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Dust swirled in the background, as the dry season had settled in on the southern outskirts of Rottheim kingdom. A young man leaned on the scaly back of a black dragon, and began to speak.
“We have to retake our mining outpost from the dwarves.” He declared.
Nightmare nodded in assent.
Forte strategized the best way to retake Avalon from the group of twenty-odd dwarves. He decided that force was unavoidable. It was a battle they could use trickery and the element of surprise to win, but they still needed to fight.
He loaded the pickaxes and prongs and silver onto Nightmare’s back, and they took off. Nightmare flew laboriously, weighed down by the steel pickaxes. He flew for spurts through the clear skies, and then had to set down on the dusty plains to rest.
Before long, the dusty plains melted into familiar lush greens, valleys, and rivers. Nightmare and Forte drank crisp water from a flowing river, while bottling some for later. A herd of slogs marched in from the fields for a drink. The bull-like beasts were majestic and large, and difficult to take down for the average hunter.
But Forte and Nightmare were no average hunters. Nightmare split a pair of slogs from the herd by soaring through the air and breathing fire, and Forte killed one with a few blows from his massive sword. He built a camp fire and spit roasted the slog, glazing it with its own juices every so often. Forte ate part of the slog’s shoulder, while Nightmare finished most of the rest. The dragon had a near bottomless appetite for meat, although he also was partial towards sweets and pastries.
They travelled and hunted, hunted and travelled, while lugging the precious cargo of mining supplies. Before long, the outpost of Avalon appeared in the horizon.
Forte was in range of summoning all his pirates. He found a hilly spot under a tree overlooking Avalon, and summoned his pirates.
“Jack, Cook, and Tew, report to me what happened here.” He demanded.
“So sorry my lord, we were overwhelmed by dwarves. The little buggers killed us one by one, and without the amulet of darkness nearby, we did not have the strength to rejuvenate our bodies once they were destroyed.” Tew responded.
The wind howled, and the grassy plains bent to each gust of wind. It was a dark, cloudy day.
“No worries, I understand. We need to attack the dwarves when they are weakest. When do they sleep? What have you observed?” He pressed on.
The sound of pickaxes hitting metal could be heard from the outpost. The dwarves were mining and smelting the orichalcum. The party could see from the vantage point that the dwarves had set up a crude blast furnace, and were shoveling in coke and limestone to power the furnace.
“We noticed that they all go to sleep early in the evening, a while after they eat dinner. They built a few stone houses to sleep in. The dwarves are using your original log houses to hold the orichalcum bars. Every week, a dwarf merchant comes along and purchases all the orichalcum. The merchant just arrived yesterday.”
Forte ran calculations through his head as he tossed a rock in the air, and murmured “Ariz” to keep it in the air levitating with magic. Since their sleeping quarters were stone, he reasoned, Nightmare burning down their houses as they slept was not an option. They would attack when the dwarves were sleeping.
“Where do they store their weapons? What weapons do they use?” Forte continued to question the pirates.
“You see the foreman dwarf down there, the ugly one? That one’s called Stoneface. He’s leader or manager, and keeps a stash of weapons in his stone house. But most of the dwarves sleep with at least one weapon in their house, mostly hammers and the occasional mace.”
Forte let the levitating rock fall back into his palm. He tossed it back into the air and caught it, as he leaned against a tree trunk. Nightmare listened intently while playing with a rabbit carcass.
“That’s who we’ll kill first, Stoneface. Killing the leader should disrupt the dwarves’ chain of command, and we will kill the rest as they’re confused. We attack at night.” Forte said, summing up the plan.
“Where does Stoneface live?” He asked.
Jack pointed the widest stone house, with a wooden door and a lit torch next to the door. “That one right there.”
Forte nodded, and continued to practice his magic with the rock. The pirates sharpened their ghastly cutlasses, and Nightmare hunted another white rabbit to play with. A few hours passed, and night had fallen.
Forte watched and waited as the last dwarf entered their house to sleep. He waited an hour after, and then signaled to the party that it was time to act.
“Nightmare, take down the door to Stoneface’s house, and I will kill him myself. Pirates, work with Nightmare to break down more doors and kill the dwarves inside. Try to be quiet.” He ordered.
Forte mounted Nightmare, and they flew down from the hill, landing in front of Stoneface’s house. Forte dismounted, and Nightmare tackled the door with his body, blowing the door open with his sheer weight.
“You’re back! Sound the alarm! Wake up, everyone!” Stoneface yelled, grabbing his mithril hammer and steel shield. Forte rushed in and unsheathed his sword.
Stoneface’s jaw dropped as he saw the the iridescent grey gravitite blade.
“Gravitite… how did a human get a hold of gravitite? Thief!” He yelled in anger, as Forte swung his sword at Stoneface. He parried with his steel shield, and counterattacked with his mithril hammer. The hammer connected with Forte’s shoulder, rattling the bone. Forte winced in pain and dropped his gravitite greatsword. He raised his hand and extended his palm.
“Waera!” He shouted, and a gust of wind blasted into the cabin, slamming Stoneface into the wall. Forte felt a sudden paleness, and let go of the magic. Stoneface slumped to the ground, and then got up and ran out of the house. Forte stopped for a moment, tending to his shoulder. He then grabbed his gravitite greatsword and chased after Stoneface. The wind howled as he stepped outside, and he noticed that a slight drizzle had begun.
“Wake up! Wake up! We’re under attack by that dragon and those blasted ghosts again!” Stoneface shouted, as the dwarves slowly armed themselves and stepped outside. More than a dozen dwarves faced Forte, with their weapons drawn and teeth bared.
“Haven’t seen this little cunt around have ya?” A dwarf growled to another.
“Nah, not this one. He seems human, very fleshy. Might not be a ghosty this time.” The dwarf answered.
Nightmare and the pirates managed to skewer five sleepy dwarves, but the remaining dwarves had all woken up now. Forte was about to get overwhelmed.
“Regroup around me!” Forte commanded, and the party rushed to Forte’s aid.
“Waera.” Forte recited, and a gale of wind blew towards the dwarves. Nightmare opened his mouth and blew out a steady stream of fire at the dwarves, fueled by the wind. Slog fat dripped from the dwarves, insulating them from the fire as they charged.
“Yarrrrrr!” The pirates ran at the dwarves with their cutlasses, and began hacking away. A dwarf stepped up and hit Cook’s leg with a mace, and another swung at the downed pirate’s head, smashing it inwards. Cook’s form disintegrated into dust. Forte attacked with Nightmare by his side, as sword and jaw tore apart the brunt of the dwarves. The clash was intense, and the dwarves were resilient. A few dwarves fell, but so did Jack and Tew. Only Blackbeard remained of the pirates, and Forte had taken some massive blunted injuries to his shoulder from the dwarves’ onslaught. The dwarves could not hit past Nightmare’s scales, but aimed for his vulnerable nose and eyes, causing the dragon to recoil.
Half the dwarves were defeated, but the party was wearing thin. Forte mustered some strength for another conjuring.
“Ariz waera!” He shouted. His amulet glowed and burned his chest, as a few dwarves were flung into the air for a brief moment. Forte immediately felt paler as his blood and stamina were sucked into the spell, but the damage had been done. Nightmare seized the opportunity to pounce on the dwarves and rip them apart with his teeth, as Blackbeard cut another dwarf down with his ghastly cutlass.
Forte was kneeling on the ground panting from the magic expenditure. Stoneface approached him with his mithril hammer. Nightmare and Blackbeard were busy fighting the downed dwarves. No one was there to save him. “Infernus.” He muttered, and a large fireball shot from his palm, hitting Stoneface squarely in the chest. His amulet vibrated as it took in Forte’s stamina and blood, his mind went black as he collapsed unconscious.
He woke up in a hard bed with a smelly blanket, being tended to by Cook.
“What happened?” He asked the pirate.
“You nearly killed yourself with the magic, my lord.” Cook responded. “Blackbeard dragged you to Stoneface’s house before he ran out of his physical form. You’ve been out for a day. Don’t worry, we hunted down every single last dwarf. They won’t bother us any longer. We will dispose of the dwarven merchant when he comes next week.”
Forte tried to stand up, but a searing pain came from his shoulder and he collapsed back into the bed.
“I took a look at your shoulder. The bone isn’t broken, but you need time to rest my lord.” Cook said.
“I see…” Forte replied.
He got up slowly, careful not to aggravate his shoulder, and went outside. The corpses of two dozen dwarves were strewn across the landscape. It was a rainy day, and Nightmare and the pirates were busy dragging the dwarf corpses into a pile. Forte went to a tree, cut down two branches, and began rubbing them together until they started to smolder. He tossed the smoldering branch into the pile of bodies, but the rain put out the fire immediately.
Forte rested for the day as Nightmare and Blackbeard hunted. He and Nightmare ate a dinner of assorted vegetables from his rations bag, and a spit roasted wild boar. The ghosts did not need to eat.
The next day, mining resumed. Forte inspected the dwarves’ handiwork. They managed to mine a small portion of orichalcum from the vein. The dwarves had erected a blast furnace with a supply of coke and limestone, which were somewhat easily obtainable fuels for the blast furnace. Sweat dripped down the ethereal pirates’ manes as they spent the day mining for orichalcum and coal. Forte watched the process silently.
Nearly twenty stone houses were built by the dwarves since Forte was gone, and he was glad to appropriate the property from them. A few days of mining passed without incident. On the sixth day, the dwarven ore merchant appeared.
Forte motioned the pirates back. He wished to speak with the merchant.
The dwarf merchant had a great bushy beard and a small mining hat, riding a slog pulled caravan. Forte’s eyes lit up with surprise at the slog caravan. He had never seen anything like it. Nor had he seen a tame slog before. The slog grunted in nervousness as it saw the black dragon.
“What happened here…” The merchant looked around and sighed as he saw the pile of dwarven corpses. “I told you this was a bad idea, Stoneface. Don’t go messing around them dragonfolk.”
Forte laughed. “I heard you bought ores around here.”
“You heard right.” The dwarf chuckled. “And I don’t care who I get them from. Just don’t go attacking me. You’ll have no business if I’m dead, I tell ya.”
“Worry not. I’m only here to sell ores. I have a tiny chunk of orichalcum, some coal, and some iron ore.” Forte reported, as the pirates hauled the ware of ores for the dwarf to inspect. The dwarf looked over the orichalcum through a looking glass, and tapped it on his face.
“This is good orichalcum. Not much though. I’ll buy the orichalcum and coal from you. Gots plenty of iron ore to meself already.” The bearded merchant responded. “For that teeny bit of orichalcum and coal, I’ll pay you 215 silvers.”
“How about 230 silvers?” Forte replied impatiently.
“This isn’t worth 230 silvers. It’s worth 215. You don’t want to play games with Half-foot.” The dwarf narrowed his eyes.
Forte’s mind raced. He reasoned that Half-foot could have serious backup, which was why he didn’t seem afraid at all. And if it was a bluff, it was a good one. He decided to accept the price.
“Fine. Deal.” Forte said, shaking Half-foot’s small hand. The dwarf smiled.
“Pleasure doing business with you," Half-foot said. Forte and his party helped the dwarf load the cargo, and took the 215 silvers.
As the dwarf mounted his slog and was readying to leave, Forte ran up.
“Wait! Do you happen to know of any constructers, or builders?” Forte asked.
“Yes. But they don’t work for free, and they sure as hell don’t take ore as payment. You got the silver?” Half-foot replied.
“I have 7246 silvers, I can afford to pay them.” Forte responded.
“Hmph. That’ll be enough. I’ll bring a few dwarves in three days time. Hold onto your silver." Half-foot shouted, as he kicked his slog and roamed off into the distance.