Chapter 15: Making a Snake Cry in One Easy Step
The fang snake uncoiled from Dookie. Though confused, everyone relaxed, well except for the Apuce but that was because he was trying’s not to be crushed by BatBat‘s comatose body.
“I’m Hammer! Wait, how do you know that dude?” Hammer responded to the fang snake.
The fang snake hissed irritably. Lofan remained quiet, he quite liked the fact that Dookie was not being held hostage. A fang snake’s fang can cut through many things far harder than a blokkit, and every time a fang snake breaks their fang, along with mindrending pain, they grow a new fang stronger than before. Lofan was also not sure what was going on.
“It iss me, Halapisss you know, from the Belly Up Hider, and the chuckler over there is Dolgu” he hissed.
“Ehkekekeke” Dolgu laughed from beneath the doublebat.
Lofan was sure now that Dolgu and Halapis were adventurers, though, given that Dolgu had talked about his party and the BatBat being intruders, he supposed that they had been at the mountain for some time, protecting something.
“Ohhh yeah…. wait, no I don’t remember you dudes.” Hammer said.
Halapis stared blankly at Hammer, there was no sound but the grunts and wheezes of Dolgu.
“You mean you forgot the time Dolgu took your ssssleeping head and immersssed it in an ale barrel and you ended up blowing a hole through the place?”
“Oh I remember that now”
“Or what about the time he replaced your hoopstick with a cleverly baked bread fake, and you got into a fight and your head fell right out of it? Then there was a job where he usssed you as a portable weapon. I mean how could you have forgotten what he did to you with the salad? I mean I ate sssome of it and I sstill have occasssional nightmaresss about it, but you were PART of it” Halapis ranted.
“Ok, I remember Dolgu now, I think I had repressed it dude.” Hammer sat on top of BatBat’s insensible form. Dolgu grunted.
“You remember Dolgu. You didn’t ssay you remember me” Halapis hissed with narrowed eyes.
“Urk” Hammer uttered
“How could you forget me, I took you under my tail! You were continually thrown out of places for blowing things up, but I taught you control!… I tried to teach you control! I started you on the path of the adventurer!” Halapis
Dookie had throughout this simply sat down a relatively unsnowy rock, taken her pack off and was busy nibbling a wizened tuber of dark rubbery and mysterious description. She had enough of action for a while. Lofan was debating the virtues of going into the cave taking the Kindling and trying to make his own way down. He was sorely tempted, but it would be unlikely he could make his way back down along with the Kindling.
Madog for her part was cautiously sniffing Dolgu and attempting to discern if the long thing on his face was a nose or some manner sausage.
Halapis let out a sigh like a depressed balloon, he even looked a bit like one.
“Well, whatever, anyway what is a rookie like you doing getting sent to relieve us?”
This was a brilliant chance Lofan thought, he could claim they had been sent by Old Battler and then once Dolgu and Halapis had left they could take the Kindling and all without a fight! It was a flawless plan.
Hammer looked profoundly confused, quite the feat for a creature with no facial features other than a lipless mouth.
“Eh? We haven’t been sent to relieve you dude, we are on a quest from a coneman to get some sort of artefact here on this mountain. I’ve been a fully fledged adventurer for a long while now, I’ve even slain a frost hydra!”
Lofan had for a few blissful moments forgotten that he had an explodahead called Hammer who used his own head as a hammerhead in his party. Lofan wondered why he was even bothering to think.
Halapis tensed, which caused Hammer to stand on the doublebat, which in turn foiled Dolgu’s efforts to escape from under the body which in turn resulted in Madog getting whipped on the nose by Dolgu’s nose, which in turn caused her to run around the Hammer, Batbat and Dolgu pile yowling in displeasure. Dookie just remained sitting, slowly chewing on her seemingly unchewable tuber. She serenely pretended that nothing was going to happen.
Lofan was trying to think how to resolve the situation without violence. He was half-inclined to just let Hammer beat Halapis up, he wondered if this was how people became adventurers, you hang about them for a while and next thing you know you are slaying hydras and knocking doublebats out.
Halapis however began to cry. Hammer was perplexed and dismayed, Madog howled in empathy, or perhaps her nose still hurt. Dookie, continued chewing imagining she didn’t have to climb back down the mountain. Lofan was just plain surprised.
“Theyyyyy FORGOT about usssss!”
“Don’t cry Halapis, stay strong!” Dolgu called from under the doublebat.
“We’ve been living in a misssserable cave for who knowssss how long, protecting a dumb artefact that nobody hasss come for until now, and for what?”
“Vast globs of riches?” Dolgu questioned.
“That we could never claim asssss we never get relieved I mean ssssserioussly when wasssss this job ssssupposssed to end!?!”
“They guy who hired us promised to come back”
“HA!” Halapis laughed bitterly.
Lofan took this as his cue.
“Well the geas on your reward has probably worn off by now” Lofan said, though he didn’t really know how geasa worked, though to be fair, most elconic denizens didn’t know, even those who used them.
“He is… uh, right you know” Dookie said, pausing her chewing.
“Oh” Halapis uttered.
He looked at Dolgu who was making some good progress crawling and slipping out from under the doublebat. He pulled Dolgu out with his tail. He looked about at Hammer, Dookie and Madog.
“We are leaving now. You can do whatever you want with the Kindling well I’m asssssuming that you guysss aren’t being duped by the Firelord into getting him it, but he couldn’t possssibly know it iss here, guy who employed us put spellsss and sstuff around it. Oh but, don’t touch our sssstuff”
“Were we going Halapis?”
“Oh we can see all the others again”
“Yes! That and extort them for emotional damages!”
“O-oh ok Halapis”
With that, they were gone.
Lofan stared at Hammer.
“How exactly did you forget those two? How did anyone?”
Hammer thought about it.
Hammer continued thinking about it.
“Ok, you can stop thinking about it” Lofan said. “Let’s just go into the cave, get the Kindling and go back”
“You never said it was the Kindling” Dookie said.
Lofan tensed, Dookie was a magician, would she want the Kindling for some inscrutable purpose? Magicians were all about inscrutable purposes weren’t they?
“Why is it THE Kindling?” Hammer puzzled “Is it a really special kindling?”
Dookie looked Lofan in the eyes, or at least where she thought Lofan and his eyes were. She had kind of lost track in all the action.
“OH-HOHOHOHO! Yes, a very special kindling, well anyway, let’s get it for Lofan and bring it to his village, directly.”
Lofan relaxed somewhat, and came out into the open.
“Yes, thank you Dookie”
The cave itself was not terribly large. Dolgu and Halapis had clearly been living in the place for quite some time. There was even a wooden door they had to go past to get into the dwelling and place where the Kindling was.
It was a humble dwelling, with a angry deep groove in the floor between two clear halves. One half had all kinds of bits and bobs and bedding, vases, pots and baskets strewn about. The other was quite neat, looking barely lived in. There was two bookshelves, one of which had a vase that looked exactly like what a vase would look like had someone broken it and vainly tried to stick it together with some kind of gloopy slimy stuff unsuited to the task.
At the back of the cave dwelling however was a stone block, and on the block, was a rectangular box. The box’s surface was like crystal the colour of shifting flames, the colours actually did flicker.
They looked at it carefully. Lofan had climbed up on Dookie’s head, between her long blocky ears, again. Dookie decided it was safe to pick up. In sort order she also decided it was safe to open, though how she opened it was not remotely clear to Lofan, as it had no obvious lid or buttons or clasps or anything until Dookie opened it.
Inside of the box there was what looked for all the world like some dry straw. Dry straw tied together with an orange ribbon.
“It is straw” Hammer observed.
“OH-HOHOHOHO! No it might look like that to a lowly worm but…”
Dookie brought her hand near to the Kindling and it began to glow with the glow of a fire.
“OH-HOHOHOHO! Observe, ignorant one! This is an artefact of great magical power! OH-HOHOHOHO!”
Dookie continued laughing.
“Who made it?” Lofan wondered aloud.
“W-well… I um, don’t rightly know. If uh, you don’t mind, er… telling what do you, ah, intend to… uh do with it?”
“Revive a firefolk who burned himself out protecting a friend” Lofan came clean.
“I’d make a really big bang with it, I can tell it’d make a very big bang” Hammer added.
“Well, um, good enough for me”Dookie said, closing the box and pocketing it.
They marched back outside the cave dwelling, stopping at a cliffedge. It had grown completely dark over the time they had spent dealing with Dolgu and Halapis. The pale Pumpkin Moon was high in the sky on its stalk and the small (from the distance) silhouette of Jack o’ the Moon sitting atop the dimly glowing pumpkin could be seen if you had really good eyesight in the dark.
“maybe we should camp inside the cave for the night” Lofan mused.
Hammer fussed about the ground.
“Oh, that sounds, er, lovely” Dookie gushed, she really wanted a rest.
“Hey, Dookie, can you throw up a bubble around us?”
Dookie should have questioned why Hammer’s voice was coming from the ground, Dookie however was very proud of her bubble. She threw it up without question and Hammer blew up his head which he had set so that it would be outside the bubble.
Lofan and Dookie yelled and Hammer laughed as they and some of the cliffedge hurtled right off the mountain of no great importance.