Haunting at Grimwatch - A Short Story


If you are upset by dark themes, crude language, or vivid descriptions of violence and death or blood, I would advise you to give this story a miss. All of this is included with purpose and not gratuitous or glorified, but if those sorts of descript images bother you, this may not be the story for you. That said, enjoy the tale!

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Art by Petros-Stefanidis

Welling blood formed a small rivulet; the warm, freshly spilt liquid carved a path through the bitterly cold snow as it gushed from the wound in the rough bandit’s side. His eyes were closed, his breath laden. A hand clutched a gaping wound just beneath his ribcage. The bastard’s dagger had found a way between his fur plates, sliding into his vulnerable flesh. 

The bandit groaned, resting his head against the ruined stone wall that supported him and winced, his eyes scrunched tightly closed as he bore the pain of his likely mortal gash. Snowflakes drifted gently about him, seeming to tease him for his clumsiness with their grace. 

Just as his breath was starting to even out, he gasped again as he felt a weight flop down beside him. He gritted his teeth, surprise and a twinge of fear mingled with anger jolting through him. Slowly, he turned his head and opened his eyes.

There he was.

The big nord was still settling himself beside him when his eyes opened. The bastard’s face was still obscured by that accursed hood, drawn over his head so that only his gray beard was visible, tied into three braids as it tapered down toward his chest. Despite its gray tone, the hair had the healthy look of a young, active man rather than the old and dry appearance of one walking near the end of his life. 

Sighing as he made himself comfortable to whatever degree was possible between the rugged stones of the ruined tower he leaned against and the hard, snowy ground he sat on, the nord began to undo his leather gauntlets. Freeing his hands of the bracers, he clasped his bloody fingers together, stretching his arms and shoulders, leaning forward and exposing the back of the dark fur pelt he had wrapped about his neck to the snow. The night-black fur was now freckled by brilliant white flakes of ice; little lights being quickly extinguished by the ombre of the pelt. 

Setting his gauntlets gently to his side, the man’s large hand drifted down to his leg, plated in padded and boiled leather. With practiced familiarity he flipped open a clasp and withdrew a shining steel dagger from the sheath it was tamed within. The bandit grunted, watching the dagger’s progress with careful keenness as it made its way to the tip of the big warrior’s fingers and began to trace cleansing lines through his nails. He sat there cleaning himself for some time.

“So you’re here to mock me?” spat the bandit finally, frustrated with the silence and the wait. He had only so much blood left to lose. “To sit there with your dagger and, what, watch me suffer?”

There was no response.

“You want to watch me suffer, is that it?” he demanded again, pausing to see if the shitbag who’d given him this wound would respond. After ample silence, he gave up and let his head fall back into its original position against the crumbling stone wall. 

Another long silence. The dagger moved from the man’s right palm to his left when he was satisfied that the nails of his southern hand were free of dirt, snow, and blood.

“Fuck,” the bandit said. “You’re cruel, you know that? Real fuckin’ cruel.” The dagger continued to scratch away under the nails. “Sit here next to a dying man and not even speakin’ to him. Ya know what? Fuck you. Yeah, fuck you! Why don’t you just kill me now, eh? Like you did everyone else, huh?” A racking cough shook him then as he finished his tirade. He felt as if he was sick, but when he looked down, it was blood rather than vomit that he had hacked into his lap.

“Dammit,” he tried to say between racking wheezes and coughs. Finally he settled down and went back to a more silent version of agony.

Slowly, the blood in his lap soaked into his furs. With nothing else to do and no motion to do anything at all from his tormentor, the bandit gazed down at his legs, watching the dark red of his blood-soaked cloak as it was gradually blanketed in fallen snowflakes. 

Several more such coughing fits overtook him as he drifted with agonizing delay toward death.

“Fuck,” the bandit said again. “Shit, just kill me.” Fury overtook him as the man continued to groom himself in his mute vigil. In a fit of rage and desperation, he worked up the strength to reach up and shove the man who sat beside him over. “KILL ME!” he shouted.

The shove had all the force of a dying man behind it, which is to say, almost none at all; and even less due to the sheer bulk of the warrior he had tried to push. For the first time, however, the dagger stopped mid-arc through the hooded nord’s thumbnail. A triumphant grin spread across the bandit’s face. A reaction. Finally he could leave for Sovngarde.

He closed his eyes, preparing to embrace Aetherius. He could almost see it coming to greet him. Too much time passed. Irritated, his eyes fluttered open again. Rather than lashing out in anger, the hooded nord had simply readjusted his position, shifting his back into what must have been a more comfortable orientation against the rugged stone wall and deftly replacing the dagger in its sheath against his calf. 

“Do you have a son?”

His voice was deep and gravelly, thick with a Pale accent, and strangely, rather unthreatening in tone. The timbre of the speech grated against the ear. It threatened to crack at any moment, as though it hadn’t been used in years, only to be suddenly called upon without any preparation. 

No, there was no threat in the words, the bandit reasoned. Rather, a deep melancholy. The depth and breadth of the sadness in those words made the bandit shudder. Were all words this man spoke so deeply laden? Or indeed, did he speak any words at all? Perhaps these were the first words he had ever spoken.

So distracted was he by the sound of the hooded nord’s guttural oration that the meaning of the words escaped him.

“What was that?”

“A son. Do you have one?”

Taken aback by the question, and almost distracted once more by the sickly saddened tone, the bandit had to think about his response for a moment.

“Yeah. Grown now.”

The bandit wondered why he had answered such a foolish question. Had it not sent jolts of pain through his entire body, he might have shrugged. At least the man was saying something. Anything. 

Another silence. Then …

“Have you ever gone hunting with your son?”

The bandit’s head lolled to the side, bringing his eyes about to look at the hooded neck of the nord. “What kind of fuckin’ question-”

“Have you ever gone hunting with your son?” the man repeated, more firmly this time. Now there was a subtle threat in his voice. It didn’t replace the sorrow that was there, but rather joined it as an old friend. The bandit gulped and gasped for a moment, taking some time to steady his shallow breath before replying.

“Well uh … yeah. I remember well, matter of fact.” He almost chuckled, but stopped himself. He didn’t want to cough up that horrible red fluid again and ruin the pleasant blanket of snow that had come to coat his outstretched thighs.

“What was it like.” The man was unmoving now, apparently concentrating carefully on what the bandit was about to say. 

“Frustrating as Oblivion,” the bandit said, a wistful grin playing at his lips. He let out a sharp exhale that might have been a laugh in any other circumstance. “The boy was so nervous. He was good mind you. Shot well with his bow ‘n that. Damn good shot, matter of fact. But shit, he was wound tighter than that fuckin’ bowstring ever was.” This time he did chuckle lightly, doubling over in pain and spitting a wad of blood and saliva against the wall. 

“Took us a long time to find an elk, what with his nervous bumblin’ about. Finally we found one in a little clearing, ya know? Perfect shot too; we were just in the bushes a ways. ‘Course I let the kid take the shot, and ‘course, nervous as he was, you understand, he missed the damned thing. Nine, he was so upset. All I could do to keep the little guy from crying.” He laughed again, managing to keep his blood inside him this time; or perhaps there was simply none left to spit up. 

The hooded nord remained utterly still, considering the bandit’s story. After a time, he let out a sharp exhale, a glimmer of some perverted form of mirth. The bandit got his first proper look at the man’s stormy eyes, grimey face, and several-times broken nose as the great nord turned to face him. 

Once again, the dagger came out of its sheath, and this time the bandit got the sense it wasn’t to clean any more nails. The nord grasped it by the blade, his thumb pressed against the upper edge of the dagger as he brought it up the bandit’s neck. 

He sniggered again as the cold steel came to rest between his taught tendon and extruding jugular. He gulped down the last load of spit thickened with blood as the man grasped his windpipe with one hand, between the blade and his two fingers. With his powerful grip, the hooded nord tilted the bandit’s head agonizingly to face him, and locked his gaze.

Real fear gripped the bandit for the first time as he stared into the stormy blue-grey eyes of the nord. His eyes held even more emotion than his sorrowful voice. In them were layers of pain, laid on him like no man deserves. His stare was filled with such deep desolation and raw fury. His intense emotions roiled in his striking irises like thunderheads, gathering before a devastating tempest. 

The rest of his face remained slack, devoid of expression, but his eyes revealed the otherwise unseen. As the bandit was forced to stare into them, he saw something else there. Accusation. Hatred. The fury was not general, but personal. Deeply, deeply personal. 

The man spoke again, his voice barely above a whisper.

“I would have liked to have gone hunting with my son.”

Understanding dawned on the bandit as the blade slowly cut deep into the vulnerable flesh of his throat. The frigid steel slid through his skin and muscle like a knife through butter. How cruel was this nord, that he laid such guilt on a man just before he died? This time, as Aetherius approached him, the bandit didn’t see the mead-halls of Sovngarde welcoming him with open arms. There was nothing in death for him now but the void of condemnation. 

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The hooded nord felt the other end of the blade touch his fingers as it cut through the last bit of the pathetic, dying bandit’s throat. The specter of a satisfied grin played at the corners of his lips as he watched understanding dawn in the bandit’s eyes while he died. Blood jetted out from his sliced neck, draining whatever was left from the man. 

Hefnar stood, not sparing the corpse of the bandit another glance. He turned on his heel, picking his way slowly through the battlefield riddled with snow, fallen stone from the crumbling tower, and leaking bodies. 

The skeleton of Grimwatch Tower stood against the snow, haunted now by the vengeance of a broken man, and by the condemned spirits of the dead bandits. The deceased tower watched as the lonely, fur-covered figure made its way through the corpsefield, slipping through the snowstorm that had picked up into a howling blizzard, and ducking into the dark forest that awaited him. 

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  • I should stop by the Story Corner sometime and catch up on some of the great content thats come out. I'll be sure to start with this one. A cursory glance at this story says its going to be a fantastic ready. 

    • Thanks for dropping by man :D

  • Wow.  That grips pretty hard.  Descriptions are vivid.   Good work!

    • Thanks a lot man glad you enjoyed it. I wrote this one mostly to work on my descriptions of interaction since I've gotten more comfortable with environmental descriptions.

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