Bowls

Soup With the Enemy — Valkyrie: Ragnarok

A new excerpt from Valkyrie: Ragnarok is here! Join the crew of the Rat, a dwarven mine crawler, and their mysterious guest in Soup With the Enemy. Far from home and running out of supplies, the Rat’s crew resort to desperate measures…

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The churned sand sucked at her feet as she walked, her slave shift whispering against the sand as she moved. In the distance, the sun sank slowly past the darkening dunes again, marking another dusk. The twilight was dreamlike, peaceful.

Sand exploded up, a great cloud that showered dirt over the travellers. In the chaos that ensued, Faya caught only fragments of sound and sights. The awful clanking of metal. Balls of fire flying through the air. A guard, screaming as flames engulfed him. A loud crack and a flash, then death screams. A short, thick shouldered figure battered a guard with the butt of his weapon. Then vice-like hands grabbed her by the arm. She tried to run, to wrestle herself free. She didn’t want to die. A gruff voice, commanding her is a harsh language she couldn’t understand. She broke free. She ran. An arm wrapped around her waist and held her tight.

She was half pulled, half dragged through the sand and gloom. Several masked figures stood close, ramming rods into their long weapons, then firing gouts of explosive flame past her shoulder. More shouting, then more of the creatures arrived. She suddenly yanked up into the air. More thick hands grabbed her and she was bundled through a dark opening.

It was like another world. Dark, hard, cold, metallic. Acrid smoke burnt her nose and choked her lungs. It was cramped here, claustrophobic. She was shoved and pulled along. The metal grating below her feet clanked as the creatures jostled her.

There was a monstrous roar and the world began to buck and shudder beneath her feet. She fell over, cracking her head hard on the edge of something. More shouting. She got to her knees and felt warm blood running down her face, covering her fingers.

For a time, Faya must have blanked out. She caught glimpses of red light, heard rough, savage laughter, and the thump of a hammer. Darkness enveloped her, but always there was the horrible shuddering.

‘Gawn, you blundering bulldog. “Water,” I said, and here’s you, giving us another mouth to quench.’ Captain Stalslag flexed his bandaged hand, sitting forward in his captain’s chair to stare sternly at the younger dwarf.

‘Aye, Captain. But she was clearly a prisoner.’

‘So, is she our prisoner now, or who exactly have we done a favour for? She’s clearly no Savonin welp.’

‘I have no…’

‘Neither is she a local.’

‘Aye…’

‘Nor is she a mokith pup, though I might be glad if she were.’

‘Aye, but…’

‘Don’t speak while I’m scolding you, boy. This is an important lesson you need to learn. Use your head, boy. Your heart’s in the right place, but now we have a problem, and I don’t intend to be the one cleaning it up. Do you get my meaning?’

‘Aye, Captain. I…’

‘You’ll listen carefully, is what you’ll do. Beir recons we’ve got enough water to make the run back, which means three or four days. Five, if we’re unlucky. You need to decide what you’ll do with your little pet before we reach the grottoes.’ The captain held up three thick fingers. ‘Three days, Gawn, three days. After that she can’t come with us. You know the penalty. And it’ll be your head, not mine. Are we clear?’

‘Aye, Captain. You have my word.’

‘Good. You’re a good lad, and you did the right thing. Just sort it out, for all our sakes. Dismissed.’

‘Aye, Captain.’ Gawn turned on his heels and left the cockpit.

In the companionway he met The Geezer. ‘Gawn, Captain give you an earful, did he?’

‘Aye, but it’ll all be sorted soon.’

‘I have a mind to tell you the same thing that I’m sure the Captain did. She’s not something we want aboard when we reach the grottoes.’

Gawn moved to pass the older dwarf, who grabbed him by the arm before he could escape.

‘She’s not what you think, Gawn. She’s human enough, but not all of her is. She has a touch of the Dark Woods about her. That scares me, Gawn. She shouldn’t be alive if she’s one of their tryst bastards. That’s one taboo the elves don’t take a kindly view of.’

Gawn paused, considering the fact.

‘Poor thing cut her head. I bandaged her up. The proof’s right there, Gawn, hidden in her hair.’

‘Thank you, Geeze, you’re a good friend.’

‘I’ll be your only friend, if you don’t sort this out.’ The older dwarf chuckled. ‘What will you do?’

‘I’ll think of something.’

‘What? Drop her off with the mokith? Drop her off on the surface? I’m not sure what’s worse.’

‘There has to be a human settlement somewhere. Maybe the bedawi?’

‘The bedawi won’t touch her with a stick.’ Sal said, as he came in through a porthole, carrying a bowl of steaming soup for the captain. ‘Foods up. You better eat.’

‘Aye, before Beir scoffs it all.’ The Geezer said. ‘But take that bowl through, then explain what you mean.’

‘The bedawi?’ Sal asked, then continued. ‘They’re down to earth people, but they didn’t survive Angor by being curious.’

‘And other villages, Sal?’ Gawn asked.

‘You’re out of luck. The next village is a day’s detour north. Considering the Savonin were heading that way, I wouldn’t bet my luck on it.’

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