Hilda was about as wide as she was tall. She often joked that while it didn’t help her in love or war, it made her a terrific doorstop. She liked going on nature treks (as long as there was no climbing involved), eating all sorts of exotic food (but go easy on the pepper) and she really, really wanted a house of her own. It’s not that she hated living with her mother and seven sisters. It’s just that this life was hell and she’d have hung herself a long time ago if she wasn’t so short and stubby. Oh, Hilda was a dwarf. I guess I should have started with that.
Hilda was a dwarf. She lived in a magical cave forged from the choicest metals and imbued with potent sorcery. She hated goblins, she loved beer, and she had a huge nose that served her well in her lightless world. She served as a paladin of the Goddess of the Moon (or at least some kind of a planetoid, the decisors hadn’t quite decided yet) and didn’t go anywhere without the Book of Heavenly Deeds. However, since her temple recently went out of business, she was unemployed and a paladin only in theory.
Hilda had a boyfriend. He was a surface dwarf named Gloin who made a living going from town to town telling about great heroes and other rubbish he made up along the way. He wasn’t a great warrior or a great smith but she liked him. They’ve visited many lovely, secret places, and have talked a lot about history and fiction, but this was the extent of their relationship. They each had their separate goals in life, and neither’s goal featured the other. Hilda imagined that Gloin could replace her with any other dwarf with tits if he wanted to, but why bother? There was nothing wrong with her tits.
Hilda was supposed to be looking for vacancies in moon temples seeking paladins for quests or guard duty. However, she spent most of her walking hours (and if she wasn’t sleeping or eating, she was walking) peering into people’s holes, doors, windows, tents, and dimensional portals. Each time she saw something she liked, she made a note in a little booklet she received as a gift from Gloin when he was courting her. The once humble notepad was now a masterpiece of interior design and her most prized possession.
She was certain that if anybody gave her even the tiniest, tiniest domain she’d have the cosiest home in all the realm. But of course, homes cost money and money requires work and paladins were a dime a dozen. Most of them slept in the barracks or mooched off their parents until goblins ate them (and I’ll leave it to you to decide who ‘them’ refers to).
One day, Hilda came upon an ad that caught her attention. It wasn’t an announcement of paladin vocations, or a brochure about exotic places, or a free home offered on the grounds of “by the moon, I’d love to have a home.”
It was all three.
The king of all the land, known as “The King of All The Land,” was looking for a new frontier overseer courier and, um, something else ending in -er. The first requirement for the job was being able to say its title without giggling. On this account Hilda was set. She only laughed when drunk or when people fell off trees (and there were no trees in Dwarf towns). The second requirement was going to a recently discovered dungeon and expropriating enough money to build a keep.
Now, a wizard or a fighter would need a whole lot of money to erect their fancy shmancy keeps, swarming with men-at-arms, apprentices, servants, cohorts, lackeys, minions, followers, talking chandeliers and so forth. However, the paladin class was noted for its focus on individual perfection (why, she even had a power called “I stand alone!” at 10th level. How sad is that?). She could get away with just building herself a nice little home and calling it her austere keep. Asked why she didn’t have any servants or retainers, she’d strike a heroic pose and exclaim, “I stand alone!” That should do the trick.
Finally, she’d have her wide shower leaf, her six-legged scuttling bed, her phasing kwakwa beast and everything else she’s been writing down in her notepad for the past decade. And the final stunner: all she had to do was loot 10,000 gp. Given that even diseased rats had a few hundred coins stacked somewhere these days, this shouldn’t be a problem (unless the rats decided to go to a doctor and use the money to stop being diseased…)
Excited to the point of almost displaying emotion, Hilda ambled home with the intention of leaving for the dungeon as soon as she gathered her stuff. On the way, she made a point of tearing off every kingly leaflet she saw. The less competition she had, the better. It wasn’t the most knightley thing to do, but she figured that if her goddess didn’t cut off her powers after Hilda’s vacation to Kwakwa with Gloin and that cute gnome that joined them, this minor act of selfishness wouldn’t tip the scales.
Her armor and hammer nicely packed, she kissed her mother, her sisters, their children… then shook hands with their husbands, and the siblings of the husbands… and the children of the siblings of their husbands… and their children… (can you see now why she was so desperate to get away?)
By the time she finished all her farewells, it was time for dinner, which was fine since it’s a bad idea to travel on an empty stomach, but then after dinner she was sort of sleepy, so she decided that she might as well leave on the following evening, but then she ran into Gloin who dragged her to see a brass dragon that came to town to preach the faith of rational self interest and, well, they’ve been touching each other all day and they were only human (well, dwarf, but same rules apply…) so they went to their secret cave and… well… None of your business.
Hilda did leave eventually, but only after her younger sister asked, “Well, are you going on this quest or not? I want to have a party and we need your room for the ketchup fight!”
So, smack went the sister and off galloped Hilda!