If you hadn't noticed, I've been away from writing (and this blog) for a few months. I took the time to focus on other interests of mine and recharge after a busy stretch of writing. Now that I'm easing into it again, I figured it would be a good time to welcome back some of my characters. I hope you enjoy this story.
Artwork by John Harley Dela Cruz
Modrad yawned and rubbed his eyes. The dwarf felt like he’d been asleep for days. Maybe even weeks. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stared straight ahead. Opposite to him was a window, the glare from the low-hanging sun obstructing his view outside. Modrad’s feet met the hardwood floor, and the dwarf stumbled after taking a step. His legs felt weak from inactivity, but Modrad couldn’t understand why.
Notorious for drinking too much ale on occasion, he’d experienced similar side effects before. However, Modrad couldn’t recall visiting a tavern the prior evening. In fact, he didn’t remember much of anything. Then again, alcohol had a way of erasing one’s memory.
Still wobbly, Modrad managed to make his way to the other side of the room. He stood near the edge of the window and angled his head, the sun no longer hindering his vision. His slushy brain seemed to retain some memories. The snow-covered mountain of Vargrom came to mind. Modrad’s view out the window, though, was just the contrary. Patches of lush grass extended all the way to the valley.
Winter. The last time he had gone to bed, it was winter. Modrad was certain of it. He pondered and rubbed his chin, the latter immediately causing alarm. Modrad ran to a mirror on the nearby wall, tripping before he could reach it. He groaned as his hands hit the floorboards. They helped break the fall, but not before the tumble had smashed his bottom lip onto the wooden planks.
Modrad cursed under his breath and righted himself. As he looked in the mirror, his eyes bulged. The beard was gone. Like the majority of male dwarfs in Vargrom, Modrad had sported one throughout his entire adulthood. Unfortunately, the anxiety didn’t stop there. His mohawk was gone, too. In its place was a smoothly-shaven scalp. Modrad glided several fingers over his head, hoping the brown, spiky locks would miraculously return, but luck didn’t seem to be on his side.
“This is some kind of nightmare,” he mumbled.
A giggle from behind startled Modrad. When he spun around, a head peeked out from under his bed.
The gnome chuckled again, his purple goatee bobbing from laughter.
Modrad formed a fist with one of his hands. “Are you responsible for this?” His livid appearance must have jolted Farfiz from his playful mood because the giggling suddenly ceased.
Farfiz shook his head.
“I find that hard to believe.”
“I swear.” Farfiz tried to compose himself. He took another look at Modrad’s head and snorted. Farfiz put a hand to his mouth, holding in the laughter, but barely.
“What are you doing here anyway?”
Despite their friendship over the years, Modrad never entertained the thought of inviting Farfiz into his house. He’d admit it was a strange relationship. Regardless, the gnome’s presence was yet another sign of the quickly evolving nightmare that seemed to be plaguing him.
“I don’t know,” Farfiz said. “All I remember is waking up here.”
“That makes two of us.”
Farfiz eased out from under the bed, and that’s when Modrad knew for sure the gnome was telling the truth. If Modrad had a mouthful of ale, he would have spit it out in amusement.
“Your hair,” Modrad said, not even attempting to keep a straight face.
“What about it?”
Modrad didn’t reply. He assumed his body language said it all. With a worried expression, Farfiz darted toward the mirror, his eyebrows scrunched together in confusion.
“Who braided my hair?” Farfiz said.
Modrad burst out laughing, but a knock at the door quickly silenced him. He looked to Farfiz.
“Kasig?” Modrad said.
The dwarf made his way to the front of the house, Farfiz following close behind. When Modrad opened the door, his assumption proved correct. To some extent, at least. His best friend, Kasig, stood before them, but another figure had accompanied him. A human.
Given his and Farfiz’s debacle, Modrad half-expected Kasig to be unrecognizable. However, Kasig retained his typical gray beard and appeared unchanged from the last time Modrad saw him. Modrad turned his attention to the human.
“Jacob?” he said. “I thought Fremonar sent you back to your world.”
“That was the plan, but I ended up somewhere else.”
Modrad studied Jacob. Full face, wavy brown hair, and a full day’s worth of stubble. Modrad couldn’t appreciate the other-worldly garb, but he knew enough about it from his prior experience with Jacob. He wore blue jeans and a gray, hooded sweatshirt.
“How did you get here?” Modrad asked.
“I haven’t got a clue,” Jacob said. “One minute I’m asleep. The next I’m here, standing beside Kasig of all people.” He stared at Modrad and looked over the dwarf’s shoulder, apparently spotting Farfiz in the background. Jacob grinned. “What happened to you two?”
“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Modrad replied.
Jacob snickered and then coughed, trying to conceal his amusement. “Sorry.”
“Something’s obviously going on here,” Modrad said.
“Fremonar?” Jacob inquired.
Modrad didn’t take long to mull it over. “Unlikely.”
“Fremonar’s dead.” Modrad took a breath. “Then again, he returned to the land of the living once before, so I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.”
Jacob shuffled his feet. “Okay. Let’s assume it’s someone else then. But who?”
Modrad deliberated some more, the silence between them uncharacteristic but certainly understandable given the situation. A notion popped into his head. A name to be precise. Then clarity. It all made sense.
“Kevin,” Modrad said.
Jacob stopped fidgeting. “Who the hell’s Kevin?”
“Kevin Hopson.” Modrad was stating the obvious, but he elaborated anyway. “Our creator.”
“I know who he is, but we haven’t heard from him in months.”
“It’s not the first time he’s taken a break from us.”
“Still. He usually gives us a heads up. I just assumed he retired or something. Maybe even died.”
Jacob shrugged. “I don’t know.” He took a step back and contemplated. “So, what are you saying? Kevin’s returned and all of this is real?”
Modrad glanced at Kasig and Farfiz before setting his sights on Jacob again. “I’m afraid so. Based on what’s transpired thus far, I can only imagine the things he has in store for us.”