AR 1214-10-01 Krunch's Plan
Krunch slammed his hammer into his father’s shield with all his might, but Kendric took the blow easily, not flinching at the fury of the strike. Blow after blow was absorbed by the elder dwarf’s shield until Krunch, face red with effort and with sweat rolling down his face, stepped back for a moment to catch his breath and dropped his hammer.
The move was an attempt by the young dwarf to fool his father as he drew dual battle axes with lightning speed and tried in vain to get past the ever present shield by striking left then right, high followed by low. The few blows that got past the shield were deftly turned aside by Kendric’s axe.
Grunting in frustration, the young dwarf seemed to change tactics yet again, this time swinging both axes high. At the last moment it was revealed as a feint when he instead crouched down low doing a sweeping blow at his father’s legs, using one axe to knock the shield to the side just long to get in a solid blow with the other axe.
“That was a good move.” Kendric congratulated his son “Ye have ta break the pattern sometimes, do somethin’ not expected.”
Seemingly satisfied that he had finally gotten a blow through, Krunch backed away sheathing his axes and picking up his hammer while mopping his sweaty face with a rag.
“Do we have any more of that Goblin Crusher ale?” Krunch asked casually.
“Aye, as always” came the easy reply, letting Krunch know that his father was certain they were alone. Kendric never let on how he was so certain, it was an unspoken agreement that the fewer people that knew the better.
Sitting on a bench in the small practice room, Krunch put his face in his hands while Kendric hung his shield on the wall. Gunthyr, his axe, remained at his side as it always did.
“What can I do? I be between the hammer and the anvil.” Krunch said with a face redenning with more than just exertion. “Tha third strike is bound ta happen, we have na more idea who tha spy is than we did a year ago.”
Kalistar spoke from the corner where he had been sitting quietly watching. “What was the prophecy again?”
Closing his eyes, Krunch repeated what the old soothsayer had told him “I see ye are king’s son and are kind and brave. But thar is somethin’ else I see that is clouding yer heritage. A male dwarf with red hair. Ye are his son also. Very confusin’. In tha future I see him releasin’ ye from yer bindins. He is embracin’ ye. I do not see which is tha truth and which is tha falsehood. Ye must find that out fer yerself.”
Shaking his head he continued “I been thinkin’ tha dwarf in tha vision be Durbar, Tola’s husband an’ father of tha child that was birthed on me own date o’ birthen.” with a sigh he finished “An’ he be thinkin’ I be joinin’ him someday.”
Kendric grunted in disgust “He ain’t nothin’ but a thug.” he continued through clenched teeth “An’ he ain’t gettin’ me son.”
The King of the Golden Eagle Clan stared at the wall above Krunch’s head for a few moment before speaking in an even tone, barely containing pent up anger “It be that idiot Ober, believin’ every rusted charge brought against ye.”
“He’s done pulled tha strings and has a provisional seat on tha council. Provisional” Kendric spat “fer a decade.”
Spinning and pulling Gunthyr in a smooth movement he struck the chipped wooden pole used for practicing blows, sinking the axe head deep into the wood. “I long fer tha days when I could jest look me enemy in the eyes” Pulling the axe out, he swung again before continuing “right afore I removed thar fool heads from thar necks.”
It was not lost on Kalistar or Krunch that the blow was precisely at dwarf neck height but neither spoke, rarely having seen Kendric this angry.
Pulling the axe out with an audible grunt Kendric continued, his voice rough with anger “I ken jest disband tha council. Be done with tha lot. Laris and Curly would support me takin’ control.”
“Da… ye can na’ do that. Ye would be no better than King Ovim!” Krunch protested.
Kendric spun, his axe seemingly poised for a blow “Don’t be speakin’ ill o’ tha dead.”
Krunch didn’t flinch as he responded “Ye were tha one that taught me ta speak tha truth. All me life I been proud o’ the fact that ye been takin’ a different path. Bringin’ back tha old ways an’ tha old laws of a council. Not bein’ a tyrant rulin’ by sanction an’ decree alone.”
Kendric seemed to barely notice his axe as he lowered it, listening to his son.
“Do ye remember tha time I needed tha mushroom fer Sparky? Ye could’a jest ordered tha gardener ta let me have it. Ye did na’ do that. Ye made me solve me own problem in me own way.” With a crooked grin he continued “Rissa still thinks ye’re weak acause of it. But I be thinkin’ it be one o’ yer strengths.”
“Ye could order everyone around. Ye could dictate everyone’s lives an’ most’d follow cuz they want ta be in a clan. They want ta be safe and ye’ve provided a safe haven.”
Krunch waited for a moment before his father nodded for him to continue “But ye don’t do that. An’ it makes us all stronger. Like mixin’ copper an’ zinc ta get brass. By havin’ thar own voice, thar own choices we be buildin’ a clan all tha stronger. I do na’ like Ober any more than ye do, but he is within the law. An’ I can na’ be above tha law or the whole system starts ta rust.”
Kendric let out a deep sigh and seemed to deflate slightly “So ye were occasionally payin’ attention when I was talkin’.” Sheathing his axe once more, he calmly considered the options “I’d say Ober has tha mental fortitude o’ coal dust but that’d be insultin’ tha dust. But as the sayin’ goes, keep’ yer friends close an’ yer enemies closer. I could come up with a reason ta kick Ober off tha council afore his term is done. O’ course then he’d just rile up folks, an’ have just cause fer it too.”
Shaking his head he finished “I need ta give him enough fuel ta burn hisself to tha ground. Let him prove he’s nothing’ but fancy platin’ on an empty jug. Which means we need ta think o’ another option.”
Kalistar broke the momentary silence that followed “Did I ever tell you about the time I was trapped by a dragon in a cave with no escape?” Not waiting for a reply he continued “It was long before I met your grandmother and not long after I started adventuring.”
Pausing to clear his throat meaningfully, he glanced at Kendric “All this talking is making my throat dry.” in a voice that suddenly seemed to be coming from someone at death’s door. Kalistar had grown up around humans and never picked up a dwarven accent but had developed a fondness for the type of ale that only dwarves could brew.
Chuckling slightly Kendric pulled out the small keg he always seemed to have in his bag of holding. “Odd how one o’ tha kegs done disappeared on us. Hope it twas appreciated.” as he poured out three generous mugs.
Krunch suddenly found himself too engrossed in the ale to respond with more than just a muffled neutral response. He had requisitioned the ale when the group got back from Milinar to share with Yari, Sardi, Geo, Franziska and Zen. There was little else he could do to ease their grief.
After a sip of ale and a deep sigh Kalistar continued with the story “So there I was. Not long out of Quag’s Keep, so green behind my ears I could hide in tall grass. Trapped by a nasty piece of work dragon with only a few goblins for company.”
“The goblins of course didn’t appreciate my company and wanted to feed me to the dragon. I didn’t like that plan much so I went to talk to the dragon.”
“Well, I made a deal with that dragon. Explained how I was kind of tough and gristly and that I wouldn’t go down without a fight. Not that I would have been much of a challenge but I might have chipped a tooth on the way down. So I explained how I could serve him up plenty of tasty goblins and he wouldn’t have to dig around in the tunnels for them himself where they would have all the advantage.”
Kalistar took a long drink of ale before continuing with a faraway look “It worked for a while too. I’d hunt up a goblin or two every day for the dragon to eat. It was a pretty good deal. I was cleaning out the tunnels, which was part of what I had originally been commissioned for, and he was disposing of the bodies.”
“Then one day I started running low on goblins. And this dragon, dang this dragon could eat. And eat. I knew the last day I delivered his snack would be the day he started thinking dwarf might be a fine desert. But I had a secret up my sleeve.”
Chuckling softly “The goblins had been raiding nearby gnomes – the very ones that hired me – and had run off with a barrel of smoke powder.” Grimacing now, he continued “It’s outlawed now for good reason, but smoke powder is dangerous stuff. Explodes with the merest spark. It was a small miracle the goblins hadn’t already blown themselves up.”
“Anyway, when I took out the last pair of goblins I skinned ‘em empty and filled their innards with the smoke powder. Then I fed them to the dragon, who of course after so many days of my feeding him snapped them up without even thinking.”
Kalistar finished his story with a grin “Did I mention it was a red dragon?”
“So I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to give them what they want.” The elderly dwarf waved off the startled reactions of his son and grandson “Or at least convince them that we’re giving them what they want.”
Looking at Krunch he asked “This has got to be your call of course. What I’m about talking about is very dangerous. Probably doomed to failure. If you don’t want to risk it, we’ll find some other way.”
The young dwarf didn’t hesitate “If’n I can end this once and fer all, I’m in.”
Kendric merely grunted “Ye should hear what tha old buzzard has ta suggest first.”
Kalistar waggled his finger at his son before speaking directly to his grandson “I’m thinking that we have two adversaries that we know of. We have it on good word that the synidicate is spreading throughout Thunder Rift, replacing old leaders with members of their own choosing. Then of course there’s this Master we’re hearing so much about. It’s probably Durbar like you suspect but we should get into the habit of calling him the Master. Wouldn’t do to slip at the wrong time.”
“But there’s something that doesn’t add up.” Kalistar took a drink of ale “Like Kendric said, the Master is a thug and a bully. He doesn’t have the brains, the resources or the power to pull this off. He’s a puppet and I’d bet The Lich Lord, Lady Kolfinna, is behind it all.”
Drinking the last of the ale, Kalistar merely held out the mug to Kendric for a refill before he continued. “So we can attack it two-fold. Attack or weaken the syndicate while trying to get closer to the Master. We know he’s in Milinar now or soon will be. The type of man that works for the syndicate is probably in it for the gold, so we might be able to buy support from some of them. If not bribe, intimidate. If that doesn’t work, eliminate. Once you get to the master, you can cut his strings and see who comes calling.”
“Hmmm, I can divert some of tha funds from tha new mines…” Kendric started, only to be cut off by his son.
“Ye’re stretched too thin with fightin’ tha orcs an’ buildin out fer tha new refugees.” Krunch paused, thinking out loud “Besides, if tha plan is ta get close to Dur…err…the master then it has ta look like I done it on me own. A king’s son would na’ be joinin’ forces with a syndicate. An’ thar’s the issue of tha third strike.”
“Aye an’ how do we communicate?” Kendric asked. “I can na’ risk given ye a sendin’ stone.”
“I have an idea on that” his son responded with a “Jest leave a note on tha top o’ tha eagle.”
“So who will retrieve it?”
“Right.” responded Krunch.
“No … who will get tha note?” Kendric responded in confusion.
“Exactly. Hoo will get the note.” Krunch said with a strait face “An’ if ye can leave a box with an open top an’ a few live mice it’d probably be appreciated.”
“So ye won’t say who will leave tha note.” Kendric responded in a resigned tone “Can ye tell me who will deliver notes from ye?”
A little confused himself, Krunch responded “Hoo will deliver notes as well.”
Putting his hand on his forehead, Kendric spoke evenly, trying to keep calm “So you won’t tell me who. Can ye tell me how often.”
With a flicker of concern at his father’s mental state, Krunch spoke slowly “Hoo will visit every couple of weeks.”
“Ok.” Kendric took a deep breath, and seemed to recite a section of ancient dwarven law to calm himself. “It doesn’t matter who delivers, the notes will be sent every couple of weeks.”
Krunch started to respond “Right, Hoo will…” only to be cut off by a groan and a wave from his father.
“Now that we have that … settled there’s the matter of funds. I suppose I could jest let ye requisition tha crown jewels.” Kendric joked “It’d get ye off to a decent start.”
Krunch snapped his fingers “That’s not a bad plan!” waving of his father’s protest “If I was ta be caught stealin’ tha jewels…”
Kendric finished for his son “That would be yer third strike. An’ logical fer a bully like the master to be thinkin’ that’s what he would be doin’. Claimin’ yer inheritence early so ta speak.”
“If he’s thinkin’ I’m his spawn, he’ll be thinkin’ I’m like him.” interjected Krunch before he sighed “But then what? If’n I have na gold, how do I start?”
Looking slightly embarrassed, Kendric stroke his beard as he spoke “I might have a map or two I been stowin’ away. I was kind’a thinkin’ after ye were done with school an’ when things settled down maybe I could go do some explorin’ of me own like the olden days.” He shrugged and continued “I guess I was jest foolin meself anyway. I have me responsibilities here.”
Krunch was silent for a moment before standing “I’ll go get tha guys so we can explain to ‘em what’s gonna happen”
Kendric started to rise “I’ll get yer mother and Sparakal, they’ll want ta…”
Father and son were both surprised by the quiet but insistent “No.” that came from Kalistar.
“You can’t tell anyone.” Kalistar continued “We can’t risk word getting out ahead of time. The more people that know, the more likely someone will slip. Send a letter that gets intercepted. Stock up on supplies when they have no reason to.”
He hesitated a moment before adding “And you know how much I love you Krunch, but you can’t lie for a damn.”
Standing and putting his hands on his son and grandson he looked back and forth between the two as he said “This has to stay between the three of us. You can’t tell your friends Krunch. Or Shar, or Tizzy. Agreed?”
Krunch and Kendric reluctantly agreed. The three sat down to discuss details and to plan out a strategy.