Chapter 1: Entering Khazan, Part 11   Leave a comment

Strange partnerships spring up in Khazan. Gronk the Minotaur meets Mensa the mental Dwarf.

“Well, then. I am Zhanh olt Grezhakh. I an elf by blood, but I was raised by goblins, and educated by an uruk. My master was a graduate of the Guild Academy here in Khazan, and he sent me here to continue my studies. I have been tasked to accompany Weslyn and scout Castle Greybat for the Guild, by way of initiation.” He smiled at Perry. “I know nothing of forests, Perry. I spent the first half of my life in a cave, and the second half on a ship. I suspect you and I will have stories to trade.”

Wulf and Gronk entered the tavern, and came quickly to the table. Wulf introduced himself and Gronk to the newcomers and then related what he had learned at the docks and the stables.
Wulf heard about a boatman named Phinnq that might be willing to take a party upriver. He went and spoke to him and learned Phinnq would be heading east with a cargo of “metal items” for two villages upriver. He could take passengers for 5 gold pieces a day if they also worked and helped “row the boat”, 10 g.p. per day if they just came as a passenger. Wulf and Gronk were willing to work their passage. Phinnq’s Phawlee (the boat) would stop nights in the two villages. He didn’t ordinarily go as far as Castle Greybat unless he had a cargo for the castle, and that was rare, but he had been there once or twice. It was not a place he had ever wanted to stay overnight.

At the stable, he learned that Kloppity was a chain, and had other stables all over the Dragon continent and had branches in one of the villages upriver. Horses were 10 gold pieces a day. Lizards were faster but cost more–20 gold pieces a day. There was also a security deposit required for renting a mount, and no mount would be able to carry Gronk. None wanted to carry Wulf–very skittish around him. Wulf said that horses and mules were often put off by his scent, but he was not sure why.

Wulf was glad to put down his pack and shield and slip off his chain mail. He and Gronk ordered some beer.

On his way back to the Grinning Goblin, Mensa spotted them in the crowd and followed at a distance. Mensa definitelhy followed them into the Grinning Goblin.

Wulf wanted a seat with as few people behind him as possible. He is most comfortable with his back to the wall. While the others debated he kept quiet except to answer questions. He watched the little tavern’s clients with an experienced eye alert for anyone acting suspicious. He was a little surprised and curious to see Mensa again.

“A minotaur! I have heard tales of their strength and stamina. Is your friend going to accompany us as well, Wulf?”  Weslynn’s exclamation made everyone turn and look at her.

Mensa wandered to the table where Wulf and the minotaur sat, though the minotaur sat awkwardly with his knees bent strangely. The dwarfs he’d met earlier had read the street sign for him, and he was surprised to find that the street was named after this human Wulf! And this minotaur fascinated him – he walked up to the minotaur, poked him with a finger, and asked “Are you REAL?” Boy, he was big – and he looked strong!

Wesylnn, when she saw the minotaur being poked by a strange little dwarf, could not help but smile slightly.

“Greetings, again, …er..Mensa, is it?” said Wulf. “Gronk is indeed very real. We fought together in many battles, and he was a real problem to the foe! He is not hard to get along with if you treat him with respect. He will not hesitate to whack or to chop anyone who dares insult or offend him. Buy him a beer, and he will love you!” Wulf laughed at this small joke. Weslynn noticed that the Wulf man can smile and it softened the hard lines of his scarred face showing he might actually have a softer side after all.

Perry sat back, absorbed by his new companions. He sipped his glass of silverwood gris contemplatively. ‘Does anyone know how to deal with vampires? If my father has been turned into one, do you think he could be turned back to normal again?’ He looked about the group, optimistic as ever that things would go well…

Mensa pulled out a pouch and produced three gold coins. “Will this buy him a beer? — Uh — what’s a beer?”

Weslynn sighed. “I know far less of useful vampire lore than I find myself needing, suddenly. Perhaps this afternoon one of our number could approach the wizard’s guild and consult their lore, while I visit the market square. If they wish to spy on the trip to the castle, sharing information so their spy has a better chance to survive, is in their interests, no?”
Looking at Wulf distracted her slightly, she smiled oddly, and raised her hand, as to pet him, and then visibly recovered herself. “Wulf, why do you fascinate me so? You seem as comfortable and reliable a servant, tool, and companion as the old hound I never had.”

Lumlas leaned back and continued to observe her new friend and the band of adventurers gathering to her aid. She sipped her drink and listened intently to the conversations going on around her. She would speak up when she had something useful to add. For now she was content to stay quiet.

Gronk gave a slight sneer at Weslynn’s smirk. He turned to thump the dwarf poking him in the ribs, but stopped when Wulf mentioned more beer.

“Ugly dwarf buy Gronk beer?” he lifted Mensa up so he could look him in the eyes. “Gronk like beer. Gronk like ugly little dwarf. Dwarf buy Gronk beer, and dwarf stop poking Gronk, Gronk happy.”

The minotaur set the dwarf down, roughly, and waited for his beer.

Mensa held out the three coins to whoever was serving, and bellowed “BIG beer for BIG friend here!” Mensa liked the cow-headed man – “Gronk,” he said his name was, didn’t he? He WAS strong, having hefted Mensa without a grunt, and his voice was a deep thunder, like people sounded in a cave or mine. But what was this “beer” — a good moss stew or some kind of rock water? The only thing Mensa had to judge by, was the empty mug in front of the minotaur and the one which Wulf was emptying.

It was good to be around people. Mensa decided people were much more fun than chopping into stone or watching a cow.

Wulf intervened and intercepted Mensa’s 3 gold pieces. He smiled his business smile at the bartender, gave him one gold piece, and said, “A pitcher of Beer for The Minotaur and a flagon of Beer for our new friend Mensa. Make good on his change- I worked in a tavern and will know if you short us. Gronk: please be gentle with your new buddy. He is tough, but you sometimes do not know your own strength. Mensa: I am glad to make your acquaintance. Gronk and I will see that no scoundrel takes advantage of you here.”
Then, to Weslynn, serious again: ” I am in strong agreement with you about vampires. We need all the information your magical allies can give us, both how to fight them physically and magically. Also, same regarding the Ghargs. It would also be useful if any info about the castle could be found. It is very hard to plan an attack if you know nothing about your enemies or their camp.”
As for my being a good “tool” or “servant”, I have been a soldier since I was sixteen years old, both in the lines and leading men into battle. I feel compelled to get things done in the most efficient and effective way. I hope that my compulsions in the direction of “duty’ won’t put the rest of you off. Please tell me if I am being a pain in the”
Wulf gave Weslynn and the others a friendly (for him) smile. Then he quietly worried that he had talked too much, and sipped his beer as he watched the bar clientele with a practiced eye.

Mensa looked at the flagon and sniffed at it. “This looks like an unhealthy color – it actually looks like pee.”

Gronk gulped deep from the pitcher of beer, then let fly a boisterous belch.

“Vampires bad,” he snorted and bared his teeth. “Spell-throwers must be strong. Wulf need thick wood spears, Wulf impale, Gronk chop head. Gronk not know what are Ghargs.”

Mensa looked up from his flagon of urine and asked, “Vampires bad? Then we chop them up. What is vampires? What is Ghargs? Mensa chop gobbles when they try steal rocks. Hit gobbles on head with digger.”

Gronk patted (slapped) the dwarf on the back.

“Ugly little dwarf like to chop and smash, like Gronk? Gronk like little dwarf more. Gronk and Wulf and ugly dwarf spike and chop bloodsuckers.”

“Bloodsuckers??” Mensa looked puzzled. Ghargs and vampires were giant ticks or leeches? Didn’t know. But if they were bad, they should be chopped. Or hit on head. “We chop and smash, yes” he said to his newfound friend. “And I not ugly. Dad say I’m a dimwit.”

He paused.

“Least, I don’t THINK I be ugly…”

Wulf thought quietly while his friends drank and got acquainted. He made a mental note to check out Mensa’s War Shovel. Then he said:
“Ladies and comrades: I propose that we divide our company into groups of two or three persons. The wizard groups should seek such sources of information as they are privy to in order to learn more on how to fight our foes. I will go to such places as old and young soldiers like myself hang out, and buy some drinks and pick their brains to see what I can garner from them. It is important that we do not wander the streets of Khazan alone, especially the ladies, and the wizards. Gronk can go with one group, and I will take a wizard and Mensa with me. Someone in this town has a bad attitude towards spell casters, so I urge all to be very careful. Let us go and meet back here before sunset. I don’t like the thought of any of us being out on these hard streets after dark, even in a group. What say you all?”

“Gronk go where Gronk needed. Gronk chop what needs chopping.”

Mensa spoke up before he thought, since he couldn’t: “Mensa go with man who smell pretty.”

Perry wasn’t sure who Mensa was referring to but thought Wulf would be a good choice to accompany. He spoke up – ‘I’m happy to have some friends to travel with. It’s a sound strategy and I’d like to see the Wizards Guild. Do I smell pretty enough for you, good dwarf? Perhaps it’s the silverwood – it is an aromatic little vintage. Shall we hit the road while the going’s good?


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