“Beginnings” A short story submission…
Madelynn Johnson, Staff Writer
Lash made her way up a hill and squinted at the horizon, a town visible a ways away. She grunted to herself in affirmation before taking a few swigs from her waterskin and continuing down the hill, using her staff to balance herself. She had been traveling for weeks now, and this was the first town she had seen beside the one she grew up in. She had not seen many other travelers along the way, but she had dealt with a fair share of monsters and wild animals. The blade of the greataxe on her back had the dried blood to prove it.
She kept walking, swatting flies away from her long, ratty black hair kept in a crude braid. She scratched at the scar on her right cheek and cracked her knuckles against her staff. As the town grew closer, she stood straight at her full height. She soon found that she loomed over most of the people she began to run into. She scowled and glared at them if they avoided her out of disgust or anger. She merely glanced at the ones that ran or hid from her in fear.
Lash had not had too much interaction with others—her village had been small, after all—but she almost expected these reactions. People like her were not welcome most places, nor were they smiled at. After all, having a snarled face like a bulldog but none of the redeemable qualities of such a pet made you something to be avoided and feared. Standing in the middle of the town, she looked around. Lash noticed a group of people gathered nearby. She stomped over, the crowd parting for her. She wrinkled her nose in disgust at the familiar stench of death. The crowd had been gathered around the shore of a river that ran through the town. The shore was dotted with bodies.
Lash had a sense of deja vu looking at the mess before her. She had come from a place dealing with hardship, too. This town must have been attacked as well. She growled at nothing in particular and turned, the crowd gasping and really moving out of her way now. “Good,” she thought. “They’re leaving a trail.” She wanted more information, but she needed to rest someplace before she started to ask around. She had been traveling for a long while. She needed to rest before doing anything else. “The wise hunter is patient,” she reminded herself. The sweetly-sour and familiar smell of alcohol reached her nostrils. A drink was much needed. She found her way to a tavern-inn. Ducking her head so she wouldn’t hit it on the threshold, she stomped over to the bar and slammed down a fist, drawing attention from the dwarven bartender and some of his customers. “Gimme the strongest ale you got.” She rumbled. The dwarf, not used to seeing such a patron, nodded quickly. “Of course!”
A fairly brief moment later, Lash was presented with a pint fit for the other customers of the tavern. She squinted at it before growling a bit. “…What in the hells is this? A drop?” She slammed her fist again, making the pint hop off the counter a bit. To avoid spilling, the quaking bartender caught it. “Get me a proper pint of ale, Shortstack!” He nodded quickly again and rushed to it, getting her a pint that would make most men, even a dwarf, wasted beyond belief. Lash smirked and flipped the poor bartender a piece of gold. “That’s more like it.” She took the pint to a back corner of the inn, sat at an empty table, and looked around as she drank.
Lash was being watched, and she quickly found who was doing so. Across the tavern, a few tables’ distance from her, was an elf. He seemed to have just walked in, and he was staring at her in seemingly both fear and a sense of awe. She scowled a bit and saw his face lose
coloration. She huffed in satisfaction and took a swig of ale, pounding the now half-finished pint back down onto the table. She was about to approach the elf that would not stop staring before she was stopped by a loud din outside. Not recognizing the sound, Lash got up and stomped her way to the door, a hand on the grip of her greataxe as she shoved the door open and went outside.
She winced at the greater volume of the noise outside, then smirked when she saw a dwarf running as fast as he could to the gates, drawing a weapon and a shield. Other stragglers followed suit as the townsfolk yelled and screamed in horror, running deeper into the town for greater protection. This was a battle easily won. Drawing her greataxe and yelling to the heavens, Lash started sprinting outside, only to find small hordes of demons approaching. The dwarf that had started to charge was already dealing with two, and Lash could see that they were the strongest of the bunch. Feeling her blood boiling, she screamed furiously and charged into the fray