Diary of Sarvesh Worksound the Gloomy Gills of Crafts, entry 5.
Someone rustles leaves. We immediately stand still and shut our mouths.
An iron arrow flies near us, kobolds are falling down from nearby trees, stunned and ready to be killed. Prepared enough this time, it doesn't take much time to kill them all, one by one. I don't think that we are checking their lifeless bodies for fat loot anymore. This still raises some question about their sanity and why they want us to be dead.
...Oce runs forward, and stares at something in disappointment.
- Hey, Sarvesh - he turns to me.
- What, Oce?
- I think we are moving in circles on the same path, all the day!
Well, he's right. I think I can see cut lianas, our extinguished campfire and trampled leaves too.
- And what do you suggest? I can't see anything except damned trees in this god-forgotten ill jungle!
- How about climbing up a tree so we can overview our position?
Good idea. The problem is that I'm not that agile to climb up a big, tall tree.
- What are we, some bearded tree-hugging elves? That's not how REAL dwarves orient! - Urist exclaims, excited. Then he pulls out an axe from his backpack, moves to the nearest tree and starts furiously cutting it.
The tree falls down with loud crack, hitting other and pulling them down too.
I shudder as trees fall down around us like a house of cards, with muffled but powerful shatter. Some animals flee away from this scene in fear.
When it's all over, Urist climbs on the end of the fallen tree and peers into the distance. I wish I could do this too, but hell, I'm too slow in this steel armor. Perhaps someday I will regret this.
- Land! I???see???savanna? s??? trees, ???palms? - snatches of his voice can be barely heard from above.
I reach out in my backpack for my trusty map and look at it closely. So, a barren savanna-like land? It cannot be The Fatal Wastes, so...
- It can only be Hills of Murdering! - I shout as loud as I can so he would definitely hear this.
- Hope???! ???tired ???jungle!
Then me and Oce wait for him, as he descends down, barely not tripping over on one of branches. And we move on together, in the general direction of Hills of Murdering.
What a rather heart-warming name. Hope there will be less murdering when we will arrive than there were when this blood-soaked land was named.
Just as I think this thought, I can sense the familiar smell of cave fish. It stands out from luscious flowers and smell of wet timber.
This can only mean one: kobolds. And when I realize that, they have already fired their bows at our position, without any harm for us. We unsheath our tools of war and charge at those creatures, slashing, stabbing, striking their heads off. Some more tricky kobolds do manage to escape in the darkness of jungle as we were busy killing their brethren.
Honestly, I don't want to kill anyone. It's just their fault that they hunt us with unending passion. After all, a real dwarf always will protect himself, his family and friends. Our greatest heroes will be always remembered for all those deeds they have done to stop invaders from slaughtering their relatives, sometimes sacrificing themselves.
I suddenly remember that stupid tradition that gave me that stupid title. The Gloomy Gill of Crafts. Heh. A smile appears on face, Urist looks at me, puzzled:
- Cap, what ye' got so funny?
- Remember how heroes got their titles after their successes?
- Aye, they asked folk for them, and there is a long tradition that they tell heroes what came into their minds first.
- Don't you think you guys deserve a funny nick-name too? We killed enough kobolds to be defined as inspiring trio of heroes.
- Heh, you are right, cap.
I stand up, climb up the nearby rock and strike the most triumphant pose I could strike, then face my friends and proclaim:
- Oce Gravecottons, I bestow the title of the Greater Periwinkle of Blizzards upon thee, for thy cold and keen strikes that claimed lifes of our foes. And Urist Containedtorch, thou art the Faithful Growth of Charms, for thy faithful service to humble and innocent folk of this realm. May your deeds be known far and forever be archieved in tales of our races.
They fall down, laughing at this pompous and mannered speech. I feel a bit offended, but then shrug it off and laugh with them.
- Hey, I like it! - Oce exclaims.
...We spend the whole day trying to get out of this forest. And when we encountered yet another river, I hear that someone is snorting loud in water. And then a pack of hippos starts to run away from us in fear. Driven by primal instincts of dwarven kin, Urist sets off and starts to chase them.
- No Urist, stop! - I yell at him, trying to stop him from this madness. A swift kick to the skull and your life is over, that's how hippos, elephants and horses dealt with us.
But it is too late. He manages to catch a hippo off guard and hacks its leg with his axe, stucking it in a huge wound. Warm blood starts to errupt like water from aquifer.
We run to help him, because hippo became enraged and started to try trampling him in ground, but Urist got quite skilled in recent fights, so he dodges slow and raging animal without much trouble and deals even more strikes on it. The hippo roars in anger, and tries to head-butt him in wain. As I make it to the creature, Oce have done the final blow to the head. We butcher the body and take the meat, because we are low on it.
I woke up from pain in my lower body. As I open my slipped eyes, I see kobolds attacking us. Again.
Also I saw a big silver arrow stuck in my left rib. It still puzzles me how it could made it through iron mail shirt I had.
I barely stood up, threw a huge chunk of hippo meat at that bowkobold, heard a loud slap as I masterfully hit him in head so hard so he dropped his bow.
And passed out from this world.
Into another world, full of horrors and weird dreams. I saw a dragon that burnt the ancient, thousands year old halls. Fire, that burnt down our kin. A girl is crying as her mother sacrifices herself to save her daughter from blazing hot flame, in last attempt to save our generation, our race.
...When I'm conscious again, I found myself safe and sound in the heaven of our camp. Urist and Oce look concerned, as I manage to stand up.
- Cap, you are a damn lucky dwarf. These nasty bastard could hit ye hard, 'ya know.
I look at them with sigh of relief, I'm back. With friends.
The left rib still aches, but not that painfully as it was.
I can see that we are getting close to the end of this damned jungle. I command them to increase our pace (what makes no sense because I'm the slowest as a steelclad), as we move through decreasing vegetation onto a huge vastness of dry grass. Some occasional palms can be seen stucked everywhere.
- Hills of Murdering! - Urist says.
Finally, we are no longer in stiffening, almost claustrophobical jungle. I can feel wind playing with my beard, as we move on without much trouble. No longer we have to cut everything in our path, there is no obstacles. As a result, we moved much greater distance per day.
The abandoned dwarven outpost Legendfountain lies right on our path. We decided to stop there to find something worth our interest.
What we saw is rotten carcasses of cattle and domestic animals. And barrels, ghostly scattered all around the defensive building. I check one of them.
Armok's beard, that's dwarven wine! I haven't drunk alcohol for a good 2 weeks, but it seemed like eons passed since I had some. Happy dwarf is moving twice faster as a normal dwarf. We brought that barrel with us, since it could hold about 40 Urists of water, efficiently dealing with all our water problems for long time.
Another day passes, and I check the map again. Today, we gonna finish our journey. Today, we will arrive at Dinnerwandered.
Honestly, I haven't thought before what I gonna do after we shall do this. Perhaps settle down? I don't want to, peasant life is not for me anymore. Sitting in a wooden house in middle of ruins and only caring about how to amass enough food for next day... that's not for me.
Maybe return back? But then why I did all this great distance and suffered great danger in first place? To just casually return back to my previous life? I haven't seen everything, and I want to.
The problem is that I don't know what to do next. I need a goal. I remember why did I come there - to find any records of my sister death or existance. But... somewhere deep in my mind I understand there is too small chance to accomplish this. I think that I have more chances to bite a dragon's head off. How can you find someone you love in this world of unending death and horrors, so no one cares about anything anymore? It's like trying to find a specific grain in a granary.
Lords are too symbolic, they hold no real power. Only fear rules this realm.
I can only hope I will find my next goal there. Being without job means being useless for me. And I don't want to be useless.
And so we reached old gates of Dinnerwandered. This city looks less abandoned than other I encountered, but still - a big part of it are ruins. There are signs of some recent attacks, rotten corpses can be seen lying by roads. No one cares, apparently.
We head forward to the lord's keep, the keep of dark secrets. I heard many strange rumours about this place that magnets all adventurers and magicians from all of the world. Including me.
The guard greets us without much amazement. Seems he is used to strange visitors. Also he have many scars from all the fights he had, apparently guarding the priceless treasure. I can only shudder to imagine what that brave soul have seen.
He asks if we have any contribution to the museum if we want to proceed. I open my backpack and reach out for truly masterful leather armor set that I have encountered in my journey. I've never seen anything like this - good sewn armor that doesn't hinder movement nor too thin to not protect from stabs. Also they are tastefully decorated - I know sense in such things.
The guard, the only keeper of this place, accepts our gifts and leads us into the room.
Many marble tables can be seen built there, with many strange items on them. Like, dragon eggs? Hell, I doubt I would ever see anything like this in my life. I even feel ashamed of my pityful contribution.
Heh, I think I have found my new goal: bring something better there.
As he shows us those items, I decide to ask him a very important question. That might change my life and destiny.
- I want to ask you one question. It seems you are there for a very long time. The problem is that I try to find my sister, that I lost 10 years ago. The only coordinates she provided me is that she were going to come here. Have you seen a female dwarf, with heliotrope eyes.
- Ten years is a large period. Many have came there and many left, many died. Let me think...
He stood there, thinking, and I look at him in anticipation. An anticipation of my destiny. Of my goal.
- No - he cuts my hopes - I have not seen a single female dwarf there.
I seem to be upset by that revelation, so he decided to joke a little:
- Do they have beards? If yes, I might mistook her for some other... male dwarf
- No, they don't.
An awkward silence. I decide to break it with pretty straight-forward request:
- So, speaking of your duty, can I have access to your wide library of books? I have some interest that needs to be piqued.
He chuckles a bit as I say "wide". I don't get the joke though.
- Yes, of course you are... Just don't even dare to steal any of those "wondrous" books, right?
His sudden sarcasm in his tone puzzles me. Was it just rumours about dark secrets there? His facial expression seems to confirm these doubts.
... I walk in the large library hall, picking books at random. Most of them have stupid titles, like "Could This Be Dwarf?" and just rants of some insane necromancers about many, many topics. How everyone should die to embrace their the only future, meet the immortality and other stuff.
The others are quite interesting: they describe many places, like ancient tombs, dungeons, cities and hidden mountain keeps. One of them had a big list of ancient dwarven settlements, humans are good at archiving what they want to archive.
So, Silverywind. Some snatches of some memories flash in my mind. Right, Reg. She definitely wanted to go there, but the problem is that she would visit Dinnerwandered for... confirmation or blessing of their vampire tyrant leader? Hell, I don't know. Maybe she could just go straight to that city.
Maybe. This is the key word. Too many facts are based on assumptions, not vice versa. Assumptions can drive your away from safe road to deadly desert.
I begin to read anything related to Silverywind, but I can't find much. The only link in other books is Mournsaints the Fire-Ruler of Rewards, a magical artifact lost somewhere in ruins of Silverywind.
Though, I recall that there was a lost expedition there, about 15 years ago. Could they find it? And even if they did, have they lost it to some nasty incident? I need to check.
Plus I am confident that there is cool enough ancient treasure in that ice keep to be worth bringing there.
But then I found other book. "Musings on Immortality", it was named. Immortality. A chance to do your goals without having to worry about dying of old age before getting there. Heh, I can only dream how long it would take for us to get there.
And so, I opened the book and began reading.