Laryn's Right Arm - Cover

Laryn's Right Arm

by coeur_minuit

Copyright© 2023 by coeur_minuit

Fantasy Story: A simple peasant, whose family has been destroyed because of a marauding army and who no longer cares about living, finds himself still possessed of a desire to aid those in desperate straits, and is rewarded beyond what he knew possible.

Tags: Humor   Violence   Supernatural   Fantasy   Magic  


Snow fell quietly over the countryside, pulling a fresh blanket of white over old scars in the earth. Drifting through dark, gnarled branches of the northern woods, the powdery flakes gave their silent blessing to the hacked and broken limbs of the trees and the open spaces where trees had been ripped whole from the ground.

In the hamlet of Nor, nestled on the edge of the great forest, torn and muddy slashes in the ground were gradually being filled in with white. The slashes in the mud of the main street made by the hooves of the army’s horses began to fade from view ... slashes made some five days prior, when a troop of soldiers had “recruited” yet another unwilling force from the rapidly dwindling population. The people of the village went on about their business, trying to forget. That business was now that of women and children, the old, infirm, and crippled. The men had been taken, pressed into service on the eastern border of Soldon, where the army struggled desperately and failingly against the demon hordes of Fergal.

Even now, another band of soldiers came riding in across the fields, bearing down on Nor to squeeze out what little it had left to give. The horse’s entrance was the knell of damning thunder, their hooves churning the snow laden streets to muck once again. The officer in charge pulled off his dented, blood-stained helmet, shaking his long black hair out of his face. A weary breath was drawn before he launched into the same tired speech he had had to give so many times now. “The king has need of such able-bodied patriots as are willing to ... defend noble Soldon ... from those...” he trailed off; the sheer weariness of the façade was too much for him, and he turned to the soldiers with him and, gesturing with his sword, muttered, “ ... round ‘em up. Anyone old enough to grow a beard.”

Alla came to the window of her hut, tears of rage sparkling in her eyes. She had had two sons taken from her; strong young men who now lay dead on a battlefield far from home. She stared in silent anger at the soldiers, helpless to challenge them. For an inexpressible moment, she locked eyes with the officer, and he understood only too well the anger and heartbreak that comes from losing one’s own family to war. The only way the officer had found to survive was by playing a role, that of a man who still obeys orders even after the world has ceased to have any meaning. “You!” he shouted to her, “Who do you have to donate to the cause?”

At this, Alla’s husband Laryn came around from behind the hut where he had been attempting to cut wood. The officer saw him, saw the stump of his right elbow marking where his forearm had been severed. Recollection filtered through the soldier’s mind, of the man who had given up his sons with such bad grace, ashamed to send his boys to fight in his stead. The fingers of Laryn’s left hand, at best only hopelessly inept with a sword or axe, twitched nervelessly. He glanced toward Alla, but she couldn’t or wouldn’t meet his eyes. In turning from him, she couldn’t resist a glance toward the hut, which was all the officer needed. Jumping from the saddle, he forced his way in the door, shouldering off her frantic protestations and screams of denial. Crouching absurdly behind the crude table in the middle of the room was her third and last son Laryl. Grabbing him by the arm, the soldier turned and hauled him through the door.

“NO!” was Alla’s ragged wail, “he’s only twelve! Ril and Starif, NO! NNNOOOO!” The officer pushed the boy toward the other males of the village, now standing in a group in the thoroughfare. Women cried and screamed, but only Alla made any effort to stop the “recruitment”. She hit, pummeled, grasped, struck the soldier’s armor, all to no avail. She glared at Laryn with fury burning in her tears. “Stop them!” she screamed, “they’re taking our SON! For Ril’s sake, be a MAN!” Laryn’s only response was to finger his stump in impotent pain.

The officer was on his horse again, prodding the dregs of Nor’s manhood into a sullen march. Surrounded by the horsemen, the boys had no choice but to move eastward out of the village. Alla flung herself at the officer’s leg, clutching it and trying to pull him off his horse. He had no alternative, she had to be dealt with. His lips soundlessly formed the word ‘woman’ before he drew his sword and struck Alla savagely between the eyes with the pommel. Instantly her grip on his leg relaxed and she fell to the ground, dead. The soldiers, old and young, moved from the village by the wood. The officer did not look back.

Laryn knelt by his wife, cradling her head in his arm. “Alla,” he said softly, “wake up.” Nothing. “Wake up. Please.” Silence. Then he was yelling insanely, “WAKE UP! WAKE UP!” At a touch from one of the other women, he broke off. “Laryn,” the woman said, “she’s dead.” Laryn looked at her stupidly. “She’s dead,” he repeated idiotically.


The snow was falling thicker on the land in the new light of the next morning. Huge wet flakes covered the freshly-made tracks that lay over leagues of open land. In the quiet waste that was once-tilled farmland moved a solitary figure. Laryn trudged eastward, pulling his thin cloak tight about himself in a useless effort to ward off the cold. Thick spots of snow clung to his eyebrows and hair, to the beginnings of a beard. The sizzle of ice crystals on his face matched the hard glint in his eyes. His stride continued unabated across the wilderness, now seven hours old and showing no signs of slowing. In the pouch on his left side were such items as he could find to sustain a long hike; a loaf of bread, some cured meat, a small wedge of the sharp cheese which was all that the residents of Nor could afford. From his right hip hung his sword. In the five years since he had lost his right forearm, it had lain unused beneath the bed that he and Alla had shared so long. He had spent the night cleaning and sharpening the blade, and now it bounced, scabbardless, against his hide covered thigh. Laryn intended it to taste blood again, soon. Whose blood, he couldn’t have said; the officer who had taken his son, or Fergal’s minions, or ... but it didn’t much matter, since he knew his chance of even striking a blow would be savagely ended by his opponent’s steel before he landed it. It was all one to him. At least then he would discover whether the fat priests were right about the afterlife or not.

At midday Laryn paused by a small stream that wound its way across the land after it emerged from a copse of trees a short distance to the north. Fording the stream at a shallow spot and ignoring the freezing bite of the water on his calves, he crossed over and found a spot on the far side to rest for a bit and make a sparse meal from his pouch. As he raised a sliver of cheese to his lips, a faint cry came echoing from the trees. He put the cheese down to listen, and once again, fainter still, came a cry of distress.

Drawing his sword, Laryn approached the copse. Creeping silently among the trees, he came upon the reason for the sound; there in the woods stood an old man, beard flying in the breeze, engaged in a weird struggle. A ring of brass perhaps three feet across hung suspended in the air at the old man’s shoulder level; his arms went into the ring on one side, but seemingly disappeared on the other side. He seemed to be trying to pull his arms from the circle, without success. His long black robe, the only garment he wore, fluttered wildly against the whiteness of the snow. With a desperate tug, he pulled his arms from the circle. As he did so, he also pulled a massive set of reptilian jaws clamped firmly around his wrists from the circle. Immediately the jaws pulled the man’s arms back into the ring, up to his shoulders. As they did, the man gave another faint cry. Laryn plunged forward from behind him, sword at the ready. As he drew level with the man and prepared to plunge the blade in, the man saw him and cried, “No! Not from this side! The other side! Go to the other side!”

Laryn ran around to face the old man. The ring from that side showed not arms and jaws, but a swimming maze of gold and purple, shot through with angry red sparks that made his brain spin sickeningly. Clumsily, he hefted his sword, plunged it into the maze, and immediately regretted it. His arm went numb to the shoulder and his stomach turned itself inside out. A hideous wailing scream split the air, an explosion of lights burned his eyes, and he fell into a merciful blackness.


The first thing Laryn saw when he regained consciousness was a roof of earth and rock some ten feet over his head. Looking about the small room he lay in, he realized he must be underground. The room’s walls were all made of dirt, smoothed out to a flat surface. The rounded corners gave him the impression that the room was oval-shaped; in fact, all the corners in the room were rounded off. A round mirror hung from the wall, a round table with a round stool occupied the center of the room, an oval-shaped niche in the wall held a number of scrolls, and light filtered through an oval door, adding to the illumination provided by two bowl-shaped lamps at opposite ends of the room. Through the rounded doorway came the man Laryn had seen struggling with the brass ring. The ring was in his hands, and he took it to the mirror and fitted it around the edges; evidently a frame. He turned to Laryn, who was lying on an oval mattress of reeds.

“My gratitude is yours, Laryn Nor-dweller,” he said, bringing his right hand to his left shoulder and in the same smooth circular motion, extending it palm upward. “Your intervention saved me and robbed a certain demon called Gular of his supper.”

Taking it for granted that such a sorcerer as this would know his name, Laryn inquired as he rose to his feet, “What was that all about?”

“Ahhh ... yes. Well, that ring you saw me place around the mirror,” he indicated it with a thumb over his shoulder, “is a portal to other universes, other dimensions. A door, if you will. But a door that can only be opened by those with the power, the wizarding knowledge to do so. Some beings on other planes DO possess this power. As long as I keep the portal blocked, they can’t get through. I have chosen to block it, as you see, with a mirror. Such a surface acts as a window through which I can observe these other dimensions without being observed myself.”

“Fantastic!” Laryn murmured.

The wizard seemed pleased. “Yes, I suppose it is. Watch this: Mirror! Show us Pergocito!”

A grunting sound issued seemingly from the mirror; through it, Laryn thought to see glimpses of other places, as if the mirror were shuffling through a multitude of locales to find the place the wizard had mentioned. The surface rippled briefly, then cleared to reveal a table laden with all manner of good things to eat. Around the table were seated four mature men who were laughing uproariously, and two younger men dressed in somewhat dandified clothes and looking embarrassed or angry. The men were being served by six sylphs; airy delicate creatures that wafted from place to place, making sure that goblets were filled and so on.

“Mirror! Enough!” the wizard intoned. The tableau faded to a grey swirling mist.

“But what of the demon Gular?” was Layrn’s inquiry.

“Gular had been gaining power as of late. He threatened to break the mirror and enter this dimension. Knowing that Gular cannot swim, I decided to take the portal to the stream, trick him into coming through as I held it over the water, and drown him. He was wary though, and managed to get the best of me. Thus stood matters when you happened along.”

“But what of Gular,” Laryn pressed, “did you drown him? Did I kill him?”

The wizard laughed derisively. “He probably wishes you HAD killed him, for he now suffers worse than death. Mirror! Show us Gular’s realm!” Nothing happened. Putting his hand to his forehead, the wizard said, noticeably louder, “Mirror! Hey!” There was another grunt, then a sputtering sound. The mirror went cloudy, and a reedy voice issued from its depths. “I HAVE a name, you know. Is it too much to ask that you simply remember it from time to time?” The wizard rolled his eyes theatrically and cast a furtive glance at Laryn.

“Oh, do forgive me. Unpardonable, I’m sure. O exalted personage known to his compatriots as Telwassos van Krimmerling, may we PLEASE be shown Gular’s realm?” An undeniably rude noise sounded, then the mirror rippled and cleared, to display a being crouching in a burning ash-strewn field, a being that appeared to be a man-sized combination of lizard, bat and scorpion, clutching its groin and bleeding a brownish ichor. “You robbed him of his virility, his energy, his power. You castrated him! He can no longer even find the portal, much less go through it,” said the wizard with a wry grin. Laryn pursed his lips and rubbed reflexively at his own crotch; he almost felt sorry for Gular.

The mage turned toward Laryn. “I owe you quite a debt, one that I think know just how to pay. Come with me to my workroom.” The pair traversed a hall that forcibly reminded Laryn of a tunnel. As they moved through it, he remarked on the absence of corners and edges. The wizard made some reply concerning equilibrium and balance, about the perfection of circular motion and the ease of roundness. Then, seeing that Laryn wasn’t following his ‘lecture’, he smiled and said, “Anyway, squares and rectangles give me a headache.”

The workroom was a vision of confusion; mirrors, lights, tubes, spirals, spheres, boiling liquids, powders, bells, horns, and a cage that held what appeared to be rodents of some kind, so drugged that they could only lay there and stare at the ceiling. One of them turned his head and waved at them. The wizard made his way to a barrel and scooped out a lump of some kind of blue clay, which he started shaping into a cylinder. Laryn had trouble focusing his eyes on the clay; it seemed to flicker back and forth like a candle in a drafty room. The shaping continued, until the clay held a rough approximation of a forearm, from elbow to fingers. With a sudden “HAI!”, the wizard slammed the clay onto the stump of Laryn’s right arm, then grabbed him and pushed his arms up to the shoulder into a hissing vat of boiling tar. Immediately Laryn’s arms began to tingle with a strange chill.

“Sorry about that,” the wizard grimaced, “but it had to be a surprise. If you’d known what I was planning, it wouldn’t have worked.” Laryn’s left arm was growing weak, while his right arm suddenly took on a whole new range of sensations. Moving it in the tar, he suddenly felt the bottom of the vat with fingertips that hadn’t been there a moment ago. “Okay, that’s long enough, you can take your arms out now.”

Laryn obeyed, to find his right arm whole from shoulder to fingers. He flexed the newly recovered limb, waggled the digits. It was a delicious sensation. He clapped his hands together; a good, solid sound. Drawing his sword, he found that he had but to grasp the handle lightly, and the sword hung easily in the air before him. He tried a few slashes, and it seemed that the sword anticipated his moves and slashed with him.

The wizard was smiling broadly now, enjoying Laryn’s amazement. “The hand and sword are ‘in tune’ with each other, so to speak. So will it be should you play a musical instrument, wield a pen, or,” and the smile became broader still, “love a woman. The arm will put itself into synchronization with whatever you choose to turn it to.”

Laryn regarded him with awe and gratefulness. “This is fantastic! My arm seems to know what I want to do even before I do!”

“That’s not all. Put your hand through this iron plate.” Laryn laid the sword down, then placed his newly acquired right hand against the cold metal, tensing to smash his fist into it. Suddenly the hand slipped through the plate as easily as if it were the surface of a lake. He gazed in wonder at the hand on the other side, apparently still firm and whole. He snapped the fingers, then slowly withdrew it, marveling at the sight. “Now strike it, hard,” the wizard coached, and Laryn did so. The iron plate crumpled under his fist like a piece of stiff leather. Pulling free, he saw that the indented image of his fingers remained.

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