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Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off: The Last Kinmark by Josh Brannan

The Last Kinmark by Josh Brannan

This is an excerpt provided by the author for the Grimdark Magazine Battle-Off Competition

The Hammer breathed in deeply through his nose. Already, the smell of dead men was in the air. Behind him rose the high walls of Endroad. Beside him stood the men of his new squad. He had learned their names during the march to battle, but he forgot them now. They did not matter. The city behind him did not matter. The tens of thousands of lives at stake did not matter. None of it mattered, not even his past. His parents. Ventir. Precious. Nothing. All there was stood directly before him. The enemy. The Hammer ran to meet them.

The first one he met was named George. He looked like an overgrown tribesman, snarling at the Hammer as he swung his large two handed sword downward. He had a wife and two small children back home. Wherever these giants, these demons, these Kinmarks came from. Wherever it was, George had loved ones there. The Hammer dodged George’s strike and swung his hammer low. George screamed as he fell, his crushed legs buckling beneath him.

The Hammer raised his hammer high above his head for the killing blow but then stopped suddenly. He was breathing heavily. “Have you ever found something that numbs the pain? That one thing that makes your life worth living?” He asked this in the tribal language that these giants spoke.

George looked up at him with wide eyes, his legs broken beyond fixing. He would never walk again. He pleaded with the Hammer. “Yes. Yes.”

The Hammer nodded his head and bared his teeth. “So have I.” And the hammer fell.

The possibilities were endless. The Hammer picked out a man. Ryan. He was older than George, but they were good friends regardless. He would not know that the body lying twenty feet away was his good friend. How could he? It had no head.

Ryan also had family back home. His wife had bore him three sons before dying along with the fourth in childbirth. Ryan had built a monument to her that would have put most temples to shame. He had loved her fiercely. His sons would one day follow their father’s example and become soldiers. He would have been proud. If only he had not met the Hammer that day.

Ryan fought with a long spear that extended his already massive reach. It did him no good. The Hammer got within its range and slammed his monstrous weapon into the giant’s armored side. Ribs broke, but the man did not fall. The Hammer swung the staff of his hammer into the man’s nose. He stumbled. A swift uppercut of the weapon’s iron head caught his chin and killed him instantly.

He needed more. There was somebody’s father. Somebody’s husband. Somebody’s son. The Hammer imagined pasts for them all before they died. It did not matter who came forward. They all fell before him. For they may have been giants, but he was so much more. On that day, at least, he was a god.

The Hammer was unaware of Mel’s presence as he slaughtered another, Bob, who was just a simple farmer and whose wife had cheated on him with his own brother. He heard his companion, unknowable to all others and untouchable even to him, yell out, “Behind you.”

He spun around to see a charging pair of Kinmarks. Without thinking, he threw his hammer at one. It was not made for such a thing. It was much too heavy to throw like that. But the Hammer did it anyway. It smashed into the man’s chest, crushing his breastbone and killing him without remorse or hesitation.

The Hammer was angry. He had not been able to know the man. His story died with him. The other giant was still charging. He had not known the eternal stranger who had just died at his side.

His name was William. And the Hammer knew he was a right bastard. He had only joined the army for the spoils of war. He had raped many women and killed many children. His first victim had been his own father. He had stabbed him in the back when he was only ten years old. He deserved to die for that and for so many other things.

William came at the Hammer. He had a spear just like Ryan. But he had not been friends with Ryan. Ryan had been a good man. William lashed out with his spear. The Hammer barely twisted out of its way. This was by design. He knew that William would leave the spear extended and try to crash it into the Hammer to knock him off balance. He was ready for it. The spear came to the Hammer, and he caught its shaft between his arm and his side. He viciously pulled the spear out of William’s grasp. The giant was stunned. The Hammer laughed and threw the thing behind him. He wanted nothing to do with it.

William and the Hammer rushed at one another. Neither took the time to draw their secondary weapons. The giant landed a blow with his fist. The Hammer reciprocated. It was an alley brawl. The Hammer was an expert at this type of fighting. He was an expert at all types of fighting. He managed to get the giant on the ground where his long reach would be of no use to him.

William struggled. He was massive, much heavier than the Hammer. But he was not used to wrestling on the ground. Beaten children did not fight back. The Hammer subdued him. He gloried in his victory for a moment. The evil creature was unable to move. The Hammer allowed himself a smile as he put his thumbs against William’s eyes and pushed. They were soft. He felt them pop under the pressure like a pair of grapes. The sound of it made his mouth water.

Love Josh's Battle?  Purchase The Last Kinmark over at Amazon.