Paranoid Dwarven Explorer


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Dorak was surprised when his grandfather came to him, and tossed a shining shirt of mithral links on the table at which he sat.

“What’s that?”
“That, my boy, is yours. If you persist in this foolishness…”
“It’s not foolish! Mom and Da were Explorer’s League agents…”
“And wha did that get them, eh? An early grave. Your ma weren’t even 80!”
“The old ways are gone. You cannae expect to go tramping about, hiring out to merchants and adventurers, posting secret sigils on doors as yer business card.”
“Why not? There’s plenty of adventurers out there.”
“The church has…”
“The church is fine. There’s nae a problem with the church. There’s a problem with yer trust in others.”
“As I was sayin’, the church has a stranglehold on adventuring, because few adventurers travel without someone of the faith, and they must attend temple and gi up so much of what they earn tha it’s a marriage to tha whims and vagaries of whomevah is in power.”
“Maybe in some temples, but…”
“Nae, you dinna ken how it works anymore. It’s do-as-we-say, not what the gods say. You cannae think for yourself without risking the wrath of some petty functionary, too hopped up on his title and power. What would the gods say to The Games?”
“Your brother is proud to be going to The Games! He’s taking a set of full-plate that your father carried home from his stupid outings – about the only thing left besides tha shirt and your ma’s cloak.”
“Morak is stronger than I am, but he lacks cunning. He nevah…”
“He’s smart enough. The Games is an old tradition, from before we had cleaned our lands of those without the Maker’s Gifts. If it weren’t for The Games, we wouldn’t have the peace we do now.”
“The Games started to get warriors of sufficient skill to fight the invading hordes and roam the lands, searching for threats to good folk. Aye. When that became less necessary, why have they continued?”
“People enjoy a spectacle!”
“Aye, they do… so much they fail to consider why there’s not more work, why there’s hungry and poor in a world where food and water are a prayer or finger wiggle away.”
“It’s not that simple. The farmer makes the food, which they sell or trade for the candles and blacksmithing and other tools they need, which gives the blacksmith and candle maker income and provisions so they don’t need to step away from the anvil or can mind their own beeswax.”
“And the candle maker buys parchment from the scribe who makes money selling spellcasting services and tutoring, and it’s all a grand system of wheels turning wheels turning sunshine and hard work into money.”
“Aye, it’s a thing of beauty.”
“It’s a system for fools. There’s a better way to earn an honest living without…”
“Without cutting throats and stealing purses, aye. You ken say it. I never slit a throat tha weren’t needing slitting. I never stole a purse from any who were going to use it for the good of the many.”
“I’m sorry. I just worry for him.”
“Your sister will be saying prayers for him. He’s going to have a set of fine armor, made by the top smith of some forgotten empire in a distant era.”
“Is it possible that these armors have some horrible curse?”
“It’s possible… you can identify the traits of an item easily enough, but there’s always the chance tha the true powers of the armor don’t reveal themselves without a life of study. But… what makes ya ask?”
“Da and Mom were good. They should still be with us. I just don’t understand what happened.”
“I don’t think any of us do or can. It’s a lot, to lose someone so early. However, they had the armor set aside for you kids from the early days, and it’s time for you to start into the world.”
“Aye, I guess so…”
“If you’re worried about Morak, they do allow a gladiator to bring with him a squire. You’d have to go to Juisse and maybe the Westernlands or Midrealm, but you could travel with your brother, watch him, coach him, maybe even gather some tips for his upcoming opponents?”
“Ah, I see how it is. This has all been a plan to get me to do wha ye want by guilting me.”
“Isn’t that wha family is for? He’ll be fine by the time ye reach Midrealm, assuming that’s where the games are set to be held. I just worry about those early fights – it’s hard, even with the spirit tethering, to not worry about him. And wha if he, too, decides to join up with the Explorer’s League?”
snorts He’s more likely to take up with the Wenching League once he’s got enough of a reputation to merit a woman’s time and attention.”
“I don’t see you rushing to give me a great-grandchild! I want to be seeing my great-great-great-great-grandchild get married before my time and gifts are up.”
“There’s plenty of time. You’re barely middle-age!”
“Listen, do an old dwarf a favor. See Morak to Midrealm or the Westernlands. Try to be his ace in the hole. You can meet with the Explorer’s League easy enough from there and it helps me sleep at night.”
“I will do that. I’m still young yet. If he leaves the Games and takes up with a comely wench, though, you owe me a boon.”
“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch! There’s a lot of things on this world and the planes that lay eggs…”
“It could be a basilisk egg, I know. Just because my uncle was a statue for a few years…”
chuckles We should have left him a statue. He was prettier as a statue and he didn’t really get in the way. We could ha just moved him.”
chuckles I would love to see tha! Marok brings his future bride to plan the ceremony and she sees Uncle Rorak…”
“And says ‘What a lovely statue! So lifelike!’”
“I’m going to tell Uncle Rorak you said he was better as a statue. Tha’s cruel.”
“How much coin to keep quiet, you little swindler?”
“Ah, ferget it. Come, join me for supper, and we’ll open tha keg of mead.”


Crimson Skies PhoenixMark