April 16th 2016: Inspired by The Gift of the Magi
Linny and the Dwarf
, by Charles Frierman

Being a member of the Argheart Wizard’s Guild was not only a dream for Linny, but really the only reason he wanted to continue living. Ragface Stonegrinder may have been a slow-witted dwarf, but even he knew this. He could see it in the way Linny spoke as the two of them set up camp for the night. It didn’t matter how much treasure they retrieved, or how many monsters they eradicated, the young wizard was just never happy until he started talking about magic, or what secrets lie behind the doors of the mythical guild.

“I wouldn’t even ask for all that much power, nor do I really care about learning that many new spells, it’s really all about getting in.” He said while picking around the meat on his plate. Ragface always considered his friend odd for not eating meat and often would try to hide it under the vegetables, but Linny always found it.

“My dad had Koriander’s Ice Wand in his hands before his party was jumped by trolls. He was actually on his way to Argheart to turn it in when it happened. He was that close. A magical artifact is all you need to join the guild, and he had it, only to lose it as well as the use the use of both arms in the process. Can you imagine that?”

“I can.” Ragface Stonegrinder said, and he could. He was once considered a prince in line to be a King of the Stongrinder Clan. Somehow, though, he blew it and got banished in the process. Well, actually, there was no somehow involved, he knew exactly how he blew it, and . . .

“Are you even listening to me?” Linny asked and had an irritated look on his face.

“I wasn’t for a little bit there. Quite honestly, you bore me sometimes. Magic is for cowards and a whole club of you cowards is too much for an old dwarf like me to even think about without getting sick.”

“Funny, I don’t hear you complaining about it when I’m blasting enemies out of the way with fire orbs.”

“Look, you are a good human Linny, magic or not, and that is why I busted you out of our prison.”

“You said, ‘our’.” The wizard jumped in. You said you would never refer to yourself as part of your clan again. That is proof you miss it.”

Ragface Stonegrinder shoved his lengthy beard in his mouth and started chewing, so he wouldn’t yell at his friend. Once composed again, he spat out the hair, tossed a log on the fire, and spoke.

“Give me a break. That was my family for almost two centuries so forgive me if I occasionally slip. Do I regret helping you? That answer is, no. Like I said, you are a good man and try to do good for people. My people abused your kindness and were going to kill you because you could no longer give them their ever-inflating demands. “

“I knew what I was getting into when I went there.”

“I don’t think you did.” The dwarf said. “I think, and stop me if I’m wrong, that you knew the trolls and dwarves were enemies and just assumed since the trolls seem so evil, the dwarves must be good. You went with good intentions, thinking all dwarves were good, but we will always look for the best deal, especially if you want us to attack a troll village and get an artifact for you.”

“I asked you to sneak in and get it.”

“Dwarves don’t do anything quietly.”

“I’ve noticed.” Linny said and looked at his friend with concern.

“What?”

“I don’t like the look in your eye.” The wizard said and continued to stare at the dwarf who did not turn away. “Maybe we should just go to sleep. You can have first watch.”

“We need to talk Linny.” Ragface Stonegrinder said and still did not turn away.

“No we don’t. Look, I’m already asleep.” The wizard said and fell directly on his back, slammed his eyes shut, and started a loud, obnoxious, painfully fake snore. The dwarf grumbled at this, then kicked his friend in the head without any warning. The wizard rolled over and screeched in pain.

“Stop with that noise. You sound like a hungry dwarf baby, who just ate his own beard.” Ragface said and was pleased that Linny did quiet down momentarily, but was not thrilled by the fire arc that the wizard quickly cast from his huddled up position.

“Argh, you slimy wizard.” Ragface grumbled and tackled the man trying to pin him to the ground, so he couldn’t get another spell off, but the wizard’s grappling skills had become much improved. The two of them rolled on the ground for quite a while until the dwarf finally put a knee into the human’s chest causing him to wheeze for air and wave his arm in submission. The dwarf smiled in satisfaction then went up and sat on his log.

“Sometimes, I hate you.” The wizard said angrily, but when he saw his traveling companion chuckle at this, he too laughed. “I know what you wish to discuss, and no matter what I say, you won’t listen so why discuss it?”

“What do I wish to discuss, then?” The dwarf asked, but once again, the only response was the obnoxiously fake snores of Linny. “Fine, we’ll discuss it tomorrow, but in case you aren’t listening, your grappling skills are getting better. I was only holding back a little bit this time.” Linny smiled upon hearing this but did not open his eyes until it was time for him to go on watch.

#

Linny had to work fast and hope his friend was truly asleep. It was always hard to tell with Ragface because he was never truly unconscious. He was a finely tuned light sleeper prepared to be ready for battle whether Linny gave him a warning or not. Linny normally loved that about Ragface because on more than one occasion he was supposed to be on watch but got lost in his spellbooks instead. Had it not been for Ragface, the wizard wouldn’t have stood a chance. This night was different, however, and even though what he was doing was for his friend, he still felt dirty for doing it. It wasn’t the time to worry about it, though, so he did his best to control his nerves and not give off any vibe that anything out of the ordinary was going on.

He began casting and cleared his mind of all doubts. This may be stupid to try, but it was the only way, even if he was using an untested spell, and trying to cast it for an unprecedented duration.

The spell went off surprisingly well but sapped his strength both physically and mentally. He hoped it would be enough, and he could recover enough to get to where he needed to go..

#

When Ragface woke up, he had a strange feeling that someone had been in their camp. He checked all their equipment and belongings twice over as well as scanning the perimeter, but everything seemed okay.

Linny, as always, was clueless as to anything being out of sorts. As a night watch, he was still pretty worthless but had come a long since the two had started traveling together. He looked more out of it than usual today, though, so Ragface assumed he was experimenting with his magic again. It always seemed to wear him out when he did that, but it’s who he was.

“You avoided it last night Linny, but I need to talk to you now.” Ragface Stonegrinder said, expecting protests of some kind from his friend but got nothing of the sort. Linny just came over sat down quietly and accepted everything the dwarf had to say.

#

The door to the Arghreart Wizard’s Guild swung open and a furious looking, almost skeletal, old, hairy man in red robes stood there.

“What do you want dwarf?”

Ragface Stonegrinder was a little bit taken aback by this rude welcoming and almost pulled out his war axe but calmed himself realizing this was for Linny, and Linny was good, even if all other wizards were untrustworthy maggots.

“What do you want, dwarf?” He repeated and started to close the door.

“Wait!” Ragface screamed, and the wizard halted momentarily. “My friend Linny wants to join your guild. He knows he needs an artifact to become a member, and so I am that artifact. Dwarven hearts are among the rarest and most sought after items in the land. You wizards have died trying to get your hands on our recently deseased. I am offering you my heart as payment for Linny’s admission into the guild.”

The wizard stared down at the dwarf for what felt like an eternity and then answered. “I have just conferred with the elders. Your proposition is accepted. We will take your heart and should the wizard Linny ever show up, he will be admitted to the guild.

“What do you mean, ‘show up?’” Ragface asked dumbfounded. He is standing right next to me.”

“That is a cheap illusion that we saw through immediately. Regardless, your proposition is accepted.”

“An illusion? How long have I been traveling with an illusion?” Ragface tried to say but before he could, the wizard standing before him suddenly had something red in his hand.

“How did you do that?” Ragface tried to ask again because he was sure that was a heart the wizard was holding, and even though there was no hole in the dwarf’s chest, he was sure it was his heart because all at once he felt empty. Then his body started seizing, and the mighty Dwarf Prince was no more.

#

Linny sat in the dwarven prison once again, only this time in chains. He had snuck back alone and willingly turned himself in under the conditions that when the mighty Prince Ragface Stonegrinder returned, he would be given back his crown. After all, he only helped Linny escape the first time because he had been bewitched. The dwarves said they agreed, locked the human up, gagged him, and took his fingers, so he could bewitch no one else.

Linny knew his life was over but was happy with his decision. Now when his friend returned, he would be treated like the royalty he deserved to be.

*

Charles Frierman lives in Ocoee, Florida with lovely wife, Blue, and their 12 pets. He has always been a huge fan of stories, whether listening to them, telling them, writing them, and ,of course, reading them. He currently has taken advantage of that passion and when he’s not writing stories, he’s telling them to the kids at the local library. Seeing the kids passion for tales at storytime has only fueled Charles’ desire to write further.


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