The Gnome and The Wizard’s Pact
Enriched in the chasm of Fondergrund, beneath where the fey venture from toadstool to shimmerglass, stands a transient troll, gnawing on a tenroot. It crunches with an indiscriminate noise, loud and harsh, disturbing the subtle peace of the underground continent. That which it sees is either food, or a mild inconvenience. It cannot die, and its stink is even too pungent for its own giant nostrils to stand. It crunches up dried mushroom caps to clog it’s congested, slimy nasal passage, grumbling noises of snorting and hacking seem to tremble the ground beneath it with feverish coughs. Even the root cannot put off the sickness it feels, but still, it trudges onward, into the darkness. A thirst for gnome blood seems to be the motivation of its quest.
The underground continent is amassed in darkness. Pleasantries of dark, symphonic streams trickle blissfully under fireflies and glowing snails. Gnomes, dwarves, and even goblins reside in the darkness, able to accept the thermal heat of open stalactites billowing out ash that would kill lesser creatures of the top world. There, working in the cover of chrome-slick Fonderash, chipping with adamantine picks, and a humming whistle of parch white lips, worked Borgot Nifflehammer. The Fonderash came off in clumps pieces, a solidus substance that was treasured for brick-building, and used in many ailment remedies, to which the dwarven community seek, recklessly clobbering at veins, wherever they may be.
For Borgot, it was the extra sniverlinbonds that made him so frightfully weary to venture off in the darkest reaches of the under continent, and embrace the maddening dark, to which itself seemed a solid sheet with every heave of the pickaxe. He also loved isolationism. For a culture that prided itself on vast community, Borgot was thankful to get a few moments alone without the singing, and praising of the other gnomes. His bulging arms cut deep into the darkness, and swished through the silence of the morose, black side of the Fonderash dwellings, allowing pieces to fall expertly into a well-placed wheelbarrow below. Just his deep humming, the swift crinkle of air to the ax, and a sludgy, satisfying bang of the Fonderah was all that kept him sane in a world of cacophonous nonsensical hymns of the Minor gods, and the robotic chanting to the mithril-powered beacons. He wasn’t of deep faith, he knew the miner gods shined down a billowing breeze of cavern winds to warm the cold bones of the under-continent residence, but he never sought to have such warmth in his life. The jutting of the pickaxe. to the wall, and the money that came from chilly sweat from off his brow, that was Borgot's purpose.
A jingle and jutting wedge clanged on something much harder than Fonderash, and jostled the poor gnome awake in a shaking vibrating pain. His thoughts have gotten the better of him as he had been careening his beloved ax into the deepness of the dark earth, that he had not realized the vein ran through, and something beyond typical tools lies beneath.
“Fricken Bogom! What of the fiendish deplorable magoats has whistled my adamantine blade! What substance but itself could clang so strong an alloy? What be this a chattering of teeth, and a breeze of cold ire that stops my progression to obtain such precious ore?”
He looked down at his sooty hand, and with a vision that comes only from the blindness of sheer black, did he see truly that it was not soot, but his own chapped hands bleeding from the rot-wood handle.
“Bogom! Bogom to all Anterlan! Let me feel….ah!” his chagrin turned to appeasement, as wiping away his bleeding palms, he felt the cooling touch of the rock beneath the vein. It was a sullen sort of iron, something that wraiths and the undead have used for eons. No more useful to a gnome than a sundial, but it was very, very convenient that he had come upon it. Spectregloss, or Spiritshale, was as thin as paper, but as difficult to pound and chip as the core of Fonderland. Borgot gleefully rubbed his hands together, knowing that he was about to carve out a nice chunk of material, and he knew the right buyers to sell. The necromancers of Downing Ward, a peculiarly eccentric group, that would be the best to drink with, just make sure they haven’t slipped something of dire into your mead, for you might then wind up a stone on a cold slab, the next day sold as a revenant.
He gently let himself down from his climbing rope, and gathered his tool kit, replacing his pickaxe, and taking out his chisel and mallet. Borgot had a local mage enchant the chisel with exploding properties, that set off little heat fractures into some of the tougher elements he had found. It only heated at the end for a few moments, then would clang and cut into almost anything. He whistled at the heavier chisel, weighted down with the powers of a mad mage’s spell, and the masonry was there for the taking. He readjusted the heft of the wheelbarrow, and was about to begin his ascent towards the coveted Spirit Shale, when he heard a grumble.
Most gnomes care not much for a grumble or growl, especially gnomes shaped like Borgot, but this sort of grumbling sent a nice hot slick up his tapered spine. He shivered at the notion of heat and danger from behind him, as he slowly turned, pocketing his chisel and mallet.
“Squeaky little chalk man. I smell your blood. You wounded?” the gleeful troll revealed in the familiar scent of gnome blood. Borgot was familiar with the habits of trolls, but never would his overworked nostrils be prepared for the slimy, grotesque stench that shimmered off of the creature in front of him. He also knew they weren’t very bright…yet he knew that if he didn’t act quickly, he would be swallowed whole, screaming in the vacuum of the belly of the disgusting monster.
“Aye! I’d be just fine you bloody troll! Away with you before I call my fellas, and we cut you to such small pieces, you’ll never pull yourself together again!”
“Heh, big words from such a small chalkman, I don’t see friends, seems you left behind. Smell rather tasty. I like the smell, you’ll fill me well!” The troll jumped, and quickly, Borgot swung around, smashing the troll in the back of the skull with his mallet. The troll collapsed in a sickening thud, rumbling the whole under-earthen cavern. Windbats flew by in a stringy wisp, breaking up the darkness with glistening leather wings.
The troll was incapacitated, but only for a mere moment, as the head began to reconstruct itself back to form, the cracking and twisting of the skull-plate of it’s egregiously long head snapped back into place. Such an abomination, nearly impossible to kill, the troll again stood up, as though not one blow was landed. It let out a grunt, and looked up at the gnome, that began to shimmy up back towards the vein. The monster let out a harrowing scream, which for a mere second shook Borgot alive again, and he stepped up the rope.
The gnome began to climb back up, scaling the side of the cliff. He reached the empty vein, and with his hands felt the Specter Gloss, and with a furtive scramble, chipped away at the shale, and began tossing it down quickly and angrily, purposefully aiming about the troll, which had started to pull itself up again. One piece came down and sliced right through its skull. The gangrenous howls it let out in pain shook the cavern like a dragon, and Borgot lost his footing.
“Cursed Troll! Idiotic beast! Have this! And this! And this you smelly bastard!” The gnome cut a bit more off the cliff, then skated down, jumping onto the troll with all his might, and slamming the magical chisel into the troll’s brain. With one tap, the head exploded into a bright light, seen for miles throughout Wunderground.
“No!” it gargled out, but it didn’t come back up again. This time, it stayed down, and it stayed down for good. Borgot Nifflehammer heaved in great stale winds into his crystalline lungs, avoiding becoming the meal of a monstrosity. He gathered up all the pieces and headed into the depth of the cavern. This was going to be a good day, a very good day indeed. The sniverlinbonds would his, and he knew that this day especially he would finally make enough to pay off his debts. He looked back one last time at the heap of trolls, and it was still on fire, the smog coming off the corpse seemed to fill the air with something sinister. Borgot shook this off, he had bigger monsters to battle than a troll. Yet something was unshakable in the bawdy gnome’s mind...something terrifying, that would follow him all the way back….back to Candermaul Bowers.
Candermaul Bowers is an ancient dwarven city. It houses dwarves, gnomes, and Flashes. The dwarves had welcomed the gnomes, but found them to be somewhat distrustful and the Flashes, being specters of creatures from the Abovegrounds that were incapable of making it to Corte, were just there, and living the afterlife in misery. The sprawling catacombs leading out of the ancient dwarven city lead Borgot back home. Hundreds of thousands of orcs and gnomes rustled about the streets, carting away goods of all kinds: odd trinkets, magical heirlooms, gold, and silver. The economy of the City of infinite Darkness was bustling. Traders from all over Fondergrund came to Candermaul Bowers for relaxation, business, and the occasional wooing of something exotic. Borgot was a native of Candermaul Bowers, but he never was anything but fascinated with his lowly hole in the obsidian cliff-sides. There, he was able to relax, read his arcana texts, and learn the mystical arts of mineralcrafting to which his ancestors have gained notoriety. He did however owe monies, and monies now would be owed to him. Many eyed his precious lot as he strolled into the city, the cart was heavy with debt, and payments were to be made soon, or else trouble would bludgeon him like the aforementioned troll.
“Hoy! There goes that crazy-eyed galvanizer of a gnome! Whatshisname? Ay! Borgot! Borgot Nifflehammer! Barely a rock in his skull! Thinks he’s better than us lot! He makes quarry with those rambunctious necromancers he does! Dead men’s parties, and magmoat soirees! Disgraceful to us humble gnomes! Baraeck Fleck! Complete fool he be!”
Borgot heard the slander, he wasn’t a stranger to the disdain many held for his ways, and that gnomes are a rather friendly, social bunch, he was rather the antithesis of a true gnome, always placating his life to a hermit in a city full of brotherly love. Still, he let the insults wash over him, and heeded his primary goal: he was to find a trader, and begone of much of his minerals. The Fonderash would fetch him a good chunk of what he owed to Balorn, a seedy wizard that gave favors for fortune. Even the dreaded necromancers tended to avoid business with the psychotic magician. Still, Borgot was desperate, and he measured the risks, and saw only the rewards to his deepest, darkest desires. Now, payment was due, and nobody kept a wizard from his pay, or else they were turned into a toadstool and plucked from the underearth, thrown into an ogre stew, and never to be anything more than green shite.
Still, Barlorn the Wildgent was more ferocious than gentlemanly, and would not have dissonance in what was owed to him. Perhaps all who gain such powerful magic turn out to be so crafty, so insane, as it is in no man’s nature, to wield such abilities. Still, Barlorn would be pleased, and the necromancers would sow the rest of his capital with good barter. The first stop was the Curmudgeon, a rather poorly designed shop, but with excellent taste in mystical items. Singing swords, and all that lot, with powerful concoctions, while also brandishing elixirs for most common, and uncommon ailments that may arise in the midst of battle, or the heated encounters of a drunken night at the Gawky Pratchett with a rather unkempt ogre named Pebble.
Borgot shook off the memory. He approached the store-keep, and with his heft, dropped off all of the Founderash onto the table.
“Ya got nerves of malachite comin’ back ‘ere Nifflehammer! Everyone in the Bowers knows you’re on borrowed time! The wizards’ lookin’ for ya. You don’t get outta ‘is shadow fer long!” Greystone Brickenbryer, a rather stout dwarf turned around with a clasping metal gauntlet, picking up the Fonderash, and placing it in the back of the shop.
“Far be it for me to say what a good heist is, but even I ain’t stupid enough to try and roll over a wizard! You’re in for a rude awakening small boy! The witch ain’t gonna take it easier on ya because you’re a gnome! He’ll torture like he does even the giants in the char! They’re massive foes! Bigger than the greatest spire of our city! Even they quake at the wizard! Barlorn is mad! Evil! He is not like a dwarven or gnomish kind! We take care of our own...the wizard...he will fly you to the top of the mountain, and throw you in the magma top!”
Greystone counted out some sniverlinbonds, it wasn’t as much as Borgot was expecting to receive, but it was good enough for the haul.
“I crushed the skull of a troll, twice! I’ll handle a wizard, he’ll get his just due! I pay in-full! Never be any gnome to doubt my pay!” Borgot slammed his hammer down on the table, knocking over a pile of phoenix plumes out of an inkwell. One burst into flames and vanished into dust, evaporating into the coal and soot atmosphere.
“Aye! Now you pay me back for the damned Phoenix quill! Runes written with them never fade, and become enchanted! It is said a writer of one dies, and rises again in the rock his name is writ! One is worth your haul and then-some, Niffler Hammer!”
“Put it on a tab then! The wizard is a priority! And you don’t get paid if I wind up dead! I’ll buy the whole lot of them, I will!!”
Greystone snubbed his nose, and wrote up a tab, sticking it on the inside wall of his shop so Borgot could blatantly see.
“If you had used those smarts and skills to make something more of yourself than some blasted chiseler, you wouldn’t be begging for a cursed wizard to give you faulty wishes! What was it you even got? Death could not be worth whatever pact you’ve made with that blasted areshole!”
Borgot took his money, and shuffled out the door with his barrow. He had to travel rather far for the necromancers, but he knew it would have to wait until a rest. It would be impractical to brave the underbelly of darkness with all the monsters coming out in the deepest of darkest pits. Instead he rode up the cliff-side, pushing his wheelbarrow with a bit of hesitance, as Gresytone’s words weighed far heavier on him than he suspected.
Perhaps what he wanted wasn’t worth the money...the threat of a terrible death. Wizards were conniving fiends, even for the standards of the darkest treachery he’d encountered throughout his life...still, the wizard must know the answer, and must grant him what he desires. Magic, be it dark, or light, somehow magnifies itself to those who best seek it with the best intentions...albeit, the worst ideas.
His legs grew tired, and his desire to climb into his bedding grew surprisingly quick after the encounter with the brash dwarf. Though the words stung him far more harshly than a swipe of a manticore, he had known the harsh truth of Greystone’s words. He was a lazier gnome, for gnome standards, but not for his lack of ethic. He wanted more, and he always had trouble accepting his place. Gnomes, being gnomes are workhorses for Dwarves, who are, but won’t admit it, workhorses for the Terras, a group of elven creatures with dark red eyes, and fangs as long as an orc’s tusks. They were unique to the city of Miasmaen, but seemed to come from the richest, and most powerful of pedigrees. Borgot didn’t much care for these elves, and barely cared enough about the dwarves. He felt to be his own gnome, one that was caught up in the adventure of the underground continent; and the wizard was to be his way out of Candermaul Bowers.
There came the call of the Terra’s Scorn, a loud rumbling that shook with a low pressure inside the heads of all of Candermaul residents. Borgot shook it off, but knew it meant that the Terras would be coming for a visit, likely to see how the investment into the city was going, and perhaps to make some shady side deals. It wasn’t his concern, but he knew that the elves could take the city, and enslave the lot if they so choose. Their magic was unstoppable, their viciousness was rivaled only by goblins and trolls, and they had a certain charm that made them more terrifying than monsters ten times their size. The Terra’s would be coming tomorrow, but his hope was to be long-gone before their arrival, and his return well after their departure. Tomorrow he would finally be able to pay the wizard. He found some enthusiasm by this notion, and with it, pressed further up the hill towards his humble home.
Borgot reached his dwelling, and clambered inside with the last of his Spiritshale, and climbed onto his rocky bed. The foreboding desire to sleep rushed upon him like a magical dusting, and blinking the harsh realities of his world away...the nightmare of what’s to come from Balorn the Wildgent, he perished his energies, and a deathlike slumber stilled his worrying mind. For tomorrow the necromancers will pay him more than his need for the wizard...but something felt off in this strange tossing and turning of nightmarish fever. Something felt all-too-real. Something...was watching him sleep, and he could do nothing but fall deeper and deeper downward into darkest dreams.