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Mountainborn

Writer: Zacharias Holmberg
Added: 28.10.13
Menidiath date: 386.7.2
Tags: Mountainborn , Lenori , Rakkhari


Deep within the rainfilled wilderness of southern Lenori a shadow walked among the trees. A tall man, scarred and weathered, his beard red like fire. On his back rested a great axe, and in his hand a short sword, both sharpened by flesh and bone. His eyes promised death of a kind most unpleasant. 

The soft patter of the summer rain was suddenly interrupted by a crash from the heavens, as if the skies themselves wanted to help mask his passage through the woods. His joints ached, his axe weighed heavy in his hand, and his stomach growled like a furious beast. But he was drawing near to his prey. He could feel it.

His eyes were fastened on the shadows, ready for anything and everything. Unblinking, unwavering, as if his mere gaze could strike down anything that dared hide from him. The rain grew heavier, beating down on the leaves above him like a million arrows, and the forest grew darker around him. His prey had no love of the rain, and would surely have gone into hiding by now. It was only a matter of time now.

Suddenly, he noticed a body on the ground before him - or at least, the remnants of one. It was torn to shreds, with large pieces of meat bitten off. Carefully, he looked around to see if there were any traces of a trap, but only the gloomy forest seemed to watch over him. The body seemed to be the torn-in-half corpse of a Rakkhari soldier. One of the ones who had gone missing a few days earlier, no doubt. Whatever end the poor man had met, it was surely unenviable. The Rakkhari were skilled soldiers, but when it came to fighting the things that stalked the Lenorian woods, they were like newborn babes. Even the feeble rattish could prove difficult to them - so it was no surprise then, that a pack of stoneguts caused them this much trouble. He searched the body for valuables, but whatever the man had carried was surely strewn all around the forest.

Finding nothing, he stood up again and looked around, trying to discern where the man's killers might have scurried off to, but all he could see where shadows descending ever deeper. All of a sudden a deep, bellowing howl, full of rage and fear, sounded trough the darkness. And then, it was swiftly silenced, leaving only echoes haunting the night. They were near.

He sheathed his sword, instead grabbing the great axe that had been resting on his back. It was a formidable thing, covered in Rakkhari seals and imagery - a personal gift from an especially "grateful" officer. It's handle was stained with the blood of many a beast and soldier, and strewn all across the head were innumerable small metal scars, a grim tally of past victories. Axe in hand, he started making his way towards the darkness from where the cry had come. Soon, he could make out a small light far away in the distance beyond the now furious rainfall. As he approached, he saw that it was the mouth of a cave at the base of a pillar mountain, which towered overhead, drawing strike after strike of lightning.

He slowed down his approach. He had not come this far to give in to carelessness now. Taking cover behind trees, he moved forward as silently as possible, always looking around in case some beast were to stumble upon him in the midst of the rain. As he neared the mouth of the cave, there was another flash of lightning, and he could suddenly see another body lying motionless just outside the cave. This was no man, however. Sneaking up towards the mountain wall, he snuck up to the cave mouth and peeked inside. There was noone to be found inside, only a small fire crackling away, but the guttural and agitated sounds of a pair of stoneguts could be heard from deep inside the cave. He didn't like the idea of fighting them inside the cave, it would be too easy for them to pin him down. He took a look at the body lying outside the cave. It was another stonegut, it's thick throat ripped to pieces. A small one, but more than enough to contend with any man. It's hands were covered in blood, as was it's mouth. Perhaps, he thought, it had been a fight over food or bounty? With any luck, the others would be injured as well.

Looking around, he noticed a small ledge above the cave mouth. The sounds from inside the cave had gone silent and there were footsteps approaching, so he quickly climbed up, taking cover behind a boulder. Peeking out, he saw two stoneguts coming out of the cave. He shifted to get a better look, when the rock suddenly loosened, showering the stoneguts with  a cascade of small rocks. They grunted in surprise, and looked up - he realized that it would only be seconds before he completely lost the element of surprise. So he put his feet against the wall, and pushed against the boulder. It came loose with a great rumble, which was followed by a loud bellow from bellow, punctuated by a nauseating, wet crunch. The other stonegut screamed out in fury, retreating into the cave. He grabbed his axe and jumped down - the boulder had not finished the job, but left the crushed stonegut writhing and moaning, it's lower body completely mangled. Without wasting any time, he brought the axe down upon it's neck, finishing the horrid job. 

It finally grew quiet, and he approached the cave mouth, when the other stonegut came rushing back, wielding a great club. One solid blow would mean grave injury, if not death, so he would have to end this quickly. It came at him with a roar which made the forest shake, and swung the club. He jumped to the side, dodging the blow by a hair's width, and landed with a thud. He quickly righted himself, and kicked at the beast's knee with all his might. It cried out in pain, as it lost it's balance, slumping to the side. He jumped to his feet again, raising his axe to attack. but the beast was quicker than he had hoped, and swung the club at him again. It missed him, but hit his axe, and sent it flying off. But the beast had swung clumsily, and struggled to regain balance. He took the chance and unsheathed his sword. With a great leap and a furious roar, he buried the sword deep into the beasts shoulder, cutting deep and twisting the sword, ripping apart tendons and muscles. The beast let out a cry of pain which made even the thunder go silent, and it lost the grip of the club. But when he tried to withdraw the sword, it was wedged stuck, caught by the compulsions of pain. For a moment, he lost his composure, and did not see the beast swinging at him again. A fist that may as well have been a slab of iron hit him in the chest and sent him flying into the darkness, tearing trough bushed and vegetation. He stumbled to his feet, head still spinning, and desperately tried to get his bearings again, but all was darkness and the sound of thunderous rain mixed with the stonegut's enraged bellowing.

Suddenly, out of the dark, something pinned him to the ground, with a solid grip around his throat. The beast was on top of him again. It's massive hand gripped his throat and threatened to soon break it. He stared into it's massive maw, and the nightmarish, red eyes that hungered for his death, when a flash of lightning illuminated his sword, still stuck in the beast's shoulder. With a dying man's desperate Strength, he grabbed the sword and pulled, causing the beast to cry out, it's grip on his throat loosening for a vital second out of pain. Finally, the sword slid out, and with a final effort he stabbed it up through the the beasts jaw, straight through it's head. 

There was no more sound, save for the rain, and his own beating heart. He pushed the beast off him, and wiped it's blood off his face. For a good while, he just sat on the beast, catching his breath, and nursing his aching throat. Breathing, and feeling the raindrops hit his face. Reminding himself that he was alive. But he did not wish to linger more than necessary in these dark woods, so he took his sword, and collected his axe. He looked around once more before he entered the cave, making sure that the beast hadn't attracted more attention. But he could see nothing but darkness and rain, an so made his way inside.

The cave was a den of filth, like an intestine filled with scraps, shit and half-eaten cadavers. He could spot mostly animals, but every now and then there was a hand, pieces of a skull or other things that you wouldn't like to find littering around. Beyond the flickering light of the now dying fire, there was a maw of shadows, leading deeper down. He doubted for a moment, unsure if it was worth the risk of going down further. Swearing, he grabbed a branch from the fire as a torch, and entered the darkness. Softly, he started humming the ever comforting soul-song, but not for comfort, but for the knowledge it imparted. The echos of the song told him what lay before him in the dark - every crevice, crack and opening in the cave revealed themselves to his song willingly. The cave got narrower and narrower somewhere ahead in the dark, to the point where he wondered how the stoneguts had gotten trough it at all. But beyond the narrow corridors lied a vast opening, almost like a hall below the mountain. Carefully, he made his way deeper down, watching his every step. Soon, he came upon the narrow halls, and beyond them he could see a faint, flickering light. He put out the torch, in case there was something else waiting deeper inside. As he approached, he realized that this could not be the lair of only three beasts. The large opening was filled with boxes, cadavers and all manner of refuse. The floor was utterly stained with blood, and on one of the walls was a large web of rope, to which innumerable bones, all meticulously cleaned, were tied. That's when he noticed it.

In the middle of the room, there was a small fire, and next to it, what looked like a small table, with a ragged cloth, and a strange object. He slowly approached it, unsure what to make of it. This was not the first time he had laid eyes upon one of these objects - an odd statuette, about three fists high, carved out of stone. It resembled a horn of some kind, with a spiral going all around it. It was stained black, though he could not make out with what. 

Most people who met him quickly decided that he was merely a brute, bereft of intelligence. Because that is how he wanted it. But the truth was that he possessed a mind keener than most, and this find interested him greatly. He had found several statuettes like these before, always in the possession of beasts, and not only stoneguts. They were always handmade, and never in the exact same way. There was a mystery in this, one that enticed him greatly.

Suddenly, a quiet moan echoed from the shadows.

He sprung to his feet, axe at the ready. But there was no charge, and no movement. After a few moments, he lit fire to his torch again, and approached the darkness. Slowly, the figures of seven human bodies, hanging from the ceiling in ropes. Most of them were only in bits and pieces, and he thought all of them dead. Then he heard the moaning again - a young woman, wearing a Rakkhari uniform still seemed to be breathing. She had the pointed ears of one of the Dalari from the far south. One of her arms was badly mauled, and one of her legs seemed broken. Putting his axe aside and unsheathing his  sword, he grabbed her and cut her free from the ropes. She shifted restlessly, but did not wake. Looking around, he saw that there were numerous bags and packs, seemingly soldiers' equipment. Gently, he took her to the middle of the room, and laid her down near the fire, before going back and searching trough the packs. Most of them were empty, save for a few maps, and some small items, but one of them contained a number of intact bottles of brew. He took the bag, and sat down by the fire to inspect them closer. Suddenly, he noticed that the woman's eyes were open. He sat silent for a while, waiting for her to notice him, but she seemed to be very far away in her thoughts.

"…Do not be afraid. You are free." he said gently, as not to scare her.

She jolted at the sound of his voice, sitting upright. The fear in her eyes told of countless horrors witnessed. He dared not guess how long she had been here. For a good while, they just stared at each other. She was tall and slim, with raven black hair cut short just above the shoulders. She was fair, at least for a soldier. But the marks of her time down in this darkness were plain to see.

"Am…I…alive?" she asked, her voice hoarse and dry, filled with fearful resignation, as if she dared not believe that she could be. But there was a small spark of hope. Small an brittle, but alive. He gave out a small, warm laugh and  smiled broadly.

"It would certainly seem that way." 

For a while, she sat silent, as if trying to convince herself.

"I…never thought I would get out of here. I thought…" her face became a twisted mask of pain and fear. Her eyes glittered as untold nights of fear finally claimed their right.

"T-they ate them all. Everyone of them." she whispered, shaking uncontrollably.

He reached her his water skin. She accepted, but couldn't bring herself to drink. Understanding the need to grieve all too well, he kept his silence, and the only sound that could be heard in the cave was her soft sobbing and the crackling of the fire. After a while, she grew quiet, only breaking the silence to quench her thirst. 

"How is your arm and leg?" he asked.

She wiped her face with her sleeve, collecting herself.

"I think my leg is broken, but it'll heal if we can get back to the sorcerers in town. The arm…" she paused. "I can't really use it." anger flashed across her face. "They ate off my arm."

"There are some poultices here…but I'm not certain what is what. They aren't labeled." he said, showing her the pack. She strained, and moved to sit beside him.

"Let me see. They might be military." she took a few bottles and looked at them in the firelight. "Yeah, they are. See the seal here?" she pointed at a small symbol on the bottle "That marks it as coded. You know how normally, they all have a distinct color?" he nodded "Well, these ones have been mixed so the colors are all wrong. So if they fall into enemy hands, they will be dangerous to use. Let me see the rest."

He handed her the pack, and watched her rummage trough the rest. Suddenly, she breathed a sigh of relief.

"Thank Rakkath, there is a healing poultice here." she held up a green colored bottle, the contents of which looked absolutely noxious.

"Are you sure?" he had no reason to doubt her, but he preferred to be careful. She took off her boot, and pulled up the leg of her pants.

"Yes, no doubt. Will you give me a hand here? I'm not going to be able to do this myself. Do you know how to treat a broken leg? there was a tint of nervousness in her voice.

"Well…sort of" he hesitated "I'm not sure it's a good idea to attempt this here though-" 

"Just hold the leg straight while the poultice does it's work. And keep it straight, no matter what." she swallowed "this is going to hurt something unholy."

He sighed and nodded, grabbing her leg. Her screams and swears at him filled the cave for what felt forever, but finally he felt like the bones sat right. 

"That should do it. I think you can drink the poultice now." 

Her face was pale as death, and covered in cold sweat. But she nodded, and gulped down the green brew. For several minutes, they silent as they waited for the effect to complete. She gritted her teeth as the leg healed, but by now she was used to much worse. Finally, she breathed a sigh of relief.

"I think you can let go now." he took his hands off her leg, and helped her to her feet.

"How does it feel?" she could see pain in her face.

"It's…a little bit painful, but I think it'll get better." she walked around for a bit, getting used to solid ground again. She turned to him with a grateful smile.

"My name is Slayer Nola ab Dalari. Did you really slay all seven of them by yourself?"

A cold shiver cut trough his spine.

"There…there are three of them dead up there. You mean there are four more?" their eyes met in brief fear. Her good mood vanished without a trace.

"We need to get out of here now, before they come ba-"

Suddenly, a deep, furious roar echoed from far away trough the caves. 

"Give me your sword. Quickly!" she exclaimed.

"You can't fight with that arm!" he shouted "You'll get yourself killed!"

"Don't tell me what I can or cannot do, mountainman! If I am to die, then I will die fighting!" she shouted, all trace of fear gone. He couldn't help but laugh.

"Well, so be it then!" he unsheathed his sword, and gave it to her.

"Never fight these things from the front - always the back! Use their weight against them!"  he shouted, but her attention seemed elsewhere. 

"I have an idea!" she shouted "Help me here!"

She jogged over to the rope from which she had hung, visibly straining in pain. Grabbing on, she started pulling, trying to loosen the rope. He quickly joined her, and together they pulled it down, causing the beam from which it had hung to come crashing down, together with the other corpses. She quickly cut the rope off, and proceeded to jog towards the entrance of the hall.

"Come and help me, I need you to tie this around a boulder!" she shouted.

He finally realized what she was doing, and hurried over. The stoneguts would soon be coming down, and if they were caught before they were ready, they were surely dead. Tying the end around a large boulder, they dragged the rope across the entrance and hid in the shadows, ready for the assault.

"We better snare the first one, otherwise they might find us." he whispered. She nodded.

"As soon as it's down, go for the neck. After that, try to draw them into the room. I have another idea."

"And if it doesn't go down?" he asked with a  small laugh.

She didn't answer.

In mere seconds, they could hear heavy footsteps coming downwards, accompanied by heavy growling echoing trough the halls. He watched her intently, trying to discern her capabilities. Her willpower was impressive, but her injuries could be fatal if he trusted her too much. But a good head outweighed any injury, and she had certainly proven herself there. Suddenly, there was a hand at the opening, and his mind was again crystal clear. The beast halted at the entrance, as if it was aware that something was amiss. They threw a glance at each other, knowing fully well that everything hinged on that moment. Then, the beast stepped slowly stepped into the room. Quickly, they tensed the rope, bringing it up between the beast's legs and supported themselves against a boulder. As if time had slowed down, they saw how the beast tripped on the rope, flailing in attempt to balance itself, and land with a thunderous crash. In mere seconds, he grabbed his axe, and rushed over to the beast. Before the beast had even understood what happened, he brought the axe down on it's neck, killing it instantly. He quickly turned, and saw that another one of them had already spotted him, and a third one was coming up behind it. He backed up further into the hall, to get more room to maneuver, looking around, trying to find something to use to his advantage. He saw how Nola snuck closer to the corner, still keeping in the shadows, preparing for something. For a moment, he wondered if she intended to flee and leave him to his own devices, but quickly realized that he had more important things to worry about.

The two stoneguts had their eyes fixated squarely on him, and they had only death in their eyes. Neither of them were carrying weaponry, but there was no doubt they could kill him with their bare hands. He skirted around the fire, trying to use it to control their movement. But the two stoneguts weren't having any of it, and went different directions, to try and flank him from different sides. Suddenly, he noticed that another stonegut was coming in through the darkness. The was quickly becoming unmanageable, and they might actually have to run for it. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw how one of the beasts picked something up - he turned, and saw how it was getting ready to hurl a crate in his direction. With a mighty roar, it sent the crate flying towards him. It was a clumsy throw, which he dodges with ease, but when the crate hit the wall, the sound of shattered glass filled the hall. Suddenly, he found himself showered in shards, and suddenly, the floor had become a deathtrap. He no longer could maneuver freely, and the two stoneguts were closing in fast. Suddenly, there was a large boom, and the stonegut that had just entered the room hit the floor with a thunderous bang. In a flash, he saw how Nola sprung from the shadows, and with a swift blow, buried her sword in the head of the beast. For a moment, he just stared in disbelief, until he realized that the two stoneguts had forgotten about him as well. Acting fast, he braved the deadly floor, and dashed towards one of the beasts, raising his axe. But the beast noticed him, and turned to face him - but not quick enough. He brought the axe down on the beast's leg, breaking it at the knee, making it fall to the ground. It howled in pain, and lashed out at him, but he stepped back out of it's reach. Suddenly, a blinding pain shot up trough his foot, and he fell backwards. Like a thousand daggers, the glass shards cut his back. 

She noticed how he fell backwards, and the two stoneguts were once again advancing on him. If she didn't act quickly, they would make quick work of him. As quick as she could, she made her way towards the still standing one, trying to get it's attention.

"Hey! Hey!!" she grabbed a piece of wood from the fire and threw it at it. It flinched, and roared. She could see how the other one was going for him, but realized she couldn't take her attention off the standing one, which had started to advance on her. It was a big, fearsome thing, at least half her size taller than her, and the mere look in it's eyes filled her with terror. But she stood her ground. She had faced legions of foes and withstood them. This beast had no idea what tricks she had up her sleeve.

Finally, it came upon Nola, and raised it's fist to strike at her. She was ready, and raised her hand. The blow fell, and she lashed out with her mind - with a tremendous boom, the beast's blow was halted mid-air. It roared in defiance, and with a deep breath, she lunged at it, once again putting her battlesorcery to the test. Another boom shook the hall, and the beast staggered backwards, almost losing it's balance. She saw the chance, and lashed out at it once more, hitting it with another kinetic blast. Finally, the beast fell, landing on the fire. The howl of rage it let out, was accompanied by an odor most foul, as it's flesh was burned.

He was twisting in agony, gritting his teeth to ignore the pain of the shards in his back. A giant shard jutted out from underneath his foot, and the stonegut would soon be upon him. Faced with only a choice between pain and death, he started pulling at the shard. The searing pain was mind-numbing, and as the razor-sharp thing finally released his foot, he almost blacked out from the pain. Suddenly, a hand grabbed his head, and lifted him off the ground. Struggling for dear life, he felt how the grip on his head was growing tighter and tighter, threatening to crack his skull. In desperation, he reached for the dagger concealed in his boot, and stabbed it deep inside the beast's wrist, trying to sever the tendons. But they were thick and rough, and it refused to let go. Suddenly, he heard her scream, but could not see what was happening, and in an instant, he was airborne. He hit the floor with a painful thud, leaving him rolling along the floor. Several moments passed before he could collect himself enough to understand what was going on, and when he looked up, he saw how the beast who just had tried to kill him had her pinned against the wall. He could barely stand upright, much less run, but he did his damnedest. Limping along the ground, trying to catch his breath, he picked up his axe which weighed like all the world's sins. The beast raised it's hand, and he gasped as it brought it crashing down - another boom sounded, and it's fist hit the wall beside her, cracking the wall. They had been lucky so far, but even the best of the Rakkhari sorcerer-soldiers could not keep it up forever. He needed to hurry. Braving the pain, he started running - readying himself to end the beast with one fell blow. It was fully focused on Nola, and when he buried the axe in it's back, shattering it's spine, all it could do was give out a surprised, sorrowful groan, before sagging against the wall. Nola struggled loose, and hurried down beside him, looking over his injuries.

"Are you alright!? Can you keep fighting!?" 

He groaned, defying every instinct to black out, muttering "As long I can pass wind, I can fight!" 

With a pained sigh, he got up standing again. The last stonegut had finally recovered, and now had it's eyes set on them. It had picked up a large club, covered in spikes which it was swinging menacingly, readying itself to attack.

"If you have any more of that sorcery in you, we need to get that club away from it." he muttered.

"Agreed. If you…can provoke an attack…I think I can…give you an opening. Go for the arm." she said, catching her breath. He nodded, and braced himself for one final effort, starting to advance towards it.

The beast smashed the club against the floor, working itself into a rage. It lunged at him, swinging wildly, frothing at the mouth. The first blow came frighteningly close to taking his head off, but he backed off, and studied it's strikes. It swung wide, and with reckless abandon - he would have to take a risk to bait it for Nola's attack. He dashed closer, and as he saw the blow coming down, jumped down on the floor. 

"Now!!" he screamed, bracing himself in case the blow would connect.

The spikes on the club grazed him, ripping his legs, but swung wide over him. Nola was prepared, and with a final effort she sent all her mental force towards the club. The beast had lost it's balance without he swing, and her attack sent it stumbling over. In the blink of an eye he was up on his feet, axe in hand, and with a swift blow, severed the beast's arm. It roared, and struck him, smashing him against the wall.  But Nola wasted no time, and used to opportunity to stab the beast leg, making it fall to it's knees. Once again, it struck out, but she was ready and dodged out of it's range. She taunted it, kept it focused on her, so he would have time to recover and get back into the battle. It let out a howl of fury, and started limping toward her, but she kept her distance. Suddenly, she felt something crunching underneath her foot, and she realized she was about to walk into the glass. For a moment, she forgot herself, and the beast lunged at her. It raised it's fist, and Nola braced herself for the strike, when a sharp, wet thunk silenced the beast's howling. Behind it, she could see him, just having buried his axe deep within the beast's ribcage. He tore it lose, and struck at it's back, breaking it with a sickening crack. The beast fell to the floor, still trying to fight it's demise, but Nola quickly dashed at it, and swiftly proceeded to bury her sword in it's eye.

Suddenly, all was quiet.

The first thing to break the silence was his booming, relieved laughter. At first she could only stare at him in disbelief, but soon enough, they were both sitting on the dead beast, wiping tears from their eyes. 

"Should've figured you were a battle-sorcerer. Too clever for a normal grunt." he said, still dizzy from the exhaustion.

"If all of Lenori is filled with these things, then I'm going home - Gods or no Gods" she laughed, cradling her head. "How are those wounds of yours?"

"Feels like someone's whipped me and taken a piss, that's what it feels like" he grunted. "I'll live."

"Here, let me take a look. Don't want them to turn foul." she said, turning him towards the faint light. His back was covered in small cuts and wounds, with several pieces of glass still jutting out. "Yeah, I think I better get these out, hand me your dagger."

"How's your leg then?" he asked, handing her the dagger.

"I'll live. Hurts like you wouldn't believe, but at least it's working."

"Hmm."

For a while they just sat in silence, while she did her best to remove the glass from his skin. It was an odd, but very comforting moment. After some time, she wiped his back clean of blood.

"That's the best I can do. Maybe we should get going away from here?"

"Almost. I still have one thing I need to do."

And as she sat by the fire, watching the rain and eating some half-mouldy bread they had found, he started cutting up the stoneguts so as to be able to claim the bounty. Head after head he gathered up, but not without claiming a little extra. When he was finally finished, he took two bags filled with the remnants of the beasts out to the entrance, and sat down next to her.

"Ready to get back to civilization?" he smiled.

"Yeah." she smiled back.

They got up, and headed out into the rainy dawn.

"You know - you never told me your name"

 

***

 

As they entered the Rakkhari camp, the rain that had haunted the lands for days finally let go. But even the warm rays of the sun and the fresh smell of summer in the air did little to lessen the grim air around them, as they strode forth with two bloody bags on their backs. She turned to him, putting down the bag. In the golden sunlight, little of the horror in her eyes remained.

"Well, I suppose this is where we part ways." there was relief in her voice, as if she didn't accept that the nightmare was over before now.

"I suppose so. I hope you find peace." he said with a smile.

"I will find peace when we've gathered the dead and given them a proper farewell." she said sternly. "But I thank you. Had you not shown up, we would all still be rotting down there."

"We all do what we can."

She smiled "Indeed. Take care, Gretch. I hope our paths cross again some day." she put her fist over her heart in salute.

"I am sure they will." he smiled, putting a hand on her shoulder.

The two had attracted a bit of attention, and when they parted ways, quite a few came up to greet their wayward comrade. The other soldiers in the camp watched him intently as he went up to one of the high guards of the camp, eager to find out what horrid bounty he carried with him.

"Who do I see about collecting the bounty for seven stonegut heads?" 

The high guard's eyes widened at the sight of the bag. A few moments of disbelief passed before he collected himself. 

"That…would indeed be me." 

He eyed the bag for a few moments before opening it. The sight of the contents made his face contort in disgust, with a hint of admiration. 

"I'll be damned. An impressive feat indeed." he closed the bag, and gave it to a nearby soldier "The bounty was 12 Rakhmers per stonegut, so a total of 98 Rakhmers. A handsome reward, I must say. And who, may I ask, shall I note is collecting this bounty?"

"Gretch of the Mountainborn." 

A perplexed look entered the mans gaze. Then it dawned on him.

"You are…the one wh-"

"Yes. I am. All thirtytwo of them." the mountainman said sternly. He disliked talking about it.

The high guard caught the hint, and started counting up the reward. Suddenly, the he noticed that the mountainman was carrying another bag, as bloody as the first.

"Dare I ask if you intend to collect another bounty as well…?" he asked, with new respect in his voice.

A broad smile cleaved the mountainman's beard as he let the bag down on the table with a wet thud.

"A personal gift for your Strategus. The stoneguts' cocks. Give him my regards."

The high guard's face grew pale.

"I…what?" he looked at the bag with a horrified gaze.

"Tell 'im that eating a few might put some hair on that baby chest of his."

The mountainman picked up the bag of Rakhmers, and tied it to his belt. Turning around, he couldn't help smiling at the baffled look on the soldiers' faces around them. On his way out, he turned, and shouted.

"I'll be staying at the Golden Bjurg in Vodas Korh - I look forward to his visit!" 

The Rakkhari soldiers watched in disbelief as the mountainman left the camp, his axe slung over his shoulder, and his thunderous laughter echoing trough the camp.