FF: Prelude to Glory II
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...
Prelude to Glory II
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.
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. Richard Davey and Andrew Ferguson went on to win the contest. I got to flash a little creative writing in 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 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 sailorsno, piratesaboard, thirty were elves. Not normally known to take to the life of piracy on the high seas, the crew of the Wave Breaker was said to be a haven for elves no longer accepted by their own kind.
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 bellyor 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 hand?]
[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 forest.]
[Tell me, friend, what family matter has ye on this rotten vessel headed for Stormreach?]
[A mana young bardhas ruined my niece's business and bedded her with no intentions of marriage. Not to mention he stole my best mule,] Nealgig disclosed.
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.