The deep aquamarine skies did not in anyway reflect Tin Fiddle’s mood. He sat under an old crab apple tree upon a small hilltop a few miles east of Hysteria. The ground was littered around with the sad shrivelled offerings from said tree, but Tin cared not, finding them momentarily amusing to splunch in the palm of his metal hand, wiping the remains off in the grass after every three or four that he murdered. He could tell that Autumn was in full swing, even without his personal knowledge of and acquaintance with the Goddess in the city just over there.
A crab apple was launched from his hand, a zip through the air, and a strangled caw came from the tree above. A raven fell briefly after, stunned or dead, Tin did not care. Selah was keeping an eye on him for Her sister, and that only darkened his mood. He glared at the markings of the black chains etched upon his forearms. Another crab apple missile was deployed.
The missile was fired back at even higher velocity then thrown, and would have taken Tin right between the eyes, was its trajectory six inches lower. The man with the iron fist peered warily from the depths of his drawn hood. A minute later, his confusion was cleared. An ogre-sized troll approached him, its head clearing the hilltop long before the rest of its maple bark-skinned body followed.
The monster stood well over thirteen feet, its arm span easily matching its height. Wide of shoulder and hips, long of neck, torso, and limbs, the troll dominated Tin’s field of vision. The smell of the tasty liquid that hides under the bark of a maple tree was pungent upon the air. Its arms were not overtly wide, by ogre standards, meaning they were massive by troll standards. Both arms ended in five-fingered hands that were gnarled, both when closed resembled war mauls that had seen much use. It’s right hand at the moment was wrapped around the haft of an actual war maul that would of weighed more than thrice Tin’s body. Tin crossed his arms across his chest, resting them just above the hidden pommels of knives secreted in various places upon his torso. He took a breath to steady his suddenly nervous composure and waited for the troll to speak.
“My name is Bors Kylsmal and you killed my cat.” The voice was the crunching of dead leaves upon the forest floor. It’s ugly face was scrunched in a fixture of distaste. “You will die now.”
Tin snorted. “No, no I did not.” He also dove out of the way of the war maul that came slamming in his direction.
“Yes you did, you filthy pale skin.” The angered troll readied another blow, grunting heavily as it raised its weapon.
“If I recall correctly,” Tin began, as he moved to place the old, wide trunk of the tree between himself and his peeved guest, “and I do, I left the door to the hut open and your cat, who need I remind you never ever, and I’m going to stress this fact, never, left the house for any reason in four years, wandered out.”
The troll stopped its approach. A dumb smirk took residence upon its face. “So you admit it pale skin! You killed her. Stand still and die.”
Tin continued circling in the opposite direction of Bors. “Are you even sure she’s dead? Dammit, we saw her not even two months later just as winter took hold! She ate the food you left out and ran away as soon as you went near her!”
Bors spat at Tin’s feet. “I’m dead certain she’s dead.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Oh.” Tin tilted his head to the side as he observed the feline carcass at his feet.
“I want a new kitten.”
A strangled laugh erupted from Tin. “You strode out of the Storied Land, crossed eight oceans and four continents, terrorized, I’m sure, hundreds if not thousands of humans, to come find and half ass attempt to maim me, because your cat had a cat’s curiosity?”
Bors did not answer.
“You, by some unknown sorcery that I’m sure included sacrifice of a goat, bee hive and some poor terrified virgin farm girl , found me to request I produce a kitten in replacement of Cambria?”
The troll’s anger had dimmed. It stood in silence for a long time, considering Tin. Its breath echoed the rustle of Winter’s wind thru the debris of foliage left by Autumn’s path. When it spoke, all intensity had left its voice. “Well. Yes, that.” Tin relaxed for the briefest of moments. “And this.”
A moment, please, as Tin gathers his wits and confirms that his swollen head is indeed still attached to his shoulders.
Tin sits up slowly, tentatively turning his head to the left, then right, making sure that he has range of movement. He then looks up at the troll now standing above him.
“You hate violence.”
A nod. “I do. I also liked my cat, Toernslaav.”
“Gods be damned, I don’t go by that name anymore, and there is more to this than that!”
Another nod. “Aye, well.”
Another bout of the proverbial cat catching a tongue began.
Sometime later found the two quietly lost in thought, one standing, war maul rested across its shoulders, the other sitting, nursing a terribly sore head. The glaring sun in the sky began its decent towards its destination of another place somewhere in the world.
Bors ventured a question. “Where did your dainty hand go, Toernslaav? And how was it replaced by the flesh of a star? Did you meditate for years on end? Did you scream for long periods of time, focusing your power?”
“Funny. Had a word with the old Reaper before He flew the coop. He took the hand with Him. Goddess gave me one back.” Tin looked up in Bor’s direction. “I heard you were dead.”
Something akin to a gooses’ honk resounded across the open air. “Stupid villagers only buried me six feet below. Mind you, they did make the grave long enough. But I just stood up and climbed out.”
“Lack of foresight, I see. Never thought through what would happen if the dead troll woke up did they?”
“Apparently hitting me over the head once with a hammer, while I slept, convinced them that I was dead.”
“Did you murder them all in their sleep in return?”
“No, just the ‘warrior’ who ‘slew’ me. Favour for a favour really.”
Tin chuckled, and Bors smiled a rare smile.
“Glut still around?”
“Isn’t the gravel inspiring around this city?”
“I heard you caught snake fever. One of the Weaver’s themselves?”
“She doesn’t understand a single of of my terrible jests. Yet she laughs all the same. I think I’m in love.”
“Okay, fine. Infatuation.”
“That, I’ll believe. On the subject of infatuation, whatever happened with the priestess, the one with the lower half ‘akin to a horse’.”
“She cursed me to have Death follow wherever I go. Actually was able to get the curse to take hold, although not in the way she would of liked.”
“Ah, is that why one of Her crows follows you even now?’”
Tin muttered a curse, looked over his shoulder and spotted another of Selah’s damned crows. He scooped up a disposed crab apple and whipped it off into the air. A satisfying strangled caw, followed by the thump of its carcass made him smile.
“I saw your father.”
Tin’s smile suddenly dropped. “Oh.”
“As far as he knows, you’re still the craven firstborn son who abandoned the family to find himself.”
“So he still thinks I’m a failure.”
“Good. Fuck him.”
“He’ll learn one day that that’s not the truth.”
“It is the truth, I’m as craven as the night is black. I just sometimes am not afforded the luxury of being a coward.”
“Cowards run. From everything I hear, you’ve faced some ridiculous odds, and not once have you fled.”
“Well when the Goddess who has you chained and enslaved starts wars on a whim, running is not really an option.” Tin looked off into the darkening sky. “What did my father say? His words, verbatim.”
“’Toernslaav left me. My firstborn, and only son left alive, left me. He is a stain upon our family’s history, and hated by all in our lands. But,’” Bors added an unnecessary dramatic pause, “’I miss him. I miss my son. Tell him he can come home, Bors of the Three. I forgive him.’ To be honest, I echo one of his thoughts. Its why I came all this way.” Bors looked pointedly at Tin.
“And which thought would that be, barkskin.”
“You left me.”
Tin blinked. “Oh.” Some sputtering before the words came through. “We…us…we were never like…you know…that.”
Bors sighed. “I’m well aware of that, Toernslaav of the Aranaea. But King Aryn disappeared, then Ben left, and Glut came back, and by the God’s, are you aware of the utter disgusting and vile mess that he leaves wherever he squats? Do you?”
“Aye, I’m aware. And I told you I do not use that name anymore.”
The troll barked a laugh and pointed a finger a foot long in length at Tin’s forehead. “Oh I’ve heard of the Goddess’s manservant, ‘Tin Fiddle’.” You abandoned me!”
Sudden understanding came to Tin then. “I missed you too, big guy.”
“I can come visit you, you know. Smash some mossy boulders to dust, like before.”
“Very well.” Bors offered his hand to his old companion. Tin grasped it and was pulled to and from his feet, but he landed softly, his balance easily kept.
A mischievous smile crept onto Tin’s face. “There’s a quarry half a mile out from the city. They’re supposed to be hauling for that bitch Goddess’s new temple, but She’s the gold to cover a delay in its construction. The foremen will just have to report an ‘accident’.”
“She’ll torture them.”
“Probably. She’s gone far past power hungry, and now borders on either side of insane and genius.”
“You will not lament the deaths of innocent men?”
“Have I ever?”
Bors signalled an affirmative. “When a man and a woman…”
The pair began a lazy path down from the crab apple tree, a silence shared of many hardships and years faced together, a love shared only by the truest of brothers, though never use that word with their names linked together, unless a death wish is something one wishes. Of the worst temper, scholars still debate who’s is more terrible.