The Proposition

The days passed. The wounds healed. The headaches slowly subsided.

Mossbeard saved you from those horrible green hell spawn. He also saved your leg from the rot. Goblins were disgusting creatures, and a bite from one carried more then a mouth full of serrated daggers. It carried disease, infection, more often then not amputation. Fortunately for you the gruff dwarven alchemist’s herbalism is far beyond up to snuff. A lifetime amongst the pines had led to a profound knowledge of herbs, roots, berries, and all manners of natural elements and thier medicinal properties.

It had been nearly two weeks since the goblin attack and your strength had nearly fully returned. The limp that had at first been so debilitating had now almost subsided. As the days scurried along and your vitality steadily retuned your thoughts began to drift to the reality of your situation.

You are all in all still just a boat adrift. You still have no money, no direction, and the only thing from your forgotten past that your well battered brain can summon up is Elwood, the elusive gnome in which it appears you had been traveling with when you were apperantly attacked. The sinking question burrowing it way to the forefront of your mind is “What now?”. Where do you go from here?.

Your host could offer you little counsel in the matter even if you had enlightened him on your unique situation. Which you surely hadn’t. In fact the last two weeks had rendered little more then strained, uncomfortable small talk and questioning uneasy glances.

Despite the uneasiness and lack of conversation, Mossbeard had been a genuinely hospitable host. He had provided meals, shelter, clean linens, and basic accomodations. The dwarf seemed to give freely with no question of payment or repetitions. You couldn’t help but ponder, alone at night lying on the cot the short stocky landlord had provided mostly, how long could this be unwarranted generosity last. What did this unselfish saviour want of you? For in this harsh cutthroat, dog eat dog world no man (or dwarf for that matter) gives away food and ale freely without an alteriarĀ  motive.

You arose on the tenth morning of your stay in the ivy covered house outside of Greyhawk to theĀ  aroma of frying meats. From the small cook stove in the corner you could hear the sizzle of grease popping and cracking wildly. Next the distinct “click, click, click” of eggshells being tapped firmly against the cast iron, followed by a loud hissing eruption as fresh yokes hit the pan.

You pull back the feathered Owlbear blanket under which you have spent the best part of the last two weeks. Quickly slip into your meager clothing and slide on your battered road worn leather boots. Without haste you arise make up the small cot and head hurriedly towards the intoxicating smell.

“Ah, so it lives.” The dwarf said as you approach the rough cut hardwood table in the center of the room. You offer little more than a grunt in return. Mossbeard pays little notice to your unsociable breakfast table manner.

“I’ve prepared us a fine lot this morning. Buzzard’s eggs and boar sausage.” Between the fabulous aroma and the way that Mossbeard spread the words, like jelly on toast, you find yourself nearly salivating at the thought of such lavish woodland delicacies.

He flipped the eggs once, sprinkled an unknown spice over the untouched former underside, waited a minute, and with the savvy of a renound chef scooped them from the pan and onto the two awaiting plates. Where they were joined shortly by the beautiful brown boar patties and some large fluffy biscuits that had been waiting ideally on a small table to the right of the cast iron stove.

The grub hits the table and you are certainly not shy. Mossbeard’s cooking had become something you found yourself looking forward to. He apparently had no problem acquiring provisions, as he always seemed to have an ample amount. Even with supplying an unexpected house guest.

As you shovel down the remnants of your buzzard eggs, the rich gamey flavor perfectly complementing the ground boar, you notice the dwarf casting a satisfied glance in your direction. “Fine thing, boar sausage. Ground and seasoned it myself.” He said, as he pulled a small clump of emerald ivy from the weave of his mossy green tinted beard and tossed it to the side. Your appetite suddenly began to faulter as your imagination began to stir and you find yourself liking the idea of this mouldy fellow seasoning the meat less and less.

“I stuck the beast with a hand made arrow. I knapped the flint point myself. I skinned it, gutted it, butchered it, rendered the fat into lard, and stretched the hide to be made into leather. The bones I will boil for broth or splinter them down to make needles and other tools. So in the end I will use the creature’s bones to sew its own hide into boots. You see… I killed the beast only for necessity. I take no pleasure in the deed and do my best to make use of as much of my fallen brother as I can. You see friend, I have lived amongst the flora and fauna for much of my life, thier way is my way, and my way is thiers. To kill for enjoyment is a disgrace and to waste a kill is to disrespect the animals spirit. That is not my way.”

“I then take the remains that I can make no use of and throw them at the base of a ridge to the west of this place. He continued. The buzzard’s roost there. They swoop down, eat the boar remains, get fat and happy, and produce large succulent eggs. I climb the ridge every now and again and grab what I need to keep me going. Then I compost the eggshells and fertilize my garden, and the cycle continues.”

“Now, I’m not just giving you an ecology lesson without reason my full bellied friend. The moral of my long winded speech is that doing all of these things take a good amount of work and effort to achieve.”

“An extra mouth is extra work. I won’t fault you for the time that you’ve spent here. I chose to save you from becoming goblin fodder of my own accord. I took on the weight of boarding you when I opened that door.”

“Now I don’t know much about you friend.” He said with a questioning eye. “But I know what running off in the night looks like. It also appears to me that you don’t seem to be in a hurry to get on your way, and I can’t recall you ever mentioning where you were headed.”

“You haven’t given me any cause to think you intend to do me ill, and you don’t seem to have a thief’s eye, so I see no reason to put you out. You are welcome to stay if you’re willing to pull your weight. I suppose you could consider it an apprenticeship of sorts.”

“You see I’ve lived a long time Traveler, and I’ve learned many useful skills. Mostly natural abilities hunting, fishing, botany, and survival skills among others. I’ve also acquired some less conventional skills that take a bit more then the world that can be seen by the eye can provide. But these lessons are for another day. So what say you Traveler? Will you sign on as my apprentice or will you be on your way?

Safe and Sound

It had been nearly a month since you had awoken battered and lost on that icy stretch of cobblestone.

Greyhawk had proven a harsh mistress. A city of vile patronage. A poor damn fool that couldn’t even remember their own name was an easy mark. Even for a fairly inexperienced con-man. For three and a half increasingly inhospitable weeks you fluttered about that den of sin. You attempted to mount a ill planned investigation, but no one that you questioned had any knowledge of a Gnome named Elwood, and you had seemingly not encountered anyone who had recognized you.

As the days passed your morale quickly faulterd and your taste for the drink flourished. The small leather coin pouch that you had scavenged from the ruins of the cart tagged “Elwood’s Emporium” grew increasingly lighter by the day. Gems were swapped for tankards of grog and coins flowed through your hands with the greatest of ease.

Then there were those damned dice. You found them in the little satchel shortly after you hit town. Mixed amongst the glimmer and shine jewels and precious metals were seven distinctly shaped objects. Each with a different number of sides and engraved with numbers ranging from one to twenty.

These had proven a powerful evil in which you could not seem to overcome. One evening whilst draining a pint you found yourself enthralled by the tiny onyx game pieces. Grasping the seven stones above the hardwood table that had been holding you upright for the better part of the evening, and then releasing your grip allowing the enchanting little bits to tumble this way and that. The golden shimmer of the numbers and sleek black hue sparkling like the first morning sun. As you sat examining the results of one of your meaningless drops, you glanced up from your Ale hazed wonder to meet the gaze of a kindly looking old fellow watching intently.

“Some fine workmanship on those.” the thin white haired man said with a glint of admiration in his deeply set bloodshot eyes. “Have you ever played for coin?” You then informed this fine looking old gentleman with the big friendly smile that not only had you never played for coin, you in fact have no idea how to play the game at all.

Well wouldn’t you know that this  saintly old soul in which you had been speaking happened to be somewhat of an expert on the subject, and out of the kindness of his gentle, completely unbiased, caring heart, he selflessly voluntered to teach you  to roll the dice. For coin of course. “After all a game of dice isn’t a game of dice without coin.”  He reassured you with a smile.

By the time you left Greyhawk on the night of the goblin attack, you had gambled, ate, or drank away everything but those cursed onyx  devils. Including the leather chest piece that you had been wearing when you first hit town. The gentle little fellow with the friendly smile had raked you hard over a bed of coals.

He taught you the art of the roll. You were a natural. Hand after hand, it seemed that you couldn’t lose, that fateful night in that stuffy little canteen. One by one,  roll after roll you watched as those sparkling gold bits began to stack higher and higher. It was incredible. As if some great wealth enchantment had been cast upon you. Greedily you cast the dice again and again.

Then your luck seemed to abandon you. The wonderful little stacks that had thrilled you in a deep hidden spot that only those with “the itch” can truly understand, were slowly depleting. Roll….you lose. Roll…another loss. Roll…winner. So on it went. Winning one in three if you were lucky. One in five or six more often then not. Soon the coins you had sat on the table were gone and you found yourself digging in your battered coin pouch for replacements.

As you rolled you drank. As you drank you lost. The more you lost, you guessed it, the more you drank.

Your not exactly sure when the kindly looking crooked man finished humiliating you, but you do know that when you awoke in the ally behind the tavern with some unknown grime smeared down your face and caked on your clothes, your coin pouch was nearly empty. The old con-man had allowed you to keep your complete set of dice, the sight of which made you immediately ill, and five small gems, all of differing color and shape. Perhaps the crooked little man was kindly after all. He swindled you out of your coin but he left you these bits to trade for food. At least for a few days.

They went quick, and when they were gone you traded what bit of gear you had remaining towards food and lodging. Once that was gone things had been less than accommodating. You stretched as far as you could. Then you broke. You had been unceremoniously removed from your room at the inn, and the tavern owner told you that if he caught you bumming a tankard of all off of his paying customers one more time he was going to have his bouncer, a large angry looking orc with one broken tusk and a large purple tinted scar zig-zagging down his left cheek, adjust the shape of your kneecaps.

No Greyhawk had not been a pleasant experience in any aspect. That’s why you left. That’s why you were in that gods forsaken forest when those little demons got you… Did they get you? Are you dead, torn to shreds by razorblade wood goblin teeth? There was something else. An explosion. The horrible smell. The blinding light.

Just then a scream begins to rise. Softly at first. Increasing more and more by the second until it pierces into your brain like a bolt from from a crossbow. You jerk suddenly awake from your foggy dreams of ventures lost and pasts forgotten.

You open your eyes and sit upright briskly. Pain rips through your calf and a spike of agony punches your brain like a stake driven by a mallet. You immediately fall back onto the cot in which you had sprung from.

“Easy there! You’re not ready to dance a jig yet wanderer.” A strange crackling voice blurted from the foot of the cot. “It’s only the tea kettle don’t strain yourself.”

“Gonna be a day or two till your feeling yourself again. Lucky you made it here when you did. Your little friends out there nearly made a fine meal outta you.”

You lie still and the splitting pain in your skull subsides a bit. You scan the room. It seems to be a small musty smelling hovel. The natural wood paneling that covered the walls began to turn green as the lichen from the outside world had found its way through the tight seams of the wall. Various plants hung from a string line stretched across across the room, drying to be used in some sort of herbal conjuration. Against the far wall was a table that housed a winding array of vial, beakers, burners, tubes, and lines.

“He’s an alchemist.” You deduce. On the left hand wall sat a desk with a  hodge podge mismatch of  objects, tools, and stacks of old, fat, ancient looking books.

You reel to the foot of the cot and spot the owner of the unknown voice. A stout Dwarven fellow stands proudly planted. He smiles a cracked, coffee stained smile as you catch his gaze. His long beard assuredly would have been a snowy white if not for the mossy green tint that much uncleanliness and a lifetime living amongst the mould and ivy of the deep forest had adorned it. He wore a tattered brown shirt and baggy green trousers. both stained with decades of unaccounted for spills and explosions.

“Mossbeard is what they call me theses days. That is the few that call. I don’t do much socializing. Time wasted socializing is time lost learning or discovering. Lucky for you as little as I think of socializing I think a damn spot less of watching goblins rip someone to shreds on my doorstep. It makes an awful mess and the stain lasts for years.” As he said this his lips, hidden beneath his evergreen moustache, curled slightly upward at each corner in a ribbing smile.

“So I saved your hide. Have you ever heard of “The Blinding Essence of Ezekiel”?” He eyed you, waiting for a response. “No.” You croak out realizing how difficult it is for you to speak.

“It’s an explosive potion. It’ll burn ye retinas out if you get a big eyeful at the peak of the blast. It does a bit more to the little green murderers of the forrest. Kinda hollows them out I guess you could say. Burns there eyes out and chars there bloody wicked brains. Scorches them good and crispy. I drug you in while they were still squalling and screeching. You was pretty rough. Busted your dome good on me door. Hell of a knot. They were making lunch of your leg there too. Looks like they got you three or four good times before I charred um. I doctored you up before the rot set in. Goblins are filthy beasts and an untended bite can be a death sentence even if you manage not to become the main course.”

“And here we are. You survived. I’m out a bomb potion and a healing tincture or two. But I suppose that’s alright. You can make it up to me in a few days when you get your legs back under you. I have a few chores and errands that an extra set of hands might just come in handy for.

“Now I may be an eccentric old kook that lives alone in a shack in the woods, but I know the path whence you came and I know the wicked deeds that transpire in Greyhawk. I also know that honest folk don’t generally run off into the woods in the dark of night. So I’ll tell you this once stranger and I suggest that you take it to heart. If you find yourself feeling a bit froggy and think maybe once you heal all strong and fit that you may do old Mossbeard dirty. Whether it be thievery or something a little more sinister, I give you fair warning you will curse the day you ever thought of pulling such a foul stunt. I will boil the hide from your bones before you have a chance to soil your underthings my good wanderer.” With this the smile returned to the dwarfs lips, but it was not the joking playful grin from before. His emerald eyes gazed into your own like he could read your soul like an open book. It was a reasurance that the green bearded fellow whole heartedly meant this warning and would not think twice to follow through with the penalty if it should come to that.

“Enough small talk.” He said as he turned and waddled to a wood stove with a large cast iron pot on top. “It’s nearly supper time and I’m off famished.” He pulled the lid from the top of the pot and produced a large wooden spoon with which he began to stir the glorious smelling contents inside.

“Boar’s haunch and brown beans!” He said with delight as he sampled the soup. “I made a lot. I was figuring you to be a hungry one. After all you’ve been down for two days with no more then the water I could get you to take without drowning you. I’m fairly low on ale, and that’s not a state I like to be in. Maybe once you get a bit of strength back you can help me remedy that. But that’s for another day. Tonight we eat and get aquatinted. After all you fell into my door for a reason. All things have a reason. The universe doesn’t make mistakes, and accidents are never an accident. We just need to find out where we fall in to each other’s story. Sit up if you can and I will make you a bowl…

To be continued……..