When Gurmble woke up he was being jostled by Joanan. Everyone was standing over him. Kai had a bandage on his head, Joanan had bandages on his arm, torso, and head, Elderist had bandages on both arms, and Flynn had a couple around her torso, Spike almost looked like a walking mummy wolverine. “Well, what dwarf could ever ask for a more beautiful site when waking up?” said Gurmble gruffly as he slowly stood up. “Man that goblin could hit hard. Anyone know what the hell happened here?” Gurmble looked at them all. All of them in turn just shrugged. Gurmble turned around and noticed the battle seemed to be under control by the royal guards. The goblins were retreating and more dwarven guards were showing up.
Gurmble took one step toward the battle and his legs gave out. Joanan and Elderist were luckily right beside him and caught him as he fell. All three lurched forward but they were able to catch themselves. “I think our fight is over for today my friend” Joanan said straightening up. “Let us take leave to rest up. I have a feeling we are going to have a long day tomorrow.”
Gurmble looked up into Joanan’s eyes. “You are right.” He then smiled. “We showed them not to mess with us didn’t we?” Everyone smiled back at Gurmble.
“Hey Gurmble. I kept count I hope you did as well. My number is thirteen. Bet you didn’t beat that!” Elderist said as they turned around to limp back to the cabin.
Gurmble started to laugh but it ended in a fit of coughing. When he caught his breath he just said “Twenty kid I got me twenty. Looks like you need some more work. Set me down over here for a minute please?” He pointed to a bunch of rubble. The group limped over and sat down to catch their breath.
Joanan decided to look Gurmble over. He noticed a couple of spots where the blood was still wet and looked like it was fresher blood then everywhere else. “Looks like you took a beating just as much as you gave it Gurmble” he said. He took some bandages that he had hidden away under his cloths. “Luckily for you I was able to corner the medic from the guards and snuck a couple of bandages for you. Just in case.” He wrapped a bandage on Gurmble’s right arm and one on a particularly deep gash on his left thigh. “Any closer on this one and you would have been dead” he said wrapping the leg.
“Hey instead of using those bandages couldn’t you just magic my wounds away?” Gurmble said looking at Joanan as he finished wrapping his leg.
“I would if I could. Unfortunately my body cannot channel any more of my gods’ power. I would tear apart. So for now you will have to deal with these” Joanan replied.
Just as Joanan finished applying the last of the bandages the guard that was barking orders with the plumage on his helmet came up to the party. “Gurmble. What the hell happened here?”
“I don’t know I was hoping you would have an answer for me.” Gurmble said curtly.
“Weren’t YOU supposed to be patrolling this morning? How could you miss that many goblins coming over the plans?” The guard snapped back.
“Look it was barely even sunup when this happened. You of all people know that the patrol doesn’t start until sunup because you can’t see otherwise. It would be better to ask the guards on the wall. There is one now maybe we should ask him how they missed the army of goblins marching over the plans.” Gurmble said pointing to a pile of rubble with a helmet sticking out between two large pieces of wall. Blood was spattered all around. “I don’t think you will get much out of him though. Unless you found a way to speak with the dead. I know none in the royal guard are wizards. But, hey magic could be a hobby of yours. I don’t know what you have done since I left the royal guard.”
The guard gave a harrumph and sniffed then turned toward a group of guards that were coming in through the opening in the rubble. These guards had on dark blue tunics over chainmail armor. Some carried crude swords and some had bows with a quiver of arrows strapped to their back. The guard immediately started to bark at them.
“Who was that Gurmble?” Asked Joanan as he was cinching up the bandage on his leg with a grunt and yank.
“Ack! A little tight Joanan! He is the captain of the royal guards. His name is Furbridge. Always has been a surly one. Even when I was in the guard he always seemed to be in a bad mood” Gurmble answered. Gurmble then tested his leg to see if he could move it. He was able to move it with only a little pain, seemed to be satisfactory enough so he turned his attention back to Furbridge whose voice was starting to get loud enough to hear even where the friends were sitting.
“What do you mean they were all of a sudden just standing out in front of the gates?! Why didn’t you signal the warning bell?! Don’t you know how to do your job!?” Furbridge was so angry that they could see the spittle coming out from his mouth with every word. His red beard was bouncing so furiously that it looked like family of squirrels were trying to hang onto his face in middle of a wind storm. “Well what hell caused this hole? Didn’t any of you nit wits do your job?! All you need to do is keep an eye on the plans and signal a warning when a threat is in sight!!! That is why you are not in the royal guards! Your incompetence! The easiest patrol and you find a way to foul it up!” With that Furbridge turned from the group with an exasperated wave of his hand and started marching back toward the companions.
“Don’t think you have escaped any responsibility in this Gurmble.” Furbridge stomped toward Gurmble and stood towering, as much as any dwarf could muster, with hands on his hip and a stern look on his face. “They just told me that a small force of goblins were seen at the front gates just prior to this.” Furbridge gestured to the wall and the rubble surrounding them. “You may have saved the city Gurmble but if you were out there to begin with this wouldn’t have happened. With a half a day’s warning that we would have had if you spotted them on the plans we could have stopped them even before they reached a wall. Didn’t you do a check last night?”
“Yes I did Furbridge. It was just before I went to make more weapons and armor at the blacksmiths. You know this because you should have gotten the report from the gate guards.” Gurmble said with exacerbation. “Did they at least know what caused this?”
“No. All they know is that when this happened, whatever it was the happened, the goblins that were at the gate started to hoot and holler and ran toward here.” Furbridge looked annoyed. The scar on Furbridge’s face, which ran from his eyebrow down to his cheek on the right side with only a small separation where his eye was, went white as he scrunched up his face in a growl. Just as he was turning toward the hole in the wall another member of the royal guard came running up.
“Sir! Sir! They are disappearing!” The guard had the stone grey tunic on that showed he was a member of the royal guards. His shield and sword were stained in blood. It also looked like a goblin was able to break under his guard and score a small line on the dwarfs’ side.
“What the fuck do you mean they are disappearing? They are fucking pig lovers NOT wizards!” Furbridge spat at the soldier. “They can’t disappear! Get out of my way! They are probably just hiding!” Furbridge started toward the hole in the wall to see what the soldier meant. Gurmble pushed himself up with care and started to follow but he was still too weak to move. Joanan and Elderist again held him up.
“Take me over there. There is something wrong and I want to know what it is” Gurmble told Joanan and Elderist. The other two looked at each other questioningly. “NOW! If we don’t hurry we may never know how they are doing this! This is my city and I would like to know why this happened as much as anyone else.”
Joanan and Elderist sighed and started to walk him toward the hole in the wall. Furbridge got to the hole first and looked out onto the plans. He saw the goblins running away then just disappear near a particular area. “What the fuck is going on. Get over there and investigate! NOW! MOVE IT!” He yelled at the guards nearest to him.
Just as Joanan, Elderist, and Gurmble climbed up the rubble to the hole in the wall they saw the last goblin seeming to disappear as the Dwarven guards closed in on its location. They all stopped short and looked around. One of the guards took it upon himself to keep walking toward where the goblins were. As he reached the spot where the goblins were last he to disappeared but with a scream. The other guards ran over to where he was. Another guard disappeared with a scream and the guard with him seemed to drop down with him. Shortly both guards popped back up from the long grass.
“So that is how they did it. Looks like tunnels.” Gurmble said standing there. “That explains why we didn’t see them. Now we just need to find out how they were able to create the tunnels.”
“Thanks for stating the obvious Gurmble!” Furbridge spat at Gurmble. He then climbed down to the ground below being careful not to fall from loose rubble. There wasn’t too much rubble on the outside of the gate. It looked like something hit the wall in. But with the scattering of rubble Furbridge and Gurmble knew that it couldn’t have been a trebuchet. Anyways there wasn’t a trebuchet around or even evidence that there ever was one. Furbridge got down and started barking orders as he walked toward the other guards. “Get that tunnel collapsed now. Collapse it and then let’s get this wall fixed.”
“Looks like our job here is truly done Gurmble. Let us get back and rest. We have all had a hard day” Joanan said.
“First I want to see the king. Don’t worry it is along the way. Just need to get to the castle. I think it is about time we strike back. This shows they are starting to get really organized.” Gurmble said looking up at Joanan. “I think I got it from here now boys. I am starting to get my energy back.” Gurmble then released Joanan and Elderist and began to slowly climb is way back down from the wall. He was the last one to reach the bottom. He then hobbled over to the rest of the party. “Hey I just want to make a quick stop before we get back to the cabin. You guys go ahead. I will get there later.” Gurmble didn’t wait for them to answer but hobbled on ahead.
The rest of the group looked at Joanan and Elderist for some sort of answer. They both shrugged as if they didn’t know why he wanted to do this all of a sudden. As they headed back to the cabin they informed Flynn and Kai in on the details of what they saw while looking down at the plans.
Gurmble stopped in front of a large wooden plank that had chains on it leading into a couple of holes in the side of a wall. He took a deep breath before heading over the bridge. Under the bridge was a black substance that Gurmble remembered would light with just the slightest of sparks. The wizards of the town worked with some highly intelligent alchemists to create this black substance that surrounded the court yard. It was a last measure to protect the king should anyone make it through the outer walls. He walked straight into a large court yard that was vacant at the time. The courtyard was made from green marble and it sparkled in the sunlight. Gurmble remembered many days on guard duty here. Not much of a bustling place to be. Few people spend time here unless it was one of the two days a week that the king heard all complaints from the citizens and ruled over any disputes. The court yard would be a sea of dwarfs as everyone tried to pile in to be heard. He kept walking toward the steps that led up to the castle.
The castle was made of a pure white marble. Rumor had it that when the dwarfs settled this land they had just enough marble to build this castle. Since that day it has been a beacon of hope, pride, and longing for their old homes in the mountains. Gurmble was stopped at the main doors to the castle by two well armored dwarfs hefting bardiches. The guards crossed their blades to prevent Gurmble from advancing and the one on the right turned and addressed him. “What is your business at this time Gurmble?” The guards wore exceptionally crafted plate mail armor with a stone gray cloth covering.
“I need an audience with the king Gravelhand. It is about the recent attack” said Gurmble.
“You know I cannot let you in when we are in middle of an engagement near the gates until informed the threat is over Gurmble.” Said Gravelhand. Gravelhand had a large black beard with beads adorning the ends of four braids. Each bead was different. He had a bead shaped like an axe on the end of one, a shield on another, a skull, and a fist holding stones on the last one. His face was red from being out in the weather all the time and his voice was deep and gruff.
“Just ask him if he will admit me. I know that can be done with protocol. Plus I was the first one in on the defense. I have information that he wants.” Gravelhand just shook his head at Gurmble. “Just go in and ask now Gravelhand or I will knock you out like I have done so many times before during training.” Gurmble gave the guard a stern look as he said this. Gravelhand gulped and looked away. Gravelhand knew from sparring with Gurmble how well he could use his hammer. He also knew that if Gurmble didn’t turn down this command position that he wouldn’t be where he was now. With a slight hesitation Gravelhand turned and headed into the castle.
Gravelhand stopped and turned around in the door way. “For you I will ask if the King wants to see you. But I cannot guarantee that anything will come out of it Gurmble. Just stay here and wait for my return.” With this Gravelhand turned again and headed into the castle closing the doors behind him. Gurmble waited patiently out front, with the other guard, grumbling into his beard. The guard just stood still, looking forward, with his bardiche still blocking the way.
After a few minutes of Gurmble grumbling and pacing back and forth Gravelhand returned. “Seems you are in luck today Gurmble. His majesty said he would like to see you. Follow me please” Gravelhand said. He turned around not waiting for Gurmble and headed into the castle. The guard holding his bardiche in Gurmble’s way removed the barrier and let Gurmble pass. Gurmble limped quickly to catch up to Gravelhand.
“If I were you I would have went straight home Gurmble. His majesty is not in a good mood” Gravelhand said looking straight ahead. Inside the walls of the castle there were tapestries in a large vaulted ceiling room. The walls were the pure white marble that was seen on the outside and the floors were made of a green marble that was shipped in from the north. It wasn’t pure like the white marble, Gurmble noticed the black streaks that swirled in the green. The tapestries depicted many fabled Dwarven warriors. The first tapestry on the wall was that of the Thirteenth Legion surrounded by leagues of goblins. Gurmble could pick out his father with his eyes closed. Right in the middle front of the circle they formed wielding his hammer, snarling an order, and streaked in red. It depicted the battle that took the heart out of the goblins. Just when the goblins thought they won the day the Thirteenth Legion stayed strong until the goblins had no choice but to give up. His father never really talked about that day other than to say how many friends were lost and how many good souls were never seen again.
“I can take it from here Gravelhand” Gurmble said simply as they walked through some more double doors that were made of steel.
“You know I can’t leave you here. I must escort you to the throne room.” Gravelhand kept on walking as he said this. This room was bigger and the walls were bare a large blue carpet ran down the exact middle. There was a large balcony in this room that had thirteen stairs, which were fifteen feet long, leading up to it. There were three doors on the far wall of the balcony. One large double one in middle and two smaller ones on each end. The carpet lead straight to the middle doors. On either side of the doors stood two guards adorned the same way as Gravelhand. Both of these dwarfs had stern looks on their faces as if they were having one of the worst days in their lives. Gravelhand stopped in front of the double doors and turned to address the guard on the right.
“Gurmble has arrived. Can you please announce him?” The guard straightened at Gravelhand’s requested. He then turned and entered through the large doors.
“Your majesty! Gurmble has arrived as requested!” The guard bellowed.
“Send him in” was the reply that came from what seemed like a mile away.
“Yes your majesty!” the guard could be seen bowing and then turned around with a fluid motion and came back out. “You may enter.” He said in Gurmble’s direction and took his position again. Gurmble walked straight through the open door that was closed right behind him by the guard.
Gurmble found himself in a large room with that blue carpet running directly down the middle. This room was completed with the pure white marble. The room was easily one hundred feet long and fifty feet wide with six pillars separating the large open space, standing twenty feet high, made of that pure marble with gold separating the stones used to make the pillars. It was lit by sconces that were hanging every twenty feet on the walls. On those walls between the sconces hung several tapestries, all depicting the kings before commanding an important event in their rulership. All the tapestries had their edges made with gold. At the end of the room were stairs that led to a raised platform. On that platform of marble stood two thrones made of excellently carved obsidian. Beside the thrones stood two more guards next to two sconces that were on pedestals lighting the area. Gurmble noted that these two sconces were the only ones that had smoke coming from them the other ones seemed smoke free. Only one throne was occupied at the time. In that throne was a young dwarf not much older than Gurmble himself. He was dressed in white mythral full plate armor. Beside the throne was a scabbarded sword and shield. Resting on the back of the throne was a pure white mythral plate helmet. Gurmble hobbled his way to the pedestal and knelt in front of the first step bowing his head with a slight wince.
“My lord, I wish to request something” Gurmble said with his head bowed.
“You may speak openly here my friend. Get up will you? I will never get used to seeing you bow down before me. Does are childhood not mean anything to you? Now rise and call me by name” said the king.
Gurmble winced as he straightened up and looked at the king. “I would appreciate…..” Gurmble was cut short when the door opened and a booming voice cut him off.
“Your majesty. A report has come directly from the royal guard captain, Furbridge. It is urgent” said the guard that announced Gurmble just moments before. Behind him came another dwarf who was dressed in the customary gray depicting him a royal guard. The dwarf was breathing heavy and moving fast to the throne.
The dwarf got to the throne, knelt, and bowed his head just as the door was closed. “Your majesty it seems the goblins dug a tunnel so they could be undetected. They went under the plans. Furbridge has collapsed the tunnel they used and we have also found this sir.” He held up his offering it to the king. The king got off his throne and took the offered substance. It looked like dirt but blacker. The king sniffed it and rolled it in his fist to get the texture.
“Smells a lot like rotten eggs. Why is this so important to show me?” The king looked down at the substance in his opened hand as he asked this question.
“We have never seen it before your majesty. It was close to where the wall was damaged. Furbridge thinks it may have something to do with it” said the royal guard still keeping his head bowed.
“Well, do you have more?” The king looked at the guard as he said this.
“Yes your majesty. They have been sent to the Wizards’ guild as well as the Alchemists guild” the guard said looking up at the king.
“Well, let us find out what this is later” the king said as he threw it into one of the free standing sconces. As soon as the substance hit the fire there was a cracking sound followed by a whoosh and the room was lite brightly for a brief moment and the sconce fell over as if pushed. “What the hell was that?” the king turned toward the fallen sconce.
Gurmble and the guard that were looking at the scene unfold jumped back slightly as soon as the powder hit. Both of them were standing there rubbing their eyes. “Ack, what the hell was that stuff?” Gurmble said as he opened his eyes stretching his mouth into a large O as he blinked testing his eye sight.
“Let us hope we find out soon Gurmble. Whatever it was if just that small amount can do something like that it is clear that a large amount could have easily been the cause of the wall collapse” the king said looking over at the carnage. “You are dismissed Beardly.”
“Thank you your majesty.” With this the guard that was still rubbing his eyes bowed and quickly departed, only slightly veering off course a couple of times. When he got to the end he ran into the closed door with a bonging of his armor. The guard on the other side opened it with a questioning look and watched Beardly slide down the stairs leading out of the castle. He looked back at the king and saw Gurmble was still there and closed the door once again.
“Now what was it that you wanted to ask of me Gurmble, my friend?” The king looked at Gurmble and sat back down in the throne.
“Your majesty I would like to be considered for the job of leading the group to go after those stinking goblins.” Gurmble looked the king in the eyes as he said this.
The king looked back at Gurmble and cracked a smile. “Well that is very generous of you Gurmble. But, as the state of the city stands right now we will not be pursuing the goblins. We need to refortify the wall and find out what the goblins are using that can do so much damage.”
“All we do is fortify and stay behind these walls! We need to strike back. They have been up to no good for a long time now. We should go out and destroy the enemy for what they have done to us and our homeland.” said Gurmble.
“Gurmble, you most of all should understand that the goblins are not much of a threat. They will soon disperse. They have dreams of grandeur but they are not nearly enough to bother our fair city. You know your father fought in the first great goblin wars and those times there were many more goblins then there are now” the king replied back looking as if he was getting bored with the conversation.
“Yes your majesty. That is why I think we should stop them now. Before they get help from other nefarious races like they did last time. Just send me out with one company. Just one sir. I implore you” pleaded Gurmble.
“No Gurmble. I cannot spare even one company for you. Plus I need you here to protect us from a second attack should it ever happen. The hero of Minioc! I need you here and that is final.” The king said starting to stand up.
“In that case I will like to get the favor you owe me from our childhood now, Dylornin” Gurmble said.
“How dare you bring that up Gurmble. I know you saved my life but how dare you turn to extortion for what you want! I would have never thought you would do something like that to me Gurmble. I thought you were a friend” Dylornin said. “Also I have been asking you to use my name forever but the one time you decide to use it is when you are extorting me!”
“I just about died fighting for this city and I want their blood. They killed good men that were on those walls. All of them were decimated by whatever they used. All you do is fortify but it is clear they have found a way around all the preparations. We need to show them what a dwarf can do when they are pushed. We should be going after them! NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!” Gurmble shouted.
“Your father fought in the goblin wars Gurmble. As well as my father. They both would never want to attack like the way you’re proposing. I will not give you what you want. I have no forces to give. So don’t ask again.” Dylornin sternly said to Gurmble as he started to turn his back on Gurmble and walk toward the back wall where a large tapestry hung.
Gurmble started to grumble into his beard as he turned to walk from the room clearly feeling dismissed. He then thought of something and turned back around. He shouted “Dylornin, I am sorry to ask for that favor. I did not mean to extort you. But, I implore you to let me at least go and explore by myself to find out what the goblins might be planning. Just grant me this one request as my friend, not as my king. If you so choose to command me to stay here to protect the city then I will do so.”
Dylornin stopped just in front of the tapestry with his head down. He stood there for what seemed like an eternity for Gurmble but was really one a few seconds. Dylornin picked his head up and looked straight at the tapestry as he said “As a friend I will be sad to see you go. You are the last of the descendants of the thirteenth legion. The city will be losing a great hero and I will be losing a better friend. Take care Gurmble.” Dylornin started forward and pushed aside an invisible seem in the middle of the tapestry.
As Dylornin was just about gone from sight Gurmble shouted “THANK YOU MY FRIEND! OH, AND I AM NOT THE LAST DESCENDANT OF THE MIGHTY THIRTEENTH! THERE ARE MORE!”
Dylornin heard that last bit as the tapestry closed behind him. He hestated for a minute and thought. Just as what Gurmble said hit him he turned around to find out more of what he meant. As he entered the throne room again he was in time to see the door at the end of the hall close. Dylornin sat there in the silence for a brief moment thinking of what just happened and what it could possibly mean.