“Wait!” Medvak stopped dead in his tracks. “You’re an atheist?!”
“Shhh!” Hilda pressed a stubby finger to her lips. “Don’t be dense! How can I be an atheist? I’m a paladin.”
“You just said that religion is a mental crutch.” Medvak raised a giant, hairy finger into the air. “Your words, not mine, you then went on a rant about lack of archeolgical evidence for some stuff and institutional corruption in the Unidwarf Collective…”
“Keep your voice down.” Hilda whispered angrily. “First of all, crutches are good things. Many people wouldn’t survive without crutches. Secondly, of course I believe in the gods. I spoke with my goddess once!”
Medvak looked down skeptically at his stout companion. “Like in a dream?”
Hilda gave him an annoyed look. “In the shower!”
The dwarf spoke over him. “She told me to work harder on the three body problem. I guess she tells it to everyone though.”
“In the shower?!” Medvak all but squealed. “Three body problem? Are you sure you didn’t just fall asleep and--”
“I’m sure!” Hilda hissed. “And stop shouting. This is a dungeon, not a marketplace.”
The dwarf clanked to a halt by a rusty door and raised her medallion. She closed her eyes and saw lots of mundane swords and axes guarded by a trio of hairy hobgoblins playing the knife game. Between the three of them, they had well over fifty fingers, which meant they were pretty good at it.
She waved for Medvak to follow her farther down the corridor. This room wasn’t worth the hustle. The door wasn’t worth the hustle.
“Gods are like the dungeon masters of all the places that aren’t dungeons,” she said after they were well out of the monster’s earshot. A loud roar echoed in the dungeon. Someone must have been not as good as they thought they were.
Medvak tilted his head like a confused puppy. “So… masters?”
Hilda blew raspberries with frustration. “I’m not explaining this well. You should really read my boyfriend’s book.” She hesitated, “Um, if he ever publishes it… Basically, our gods are like the dungeon masters of the monsters which means that their gods are actually our dungeon masters and we are their anti-monsters. Understand?”
“That’s a whole lot of words to say you’re an atheist!” Medvak said with a sly grin.
Hilda bristled and looked away. Humans and their blind faith. Gods loved when dwarfs struggled with them and with each other. That's why each god or goddess had like eighty different cults and several Thousands. In fact, the closest translation of the dwarf word for 'religion' was 'god struggle.' Dwarf decisors argued that arguing brought you closer to the Gods, as did math, engineering, astronomy and sometimes even making love. There were as many views as there were decisors, maybe more. Two dwarfs, three opinions. The exception was the Unidwarf collective, a totalitarian state that seems to take all the wrong lessons from humans.
Hilda didn’t hate human religions, but she was bored by them. Sun and Earth clerics preached that you should repeat the dogmas mindlessly, preferably in a language you didn't understand, or go straight to hell. If you questioned the dogmas, or anything else for that matter, they called you an atheist. That was just boring.
Not Medvak though. He was definitely not boring or dogmatic. Hilda wondered what he believed in, if anything. She didn’t feel like asking though. Maybe later, when she was in a mood for a bedtime story to fall asleep to…
The walls in this section of the dungeon were navy blue and covered in colorful handprint art. It seemed that several species competed over who would get more paint on the walls and smear it closer to the ceiling. Hilda doubted this was the intention, but the effect was quite artistic in a chaotic sort of way. She took out her treasured notebook and scribbled a few quick notes. Medvak peered over her shoulder and tilted his head curiously.
She snapped the notebook shut and gave him a mean look. The man laughed and tousled her hair. She slapped his hand away. “I told you I don’t like being touched! Now listen,” she lowered her voice to a hoarse whisper. “The map says that behind this door there are a few kobolds and a magical staff. I’m sure it’s worth a lot of money. Are you ready?”
“Wait,” Medvak said, all trace of humor gone from his face. “This is a very nice door. Sturdy oak, steel bands, draconic runes… it’s at least a third level door. I don’t think there are just kobolds inside…”
Hilda picked up her ESP medallion and closed her eyes. “I see them clearly. There are four of them. They are dressed in purple robes. One of them is using the staff to draw penises on the walls… why do men always do this?”
“What kind of staff?” the barbarian pressed on.
“I don’t know, I’m not a wizard. It looks expensive and I don’t think a dumb kobold would even know how to use it… want to take a look?” Hilda slid the medallion off her neck and offered it to the barbarian.
Medvak brushed her hand away, again needlessly touching the dwarf. “No, I trust you. You are a lot smarter than I am. Just be careful…”
Hilda rolled her eyes. “It’s just a few kobolds. Stop being a little girl…”
Medvak laughed. "Stop being such a man!"