Friday, August 10, 2012

"Klondaeg the Monster Hunter" by Steve Thomas (Novella)

Genre:  Fantasy

Type of Short Story:  Novella

Summary:  Klondaeg is a simple Dwarf with a simple plan: rid the world of monsters. When he was a boy, his parents were killed by unidentified monsters, and he swore revenge against all of them. Armed with a talking battle axe with two personalities, Klondaeg travels the countryside, slaying everything from tiny werewolves to gold-devouring demons. He negates prophecies, disproves history, and even comes face to face with Acerbus, the god of darkness himself. But will he ever find the thing that killed his parents?


“Graaaa…” said Klondaeg.

The undead magma goat raised its head and looked around with a vacant expression, crumbs of silver ore falling from its maw. The bell around its neck jingled.

“…aaaaaaaah!” said Klondaeg, brandishing the King’s Rest, his two-headed battle-axe, over his head. He leaped over the river of magma, and his mighty iron boot found firm footing on an obsidian island. The goat, once a fiery hell-beast, and now little more than a cud-chewing statue, cocked its head inquisitively at the Dwarven warrior bearing down upon it, and narrowed its eyes. With a bloodthirsty bleat and a swift kick, the basalt beast knocked Klondaeg back across the river. Klondaeg rolled when he fell, and was soon back on his feet.

“Yes, charge him with an axe. I’m sure that never occurred to the miners before they summoned you,” said Sinister.

“Hasn’t failed us yet,” said Dexter. The King’s Rest had a mind for each head, one wise, one brash. Neither was often helpful.

Klondaeg scanned the tunnel. Veins of silver sparkled red, reflecting the flood of lava below. The undead magma goat stood on an island, which was slowly shrinking away as the river of molten rock surged around it. Just before the magma splashed upon the goat’s toes, the creature deftly hopped to a taller, wider island. On the far bank, the stone wall faintly glowed red. “Shut up. New plan,” said Klondaeg.

He strapped the King’s Rest to his back and picked up the nearest mine cart. It was full of silver ore, and Klondaeg’s muscles bulged with the effort.

“Maybe a back brace should be part of this plan,” said Sinister.

Klondaeg grunted, hefted the cart over his right shoulder, spun three times, and released.

The cart arced over the river, raining nuggets of silver into the magma, and crashed into the weak spot on the wall.

The bank burst, exactly like an underground volcano. Klondaeg hopped back to dodge the rush of magma as it swept into the tunnel and buried the monster. The goat bleated one last time as its body melted away, becoming one with the underground river of magma.

He looked back over his shoulder. “That dissolves your goat problems. Next time, try not to dig on a fault line.”

The foreman surveyed the ruin of his silver mine. He tugged on his beard and sighed. He muttered, “Thank you for saving my mine, Klondaeg.”

“I’m a monster hunter. It’s what I do. What I don’t understand is how an undead magma goat showed up here in the first place.”

“Escaped from the zoo?” said Sinister.

“Or maybe this mine is a cursed magma goat graveyard,” said Dexter.

The foreman took a momentary break from calculating his lost earnings to consider the question. “There’s only one thing that could do it. Gnomish alchemy.”

“Gnomes. Hmm.” Klondaeg ran a hand through his beard. “Usually their alchemy is harmless, except to the alchemist.”

“It’s probably a conspiracy,” said Dexter.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Sinister. “Gnomes aren’t that well organized. It’s probably just a rogue alchemist, working alone, who tried to bring a magma goat back to life just to see if he could. Gnome conspiracy! Impossible. The very notion!”

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