Another month brings another Gretchen Furious Fiction entry and ‘Going Out With a Bang’ is the tale of what happens at a dwarven funeral. I had fun with this set of criteria from Australian Writers Center and have managed to put the story to good use already.
Your July Furious Fiction story criteria are as follows:
- Your story must take place at either WEDDING or a FUNERAL.
- Your story must include something being cut.
- Your story must include the words “UNDER”, “OVER” and “BETWEEN”.
Going Out With a Bang
‘So you’re telling me that dwarves spend all their lives under the ground and then get cremated?’ Gretchen wrinkled her nose. ‘That just doesn’t make any sense. I didn’t even see a pyre set when I arrived.’
Nora gave Gretchen a warning look and nodded toward the procession of Tomas’ bearded kinfolk waiting to pay their respects. ‘Well keeping bodies in their living rooms wouldn’t be sanitary now, would it?’
Gretchen pursed her lips and shrugged. Tomas had spent his latter years running a tavern above ground, and she imagined his soul would rest easier with his remains returned to the earth. ‘Got any explanations for why they’re cutting off his beard?’
Each mourner who passed the deceased dwarf took a snip using a pair of gilded scissors passed solemnly between them. No eulogy appeared forthcoming, and the dwarves remained tight-lipped when Gretchen had attempted to make small talk.
Nora’s brows furrowed, and she rubbed her chin. ‘Magical properties, perhaps? It must be particularly powerful.’
‘How do you figure?’ Gretchen asked.
‘A dwarf wouldn’t be parted from his beard for anything less,’ Nora snorted.
Gretchen caught sight of Jurgen, the troll proprietor of the tavern, coming from the kitchens and waved to get his attention.
When he sidled up next to the witches, Gretchen jerked her thumb toward the coffin. ‘You’d know. What’s with all this fuss over the beard?’
Jurgen gave her a level stare and folded his arms. ‘I’d know because I’m a troll?’
‘A troll with a wealth of useless tavern trivia.’ Gretchen smirked.
Jurgen held a hand to his mouth, but it didn’t hide his amused expression. Gretchen was about to give him a sharp poke in the ribs when a keening sounded from the coffin. An ancient dwarf stood with his hands held up, and the rest of the kinfolk joined the chorus. The cacophony reverberated through the timber floors, and Gretchen held a hand to her chest, eyes transfixed on the spectacle. She reached to clasp Nora’s hand.
When the dirge reached a crescendo, the dwarves held fistfuls of Tomas’ beard aloft, and an explosion rocked Gretchen where she stood. Holding an arm up against the blinding light, she huddled with Nora against the wall.
When no further assault came, Gretchen blinked to clear her vision, and a purple haze hung thick in the room. Gasping, she pushed through the dusty cohort of mourners, and stared at the pile of ash where the coffin had sat only moments earlier.
‘Holy smokes! Exploding beards? No wonder I didn’t know about this.’ Gretchen turned a grin to Nora and Jurgen.
Nora coughed and waved at the air as she stepped closer. ‘A little warning would have been nice.’
Gretchen chuckled and shook her head. ‘Imagine the pranks we could have played on the old fella. He’s probably up at the pearly gates grinning from ear to ear.’
Nora sniffed and wiped a stray tear from her eye. ‘He always did like to have the last laugh.’
This story has already been put to good use!
In Episode 0.5 of Gretchen’s (Mis)Adventures, Troll Hunter: Witch for Hire, Tomas’ decline is a catalyst for the events that unfolded. I got a few questions about what happened to the old dwarf in the end, so have included this story as an epilogue for my newsletter subscribers. Neat, huh?
If you’d like to read Troll Hunter: Witch for Hire, you can pick it up with your preferred book retailer here.
For more quick Gretchen stories, head back to the Short Stories page.