Vol 1 Ch 6: The Valiant

THE SNOW CRUNCHED BENEATH HIS BOOTS. Dimitry treaded through the white fields, dragging his warhammer behind him. The echoes of the battlefield came to an end; the only ones left were the victors.

Dimitry stopped before a dying boar. A part of its stomach was torn off, barely keeping itself alive. He ran his hand on its neck as if to soothe the poor beast’s heavy breathing. Whispering a short prayer, he raised his hammer and brought it down with one swift motion as blood and snow scattered everywhere.

 He continued walking through the silent tundra, picking up the red flag with a golden flame symbol. Corpses of both Thirios and warriors were scattered everywhere, the remnants of war. He was accustomed to it; in three hundred years of serving Smihja, he had fought countless battles —against shadow beasts and humans alike. Dimitry managed to stay alive each time, witnessing his comrades’ last breath. He was a survivor.

The wars took a lot from him; his friends, his family, and his wife. On the other hand, it proved how strong he was and how much he could endure, but was it all worth it? Dimitry lost more than he gained. He realized that one day the war would take something even greater once his strength deteriorated over time. So, what? He had nothing to lose anymore. But there was more to life for Dimitry than friends, family, and love. There was more to the path of a warrior than fighting pointless wars.

It was time he retired as Smihja’s war general. He was exhausted from the constant bloodshed and he figured it would also be interesting to try another way to live life. Gazing at the vast deep blue sea with his soldiers behind him, Dimitry pierced the flag’s pole on the top of the cliff, announcing both their victory and his departure.

* * * * *

Ten years later, he had found himself a home in Bronnan, a rural region in Mercurius. The town he lives in was near the Maian Mountains which were popular mining spots for Aitherite ores in the country. Its lode of minerals provided Mercurians with a great number of resources needed for various Aitherite productions.

Dimitry wiped the sweat on his forehead as he continued hammering and forming a hunting knife on his anvil. He heated the metal back on the forge and to his anvil several times until he finally formed its blade before setting it aside to cool off.

“Oi! Dwarf! Make sure you deliver those mining tools before noon!” His old and bald superior ordered before entering the Eastern Trade Company’s office. It annoyed Dimitry how the man hadn’t learned his name yet when he was working there for almost a year.

After forging a few more kitchen wares, he headed towards the storage shed and picked up the crates of said tools. Once he had loaded them on the hood of the company’s car, he turned on the ignition and drove towards the mountain’s direction.

The car’s engine buzzed as the automobile run on the dusty dirt road across the rice fields of Cataron. The occasional cry of cows can be heard from the green pastures he had passed by. So far, country life is treating the dwarf well. For once, Dimitry could look at the blue sky with ease. No more deafening battle cries nor foes to be slain; all he had to worry about was making enough money to feed himself. He no longer felt like cannon fodder who no one would care about once he bit the dust.

The road had started to incline upward — a sign that he was near the Cataron Mines. He parked beside the miners’ cars and pulled out the trolley where he stacked the crates all at once. Normally, they would be too heavy to carry for the average human even with the exception of climbing the inclined path; that was why the heavy lifting was always assigned to him since he could carry more than his size.

“Oh! You’re Dimitry from the Eastern Trade Company, am I right?” A man greeted him with awe and curiosity written on his face, withdrawing from his other miner companions.

The dwarf just nodded in agreement, already accustomed to the question he kept getting asked daily. His people are not commonly found anywhere except Smihja, so he understood that he would somehow attract attention in other countries like Mercurius. “Where should I leave these?”

“Oh, right! Follow me.” The miner guided him to the mine entrance and pointed at the space by the fork of two tunnels. “You can just leave it there. Our men will be taking those to their designated places. As for your payment...” He reached for his pockets as if to search for something. “That’s odd. It’s supposed to be in here.”

Dimitry’s naturally sharp ears flicked when he heard the slightest of clinks behind a boulder on the left tunnel. Curious, he slowly approached whoever or whatever is behind that large rock while grabbing a sledgehammer from the crates. He could hear soft breathing as he had gone closer, immediately realizing there were two people behind it.

“Bryce, go ahead I’ll slow them down!” A fleet-footed white figure ran deeper into the tunnels, hugging the bag of coins. Dimitry barely saw its features but he was sure it was a young boy.


“Over here, old man!” The same small voice of a girl called him from the boulder, her palms are facing his face while her thumbs and index finger formed a triangle. “Eat this!”

A ball of white light exploded between them and blinded Dimitry temporarily. As a former soldier, he was quicker to recover from flash attacks than the common people. The dwarf knew what to do in case of the said attack, he managed to hold onto the girl’s arm tightly to prevent her from escaping.

“Let me go!” She hissed at him, scratching his arms with her sharp nails as a cat would. “This is sexual harassment; you know?”

Dimitry studied the girl’s tiger ears and crystal blue eyes. She was one of the Beastkin, a race native to the Fengaris Isles. He assumed the other child was one too since he caught a glimpse of his long white tail. Calmly, the dwarf asked, “Why are you kids inside the mines? It’s too dangerous.”

“Huh? Why do you care, old man?” She raised an eyebrow while still scratching his arm even if it did little damage. “You adults should mind your own damn business.”

“That was the company’s money you were stealing!” The miner pointed his finger at her angrily, advancing towards her and Dimitry. “Now, tell us where the other brat is or—”

The girl started laughing as if the man said a funny joke, displaying her fangs. “Or what? Sell us to slave traders? You know darn well orphanages don’t accept Beastkin children.”

Dimitry’s emerald eyes widened in realization. He turned the girl’s back towards him and slightly pulled down the rags she was wearing to see the slave trademark just below her nape. “You’re from Ahlea.”

“So what? That doesn’t change the fact that—”

Suddenly, the ground below them started shaking, getting more violent the longer it happened. They lost their balance as they covered their heads from the falling rocks. The earthquake lasted at least a minute before it stopped. It shook once again accompanied by loud clattering noises.

“Bryce!” The girl called out before biting Dimitry’s arm as hard as she can, finally inflicting pain on the stout dwarf. After releasing herself, she hurried in the direction the boy ran off to earlier.

“Dammit,” Dimitry cussed lowly while rubbing the area the girl bit. He turned to the miner, worried about the sound he heard after the tremor. “Can we get out?”

The man took off and peeked at the entrance, cursing as he started to panic. “No. The entrance has collapsed.” He walked back and forth while thinking. “There’s another way out to the Montargo Mines through the right tunnel, though it might take us a day to get there.”

“How about explosives?”

He shook his head. “We just ran out yesterday. Used all of it to make another hole farther down that tunnel.”

Dimitry could not help but worry about the two kids. He gripped the sledgehammer tightly, thinking about what he should do. He couldn’t just leave the children there; something could have happened to them during the tremor and needed saving. At the same time, finding the kids would take longer than he would have to. “Go ahead. I’ll be searching for those kids. My boss wouldn’t want me to return without payment.”

“At a time like this? Hey! Would you know where to go? Hey!” The echoes of the miner’s voice faded as he went deeper into the tunnel until all he could hear was his own footsteps.

Fortunately, the tunnel lights were still lit up; the power didn’t seem to have been cut off during the earthquake. Debris was scattered everywhere as he searched through the tunnels, carefully looking for signs left by the kids. The momentary silence was broken once Dimitry heard a rustle before taking a right turn.

“Q! Q! Wake up!” A small voice cried and desperately shouted, “Help! Somebody! Please!”

Dimitry found the white-haired boy sitting on the floor shaking the unconscious girl. He hurried to their side before another tremor happened, protecting them. The little girl didn’t seem to have any injury, but her skin felt burning hot. “What’s wrong?”

Looking closely, the boy had identical features and characteristics to the girl. It was only then that he realized the two were twins. The boy pointed to his right while trembling; tears stained his fair cheeks as he sobbed the words, “In there.”

His eyes followed the child’s finger, seeing what caused the girl to collapse. Two remains of large leeches lay meters away from them However, upon closer look, Dimitry realized how familiar their skin was. They were silky and as black as ebony, unlike ordinary leeches. Thirios again. They really won’t let me live in peace, huh?

“Not them.” The boy’s voice trailed behind him. “That thing on the wall.”

Several cocoons were attached to the ceiling and walls. Its formerly dark color started to become lighter, an indication that it began sucking energy from the land of the living. The leeches earlier were not the common Thirios; the people called them Sporos, the seeds.

The dwarf noticed its gradual increase in size, which can only mean one thing; the cocoons will soon release waste in the form of gas. It was the reason behind the little girl’s unconsciousness. He tore the sleeves of his shirt and went back to the kids. “Make sure to cover your nose and mouth with this. It won’t be much of a cover but it would be better than none.”

“But mister, it’s drenched with your sweat.” The small boy whined innocently, unaware of the peril waiting for them.

“Kid, what’s your name?”

“Bryce,” he answered with a runny nose.

“And your sister?”


“Listen, Bryce, the thing that made Q faint was only a warning sign that those cocoons will release hazardous waste a few minutes later. We have to get out of here before that happens,” Dimitry gently explained to him while looking at his round crystal blue eyes. Once he had convinced him, he carried both kids on each side of his shoulders. The dwarf headed back to the tunnel fork, picking up his speed despite of his short strides.

Halfway to their destination, Dimitry caught the foul scent of the cocoons’ gas waste — like rotten flesh, putrid and revolting, the smell of death. He ran faster even after reaching the right tunnel, knowing well how far the gas can travel in a matter of time.

Dimitry stopped, trying to catch his breath. Before resuming their escape, his sharp nose smelt iron, an odor he was very familiar with. He would recognize it anywhere with his three hundred years of experience as a warrior, the scent of a fresh kill.

“Mister? What is—”

The dwarf heard something rustling from the dark tunnel ahead as his nose confirmed the creature was approaching them. He put down the kids behind him, gesturing for Bryce to stay there. Whatever was coming at him, he was ready to face it with a single sledgehammer.

Dimitry only had ten years of rest from war and he won’t let these shadow creatures ruin it. He stretched his arms and neck before doing a stance. “Come at me, you bastard.”

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