Pleased to Meat You
So you’re dithering in the the street one day, trying to work out which turn to take to reach Gampforth’s Exotic Potionérie when you fail to notice a dwarf, and you walk right into him. “EX-FUCKING-SCUSE ME” he spits into your face from a distance of two inches, before grabbing you by the collar. Before you know what’s happened, he’s done some kind of headbutt-somersault pivoting around your collar, landed on your shoulders with his feet squeezeing your neck, Pulling your hair and your head straight up. He reaches down and holds a long, thin flint dagger to your neck.
“The fuck you think you’re doing? Is this your fucking street? Is it? Is It? I would slit you from gullet to sphincter, if I didn’t have places to go.” His right knee connects with the back of your head, and he leaps off you as your body crumples and your face hits the dust.
“Ha! Look at you now!” he giggles. “Dozy fucker. Bumping into Bleaklow. What were you thinking?”
“Bleaklow?” You turn your head up from the dust and look at him. Average height for a dwarf, but very buff. A unique chainmail… mankini? You can’t really tell what colour his skin originally was, because it is now made of tattoos. He seems to have had an accident with a bottle of green-and-yellow hair dye. It streaks his hair, and runs into his otherwise gunmetal-grey beard.
“That name sounds familiar, are you… ”
“It fucking ought to! I’m Bleaklow. Who doesn’t know Bleaklow. Everyone knows Bleaklow…
“Opponents fear me. Audiences love nme. And fear me too. People have called me a psychopath, but those people are all dead now.”
“Oh. A… a pit fighter. Gladiator? Do you…”
“None of your fucking business! You should come and see me fight next Sunday. I’m taking on 7 orcs. That should be more fun that I’ve had since Grog. You heard about Grog? The ogre? Grog Hardwall. Right? I was the only one who ever beat him. Got him all tangled up in Big Trouble – Big Trouble is my net, you must know. While the net’s wires were cutting into him I made him beg, beg for mercy. Beg. And I made him put on a silly voice while he begged. Because I could.
“I’ve got lots of friends, lots of weapons, my only friends are my sweet singing weapons. Not just the net, Big Trouble. Course not! You’ve got to have something with a bit of edge, right? Loads of friends. Everyone knows Bleaklow. Edged weapons sing to me.
“It was Death Rattle, my greataxe, that finished Grog off. Last week I fought with Death Rattle’s little brothers, Kill Something and Kill Something II. Quality axes. When I have one in each hand I can get a nifty windmill action going. Great! Great for carving a path through groups of losers. I can juggle my kill-axes too, but jugging’s for elves and the terminally dull.
“Then there are my daggers, my darlings, my daggers. My shivs and my singing knives. Nobody Loves a Dwarf is my favourite. A Kris, I bought her when I won my first season, one of the priciest things I own, ‘brought from lands far, far away’, the merchant said. Before I killed him.
“And my shivs, my lovely little shivs. I keep at least a dozen on me at any times, hidden all over, sewn in all of my clothes. You’d never find them if you looked. I call my shivs ‘The Nolan Sisters’.
“I’ve got other nets too, as well as Big Trouble. I weave them all myself, each one sized and weighted for a different type of opponent, for a different way of fighting, of killing.
“Squeal You Pillock, Squeal is my favourite. Catch a hobbit or a goblin in her barbed hooks and you can torture them for hours before the puny things die. I once did that with a “Proudfoot”. Hobbit arse. It was the height of summer, that hot, dry summer of ‘69. It was hot, so hot you could fry an egg on a midget’s backside. So I did.
“Finally there’s Faith, Hope and Charity, my workaday nets, used for all other combat, for tangling up gladiators and criminals. When I’m fighting more than one opponent I like to loose all three at once, to trap every one of the wankers. I’ve taken on five minotaurs before. I bathed in Bull’s Blood for a week.
“There’s a bunch of family in the lock-up too: swords, hammers, caltrops, flails, a small, tight snare drum “Oskar” which I use to herald my entrance to the pit. I’m always on the search for new hardware. Know of any going cheap? What I could really do with are a pair of tattoist’s guns. I could have a lot of fun with a pair of tattooist’s guns.
“I was born here in VK, though don’t know who my parents were. Dead I guess, who cares. By the time I was three, I was running errands for the Ratfuckers from the Abboleth Plague Quarter. I learned to fake dice games with the munt smokers on Patchilolou Corner and along the Rue Voseni. We were a double act, me and my blood brother Jack Mercy. Jack was the straight man, I was the comedian. We were never going to get rich pulling tricks, but it taught us street smarts. A taste for blood too. I killed a Hobbit before my 4th birthday. Cunt had called me Grimblebeard. No fucker gets away with calling me Grimblebeard.
“Jack Mercy, ah, he was such a good friend, back when we were murdering toddlers. He couldn’t do enough for me. I knew I could rely on him in any tight spot. Which is why, after killing the hobbit, I dobbed him in for it. Well I wasn’t going to go away for it myself, was I?
“Jack was bawling and crying and cursing me as they carted him off in the meat wagon. They put him in Voss Jail, but he escaped after three years, lost a hand during the caper, I heard. Then the cunt sneaked into the gladiator’s quarters, under the arena, and stole all of my trophies. My hard-won trophies, everything I’d won in my first year of fighting. Thirty-three fights! I’d like to see any other fucker with thirty-three fights. I got angry then, I remember. I found most of the trophies over the next few weeks, in pawn shops on the Kandisstraße and in the market off Byzantium Boulevard. But I never found the pink rosette, the spoils of my first fight. Only a pig, but I was 7 and I finished it off with panache. Pigfucker did me proud.
“When I find Jack Mercy he’s going to wish he’d never been born. I’ve got a plaque hung above my training room door where I’m going to stick his head. Only fair, he stole my trophies. I’ll make a trophy of him. With Jack’s head on the wall, exercise will be a family affair. My old brother, staring down at me, knowing he’ll never achieve what I’ve achieved.
“I’ve always been a suave fucker. Which is why I attracted the attention of Chuck Silk, gold-suited agent to all the best pit fighters. Fucking elf cunt tried to come on to me though, so I shivved him. Not that I mind doing it with men. Elves even. As long as I get to be on top, and they like it rough. Actually, it’s better if they don’t like it rough. Much the same with women.. And pigs. I draw the line at rats and chickens though. My ideal partner would be a trans Hobbit with three dicks, since you ask. But I’d soon get bored of them and… ha ha ha! You know what’s coming next, don’t you?
“What? Don’t stand there looking like a constipated fucking prune.
“Where was I? The Pit, the Ring! I’ve been champion longer than any dwarf before me. 30 years, more in fact. I’m 45 now, still loving it as much as that first pig kill. More, in fact. Always more to learn. New tricks and moves to perfect. The audience turn on you if you try to pull the same trick twice. That’s why they love me so. I never, ever bore them. I never let them down. Everyone loves Bleaklow!
“I’m told you need to pick a side in this world, choose an alignment, choose a deity, but I say Fuck. That. Call me chaotic evil if you like, I don’t give a shit. I look after number one. And there are no other numbers, just rows of XXXXs. Though when it comes to gods, I’ve always liked the sound of Baphomet. Goats like me. We understand one another.”
At that, the dwarf suddenly shuts up and lunges at you. You flinch as his cobalt-blue eyes halt an inch from yours, and he pulls out of another headbutt at the last minute. His beard stinks, stale with sour genever and offal.
“Ha!” he laughs as you flinch and back away. “If you ever, ever fucking bump into me again, you’re losing both those pretty eyes of yours. Have fun on your shopping trip!”
And you’re left standing there, in the middle of the road, wondering what just happened.
Character sheet for Bleaklow, 5th level Hill Dwarf fighter
Inspired by the dwarves of M John Harrison, especially Tomb.
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