As with my last story, this short story has given me a chance to dive deeper into an important backstory for my upcoming novel series, The Graethian Chronicles. This story is about Baehrem Cuthammer, a mountain dwarf miner, who finds himself sick and tired of his lot in life. This story has some twists and turns and ultimately a lesson. But most importantly, his actions set in motion the terrible cataclysmic event known as the Rending.
I hope you enjoy this little peek into "The Lady's Prize" which will be featured in Morian Press' upcoming anthology, Apologue of the Immortals in early 2023.
"Cuthammer!" a voice called over the din of ringing hammer blows. Bahrem turned to see Dohner Smashgeld, hammer in hand, glowering at him. "Ya thinks ya can better me today, Cuthammer?"
Bahrem sighed. Every few days, a different dwarf challenged him to see which dwarf could put a bigger pile of rubble behind him. Bahrem hadn't lost yet. Although he didn't show it, Bahrem loved the challenge. When he was smashing away at the rock, his mind's sadness gave way, for a short time, and he got lost in the rhythm. The bosses loved it, even cheered them on because the competitions yielded far more than any other day.
The boss, Gehldren, smiled and licked his lips as if he could already taste the salted pork that was to be his reward for breaking into the vein first.
"You heard him, Cuthammer! Are you gonna let Smashgeld best ya? Or don't ya have it in ya still?" Gehldren goaded. Bahrem lifted his eyes to meet Dohner's, a dwarf half his age and eager to prove his worth. But Bahrem was in his smashing prime, and when someone challenged him, he still had a bit of the youthful fire that lit his heart aflame. In fact, Bahrem needed to do some extra smashing today.
"Aye, I accept yer challenge, pup," Bahrem growled back. The company erupted into a roar of approval.
Bahrem and Dohner stood side by side at the end of the unfinished shaft, hammers ready.
"Ya can back out, if ya wants to, old man." Dohner needled. Bahrem's dead-stone stare back at Dohner erased any doubts about his commitment to the competition. At the boss' signal, he let his mind separate from his body and they became two entities existing apart from each other. Bahrem's mind went to the pain in his heart and his pain fueled his body. With each grievance his heart conjured, another hammer blow fell. His lot in life; BANG! The injustice of their work conditions; BANG! His dear Ahdeline, having to live in squalor; BANG!