Saturday, 11 March 2017

Artel 20 - Firestone

When Millon finally came to, the sounds of the Giants fighting still filled the air around him, pulsing through him and ricocheting off the boulders surrounding him. He blinked and rubbed his head where he'd hit it as he'd fallen, then picked himself up and unsteadily brushed himself off. Artel was nowhere to be seen and for a terrifying moment Millon imagined that the Rock Giants had taken him, carted him off and stripped his flesh from his bones before grinding them into dust. Then he spotted a figure crouched in the gap between two boulders, intently watching the ongoing fight. Of course, how could he have expected anything else. He let out a sigh and crept unsteadily towards the darkened figure of his master.

Artel jumped and cursed loudly as Millon sidled up to his shoulder, causing the other man to frown and look away.
'Look, aren't they beautiful?'
Millon's mouth hung open.
'Beautiful? I'm not sure that's quite... '
'Sshh, you don't know what you're talking about. I mean look at them - they're the stuff of legends!'
'Yeah, and in the legends they usually eat everyone and grind their bones to dust, we're better off as far away as we can get.'
'Don't be so ridiculous! Think what we can learn from watching them, what we can record, what we can take home!'
There was a light in Artel's eye, a gleam that sent shivers of misgivings down Millon's spine.
'S-sir, I think we should leave, they haven't noticed us yet, and if we're quiet and we don't light a fire we can probably last till morning... th-then we can head back or, or carry on and get past them.'
Artel turned and fixed Millon with a look that made him go cold.
'You coward. We don't turn back. Our mission is to complete our quest, and right now we've been gifted an incredible opportunity, if I get so much as a hint of you jeopardising this I'll kill you myself.'
Millon's eyes widened as he stared at the grim set of Artel's face. He wasn't joking, not that Artel ever really joked, but this was serious, he meant every word. Suddenly he felt every bit the bumbling fool he had always been. Who had he been kidding back at the village, he wasn't useful, or brave, or interesting, or handsome. He had no skills, no backbone, no pride, and no point except to follow the orders given to him by the man in front of him. He should not, and could not, think for himself, and his life was expendable, his life had always been expendable. Who was he to think that he could dare to ask for anything more? He hung his head in shame and felt Artel's eyes leave his. Moments passed, unspoken words stretching out between them.
'See how they fight? That immense strength, it's like nothing I've ever seen before. And at first I thought they were simply throwing boulders at each other, and sometimes they are, but then I realised they're using weapons too.'
Millon looked up and peeked at the fighting Giants through the gap in the boulders, his eyes flicked across the scene in front of him. Five or six Giants were spread out across the scree, behind them the great mountain rose surely and steadily into the sky, it's rocky darkness lit by small fires dotted along it's surface. The whole scene looked like something out of a storybook his Gramm used to read to him when he was a child, and for a moment he remembered being perched on her knee, his pudgy fingers patting at the pages of the book she was reading, his imagination lost in the folds of her words.
He pushed the memory away and squinted through the darkness at the Giants, he had never heard of them using weapons. But as he looked closer he began to see that they carried some sort of short and stubby dark stone sword, more like a dagger really. He'd never seen anything like it.
'What is that?'
Artel look at him and raised an eyebrow, as if silently mocking his naivety.
'I believe, my dear companion, that it's Firestone.'
'Firestone?'
'Yes. I've never seen any, but the legends say it can only be found in the heart of a mountain, beneath the lair of a slumbering Dragon. It's supposedly formed from the residue left by a Dragon's fire, there's something in their breath, some chemical that normal fire doesn't have, and after the fire's gone it leaves this stuff behind it which then solidifies and becomes Firestone. It's supposed to be the strongest stone in the world.'
'It's just a legend though.'
'So were the Giants your looking at.'
'But if Firestone is real, then, that would mean that... '
'The legends surrounding Dragons go back thousands of years, and they aren't so much legends as very old testimonies. It's a widely held belief among the scholars back home that Dragons did exist thousands of years ago, but they died out as we rose to power. Following that logic there's no reason that Firestone shouldn't exist, it'll just be in a very limited supply.'
Millon frowned. 'Perhaps that's what we're supposed to find at the top of the mountain, Firestone that we can take home to build weapons and win the war?'
Artel raised another eyebrow. 'I don't intend on waiting until we get to the top of the mountain to get my hands on some of that.'
'You mean?'
A grin snaked it's way across the Knight's face.
'I mean we're gonna steal some from the Giants.'

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