Beorian Tales by Brian Mullin (aka Catfish Waterdancer)
Based upon characters, history & lore of the game EPIC TAVERN, created by Hyperkinetic Studios
This is one is dedicated to developer Richie Bisso, who (literally) asked for it!
*** A Somewhat Brief History of Drattus Thaddeus Rattus ***
Hey there! That’s right, you – wi’ the bald ‘ead! Git yer ‘ead outta yer nethers an’ look down ‘ere! (Good ‘eavens, iffen I canna git yer eyes offa that tavern wench yer massagin’…)
Hey, Deena Moona, get me friend ‘ere another ale, an’ bring me the regular, alright? Stop yer ‘ollerin’! Ya’d think a man ‘ad never ‘eard a rat conversatin’ afore! There – now, you’re prolly thinkin’ ‘ow a rat ‘as the power a’speech. Thanks, Deena. Say, is the Pater ‘ere tonight? Out on an errand, is ‘e?
Where was I? <hic> ‘Scuse me. Oh yeah. Name’s Drattus T. Rattus. I wasn’t always a rat. I was born in 1370 A.D. Me da was a man of all trades, e’ was. A little bit a’ street smarts, a little bit a’ farmin’, a little bit a’ magic, a little bit a’ fightin’ – well, e’ was a pirate. He died afore I was four. So, ta ‘elp me mam, I became a thief at the tender age o’ five. By a rotten stroke of luck, I got caught whilst borrowin’ somethin’ from that creepy Mage School. The ‘eadmaster, Memigeek, were really upset, an’ ‘im an’ the ‘ead of the VFD put me in the VVDD (or whate’er its called.)
It were in the dungeon whilst I was takin’ a whizz when “puddly-piddly-poof!” outta nowhere is this fat lil’ man, completely nekkid, but wi’ female breasts an’ a male willy! ‘E introduces ‘isserself as Tungjii, God o’ Luck. (*) And S/he says I should worship ‘immer, an’ S/he’ll make sure I gets a fair dice roll ev’ry now an ‘ then. Alright, says I. A day later I was learnin’ cookin’ under the ‘ead cook o’ the warden’s ‘ouse ‘old. ‘E gave me books on plants an’ foods o’ all kinds, an’ soon I knew a woundwort from a killflower.
A year passes an’ I loses me job as chef at the Rusty Fishhook ‘cause I fell for the barkeep’s wife. We coulda kept it secret exceptin’ she got in the family way. She gave birth to two sets o’ twins, an’ I ‘ad ta find work that’d feed all six o’ us. ‘Er da was a wealthy man, an’ we moved in with ‘im fer a while. ‘E ‘ad a big li-berry, so I read lotsa scholarly books an’ such. Master Pyrite, e’ spreads the word ‘mongst ‘is friends that I’m a scholar an’ I start ta get jobs. One day, a young wizard comes by, Tomoman was the name, an’ asks for a trans…a change…a morph…ah, a spell that turns somethin’ into somethin’ else. In this case, what ‘e wanted was ta turn lead into gold – ‘ave you ever ‘eard such nonsense?
Anyways, me ‘earin’ wasn’t so good. See, I thought ‘e said young into old. So, I tells ‘im what I think is what ‘e wants, an’ then “puddly-piddly-poof!” ‘e’s said the words an’ waved ‘is ‘ands an’ bless me if ‘e didn’t look a hunnert years old. Iffen ‘is eyes coulda shot fireballs at me they woulda, but as I start runnin’ ‘e mumbles a few words an’ “puddly-piddly-poof” jus’ like that I’m a rat.
Hey, here’s my friend! How’s it goin’…whoa, what’re ya doin’? Is it time already? ‘Ey, you there! What’s yer name? Rich? Really? You won’t mind payin’ the tab, will ya then, cause we gots ta do somethin’ big! ‘Bye now!
(* Author’s note: Tungji Luck is a literary creation of the late fantasy/sci-fi author Jo Clayton. S/he can be found in many of Ms. Clayton’s works.)
*** A Constitutional That Wasn’t ***
High Priest Blathers read the letter from the Archbishop one last time. He couldn’t understand why the dragoness was suddenly so close to giving birth. Wasn’t that why they had put her in the Old Temple, to stop it from happening? The last thing Beor needed was another dragon. He’d been looking forward to killing both the dragoness and its unborn in the name of Bloody Blodwin. Imagine the power unleashed!
So, when he got the Archbishop’s letter that it was being moved – with no guards – well, that made no sense at all. Unless – unless he meant to kill the mother after she gave birth, and take the egg away, to be raised by the Church as a weapon of Divine Lawful Intelligence! Well, why didn’t the Archbishop entrust him – the very epitome of the Dark Brilliance of Bloody Blodwin – with such knowledge? That thought was keeping him awake tonight. Perhaps he was meant to show initiative…to show he was smart enough to figure things out on his own, to predict with Rightful Divine intelligence the mental currents of his Eminence’s most twisted genius!
He left his room and told his guard that he was going for his evening constitutional. The guard, knowing that the other guards had been ordered to stay in their barracks for the night, tried to persuade him that it might be wise to let him accompany his Grace on his walk. High Priest Blathers assured him that he would be fine and made his way downstairs to the main hallway. There was no moon tonight to light the Plaza, so the hallway was only dimly lit by the glow of some exotic glowing flowers – yasmeen, thought Blathers. He was almost to the plaza entrance when he practically bumped into Father Michael Roedaboetazure.
He was about to say something, when he caught Fr. Michael’s expression of shock. Blathers then saw the rat perched on his shoulder. That was odd, but it became odder still when the rat apparently tried to whistle. Seconds later (he would remember in the morning) he distinctly heard the rat say “SHIT!” Then world exploded, and High Priest Dronon N. Blathers dreamed whatever the chaotically stupid dream.
*** Girl Power, or Kibbles & Bits ***
“Oops!” said Blaze, as the Assassin stored her cosh back underneath her jacket. “Sorry about that. I’ll put him back in his room.”
“There’s bound to be at least one guard there,” Fr. Mike stated, “And if I know him, if he’s disobeyed one of the fake requests, he’ll disobey the other. There might be more guards, so be careful.”
“Come on, Drat, let’s get going!” Blaze patted her shoulder, but the rat stayed where he was. With Thorgrin on a solo mission, Blaze was missing the snarky dwarf a lot more than she thought she would.
“I’m gettin’ the feelin’ that I should stay wi’ the Pater, old friend.”
Blaze pointed to her own nethers. “You mean Tungjii’s Tingle? Well, s/he’s not steered us wrong yet. Be careful, and I’ll meet you in the Catacombs.”
She slung the High Priest’s inert body over her shoulder as if it were weightless and made her way through the hallway. Her enchanted leathers augmented every shadow’s size, elongating it or lengthening it or both. She made her way up the stairs and, hidden halfway to Blather’s room, stopped. The guard was right at the doorway. She noticed the trip wire he’d set and nodded a silent approval. Blaze laid Blathers in the deepest shadow, returned to her position, and produced a small parcel from a hidden pocket. She pinched her nose as her thumb and forefinger pinched the balled-up lace hankie, activating the spell cube inside, and sent it flying towards the guard.
He picked it up, and looked around suspiciously, just long enough for the magic smoke to take effect. She ran down the corridor as he flung his arms around her. “Sarah, my darling! What brings you here, my golden-haired velvet-tongued goddess!”
She used the trigger words that would intensify the spell. “My sweet Kibbles & Bits, could you help me get this poor man back to bed? I found him wandering the gardens, and then he must have fainted from exhaustion!”
“Oh, my Crispy Baconette, anything for you! Kiss me!”
“Bad boy! Not until grandfather is back in his bed!”
“Command me as you will, my Goddess.”
Whoever this Sarah is, thought Blaze, she sure knows how to train ‘em. As soon as the High Priest was in his own bed, she coshed her Kibbles & Bitties on the back of the head, and the guard fell across Blathers, very pointedly dreaming about his golden-haired goddess.
*** Uncle Ralph and The Three Wizkiddles ***
Merrick & Lycacia Ravinger were debating. At least, they thought so. To Fr. Mike and Drattus, they were arguing. Fr. Mike had been correct – at the far end of Blodwin’s Bloomers, right at the beginning of the pathway into the Great Forest (copse, really) of Pagan Perfidy, there was a guard. Not just any guard mind you. If a giant and a mountain troll had a child, then this guard was that child. Only…the troll’s breadth was increased – it was easily twelve feet across and twelve feet high. As if someone had taken a giant and stuffed it into a troll’s body. It was bigness, only squared.
They moved down to the opposite end, so they wouldn’t be heard. Fr. Mike was sitting on another bench, whose plaque read: ‘The last gift you’ll ever need is at Morbid Curiosities (all sales final.)” He was about to stop them when a voice said, right behind him, “DOOMED! You’re all DOOMED!” followed by a muffled chorus of childish giggles.
“Uncle Ralph?” asked Merrick the Necromancer, “What are you doing here? And where’s Aunt Elryssa? And who are these kids?”
Walking into their midst was a man nearing his 70s, wearing patchy, ragged and dirt-stained clothing, in a pair of what were once shoes. Around his waist was a rope which was strung through his belt loops and tied in a purple-glowing knot. The rope end was tied to the wrist of a boy of about 10 years old. His knot also glowed purple, which meant it could only be untied by the spellcaster. In each hand he held the hand of a girl, each of whom appeared to be between 4 and 6 years of age.
“These kids brought me here. They come here every night. Up to no good, I tell you. Boy’s name is Kharimar, and these two are Emilia and Elona. They’re students at Miss Frumplin’s School for the Magically Precocious.” Then Uncle Ralph’s gaze went a little unfocused.
“Prolly not for long,” said the one called Elona, who gave a “Ca-caw!” Fr. Mike watched as a crow landed on her shoulder. The crow eyed Drattus hungrily.
“That’s cause evwy day Khawi twies to burn it down, but he can’t cause Ms. Gwumpy Fwumps has a watah spit to guard it,” said the one called Emilia. She let out a small squeal of glee when she spotted Drattus. “I wike wats.”
“Uncle Ralph?” said Lycacia, and then again, “Uncle Ralph?”
“Have I told you, my dear,” he said, “How lucky my nephew is to have you? Oh, how unfortunate that YOU’RE ALL DOOMED!”
“He says that,” stated Emilia.
“All the time,” affirmed Elona.
“Every. Other. Sentence.” proclaimed Kharimar.
“I’m sorry. Uncle Ralph,” asked Merrick, “Why?”
Ralph sighed. “I can’t just sit at home and let Elryssa earn all the money. It breaks my heart. Every day she pushes that cart to market, and the next day she returns. Her feet are so blistered, but we can’t afford to get her new shoes. I thought…I thought if I could help…just a little…I used to be good with kids…”
“Doomed, we’re all doomed,” said each child, in a sort of roundelay.
“Stop it,” said Merrick, but they continued to chant, as Uncle Ralph put his hands to his ears.
“Stop it right now!” cried Lycacia, but as a mother of a newborn she hadn’t yet mastered the Obey-Me-Or-Else tone of voice that every parent knows.
By now, Uncle Ralph had begun to cry. As the father of two sets of twins, Drattus knew the parental command voice very well. Even if it put everyone in jeopardy, he couldn’t let the kids get away with this kind of cruelty.
“That’s ENOUGH!” he said in the voice of someone one hundred times his size.
The children stopped their horrid chanting, Uncle Ralph looking at him as if seeing the rat for the first time.
And then the troll-giant said, softly, “Quiet.” Softly as in shake the very stones and rock the 20 benches out of their places type of soft. This, of course, made the children grab onto whoever was nearest- Emilia grabbed Drattus, who had fallen off of Fr. Mike’s shoulder when the good pater had stood up, startled – Elona grabbed Lycacia, and Kharimar rather cautiously took hold of Uncle Ralph.
The sound of squeaky wheels was heard, and a voice said, “There you are!”
*** A Cunning Vendor of Vegetables (Two Varieties) ***
“Miss Frumplin is furious – you’ve lost the money for wizkid sitting, by the way – and I had to persuade Paladin Katris that, witless as you are, you’d never put the kids in harm’s way!”
“More likely they’d put themselves there first, it seems,” said Blaze, who’d watched the whole “Doomdance” incident from the shadows, with no small amount of amusement. She looked the three over from head to toe and proclaimed, “They look pretty capable, even as young as they are.”
“Well, even so,” said the old woman, going up to Uncle Ralph and giving him a hug and a kiss.
“Aunt Elryssa! How are you?” asked Merrick.
“I’m old and I don’t walk as fast as I used to,” she replied, and leaned back on a huge cart filled with truly perfect looking vegetables, which she patted with affection. “Your uncle may only have half a mind, but he can still grow the best vegetables and herbs in Slainte. It’s a long way to the South Market! Sometimes I’ll meet someone who’ll help me with this here cart, and if they’re respectful, I’ll give ‘em some of these carrots. Sometimes they’ll steal them. There’s always good and bad folk – and they always fight. Ralph, now, he’s fighting himself, and he’ll never win, not this time.”
“Oh, Elryssa!” Lycacia went over and took her hand. “I’m so sorry!”
“You’ll be doing me a favor to take him off my hands, bless you both. I hear you’ve bought a tavern, and that means he’s got a place where you can put him.”
“Uh, Aunt Elryssa?” said Merrick, worried where her thread of conversation was leading.
“It’s so nice of you to offer to take Ralph & the kids back to Tasuil Beor and Frumplin’s School. I’ve got to get going, or else my feet will fall asleep, and me after them, and then I’d miss tomorrow’s market.” She went over to Ralph and gave him a big kiss. “I’m going to miss you, dear. I promise I’ll visit you at the…” and she turned to Merrick. “What’s the name of your tavern?”
“It doesn’t have one yet,” answered Lycacia, who glared at her husband. “We can’t decide on one.”
The old woman shook her head. “You’d better hurry, dear, or they’ll start calling it ‘The Tavern With No Name’ and that’s just…”
“Stupid,” said Uncle Ralph, finishing for her. “I was going to say unlucky, and a little unsettling,” chided Aunt Elryssa, “but ‘stupid’ works just as well. Bye now, sweetheart. Don’t you be giving them any trouble.” And she went, but not before handing each child a wiry carrot.
“That’s one heck of a smart and scheming old lady!” said Blaze. After a while, as the kids were slowly crunching their carrots, she decided it was time to talk about the elephant in the room – or more precisely, the mountain in the garden. Inclining her head, she said, “Any ideas yet?”
Nobody had a clue. “Sweep spell.”
“What was that, Emmy?” asked Kharimar.
“She said ‘sweep spell,’ stupid,” commented Elona.
Fr. Mike gave a small laugh. “You mean, conjure up a giant broom to sweep the big bad guard away?”
“Sweep spell,” said Emilia, “Put him to sweep!”
“You know, that woman o’mine, Elryssa Flac, is as deaf as a post,” said Uncle Ralph.
“I heard that!” was the very faint shout from Elryssa, more than two blocks away.
“Only my husband is a mage, but he’s not the kind who does those sorts of spells,” said Lycacia, who picked up the little girl and gave her a kiss.
“I am,” said Kharimar, who stood very tall in an effort to look older and more helpful.
“But you don’t know the sleep spell yet,” stated Elona.
Drattus gave a squeak. “I know the spell. I could cast it when I was human. I think I could teach it to the wizkiddles.”
Lycacia looked at the sky and made some calculations. “There’s not enough time to teach them,” she concluded, “We’re not even inside the Catacombs, and we’ve about five hours of darkness left. You’ll have to try.”
“But he’s standing in the middle of the ruins. That means magic won’t work.”
*** Existential Questions For Rodents & Others Sizeably Challenged ***
“You’re all doomed!” said Uncle Ralph forlornly, to no one in particular. Elona handed the old man her carrot, which he began hungrily munching.
“That was very nice of you, Elona,” said an impressed Lycacia, “I hope my child grows up to be kind like you.”
“It had bugs in it,” stated a non-plussed Elona, who watched as Ralph spat out a mass of writhing beetles and stepped on them quite vigorously.
“Hey!” cried Emilia, who squinted and mumbled a few words. Suddenly the crushed bodies of the beetles swirled upwards in a cloud, and a small circus of partially pieced together zombie beetles limped or lurched out of sight.
“A Micro-necro!” exclaimed Merrick, “How altogether disturbing! Not bad at all!”
Emilia curtsied, but fell over. “Thanks,” she said, and turned to Drattus. Putting her little hand on top of his paws, she bent down, looked him in his beady little eyes and said, “You can do it. I wike wats, and I wike you. I beweave in you.”
“That’s very sweet,” said a heartsore Drattus, “But as you see, I am still a rat.”
“No,” said Emilia firmly, “you aren’t. You’re human. Someone changed you on the outside, that’s all.”
“She’s right, you know,” agreed Fr. Mike, whose opinion of the wizkiddles went up a notch. “Inside, where it counts, you’re human.”
“What about the anti-magic stones? How do we get around that?” asked Blaze.
“Use this,” said Kharimar. He pulled a small mirror out of his pocket. “It only stops magic cast inside its area of effect, right? So – if you look at Mr. Trolliant over there in this, while I hold it in front of you, technically you’re not casting while inside the area. And you can see him, so that satisfies the first rule of casting!”
Merrick was suitably impressed. “That might just work, young man. Highly unlikely, but it might. Give it try, Drattus.”
“What if somethin’ goes wrong?” he asked them.
“C’mon!” said Elona. “What are you, a man or a…”
“Don’t say it!!!” shouted Merrick, Lycacia and Blaze together.
“He’s really, really sensitive about that,” said Blaze. “I watched him tear out a ruffian’s throat who insulted him by saying that.”
“S’alright, child. I am a man, no matter what form I’m in. Khari, when you’re ready,” said Drattus with determination, “jus’ nod.”
(‘You gotta teach me this, buddy,” he whispered to the rat. Drattus nodded, and whispered back, “Jus’ ‘member the three words an’ you got it.”)
The wizard boy nodded, and Drattus stood on his hind feet. Seeing the huge trolliant, he waved his little paws and said, “Somn-me, Somn-you, Somnus!” The group watched as a pale sparkling cloud enveloped its target, and then vanished. The trolliant was waving its hand, scattering the cloud remnants and coughing. The trolliant was unaffected.
“It was a nice try, little friend.” Blaze put Drattus on her shoulder.
“But it worked,” said Elona, “I know it did – look around his feet.”
Sure enough, several birds were sleeping by his feet.
“That’s IT!” shouted Drattus. Letting loose a stream of invectives that would make a pirate blush, he ran until he was standing in front of the trolliant.
Just then, Tungjii Luck appeared with a “puddly-piddly-poof” (as Drattus would say) in front of the wizkiddles and put hisser index finger to hisser mouth. All three were about to speak but found out that they couldn’t. Emilia made motions at her chest and did a rather age-inappropriate motion with her hands, then she pointed downwards. Khari and Elona followed her gaze and their eyes opened wide.
“Tungjii, please – in front of the children!” scolded Lycacia. The Little God/dess of Luck stuck hisser tongue out, and clapped hisser hands. The wizkiddle’s hats pulled themselves down over their heads and just past their eyes.
“Hold hands,” Lycacia said, “And let’s go see what Drattus is up to.”
When they arrived at the far end of the Gardens, Drattus was just finishing a sentence.
“…and it should ‘ave worked, you big stinkin’ accumulation of muscles!”
Slowly the trolliant moved its head down to look at Drattus. “You are the one that is talking?”
“Oh, we ‘ave a real genius ‘ere. Yes, I am!” and he ran up the trolliant’s leg and into its hand, where he gave it a most unpleasant smile. “Me me me me ME!”
“You are talking. You are a rat?” The trollgiant sounded puzzled.
Drattus stood up straight. “Yes, I’d think that was obvious.” The trolliant moved his right foot ever so slightly.
“Rats cannot speak. You are a rat, yet you are speaking.” The corners of his mouth stretched upwards. “Therefore, there must be some rats that can speak. Interesting.”
Drattus turned to face the party. “We’ve got a deep thinker ‘ere, we ‘ave.” And he turned back around and bowed. “Me name’s Drattus Thaddeus Rattus. An’ you are?”
“I am called Big.” And Big bowed back, very slowly, so as not to jostle Drattus. Big was being, thought Blaze, very gentle. Trolls were, as a rule, more brawn than brain; giants, however, were actually highly intelligent. So Big had a very high intelligence, she guessed, but the troll part slowed his processes down a bit.
Tungjii Luck appeared on the left side of Big’s thick neck and licked his left ear. “Hello little godling,” laughed Big, “Stop that. It tickles.” So, Tungjii Luck appeared next to Drattus. “Now tell me, Drattus, why I should not take you and your friends into custody. It seems to me that I am in your way, but you cannot pass. I am guarding something important.”
But it wasn’t Drattus who spoke next. Fr. Michael went to his knees and looked up at Big. A glowing halo appeared above his head. Tungjii Luck stifled a short giggle.
“We beg your help, Guard Big, in seeing that these three children are safely returned home,” he said, motioning the three wizkiddles forward. Their hats suddenly slipped above their eyes, and Khari whistled in appreciation. “Whoa, you sure ARE big!” Emilia tittered.
“Doomed! You are all DOOMED!” shouted Uncle Ralph, who then used part of his tether to play jump rope.
Big looked at Uncle Ralph, who stuck his tongue out. Tungjii Luck sprouted wings and flew down to face him and blew a raspberry in his face. The pair then proceeded to chase each other around the gardens, poor Kharimar running to keep up so Ralph didn’t drag him by his wrist.
“Who is that?” asked an astonished Big.
“He’s their sitter,” said Fr. Mike gravely. “If you would be so kind to take charge of them, and their sitter, we – and the godling, I think – would be most appreciative.”
“But…I am guarding this place.”
“I think we can help with that.”
Fr. Mike told a highly selective and edited (though truthful) version of what they were doing in Blodwin’s Bloomers tonight (the Gardens not…nevermind) and why they had to free Lady Smaug. Big had not known that he was guarding a kidnapped pregnant dragon kept imprisoned in a place that could kill her and its offspring. In the end, he agreed to help. It was the right thing to do. And Luck was on hisser side.
As they said goodbye to Uncle Ralph, the three wizkiddles and Big, the adventurers overheard Elona ask Big to pretty please stop by Morbid Curiosities. Well, they had Big the trolliant with them, and Uncle Ralph, who was lucid (some of the time) – what could possibly go wrong? *
(*a lot, actually, but that’s another story.)
*** Cheese It, It’s the Copse! ***
Lady Smaug (with an ‘ugh’ not an ‘awg’) was drumming her foreclaws on some ancient knight’s empty suit of armor – empty except for the knight, who was rather bony, his skin having been eaten by various predators, microbes and forest floor denizens. The decoration on the chest plate was one Lady Smaug knew from her younger days. No Loremaster alive would recognize this crest, because it predated the profession itself – it predated most races alive today. There were three horns protruding from the helmet – horns that were part of the head that wore it, and not the other way around. Best it be destroyed, she thought.
She heard it crumble beneath her bulk as she crawled over it, then heard the sounds of footsteps. She breathed in, identifying the scents of her rescuers. She had not anticipated her capture, much less her imprisonment. It had to have been done with the assistance of an Elder God. There weren’t many left. It was probably that troublesome Tungjii, God/dess of Luck and Keeper of the Balance. Or maybe Sangray, Goddess of Chaos.
It didn’t matter. A way out had found her, and Lady Smaug knew better than to question it. That was the first and last time she’d ever snooze after eating while pregnant! From out of the shadows came the four and one-half adventurers. And they were late. If her skin temperature told the truth, they had less than four hours of darkness left. If she didn’t eat properly soon, she wouldn’t have the strength to fly.
Then she felt a solid rap on her head. She looked and saw for a few seconds the scowling face of Tungjji Luck, before s/he winked out of sight. He knew, then. They all approached her.
“Sorry it took so long,” the one named Lycacia said sincerely, “Okay, Drattus, pick the lock.”
The rat ran twenty feet up the gate, over and into the dwarf-sized lock.
“Have you thought this through?” asked Lady Smaug, “That lock is older than dragons (a fact she admitted reluctantly.)”
“Hey, he’s the best choice, considering none of us have a four-foot key.”
A few minutes later they heard a loud click, four beeps, several whirrs and then the lock sprang open, falling to the floor. When it hit, it shattered into tiny pieces, which then vanished, leaving a dumbstruck Drattus in a cloud of dust. He shook himself, preened the fur around his eyes for a moment and said, “Let’s get out of here.”
After a few minutes of walls coming down, various statuary being dragged from their pedestals, and Blaze pausing to pick up & store a strange tablet with some ancient orcish pictographs, dwarven runes, and three sets of writing of unknown origins, they made it out of the Catacombs and were on the northern side of the Great Forest (Copse, seriously) of Pagan Perfidy.
“Now, we go north several miles…” began Merrick.
“No,” said Lady Smaug, “I cannot fly yet. I must feed. Get me food, and we can continue.”
“Look ‘ere Smaug the Tragic Dragoness, you couldn’t ‘ave said somethin’ before tonight? ‘Oh, by the way, stop by the market and bring me an ‘Erd of ‘Effin Sheep!’ ‘Ave you no sense?” cried Drattus. Lady Smaug artlessly hooked her right foreclaw under his tummy and hauled him up in the air. The adventurers unsheathed their weapons. Tiny flames danced around Lady Smaug’s mouth as she said, very carefully enunciating every word, “Sheep? You pathetic creatures think we like to eat them? We LOATHE them!”
She let Drattus go, who was caught by Blaze before he hit the ground. “W-w-well, w-w-we thought you…” stuttered Fr. Mike.
“It’s always Baa-baa this or Baa-baa that or Aren’t I pretty and See how pretty & soft my wool is and we just want to swallow them, crush the life out of them and throw them UP!” The Lady Smaug was breathing heavily now, and her flames were getting bigger, and hotter. She was shuddering. “The taste is absolutely vile!”
“Well then,” said Lycacia calmly, “You learn something every day. Please tell us: what do dragons eat, when we’re not watching?”
“Roasted vegetables, rock-grilled fruits, and the occasional whale,” stated the dragoness, who then added, “Although right now I could really go for a Baked Kraken.”
All four and one-half adventurers had their mouths hanging open.
Merrick Ravinger, to his credit, took the role of leader very seriously. “A moment,” he told Lady Smaug, and walked back to the entrance of the Catacombs. “Ravingers,” he announced with a theatrical flair, “Assemble.” A minute later, he noticed his wife standing next to him, while Blaze, Drattus and Fr. Mike hadn’t moved. Blaze was picking a fingernail with her stiletto and whistling, and Fr. Mike was chatting softly with Drattus. “That means everyone.”
“Honestly, Merry! What were you thinking?” asked Lycacia. “Sorry. I thought it sounded heroic.” “I wonder about you sometimes.” When the others arrived, they discussed their options. When they came up with a plan, Tungjii Luck appeared before them, and gave them all the Tingles, which was unnerving but reassuring. An hour later Lycacia and Merrick arrived with Elryssa’s cart of veggies, which turned out to hold a thin top layer of carrots covering about 250 pounds of assorted dried beans. Tungjii quadrupled the contents, putting it all into what looked to be a giant seashell partly full of sea water. More magic and “puddly, piddly, poof!” they were fully cooked. It took Lady Smaug all of 2 minutes to down the bean stew.
“Kraken!” demanded the dragoness. Without warning, one fell out of the sky, right on top of them with a mighty splat. Flailing massive tentacles were no match for four and a half really pissed off adventurers. Tungjii laughed. “Baked in Rocks!” Tungjii waved his hands while the Ravingers shouted “No!!!” and twenty or so Rock Golems appeared. “Can this night get any worse?” shouted Fr. Mike as his Unholy Mace slammed one Granite golem into another, causing both to shatter into pieces. “Oh no, you did NOT say that!” cried Blaze, who did an amazing leap out of the way of two onrushing Carbonite Golems, who also slammed into each other with fatal consequences.
After the dragoness gave them instructions, they piled the golems’ remains on top of the disgustingly squishy Kraken, until it was entirely covered. Lady Smaug blew white-hot flames on it for a good minute or two, and then, when the rocks had stopped glowing, she tapped the center, very hard. They fell away, revealing a golden Kraken carcass underneath.
The adventurers, barely able to stand, rushed into the surrounding bushes to retch. As they returned, some 5 minutes later, they all saw that she had eaten every last scale, bone and tentacle. The smell was still indescribably gut-churning. The sky was getting lighter, and the adventurers knew time was running out. They had just a few minutes left. So why, thought Drattus, is our dragoness not taking off?
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Ooooooooooh!” Lady Smaug tensed up, straining all her muscles at once. “Pain. Stomach pain!” And she began to rock from side to side. Lycacia said, “Don’t forget – the dragons are going to attack the Flaming Nethergate as one and close it forever!” Through her waves of never-before-felt discomfort, Lady Smaug managed to say “Right.” Although she knew it was a lie. It was against the High Law for dragons to take sides. Another sharp pain made her stiffen in agony. This wasn’t an oncoming contraction!
“There they are,” cried voices from the Catacombs, “Big said they’d be here!” Apparently the trolliant had alerted the VFD, who were fast approaching.
Thinking that Lady Smaug was giving birth, Lycacia was saying soothing things like “PUSH, you damn overgrown salamander, PUSH!” Father Mike, Blaze & Merrick stood at the dragoness’ side, arms at the ready.
Drattus, who had crawled underneath Lady Smaug, was desperately trying to remember the exact words of a spell. He knew it might not work, and knew he might die even if it did, but that didn’t matter. He may have used up all his good luck tonight, but strangely he thought that Tungjii Luck had a personal stake in this as well.
“Push, you gods-be-damned Lover of Sheep!” screamed Lycacia.
That last insult did it. With anger powering her, and her wings fully outstretched, Lady Smaug let go of her pain.
At the same time, Drattus yelled ‘Duck!’, thought of his daughters, and just as he smelled it coming, positioned his hands towards Lady Smaug’s dragon gas, and chanted the words, “Flame On.”
*** Afterburn, Aftermath, and More After The Fall ***
It was Tungjii Luck who saw to it that Lady Smaug’s first fart was one of those silent but deadly ones. Dragons do not usually bother with beans, as they are really small and troublesome to eat. Which, if you think about it, is something to be truly thankful for. Add to the digestive tract what amounts to a giant octopus-squid, and you’ve got guaranteed flatulence. A personal flaming nethergate, if you will.
Drattus’ spell did not have the right words, but that was just as well, or else the resulting tsunami of flame would have wiped out most of Beor. As it was, it was just enough to incinerate everything in its limited path, which included the entire Great Forest (Ex-copse, alas) of Pagan Perfidy, the entire Tasuil Beor VFD Reserve unit that was both outside of and under the Catacombs, and High Priest Blathers’ secret warehouse full of questionable artifacts of faith along with reports containing blackmail-worthy information on the higher-ups of every House of Worship across the continent.
The force of her gaseous blast caused Lady Smaug to be airborne, and when she realized that her pain was gone, she flew away to parts unknown (at least, to this author.) Of the Dragons’ failure to act upon the Nethergate, and its unfortunate consequences, I have already written.
Many priceless antiques and mysterious undiscovered artifacts in the Catacombs were damaged beyond usefulness or study, but not all. Parts of histories yet unknown can still be found there. Enter at your own risk. Or perhaps pay a group of adventurers to do it for you?
Big, whose innocent informing of the VFD Reserves while standing in front of a Morbid Curiosities that was frozen solid, condemned those nefarious persons to death, finally brought Uncle Ralph to the Ravinger’s tavern – three days later than expected. When they arrived, Lycacia and Merrick threw them a small feast. When asked why they arrived so late, Big replied that it was rather difficult getting directions for a tavern without a name. Lycacia and Merrick glared at each other and said, “We know!”
Uncle Ralph is still the tavern’s official greeter, where every day he gets a hoist up onto the roof from his best buddy Big. Big helps him care for the herb garden when he’s not acting as the tavern’s Bouncer.
The Three Wizkiddles – Elona, Kharimar and Emilia – had quite a few adventures with Uncle Ralph & Big. But kids grow up and grow apart; each drifted into their own destiny, coming together again occasionally at the tavern to begin a new adventure.
Aunt Elryssa Flac can be found most days on the road, pushing her cart. She lives alone, but enjoys making friends with the people she meets on the road to the market and back. She’s got a strapping young dwarf lad who helps her tend her fields, and that’s all I’ll say about that. For now, that is.
Tungjii Luck is probably looking over my shoulder as I write this. May s/he like you enough to give you an extra roll of the dice every now and then. And may you always have a friend like Rich (the first human you met – page one, you forgetful sod!) to pay your tab should an adventure come calling you!