Snow bellowed through the cog shaped doorway, pushing itself around the outline of a short, stocky person, holding an axe over their shoulder, and clasping a satchel made from the fur of a Snow Strider in his other hand. The snow melted, then evaporated before it managed to find its way to the floor, this was usual for the dragon’s breath Inn, the rear wall of the inn was built into the side of a volcano after all. Keeping their patrons warm wasn’t a problem, the problem was trying to keep it cool enough to stop them from burning to a crisp. The inn consisted of three walls all within the volcano, a giant iron cog door and a huge hole in the roof that led directly to the outside to allow for cold air to funnel into the building. The oceans of lava crashed bellow them ebbing and flowing like the tide, giving the Inn an almost beach side feel to it, when the door was closed obviously.
Power, as with every other building in the district, was drawn from a steam turbine that the Engineering guild had designed, and the Blacksmiths had constructed on site to the east side of the Ashen districts Volcano. The Inn’s floors were made from cast iron grates that allowed air to circulate, and spilt booze to be caught and later funnelled back into the next day’s stock, full price of course, this is also why the locals don’t drink the house special.
“May I take your axe sir?” Dogsbody greeted the traveller, he stood half the height of the dwarf and had long thin arms and legs in comparison to his torso, yet he managed to toss the axe with ease over his shoulder.
“Ya break it, ya bought it Imp,” stepping out from the snow and into the warm glow of the Inn, Vellan RockSmasher stamped his feet in an attempt to knock off any lose snow from his boots, then handed his helm and torn cloak, to Dogsbody, then ruffled his hair and stroked his beard trying to tidy himself up a little.
“Of, course sir, and your satchel?”
Vellan pulled the satchel tight to his side, grunting at the imp “That stays with me boy,” he flipped a silver ingot to Dogsbody, who then bit into it testing its authenticity, once sated, he placed it into his waistcoat pocket with his free hand.
“Very well sir, please find a seat and our wench will be at your service as soon as she is available,” Dogsbody pointed towards the seven foot troll in a frilly pink apron (trolls are neither male or female, they just found that a majority of clientele that frequented their establishment were male and gave larger tips to the female persuasion, an action totally beyond a trolls understanding but hey if wearing a dress or an apron got you an extra 2 ingots per customer then who, were they to question it)
“Is Garvine about boy?” Vellan’s voice was rough and curt
“He’s ripping off the custom…..” catching himself midsentence, Dogsbody cleared his throat and began again “I mean he’s serving the customers at the bar sir,” Dogsbody scurried of to the corner of the inn, and threw the axe and cloak on the pile of belongings on the floor beneath the crudely hand written sign that said “Cloakroom” with an arrow pointing straight down.
Vellan headed directly for the bar and was shocked that he had to dodge two rather irate looking chickens on the way, readjusting his grip on his satchel he looked around to see if anyone had just witnessed the poultry attack on his person. There was a group of witches sat around several tables all chanting around a rather large cauldron, then several of them would peer over to the wizards sitting in the opposite corner of the room. Vellan took a wide berth of the mystical tension building between the two parties and continued on his way.
“Well, well Vellan Rocksmasher, what brings you, to my umble little inn,” Garvine was as tall and as broad as Vellan but sported dirty blonde braids in his hair and beard, he wore a chainmail shirt and leather apron. It was a dangerous job serving, alcohol to Heroes and travellers, after all they are generally violent before booze, not to mention it takes a certain type of psychopath to take on the Monsters and the Harsh environment that the Devils Mouth has to offer.
“What’s with the chickens Garv?” he pulled up a stool
“Bloody Sharowat Priests…. wanted ta perform a blessing of protection on some scholars, they wanted to sacrifice some chickens,” Garvine poured a flagon of Mead placing it in front of the traveller, spilling some in the process
“Take it the chickens ad other ideas?”
“Sure did, it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, the priest cut off his own finger trying to pin the chicken down, after about twenty minutes of trying ta catch the damn things they decided that his finger would be enough to appease the god’s and charged em 60 ingots,”
Vellan chortled, then downed his mead, and handed his flagon back to Garvine “Another?” he didn’t wait for Vellan to respond, he had already begun to pour his second drink.
“Got some goodies for ya old friend,” he lifted his satchel up onto the Oak countertop, rummaging through it then pulling out handfuls of fiery red tipped hops. Garvine’s eyes lit up then he quickly frowned at them, knowing that any hint of keenness on his behalf meant paying top ingot for them.
“Salamander Hops, hey, interesting…..” Garvine stroked his beard in deep thought (In all fairness the thought wasn’t that deep, he was just coming up with the lowest figure he could think of without annoying him enough to pack up and walk away) “I’ll give ya one undred.”
Vellan laughed, then went to put the Hops back in his satchel. The truth is he really had to accept whatever it was that Garvine offered, he was the only Dwarf alive that knew how to use them, other than the odd Wizard and Witch that was, but they were misers, and no one liked to trade with magic folk.
“Ok…..OK,” Garvine grabbed a hold of Vellan’s arm to stop him “one hundred and fifty, not an ingot more, minus two drinks,” Vellan raised his hand to his face, spat in it, then shook the hand of Garvine after he had done the same.
“Dodgsbody, take these to the distillery,” Garvine tossed the bundle to his minion, who leaped into the air effortlessly clasping the Salamander hops, before disappearing through a portal that laid beneath him crackling and spitting, this was the scar of two places existing in the same place at the same time, given a short moment the portal shrank out of existence.
Vellan paused momentarily to realise that silence had fallen upon the Inn, and on evaluation of the room he witnessed that all of the wizards had either their staffs or wands readied, also the witches had stopped chanting around their Cauldron and had grasped their brooms, brushes and in one witch’s case a mechanical broom that the engineering guild in the Vardent quarter had sold her that very morning, much to her cat’s chagrin. You see Portals were not just a method of transportation, they were a means of mischief, so, upon hearing the portal being summoned, everyone of a magical disposition reacted after being put on edge.
“Sorry just my imp running an errand go back to ya drinking,” Garvine was quick to calm the situation, after all it was him that would have to foot the bill if just one of them got trigger happy, and he’d only just finished paying for the damages from the last Summer sales in the city, which usually brought every warrior, berserker, Viking and assassin from around the Kingdom, all of them looking for a deal and all of them looking for a reason to test their new purchases out on one another.
“Here Garvine, you ever seen one of these before?” Vellan pulled out a glowing rock the size of his head from his satchel, placing it carefully on the wooden worktop, a low-pitched hum barely detectable by ear filled the bar.
Wizard’s have an affinity towards the art of self-preservation, this is why you will always find a wizard at the back of a battlefield just chucking the odd spell into the fray here and there, this is also why they had begun to settle their tabs, then scurry on out of the Inn as quickly as they could.
“What’s going on Ralph?” Garvine grabbed a hold of one of the wizard’s, one Ralph Pottlejuice, an apprentice to Salfrid Salendim a royal BattleLock. He tried his hardest to brake Garvine’s grip on his robe, even stomping on his foot but Ralph hardly had any weight to put behind it, after all he was a magic wielder, not a Warrior.
“Let go, we’ve all got to get out of here now!” Ralph continued to tug and yank at his grip “Do you even know what that is?” he pointed to the rock, still glowing innocently, still humming unsuspectingly.
Realisation dawned on Garvine’s face “Ohhhh, what did you do Vellan?” he didn’t know what it was, but he knew by the reaction it was generating it wasn’t good for business.
Sometimes a scream is just a scream, it is usually a reaction to a frightening situation or born from desperation. Very few screams have the ability to bring an entire room to their knees, but the one that was approaching the Dragons breath from somewhere beyond the storm out there was definitely from the latter category “you ear that?” the disgruntled Wizard had now reached for his wand and started waving it menacingly at the Dwarf, who then released his grip “That is a Mantacore, and she sounds pretty miffed as well, I’m guessing your idiot of a friend there,” he waved his wand at Vellan, then the rock “has taken her egg, and she’s just found out, and by the way gentlemen that low pitched humming your hearing right now is the baby calling it’s mother, so have no doubt that she is on her way here,” Ralph cast his own portal then disappeared into the office on the other side of it. “Good luck, your gonna need it,” he shouted from the other side of the portal, as it slammed shut out of existence.
“Right ladies…. let’s show the men how it’s done,” Vivian Brewbinder was the high Matron of the order of the Chattering Nags, being the most senior meant that you were automatically viewed as the wisest, and when you spoke the others always listened. She stood up, finished her drink then lifted her crooked nose high into the air.
“That’s what I’m talking about ladies, let’s magic the shit out of this,” Garvine, was relieved, finally help had arrived, someone was finally going to do something to help
“What ….. no, no you seem to be under a misapprehension, sir…… were off too…. but we shall do it with grace and poise, It has been fun and we look forward to next years sales,” witches started disappearing in puffs of green smoke “That’s if you are still here, good luck sir,” Vivian disappeared behind a veil of green smoke, leaving just the dwarfs, the troll, who was re painting red lips onto itself and a few local traders and explorers, who had decided that in the absence of the ability to use magic to escape, drinking themselves into a coma was the only course of action left.
“what did I miss sir?” Dogsbody appeared, as another portal tore through the space in the centre of the room. Garvine pointed at the manticore egg with a look of absolute surrender and desperation on his face
“That is about to destroy the Inn,” Dogsbody hopped and flipped over to the bar, jumping up onto the counter to examine the egg, it pulsed and hummed even louder now in a response to its mothers screams and roars
“hmmm, a Manticore egg?” Garvine and Vellan looked shocked as the imp concluded its evaluation “I haven’t seen one of these for months sir, may I just say sir, it’s probably not wise to keep it in the tavern, his mother may not be very happy with that,” at this point the dwarfs were speechless, the imp snapped his fingers and snow suddenly flowed into the room through another portal, Dogsbody took a run up to the egg and kicked it through the portal. “There, that should do it.” The screaming started to diminish as the Manticore changed course, heading for the top of the furthest volcano from the city.
Garvine grabbed the imp and hugged him tight “you saved us boy,” Dogsbody wriggled free, brushed himself down then threw caution to the wind
“Does that mean I can have a raise sir?” Garvines smile disappeared, as he handed him a broom, “I take that as a no, very well, worth a try.”