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Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories

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The Beast in Me

Be proud, stand tall and always remember the beast in you." That was what my mother would always say to me. We grew up poor, but proud in Estali. My mother was always so proud because somewhere back in the mists of time one of our ancestors was one of the beast people. You know what you outsiders call Hsunchen. So of course we belonged to the local Ancient Beast Society for all the good it did us. You'd know them better as Loons. As apt a name as you could ever imagine. It was just the two of us, mom and me, because my good for nothing father had left us when I was quite young. Buggered off and left me nothing but an empty liquor bottle and a stupid name. I never went by that name though and I'll tell you why. After my dad left we crossed Felster Lake and settled in Kustria of all places. I never did learn what motivated mother to move us there so far from home and kin. Like the home of chivalry would ever feel comfortable to such as us.

And there we tried to live as we always had. Because my mom was so damn proud about our past, about our beasts inside, I was always mocked by being called Critter. I always hated that name but it sure as hell beat my given name. So Critter it was. Like I said mom was proud. She always stood tall and straight and never bent her back to no one. And this despite being nothing but a washerwoman, cleaning the piss and shit out of some damn noble's gitch. Proud as sin. The liturgist would lecture us every Godsday on the sins of the church and whenever he got to the part about the sin of pride he'd always look straight at my mom. But she never flinched and never lowered her eyes. Proud. And that's what got her killed. One day she was out shopping for the crap she could afford for us when she had the misfortune of running afoul of some Chaos Monks. Freaking Chaos Monks in broad daylight damn it. I never did hear what those bastards were doing out in the open but my poor mom was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As I heard it later the head kook was stalking along this alley making people scamper out of his way and laughing at them. Laughing at them. And then he comes up to my mom and she just stands there, glaring at him. Glaring at him like she has some ability to protect herself from this nutjob. But pride protects you from nothing and no one. He told her to avert her eyes and stop staring at him but all she does is wrap her shawl tighter around herself and keep staring. He seemed taken aback by this and stands there as his followers slither up to him. Well he knows that he can't let this pass so he orders my mom to abase herself in the mud at his feet. No bloody way that was going to happen so next thing there's a flash of bronze, a grunt and a corpse. And that was it for me mum. I was all of ten so
I had to let them bury her in the paupers field. But only after a lengthy and expensive ritual to prove that her corpse wasn't tainted by chaos. Which I have never managed to pay off. Not that I ever intend to. Pride. What the hell is it good for? And what does a ten year old do with no relatives to turn to? I was headed to the streets to sell myself when I ran into one of the Ancient Beast Societies. I didn't even know there were any of the bastards in Kustria. But it turns out that me mum had always secretly been a member and attending their stupid meetings. So they had come to look after me out of some sense of obligation.

I hated them. I hated their pathetic pride. So fucking what if they were descended from some damn animal? What difference did that make? They were so pathetic. Drumming for hours and spinning around in some stupid attempt to bring out the beast in them. So what if after hours of that crap someone managed to get the head of a goat or a horse? Big frigging deal. But what was I supposed to do? I didn't want to end up someone's catamite. So I swallowed my pride, mighty tasty, and stuck it out with these losers for five whole years so I could eat without being someone's play toy. I spun around and drummed drums and I worked in a tannery for five bloody years. Until
their world fell in on them.

The local bishop decided that the Loons were a threat to his blessed congregation. Maybe someone paid him off, I don't know. There's always money to be made from death. Anyway there we were all silly from drumming and twirling in someone's warehouse when suddenly all hell, or should that be all Solace, breaks loose. Fucking knights
everywhere running sinners through, cutting people down. And adepts blasting pathetic people with spells. Some loon loser actually managed to sprout the head of an elk. Bloody majestic until someone cut it off. I got out by climbing up to the rafters and scampering off across the rooftops. Only managed to get away because the idiot
on the roof was dressed in full armour and underestimated how slippery slate is. I just hope he took out someone down on the ground. Bastards. And up on the rooftops was were I met my new life. Criminals, burglars, ne'er do wells. They saw me running from the authorities and decided to take me in. Through sympathy I suppose or maybe they sensed a kindred spirit.

They took me in and made me one of them and I guess the three years I spent with them were happy enough. I enjoyed taking stuff from the rich bastards who had looked down on me mum and me. I wanted to do more than just take their stuff but my fellow thieves were too soft and frightened to do that. They said that they weren't assassins. They said that Saint Lanbril didn't approve of murder. Dead people weren't worth anything to them. So I didn't kill any of the bastards that so richly deserved to die and I mouthed the empty words to "Saint" Lanbril. I decided on my own initiative that I would expand my repertoire with killings for pay. That was fun. I really enjoyed doing the buggers I was hired to off but I didn't reckon on the Old Man of the Mountains and his crazies.

One day I was returning from my latest job when first thing I knew I was thrown up against a wall and a dagger was at my throat. The goon with the knife tells me "The Amman warns you to stop killing men for hire. That is our business. This is your only warning." I was too startled to do anything and the figure swathed in black swept off
into the night. The Amman is the leader of a heretical sect called The Church of the Revealed Truth. Their business is to kill people for their nutty leader. He plants people all over Ralios and calls them into service maybe years after they've been planted to kill someone he picks or is paid to pick. Serious trouble to cross for sure. I have to admit that I was scared for a time and kept my nose clean. But the lure of the kill was too strong.

So I accepted another job and then another. And this time on my way home from my second job I was jumped and knocked unconscious. I woke up somewhere dark dangling from shackles. I thought my body hurt at first but I soon learnt that I didn't know pain. But I learned to know pain. They never spoke to me no matter how I begged and pleaded and they never let up. I knew that they were going to kill me eventually and leave me somewhere public as an example. Finally the pain drove me deep within myself. And you know what? Mom was right. I found it there, the beast in me, and I let it out. And you know what else? Lions don't fit in shackles made to hold men. And really angry lions as smart as me have a real easy time killing assassins. Especially surprised ones. Who quickly became dead ones.

I eventually recovered from their torture and I discovered through experimentation just how to unleash the beast in me and I've never looked back. And as the good book says, vengeance is mine. And it's fun to spread it around. Mom was right after all and I've never been more proud.

This page last modified September 19, 2003 

Last updated September 25, 2016

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