-tail in the air, where it smashed and ignited the firedamp running in invisible rivulets along the ceiling.
Flame speared over Sebastian’s head, sparks falling and threatening to set his cloak on fire. The man momentarily turned his attention to the flaming discharge, and Garthila took the opportunity given her. Holding the axe by the very last grip-span at the base of the handle, she extended her right arm, using the axe like a pointed rapier, the top of the axe head smashing into Sebastian’s face and send him toppling backwards, where his head met the floor with a loud crack.
He did not move, and Garthila warily approached the motionless, splayed figure.
She knelt and put her fingers over the man’s mouth,
No breath. Dead. Man is fragile, she thought.
Remorse pulsed through Garthila’s veins. This, she had not wanted.
What a waste.
She looked at the rock of medalum still gripped tightly in the man’s left hand. She forced his dead fingers apart and took the object into her own hand.
For this, the man had risked his life. It was beautiful, no doubt, mesmerizing in how the colors changed, how it sparkled and seemed to whisper in one’s ear.
But just a rock.
Garthila sat next to the corpse of Sebastian and turned the medalum over in her hand. She glanced once more at the dead man and wondered at the repercussions his death would bring to the dwarves of the mines. Would this mean war with King Martin and mankind? As far as she could tell, she had done little wrong, other than defend her friend and then herself.
Garthila sighed and hoped that men would prove to be a rational race.
When Duvon and the others broke through the rubble and found Garthila Axe-Hewn sitting next to the lifeless Sebastian, she was laughing until tears streamed down her cheeks.
About the Author:
Cameron Kirk is interested in travelling the world looking for lost treasure, meeting alien life and wielding a sword against horrific monsters. In lieu of the real thing, he writes it.
A winner of a Best of Fiction award at Across the Margins magazine, Cameron is the author of ‘The Mad Trinkets’, a dark epic fantasy novel due to appear in 2021. https://www.facebook.com/camkirkauthor
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