The Dread Lord Marrowbone's Pommel
By: Walter G. Esselman

"You! The Dread Lord of Death's Peak! Your day of reckoning has come!" called out Sir Gowen. "For on this day, you will face justice for your many crimes!"

The knight, in his shining, silvery armor, waved his blue sword with menacing skill.

"Justice? Justice for what?" asked the Dread Lord Marrowbone as he advanced across the battlefield in his matte black armor.

His troops were picking off the last soldiers on the field. Some of his army had not even bothered to wait for them to be dead before eating.

Marrowbone thought about saying something, but then an army does travel on its stomach.

"Don't play coy," snapped Sir Gowen, pulling back the Dread Lord's attention. "I am here to avenge the village of Copic."

Marrowbone paused a second, but then shrugged. "Don't remember."

"What? You…don't remember?"

"I've destroyed more than a few villages," said Marrowbone. "Maybe if you tell me a little bit about it. I mean, was it farming type of village, or fishing, or…"

"You villian!" interrupted Sir Gowen. "I shall cleave you in twain with this, the Sword of Midnight."

Marrowbone blinked at the knight's weapon.

"Um. You know, that's not the Sword of Midnight," he said at last.

"I will not listen to your false words," said Sir Gowen. But he glanced, just for a second, at his weapon.

Marrowbone thrust his blade—the actual Sword of Midnight—forward, and it ran Sir Gowen clean through. As Sir Gowen looked up in surprise, Lord Marrowbone activated the sword with a thought.

The Sword of Midnight instantly became a superheated blade that flash–cooked Sir Gowen in his armor.

Marrowbone tugged his sword out, and—as it instantly cooled—sheathed the weapon.

"Cooked knight over here," called out the Dread Lord.

One of his lieutenants, a kobold named Franc, ran over.

"Oh, oh, oh," muttered Franc excitedly. "I do prefer cooked." And then he stopped and looked up at Lord Marrowbone. "My Mother would then joke that I had been switched at birth."

Marrowbone chuckled warmly. "I won't tell her."

Stepping away—as his lieutenant feasted—Marrowbone headed over to the enemy camp. The camp followers were legging it.

Cornick, who led the centaurs in the Dread Lord's army, galloped over.

"My Lord, do you want us to follow?" asked the centaur, who was eyeing the fleeing people.

"No. We have more than enough food for the trip home," shrugged Marrowbone. "At least this army attacked us closer to Death's Peak."

"Barely an army," sniffed Cornick.

"Well, their leader did carry the Sword of Midnight," said Marrowbone.

Cornick quickly glanced at his Lord's weapon, and then grinned.

"Lucky them," chuckled the centaur.

Marrowbone walked around the enemy camp, but it was pretty slim pickens. This was not a rich army. Even their food stores were mostly tatos and lima beans.

"Yip," called out a voice near his foot.

Blinking, Marrowbone looked down and saw a puffball.

"Yip," said the small dog again.

"What're you doing here?" asked Marrowbone.

The small dog whined sadly.

The Dread Lord looked around, but he did not see any other dogs here.

There had been dogs on the field of battle, but none of them could care for anything right now.

Turning, Marrowbone walked towards Sir Gowen's Command tent. However, there was not much there, only a bed of rushes on the ground. Gowen had lived frugally before getting himself dead.

Stepping out of the tent, the small dog was sitting there attentively.

"There's probably something in the food stores," said Marrowbone to the dog, and he pointed East, even as he turned West.

But the little dog did not go East.

Marrowbone suddenly heard a plaintive sound. The pup was so small that he almost did not hear it inside his great helmet. He looked back and the small dog took one more step, and then collapsed, a little melodramatically.

"Okay, a little food and water. Then I shall find someone who will take care of you, but won't eat you," sighed Marrowbone.

Pulling off one of his black gauntlets, the Dread Lord exposed a hand that was almost pasty in its whiteness. Gently, Marrowbone scooped up the small dog. Across the Dread Lord's chest was a sash bearing the colors of his army: red and blue. Luckily, it had escaped any bloodshed, so the little dog was held comfortably against that.

Circling the field of battle, Marrowbone had almost reached his camp when his lieutenant ran up.

"The field is clear of opposing heartbeats," said Franc. "I…" But then he stilled. "Um, sir."

"What?" asked Marrowbone. He saw the kobold eyeing the tiny dog.

"About the dog…," started Franc.

"You missed a bit on the side of your face," said Marrowbone.

That momentarily distracted Franc as he tried to wipe away crispy knight.

The Dread Lord kept a smile off his face.

"Better?" asked Franc.

"It'll do," said Marrowbone.

But Franc's eyes went back to the dog.

"Your comments are not needed," said Marrowbone warningly.

"I know, I know, but…," said Franc wretchedly. "It's just that her Ladyship had some very pointed words about you snacking between meals. And she put me in charge, and if you can't fit into your armor, she's going to…" Franc's eyes crossed. "Well, she didn't say quite what she'd do, but it'll be bad. Very, very bad."

Marrowbone took pity on his lieutenant. "The dog is not food."

"It's not?" asked Franc in surprise. "But…"

The Dread Lord just gave the kobold a dangerous look.

"Nothing sir," said Franc quickly.

The Dread Lord spoke. "I will need some shredded chicken—cooked—and a bowl of clean water."

"I can get that," nodded Franc quickly, and he bolted off.

Marrowbone went straight to his tent and set the dog upon his cot, which was made of steelwood to support his great weight. The Dread Lord was not fat—despite his wife's concerns—but he was very, very dense.

The dog immediately jumped to his feet on the purple sleeping pad. He walked from one end of the bed to the other, sniffing furiously.

Shortly, Franc returned with two little bowls. "I nearly had to break the cook's arm to get him to cook the chicken."

Marrowbone nodded slowly. "Well…that probably needed to happen anyhow. The cook has been getting a little big for his breeches lately."

"Um…," said Franc as he held out the proffered bowls.

"Put them in front of the dog," ordered Marrowbone.

"Yipyipyipyip," said the small dog excitedly. Franc put the bowls on the bed, and the dog dove in. His stubby tail wagged furiously.

"I think he was hungry," commented Franc.

"A healthy appetite is good," nodded Marrowbone.

"What shall you do with him?" asked Franc.

"Had not gotten further than food and water," admitted Marrowbone. "Now, make sure we are ready to ride at dawn tomorrow. Her Ladyship expects us home right away. ‘No dawdling,' she said. ‘No extra wars, campaigns, quests, battles, skirmishes, raids, or anything like that. No excuses.'" And a warm smile lit up his face.

Franc saluted. "Yessir."

The Dread Lord turned to the dog. "And you—we will find someone to take care of you in the morning."

***

The Dread Lord turned his warhorse around so that he could view his army. There were a few soldiers running about as they finished packing up. But the rest of his troops were on their feet.

"We leave now, and we should be back at Death's Peak by noon tomorrow," announced Marrowbone.

That got a sleepy cheer from his army.

Turning his warhorse, he started off.

But then he heard a tiny noise. Slowing, he looked to his side. The little dog was already out of breath.

"I guess it's too much to expect you to run alongside," said Marrowbone.

"Yip," replied the tiny dog.

Marrowbone stopped and twisted in his saddle.

"Franc!" he called out.

His lieutenant was there in an instant.

"Can you pick the dog up and give him to me?" asked Marrowbone.

"Sure," said Franc. "As long as you don't eat him between meals."

"I promise I won't," said Marrowbone, and he had to suppress his mirth.

Franc handed the small dog up to the Dread Lord.

Marrowbone gathered some of his woolen cloak right in front of him, and then he placed the dog upon it.

"Yawn," said the dog, and instantly curled up.

The Dread Lord gave an involuntary smile. "My saddle's pommel is bigger than you."

"Yip," replied the dog.

"Tonight, we really need to find someone to take care of you," said Marrowbone.

***

Marrowbone scowled in mock anger. "It's your own fault."

The little dog made a sad noise from the edge of the cot.

"You really shouldn't have eaten all that chicken," said Marrowbone.

"Yip," said the dog unrepentantly, and he quickly fell into a food coma.

The Dread Lord yawned himself. "Well, you do make a good argument there."

It felt like he had just closed his eyes when he heard a noise.

The small dog growled at the side of the tent. "Yip!"

Marrowbone dove off the side of the cot and hit the ground like a cat. Before he had reached the ground, he heard the thunk of a crossbow bolt hitting his cot. But the Dread Lord already had his sword.

Sprinting towards the side of his tent, he cut it open.

In the cool night air, Marrowbone plunged the Sword of Midnight into a centaur with a crossbow. He looked up into Cornick's shocked expression.

"And I liked you too," commented Marrowbone.

With a thought, the sword became superheated. The centaur managed a small noise before he succumbed to the flashfire within. The crossbow burst into flame and clattered to the ground.

Behind him, Marrowbone heard a high–pitched barking. He looked around and saw the small dog yapping at the burning crossbow.

"My Lord?" called out Franc as he ran up. He had his sword ready, but slowed as the Dread Lord pulled his sword from the corpse.

"Looks like there's an opening in our calvary," said Marrowbone.

"Yip," agreed the small dog.

The Dread Lord looked down at pup.

"We definitely have to find the perfect home for you," smiled Marrowbone.

***

The huge black gates of the castle on Death's Peak opened ponderously.

Atop the wall, one of the guards called out joyously. "The Dread Lord and his army have returned!"

In the bailey of the castle, Marrowbone dismounted. He patted his horse affectionately, and took the small dog from atop the saddle.

"My Lord," said Franc as he ran up. "The army…"

A woman with bats wings dropped between them. Suddenly, Franc was being held up into the air by his throat.

"How… how can I serve you my Lady?" croaked the kobold while he still had oxygen.

Holding up the lieutenant was the Lady of Death's Peak. She was beautiful in her own way. Some might say too angular, but the Dread Lord smiled at the sight.

"Tell me true," growled the Lady of Death's Peak. "Did he snack between meals?"

"Un–gil," tried Franc.

"I think he's having trouble breathing, my winged love," said Marrowbone gently.

Slowly, the Lady lowered Franc to his feet, but she did not let go.

When the lieutenant could breathe, he spoke. "Not that I saw, your Ladyship."

"That's true," confirmed Marrowbone. "I did snack, but out of sight of anyone, especially him. Great lieutenants are hard to find."

The Lady released Franc— who was reeling because of the ‘great lieutenants' compliment— and she turned to her husband.

"You are going on a diet," said the Lady with a dark voice. She pointed at the dog with a wing. Her voice grew sorrowful. "And you're carrying your snacks around openly, as if to flaunt them in front of me."

Marrowbone looked confused for a moment, but then he looked down at the small dog, and a smile appeared.

"Oh him?" he said, almost in surprise. "This…this is Pommel, my newest hound."

"Yip!" agreed the little dog.


Thank you to Jai Bailey for being awesome, and inspiring this piece.

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