Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fellowship of the Vine - Part 2

Mensa drank in the scene like a glutton. He was grateful that his old friends would drop their private lives for the sake of these children. Looking at the toy that Lavabreath had created so painstakingly, the horse carved out of wood, the meticulous metal axles pinned to its wheeled "feet," a tear rolled down his bulbous nose. How was it that other kindred thought the khzd were beyond feeling?

For instance, Mensa was almost glad that Wolfe would not be among them. For a long time now, Mensa had worried that Wolfe was not his old self. Since losing his inner wolf, Wolfe had lost much of his focus. Mensa feared that could cause his brother to lose his edge in combat. Wolfe had died twice now, and Mensa saw him lose a little of himself each time.

Besides, he would have his hands full keeping Perry alive. Mensa liked the strange half-elf and his propensity to face danger, even though Perry was no warrior. It spoke volumes of the courage of the sissy elf and his loyalty. Mensa was surprised to hear that there was a lady in Perry's life these days; all this time, he thought Perry was gay.

Mensa had been ready to go and fight from the moment Lavabreath had spoken to him, but now he'd taken the pause to pack and stock for the long haul. Armoured in chain and leather, with a khzd half-helm, several pounds of elephant jerky, this newfangled boomerang thing which Hoganbeard gave him (and which Hoganbeard and he had been experimenting - Hoganbeard and Lavabreath loved wood carving as much as Mensa loved working with iron.), a stick of firecracker, his old war shovel (you never knew when you might need a shovel), a banana, two hard-boiled eggs, and one of Brother Yamaha's recorder flutes, as well as “A Fragmentary History of Trollworld” by Thucidotus Vrrash.
Later that day as the party began to gather on the parade ground behind the manor, Dr. Marianus came and tearfully made sure everyone had a first aid kit. He hated to see them go in harm's way, but he also loathed the people who had killed parents and stolen their children. He blessed each member of the party.  The supply sergeant from the citadel brought out an abundance of field ration and others of the soldier ranks came to wish them good luck. Fletch made sure all had plenty of bolts or arrows for their missile weapons.
Everyone was waiting for Zhahn while Nalki muttered in his own tongue, anxious to be on his way.
Mensa felt sad for the soldiers with their collars and reigns as he munched a couple of the tacks to check their flavor. “YUM! Snerg-flavored!!!” The dwarf had found something he liked better than moss and lichen sandwiches. He also felt sad to be leaving the new friends he'd made. Mensa was able to work to his best abilities, and actually was accepted as an equal. Why, he'd even been praised for his idea of folding the metal to increase its strength AND its flexibility at the same time. The Far Eastern dwarf, Yamisoto Earwax, had become very proficient with the twin swords Mensa had made for him.
Yet he had a feeling that he would learn even more about the khzd on this adventure. He knew, for instance, that Gristlegrim had his good eye on him, and that they would meet again someday. (If only Mensa could remember how he knew that he had been in the god's presence, even after the initial forging of Mensa.)
Because the khzd had no children of their own (beyond any they carved) the young innocents were even more precious to khzd than to many of their own parents.  There was an unspoken rule that you NEVER endangered children, and if Mensa had real blood, it would have boiled at the thought of children being taken into slavery. Where WERE those guys?
As Mensa waits impatiently for Zhahn to amble back to the restless group, Rollipoly, the dwarf  cook and baker, brings him a large bag of dwarf rations and dwarf hardtack (which is REALLY hard). The rest of the dwarves come out to see him off and wish him well.  A crowd, in fact, is gathering, and a lot of the soldier types look like they might be interested in going along, but the Captain is keeping a tight rein on them.
Kannish and Nalki went to Kazgrad on Manor business and predictably stopped on the way home in one of the less fastidious drinking establishments for a brew and stew. While they ate at the bar, a big local tough came up and sat down by Kannish. He ordered a beer, and then made a big show of sniffing it and sniffing all around. "Why I do believe," he crowed, "I do smell a dirty dog in here." He looked pointedly at Kannish. The big wolf man shrugged, and then suddenly sucker punched the bully on his protruding jaw. He knocked the man straight out cold. Nalki swore softly under his breath, impressed by Kannish's quickness. He made a mental note not to joke with him.  After looking to make sure the local riff raff was not getting up for a second round, Kannish drank the bully's drink, and said, "Now he don't gotta smell me anymore."
As dusk fell and the boozers returned, Zhanh rushed parade ground, his pack on his shoulders, and quickly topped up his supplies from the items arrayed. “What are we waiting for?” he asked tartly. “I hear there’s work to be done!”
Brushing of the wizard being entirely unaware that it was he who had held up proceedings, the group moved along down the road, feeling they were strong enough to travel so near home after dark. They were experienced campers. They travelled companionably for three hours or so, making good time, happy to be on the road again even in such grim circumstances. Soon enough, camp was set up and a light meal had been cooked. Just as everyone had retired to their tents, yawning or preparing for meditation, a shrill whistle roused them to full alertness. ‘Was that one of you?’ Perry called anxiously.

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