Hammer 2: The Inn of Remorseless Arguing

Weary from battling the wicked dwarf and his fiendish friends, Diamond Cascade rested his head in a nearby gnomish inn, filled with jolly japing gnomish friends. A fine place it was, where Diamond Cascade and his brave friends were able to rest and refresh themselves and take stock of the many urgent quests that justice and righteousness called them to do. Should they pursue the wicked dwarf and seek the second missing letter? What grains of truth lay behind his mad ramblings? Should they begin their search for the Scales of Tyr and restore them to their rightful place? Or should they race to Osmuld, to seek the fell creature rumoured to stalk the land, or solve the riddle of Stalker’s birth? All these things they pondered with grave intent and common purpose, yet before they could set their minds, their quiet respite was set upon by battling dwarves! Diamond Cascade and his friends raced at once to defend their valiant gnomish friends. But worse was to come; for the dwarves were none other than a brave band from the far-off mountains who had battled through the tunnels of the underdark for three days to bring warning: The forces of darkness were on the march, intent on crushing the kingdoms of the gnomes and after them the little folk of the hills. Dark dwarves had fought and bested these bold messengers throughout their journey and they were at the end of their strength; fortunately, Diamond Cascade and his friends were able to turn back the last of their pursuers, and with a little rest the dwarves were quickly back to their strength. With this news, Diamond Cascade’s duty was clear: The invasion must be stopped, and only Diamond Cascade could do it! And so Diamond Cascade and his companions set forth at once, bound for the very heart of the deadly HAUNTED FOREST.

Not that Diamond Cascade particularly wanted to. In fact, Diamond Cascasde was thoroughly enjoying himself in the gnomish inn, thank-you. Don’t imagine for a moment that my opinion has changed and that gnomes aren’t generally irritating dicks because it hasn’t and they are; but one thing I’ll give for them is that they throw a good party. Annoying in the day when you actually want to get anything done, but when you want to let your hair down afterwards, they suddenly become a lot more bearable. And that’s the Vale way. Work hard, play hard. Preferably without too much of the work bit.

So we’d showed up to this inn I’ve never seen before. I’ve been up and down the road to Osmuld several times. The last time I was on my own and on foot and I reckoned I’d stopped in every inn on the way to Nerverrest, but apparently I missed this one on account of it being disguised as a tree. If you crawl into the hollows among its roots, however (and I do mean crawl if you’re human), then underground there’s an inn for gnomes. It’s a bit muddy and dingy, but a damn sight better than sleeping out in the open of the haunted wood with winter coming on. Anyway, they’re welcoming enough and they obviously know Wolfgirl. We have a few drinks to relax and ease our aching muscles and distract ourselves from the rantings of that idiot dwarf. Dragons, coppers, greens. Bollocks, all of it. I might have a look at the books Shifty pinched, but I’m having much too much fun with The Gnome and Wolfgirl. If there’s one thing I’ll say for The Gnome, she has a talent for leading others astray. No need for cards and strip-poker today; a few beers and we’re off for a three-some. Scoring with The Gnome is hardly a challenge (she’s gone through at least two other gnomes by then and to my certain knowledge had the Blind Elf and at least two other gnomes later, although they were all doubtless a disappointment), but Wolfgirl is another matter. Most satisfying. More uses for a Mage Hand spell and a few bits of feather and fur than you’d care to imagine. By the time we’re done, Blind Elf is so drunk he’s tottering. Didn’t think elves get drunk, but there you go. It’s so tempting to try and swipe the armour he took from the ruined tower. I wonder if he even knows it’s magic? In fact I might even have snuck into his room to try. Memory is all a bit hazy. That’s my excuse, anyway, when I deny it.

And the morning, and we get to do what we always do when no one’s trying to kill us. We argue.
And argue
And argue
And argue
And argue
And argue.

Yes, morning brings the usual hangovers and endless debate about what we should do next, although this is somewhat sidelined by a no-holds-barred catfight breaking out between The Gnome and Wolfgirl (I can only assume they’re fighting over me). Frankly I can’t see why we don’t go back to Neverrest with the stupid letter we recovered from the mad dwarf and give it to the priests like we said we would and get the money they were going to pay. Shifty is adamant that we take it north and there will be even more money, but I kind of think that a gold coin in the hand is worth two in the bush. Wolfgirl and I go off for some more practice with Mage Hand and one or two shapeshifting tricks we’ve both apparently been working on. I have no idea what’s going on here: I’ve been trying to get into Wolfgirl’s pants for weeks, and now she’s practically tearing my clothes off. Getting one over The Gnome maybe? Marking her territory like a wolf? But hey – do I care why? And it’s vastly more pleasant than arguing on and on about where we’re going and what we’re doing. By the time we come back a couple of hours later (hey – you know what they say about older women), surprise surprise, the conversation has gone exactly nowhere. In fact we’d probably still be there if it hadn’t been for the dwarves in the cellar.

It’s not like I’m desperate to put myself in the way of someone else’s sharp and pointy metal bits, but by the time Wolfgirl and I have run out of Mage Hand spells they’ve moved on from arguing to recrimination, and anything, anything is better than listening to Stalker and The Gnome and Shifty going on and on and on about who stole what from whom and who can’t be trusted and who’s a thief and who’s not (and let’s face it, the only one of us who isn’t a thief is Wolfgirl). Frankly, I’d rather fight a bunch of deranged dwarves than listen to that, and hey, lucky for us, that’s exactly what’s burst up out of the tunnels under the inn. We pile off down into the cellars where some bunch of dwarves are bashing up some other bunch of dwarves and pitch in. I’m not sure I even knew which ones I was supposed to be thumping or why, so I just take my lead from the gnomes. Stalker is so slow in his clanking metal that by the time he gets there, it’s all over and done and we have a couple of deranged dwarves babbling on about armies of dark dwarves and dark elves and orcs and slimeys and all-sorts, all pouring out of the mountain tunnels like some great underground river of nasty, all heading towards the gnomish kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no love for gnomes. Where I want to be is in Neverrest, drinking beer in the Silver Dragon, tending to the delicates of the luscious Arbelloa and the feisty Wolfgirl, not to mention every other lady of that fair city who’s a sucker for a pretty face, a head full of platinum blond curls, the voice of a whole choir of angels and a mind as dirty as a goblin’s undergarment. I’ve done my share of fighting up in Osmuld and it wasn’t pretty and doing it in tunnels is hardly likely to be an improvement. But since the alternative is to stay here FOREVER arguing about where to go next, and who stol;e what from whom, and since Shifty isn’t going to give me the letter and I’m not ready to be stealing it from him, I’ve got nowhere better to go, and since Wolfgirl wants to go and help the gnome king and I want to keep her hot for me, that’s what Diamond Cascade will do. It’s not like I don’t owe the orcs and the slimeys a stabbing or two.

Oh. Might be worth noting that Stalker is dumb enough to blow the dodgy whistle we found (with a bit of prompting) and hey-presto! Raises a zombie dwarf. Oh how we laughed, especially the dead dwarf’s bruised and battered friends. Yes, they laughed lots.


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