As the dust settled, Hilda became aware of a neglected but generally intact grand piano, a literal pile of crap, and a giant rat chewing on her greaves like a homicidal chihuahua. The beast was frothing at the mouth, indicating that in addition to piercing damage, it also inflicted the poisoned or diseased condition. Thankfully, Hilda’s goddess provided her with complete immunity to both. As the only dwarf in her lodge who spent her entire childhood with a blocked nose, this boon was one of Hilda’s main reasons to enroll in her Hundred (well that, and that it was the only Hundred willing to accept a girl novice).

Hilda shrieked her battle cry, “He who is with the Goddess, to me!” and brought down her hammer on the vicious rodent with all her strength. It was a terrific attack, straight from the manual. Shame it missed and pulverized a tile instead of flattening the slobbering vermin. Meanwhile, the rat jumped on the dwarf and bit her in one of the few spots not covered by armor -- her armpit.

Hilda shrieked again, this time with pain, and tried to smash the creature by pressing her arm against her body. The thing bounced off of her and landed on the piano, snarling.

The bite was painful, but it was only two points of damage. Hilda had taken more damage from trying to cook dinner with Gloin. (Long story and none of your business.)

The rat lunged. Hilda managed to deflect it with her shield, but the angle was too blunt to cause any damage to the rabid animal. It skipped off the metal surface and clung on the opposite wall. Hilda hurled her battlehammer, but the furry nuisance twisted away at the last moment. Barely dodging the explosive impact that showered the room with bits of rock and plaster, and a whole lot of choking dust.

Hilda spread her fingers and the weapon flew right back into her expecting hand. While the attack wasn’t a hit, it wasn’t a total waste of time either. The damage to the wall revealed a small secret door painted to look like part of the wall. As soon as she was done with the disgusting thing--

The rat attacked again and this time its incisors punched right through her sabaton, causing an annoying one point of damage. Hilda cursed and tried to stomp the thing’s ugly head. While she knew it was impossible, she could swear it laughed at her as it bounced away from the clumsy attack. She rolled her eyes and exhaled sharply through her nose. “Why don’t you just die?”

The rat charged. Hilda tried to bisect it with her shield but it dodged the heavy metal plate and gave her a nasty bite on the butt for her trouble. It didn’t pierce her armor, but it did scratch her ego. Hilda sighed. Its attacks are about as effective as throwing rocks at the moon, but then again I also fight back about as effectively as-- Wait a minute!

Hilda had a lunatic idea. No, don’t worry. Lunacy is good. It comes from Luna. Here is how it went: Hilda didn’t care if the rat lived or died. All she needed was its treasure. She was immune to poison and disease, which only left the rat’s puny bites. It would take ages until its attacks resulted in real injury. Not like, say, dropping hot omelette on your face while… nevermind! Moving on!

Point being: screw the rat, let’s get the treasure.

Totally ignoring the hairy verruca’s bites and snarls, Hilda went to examine the secret door. She tried to push it, but nothing happened. The rat bit deep into her neck and squeaked with fury as all it tasted was moonlight and apathy. Oh wow, two points of damage. Almost as bad as stepping on a toy horse in kindergarten…

Hilda absentmindedly shrugged it off and tried to pull instead. Nadda.

Hmmm… She guessed the piano had something to do with the lock mechanism, but first she’d try a more meteoric approach. Technically, she was only supposed to smite monsters and heretics, but who was going to complain: the rat or the wall?

Hilda raised her hammer (with the toothy bother hanging from her elbow) and chanted, “Great luna, bless me with meteoric might!” The weapon’s head burned like a rock entering the atmosphere. (Another reason Hilda joined the cult was because she loved astronomy as a kid). The rat meanwhile shoved its snout into her armor and tried to bite her boob. She giggled: its whiskers were ticklish.

Wielding her battlehammer like a human croquet player, she hit the wall and ka-boom! The lock was still there, but the door oozed lava from a hole in its center. Realizing it was about to lose its treasure, the rat panicked and hopped through the hole.

Hilda crouched and looked inside. She saw a purple purse filled with gold, lying by a wooden door on the other side of the chamber, this one clean and sturdy. Ignoring the slobbering brute, she shoved a hand inside and snatched the purse.

It was pleasantly heavy: 750 gp heavy to be precise. The rat all but lost its mind as it assaulted her gauntlet. Despite all its rage, the attack had only caused one point of damage -- a small nick to her pinkie.

“Ouch.” Hilda pulled her hand away and cast mending on the damaged door, trapping the rat inside. “Now, despite all your rage, you really are just a rat in a cage!”

She considered writing ‘warning: diseased rat inside’ on the secret door but decided against it: this was a competition and no one was handing out prizes for being nice.

After making sure her gold was secure under her armor, she cast a healing spell that fully restored her hit points and continued down the corridor. A slight downward inclination indicated that she was headed for the second level of the dungeon. Wow, that was fast… Wish I didn’t waste two spell slots on this first level encounter…

The new corridor was relatively clean, but crawling with spiders and centipedes and buzzing with mosquitos and flies. After a few turns and a few girly screams, the young dwarf found herself facing a crossroad, both literally and metaphorically. Hilda removed her helmet and used the pointy top to scratch her chin, as she often did when deep in thought and not in any immediate danger of having her skull bashed in.

In front of her there was a sturdy steel door that smelled of grease and metal -- probably a guardroom or an armory. These kinds of places usually had tough guardians but sometimes offered magical arms and armor. Both were worth a lot of money.

To her left was a nice, clean corridor with two orange doors, both of which she was quite sure led to second level monsters. Something clanked farther down the corridor, outside the range of her darkvision. She sniffed at the air but sensed nothing unusual. So many people had used this floor as a latrine/ dump she could hardly smell anything through the background stench. To a creature that relied on olfaction as much as hearing and eyesight, this was akin to trying to overhear a conversation in a flashing room full of toddlers, pots, and tablespoons.

To her right was a much cleaner passage with a much sharper incline -- probably leading to third level monsters. It smelled of sugar and spice and everything nice: either high level adventurers were having a picnic, or it offered unorthodox treasure. Regardless, it made her mouth water and her stomach growl.

There was also the option of going back and looking for more first level rooms near the great hall (hopefully they weren’t looted by the halfling and his ilk yet). She could even go back farther and deposit her newfound gold with the djinn: a prudent but time-consuming option.

Hilda frowned and scratched the back of her head. If only there was some way she could contact Gloin… Talking to him always helped her make decisions. They were almost never good decisions because Gloin lived in a made up fantasy realm and not the real world, but any decision is better than no decision. Hmm… what to do, what to do…?

A note from Urikson

Whatever is a dwarf girl to do?

Support "Hilda Finds a Home"

About the author


Bio: I like going to cool places and then making up stuff about them.

Criticism is very welcome! :)

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