Dear readers, tonight with me is the deadliest bounty hunter in the world — also easily overlooked, as she’s only two feet tall. She’s here to tell us about legendary pirates, spoilt potions, and a sleepy little town.
Welcome Miss Griever Blackhand. How are you?
Hello! Thank you for having us. This chair is quite plush. We’re a little bit hungry. We’d very much like to flop around in a pile of leaves, should you happen to have one. Or perhaps some dirty laundry.
Um… Right. Now, you are a ferrelf. A lot of our readers might not be familiar with your species. If you don’t mind me giving them a physical description, you look like a ferret or weasel. Maybe eighteen inches tall with black and white fur. You’re wearing only a purple cape, which is crooked, draped over your arm. Can you give us any other insights into yourself or your people? Perhaps some history or culture.
…That was a lot of questions.
Oh. My apologies. I’ll slow down. Can you tell us a little about ferrelves?
Yes! As a ferrelf, we are more than able to speak on all matters regarding ferrelves.
Would you tell us about ferrelves?
We’re a nomadic people, living in tribes throughout the Northern continent. Like elves, we are immortal. But we don’t always get along with them. You know how elves do things like spend five hundred years shaping a tree into a house, then stare at a roaring fire and recall the ancient times of war when their dwarf friend was slain by an ogre, so they planted a seed on the spot and spent five hundred years using that dwarf as fertilizer to make their house. But then they spent so much time reminiscing about their dwarf friend that they forgot trees are made of wood and their entire house burns down? Well, us ferrelves don’t dedicate so much time to such things. All that sitting would make our minds wander, and we’d start thinking about bright things, and how we like bright things. Then we think about how some of the kindling in the fire isn’t burned and we could probably take it out of the fire pit. But then it’s really hot so we throw it away and it hits the wall.
I’m sorry. Are you telling us you burned down some elf’s wood cabin?
…So the main difference between elves and ferrelves is how we regard time. Elf minds are in ages. Ferrelf minds stay in moments. We’re also a lot more carnivorous. We’ve eaten six birds today. Five of them were still in eggs, but we ate them.
I notice you keep referring to yourself as ‘we.’ Do ferrelves hold a higher regard for the collective, or tribe, rather than the individual? Do you see yourself as your own person or a fraction of the whole?
…We are Griever Blackhand. No other ferrelf could be us. Unless of course they punched a mountain into the heavens. But we’re the only ferrelf who’s done that.
…Okay then. Tell us about your childhood. Any cherished memories?
Hmm. Yes. There was a time our littlest brother was exploring a stream with us, and we happened upon a little waterfall. A very little one, no taller than we are now. It had rained the night before so the water was flowing too fast for the fish. There were minnows struggling to not get pulled down by the waterfall. But one by one, they’d spill over the ledge. So our brother and us stood there, waiting. Whenever the minnows dropped down, we’d catch them in our mouths. We’d eat them in two bites, then wait for more. That was a good day. We very nearly named ourself Minnow because the day was so good. You see, ferrelves choose our names. So we were nearly Minnow. Instead, we became Griever Blackhand.
I see. That’s actually quite charming. And what about now? Do you have a career or job of any sort?
We suppose you might call us a bounty hunter. But we like to think of ourselves as a coin collector. You see, in my world, thieves, assassins, and adventurers of all types like to challenge each other. There are some feats too grand for any amount of money. Anyone can assassinate a king. But only a few are skilled enough to slay a kingdom. There are dragons in the clouds, flying too high to reach with arrows. There are packs of phantom wolves who appear only in the moonlight. Monsters too dangerous to hunt. Champion warriors with bloodlusts bigger than the moons. Vaults protected by too much magic to penetrate. So when there is something particularly dangerous or impossible, the rogues of my world will offer each other challenges. They’ll place a bounty, set at a single coin or any small trinket. A single coin for performing a feat too dangerous for any rational man. Our job is taking on those bounties. We collect their coins.
Is that career prosperous?
…We eat minnows from overflowing rivers. We don’t need piles of gold.
Fascinating. So you’re a thrill-seeker. I have here a book, The Girl Drank Poison. And this story is about one of your adventures, collecting a coin. Could you tell us a little about it?
Oh! Yes, yes, yes! That was about the time we met one of our favorite legends, the pirate Lorenzo Blade. Perhaps you know the songs and tales of his adventures?
I’m afraid not.
Really? He’s the only man to ever survive two weeks sailing the Western Waves. He’s defeated werewolves and dragonborne. His crew once bested three Fortian Galleon ships in a clipper with only two cannons. He ransacked towns single-handed. He once flung himself on a trebuchet to soar over an army and punch their commander in the throat. He bested a Kraken on the ocean floor, breathing through the insides of a merman he gutted. You’ve never heard of him?
A kraken? I’m sorry. That can’t be true.
So when the book begins, Lorenzo had been missing for years. Many believed him dead. But we’d seen a collection of his wanted posters. When we laid them all out in a timeline, the different sheriffs and territories listed crimes traveling inland and Northerly. Far from the sea. So we followed the path to a small town called Sleeping Bear. There, we discovered Lorenzo Blade renamed himself Horace. He owned a small shop, and his wife ran the local inn. He’d given up on pirating and was a family man with three children.
I see! So this book is about you exposing the pirate and killing him for a coin?
One doesn’t simply kill Lorenzo Blade. To slay him for a coin would’ve been wasteful. But to earn a coin from him, to perform an impossible feat for Lorenzo Blade would be the greatest adventure of all. As luck would have it, he was in need of someone with my skillset. You see, years prior, his shop carried a number of magic potions concocted by a local wizard. He’d sold one, a love potion, to a man named Dagger, who had a troubled marriage. But Dagger never used the potion. He was either a chicken or he forgot he had it. So the potion sat, hidden in his cellar, wasting away over time. Until one day, Dagger fell in love with a barmaid, Zellin. We don’t know if he forgot his marriage or let it waste away, but he decided to use the potion on Zellin, and have her fall in love with him.
So the potion was expired?
Yes! When Zellin drank the potion, she didn’t fall in love with Dagger. She turned into a monster and went on a rampage. She was laying waste to entire villages, hunting down Dagger. And she was heading toward Sleeping Bear. Even worse, there were these gray people called eel trolls. They all became intoxicated by Zellin’s monster stench. They started helping her maim and destroy. We didn’t know a lot of that at the time. From the beginning of the book, Lorenzo Blade told us we could earn a coin from him if we defeat the monster and save his town.
That’s quite fascinating and filled with moral ambiguity. Now, I don’t want to spoil anything for our readers, but your work, bounty hunting, sounds extraordinarily dangerous. Please don’t be offended, but ferrelves aren’t exactly known for their skills in battle. Do you find your size to be an advantage? Perhaps your speed. Are you able to defeat such powerful foes through stealth alone?
We can hide as needed, but we’ve never been known for sneakiness. It’s perhaps easier if we show you.
Okay. A demonstration then. Readers at home, I’ll just tell what’s happening. Griever is standing up and brushing her cape aside. Oh. My apologies. I didn’t realize you have a prosthetic arm. It’s a black, glassy stones. Sort of gravel. The fingers look like little shards. I’m not certain they’re actually attached or just touching like… magnets? I don’t umm… Oh! You can move it.
…It is our arm. We call it the Dark Salt.
Fascinating. Readers, Griever is lowering her um Dark Salt hand onto the chair cushion and- Oh. Oh my. Readers, Griever’s hand is literally sinking into the cushion fabric like it’s made of water. Her arm is now elbow deep into the cushion. She is smirking at me and- WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? HOW ARE YOU YOU? WHAT? I… Readers, I don’t even know how to describe what I’m seeing! It’s-it’s another arm growing out of the chair cushion. The cushion is growing its own arm. But it’s enormous! With demonic fingers! By all accounts, the chair should be shattering under the weight of it.
You can’t do this too?
No! I don’t know what you’re doing! Could you- could you please not get so close with that?
Oh my god. Thank god. Readers, Griever has withdrawn her prosthetic arm out of the cushion, and the giant cushion arm has disappeared. It’s razor-sharp fingers are no longer looming over me.
You can run if you want to. Lots of people run when we do that.
That’s quite all right. I just think I need a moment. You really took me by surprise there. We’ll have to reupholster later.
Oh there’s no damage to your chair. Besides, you won’t have a chance to pick out a new fabric.
Um. Excuse me? What does that mean?
Well. You see. There was a story about a creature who could take the shape of any person it devoured. And it was a hungry, hungry creature. Something far too big for just my world. So it would visit others. It’d devour the worlds’ champions and monsters alike. It’d take their shapes. And their powers.
Griever, I’m not too sure I understand. Are you talking about your arm?
Then it found a shape that was far easier to take than most. It could drift from world to world, interviewing. Asking questions. Getting heroes to open up about their secrets before eating them whole. On my world, it was just a story. But a story worth a coin nonetheless.
I think we’re getting a little off track. Could you maybe tell us what lies in store for you in the future. Any plans? Can we expect more adventures from Griever Blackhand?
We hear the sausage in this realm is divine. We’d sure like to sample it. Of course, first we’ll need a coin to pay for it.
Oh. We should absolutely do that. Let’s wrap things up here then go grab a sausage.
You can take your true form if you want.
Okay. Now let’s- let’s just slow down there, Griever. Are you telling me and our many, many readers that you left your entire realm of existence just to chase down some mythical shapeshifter because you wanted to sample this world’s sausage?
Will you run?
Yes. Yes, I think I will.
Keith Blenman is a forensic investigation instructor in Detroit, Michigan. He is short, chubby, and heavily tattooed.
You can find Griever Blackhand on the pages of The Girl Drank Poison.
Join us next week to meet a mage of the realm, currently solving magical murders. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.