And Then the Hammer Came Down [part 1]
This is the first part of a series of fan stories based on the Degenesis RPG. The second part can be found here. If you want to find out more about Degenesis, make sure to check out their website. All their books are available as free downloads.
Damir dragged the sack full of metal scraps up the small slope. It felt like he had dragged things his entire life. More than 60 years old, grizzled, dressed in furs, at least four — he sometimes forgot the exact number — knives stuffed into various pockets, a pack full of worn tools and utensils on his back, stinking of sweat, covered in red dust, he cursed to himself. “Kurva… Anyád…”
As a kid, he had dragged things out of tunnels. He had been a tall and lanky child, his long arms perfect for reaching into holes and pulling out junk that his friends couldn’t get to. Once he got older, he’d make more Drafts, buy better clothes, more food, and do less crawling through tunnels. Instead, he’d dig holes, but at least he’d have a full — fuller — stomach. Then he’d take what he had dug up and drag it back to his camp, only to have to drag it again to any nearby Alcove to sell it.
At his current age, he would have expected that to change. Sure, his fellows would pat his back, declare him wise and knowledgeable about ruins and scrap fields, give him respect and praise for the treasures he had found over the years. But in the end, he was alone, and he was still dragging sacks of metal to the masked assholes in their Alcoves.
“By spring, I’ll move to Toulon,” he’d tell himself every winter. “Get an honest job.” As honest as they got, at least. But here he was, another winter stuck in this shithole.
A low wall blocked his path. Damir wished he had taken a heavy hammer to it earlier. With a grunt, he grabbed the sack of metal, heaved it up on the wall (Bazd…), and pushed it over the top (…Meg). He heard it crash to the ground on the other side. Something broke. Considering the bag’s contents, he didn’t care.
That someone yelped was of more concern. As swiftly and deftly as he could — which was not much — Damir climbed over the wall, one of his knives now in a firm grip between his teeth.
He landed, turned his head in the direction of the sound, and stared down the barrel of a musket. He unclenched his jaw, the knife dropping to the ground.
On the other side of the weapon stood a young woman in her late teens, the hand holding the musket shaking. She had dark hair and local Clan clothes that might have been brown before they were covered in the red dust. Her face was as red as her clothes, and her hair hadn’t been washed for days. She was armed, but it was easy to tell from her eyes that she wasn’t ready to kill.
“Don’t move,” the girl said. It was not a very convincing order.
“Seggfej,” Damir answered and snatched the gun out of the woman’s hand. “Is this thing even loaded?”
It was. A shiver went down Damir’s spine as he realized a wrong move could have turned his face into a crater.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said, lowering her hand, her whole body starting to shake instead. “You frightened me, that’s all. I didn’t mean to…”
Damir threw a glance to his right. A few steps in that direction and her leg would have been chopped off by one of his traps. Had she accidentally come close to his camp, she probably would have been in bloody chunks by now. He could have broken her hand. She was lucky. She didn’t look lucky.
“What the fuck are you doing out here?” Damir asked, handing the musket back. He’d be safe, he was sure. She was scared, cold, and harmless. She wouldn’t be pointing any more guns in his face.
“I…”. She hesitated. Was that shame on her face?
“Look, kid,” Damir said, holding up both his hands, palms towards her. “I don’t care what you’ve done. You’re in my home, that’s all. I don’t plan to hurt you, but I think I deserve to know. Don’t worry, I’m one of the nice guys.” He wasn’t. He knew it, and she probably knew it too.
“I… Shit. I stole something,” the girl said. Damir’s promises, as untrustworthy as they both knew they were, seemed to at least calm her down. She sounded slightly more secure as if she was talking to someone that would understand, to a peer, who wouldn’t care about someone stealing. “From the market, I mean. I was hungry! The crops didn’t turn out well this year and…”
She stopped again. The shame was still there. “She’s not ashamed of what she’s done,” Damir thought, a knot forming in his stomach. “She’s feeling shame for me.”
“…the Judges saw me.”
Shit. The picture became clear. They were chasing her. They were close. The fucking seggfejek, both her and the Judges. She had run. The idiot child had run. A minor infraction had become a major one. Out here they would crush her hands, or worse. And where had she gotten the musket from? The knot twisted in his stomach.
“Damnit kid,” he cursed, grabbing her by the arm. In a hurry, he started to lead her away from the wall towards his camp, moving between the traps he had put out. “You fucking did it to old Damir now, didn’t you?”
Damir had loved once. He had met a beautiful man at a dingy bar in a village close to Justitian. They had ended up in a fight over a spilled drink, beaten the shit out of each other, then laughed together at their own stupidity. After that night, they were inseparable.
They’d dig together. Sometimes, they might even drag something together. They had built a small cabin — several actually, as they’d move across Borca when resources dried up — together. Even when things got tough, Damir and Aleksy had loved each other. Been happy together.
It was during one of those tough times that it had ended. There had been a bar, pent-up frustration from a lack of food and Drafts, a fight, and a knife. Aleksy had tried to wrestle it out of the other man’s hand, but had twisted it and stabbed his opponent, puncturing a lung. When the Judges came, the man had already bled out, Aleksy covered in his blood. Fingers were pointed.
Aleksy had tried running. He did not get away. He tried resisting. The Hammers of Justice had broken his skull with their boots. Damir had held him, his whole body hurting to turn back time just 10 minutes, to refuse to accept what had happened and change reality back to the way it had been the night before. The Judges had dragged Damir away from Aleksy’s body, thrown him in a cell. He had spent months in a prison camp after that. Digging, dragging, crying, alone. He had been angry. Very, very angry.