Nick Larter

Put A Coin On The Brim Of My Hat

In the beginning it was dark, silent and I had no sense of smell. Neither had I any means to gauge the passage of time. I must have slept long and slept often, for seldom had I any awareness of myself and when that did come it rushed out of nowhere and left me startled, like the sleeper awakened by a single clap of thunder in the middle of the night, who sits up in the bed with a pounding heart, bleary-eyed and puzzled. The very experience so drained me that I lapsed back into unconsciousness almost immediately and I suppose I remained that way until the next jolt came.

Over time – months, years, decades, I had no way of measuring – I began to feel less weak when this happened and finally the day arrived when I was aware before the touch; when I felt the slightest tickle of electricity, first in my fingers as someone grasped my hand, then on my face as they rubbed my nose and lastly a blessed rush of energy that would once upon a time have been the force that waked me.

Every touch that came was like the dose of a drug to me and each shot made me feel a fraction stronger and gave me hope that one day I could be whole again. One day I began to comprehend that there was a period during which I would be having this experience every few minutes, then there would be a gap, then it all started up again. This became my clock – the touching time was the day, the quiet time the night, though occasionally a touch came then too.

One day I felt a small pressure on my head for the first time – this coming before the shake of my hand. Somehow I knew that the pressure came from the brim of my hat. Brim. Brim. Brimmer; I suddenly recalled that that was my name; in the old days after Denzil had first brought me to the castle, they had named me for my hat and, as had been the case at every new place I had visited throughout history, they partook of the ritual in the hope of gaining good luck.

I had gone there because I had saved Denzil’s life. He granted me a boon in return and as a result the Order of the Stravaigers was established. To everyone else it was a charity to give assistance to other destitute wanderers who passed through the Principality. To me, it was an easy source of sustenance for almost a hundred years, until Waldteufel the lexicographer uncovered my secret and trapped me in this prison.

I shall never forget the day that I began to see again. Admittedly it was a sepia-toned view of the world, as if a film of material remained in front of my eyes, but it was a view of the world nonetheless. And the first thing I saw was a beautiful young woman. She approached me laughing, turning her head to one side to say a word to the group of friends who loitered behind her, pointing, jostling and laughing too. Her long hair and striped dress rippled in the breeze. In her left hand she held a shiny coin. She moved in close to me and placed it on the brim of my hat. Then she shook my cold, unyielding hand and rubbed my stiff bronze nose. The rush came and then she took up the coin – I saw her hold it tight in one fist which she then kissed. She moved away. A couple of her friends patted her on the back, whilst another of them rooted around in his pocket for a coin of his own.

Now I could watch it happen, over and over, always the same; coin – hand – nose – rush. The coin might then turn a purchase into a bargain, or become a wedding gift, or simply be wagered in a gambling den. They knew not that each time the ritual was performed a mote of their life force was transferred to me, to contribute to my next regeneration. In the weeks that followed, all of my memory began to return.

I am the Wandering Dwarf. A relic from the dawn of time before the wargs came for the gods and Hati-Managarm ate the moon. My brethren were great smiths and used their gifts to construct mechanisms and magical things of immense power. My gift was different and I was cast out for it, exiled to wander the world of man for all eternity. Back then, I could suck the life force from a man in an instant and it would feed me for a week. Back then I was powerful. Back then, my name was not Brimmer.

In another few months I could hear again. It was a rushing sound at first, like the sea in a shell but gradually the babble resolved itself into words, though more often than not I did not know the language being spoken. My eyesight improved. I could distinguish colours again. I knew to wait for the day when I could smell again, that would be the signal. That would be when I was strong enough to jump.

I was almost caught unawares when it actually happened, so much had I become used to contemplating my imprisonment inside this statue. Again it was a girl and as she approached with her coin I noticed that she smelt of soap and apples.

She smelt of soap and apples.

Time to leave.