Prelude to Glory II

By Ralsu

Prior to taking the position of Assistant Community Manager for DDO Ten
Ton Hammer, I was a contestant in a contest hosted by Ten Ton Hammer to
give away a free copy of DDO.

The contest required writers to submit a
piece of creative fiction not to exceed 1,000 words. We also had to
pull out a snippet of 100 words or less and post in the forums. Not
only were our wirting skills being tested, but we were being asked to
market our stories to readers via a measly 100 words!

I submitted three entries in all before DDO Ten Ton Hammer Community
Manager Karen "Shayalyn" Hertzberg contacted me about doing some
volunteer writing for the website. Once I had become a volunteer
writer, Shayalyn and I agreed that I should withdraw my entries from
the contest. href="">Richard
Davey and Andrew Ferguson went on to win the contest. I got to
flash a little creative writing in href="">Stormreach:
Quest for Glory, chronicling the adventures of Ralsu and Shayalyn
in the DDO beta.

Now for the first time, we release the second of the contest
submissions for public display. This tale recounts part of Nealgig's
journey as he chases Ralsu to Stormreach. Enjoy!

The mess hall aboard the style="font-style: italic;">Wave Breaker was no better than the
rest of the vessel: the floors were caked with grime, the walls showed
scars and needed repair, and the occupants were an unseemly collection
of ruffians who would no doubt prefer to think of themselves as
“opportunistic.” Most of those taking their meals at this late hour
didn't bother to look up when the newest passenger entered.

The stranger, on the other hand, practically stared. Having boarded in
the dead of night, he'd not had the chance to assess the crew. And the
crew of the Wave Breaker was
perhaps like no other. Of the nearly three-dozen sailors—no,
pirates—aboard, thirty were elves. Not normally known to take to the
life of piracy on the high seas, the crew of the style="font-style: italic;">Wave Breaker was said to be a haven
for elves no longer accepted by their own kind.

href=""> alt="Ajop"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 150px; height: 113px;" align="left">Two
of the six non-elves were in the mess on this night. One was a
one-armed halfling with four tufts of dirty orange hair protruding from
his otherwise bald head. He was pouring a viscous-looking purple liquid
into the tankard of the other non-elf, a squat dwarf sitting at a
modified table in the far corner of the angular room and facing away
from the door. It was the dwarf whom the stranger sought. He limped
from the doorway across the room to stand behind the dwarf.

Moving aside his green cloak and reaching into the boot of his left
foot, the stranger produced a silvery dagger and raised it over his
head. Then the stranger plunged the point into the flesh of whatever
tentacled denizen of the sea the dwarf had on his plate. The blade
pierced the food and penetrated the wooden dish it rested on to embed
itself into the table beneath.

The dwarf calmly wiped his mouth and beard with the cloth around his
neck and looked down at the dagger. With a start, he dropped his napkin
and wrestled a thick gold ring off of one of his stubby fingers. A
quick pass over the remarkably thin but sharp blade of the dagger
caused four letters to flare: F-L-I-T.

“By the forge! I never thought I'd see another one of these this side
of Dal Quor!” the dwarf whispered in awe and he rose from his seat and
wheeled to face the dagger's owner.

“Why, Nealgig Jess!” he roared as he looked up to see his old friend.

“Ajop Stonehammer!” the other greeted.

[Ajop, I have great need of your services,] Nealgig addressed Ajop in
his own language. His accent was slight but identified him as both
human and from the southern lands.

[Please, sit.] The dwarf indicated a chair. Nealgig sat across from his
friend, unable to get both legs under the shortened table. Nealgig was
tall even by human standards. The pirates who'd been watching until now
resumed eating.

[Though I had hoped to live out the rest of my days in peace with
Lilga, a matter of family honor has forced me to the adventurer's path
once more.]

[And ye'll be needing some of me armor.] It was a statement rather than
a question.

[Aye, Ajop, but I'll require some special modifications. I am not the
man I was twenty years ago when you crafted my last piece. I have
gained considerable girth with Lilga's fine cooking, and I have this.]
Nealgig patted his rounded belly with one hand and the leg that didn't
make it under the table when he'd taken his seat with the other hand.
Only then did Ajop notice that a metal brace surrounded Nealgig's left
leg from the knee down.

[What happened friend?]

[To my belly—or the leg?] At that, both men erupted into laughter. When
they recovered, Nealgig continued.

[Ah, a bugbear got the drop on me seven years ago. Shredded my leg at
the knee. I called in a favor with a gnome who does fine work with
metals and he fashioned this replacement.]

[A fine job he did, too! Would it happen to be the same Gnome—] Ajop
indicated the dagger.

[One in the same. Can you help me?]

[Aye,] Ajop answered. [I can make the finest tower shield ye ever seen.
It'll extend to the ground to protect yer good leg, and I'll give ye
room to use yer bow at the top. Can ye still notch yer bow with one

[I doubt it. It's been nearly twelve years since I've hunted more than
game and the occasional beast that wanders too close to the edge of our

[Tell me, friend, what family matter has ye on this rotten vessel
headed for Stormreach?]

[A man—a young bard—has ruined my niece's business and bedded her with
no intentions of marriage. Not to mention he stole my best mule,]
Nealgig disclosed.

href=""> alt="Nealgig"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 150px; height: 127px;" align="right">

Ajop studied his friend. Nealgig's round face was becoming leathery
with age. His dark hair was thinning, and his close-cut beard was
speckled as a foamy sea at night. His eyebrows were bushy and thick.
Nealgig was overweight and cripple now. But one look into his huge,
deep-set gray eyes told Ajop all he needed to know. Nealgig's broad
nostrils flared just talking about his quest.

[This bard, what kind of fighter is he?] Ajop inquired.

[He's no fighter,] Nealgig chuckled. [His method is to charm people
with his gift.]

[Magic, eh? I'm afraid I can't offer ye any protection from that.
Someone stole me enchanted hammer two seasons ago. I been chasin'
shadows ever since.] Ajop confessed. He quaffed some of his purple
liquid, and his scowl afterward belied its unpleasant taste. [Take me
advice and seek an amulet from a wizard once we arrive in Stormreach.]

[I will, Ajop. But either way, Ralsu Vejes must die!] With that,
Nealgig pried his dagger from the table, returned it to his boot, and
strode from the mess hall. It was eight weeks to Stormreach.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.