Chapter 46: It is a bad sign to be a slacker even when playing a game

Inside the ring formed from the wagons was the slackers, among which were naturally enough the owners of the wagons. In fact, only two of the slackers weren’t wagon owners! Truly these denizens weren’t called merchants for nothing. In a rare elconic dictionary within the Great Attic, a merchant is described thusly;

Mercant; Personne, daler of monies, coveter of goods. A denizen who doth cheets other denizens. Most suceesfool of all thiaves. Bevare these cunning mercants! I myvelf vas cheeted out of fourscore fine gems!

There may be a bit of bias in the description, but certainly most denizens believe it pays to be wary of merchants.

So, these slackers were seated quite comfortably on cushions, gathered around a red stone table with gold runes and fiery patterns on it. Hovering above this table was a gentle orange flame that did give off quite warm and friendly heat. The table had a curious feature that ringing the lip of it, there was soft and fluffy quilting that reached down to the ground. The underneath of the table was quite toasty, with the magic of the table channelling heat from the fire above.

Quite a marvellous artefact, and quite obviously made for lazing about. The slackers had to put planks down before taking the table out though, since they didn’t really want to create a puddle under the table.

Half stuffed under this table was the slackers. Seven of them in total there were. An invizard, three wolves, a turnip, a bottle and a pair of rocks. They appeared to be playing a game with cards.

Ahhhhh, its is so nice to be near a fire again, makes falling down here worth it. Stupid Firelord and his stupid patrols. We couldn’t have risked using this on the surface” the invizard smacked his lips in contentment.

Most of the body of an invizard cannot be seen, but even had that been possible, it seemed that most of his body was under the heat-table. Invizards are lizard-like denizens who are invisible apart from their head and hands. Interestingly their invisibility can be spread to things that are on their body.

The merchant, Ceets had quite fetching navy scales, what was not so handsome was the hat that he had upon his head. It looked for all the world like a red lemon. It even smelled a bit like a lemon. On his hands were a pair of fine brown leather gloves. He was the owner of the golden fort wagon.

When we get to the market circle, I’m going to throw some gems at some adventurers, we’ll see how much the Firelord likes getting messed with!” The turnip righteously huffed.

This turnip was a regular vegetable person, that is to say, his hands were his greens and his body split into two little legs. He wore a belt that had so many different silk and cloth bags that it looked like he was wearing some ghastly multicoloured kilt. Hadric liked to keep his most valuable things on his person. He wasn’t the sort to just blow hot air either, he was really going to hire a bunch of adventurers to cause some trouble. He was the owner of the chariot wagon.

Wahaha, back in Wolfhiem we don’t have to worry about the snuffers or the cinders, why sometimes we make great bonfires just for fun! All the Firelord’s armies can to is grind their teeth in frustration!” One male wolf barked.

Even if our Wolfhiem is the best and most glorious city and cultural heart in Elcon, it isn’t too good to boast too much Brother” This was the sister of the previous wolf.

It isn’t like the pair of you haven’t been constantly boasting about Wolfhiem all throughout the journey. It isn’t like that at all” the last wolf muttered.

The brother and sister wolves, Handle and Griddle were the owners of the white sled-wagon. They were merchants, but unlike the other merchants, they weren’t mere merchants! They were also a band! A musical band! Handle and Griddle were both singing magi! Strella played the lute! Baldron the cat played his trombone! The last wolf, Yvan was a percussion expert. In particular he was experienced with hammers and a small cannon. He wasn’t too bad with drums, but he was actually better at bringing out sound by hitting things that aren’t drums.

Handle and Griddle were two red wolves, both wore fluffy green robes and both had staves with voice amplifying crystals on the end. Handle had a red huge pompadour like the whole back end of a duck sprouting from his head, while Griddle’s head hair was black unlike her fur. She had a sheer curtain of the stuff. The irises of their eyes were actually white, which was a little unnerving, but their faces were both too goofy looking to look creepy.

Creepy wasn’t a thing that could be said of Yvan. No what was remarkable about Yvan was the amount of hair he had! He was a green furred wolf, born and raised in the forest! The hair on his head was like a mighty bush that obscured his eyes. It almost seemed like a bush was trying to eat his head! Though he was a wolf, it looked as if he had a huge mane of hair around his neck and back! His tail was almost as full as a fox’s. His arms and legs had so much that he was in the habit of braiding the hair so that it wouldn’t get in his way.

He never told anyone, nor did he boast, but he was actually quite proud of his bountiful hair.

Only the fact that I am winning and you wolves are losing can contain my ire at your constant boastings” the bottle spoke.

This transparent brown bottle was in the shape of a uniformed soldier. His hat was the stem of the bottle. The coppery green liquid inside of him was a little unusual, as when the liquid sloshed, the shape of weapons and armour was revealed. Captain Cruel was the name of this bottle and he, along with Rattling Sid and Bean, was one of the protectors of the chariot wagon.

Don’t be a fusspot…” One of the rocks, a tall orange one said.

I am a bottle, not a pot”

…don’t be a fussbottle, it isn’t a bad thing to have a bit of pride in your home” the rock continued.

I think its long passed the point of a simple bit of pride, I’m expecting the whole city to come tumbling out of their mouths any day now” The other rock, a short yellow one said.

Their boasting is a bit stifling, but if a whole city came out, wouldn’t that just be crushing. I’m glad their mouths aren’t that big”

These two featureless rocks were the merchants of the auto-wagon. The tall orange rock was called Obel. The short yellow rock was called GV. Once upon a time they had actually been part of a whole adventuring clan of rocks, however after a tragic encounter with a baleful rock eating magic goat-like being, they decided to become merchants. One day, they were going to encrust their bodies with the finest of gems, that was their dream.

That is enough nonsense for now, whose turn was it?” Hadric the turnip asked.

The turn order swapped around didn’t it?” Yvan said.

It did so… uh, sorry, I’ve lost track” Handle

Oh, I know who it is!” Obel chuckled.

What a coincidence! So do I!” GV added.

Cruel is so far in the lead, so I’m not sure it even matters whose turn it is anymore” Ceets the invizard mused.

I don’t even like young butler, it isn’t my fault you are all terrible at this game”

I just want to get on with playing the game, is that too much to ask” Hadric complained.

It probably is” Griddle added helpfully.

Obel rumbled a bit, this was of course a kind of rock laughter.

The one whose turn it is, is…” he began

…Hadric!” GV finished.

Oh”

A big subdued, Hadric began his turn.

Young butler is considered one of the most cut-throat of all elconic playing card games. It is a game of intense battle between minds, of treachery and despair! It isn’t actually very fun. The rules are just kind of awkward and cruel regardless of winning or losing. It only really ever gets played because of how hard it is to play, that and it has some strange curse to it that those who play continually forget how terrible an experience it was.

So, under the strange compulsion of the cards, the slackers continued bickering and slacking and even slacking at playing the game, but then.

There was of course, the rumble of the events we already covered.

Chapter 45: This is why you shouldn’t decide your lookouts by pulling straws.

Since our adventurers and their newly found companions got themselves stuck under ice, let us roll the stream of the narrative back a bit. The denizens that the adventurers encountered were not the only ones of the caravan that fell into the labyrinth.

While Drobin and his comrades (after pulling short straws) went to find the source of the sound that turned out to be Gheel’s drilltooth chompers, the rest of the caravan remained. The caravan had set up Camp in a large chamber, one that mostly had passages too small for the wagons of the caravan to pass through. Now, while the four wagons were pulled together, they really didn’t have much in common apart from being wagons.

One of them quite honestly looked more like an oversized chariot than a wagon. The spiked wheels of the chariot-wagon looked quite intimidating. Hitched up to this wagon was a floating glowing orange sphere that gently bobbed and burbled. Inside this wagon was no small amount of pickled this and that. There were also cans of spices and wedged here and there were pieces of rare wood.

Rattling Sid was part of the team of that wagon.

Another wagon was really more of a sled. Actually, no matter how you looked at it, wasn’t it a sled? It was pure white and hitched to it was a trio of orses. Each orse looked more discontent than the last. An orse? Why orses are like horses. If horses came in almost any size and colour. If the head of a horse was dominated by ludicrously large nostrils which bristled aggressively with hair. If horses had cloven hooves.

Well, whatever tenuous connection to horses these orses had, they at least had the spirits of several stubborn and ill-tempered mules in them. As for the colour of the orses? Best word for that would be ‘muddy’

The goods in this wagon were musical instruments, the latest songs and things like that. A few notes stuggled vainly, but they had been tied up with cloth so that they wouldn’t make noise. Baldron was part of the band of this wagon, and he particularly despised the orses, but then the feeling was mutual.

Third on our list of wagons was a wagon you could actually call a wagon. It was quite orthodox as wagons go. It was very stereotypical, just what one would imagine when one thinks of a wagon. There was one issue however! It was quite clear that there was no provision for some beast of burden to pull the wagon. In fact, if your eyes were sharp, you’d spot the sneakily hidden exhaust pipes on the back of the wagon! Yes, like the vehicles of the ram riders, this wagon could move on its own until it crashed into something. With a driver, it could even crash into things a bit less!

Among the goods of this fine auto-wagon were metals, oils, and wooden, woollen and porcelain dolls. One could easily guess that Drobin and the four fang snakes were part of the team of this auto-wagon!

The last wagon was golden. It was like a tiny gold fort with wheels. Hitched to this, calmly munching on the ice and bones both was a pair of snow white buffows. Explaining a buffow isn’t difficult, just imagine the result of combining about three buffaloes and a singular cow. Then make it hairier. The goods of this wagon are too varied to list, but one can be assured that they are of the best quality and were aggressively acquired in a fair manner. The blokkits were part of the guard of this wagon.

Now, while some of the teams of these wagons had wandered off, a lot had remained behind to watch over the wagons. Naturally the survivors of the first round of straw picking held another round to determine who was going to just goof around. This round, just like the last was unsurprisingly rigged by the merchants of the caravan.

So, there were four losers who had to keep a lookout on each of the caravans.

I thought we were going to die to frizen, but now I think I’m just going to die of boredom”

The speaker in this case was one denizen by the name of Bean. He was an animate bottle. A round green one with a thin neck. He always wore a reddish brown leather flat hat because he didn’t like things mixing with the spices inside him, his lid had a lot of holes in it.

Aw, lighten up Bean, this isn’t so bad. I can even do a bit of practice”

A woman’s voice, coming from a black wolf who was wearing too many different colours of strips of cloth and wore boots that didn’t match. One boot was pointy and one was actually metal-capped. The metal capped one went up to the thigh and even had a metal kneecap. The pointy boot only went to the ankle. In the paws of this black wolf with honey eyes was a lute that had been used a club one time too many. Strella was the name of this fashion victim. Wolves are not known for their good taste.

Instead of being bored or fiddling with your lute, you could keep watch so as we don’t all get eaten again”

A gruff voice this one. It came from the red beak of a rebcubre!

A being with no head. Instead this creature has a beak and a single green eye set into its chest. Scrawny arms with only three blunted claws. Thin legs with only two blunt claws on its hand-feet. Round horn-like nubs on its shoulders! It doesn’t sound particularly fierce, but this happens to be one of the more fierce denizens of Elcon.

You don’t provoke rebcubres, not because of how they look when at rest, but because a rebcubre has another terrifying form! In this from they have blade-like claws, twisted horns on their shoulders, fangs on their beak and they bulge with muscles to almost twice their size. If you saw the blazing eye of a transformed rebcubre, you’d surely regret provoking the denizen!

In spite of his words of chastisement, Bladechop Bigbrawl didn’t look particularly more focused on watch-duty than his companions. He was in fact whittling some wood with his oversized navy scimitar.

we’re all going to die horribly and it’ll all be your fault

The final loser of the rigged drawing of straws was a single coneman. He has a name, but considering how many of his fellows were lounging about in the same wagon, we’ll treat them as a unit. These cone people were part of the Chariot Wagon team.

It’ll be fine. Everything is dead here anyway. If anything dead decides to get restless, we’ll hear them moaning well before they get to us.” Strella quibbled.

Uuuuuaaaaaahhhhh”

Gah! They’re already here!” Strella panicked.

It’s just Bean moaning” Bladechop explained.

why couldn’t i have picked a long straw, why did all the blokkits have to go?

we’re here for you man

yeah, keep doing it so we can relax

its nice to not be bothered for a while

Huh, hey, cones, give me a steady lala, I need it to try out something” Strella commanded.

you just had to ruin it by pointing out how nice it was, now we have to go lala for a crazy lute wolf again

The majority of the conepeople started up a cacophonous chorus of lalas.

You know, I think at this point, If the frizen come, I’ll throw myself at them” Bean contemplated.

Bladechop didn’t look up from his wood-work.

Most frizen can’t eat your kind” Bladechop observed, not once looking up from his woodwork.

While these people were slacking, the rest were slacking too. In a while, the rumbles from the fight with the frizen golem will start, but before that, we’ll take a look a the slacking of those slackers.

Chapter 44: The Tale of D’Arc the Dark

He was not just any bat though. D’Arc was a noble duke of the Brightfang clan, so called for their fangs which glimmer even in the dark. The Brightfang clan knew the mystic art of reading, writing and book making! This meant they held quite a bit of power in the Great Attic, though now, only their books remain.

D’Arc is not unrelated to the disappearance of the Brightfang clan, *ahem* I’m getting ahead of myself, sorry.

With their glimmering fangs, the bats of the Brightfang clan could easily read books even in the deepest darkness, though only for as long as they could keep their mouths open. D’Arc was especially fond of reading in the dark. Perhaps, he was too fond of it. Something a bit odd happened though.

D’Arc became more and more enamoured of the darkness. He even stopped reading. Preferring to just hang in the dark. This was not the end of his obsession. If anyone brought a light near him, he would go berserk at the darkness fading!”

You could even say that he went batty” Baldron observed.

While it is a difficult thing to stare down a cat, Waufronk managed it.

Sorry” Baldron mumbled.

Now, where was I? He spent more and more time just hanging around, staring in the dark. Now, if everything had just stopped there, I’d not have a story to tell, and the Brightfang clan might still be around in the Attic. Nobody is quite sure how it happened. Some say the darkness whispered to him. Others claim a wicked spirit. Regardless of him seeing something or hearing something… D’Arc began writing a book.

It might have been the Book of Nasty Darkness, or the Book of Deadly Night. It could even have been the Dark Grimoire, which unlike those other books, is not an evil thing. Whether it was a wicked tome or a good one, it was a dangerous book, and had too much of darkness in it for a feeble mortal mind.

After writing his book of darkness, D’Arc began to do horrific experiments. It was a dark tim… a darker time for the Great Attic. Abusing the power of the book he wrote, none could resist him. As for why he was doing all this? He had become enchanted by a single desire. He wanted to become one with the darkness itself!”

I’ve wanted to do that sometimes” Eadam said glumly.

It is not an easy thing to stare down a horse, but Waufronk managed it.

What part was I at? The DARKNESS YES! He wanted to become one with the darkness! All of his experiments, all of his victims, they were in service to this dark ambition!”

What a rotter. He could have done ghastly experiments without harming anyone!” Gheel complained.

Waufronk didn’t stare him down, but mostly everyone else shushed him.

Guhurrrgh” went Ulex.

All of the Brightfang clan met their end at his wings they say, and one day, the kidnappings and experiments stopped. Everyone gathered together with pitchforks and torches, but when they broke into his lab, all that remained was a book, and even that book is now lost, or perhaps hidden, lying in wait in the library of the Great Attic.

Some say he realised his ambition, but what I’ve heard is that he failed, losing body and shadow, yet not becoming one with the dark, and sometimes, if you are in the darkness, he’ll call out in some way or another and if you reply, he’ll steal your body away into darkness, leaving you with only a shadow! I never would have imagined that part of the story was true, that we’d hear D’Arc calling out in the Dark”

Waufronk had finished.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not going to sleep well later” Zaku said.

Icoulda taken him, lightingisgood for fighting the incorporeal!” Sid boasted.

Thanks to you Waufronk we didn’t have to try to fight such a being” Drobin mused.

Anyone got anymore lights? I’m not asking for myself, I’m just worried about poor Biaa here” Sherry asked.

I’m fine! I’m not afraid of D’Arc the Dark… hey Zaku, how about you make the place a bit brighter you know, since we have a coneperson here and all” Biaa said.

Spongy feel sad. Poor Brightfang clan”

Geen was quite silent, wondering just what manner of labyrinth they were in.

As everyone was trying to make the place brighter, a voice called out from beyond the shell.

Hello? Is anyone alive there?”

i-it’s d’arc! quick nobody reply! he’ll steal our bodies!” Kepo panicked.

Baldron however uncharacteristically smiled.

It isn’t. It’s help!”

Seriously Is anyone there? I’ve just been following the sound of a creepy story, I’m more than a little worried at this point”

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