The Golem stood tall and silent, like it was one of the four columns that held up the soot stained roof though its broad shoulders bore no weight. Its face bore the likeness of one almost forgotten in the dusty vaults of memory. It wore the fierce countenance of a long dead hero, its hard edges worn by time. Its iron beard coloured rust red as was most of its iron hide. The broken blade of a once mystically imbued weapon stuck out of its broad chest. This was a trophy from some battle spoken about only by the oldest of the regulars that is, if you got them deep enough into their cups.
The silent sentinel had been a payment of a debt many centuries ago. His geas, the spells that compelled him had been signed across to the family that had built the inn. It was signed over by the wizard who had shaped him with his hands and had breathed life into the dark iron with his mystic might. Once a great adventurer, the wizard had shaped the Golem when he had retired from the life on the ‘Long Road’, using it as an ever watching sentinel for his once grand hoard. The wizard had fallen upon hard times and then had needed to flee the city quite abruptly. Many rumours abounded at the source of the magic user’s rapid descent into poverty. Many more tales flew as to the dire situation that had forced the wizard to flee, but only he and maybe his silent guardian knew the truth. Rumours aside the iron giant had more than covered his debt and the family had accepted him gratefully. Once a small roadside inn for travellers, as a city had grown around it, the inn had gained fame and then as things followed, had gained more and more clientele. And with more people filling its growing size, there were a lot more bar fights so the silent vigil and ominous presence of the Golem had allowed the family a peace of mind. Injuries of the staff became greatly lessened after the family had taken possession of him and the family’s wealth had increased due to less money needing to be spent on repairs.
Over the passing years, the inn had changed hands many times as daughters and sons married, the inn passed down the family line until the time came where no one wanted to be an innkeeper. During those long years, no one had taken the iron sentinel with them. It had become such a fixture, with people even travelling to the Inn of the Dark Iron as it had come to be known, just to see the silent iron giant. Names were removed from the parchment in the Golems head, the ritual for doing so was passed on to each new owner. Then the names of the new owners and those that worked for them was added, allowing those who now owned and worked in the inn to activate the Golem. Names were scribbled down, ownership of the iron hero changing hands with the passing across of the deed to the inn.
Silent, stoic, the Golem had stood watching over the taproom. It stood where it could watch over the whole of the taproom, its obsidian eyes unblinking. Once it had stood behind the dark wood of the bar. As the inn had grown, the bar had been moved, but the Golem stood where he had. The inn had grown and changed around him, with a myriad of faces from a variety of Races passing before him. He had been called upon to deal with drunk and rowdy Warriors, quick-fingered Thieves by the score and Wizards who had wanted to test their magic against the ancient dark iron.
As tales of the Golem’s untiring strength and unflagging power spread over the decades and through the Lands, there had been not as many calls that had stirred the Golem from its silent slumber. Not many had been drunk enough or stupid enough to rouse the ire of the slumbering monolith. As far as many were concerned as tales slipped away into the realms of the forgotten, the Golem was no more than a statue. To many it was not something remarkable. It was nothing more than a relic, marked with rust by the marching Time. As decades became centuries, there were not many people living that had witnessed the Golem roused to take action. To those who owned the inn however, those who inherited the Inn, or those who became the new owners of the business, they were all taught those special words and their names were added to the never deteriorating, mystically imbued parchment. And all knew if their lives were in peril, or if they uttered the right combination of words, the scarred and time worn rust covered iron warrior would wake, shake off its slumber. Then the dark iron behemoth would heed their call.
Trina often found her eyes drawn to the dark iron Golem. She had been born within the realms within the walls of the immense building that was The Inn of Dark Iron so the silent sentinel had been part of her life for a decade and a half. She had climbed up its length from when she could first work. She had told it her secrets, told it her fears. She even thought of it as her friend. Pausing as she polished the scarred and scorched hard wood long table that was one of a dozen and looked up into its timeworn face. Since her mother had passed, stolen from her and her father by the Deep Shiver Fever when she had only been four years of age, she had not talked to many people. Her father had become withdrawn to her, but had been as bright and smiling to all those that came and ate and drank and slept within the world of the Inn. He joked with the patrons, telling tales and singing songs he had learned as a travelling adventurer with her mother. Unable to break through the silence that gripped him when the fires of the taproom sank low and those within the Inn sought bedrolls on the taproom floor or their beds in the rooms they rented, Trina found herself taking more and more with the Golem.
She had been taught the words that activated the Golem and her name had joined her father’s and her mother’s name on the mystic parchment that was stored within its iron head. The list on the paper grew as more and more people were hired to work the sprawling Inn and the grounds and outbuildings that surrounded it. The paper grew as names were added so it was never without space for more. Bartenders and serving girls, the grim faced Cook and those that worked with him, all of these had their names added to the list. Knowing how many people were on the list, Trina could not help but to feel proud that her name was one of the first three to be printed onto the script.
She had never seen the Golem in action as, though her father now sported a paunch, he was still a force to be reckoned with, his arms losing none of the iron they had earned walking the ‘Long Road’ with wife by his side. If people became too rowdy, if a glare was not enough to settle things down, he would merely have to grab the crossbow from under the bar or would rest his hand on ‘Breaker’ the mystically imbued mace he had wielded as an adventurer. Greatly respected by those that visited the Inn, his regulars, he was not often forced to raise either the ironbound cross bow or ‘Breaker’ in anger. It was usually those from distant lands or adventurers, flushed with the excitement of a successful quest or those deep in their cups in woe due to losing fellow travellers of the ‘Long Road’ that forced her father to arm himself and to leave the bastion of the dark stained Ironwood bar.
Though she had never witnessed the Golem move, Trina, gifted with the magical sight her mother had possessed, could see the ancient runes that skittered across the whole of its form and could feel their power. She could feel its watchful presence always in the back of her mind and often felt that it watched her as she cleaned up spills and ran empty plates back to the kitchen. When the taproom was quiet and her father and those others that called the Inn their permanent home and those who were just visiting slept, Trina would climb down from her small room in the roof of the Inn and would sit at the feet of the dark iron giant. Often she would sit and talk to it, telling it the tales she had heard from travellers, or how she wished she could see the world beyond the lands that were the Realm of the Inn and all she knew in life. Other times she would just curl up under a blanket at the feet of the giant, content to listen to the sounds of the wooden giant behemoth that was the Inn as it cooled and the echoes of voices and laughter and clinking mugs had faded. She would lay there revelling in the silence and basking in the silent might of her iron friend. No one commented on her fascination with the Golem. Those that had known the whirlwind of excitement and joy that was her mother knew that she too had been fascinated with the silent giant. Trina’s mother and father had often stayed in the Inn as patrons, tired and grimy from walking the ‘Long Road’ or nursing wounds or with overflowing pouches and packs from a successful quest. Many times her mother had sat at the table closest to the dark iron sentinel. Or she would trail her fingers over it in passing. Often, even though they had paid for the privacy of a room, her father would find her curled up at its feet. When the aches of old wounds faded slower, they both had decided to retire from the adventuring life. With no plans for their future in mind they had come as they always did when in the area to the Inn. They had had no true destination in mind but had felt a pull that had led them to the Inn. It had been off season for most adventurers and merchants, been deep into Winter when they had arrived. The Inn though was open, a huge fire driving off the deep cold. As always, Trina’s mother greeted the silent Golem, laying her hand on his leg. They were greeted warmly as they always were by the few regulars that knew them and fondly by the then owner. Like them, Gringold had been an adventurer. He had lost a hand to an Owlbear and this had soured him to the life on the ‘Long Road’. He had found and lost love many times over, but his true love had been for a well poured pint and the company of adventurers in a warm and safe sanctuary where there were less chances for someone to lose an appendage to an angry Owlbear. He had bought the Inn at what he though was a fair price and had been able to hire old friends and companions to help him run it. He had fallen deeply in love with a merchant and she had only been too happy to take over the business side of running the Inn that Gringold had in truth struggled with. Their names had been added to the script in the head of the Golem and they had been truly happy running the Inn together.
Wanderlust had gripped Gringold and his beautiful Whenrin and they had been filled with the desire to see parts of the world they had once roamed while they still had the strength to travel. They had both been happy when they had learned that Trina’s mother and father had become travel weary and as old friends easily agreed on a price. And then the Inn was theirs. Part of the deal was that Grindgold and Whenrin would always have a place by the hearth and a warm meal and as many drinks as they could quaff whenever their travels took them back to the Dark Iron. This had not soured the deal at all and Trina’s mother and father also gained some trustworthy and loyal staff that were already more like family to the pair. It was with a heavy heart however, that Gringold had been forced to leave the vast collection of rare spirits that fellow adventurers and merchants had added to over the two decades he and Whenrin had owned the bar.
“I promise old friend that I will add to this so there will be even more for you to sample whenever you both come a calling.” Trina’s father had sworn to Gringold and Trina’s mother solemnly agreed.
Spending the night feasting and drinking long after the regulars had stumbled home, Gringold and Whenrin were not melancholy when they said their farewells to the Inn and its new owners. And Trina’s mother and father both knew they had found the place they would be happy to be in until their last days. And that night, according to tales whispered by the ladies who had lived and worked at the Inn since those first days, who shared a large room beneath Trina’s room, they had celebrated that next night at the feet of the Golem.
Trina had a few years before realised what they had meant by ‘celebrating’, but with her mother cold in her grave, she had not wanted to ask her father if this tale had been true. The ladies of the Inn had not told the tale to be mean, but had told it to new girls so they could understand the bond the family had to the Inn and why Trina’s father had not taken another into his heart or into his bed.
An old and silent friend, the Golem was not cold iron to Trina. A constant in her life and a silent presence and comfort to her, she often imagined and dreamed of travelling the wider world, riding on its broad shoulder and battling beasts and dragons and other creatures.
The Inn had always seemed to be a sanctuary to all who lived there and those who called it home for a night or more as they paused on their travels and adventures. The Golem and Trina’s father with his iron-bound crossbow and enchanted mace granted peace of mind to those that rested within the Inns walls.
There were those however that looked at the Inn with envious eyes, and the trinkets that filled the shelves and those ancient bottles of spirits from all over the Realms hungrily. Many were jealous of the peace of the Inn and those who called it home. There was a peace that existed there that others did not feel, those who struggled against life and all its challenges.
There were periods in the year when the Inn had less visitors. When passes were filled with heavy snow and storms raged in the mountains. During this time Trina’s father felt a longing for the ‘Long Road’ and became more morose. Often he would lock himself away in the room that he and his wife had shared and Trina knew he was lost in thoughts of his past life, that one he and her mother had shared. At those times, Trina would lose herself in cleaning the Inn with those who lived and worked there. Floors were waxed and polished, rafters were washed down and any small repairs that were put off during the busier days were attended to. Trina helped in the kitchen, clambered through the high rafters, raced across the rooftop when the wind died. She was everywhere she could be, helping and lending encouragement like she knew her Mother did when she was alive. Nights during these slow times had everyone from the servers to the cooks pulling their bedding into the taproom and everyone camped out there in front of the large fire, telling tales long into the night. It was during these times Trina felt like she was a member of an Adventurers Party, camping after a long quest. These were her companions. She pictured the Cook as a Warrior, easily seeing him battling minions of evil, his carving knives great swords that flashed and sang. Servers became Thieves and Clerics and Bards. Trina saw herself as the party’s Mage, robed and throwing spells at all that besieged her party. And of course in this world of her mind’s eye, the Golem fought at their front, tossing aside the most powerful of villains with ease. It was during these quite times that Trina was the happiest even though her father held himself away from the family of the Inn, besieged by memories and longings for what once was.
The banging at the Inn doors took Trina away from pleasant daydreams. The Cook had just served the tired workers from the big stew pot that hung over the fire. They had not seen any visitors for days. The knock had surprised them all. Muttering to himself at the late hour, the Cook climbed wearily to his feet. The day had been spent polishing the long tables in the taproom. These had been pushed against the bar and the walls of the taproom to make room for everyone’s blankets. Trina had made herself a nest under one long table where she could sleep with the Golem watching over her. With a full belly she had already climbed into her blankets, comfortable and warm with joints aching from a long day’s work.
The banging came again. “Hold your water,” the Cook called out. “I’m coming.”
Slowly he pulled the long bolts that held the doors closed and with the help of one of the stable hands he wrestled down the large beam that sat across both of the doors. They both pulled the doors open carefully, and gingerly, knowing there was still a frigid wind howling on the other side. Visitors were rare during these cold times but sometimes a brave Adventurer or a regular, desperate for a meal that was not homemade or weary of the company they kept daily would seek the Inn.
The bright and sudden flash of magic took all within the Inn by surprise. Golden ‘Magic Missiles’ streaked in from the open door, striking the Cook and stable hand in their chests and barrelling them both backwards over the freshly polished floor of the taproom. A biting wind threw the doors open and crashing into the walls with a sound like thunder. With robes billowing around it in the wind, a tall figure, a glowing wand pointed before it strode into the taproom. From the cold outside a dozen armed and armoured people followed along behind the first. The chill wind stole the warm from the room quickly and the large fire guttered and died quickly. A shiver that was not to do with the drop in temperature ran down Trina’s spine as she heard the groans of the Cook and the stable hand.
“Now that we have your attention,” the robed figure called out over the howling of the wind, “This Inn and all within are now ours!”
Trina looked longingly over at the mace of her father and wished she had the strength to wield it. She thought of sneaking across to the staircase to try and rouse her father from his room but as the armoured intruders spread out around the taproom, one came to a stop at the base of the long stairs.
One by one the figures unwrapped the cloth from around their faces. Trina gasped silently as she saw the upward thrust fangs, the red eyes and the green and brown and yellow skin that marked them as Orcs. There were those Orcs who walked Lighter paths so Trina had even met a couple of Orcs before. They had been Adventurers or guards for merchant caravans. She too knew there were many Orcs that walked a Dark path. These Orcs were bandits or marched along in evil armies. She had heard many tales of evil Orcs and Goblins and Trolls and other Orc-Kin.
The leader threw back the cowl of her robe and Trina was surprised to see that the wand wielder was not an Orc like the others. She was puzzled as she looked into the beautiful face of the cruelly smiling leader of the intruders. She had heard many tales of the brutal Orcs and knew that they did not often follow willingly a non-Orc.
Taking in all before her, the wand wielder smiled widely and Trina saw her teeth were all pointed. As the lady’s gaze took in the taproom and its occupants, Trina also say the red gleam to her eyes and the points to her ears.
“She’s a half Orc!” Trina mused to herself. Trina had heard many tales of Half Orcs. They were the offspring of Orcs and whatever race that had slept with the Orcs or had been taken by the creatures. Looking at the fine features, the pale skin and silvery hair of the wand wielding lady, Trina was surprised to see that these were Elven features. She had met Elves and even Half Elves. Never before had she seen an offspring of an Elf and an Orc.
“I see we have no heroes here,” the woman declared “that is good. Heroes do not last long in this world and complicate simple transactions.”
Slowly the woman walked around the taproom, lightly touching trinkets and dusty bottles and silver chased goblets that had come from all over the Realms. All had been gifts given by adventurers and merchants, friends to Trina’s mother and father. Trina knew that many were quite value and had covered tabs for many who visited the Inn for decades.
“It is good to see for once that rumours can be true,” the woman mused out loud as she pulled a silver and crystal bottle down from its shelf to admire.
Putting it back up she looked down at those that called the Inn home. In her nest under the long table Trina felt that the woman had not yet seen her. No Orc stood close to her nest either. While the Half-Orc was distracted by what she saw now as hers, Trina looked along the length of the long and wide table she huddled under. At one end it joined the end of another table and formed a long ‘L’ shape. This other table ran down along the side of the taproom where the Golem stood looking over at where Trina had made her nest of bedding. Trina knew that the words for the activation of the Golem could be called out loudly to activate it, but she knew that any of the Orcs or their leader could easily reach her or launch a spell at her before she could finish saying the words. If the woman wielded a wand she knew about activation spells and would recognise them even if she did not know the Golem was more than the rust and scar covered statue it resembled. Trina remembered her mother telling her that the Golem could also be activated by whispering the chant if the person was touching it. The closer the proximity to it, the more quiet the activation words could be uttered. This was a special feature the Wizard who had created the Golem had included so that if his home had been attacked he could silently activate his sentinel so that the invaders would not be aware of it until it took its first step.
Quietly slipping free of her nest of blankets, Trina looked at the Orcs and their leader. None stood close to her and with the fire now dead and only a few lamps shedding light in the now cavernous like taproom room, she knew no light reached her either. Slowly she dropped to her belly so she would not bang her head on the reinforcing beam that ran down the centre of the underside of each long table. Under her breath she whispered silent thanks to the fact they had already waxed and polished the worn hardwood floors of the taproom earlier in the week. She rolled over on her back to take advantage of this fact and hand over hand, using the reinforcing beam of the long table she pulled herself up along the length of it until she came to where it rested against the end of the other one. Drawing in a deep breath, she used the beam to launch herself across the floor and under the other table. She was so glad the tables were up against one another as the thought of sliding across the open floor filled her with chills. She curled up into a ball as she flew from under one table to under the other and felt the air knocked out of her as she came to a jarring stop against the foot rail that stuck up from the floor at the base of the long bar. Once again she mouthed silent thanks, glad that the barstools had all been left stacked up on the bar after the floors had been polished. Catching her breath she looked at those she thought of as family as they stared or glared at this intruder who stalked amongst them fingering things that made up the charm of their home. None met het glance and she was happy. Often she slipped through the Inn, unseen and on silent feet while others slept. She had slipped often into the rooms of sleeping Adventurers, trailing light fingers over sheathed swords or the stained wood of unstrung bows. She had admired the banners of many Parties and had gazed longingly at armour and arms of professional soldiers and Adventurers and travel stained clothing and dusty boots.
Waiting until the Half-Orc was lost admiring another trinket and making sure all the Orcs were not looking anywhere her direction she once more lay on her back and slowly inched her way across the floor under the table. This one ended on the wall close to the raised platform the Golem stood upon. Coming to the end of the table Trina uttered in her mind one of the many curse words she had heard drunk Adventurers or other patrons mutter when talking about the hardships of the ‘Long Road’ or Life in general, know this would have gained her a harsh look from her father if he had heard her. The table was not wide enough to offer her cover to kneel before the Golem unseen. She would have to either dash out and stand before it and hope she could get the words out quickly enough before someone grabbed her, stabbed her or blasted her by mystic means. With the groans of the cook and the stable hand and her heart beat like thunder in her ears she mouthed even more of those frowned upon words she knew her father did not know she had locked away in her mind. Gazing at the Golem and the platform he stood so tantalizing close on Trina smiled to herself. The end of the table rested a hand’s-breadth from the edge of the platform. If she was quick enough she could clamber up onto to the platform and dive behind the Golem. There was not a large gap behind its long legs and the wall behind it but she knew from experience that she could stand behind it. The Golem was wide enough and she was thin enough that not even the tallest of the Orcs would be able to reach in and grab her. She would only have to worry about being skewered or blasted with a spell. She felt as she gazed up at her silent companion that the magic that filled it would protect her from any spell.
Once again drawing in a deep breath, she crouched beneath the end of the table. Time had seemed to drag to her but she knew that it was only moments she rested there. The Half=Orc had come to stand over those huddled before the fireplace. With the tip of her wand she seemed to be counting.
“They’re not all here!!” she suddenly shouted, spinning around to glare at the immense Orc that had stood at her back since they had forced their way into the taproom.
The brute of an Orc looked down at the scared or defiant faces of those that called the Inn their home. Roughly he grabbed one of the Cooks helpers and dragged him roughly up into the air.
“Who missing??” the Orc demanded in a rasping voice. He shook the young man.
Cursing again Trina knew that this would be her best chance. She dove from out under the table, glad she had not worn socks to bed. She clambered up behind the Golem, pressing against what to her had always been warm iron. She laid her palms against the back of it’s long and wide legs.
A golden orb broke upon the broad chest of the Golem with others following along behind it. The ethereal energy that filled the old iron rendered the ‘Magic Missiles’ launched from the Half-Orc’s wand useless and they did not even disturb the rust that no amount of cleaning could shift from it’s hide.
Behind the Golem Trina found it hard to focus on the words she had often thought about. The sound of the rupturing ‘Magic Missiles’ and the grunts and growls of the Orcs and the curses of their leader filled her ears and fought to overwhelm her. She had not uttered a single syllable of the activation words when she felt a stirring in the iron under her hands.
Shaking itself, the iron warrior stirred from at least a century of slumber. It had not heard the words it had longed to hear for many years, but it had once again felt the tender touch of one who had stirred the magic within its iron form. It had felt the fear in her and this had angered it. Years of love had awakened feelings within the Golem. It had never known feelings before. Emotions were not part of it’s creation. It did not know what ‘awareness’ meant but this was what it now felt. Roused by the touch and fear of the one who had showed it love, the Golem stepped for the first time with a desire of it’s own. Many times it had been used to inflict violence but never before had it done so by choice. Ignoring the ‘Magic Missiles’ that broke apart on it’s iron hide it stepped down from the platform and dropped to one knee on the worn taproom floor with a grace that belied its bulk. Its immense head turned so it looked over its shoulder to where a surprised Trina stood. It reached up it an iron hand and tapped its shoulder. It’s dour features changed as for the first time its mouth turned up in a smile.
With a smile that matched the Golem’s, Trina clambered up it’s broad back as she had done many times before. Under her hands and feet the iron of the Golem felt alive. Sitting on it’s shoulder, she dangled her feet over its chest. She had no fear of falling as it stood to it’s full height. She tangled her fingers in her hair, feeling each individual strand. Never before had it’s hair moved. Towering above even the tallest of the Orcs, Trina smiled down at them. Fear had evaporated and had been replaced with adulation. The power of the Golem pulsed through them both.
“I would run,” Trina called down to the Orcs and their beautiful leader.
Four of the Orcs threw aside their weapons and howling raced out into the cold of the night.
Cursing in it’s guttural language the tall Orc dropped the Cook’s helper and unlimbered a broad iron axe from it’s back and stepped in front of the Half-Orc.
Trina knew she and the Golem did not need to share words. She was not truly sure how she knew this but deep in her heart she knew this as truth. The Golem, echoing her unspoken thoughts stepped forward, stepping over the moaning Cook and stable hand. The Orc streaked forward, raising the rune etched half-moon axe high. The runes glowed and flames sprang to life around the head of the weapon. Releasing the Orc was swinging high so as to strike her, Trina drew her legs up and crossed them underneath her and leaned in so she rested against the Golem’s head. Once again with a speed that belied it’s size and weight, the Golem caught the head of the axe in one hand and driving the other hand forward in an open handed blow, sent the huge Orc flying across the taproom where it came to a crashing halt of tangled limbs with one of it’s companions. Opening it’s hand the Golem dropped the now crumpled battle-axe. Two of the remaining Orcs stepped before the Half-Orc while she reached into a pouch at her side and discarding the wand, she drew out a long golden staff.
The two Orcs dived forward, both slashing with swords for the Golem’s legs. A large eye on the end of the golden staff opened and a ‘Lightning Bolt’ sprang from the glowing pupil. Sparks flew as the swords bounced from the Golem’s iron hide and the ‘Lightning Bolt’ hissed and died as it struck the palm of the Golem’s outstretched hand. Trina gasped as the Golem spun quickly on one heel and with a sweeping kick, launched both Orcs through the air. She then winced as she heard the crunch of bones as the Orcs impacted with one of the taprooms walls.
Cursing in a mix of Common and Orchish the Half-Orc ordered the remaining Orcs to stand before her. With three Orcs before her she pulled another wand from her pouch. With this in one hand and the staff in her other, she hissed something in the harsh tongue of the Orcs. As one the remaining Orcs charged, roaring in one voice. One wielded a barbed sword, another a wicked axe and the third gripped a spined club in a two handed grip. Blazing bubbles spat forth from the mouth at the end of the red wand the Half-Orc wielded and from the staff shards of ice streaked through the air.
The Golem sprang forward, it’s arms open wide. It gathered surprised Orcs up into a bone crushing bear hug as fire bubbles and ice shards burst and shattered harmlessly against black iron. Pivoting at the waist, the Golem swung around and tossed the three Orcs out the still open doors of the Inn.
Seeing the Half-Orc was distracted by the sight of the last of her force flying from the Inn, an idea occurred to Trina. Sensing what was in her mind, the Golem reached up and Trina sat upon it’s broad palm. Lifting it’s hand high into the air, before the Half-Orc could gather her wits or launch another attack, the Golem threw Trina through the air. Landing lightly on the bar where the Golem had tossed her, Trina reached under the bar. Grasping the always loaded iron and wood crossbow, she brought it out. She rested the butt of the crossbows stock against her hip as she had seen others who were not as large as her father had done when they had wielded it on occasion at her father’s side, she aimed the weapon, made lighter by the runes inscribed in its wood and iron for the robed figure who had threatened her home and those she called family.
The drawn wire of the crossbow sang and in hands that did not shake, Trina brought it to bear on the Half-Orc. “I told you that you should have ran.” Trina told the robed and menacing figure.
Revenge was something Trina had been told about many times. But it was not with a feeling of vengeance in her heart that she released the blot from the bow. It was with the knowledge that if she was let slip back out into that dark and cold night, one day the Half-Orc with a larger force at her back would return with thoughts of revenge filling her heart that Trina sent the bolt streaking across the taproom. The black iron bolt struck the Half-Orc in her chest and lifted her from her feet. With a look of disbelief on her beautiful, cold face she crashed into the fireplace, that large pot of stew falling from where it hung and driving the bolt out through her back as it crashed down on her chest. Silence filled the taproom as with now shaking hands, Trina lowered the crossbow to the bar. Dizziness gripped her as what she had just done gripped her.
Black iron hands caught her as she fell from the bar and brought her up so she was cradled against the broad black iron chest. Darkness gripped Trina as a feeling of relief and a familiar warmth of the Golem’s magic filled her.
“Damn, I was lucky the Golem could throw accurately,” was the last thing she thought as she let darkness and warmth take her “hitting the barstools would have really sucked.”
Sitting up, Trina was surprised to find herself in the warmth of her bed. Bright Winter sunlight streamed through the open curtains of the one window of what she saw was the room her father had once shared with her mother. She felt the crispness of the Winter morning and smiled. It was not often she slept in her father’s broad bed. Abruptly thoughts of the intruders filled her mind and all warmth fled.
She dove out of her father’s bed and reaching the door crashed into the broad body of her father. Catching her in his still strong arms before she bounced off, he swept her up into a tight embrace.
Shocked by this first bit of closeness they had shared for years, tears filled her eyes as she buried her face against his broad chest.
“There is my Hero,” her father whispered into her sleep mussed hair. “I am so proud of her. And your Mother would be too.”
Trina looked up into the happy tear filled eyes of her father. He reached down and gently wiped the tears from her cheeks and then put her down on the bedroom floor.
“It is good you are awake,” he said quickly, wiping the tears from his eyes. “Someone has been waiting a whole day and two nights for you. It was all I could do to talk it out of crashing up the stairs and standing over you while you slept.”
Weighing his words, Trina realised she had slept the rest of the night away plus a whole day and another night since the encounter with the Half-Orc and her force. Curious, Trina looked up into the smiling face of her father. Her heart filled with joy at this smile. It had been a long time since such a smile had been gifted to her.
“Someone is waiting for me?” she quietly said, not truly wishing to break this moment.
Grinning wider, her father scooped her up and slung her over one shoulder. Like the smile, this had not been something he had done to her since her mother had died. Roaring like some beast, with her giggling and mock struggling against him, he carried her out of his room and along the long hallway. At the top of the long stairs he kiss her on both cheeks and put her down. He pointed to the base of the stairs.
Turning, giddy with happiness, Trina saw the broad, black iron face of the Golem looking up at her. She looked down into the face of the sentinel and was surprised to see it standing there.
Puzzled she looked up at her father.
“The deactivation words did not work on him.” Her father announced. “It was all I could do to convince him to hand you to me so I could check you over then put you into bed after the others had roused me that night. I believe if it was not for my name being on the script he possesses he would not have let me tend you and take you up to sleep. If it was not for his size I think he would have followed me up there and stood over you while you slept. It was lucky no other visitors arrived or they would have had trouble pushing past him to get up to their rooms. As it was I slept out with the others in the taproom once we cleaned up.”
Marvelling at her father’s words, Trina gazed down at the Golem. Warily she smiled at it and it answered with a broad smile of it’s own.
“I have never heard of one doing anything like this,” he father confessed. “It is ignoring the spells that should control it.”
Slowly Trina climbed the stairs and standing on the last one, looking up into the still smiling face of the black iron giant. It knelt down and lowered it’s face so it did not tower over her.
“Friend,” it said in a voice filled with the echoes of centuries.
Startled, Trina, looked up at her father.
He shrugged. “Another first.” Was his reply.
Looking at the Golem Trina smiled widely. “Yes,” she told it. “Friend.” She reached up and laid her hand against the side of it’s cheek. She did not know why the Golem had woken from it’s sleep without the command of the spell that controlled it. She did not know why it remained ‘awake’ and had waited for her while she slept. What she did know was this was something marvellous. It had protected her and those who called the Inn home by it’s own violation. It had woken itself when her life and it’s home had been threatened. She knew these facts and she also knew that the relationship with her father had finally changed. It was with knowledge in her heart that she stood on tiptoes and kissed the brow of her iron friend.
And she knew too that life would not be the same for her, her father, for her black iron friend and for the Inn and those that called it their home.
Lawrence Cottam 2015