“Look away.” Hilda commanded Medvak after the fire was safely put out and the tools of adventuring were packed -- carefully ordered in a box in Medvak’s case and viciously crammed into a backpack in Hilda’s case. She accentuated the command by revolving her stubby little finger in front of her.
“Why?” Medvak tilted his head curiously. “Are you going to backstab me and take all my money?”
“Very funny.” The dwarf gave him a morose look. “I want to change.”
“Maybe I don’t want to look away,” Medvak replied with a sly grin.
Hilda crossed her arms under her breasts. “Then I’ll go to the forest and get eaten by fire frog lizardmen and you’ll feel bad.”
Medvak guffawed and turned around to stare at the lovely morning wood, um, woods. Behind him he heard the rustling of cloth and the jingling of braids. “Is that why you were so eager to go kill some lizardmen last night?”
“Nope,” the dwarf spoke from behind him. “It’s because I promised them we’ll go fight a green dragon.”
“We can’t fight a green dragon!” Medvak protested. “I mean, we can fight, but we can’t win…”
“I know!” The dwarf blurted impatiently. “We aren’t really going to do that. I’m a paladin, not a suicide bomber. Besides, there’s no glory (or profit) in defeat.”
“Aren’t you a paladin of truth though?” Medvak glanced over his shoulder to see his companion fishing out her braids through the neck of her tunic. He figured it was safe to turn back now.
“So?” Hilda smoothed her new tunic. It looks exactly like her old tunic, except it had less stains. “Truth is precious. It must be earned. Like gold. You can’t just go about handing it out to everyone. It’s bad practice.”
The dwarf commenced donning the myriad parts of her armor, once again vehemently refusing Medvak’s offer of assistance.
“Seems I have a lot to learn about dwarf paladins...” the barbarian said philosophically as he watched the cute potato turn into a battle potato.
Hilda waved his concern away. “It’s not interesting. Better tell me about where we should go next… You need doors and I need money.”
Two men stood at the entrance to the dungeon, studying a huge map they were holding upside down. One was a big, dumb and pretty knight with a sun painted on his shield. The other was a cleric in red robes and the kind of hairstyle that really drew your attention to the fact he had no hair. He leaned on a long staff tipped with in a blindingly bright yellow crystal. Though he was much shorter than his knightly companion, he still stood a head over Hilda. Everyone did.
Hilda sighed. All she wanted was to spend some time alone in a dungeon to save enough money to build a small keep and then spend a few years alone turning it into a beautiful home. Instead, she’d made peanuts in three days of hard fighting and was now surrounded by towering humans -- a breed even chattier than dwarf ladies.
Medvak was fine. He was a bit impertinent but he also had a kind of sincerity she found commendable. He was a genuinely good person, a treasure as rare as a straightforward decisor… or a ghoul with a taste for poetry.
Ugh. Overall, Hilda found the company of the bouncy monster enjoyable… in small doses. The ghoul, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of Hilda. For a moment Hilda remembered the taste of the monster’s tongue in her mouth and almost threw up. Again, this unbridled sincerity. Whatever was Hilda to do with these friendly giants? What would the Goddess of the Moon do? Maybe it was a good idea to read the Good Book after all…
However, these were Philly and Medvak. Right now, Hilda was headed in a collision course with a pair of humans who worshipped the Great God of the Sun, a religion that was similar enough to her own to prevent bloodshed, but not similar enough to prevent endless debates. Well, more like preaching. Humans weren’t fond of debates, especially with other humanoid races. Luckily, Hilda’s own deity couldn’t care less what infidels thought; she barely cared about this planet. Hilda wasn’t obliged to defend the goddess’ honor. The great cosmic spirit could do it well enough herself with the help of a taciturn little paladin that spent most of her time looking at people's elbows and crotches.
“Greeting!” Medvak shouted with a smile as bright as sunrise. Hilda wanted to stab him.
“Ugh!” the dwarf grunted.
“What?” Medvak whispered.
“Sun priests…” Hilda explained.
“Isn’t the sun and the moon basically the same?” Medvak asked, surprised at his friend’s indignation. The more time he spent away from home, the happier he was about his people’s spiritualism. It was so wonderfully simple. There were lots of spirits around. If you did nice things for them, they did nice things for you. If you were an ass to them, you were run over by wild asses. If you weren’t sure what a spirit wanted, you could just ask it.
This god business was too confusing. It seemed to have more to do with books written about books written about people who wrote about gods than with the actual gods. As far as the barbarian was concerned, the only thing this achieved was to trap people in endless rituals they couldn’t understand and turn allies into enemies due to minute differences most people couldn’t perceive. It was like professional board game players fighting over rules and editions, except instead of the worst outcome being an overturned table, the worst outcome was genocide.
Gods. Pfff. I’ll take a grumpy old bear or a fox who tells bad jokes over all the heavenly bodies any day of the week!
Medvak realized that in his meditation, he missed the dwarf’s answer. It was too late to ask again. The two adventuring pairs were already within handshake/ stabbing distance.
The tall knight flashed a smile as bright as a window during sunset and offered his gauntleted hand to the barbarian. He was slightly taller than Medvak, but less broad at the shoulder. “Greetings fellow human and fellow sky-worshipper! My companion and I came from the Old Empire to purge this dungeon of evil in the name of the Great God of the Sun and all of humanity! Fret not, for we did not come to loot -- ours is a holy war against evil!”
The old man sighed. “What my companion is trying to say is that we came here to gain a few levels. My name is Kadash,” he nodded in the direction of the tall knight. “And this is Aber-Peh’gad. Since we’re mostly after XP, we’d like to go in a separate direction from you. Don’t worry, we’ll leave nine tenth of the loot behind. We can’t take it anyway.”
Hilda didn’t say anything, but her eyes visibly brightened at the mention of empty rooms (almost) filled with loot. Medvak smiled: She really is a misanthropic little creature. I wonder if all dwarfs are like her.
The dwarf bowed and made the sign of the moon. “May the Goddess of the Moon protect you in darkness just as your deity protects us in light. Go now and conquer with the blessing of my lady.”
“Why thank you, little dwarf!” the knight tousled Hilda’s hair. She glared at him but said nothing. “Good luck to you two as well!” he told the barbarian. “Kadash and I plan to light a sacred pyre here at sunset. You’re welcome to join us and learn more about the fire of justice and the path of goodness!”
“We’ll definitely…” Medvak winced as Hilda pinched him from behind, “um, try to come.”
“Amazing!” the knight exclaimed and turned on his heel to march into darkness, his gold-and-alabaster cape fluttering behind him.
“Um,” Hilda called after the holy pair, “there’s a green dragon in the deepest level of the dungeon.”
The knight and cleric stared at her for a bit and then turned away and disappeared into the dungeon.
“Are you sure you’re a paladin?” Medvak asked after the two were outside of hearing distance.
“Sure, I’m sure. I didn’t break this asshole’s hand, did I?” Hilda shook her head like a cat rubbed against the grain. “How dare he touch me? I’m also a paladin… And a judge appointed by the Goddess! And that old fart, he-- oh shit.” Hilda's normally taciturn expression was instantly replaced with concern.
“What?” Medvak asked. “You missed some obscure religious rite I’m too barbarian to understand?”
“No, you big oaf!” Hilda snarled. “These guys are after levels, not treasure. They’ll be going for the big chambers with no treasure and lots of traps and monsters, not the little ones that we like to loot.”
“So?!” Hilda cried. “Philly lives in the nearest big chamber! To them, she’d be nothing but a few hundred XP and a pile of garbage that would look great on a bonfire. She had a few traps that protected her, but these are gone now... because of me!”
“Shit!” Medvak agreed. “What are we gonna do?”
“I have no freaking idea!" Hilda began pacing around. "Anything I can think of results in either my goddess hating me or me hating me... and we're both salty bitc-- girls!"
Hilda sighed. "Oh, what a shitty way to start a morning!”