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Ralph Nicholls

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Holger's Folly
By Ralph Nicholls
Monday, September 10, 2007

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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Holger's Folly is an excerpt of a novella that is to appear in an omnibus of short stories and novellas based on the soon to be published sci-fi/fantasy roleplaying game Legacies of the Artificer by Legacy Games Publishing, Inc.

The role of Elwind Fey was originally role-played by a woman of my long acquaintance named Yazmin Cepeda

Their fighting had scarcely begun in earnest and already almost half a dozen of their numbers had been brutally beaten or slain. It was obvious, now, even to the most inebriated of the pirates that they might have bitten off just a little more than they could chew. Not that they couldn’t still prevail, but their attacks would have to be much more coordinated. And it would certainly help matters if they were better armed,…. “We’ll hold ‘em, here,” Croaked one of the more seasoned of the privateers. “You lot run an’ get us some proper weapons, like. We needs-ta make quick work-a these. The Watch wilt nae stay away from th’ docks fer vaery much longer, anyways!” “Shouldda given ’em more silver, then!” Cackled another “The bounty we’re bound to collect from th’ capture of these wanton criminals wouldda more’n made up fer silver we paid th’---” “Shut yer bloody stupid yap, ya pup! Capt’n Wyvernjack would ’ave yer tongue cut outta yer ’ead, iffen ’e ’eard ye waggin’ it ’round like thet!” The younger pirate irritably shook the older man’s calloused hand off his shoulder. “Don’t-cha be puttin’ yer grimey ’ands on me body an’ telling’ me whut to do, old man; I’m nae yer bloody bahstard!” Spittle flying from his snarling jowls, his bloodshot eyes gleaming with unconcealed hubris, the older man pulled out a stiletto and thrust it into the belly of the younger with enough force to crack the younger’s spine. The other pirates looking on blanched in disbelief and exclaimed in opposition. And as the slain pirate toppled over onto his back, his murderer rounded upon his detractors. None of the pirates seemed to notice the angry mottled crimson appearance the blade of Holger Dhanismann’s bastard sword had taken on. Elwind Fey looked at the old pirate with quiet disbelief, her hazel-green eyes surveying the reactions of the surrounding men, seeing that they were just as surprised as she was. 'What a fool,' she thought. 'though this could work in my favor...' Taking a step forward, she readied an arrow on her bow, making sure that she kept a good distance away from Holger, having noticed that his sword was glowing a furious crimson. “Well this is quite ironic- are you all going to let him,” Elwind paused as she carelessly nodded at the young pirate that the old one had just slain,” get away with that? Are you all such low-lives that you don’t care if your own betrayed you in such a troublesome situation - do you still trust him enough with your own lives; or to take orders?…” Elwind smirked a little as she watched them, hoping that it would effect them just the way she wanted. Besides who knew with their captain currently not on the scene, maybe it wouldn’t take much for them to hurriedly mistrust with one another. Lily's actions ceased, to a simple rotation of her staff before setting it back into a attack position. Her blurred vision told her nothing, but her other senses told her volumes. The odour of the pirates was starting to get at her stomach. She turned her head slightly as she heard a humming sound that seemed to radiate from Holger's general area. Before a shiver went through her, her eyes narrowing as she realized what she felt being emitted from Holger. She side-stepped, her eyes narrowing just enough to make the blurs take some form. Her light berry lips, firmly close… smirk softly at the elf’s words from behind her. Her glossy green eyes watched the pirates. With her bow and arrow still ready in her hands, her hazel-green eyes continued to watch for any unforeseen actions from this already bewildered pirates, as Elwind also carefully glanced around the two standing beside her. Elind wondered how the elf next to her seemed quite un-fazed by all this, let alone the towering human to her other side, his crimson sword radiating power that made Elwind's own nerves stand on end. Not to mention, making Elwind very grateful that she wasn't going to be the one on the business end of that furious looking sword. Holger Dhanismann growled menacingly. So, you would make sport of us; would you, now?” Then he lunged at the pirate, while raising his ensorcelled bastard sword as easily as another man might have raise his arm to scratch his nose, though the weapon’s blade was half again as thick as a normal sword of its type, and half again as wide “Dis insult shall nae stand!” The pirate; realizing his life was in jeopardy, back-peddled away from the behemoth-like armor clad warrior; but the brute moved with astonishing speed, and the monstrous sharp blade entered and exited his upper chest so quickly the outlaw didn’t even have a chance to cry out in alarm. The berserker pulled back his arm, then, his weapon’s blade having practically severed the upper portion of the pirate’s body from the lower. Crimson geysered forth from the horror-inspiring wound, splashing across the dock’s planking, drenching Dhanismann’s plate leggings and the front of Lily’s robes. “Ye murderin’ dog!!” Howled one of the pirate’s compatriots. “At ‘em, me maties! Our friends in the City Watch will jus have-at be satisfied with the corpses of these heathen devils!!” Lily instinctively closed her eyes at the splatter of blood that she more felt than saw hit her robes;she didn't open them up again immediately, either. Her ears listening to the pirates began to shout at him, but Lily more carefully listening to their steps. Her gauze covered emerald eyes opened looking straight head as Lily repositioned her enchanted quarterstaff to mirror each movement she perceived, more to defend herself as the pirates attacked. Her staff moved smoothly as Lily continued to fend them off; she wasn't a fighter like Holger. Lily counted on her natural elven grace and fluid motions to keep them at bay and Lily would deflect their blows, and attempt posting the back as much as possible. Elwind watched in quiet surprise at how swiftly Holger moved with such ease for a human of his enormous size, cutting the pirate down with one motion, reminded herself to make a mental note that when they got out of this that she better stay on the human's good side. Immediately her attention was drawn from the splattering of crimson blood all around the dock to the angered pirates who now seemed to have gained new confidence in taking down the trio. Her lips curved into a smirk as she gave a small laugh, " Now who are you calling murders? After all isn’t that the fate that your dear comrade deserved for slaughtering your own? " she teased, amusement and wonder hinting in her voice as she let her long fingers loosen on her arrow, sending it flying right into the nearest pirate. Taking a step back, her left foot planted forward, Elwind's right hand shot about her slender waist, reloading her composite shortbow with new arrows as she continued to shoot in swift movements at the pirates heading right at them. Holger growled fiercely, angered beyond reason that the pirates had shown the audacity to try and dog pile him. Lily’s nearness prevented him from striking out with all the ferocity he might have done, but a small part of himself remained in control; and this; while unusual, but not an entirely unwelcome turn of events. The pirates bore the berserker backwards, forcing Elwind Fey to leap to one side to avoid being caught up in the press, as well. And then Holger stepped into a puddle of blood and lost his footing, altogether. Not yet realizing the peril they were bringing unto themselves, the pirates clung to their giantish adversary with all the tenacity of a rat terrier. The barbarian bellowed like a wounded bull moose and began to thrash about and kick his feet, while thrusting the cruelly spiked backside of his armor plated forearm into the face of one of his tormentors. The pirate bawled in sheer fright and agony and fell away clutching ineffectually at the horrible gash the glass-steeled nephelium-steel spikes had opened in his forehead. He’d been likewise wounded in the upper and lower chest. His fellows; looking upon the wounds, adjudged it would not be long before the pain of those wounds; regardless how terrible, would soon be of no further concern to the unfortunate soul,… Next, Holger instinctively tried to crabwalk on his back out from beneath the pile of writhing half-naked pirates, but his enormous mass pressed the razor-sharp edges of his armor’s spikes into the blood-splatter planking of the dock, hindering his efforts. Encouraged by their adversary’s apparent inability to escape their wrath, the pirates began to beat and pummel Dhanismann with re-newed vigor, yet their meager blades and belaying pins; while creating many a minute scratch or crease in the armor, could not penetrate it. Finally, Holger Dhanismann managed to turn over onto his side, freeing his fierce ensorcelled blade so it could once again be used to hack and hew at the blood-crazed buccaneers, but he over-compensated for the bodies writhing atop him and toppled from atop the dock to land upon the sandy bank below Meanwhile, the guardsmen of the City Watch belatedly began to arrive on the scene; and they, and more of the gathered mob of pirates, threw themselves into the fracas. Lily's staff only stopped its assault on the current two she was engaged in battle with, as she heard the crash and felt the thump of Holger falling from the main Deck. Back to the spot that she had met him at. This second would cost her too, She barely deflected one of the Pirate's attacks. Before shifting the staff to knock one of the pirates towards the edge of the deck as Lily continued to try and focus on the battle at hand. Her eyes closed so she could better hear the steps of the pirates and better smell their breath, letting her know exactly where they were. Elwinds lips curved into a slight frown as she leaped to the side from the backing human, lifting a brow as she saw that the pirates seemed to have an upper hand by out numbering the towering human like ants swarming over its next meal. Just as suddenly, Elwind's hazel-green eyes twitched as a slight wince escaped her clenched teeth from the stinging in her sensitive ears as Holger bellowed in great surprise as he fell over. Shaking her head, Elwind's slender hands moved faster as her frown deepened, seeing what such a distraction had caused her. Realizing that Holger had somehow managed to fall right off the dock and onto the land bellow, causing her hazel-green eyes to glance over the increasing number of pirates, sidestepping to see if she could get a glimpse of the human to see if he was even alive. "Mi'lady!," Elwind cried over to the Silver Elf nearby, her eyes sharply glancing over to her," I think we must take a hint from him, Sir, and find better ground, unless ye think we can slay down every sea-dog here?" Her eyes quickly going back to the charging pirates and then to the land below. 'Who knows?' Elwind thought,’ we may even get out of here alive?' A slight self-deprecating smirk formed on her lips. Having managed to shake; or cut, loose the majority of the pirates who had tackled him, Holger continued to struggle to win his way free of the last few hangers-on. Fully three fourths of the wickedly sharp blade was streaked with the outlaws’ blood. And the pirates were beginning to realize that as cumbersome as their adversary’s plate armor might have been, he was still agile and strong enough to not only hold his own against them, but he could still deal out death and severe injury, as well. But help was coming their way, in the form of the City Watch guardsmen they’d bribed earlier; and their compatriots who were just then returning with arms-loads of swords and daggers. Holger grabbed one last corsair by the throat, bashed him in the face with the pommel of his onerous bastard sword and heaved him up and out into the water, with a mighty shove off the bottom of his plate armored boots. Then as the Half-elf, Elwind Fey jumped down off the dock and alighted beside him (though not close enough to actually get accidentally crushed between the mound of sand and the pier), Holger rolled onto his side, using the sword he still clasped in his hand for leverage and stood up. He could see the Half-elf, Lily still standing on the dock her staff’s end held out like a shield before her mutely daring the cut-throats to advance any further in upon her.. His instinct were to call out to her to join the two of them below the dock, for there was a concourse that ran under the dock and out towards the Main Gate of the city. He would be forced to make the trek hunched over, as he was a large man (his height and mass nearly that of a half-grown ogre), but the two Half-elves could have darted beneath the dock and run the concourse while standing perfectly erect. But the pirates; whose numbers had been greatly decreased by the savagery induced by their own attack, were too close to her for her to even attempt to turn away from them, lest they spring at Lily as their fellows had sprung at Holger, and quickly overpower the blind warrior-monk. Holger looked over towards Elwind and saw his tower shield lodged sideways in the sand dune; its straps had torn free of his powerful left arm when he’d taken his tumble off the dock but the huge barbarian berserker was loathe to leave it behind, because it was really quite a valuable treasure and over the years had cost him a small fortune to mend and keep in newly forged condition. Being made of orichulum, it was fashioned of magically shaped stone and reinforced with bands of nephelium-steel. No metal found in all the known world of Mythus was harder or more durable than orichulum. And leaving it to be confiscated by either the surviving pirates or the unscrupulous city watchmen was unthinkable. “Think, man, think!” Frustrated Holger berated himself. Not in a millennium would he ever have guessed that the pirates would have responded to the threat he posed to them by leaping upon him, and clinging to him with their bodies half-naked like barnacles on the hull of a ship. He looked up from the shield to Lily, again and saw that the unwanted arrival of the treacherous guardsmen had bolstered the courage of the corsairs and they were edging closer to Lily. In seconds; Holger realized, the pirates would throw off all restraint and leap upon the Half-elf as they had he. He jerked his gaze away from the impending disaster and barked out in inarguable command. “Quickly,…draw your bow and shoot down those cut-throats ere they overwhelm milady. I likewise shall do what I can to distract ’em!” Not waiting to see how the archer would respond to his command, Holger reached down to his thigh, and detached a cleverly hidden handaxe that was fastened by some techno-magical means to his armored calf and flung it at the pirate standing nearest to Lily. “AAARrrrgghhhh!” He roared pulling back his powerful right arm and launched his projectile weapon with all his considerable might. At Holger's bellow Lily's glazed over eyes opened quickly and looked towards him, but only saw the glint of light from the metal that was coming in her general area. Lily shifted back quickly cursing, as the pirate's jumped at their chance to grab at her. Lily felt the air on her cheek from the object missing her by no more than six inches. Lily almost screamed as she was splattered with blood from the pirate that now dropped at her feet. She could see the red blur of the blood where the blade sliced across his neck... before falling behind him. Lily shuttered, as she backed up further. A hand wiping disgustingly at the splattered blood on her face. Her enchanted quarterstaff still up, taking swings to block the blows that would be coming at her. Grumbling, Lily tried to move closer to the edge to jump down below. Lily narrowed her eyes, she could do... something. She looked at the edge not too far away from the corner of her eye, before looking into the crowd. Lily whispered a bit of elvish, casting a spell that would bring a lighting bolt down upon a single pirate in the middle of the crowd. Hoping it would distract them a bit longer as she turned, a bit out of breathe as Lily ran towards the edge of the dock to jump down. Hearing Holger bark an order at her caused Elwind to instinctively lift a brow. Although she just as quickly shrugged it off as she slightly nodded her head, turning on her heels as Elwind did what she was told. Aiming high on the docks, setting two arrows on her bow with swift movements, Elwind shot at the pirates seemingly determined to get to the Silver Elf still warding them off with her staff. Elwind paused from shooting momentarily as she involuntarily cringed at the sight of the pirate's blood splattering all over the shocked Silver Elf. 'At least that was a nice save.' she thought as she kept shooting at the pirates, seeing out of the corner of her hazel-green eyes that Lily finally got enough clearance to finally make it to the edge, jumping off to the ground below. "Hurry Milady and Sir!!," she shouted taking a step back, "I shall cover ye from behind as we make our way out of here!" Her eyes never wavering from the pirates as she kept on her attack wondering just how many more arrows she had left as her ears listened for Lily and Holger's hasty retreat. Lily landed on all fours, grumbling as she reached and grabbed her staff and pulled herself up on it. She pulled up, her glazed over green eyes looking up to see what see could be seen, only to blind herself a bit more with the sunlight. Lily shifted her staff upwards to warn off any pirates that might jump down after her. She then moved, placing her back upon the pylon, so no one could come up on her from behind. The soft sea-spray became more intense, as Lily looked towards the shoreline and then abruptly cried out a warning in Elvish. The blurred shape was monstrously huge; and she knew it wasn't a ship.  

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