I back up from the now quiet corpse with my hands to my holsters as I look around the clearing nervously. “Orcs? Here? They must be looking for the Witchlight Marauder key!”
“From the looks of the body, it doesn’t seem like they’re that far behind, either,” mutters Melchior as he kneels down beside the furry body to examine it.
“All the more reason for us to get the hell out of here and to the next token so we can leave this accursed place,” growls Ef Utan as he slams his sword into his scabbard and storms off into the brambles.
Eventually the rest of us catch up with the disgruntled warrior and after 8 hours of hiking we decide to take a chance and make camp. Moods are tense and uneasy as we foregoe the usual fire and set up watches throughout the night.
Sleep comes fitfully and in spurts as I toss and turn on the hard ground, but I can’t shake this feeling of dread now that we know the orcs have invaded this storyland. As much as we have been cutting our own path of destruction, we at least have the desire to make things right if we can. The orcs… who am I kidding, the Scro… let’s just say I’ll be surprised if we don’t wake up to find the whole brambles ablaze.
Maybe that’s why my dreams were so strange that night.
I’m walking on an endless field of multi-colored gas that reminds me of the phlogiston so much that I find myself holding my breath in case I’ve been teleported again. Suddenly a deep gutteral voice echoes around me and whispers a litany of violence that I haven’t heard since we fought the ghost of a Scro on that strange asteroid that led us to the Imaskari.
I wake up with a jolt gasping for air and look around urgently to see that the others are also waking up and looking worse for wear. I crawl over to Lenata and whisper as the others start packing up camp in silence.
“Did you all have a dream too?”
Lenata nods grimly. “We need to get out of here.”
“At the very least a drink… I could definitely use a drink,” I mutter as I gather my things and prepare to move through the brambles once again as thunder rattles in the distance.
A few hours later after trudging through the thorns and brambles we come upon a rather large looking building with warm lights and drunken sounds coming from inside.
“Oh my gods… is that what I think it is?” I ask in wonder as I look at a door that could be four times my size.
“Well, you did say you wanted a drink,” Lenata jokes. “You just didn’t specify what size .”
“It looks like the door is cracked… if we work together we should be able to get it open,” Ef Utan offers. The rest of us soon gather with Ef Utan at the door and put what strength we have into it… because apparently I’m not the only one who could use a drink lately.
“Ho now… hold up there, little people… we don’t just serve anybody in here!” a booming voice announces as we finally push the door open.
I look up to see a rather intimidating cyclops behind the bar…. well… he would be if it weren’t for the receding hairline, handlebar mustache and apron, anyway. Thinking fast, I reach into my sash and play “The Publican” card and cross my fingers that the sparkling energy I see around him means something helpful just happened.
“Are you sure you don’t need the business? Things look kind of slow in here,” I say as I look around and take note of the row of black-skinned dwarves with fiery hair sitting at the bar. What are they again… Aesir? I think that’s it.
“Besides, not only am I the best waitress in multiple star systems, but I’m a pygmy giant!” Vedis pipes up proudly.
“Are you now?” the cyclops asks with a grin. “Very well then… she can come in for 500 gold, and the rest of you can come in for one round because you’re friends with her.” He rumages through a drawer and throws a napkin at her that almost covers her in its size. “Best I can do till we find an apron your size,” he mumbles apologetically. “Now let’s see you live up to this claim of yours!”
Vedis folds and ties the napkin around her waist as she rolls her eyes and makes her way behind the bar, while I climb up onto a stool to order a drink. Just in case, I pull out the “Brass Dwarf” card and play it as well, hoping that the sparkling energy around them will make them more suseptible to answering a few questions that don’t have to do with rocks.
With a sharp bang a rather large mug full of ale is set in front of me and I grin, as this one round is probably going to last a while. I wonder if there’s a hangover card in my sash somewhere?
Ef Utan eventually makes his way to a stool and starts sharing stories of battle regarding his prized possession, that Dwarven Battle Mug. Apparently he didn’t embellish enough for their tastes, though, as they proceed to school him in how to brag properly. He deftly changes the topic to Orcs, however, and the fate of poor Brambelson.
“Stupid rabbit,” mutters one of the dwarves as the rest grow quiet.
“Yeah, it’s a shame that he’s not going to come back anymore either,” I mutter as I take a sip of my beer. “The Wax Works went BOOM!” I gesture wildly with my hands and have to grab the counter in order to keep myself from slipping off the stool. As I right myself, I can’t help but notice that the Dwarves are starting to look a little twitchy. I think that news really got them worried, but they’re doing their best not to show it.
“Hey, do you suppose you could give us directions to the Caldera? We’re seeing the sites.” Ef Utan asks casually.
I have to admit, he’s swifter on the deceptive art of conversation than I first gave him credit for. Comes from all the experience being a bodyguard for higher ups, I’m sure.
A rather drunken dwarf points out the window towards a volcano in the distance. Now how in the spheres did we miss that?
“Come on, Kenari… we’re still on a schedule… remember ?” Ef Utan nudges me and hops off the stool to head to the door with the others.
“Alas, poor ale… I hardly knew ye,” I mutter as I leave a gold piece on the counter as a tip and head out the door with the others. “You could’ve let me finish it, at least…”
“And then I’d be left dragging your drunken ass through the brambles. No thanks,” he chuckles. “Now if you aren’t too drunk, how about climbing up to the roof and getting a better view of that volcano for us?”
“You’re such a slave driver,” I mutter as I strap on my claws and work my way up the side of the building to a relatively safe perch by the chimney. “Yeah, I’ve got a pretty good view of it from here… I think it will only be-”
BANG! BANG! BANG!