When It All Ended

Hamm Stoutfire walked along the avenue with an armload of firewood in the satchel on his back. The Capital was freezing but, because of the war, the shipments of firewood were slowing down. Hamm had thought about closing his shop and joining the crews searching for fresh lumber. He would be saving lives as the temperatures dropped and there was probably some good coin in it. Also, it never hurt to get a little credit for civil service. His shop was sometimes frequented by less than favorable citizens and tourists as Hamm had never been picky when it came to less savory individuals. ‘Coin is coin and coin is good’ was Hamm’s personal motto. The Guard rarely came around to hassle him so he figured he must not be doing anything too wrong.

He could see his breath puff out before him as he walked down the street. He playfully pretended he was blowing out smoke like had done so many times as a no good kid. He wondered if he would get any customers today. Between the cold and the war along the border, people might just continue to huddle in their homes. Most of the day, only members of The Guard seemed to walk the streets. It made the city’s criminals cautious as there was no crowd to slip into and no pockets to pick. Picking a Guard officer’s pocket was often too risky even for a city whose belt was starting to tighten due to the war effort. If something did not get better, people would start dropping like flies.

Of course, the news from the war front was terrifying. The latest news was that the Sherans had joined their army with the forces of the ancient demon Vistra. Vistra was a name that most Elorians did not speak and barely dared to think. Now the demon seemed to have returned and things looked grim for the Elorian military. Hamm shuddered at the thought of the demons winning the war. He had made his peace with the possibility of the Sherans winning and taking the place over. He imagined that things would not be much different. There was no telling what the demons were capable of. He might end up getting skinned alive or they might all burn for eternity. Not to mention that one of the armies had apparently raised the dead en masse. It kind of felt like the end.

“Hey Stubby!” A voice called out. Hamm turned to look at an open doorway, a woman silhouetted by the candlelight behind her. He frowned. He had never liked how some people made fun of his Dwarven height. It was generally something not done in polite society but, of course, Hamm had never been a

“Moira,” Hamm said gruffly. “Kindly fuck off.” There was a long beat of silence. “And happy solstice.”

Moira laughed, putting her cigar out with the tips of her finger so she did not waste any while she was talking. The warmth of it still filled her lungs along with some illegal magical residuum. Hamm noted the telltale red, wispy smoke. “Give me one of those logs, Hammy.”

“I’m sure you don’t need it,” Hamm said. “You’ve got plenty of wood to keep you warm, don’t you?”

“Very funny,” Moira said. She spat on the cobblestones between them. “I haven’t gotten many customers these last two weeks and besides you know I specialize in female customers.”

“I am not sure I can spare anything, Moira,” Hamm said. “I didn’t get anything out of the last shipment and I’m freezing my ass off in the back of my shop.”

“Well, you know what you can do with those logs then?” Moira asked with a smirk.

Hamm couldn’t help but mirror that smirk though it was mostly hidden by his bushy beard. “What?”

There was huge cracking noise from somewhere in the air. By the time that Hamm realized that it had actually come from the palace, large stones fell and slammed into the homes he was standing next to. In the devastation that followed, Moira was nowhere to be seen. Hamm rushed forward, not wanting the last exchange between them to be disgruntled sniping. Dimly in the back of his mind, he realized that the stones he was scrabbling over were actual pieces of the palace. That thing was the sturdiest building in Eloria. He tried to shove aside wooden beams and smaller rocks as he moved.

When he shoved aside what appeared to be Moira’s wooden door head, he saw the horrible thing that was left of Moira’s body. He staggered back into the street without remembering taking a single step. He retched and unleashed his meager breakfast onto the cobblestones. She had been alive just moments ago. He felt dizzy, weak. Somebody bumped into him as they ran by. The empty street was now full of people running away from something. Hamm shook his head to try to shake away the dizzy feeling.

A flash of green caught his eye and he looked up as the crowd barely moved around him. He ignored the impact of elbows and shoulders as he tried to keep his stance, clutching his load of firewood as if it mattered anymore. He tried to look for the green thing he thought he saw and then there it was. It was a dragon. A huge green one and it had demolished part of the castle. It was not a Sheran, a demon, or a zombie and yet here it was the end at last. The dragon looked around as it crawled over the palace roof and for a moment Hamm thought it looked into his eyes and fear overtook him. He ran in a blind panic for the rest of the day.

When he came to it was because of a firm hand on his shoulder. He looked up at an elf woman with long blonde, almost green hair.

“My name is Morgan,” The elf said. “What are you running from and how can we help?”

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