The Story of Grimm the Lizard-WizardPosted: August 22, 2012
In a Lizard Folk village near the border with the land of humans, a scout came to Grimm the War-Mage’s home. It was a cave at the edge of the swamp, very much like the other inhabited caves of this settlement, aside from a dubious collection of skulls, esoteric magical ingredients and an unusual aroma of incense.
“Wizard, forgive my intrusion,” the scout pleaded. “But danger lurks near! Humans! They have killed many of our warriors. You are needed.”
Grimm rose from his resting place. His body creaked with age. Even in his younger days, he’d been a fragile specimen, unfit for the warrior caste. He’d barely survived long enough to learn the magic that would enable him to counter the tormentors among his people and ultimately earn their grudging respect.
Now his magical abilities were unsurpassed among the Lizard Folk, to the point that even the greatest fighters among them paid Grimm deference — but everyone knew his body was slowly failing. Arthritic limbs. A sickly thin frame. The scout wondered if Grimm would truly be up to the task.
“Humans, you say?” Grimm asked. “They do not often come this far south. They keep to their side of the Great Wall.”
“I saw them with my own eyes,” the scout said.
“Then take me to them,” Grimm said. “You have more warriors with you?”
“The rest have thrown themselves into the fight,” the scout said. “But it may not be enough. By now, the village could be overrun.”
Grimm and the scout made their way through the swamp to the northernmost settlement. Surprisingly, they found the female Lizard Folk and their young charges still alive, though afraid and in hiding. The human invaders had dispatched a great number of fearless Lizard Warriors on the outskirts of the settlement. After the battle, they had not even bothered to enter it, though they must have seen it.
“Odd,” Grimm said.
“What’s that?” the scout asked.
“Our most vulnerable were helpless against what is clearly a lethal force of humans,” Grimm noted. “Had positions been reversed, we would have exterminated them, or at least taken captives as slaves. Perhaps the village was not their target. This is a new settlement, only a year old. They could have been surprised by our patrol.”
“Humans are unpredictable,” the scout said. “But still murderous.”
“As we have seen,” Grimm said, pointing to a trio of Lizard Warrior corpses a few meters away. “Let us not rest here. We must find these invaders.”
The two made their way along the trails. The scout was a good tracker, but they could not get close to their quarry before night fell. In the darkness, even the scout was caught unawares by the invaders who had set up camp and were apparently expecting company.
“Don’t move our I’ll slit your throat, Saurian,” a husky voice growled. Grimm and the scout both felt cold steel on their necks.
The scout tried to make a run for it. Whoever was holding the blade to his throat was not quick enough to make good on his promise, but a lethal archer somewhere nearby ensured the scout didn’t make it six feet before he collapsed into the muck with an arrow through his back.
Grimm held his cool. He knew he would be too slow to try to run. Even if he could kill the ones nearest him with his magic, there were surely more unseen foes out there. If he was going to survive, he would have to be patient.
“Reptile has a brain,” one hulking human said as he stepped forward.
“Our Rogue heard you coming five minutes ago, ugly,” a second man said. “You Lizard Folk aren’t so adapted to the swamp as you might think. Did you come to kill us?”
The first man was at least twice as large as the biggest human Grimm had ever seen, with limbs like tree trunks. At first, Grimm thought perhaps he was looking at an Ogre or Hill Giant, but his stature was not so tall. It was definitely a human.
The second man surprised Grimm when he stepped into the torchlight. It was no human at all, but a Cat-man. Grimm recoiled slightly. Their race was legendary for treachery and corruption. What was he doing with these humans?
“Invaders,” Grimm said in the common tongue understood by both humans and other races. His pronunciation ended the word with a hiss. “Why have you come here? No humans come past the Great Wall for many years. Now you make war upon us.”
The group began arguing among themselves. Grimm was taken aback. Eventually, the Cat-man took control again. “We did not come to make war. At least, not against your kind. We came here in search of an Orc army that has attacked our lands. We did not know there would be a settlement back there, so close to the wall. But your people attacked us. We defended ourselves.”
“Why are we wasting time with this creep?” came a voice from the shadows — the same husky voice from the man who had held a blade to Grimm’s throat. The blade was gone now, even if the threat of extermination was still very much present.
“Shut up,” the Cat-man said. “This one talked to us. He isn’t fighting us, yet. Maybe we can get some information out of him.”
“I will not betray my people,” Grimm said.
“We don’t want you to,” the Cat-man said. “You have not heard of this Orc army? They are gathering in great numbers. Rumor has it they are led by a powerful wizard. A human wizard. This could be as much a threat to your people as ours.”
Humans fighting against a fellow human? A Cat-man working with these humans? And who else was hiding in the darkness? For all Grimm knew, they might be aligned with a Dwarf, an Elf and a Mermaid. How could these races work together for more than five seconds?
But perhaps they were speaking the truth. Grimm had heard rumors as well of Orcs and strange conspiracies in the hinterland. Since he’d gotten more frail, the warriors had not been so diligent in briefing him on the status of their territories. Perhaps they simply had not done their duty.
Or perhaps… Grimm’s Lizard King was not so unhappy about an army of Orcs gathering beyond the human’s frontiers.
Even if such a force posed a threat to the Lizard Folk, they would almost certainly be an even more immediate threat to the ones up north. The Lizard King of the Southern Swamp was no stranger to insidious plots. He had gotten to his position and expanded the Lizard Folk’s territory mightily through his cunning schemes.
This time, the Lizard King might have calculated wrong. If the humans were willing to risk war with the Lizard Folk to launch a preemptive strike against these Orcs, then this unseen horde might indeed pose an urgent threat to his own people.
“I have not heard of this Orc army,” Grimm said. “I should like to see it for myself. If it exists, then we shall fight it together.”
The man with the husky voice laughed. “How can we trust you? Dozens of you lizard heads tried to kill us today.”
“And you killed them all,” Grimm replied. “So why should I trust you? I suppose… because you have not killed me yet. In your place, I would not have been so merciful. It makes me… curious about your kind. Besides, if you truly mean to stop such a powerful force with only your small band, then you will need my assistance.”
“And what exactly can you do for us?” the Cat-man asked.
“I would prefer not to demonstrate my abilities against you and your men,” Grimm said. “But I can guarantee that when the fight is joined with our mutual enemy on the field of battle, the other side will regret it.”
After a heated debate, the party of foreigners voted by a slight majority to spare Grimm’s life. The ones who had been out-voted kept a wary eye on their new companion, ready at a moment’s notice to slit his throat.
In the coming days, Grimm repaid their trust many times over. His magic was powerful indeed, tearing into the Orcs’ ranks with brutal effect. The ones who mistrusted him still called him down with crude monikers like “Lizard-Wizard”. Still, they quickly learned to respect Grimm’s power to summon the giant otherworldly Lizard Warriors that could rend their foes to pieces.
When they finally found the lair of the evil wizard and his most powerful minions, Grimm’s spells turned the tide. The sorcerer’s power was utterly defeated and peace was restored to the restive hinterland that was at least nominally under the sovereignty of the Lizard Folk.
When that battle was done, Grimm chose to accompany his new comrades-in-arms back to the northern lands. He knew it would be a difficult life, for Lizard Folk were viewed with suspicion at best outside of their own territories; but he was curious to learn more about these strange people who could, despite their lack of civilization, show acts of great heroism and charity.
One day, he would return to his own people and help them understand the humans more keenly; the better to ally with the humans when needed, or to eventually subjugate them. In the meantime, Grimm’s renewed sense of purpose gave a spring to his step and even extended his life’s adventure a few more years.