Chapter 2: Wulf Goes Shopping   Leave a comment

Looking for a horny helmet in a Dwarf weapon shop.

Wulf, Perry, and Mensa left the Grinning Goblin behind them and set out for the Armorer’s Quarter in the great open air market on the eastern side of Khazan. None of them knew exactly where it was, and the market itself was so huge that one could wander in it all day and never see the half of it. Thousands of merchants selling literally everything a person could need crowded the huge open area. A few of them had permanent booths and buildings, but most got by with just a cart, a tent, or sometimes a blanket on the ground. The city watch patrolled the area heavily, and the more prosperous merchants hired their own guards. In some parts of the market there were actual streets with booths lining both sides of the road. In other places it was just a hodgepodge of carts, blankets, small tables and strolling merchants with bulging backpacks.

The crowd was also strongly mixed, about half of it being humans. The second largest contingent was uruks; the third was dwarves. The occasional ogre or troll muscled their way through the masses. Elves and goblins flitted through the crowd. Vendors were mostly humans and dwarves–other kindreds didn’t seem to have the knack or the patience for it.

“Stay close to me,” said Wulf. “We only have about 2 hours until sunset, and I want to be back at the Grinning Goblin before it gets dark.” (The hour in Khazan is reckoned at 1/10 of a day. Thus the party had about 5 earthly hours to get the info that Wulf wanted.)

As he quartered back and forth through the market, Wulf finally heard the sound he had been listening for–the ringing of hammers on metal. That would be the sound of a working blacksmith, and where there were smithies, there would be weapon shops. Guiding his steps by the distant clanging, he led his charges to the Armorer’s Quarter. He knew they had arrived when the crowd became mostly warriors, some of them carrying and admiring what were obviously new weapons.

The first shop he came to was called THE TIN TRADER, and the sign showed a bearded kobold with a knife held out flatly in the palm of each hand. Little lightning symbols indicated that the knives might be enchanted. Across the lane was a closed up building with a real door and a sign that showed a bear wielding a hammer against an anvil. And there were more, many more on both sides of the street ahead of them.

Mensa wanted to strike up a conversation with the dwarves he saw, but was a bit too shy – and besides, they were in a hurry. When Wulf stopped them at the TIN TRADER area, Mensa stepped across the lane to the door with the sign of the bear at the anvil. He wanted to see a bear blacksmith! He put his hand on the door to see if he felt heat from a blacksmith’s fire inside.

Perry kept an eye on Mensa just in case he got sucked into something unfortunate. He asked Wulf if this place was going to supply him with what he wanted.

Wulf said: “This looks like a good enough place to start. Let’s go in and start asking questions. Watch out for people who crowd you or bump into you!
“Did you put your purses in the safe places like I showed you? Yell for me if someone threatens or bothers you in any way!” Wulf entered and began taking stock of the shop. He looked for Dwarf type helmets, and kept an eye out for a Kris, something he has longed to own since he was nearly killed by an Uruk shaman some time in the past.

‘Thanks, Wulf,’ Perry grinned. ‘I’ll keep a look out for a kris. Hey! Where’s Mensa? I’ll look next door.’ Perry kept his hands in his pockets and looked into the ‘Bear Blacksmith’. ‘Hey! Mensa!’ he called. ‘We’re over here, Come look what Wulf’s found.’ He beckoned Mensa to follow him back inside the Tin Trader, keeping his eyes open for anyone taking a close interest in any of them.

Mensa walked over to Perry. “Bear in there,” he said, pointing at the Bear Blacksmith. “Didn’t get a good smell, but him in there.”
Roy Cram replied 2 weeks ago…
Wulf was looking in the merchandise for a horned helm for Mensa. He looked about to be sure the Dwarf and Wizard were still there.

A brawny and very hairy man stepped up and spoke to Perry and Mensa. “Garr,” he growled. “I’m the bear. Can I help you gentlemen find anything. I make fine weapons.”

Wulf looked around the Tin Trader’s shop. What a collection of junk! He saw daggers that really were made out of tin. He saw a helmet that was made out of leaves–leaves that seemed to be sewn together. He saw a big bowl of grapes and three fairies sitting on the edge of it each trying to eat a purple grape as big as its head.

A kobold stepped out of the shadows in the back of the room. “What can I sell you, Wolfman?” he asked. “You don’t look like the kind of warrior to use cheap magic in battle.”

Mensa said to the bear “Friend Wulf want a kiss knife.”
((Wulf is confused- Is the Bearman in the Tin Trader place or outside of the Bear place.)) When Wulf hears the growl he comes quickly over to join his friends.
“Greetings,” said Wulf. “I am looking for a helmet for Mensa here and am interested in finding a Kris. I also would like to know if you know what a Ghargh is, and what weapons are most effective against such creatures. It is possible we may have to deal with some of these creatures soon, and I hate surprises!”
Wulf looked around, said a bad word in Urukish, and then; “I am sorry, but my friends have disappeared. I must find them and quickly!” He hurried out all his wolf senses alert to the task, seeking by scent, sight, and hearing any evidence of his companions.
Mensa (to himself): “Kiss, kris, kirs …. Man-tongue has too many words that sound the same. Rest of world should learn good Kah-zahd like Mensa.”
Perry gave a half-bow to the Bear. ‘We are looking for a knife, a kris in fact, for our friend, Wulf.Do you have one for sale? He’s just across the street in the Tin Trader.’ Perry looked round briefly to see if Wulf was still across the street then turned back to the Bear. ‘I think my friend, Mensa, likes Bears, don’t you Mensa?’ Perry smiled at Mensa and said ‘Good Bear helps Wulf and Perry. You like Bear!’

Wulf, got more frantic with every passing moment as the watchdog part of his personality beat him with a big guilt stick. He decided to look in on the Bear place as it was closest.

‘Hey, Wulf!’ Perry cried. ‘Come check this place out – you never know what you might find and I think Mensa likes the Bear!’

“Thank Omvar!” said Wulf. “For a moment there I thought I had lost you both! I need to pay more attention to what I’m doing. Hey there Big Fellow (to the Bear guy); do you have any helms that might fit my Dwarf friend here? Methinks he needs a hat. He would like one with horns.”

Wulf rejoined his companions. As he looked around he thought that the Bear’s place looked a lot more like an armorer’s should look.
“You want a horned helmet for a Dwarf and a kris for yourself, eh, wolf-brother?” growled the hairy man. “To get Dwarf equipment, you’re going to have to go to a Dwarf smith. Gah-Narrld, two doors down is as good as any and a friend of mine. The trouble with equipment for Dwarves is that they aren’t built the same way men are. Their heads are too large in proportion–their chests usually too thick. And krisses are rare and expensive. They usually have to come to us from Gull, and you know how far away that is. I could get you a kris, but it would take a day or two and cost you 200 gold.”
Wulf replied, “I had a feeling that the Kris would be beyond my present means. Thank you for the advice on finding a helm for Mensa. My friends and I plan an expedition to do battle with the enemies of your fair city, the evil blood drinkers who slay the wizards and others here. Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Do you know what a Ghargh is, and what kind of weapons would be most effective against such a foe? If such creature can fly my combat experience suggests that missile weapons would be the most useful, or polearms. I have a spear and Morningstar, and plan to take sharpened hardwood stakes, I also am skilled with a slling. What price for a set of good sharp spears? Any other information or advice you could give us would be of great assistance.”
Wulf kept an eye on the wandering Dwarf and Wizard determined they would not elude him again.
Mensa held his coin pouch out to Wulf. “Will this help Wulf get k – krees?”
Wulf smiled at Mensa: ” I think I will have to wait for my Kris, my friend. As soon as we are done here I will take you to the shop of Gah-Narrld to get you a proper Dwarf helmet. If the good Bear smith here can answer my questions, I would also like to have our friend Perry look at the Stuff in the Tin Trader next door. I don’t know hraka (a fecal expletive) about magic, but perhaps the Half-Elf can find something there that might serve us against our enemies. I am told that Kobolds are skilled in making magic things.”

Perry was touched by Mensa’s offer – he had been about to do the same thing. ‘I’d like to see a Kobold, Wulf,’ he replied to his big friend. ‘This time we’ll wait for you, won’t we Mensa? I’m not sure I know hraka either but I could learn in my spare time. Anyway, maybe I can contribute on the magic side.’ Then he turned to the Bear. ‘Do you know any Bears who’d like to help us get in and out of Castle Greybat?’ His hand flew to his mouth which he’d opened too wide too quickly again. His cheeks went crimson and he lowered his eyes and kept his fingers crossed.

Mensa, who rarely kept his opinions to himself, told Wulf, “Magic? Magic has its own smell. Good magic smell good. Bad magic smell bad. Stupid magic smell –” He struggled for the word in Man-Tongue, but couldn’t find it. “Stupid magic just stupid, that all.”

Wulf spoke again:
“How do you like to be called, sir? I am called Wulf Wayfarer, a soldier of fortune. I and my friends here are helping a lady merchant in her efforts to recover some stolen merchandise. And, as much as I would love to fight alongside any of the Bearfolk, I cannot with a good conscience, expect them to take such risks for a stranger, as welcome as that help would be. But alas, our time is limited. Have you had time to think on any of the questions I have asked you? We have many preparations to make yet.”

Perry reached into his pack and pulled out an ermintrude cake his mother had baked for him. Although there were no artificial preservatives, Perry’s mother had received baking secrets handed down from generation to generation in the ancient forests. As he broke the cake into four pieces, a delicate yet appetising aroma wafted upwards and out. It somehow managed to tickle the tastebuds of just about any kindred who smelled its promise, even trolls. Perry broke it into four and offered it round to Mensa, Wulf and the Bear.
Bear looked oddly at Wulf. “Are your senses as keen as mine?” he asked. “Do you know the secret I really don’t try to keep? It doesn’t matter. I am simply a merchant here. I am not going off on any expeditions in search of gold, or even of vengeance.”

Bear pointedly ignored the bite of cake that Perry offered him. “Spears are not my specialty either. I like to make warhammers and swords. It would be easier to answer your questions, wolf-brother, if they didn’t come so fast and furious. Are you always in such a hurry?”

Wulf started to turn away, convinced he wouldn’t get much help here.

“I can tell you one thing,” said Bear. “Ghargh is short for gargoyle, so called because the creatures look something like the monstrous ornaments carved on some of the older temples. They are a kind of flying ape with rock-like flesh. They are more common far to the east, but there have been rumors of some seen in Khazan in the last year or so.. Spears might not be your best weapon against one. A good strong crossbow would, in my opinion, be better. I happen to have one for sale, only 500 gold pieces, and that includes a bolt of quarrels–carved from ironwood and tipped with silver. Very effective against night creatures.”

Perry whispered to Wulf ‘Might get one cheaper somewhere else but thank him and let’s go.’ He put away the last piece of cake.

“I thank you, sir, for your information. Alas, we indeed are in a great hurry. We are preparing an expedition, and need to leave in haste. I am sorry I do not have the time or money to spend more time here with you. If we survive this hazardous venture I will recommend your shop to my friend Gronk who loves big axes.”
“Come Mensa. Come Perry. Let us visit the Dwarf shop and find a Helm for Mensa.”
Wulf, Perry, and Mensa stepped out of the Bear’s shop. They were surprised by how expensive things were in the big city. A few minutes of walking took them up the street to Gah Narld’s shop. It seemed a popular place. There were half a dozen Dwarves, including one totally unlike any Dwarf they had ever seen before because he was black-skinned and thin as a post.
As they entered “the dwarf shop,” Mensa stopped for a moment with a strange look on his face.

The armorer looked like the oldest Dwarf Mensa had ever seen. He had wrinkles, and hair sprouting from odd places on his body like the ends of his ears and the tip of his nose. When he spoke one could see that he had lost at least half his teeth.
Gah Narld took a purse full of coins from a really burly Dwarf who walked out proudly carrying an axe that was taller than he was and almost as heavy. Then he rushed over to see his new customers. He sized up Wulf and Perry quickly enough. “I don’t have anything for you men,” he told them, but I might be able to help the youngster here. What are you looking for, young un”?”
Wulf, in his usual take charge way, spoke first:
“Venerable one: I brought my new friend Mensa here to see if we could find him a helmet, preferably with horns, to protect his head. We go into a hazardous place soon, and I would like to see his head well guarded.
“The Bear Smith two doors down spoke highly of you. Can you assist my friend here?” Wulf hoped that the old Dwarf would see that Mensa was a “simple one” and wearing Silvertongue’s special bracelet. He thought it would be considered rude and condescending to mention it.

Perry turned to the thin, black dwarf. ;Excuse me, sir. I am writing a letter to my mother about this wondrous city and it’s people. I have never seen a dwarf such as you before. Would you be so kind as to tell me a little of your history and of your family? I am Perry Stroika, a half elf from the Heart Forest. I seek my father, who I learned from Madame Zolgah is held within Castle Greybat. I am here with my friends, Wulf and Mensa.’ The half bow was given respectfully as Perry addressed the dwarf.

Mensa held back until all were finished speaking, and then spoke to the skinny one, in kzhd: “These Big Folk sure talk a lot, don’t they?”

The Black Dwarf had been absorbed in his study of a circular shield with a big sharp spike of steel emerging from the center. He was surprised when the human addressed him. In halting Common, he tried to answer Perry’s question. “This one be from Far. No time for talk with strangers. Must return to Eagle soon and want good weapons. May you not die in disgrace, stranger.” Then the Black Dwarf indicated that he wanted to try on the shield. Gah Narld saw that and rushed back to him.

When Mensa spoke to the stranger in khzd, he only looked puzzled. A fat blonde dwarf came over and grabbed Mensa’s beard, giving it a slight tug, not enough to hurt, but certainly enough to get his attention. The blonde spoke in Common. “We never speak in that language out here among the Bigguns,” he said in a friendly manner. “Speak Common or keep yer hairy mouth shut, do you understand?” Although the tone was light, almost friendly, the other dwarf’s demeanor seemed very serious indeed.

Mensa grumbled a bit, but kept his mouth shut. Didn’t see why had to use Man-Talk, which was already tough to remember. He began looking through the various tools, armour pieces, and weapons. He stopped at one which seemed so – seemed so….

“Familiar,” he said out loud, not realizing he had spoken aloud at first. “What this be called?” he asked, pointing towards it.

Wulf said, “We must be patient here with these good folk and honor their customs. Mensa, ask the clerk if they have a helmet that would fit you, preferably with horns. Perry, I don’t think they want to talk to ‘Bigguns’. We should stay back and watch. I will try to see that they don’t cheat Mensa.”

So much of this seemed familiar, but Mensa couldn’t quite place it. Mensa spoke to the blond dwarf: “If must talk in Man-Tongue, tell me your name. Pleasse. “ He spoke with a hissing accent not normal for dwarves in this part of the contnent.
“And what be this curvy knife?” he asked, pointing at what looked like a short sword with a wavy blade.
Perry watched Mensa, sensing that his new friend had a purpose he had not yet gleaned. Either that or he was just tiring of the charms of the shop.

Wulf looked to see what had gotten Mensa’a attention: A knife with a curvy blade…OHMIGAWD!…Could that be the highly desired KRIS!! Was it magnetic? “Master Perry”, whispered the Wulf man,”Check out the curvy blade? Do you think it could be a Kris?”

Perry smiled happily – a chance to be useful! He went to touch the kris with the intention of trying the sparkle spell – would it work? ‘Sure, Wulf,’ he said eagerly. ‘Just let me put a finger on the hilt and I’ll see if it stops me from making a bright little light show for you!’

“Magic,” thought Mensa. “Complicated.” He spied a group of helmets hanging on the wall, and saw one which reminded him of the minotaur – except one of the horns was broken. Handling it, he pricked his thumb on the broken horn – and found it extremely sharp. He smiled. This would be fun to head-butt a biggun!
The blonde dwarf looked at Mensa, and seemed to be trying to size him up. Reluctantly, he answered, “You can call me Goldylox. Everyone else does. Say can you buy a brother a drink? ”

Perry reached in with his finger and cast a Sparkle spell on the wavy-bladed knife. The knife lit up and began to twinkle with alternating red and green flashes.

Everyone in the shop turned to look. “Hey, what are you doing to my weapon?” shouted Gah Narld, as he rounded on the half-elf.
Mensa found some helmets hanging on a side wall. Two caught his attention. One was a horned helm, but one of the horns had been broken off near the metal. The other was more of a miner’s helm with a candle mounted in a special holder built right into the metal. ‘How weird!’ thought Mensa. “Could walk around with fire on head. He thought long and hard about it, then took down both helmets and looked for Gah Narld.
The odd lights caught Mensa’s attention. “Hmph! Magic!” He turned to the blonde dwarf. “Sure. Watch out that men don’t give you pee to drink. We go, Goldylox.” He looked at his hands, filled with helmets. “Mm. Should pay.” But Gah Narld seemed to be arguing with elf-man.

“HEY!” he bellowed. “Elf-man friend!” Stumbling with these Common words, he hoped Goldylox would tell him why he couldn’t talk good kzhd. And maybe if there was a Gristlegrim priest in town. Mensa was only now becoming aware that he should know things that he could only vaguely remember….such as, Why did the name “Gristlegrim” pop into his head and what was a “priest?”

“Venerable Gah Narld” said Wulf, quickly. ” Pray do not be alarmed. We mean no harm or mischief. We are on a mission to destroy the evil Count of Castle Greybat who slays the citizens of your fair city and sends his evil Gharghs to do his vile work. I saw the dagger and thought it might be a Kris which I desire to protect me from the vampire’s magic when I face him. My friend was testing to see if it was indeed the fabled Kris dagger. Have you any kind of special weapons or protections that might serve us against such fiends? Not even the mighty Dwarf folk would be safe if the Count grows strong enough to come here in force some day.”
And Goldylox, pray deal kindly with Mensa, who wears Silvertongue’s special bracelet. And we also would like to know if there is a temple to the great Lord Gristlegrim in this town. Perhaps there is some aid we could there obtain as well.”
Perry spread his hands wide to show that he meant no harm. ‘Thanks, Wulf,’ he said softly. ‘Ask him if he knows any vampire hunters…’
Mensa looked at Wulf with wide eyes. Was THAT what we were going to do? It sounded dangerous – but important. And Gronk had said there would be lots of gobbles to hit onna head.
“Let’s get drink, Goldy. Hey Wulf, I gonna get Goldylox a drink!”
Goldylox the Dwarf looked flummoxed. “Oh, Gris, no,” he muttered. “This guy is an idiot. I wonder if someone let him out of the Sculptorium 100 years too early.” He put both hands abruptly on Mensa’s shoulders and pressed down so strongly that Mensa suddenly sat down.
“No time for drinks, Shorty,” the blonde dwarf almost snarled. “I have an urgent appointment back in Thrindol.” He abruptly left the shop.
Gah Narld looked at Wulf and Perry curiously. “You want to know something about my wepons, just ask me. You want a kruss, right?” He pronounced “kris” with a very thick accent. “That is the most expensive weapon in this shop. Sky iron is very hard to obtain. And since their counter magical nature was discovered, the demand for them has risen. A hundred years ago, one could buy them for about 120 pieces of gold, but these days they cost from 300 to 1000 pieces, depending upon condition and who the original smith was. I just happen to have one in the back room–I don’t leave it out here in public, but it would cost your 500 pieces of gold. You don’t look like you have that kind of money, but go ahead and prove me wrong.” He glared at them challengingly.

At the mere mention of vampires, the other customers in the shop began edging away from Wulf and Perry, and by the time Gah Narld had finished explaining the cost of the kriss, the shop had emptied except for the three friends. The proprietor’s face took on a surly look.
“Look what you’ve done with your careless talk,” he grumbled. “Don’t you know better than to ask about such matters in public? And you’re wrong. Vampires rarely attack Dwarves. I wouldn’t say never, but it’s very rare. For one thing, we are under the protection of Gristlegrim himself, and few dare to mess with that god-wizard. For another thing, we don’t taste good. If you want a weapon that can hew through steel or stone, I can provide that to you for a price, but if you want to fight the undead, you should be talking to wizards, not dwarves.”
“Now are you going to buy anything or not? Did you want a helm for your simple friend?” He jerked his thumb rudely at Mensa who was just standing up and starting to wonder why his friend Goldylox had knocked him down. “You could have the miner’s helmet for 20 gold, or the broken one for 10. If you promise to leave and quit ruining my business, I’ll sell you both for 25.”

Mensa scratched his head, stunned by Goldy’s behavior. Wasn’t he thirsty any more? What had Mensa done to make him angry?

Now Gah seemed angry too. He wanted 500 gold for the krussthing, did he? Mensa didn’t know how much 500 was, and he wasn’t that sure whether he meant coins or chunks of gold. Mostly what he had in his pouch was the stuff that Dad had him dig in caves. So he dumped the pouch out on the floor and roared, “NO YELL AT WULF! TAKE THIS AND SHUT UP!”

Wulf sighed “Oh Gah Nalld, i apologize for the trouble we have caused you. Please take the 25 gold for Mensa’s helmets, and return the rest to him. I could not take his money to buy the Kris at that price.” (A wolfish growl rumbled in his throat.) “I and my friends will just have to take our chances. Pray tell us though, if there is a temple to Gristlegrim nearby where I might make a small offering for the Wizard Lord to watch over my Friend here?”

Perry simply watched and waited, folding his arms and whistling softly. It was clear to him that they needed advice on vampires and he told Wulf that in a low voice. ‘Gristlegrim first and then advice unless the great dwarven deity deigns to dignify us with discourse on deathly dentures.’ Perry had got alliteratively carried away, a weakness that afflicted him from time to time. Now was one of those times.
Wulf, Perry, and Mensa left with helmets in hand, and most of Mensa’s gold still intact. Outside they noticed that the sun had sunk below the western edge of the city and the sky showed the first traces of twilight.

They had hardly regained the street when an enormous gong sounded nearby–the deep chime overwhelmed all the street noise for a moment. Gah Narld popped out and hung a CLOSED sign on his front door, and it locked behind him when he went back into his shop with an audible click.

Mensa started toward the shop across the street, but a big green hand reached around the edge of the door and hung a CLOSED sign on it, too. All up and down the street of armorers, people were emerging from shops and heading off about their business at a good speed. The crowd grew thick and began to jostle the three companions.

“We can’t just stand here,” said Perry.
Wulf curses sulfurously in Urukish and says: ” Back to Grinning Goblin with all possible haste. Keep weapons and spells ready. Stay alert!’ He set off. herding his companions in the direction of the Inn. All his human and wolf enhanced senses were in high gear. He held the morningstar ready for action if needed.

Perry readied himself for the first level conjuring spells he had studied and practiced so hard during his teenage years in the green forests. He knew that he was still green just like his home and so he stuck close to Wulf and kept an eye out for Mensa, whilst scouring the streets and roof tops for any sign of danger. ‘Stay close to us, Mensa!’ he called and added to Wulf ‘If we meet anything bad, I’ll try to immobilise it or send it running so you can either smash it or stop it from getting to me!’

Screeching to a sudden stop, Mensa wondered what C-L-O-S-E-D meant. And now Wulf was coaxing him somewhere, shouting “all possible haste. Keep weapons and spells ready.”

Well, Mensa shoved the candle helmet on his head, hooked the horned helmet in his belt, and pulled out his war shovel. (He was very grateful to Wulf for helping to put his shovel at the ready.) And now he was toddling as fast as he could after his companions, looking side to side and, occasionally, behind him. Where were they running?

Wulf would not let either of his companions out of his sight now, and encouraged the Dwarf to go in the right direction with haste, and Perry to stay near the small guy. The morning star swung evilly in his expert hand and the spike on his shield glittered with sharpness! Wulf recalled that vampires heads were the preferred target, and vowed to scramble the brains of any that dared attack him or his companions!

Erbvin had spotted the half elf earlier–just the kind of soft youngster as the Torture Pits would pay well for. And the barbarian might last a few rounds as a pit fighter. The trick would be capturing them. Still, this end of day chaos was the perfect time. The barbarian would probably fall for the old purse-snatiching trick, and the elf would follow a pretty face. Glim the girl goblin would distract the elf while Thorgg would try the snatch and grab at the barbarian. Such people were always unreasonably attached to their weapons. He signalled for his two main stooges to get ready and for the rest of his gang to stand by. Deal with the barbarian first.

(This storyline will continue in the Trouble in the Streets topic.)


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