In July Lenny finishes his confrontation with the kholoth and ends the tale of his trouble with curses.
The keep’s gall-durn walls kept shakin’ harder’n harder. We rousted the rest of the boys and high-tailed it outta there.
We stood in the courtyard’n watched as the blasted place stared shakin’ apart. The ground outside was barely rumblin’.
“What is it, Lenui? Jimmie asked. “How is the kholoth doing it?” I shrugged. “How the hell should I know? It’s my first kholoth too.”
The roof caved in, sendin’ a plume of dust out the front door right at us. “What we need to do is keep runnin’,” Gundy said.
“Y’all do that,” I said. “Get as far from here as you can. I’ll catch up later.” I could keep it followin’ me so’s they could get away.
Gundy snorted. “I don’t think so, Lenui. You just want to keep the wizard loot fer yerself.” I rolled my eyes at the bastard. “Blast it!”
“Just shut yer yap, Gundy’n go. You’cn come back and paw through the rubble all you want later. I’m givin’ you the chance to leave alive.”
“Well I’m leavin’ then,” said Biff. “Good!” I said. “And drag Jimmie with you. I don’t need him chargin’ the blasted thing when it shows.”
“Yer stayin’ to fight that thing?” Pig Nose said. “You’ll die.” “That ain’t the plan,” I snapped. “I’ll survive. Just don’t know how yet.”
The shakin’ grew worse. Walls started fallin’ down. I grabbed Buster’n looked behind me to see ever’body’s arses fade into the distance.
They was runnin’ as fast as I should’ve been runnin’. Well I told ‘em to go after all. It was the gall-durn smart thing for ‘em to do.
So I waited fer the kholoth to show. I was thinkin’ hard on what to do. I’d been thinkin’ ever since we faced it down below. Still nothin’!
I thought maybe if its dag-burned hand was still stuck on the cursed dagger, maybe I could hit it just right with Buster’n . . .
Well hell, don’t quite ‘member what I was thinkin’. Just know that it was probly a stupid blasted idear.
If’n my kid really is readin’ this some day, listen. Don’t go chasin’ kholoths just to be like yer daddy. Yer daddy’cd be a dag-gum idjit!
When that kholoth finally came out the ground, I was in fer the surprise of my dag-blamed life!
The shakin’ stopped. It was quiet fer a few seconds. Then the gall-durn rubble started movin’. Rocks’n mortar spillin’ outward.
Then I saw it, just the spiky tip of the kholoth’s head pushin’ through the rocks. It grunted ’n shoved a whole dag-blamed wall aside.
Then it stepped out of the rubble and I saw it in the mornin’ light. It looked dag-blasted differn’t than the kholoth I saw underground.
It was bigger. Bulgier. It looked like it’d grown but, not like normal. It was like it’d swoll all up. It’s breathin’ was heavy too.
Its hand was still stuck to the lady hand dagger and the dagger was still stuck in its dag-blamed chest. Blood was leakin’ from the wound.
That’s when I noticed that kholoth blood was differnt from reg’lar kobold blood. It’s thicker and hotter. Like a dag-gum magma flow.
“You did this too me,” it said, magma blood flowin’ from its lips. “Actually it was Jimmie, but I’ll take the credit,” I said.
“Stop it,” the kholoth said. Even its dag-gum voice sounded swollen somehow. “Take this curse away from me, Firegobbler. Or die.”
Its skin was pulsin’, causin’ dag-gum cracks to open and shut as it did. Blatche’s curse was workin’ slow but sure.
“I look like a wizard to you?” I asked. “That’s Blatche’s curse, not mine.” “If he gave it to you . . . There must have been a cure.”
“If there was, he was too busy dyin’ to tell me ‘bout it,” I said and its shoulders slumped. “He wanted you dead dag-gum bad.”
It didn’t move towards me so I went on. “Blatche must’ve spent years gatherin’ up all them curses to make that blasted dagger.”
“I been thinkin’ and it don’t make sense fer him to do that all just ‘cause you didn’t follow his orders,” I said. “What was it?”
“And why should I tell you, Dwarf?” it asked, blood spillin’ out its mouth’n hissin’ on the ground. I looked at it long’n hard.
“Why not?” I asked. “Looks like the curse is gonna either gall-durn kill you or wear off here soon. Talkin’s somethin’ to do till then.”
“Fine then,” it spat. “Talk. Tell me how you ended’ up workin’ fer Blatche. If I believe you maybe I’ll garl-friggin tell you.”
So I told it my story, how we found the dagger stuck to a lady’s hand in the middle of a dragon’s eye and how Blatche duped me.
Its face was puffin’ and swellin’ more than before but it perked right up when I mentioned the dog. “Candle? Do you have him?”
“Naw. Poor dog got et by a cave worm on the way down to find you,” I said. Then I almost turded when the kholoth started cryin’.
It sat down on the ground so hard, the earth shook under my feet and a bunch more cracks opened up in its skin, lettin’ hot blood ooze out.
“Candle!” the kholoth howled like a big damn rock baby. “What’re you cryin’ ‘bout?” I asked. It was a sweet dog and all, but still.
“Poor Candle! Sweet Candle!” it sobbed. “He was my dog. I took him to the wizard when he started glowin’ green.”
“When was that?” I asked. It wiped away oily tears with its one unstuck hand. “Back when I was just a reg’lar kobald.”
“He said . . . if I’d work with him, he’d make candle better. Then he started bringin’ me dwarves to eat.” I almost lost my dinner there.
“That dag-blasted son of a hoop-skirtin’ bastard!” I yapped. I was so friggin’ glad I’d killed Blatche at that moment.
“How long’d this go on?” I asked, but I knew it’d been a long time. A kobald’s gotta eat a hell of a lot of dwarfs to become a kholoth.
“Couple years,” it said. “Wizard Blatche kept me in his keep feedin’ me dwarf. It was good, sure, but I got sick of it really.”
“After a couple weeks I wanted out, but he made me stay,” it said. I didn’t know if I believed it at first. Sounded cushy for a kobald.
Kobalds love the taste of dwarf. It’s just how they’re made. They’re born to be our enemies. Still, I was startin’ to feel sorry fer it.
Probly wouldn’t’ve felt bad fer the thing if it’d killed them dwarves itself. But it was just eatin’ what it was told to save its durn dog.
“So then what happened?” I asked. “I kept eatin’ what Blatche gave me and I kept gettin’ stronger till one day I got real friggin’ sick”
“I slept fer near a damn week’n when I woke up I looked like this.” I doubted it looked like that. The thing was startin’ to fall apart.
Several of its pointy rock scales had fallen off its torso leavin’ nasty gapin’ wounds. Steam was risin’ from the ground all ‘round it.
“When Blatche wouldn’t help Candle, I told him I was leavin’. He yelled at me not to go, but he couldn’t stop me anymore,” it said.
“Then he took Candle and said he would kill her if I didn’t do what he said. I would have killed him then, but this . . . ” It raised its arm.
“Bein’ a kholoth slows me down.” Its skin was splittin’ more than ever and its rocky scales was fallin’ off in chunks.
“So what’d you do then?” I asked. It snorted and a piece of its nostril flew into the dirt. “I went home. Back to my pod.”
“The kobalds started worshipin’ me like I was some damn god. Soon I had a hunnerd pods followin’ me.” Steam shot from its back.
“I was ready to come back and kill the bastard wizard. Had an army at my back,” It said as if durn steam hadn’t just shot out it.
“We just finished the tunnel to the thurfathe a week ago,” It spat out three teeth. “Thith thuckth!” “I’m sorry ‘bout yer dog,” I said.
“Candle wath th’o th’weet!” It slurred. “But she’th dead. I gueth I’ll th’ee her th’oon.” “I’m sure you will,” I lied out my arse.
Weren’t no way that sweet dog and that kholoth were goin’ to the same place, but didn’t need to tell her that. Kindness and all.
“Yeah, Blatche hath killed me.” One of its eyes was meltin’ but the other’n was lookin’ right at me. “Maybe he killed you too, Firegobbler.”
I didn’t know what she was talkin’ ‘bout at first, but then I noticed my skin’d started glowin’ green. It started itchin’ too.
“Hell, I gueth there ith th’uch a thing ath a death curth!” It said and laughed so hard it started coughin’ ‘till it puked up hot blood.
I wasn’t laughin’. If it was right, I was gonna be in just as bad shape as it was soon, and that didn’t look too blasted good.
“I’ll tell you what,” It said’n steam shot from its back again, but this time it didn’t stop. “You killed the withard. Th’o I’ll help you.”
My skin started itchin’ worse’n worse. My fingers was feelin’ thick and swollen. My teeth was even hurtin’. “Dag-blast it! How?” I asked.
“Kill me, dwarf,” it said. “Thith hurth like hell. He told you to do it, th’o do it. th’trike the killin’ blow.” It pointed to its forehead.
“Yer shure?” I asked. Dunno why I hesitated, dag-nab it. Steam was shootin’ from more places on its body. It had to be done soon.
“Do it!” it said. I nodded and blood started drippin’ from my nose. My throat was burnin’, my eyes waterin’. I held Buster tight’n got ready.
“Hope you do see yer dog,” I said. It smiled’n I swung Buster as hard as I could, hittin’ the kholoth right between it’s garl-friggin’ eyes.
Buster let out a thump to beat all thumps. The kholoth’s head burst like a dag-blasted punkin’. Splashed hot mess all over me.
My blasted skin burned like I’d been hit by boilin’ water. I hollered and hopped ‘round, but ‘least my skin weren’t green no more.
I felt lots better. The curse was broke. But the kholoth’s body weren’t done steamin’. It swelled up, I said a bad word’n ran like hell.
Don’t know how far away I was when it ‘sploded. All I know’s that it knocked me down. Well, more like threw me a hunnerd dag-gum feet.
Landed on my face. Didn’t break my nose, but I hit my friggin’ mouth on a rock. And that’s how I lost my dag-burned tooth!
So that’s it. The kholoth was dead. Blatche’s keep was all broke up. When the boys got back a couple days later, boy was they surprised.
Once I done convinced ‘em I weren’t a dag-blamed ghost, they helped me look through the rubble. We never done found most of the gold.
Also never found a trace of the Lady Hand.
We divided up what loot we found, but dag-nab it, none of us got rich. Biff’n Gundy kept their magic swords. Jimmie found a few old books.
Pig Nose surprised me by askin’ if he could stay with us fer a while. No one minded. He wasn’t so dag-gum bad. Anyways, he was tough.
So we left the place, five us where there’d been ten. I’d learned my lesson ’bout carrying gall-durn cursed stuff. ‘Least fer a while.
@lennyswears will be on hiatus ‘til August 13. Even a dwarf needs a gall-durn break. You’cn read past months on trevorhcooley.com.