This is a very short story I wrote while experimenting in the Kaltor universe. I decided to throw it up for free as a ‘tide-me-over’ until the next story hits the shelves. Enjoy 🙂

Tomb of the Braylith

Klasdane’s eyes filled the cavern with blue light as the power of his ancestors pierced the shadows, searching for his quarry. The gnawed remains of its earlier meals attested to the sharpness of a braylith’s claws, a half-dozen of which hung from his neck. It was a dangerous profession, killing these things, but the town was ill-equipped for the challenge and he needed the gold.

The rocks at his feet were still wet with fresh blood, a young girl’s. After seeing her weeping mother, he volunteered for the job. Klasdane crept deeper into the chamber, spear in both hands, skinning knife sheathed at his side. He listened in vain for breath or movement.

Angel mold glowed in faint white blotches along the walls and ceiling. A few stalactites broke the silence with an occasional, mournful drip. Thin gouges in the floor collected each bit of water and fed them into a cistern of sorts at the cave’s center, the remains of an old fort.

The spatters of dried blood ranged high along the walls and ceiling. Bare bones lay discarded along the floor of the chamber, as if intentionally left behind to warn the Braylith should Kalsdane’s steps knock one askew. “What the…” Leaning in close, he realized the marrow wasn’t sucked from them, as most braylith’s were want to do.

With a deep breath, he bit back the urge to vomit and followed the freshest sent of rotting flesh. It led him down the widest of two tunnel networks. Klasdane regarded the passage carefully, noting the brightness of his ancestral power. With a nervous sigh, he closed his eyes, embracing the darkness.

Gently, he worked his way down the tunnel, feeling his way along with the tip of his spear. He forced himself to slow his pace to a standstill. No breaking of bones or tearing of flesh met his ears. Nothing breathed in deep, satisfied slumber. Klasdane edged forwards and felt something hard resist the touch of his spear, he paused. Had the town watch already wounded it so severely?

He lifted his spear. Something metallic twanged in the darkness. Arrows whistled past him like a sudden swarm of angry bees. Pain tore into his right arm as he threw, throwing him to the ground. Blue light burst from his eyes, illuminating the arrow shaft buried in his right arm. Shadows flitted around him as he stumbled back into the main chamber, breaking the arrow shaft in half with a grunt of pain.

“Impressive.” The sheriff sauntered into view, cocky and armed with a sturdy short sword in either hand. “Most adventurers just figure its asleep and go charging in. You didn’t.”

“The ‘braylith’ you mean?” Klasdane spat. His right arm throbbed terribly. He held his spear awkwardly in his left. “This is no lair. I saw the fake for what it was. Why the charade?”

The sheriff chuckled, raising his weapons. “It’s quite simple really. The people need something to fear and there’s always an idealist that needs to disappear. The peacebinder religion is gaining ground and too many people these days seek equality over order.”

“So now, when you need someone dead,” Klasdane hissed, backing up to the center of the cave. “you just drag them to this cave and blame it on a braylith.”

“Indeed.” The sheriff replied, whirling his short swords. “If a few hot headed youths have to die too, such is the risk of going after brayliths. They can smell souls, I hear, so adventurers have to take them one-on-one, perfect for our little cause.”

“So why are you hesitating?” Klasdane said, eying the sheriff stance suspiciously. “I’m wounded, why are you waiting?”

“Well,” the sheriff admitted, nodding towards their surroundings, “we obviously could use some help making this lair look respectable and you are in need of gold, are you not?”

Klasdane paused, licking his lips as he glanced at the man’s hefty coin purse. “What are you offering me, exactly?”

“Enough gold to set you right, for months.” The sheriff said, shrugging his shoulders innocently.  “Say the braylith wounded you and you fled, obviously. Help us make the farce look truly believable. Then walk away. You don’t owe the Peacebinders anything.”

Klasdane walked over to the small cistern and took a sip of the cool water, toying with the thought of so much gold. The temptation vanished in a single realization. “What about the child? She wasn’t even a Peacebinder.”

The sheriff’s confidence flickered for a moment. “That was a mistake that needed correcting.”

“A mistake…Whose?” Klasdane echoed, picturing the faces of the townspeople, the sheriff and the child’s mother. “By the Gods, she was your child, wasn’t she?”

“Now, she’s just another victim of the braylith.” The sheriff said, shrugging his guilt aside. “Do we have a deal?”

Someone yelped in the distance. Outside the cavern, a brawl erupted. “We suspected as much.” Klasdane said fiercely. “My friends followed your deputies, just in case. That young girl was my niece, you monster.”

The sheriff’s eyes widened in shocked realization. “How much gold would it take?”

Klasdane answered with a firm kicked at the still water, sending a wave of icy cold into the sheriff’s face as he dove in. Blade snapped against spear. Klasdane slammed into the sheriff’s chest. They tumbled to the moss-covered ground. One of his attacker’s swords clattered away, but the sheriff pinned Klasdane by the throat, holding his sword aloft.

“This is how yo-” The sheriff sputtered. Klasdane kicked the blade aside. Metal severed leather and he yelped as warm blood filled his boot. He pulled his skinning knife free and rolled atop the sheriff, plunging the blade into his neck.

“As to the legend of the Braylith,” Klasdane grunted, watching the life fade from the sheriff’s surprised eyes. “consider it slain.”