“The Dentists of Dindeary”
by Philip Overby
Razuna patted her horse’s side and rummaged through her saddlebag. “What kind of teeth are we looking for today?”
Taric snorted a long stream of snot from his nose. “Canines.”
“Ah, easy work.” She grabbed some rusty pliers, a pin hammer, and a curved knife in case any of them still writhed around in the muck. “Got your tools?”
“Yeah, but we need to make this quick.” Taric scratched his mop of blond hair until dandruff rained down. “The Ghalish roam around these parts. Ride ghost elks, black armor, all the scary bits.”
Razuna tied up her hair in a tight bun. “Oh? Should I be shitting my pants about now?”
“I’d be.” Taric held a chisel in between his teeth as he searched through a heavy leather sack. “Don’t take kindly to looters.”
“We’re not looters,” Razuna said. “We’re dentists. The warlocks in Telarand want teeth, we get them teeth. Simple as that.”
“Ever wonder what they do with them?”
“I don’t care if they make pretty necklaces.” Razuna walked over to the first body, a Delgonian soldier who took a mace blow to the skull. “They pay us, that’s all that matters.”
“Wish they paid us more. This place is fucked.”
Dindeary certainly wasn’t the ideal place for “battlefield dentistry,” as it was affectionately called. Almost every battle over the thin strip of land resulted in massive causalities from both sides. Some say it’s because a witch once laid with devils there. Others claimed the Ghalish cursed their former home by spilling the blood of their elk steeds in a massive sacrifice to their fell god Jahan.
Bullshit to keep the yokels in fear.
Razuna scoffed at talk of gods, witches, and ghosts. Even the warlocks in Telarand never seemed to have any real power other than scaring small children with their ghastly faces and prattling on about old weird gods with a hunger for human anatomy.
Picking up the blood-caked head of the soldier, Razuna pried open his mouth. “This one barely had any teeth to begin with.” She twisted out one of his good canines with her pliers and dropped it in a small leather pouch. It clicked when it joined the others from battlefields in Chira and Long Tazar. Razuna had a saying: “The sound of teeth, the sound of coin.”
“These Yinzay smell like old cheese and mold.” Taric gagged and covered his mouth. “I can never get used to that.”
“They’re a particularly smelly bunch, yes,” Razuna said as cheerfully as possible. “Especially when they’re dead.” She walked over to a Yinzay reaver, bloated belly buzzing with flies. She didn’t want to get too close to his mouth if she didn’t have to, so she peeled back his upper lip with the heel of her boot. “Gums only, eh? Worthless shit.”
“What you going to do with the coin this time?” Taric jingled his sack full of teeth. “I’m going to give some to my son. He’s been begging me for a new knife for ages it seems.”
“You have a fucking heart of gold there, Taric,” Razuna said.
“Well, what?” Razuna plucked out two Delgonian teeth. Came out smooth, just the way she liked them.
“The coin. What you going to do with it?”
“Don’t know yet.” Razuna tapped the pliers on the helm of one soldier. “Thought about pissing it away on a fancy new dress.”
Taric belly laughed at that.
“Hell, I might. Never know.” Razuna smirked to herself. “You imagine me in some of that shit the Delgonian ladies wear? Might be worth it just to see the look on your face.”
The wind answered back.
“What you think of that?” Razuna called out louder.
She turned. The field of bodies stretched out before her, but Taric was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he had leaned down to twist out a stubborn, snaggled tooth. Razuna stood up and scanned the area, but couldn’t see his head of blond hair bobbing around.
“Taric? What you doing? Taking a fucking nap?”
A gurgling sound came from nearby. Razuna’s hand went slowly to her knife. When she turned, a black elk stood before her, throat gashed open, gasping, empty eyes staring.
She fell, splashing in the mud, jarring her elbow hard on a Delgonian’s breastplate. Everything went blurry as she scrabbled to her feet, trying to get her footing on the slick surface. When she looked up again, she locked eyes with Taric.
His eyes didn’t have pure terror or even any fear at all. They stared, void of emotion. He was being led along by a string of his own guts by a towering figure all in shimmering black armor. His antlered helm misted white.
A dull ache hit the pit of her stomach, her bones heavy. This can’t be real. Razuna’s mind searched for some god to pray to. None came to mind.
The Ghalish were there. Their silhouettes loomed in the encroaching dark, some riding elks, others trudging through the mud toward her.
Razuna dropped the bag of teeth and hobbled off toward her horse. But she was gone. Not with one sound either.
Razuna froze, facing off with the Ghalish leading Taric around. “What? What do you want? I’ll leave, I promise. Please, let me go.”
Steam snorted from the slits in the Ghalish’s helm. He removed it to reveal a pale, shriveled head. His mouth stretched open.
He had no teeth.
As the Ghalish closed in around her, she scrambled for the bag of teeth she’d dropped. “Here. Is this what you want? Take them. Take them all.”
Taric yawned to reveal a mouth full of shattered, bloody teeth.
“Fucking take them.” Razuna hurled the bag at the Ghalish’s feet. “Take them!”
The lead Ghalish’s mouth twisted into a wicked grin. He pointed at my mouth.
Word count 975