Monday, November 17, 2008

Adventure 6: This is no mine...

There’s a joke that starts, “This dwarf walks into a bar full of black guys…” I’m not sure how it progresses from there, but the punch line involves me standing in a dank cave (excuse me… “mine”) filled with dead short people. If this joke is a favorite of yours, I would find some new material. It’s not funny.

So there we were, enjoying some of D’Brickashaw’s finest ale (they always break out the good stuff for the triumphant adventurers – it’s a hard life, but it has its rewards), when a weathered dwarf stumbled in, looking half-crazed and wholly disheveled. The entire place went silent as we all turned to look at the stranger. Dwarves are not common in any but the biggest cities (dwarves generally prefer the solitude offered by their clan-based mining lifestyles), so it was either a wrong turn at Albuquerque or a specific quest that brought the stout fellow to this particular establishment.

“Bring me ale!” He shouted loudly. “And someone point me to the adventurers who slayed the dragon of Dantalleen!”

The barkeep had a furious look in his eye as he got ready to toss the dwarf out onto his well-armored behind, but Bolt, never afraid to take credit for his accomplishments, spoke up first. “We slayed the dragon, dwarf. And we’ve slayed a lot of other stuff too. Quit your braying and tell us what you want.” Usain gave the barkeep a look that said, “I’ll handle this” as the dwarf stomped over to our table.

None of us were all too happy to be roused from our relaxation, especially by a dwarf. Malak, Moonglum, and Amaryllis had experienced little of dwarves in their previous lives, but Lotheryn and Ieuan, two of the kindest, gentlest souls in the seven kingdoms, had suddenly become tense as a couple of tigers waiting to pounce. Each had a look on her face that could have melted stone. Elves are not fond of dwarves as a rule, mostly stemming from inter-racial wars that took place many, many ages ago. Suffice to say, people who live as long as they do have trouble letting bygones be bygones. Lotheryn had a special distaste for dwarves, seeing as how they had little regard for the natural environment to which she had devoted her life. I had a number of dealings with the people, finding them to be rather hard to know. They shared with me a hatred of orcs, so I had joined them in raiding orc strongholds from time to time. But from my experience, the cliché is true: the only friendly dwarf is one beer away from passing out. (Boy do they brew some good beer, though.)

Bolt, however, had some experience in diplomacy with dwarven clans that had taken up mining just outside his kingdom’s borders. We let him do most of the talking.

“Well?” he started after the ale had been served and the dwarf had taken a long draught, “What brings you to us? What is your name and your business? I put my reputation on the line to keep you from getting shown the hard way out of this town. Now I want some answers.”

The dwarf drained the remainder of his ale – Malak and I exchanged a glance, impressed by his feats of alcoholic consumption – and seemed to take on a different demeanor as he began his tale. His name was Odo, and he came from an accomplished clan that had long been residents of the Trindane Mountains, living a prosperous life within a large mining community. His mood turned from gruff to enraged to despondent as he relayed the story of how an evil presence had awoken from the mines and destroyed most of his clan. His father, who had been away with a small group of his best warriors on a diplomatic mission, came back to find everyone slain. He went mad with grief and charged in recklessly with his warriors, only to be killed along with the rest of his kinsmen. Only two dwarves escaped, Odo, then an infant, and his nursemaid, who was able to sneak out before she was discovered. She told Odo the tale when he was old enough to hear it, and he’d been planning his revenge ever since. It had been 97 years from that fateful day, and Odo was ready to reclaim his birthright.

“We must venture there and find my father’s warhammer, Grond, which I can wield against my enemies. I will establish a new clan and we will build upon my father’s great works. But I need warriors to help me. Even having lost much, I am proud. I do not ask this lightly. If you help me, you will be rewarded with some of the finest weapons, jewels and armor you could imagine. You will also forever be a friend to my clan, even these elves. What say you?”

None of us knew what to say. I wanted to help this dwarf, but what chance did we stand against an evil that had been able to defeat a clan of dwarves? Amaryllis, however, seemed excited.

“Yes! Of course we’ll help you! My people have a long history of helping the dwarves reclaim their former greatness! My great great great great grandfather Bulbo helped some dwarves kill a dragon who had taken over their mountain. And then, his nephew, Fromo, helped another dwarf defeat an evil Bullfrog that had killed the dwarf community who lived in some mines. At least, I think that’s how the story went. It was made into a book, ummm, The Ruler of the Finger Adornments, I think it was called. Anyway, I could go down in hobbit…er, I mean, halfling history!”

(Two men in dark clothing immediately entered the bar and handed Amaryllis a piece of parchment with the title “LAWSUIT” and a lot of small words underneath. They left without a word. Amaryllis was confused, but quickly put the paper aside and continued to implore us to undertake the quest.)

The halfling was so excited that we could not deny her. We decided to help the dwarf.

So that’s how we found ourselves entering a dark mineshaft into the old home of Odo’s clan. The place was dimly lit and everything further than 20 feet away was obscured by a dense fog. The place also smelled worse than Malak’s undershirt.

Odo somehow looked happy to be there. "Welcome to my family's mine," he said. Lotheryn and Ieuan both ignored the dwarf's welcome, glaring at him openly.

Bolt used his sword to poke at the skeletons of dwarves lying about. "This is no mine..."

"It's a space station!" declared Moonglum. Everyone looked at him quizzically. "Never mind," the gnome said, mumbling something about no one understanding his jokes. Gnomes.

The dwarf spoke up, “First we have to find the warhammer. Once that is in my grasp, we can make sure that all of the evil has left this place. The warhammer has power in it that only a descendant of my father can wield. It should not be difficult to find…”

Moonglum interrupted, “Uhh, hey Odo, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the entire place is completely filled with piles of junk and old weaponry. Are you telling me we have to look through each one to find this hammer?”

Odo glared at the gnome, “This is for my family’s honor! We will find the hammer!”

Moonglum rolled his eyes. “I’ll show you where you can stick your hammer…” I heard the wizard mutter, still obviously upset that no one could comprehend gnome humor.

We worked our way in, searching as we went. I saw Malak looking at something closely.

“What is it you got there, Malak?” I asked him. He was staring intently at a silver necklace inlaid with several rubies. “Ooooh, that would bring out the color of your eyes quite nicely.”

Malak looked at me joyfully. “Really? You think…” Just that moment we heard a giant thud as a passageway collapsed in front of us to reveal a gigantic tentacled monster. Malak threw down the necklace as we charged in, hacking away at its limbs. One of them struck Anca and knocked the wolf aside as the thing lashed out in rage. After several minutes of bobbing and weaving, we sawed off enough limbs to get a shot at its head. I looked at Odo as the thing lay shuddering on the ground.

“I hope there aren’t many more of THOSE lurking about, dwarf. Or this is going to be an awfully short search.”

Odo just glanced at me darkly and looked even more determined as he continued to search through the piles of junk.

After several hours of this, and having dispatched several more enemies (most of them groups of undead dwarves), we came upon what looked like a throne room. Apparently this is where the head of the dwarven clan had sat before his people. Unfortunately, the only thing there now were several gobs of slime. To make matters worse, the gobs of slime tried to kill us.

Luckily, gobs of slime aren’t really that adept at killing people, so we took care of them without much trouble. Bolt looked disgusted as he wiped the goo from his sword. I was about to make a comment about oversized boogers, when Lotheryn held something up in the light.

“Is this what we’re looking for?” she asked. It was the most magnificently crafted weapon I’d ever seen. Perfectly balanced, wrought with gleaming sapphires and emeralds, dwarven runes running down the haft – I couldn’t help but catch my breath.

Odo’s eyes lit up like fireworks as he rushed over and took the warhammer from her. “Grond,” he breathed softly. “Finally, I can take the seat of my forefathers…”

“Not so fast, dwarf.” We heard a hissing voice say behind us. We turned around to see ourselves faced with a necromancer, his boneguard, and five other undead minions. “I will take that from you, just as I took it from your father years ago. And you will go to join him…”

The necromancer had barely finished his sentence when Ieuan decided she’d had enough small talk. A large ball of fire launched from her hand over the heads of the necromancer and his cronies, landing behind them and bursting outward. It immediately charred the lot of them, leaving the necromancer severely weakened, and the boneguard looking rather unsure of himself (or as unsure of itself as it’s possible for a skull to look).

It was a quick matter to dispatch of the necromancer and his guard. We all looked appreciatively at Ieuan, who just shrugged. “Well, I guess that necklace I bought back in town came in handy after all. I still don’t trust this dwarf.” She looked suspiciously at Odo, who was trying to make himself comfortable in his father’s throne.

“We’re done now,” I told her. “Odo has his hammer, his throne and his cave. We’ve finished what we came here to do, so you don’t have to put up with the dwarf any longer. In fact, if we leave now, we might be able to catch happy hour back at the bar. Who’s with me?”

To be continued…


Lord Bolt said...

i enjoy these. well done.

Taran said...

Thanks for the compliment, but didn't you see the sign?

*points to sign* ---------------------> DON'T FEED THE EGO

Just kidding. I like doing these because they're fun to write and I want people to have fun reading them. It's kind of like wanting to watch people open a Christmas gift that you got for them.

Please let me know if you'd like me to do anything different with these. I'm open to suggestions.

Moonglum said...

I'm throwing my entire fire necklace this week. 3 fireballs all at the same time. Maybe that will get more more than 1 total kill...

Taran said...

Aww, Moonie, it's okay. You'll grow up some day.

I'll tell you what - since you seem so intent on chucking fireballs all over the place, we'll just stand behind you.