A Thief's Fall

I can still vividly recall the sound of Ipizam’s spine snapping in half as we hit the bottom of the rocky chasm, and it sends a shiver down my own aching back. I would be dead if not for him. The fall was from a great height. I have more than a few cuts, scrapes, and bruises to show for it. I thought my ankle had broken, but after quite a few days, I am finally able to walk around on it. Nikti must be showing some mercy. Our water skins are running low, and there are no more stale biscuits to eat. I wish I had rationed them a bit better. It seems a long trek through this gorge will be the only way out. I have thought about it long over the last few days. There might perhaps be enough to eat after all. I will do all that I can to reserve my strength.

Unfortunately, I have hardly slept since the fall, as Ipi’s cries of pain keep me awake into the morning. He must have cracked his head upon impact, for he drifts in and out of consciousness. When he stirs, he does little but moan in agony. Come night, when the fog descends down into the ravine and the chill seeps into his broken bones, he begins to scream as if on fire. I contemplated putting him out of his misery by dropping a large stone upon his head, but I cannot. So, instead I have gone sleepless. This might be for the better, though. I can hear the wolves scratching upon the rocky crags above, searching for a safe way down, no doubt drawn to us by the cries.

I would hate for them to catch me by surprise as I sleep, and I will not give them the chance to carry off Ipi into the night like a fox with a cockerel. If they come, I will fight them off. At least their presence lets me know there is nowhere to climb up. The best chance for escape is to follow the gorge until it ends, or the slopes become shallow enough to ascend. I have decided to swaddle Ipi in my cloak and carry him with me. Hopefully we have enough water to keep us alive until I reach the way out. The thought of an ork carrying a goblin around like a child is almost humorous enough to bring a smile to my face in this dismal time.

* * *

The wolves are growing hungrier. Last night they almost caused a rockslide in their search for a path down to us. I got scared and immediately set to work whittling down a shaft from one of the old, dried up tree limbs scattered about the ravine. To it, I fastened the spear head Ipi and I had been commissioned to steal. It is a lovely piece, and no doubt worth much more than they were paying us to retrieve it. It has elaborate etchings all along its surface, with engravings of old runes that I am sure mark some kind of enchantment. If the wolves find a way down, I will be ready.

I contemplated building a fire with some more of the branches, but I fear the smoke might alert others to our location. We were nearly caught by the Baron’s mercenaries as we trekked across the Highmounts. If we had not fallen into this cesspit, I am sure they would have caught up to us on the trail. They should have long passed by now, but I don’t know if they will double back. For now, I will avoid any fires, even if Ipi continues to scream all night in the cold. I would rather face the wolves’ teeth than the hangman’s noose.

* * *

I am worried. Ipi seems to be getting ill. He has grown as pale as a goblin can get and seems a little feverish. I think he might have an infection. I may risk building a fire to cook his meat properly and avoid any possible diseases. I might try cauterizing his cuts while I am at it too. The bandages I have applied keep soaking through and I am running out of cloth to keep changing them. I may also have to give Ipi a larger water ration to keep him from succumbing to the fever. I am scared that in the end, neither of us will make it out of this gorge alive.

  I never should have taken that stupid contract. It was Ipi who had insisted on it, saying we would make enough coin to book passage to Koventry. He said he has close friends that live on the flotillas and barge-towns that surround the capital, and that he could get us into the Order of St. Latra. Apparently, they have a good deal going on down there, running protection rackets on the locals. He said I would be a perfect fit with my size and intimidating appearance. It all sounded too good to be true. Now he is dying, and I am stuck two or three poles in the ground.

* * *

I found a dead wolf in the morning. It seemed like it had fallen through the crags and was crushed by falling rocks and debris. The carrion birds had been hard at work on the carcass. I decided not to harvest any of the flesh, not knowing what kind of diseases it may harbor. I left it be and continued my march, much more alert than before. I figured it would not be much longer before the wolves found their way down into the chasm, and I was right. They came after us as night fell. I had just laid Ipi down by the fire and had begun to cut up my evening meal when I heard them scurrying around in the dark.

They came fast. I was barely able to grab the spear in time. The first one would have had my throat had I not managed to grab a hold of it as it lunged. Using the beast’s momentum, I flung it around and out of the way. The next one sprang at me from a far enough distance that I was able to catch it on the end of the spear. It cried out, shaking violently like nothing I have ever seen before until it’s body finally went limp. I pried the weapon loose with ample time to defend myself against the next. I pierced it in the ribs, and it immediately fell, convulsing and tossing around as if its body were aflame. The unholy noises it made pierced my ears. After a few terrible moments, it finally died. More kept coming. Each one fell before the spear, their death throws displaying an agony no mortal being should have to endure. I can only assume that whatever strange enchantment is engraved upon its surface makes it deadly to the scratch. It is a tormentous death, unlike any other. I was extremely cautious as I cleaned off the wolves’ blood. In total, I took six of the little sards down, and another three ran away into the darkness.

I doubt they will bother me again, but if they do, I am more than confident with this weapon at my side. As far as Ipi is concerned, however, I am not sure he will last much longer. I will double my speed come the morning. I am exhausted and dehydrated, but I cannot afford to waste more time. The wolves’ attack indicates that an exit is near, and I intend to find it before Ipi leaves this world.

* * *

It has been a week since I made it out, and all has gone in my favor. I have pleased Nikti, it would seem. I was quite angry at the thought of dying in such a rocky, desolate place, but through sheer determination, I made it out of that ravine alive. Well, sheer determination and Ipizam. It was his fault we wound up in there. He attacked me, angry at our argument over his poor choice of contracts, and sent us tumbling down into the chasm. Yet, if his little body had not cushioned my fall, it would have been my head cracked open instead of his spine snapped in two.

He proved of further use when I realized I could harvest meat from his body to sustain myself. We were out of our biscuit rations, so over the course of my trip through the gorge, I slowly ate away at his legs. It was a little stringy and tasteless at first, but after cooking the meat over the fire, I almost came to enjoy the flavor. I just had to keep him from dying before I made it out in order to avoid his flesh going rotten. I did get scared when he took ill, but it all worked out well in the end. In fact, he even served to distract the remaining wolves that were hunting us, as I left him at the ravine’s entrance, a parting gift for them to feast on.

The funny thing is, I would have felt sorry about leaving him in such a state, had he not regained consciousness. He awoke just as we were clearing the rocky crags and began screaming when he saw he no longer had legs below his knees. He started cursing up a storm and alerted the wolves that were waiting in the nearby brush. I socked him on the side of the head a few times and threw his mangled body at the beasts, walking away with a smile. Still, I cannot pretend that I would have survived without him. Nor would I have lost the trail of the headhunters had we not fallen into the gorge. And I certainly would not have this enchanted spear in my possession. I have decided to keep it for myself, contract be damned. It will come in handy, for I have resolved to take up mercenary work, and this spear is ever so deadly. The sad truth is none of this would have happened without Ipi. Perhaps I shall name the spear after him… nah, that would be a stupid name.