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The Dex Defying Trio (Part 1/2)


Smay- cheerful and mischievous. Easily bored but quick to get back up. Clever. 

Morthose- Highly Clever and Conniving. Semi evil. He enjoys the idea of messing around with other people

DM- Smart & strange. Loves his dice & refuses to call people by anything but their full names.

Setting– thousands of years before Faladel was born. This history has been lost. 

* * *


A small critter scratched and scrambled along the floor, close to the wall, hidden in its shadows. 

The creature that had startled it lifted up a taloned paw and laid it down carefully trying to be stealthy. He was trying to sneak up on his friend, a game they had played many times and he had never yet won. After all, it is hard for a dragon to sneak up on anything, much less a librarian who is used to the soft silence of his domain. 

“Smay.” came a sudden voice from behind him. “Are you trying to sneak up on DM again? You two really need to stop doing this. You’ll never get him.”

“Not with that attitude I won’t.” Smay turned and grinned at Morthose. His grin slipped however when a hand reached out and tapped him on his shoulder.

“That, my dear Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll, was a failed stealth check. And while your self-confidence score is quite high, I am afraid it won’t change the outcome of a low roll combined with talons on stone.” DM said, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh come on! That can’t count! Morthose already gave me away.” complained Smay. 

“Well it wasn’t like you’d make it anyway.” Morthose shrugged. “This is what, your 100th attempt?”

“312th” chimed in DM. “Your dex modifier sucks.”

“Which will make it all the more satisfying when I succeed.”

Morthose shook his head. “How have you two not gotten bored with this?” 

DM snapped his fingers and the cave melted back into the cozy living room of the library. “Players are free to do as they want, so long as it doesn’t break the rules.”

“Rules that you won’t explain to us,.” Smay grumbled. 

“If any of us ever cross them, you’ll know.” DM stated calmly. “However, I must agree with Morthose here; 312 times is a bit much, especially just to repeat a single stealth check.”

“I know.” Smay said miserably, “It’s just that I can’t think of anything else to do with my time, and I keep imagining how cool it would be to finally beat you.”

“Well,” Morthose grinned his sinister grin “I have an idea for something fun.”

“Oh?” Smay perked up, his tail swishing as it swung across the carpet.

“I guarantee it’s much more interesting than messing with future generations, failing to sneak up on someone, and whatever it is that you do all day, DM.”

“I’m still not telling you Morthose Haulding. That was the only Charisma check you have failed so far, and it will stay failed.”

“Tell us Morthose!” Smay broke in. “What is it?”

“I’m thinking we should break out of this bubble and explore the outside world! DM mentioned that there’s a way; he probably knows where it is. So what’s to stop us from exploring? Some old Elven fools too afraid of humans to glance outside? They won’t even notice we’re gone!”

“Unless they notice the lack of chaos.” DM muttered, shelving a book Smay’s tail had knocked off the coffee table.

Smay laughed. “Who cares if they notice? I think it’s brilliant!”

“Looks like you’re outvoted DM.” Morthose said triumphantly. “So where’s this crack in the bubble you were going on about?”

“On the far side of this mountain near the ravine. Go through the tunnel under the old oak and you will end up on the outside”

“You know what I meant. Give me the coordinates so I can teleport us there.”

“Roll persuasion.” 

Morthose flipped out his empty pockets. DM sighed, handed him a dice, and watched closely as he released it onto the coffee table. It bounced, flipped, spun, and when it stopped an 18 faced up. 

Morthose smirked at DM. DM sighed again, but gave the coordinates. “51.4994° N, 0.1273° W” 

“Game not going the way you expected, DM?” Smay chuckled cheekily.

“More that I give you two more leeway than I should. It will get you in trouble one day you know.” 

Smay laughed, but Morthose was too busy creating the portal to register anything else. His mouth traced the contours of the complex spell while his finger shaped the desired outline of a door in the air. Although he exhaled air, no voice emanated from his throat, as if the sound was caught in the space between seconds. Once he finished, the three friends stepped out of the muted quiet of the library and onto bare rock, wind whistling around their ears. 

“Are you sure you gave me the right coordinates?” Morthose asked DM

“Are you sure you put them in right?” Smay asked Morthose

“Of course I did!” Morthose’s reply is indignant. He and Smay start to bicker. 

“Both of us succeeded in our parts; this is the right place,” DM cut in, soothing all the ruffled feathers. “The entrance to the outside is there.” he pointed at a scraggly stump of a tree. It did not appear to be hiding a doorway of any kind, and the tunnel- if you could call it that -might be large enough for a starved rabbit. If it squeezed.

“I thought you said it was under a tree. And was a proper tunnel.” Smay complained. 

“It was.” DM said. “No one is forcing you to do this; we could just head back to the library. That is, if Morthose Haulding doesn’t have to take a short rest after that teleportation spell?”

“Can’t you just say ‘break’ or ‘nap’ like a normal person?” Smay complained.

“No.” DM smiled mysteriously. “So, are we heading back or not?”

“No.” Morthose eyed the ‘tunnel’ coldly. “We are going through it. All it requires is some successful strength checks.”

“Don’t you start on it too!” Smay groaned. “It’s incomprehensible when he does it, you’re the only one I can rely on to make sense.”

Morthose ignored him, but acquiesced. “Help me roll these stones, Smay.”

The dragon sighed, his foggy breath quickly whipped away by the wind. With his help, the tunnel tripled in size in 5 minutes. In 10 it was barely big enough for a person to crawl through, but Morthose pushed through anyway. DM followed, appearing to slip through the tunnel without much effort. Smay crouched down, squeezing through the entrance, his bulk dislodging a few more stones. “This better be worth it Morthose!” He shouted ahead.

Vaguely Morthose’s snort echoed back to him. “I may have suggested this Smay, but you agreed to it wholeheartedly.”

“Well I wasn’t expecting we’d be crawling under a mountain! How much longer does this tunnel last?”

“Not my job to know; ask DM!!”

“DM?” Smay shouted just as loudly. “How much longer-”

DM cut him off. “Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll, I can hear you perfectly fine; there is no need to shout. The tunnel will last as long as it lasts, which by my calculations isn’t much longer. Unlike the intended length of this adventure. Isn’t that right, Morthose Haulding?”

The line halted, as Morthose unsuccessfully tried to look back at DM. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, DM.”

“Of course you don’t. My bad.” DM said blandly. Suddenly, a bright light flashed, and the three were left blinking on their knees among a field of flowers. “We’re here.” DM continued like nothing had happened, getting to his feet and dusting off the sleeve of his deep royal purple robe.

“We’re outside?” Smay glanced around, sitting back on his haunches. “We really made it?”

“Of course we did.” Morthose said, stretching. “We’re us.”

“It certainly doesn’t look like much.” Smay plucked a flower and dissected it slowly. “Still the same old weeds.”

“Yes, but breathe the free air! There’s no rules here; the Ancients can’t touch us! We can stay out here for as long as we want!” Morthose spun, letting sparks fly from his fingers dusting the tips of the plants in the field. “We should explore, go as far as the horizon lets us!” 

“Problem with that plan: we’re on an island. Additionally, the outside world is a globe, so you could go on forever and never reach the horizon.” DM stated casually.

“What’s the problem with being on an Island?” Smay asked curiously. “We can just fly to the mainland, right?”

“There is no mainland here, just a bunch of very spread out islands.” DM twirled one of the flowers in his fingers. “And Morthose and I can’t fly that much.”

“Well there’s a simple solution to that DM.” Morthose said blithely. “In fact, I’m not sure why you think it’s a problem at all, honestly. We can just ride our handy-dandy dragon. Right Smay?”

“Oh, that’s going to be more of a problem than you think.” DM snorts under his breath as Morthose turned to glance at Smay, who wore a look of shock and horror on his elongated face. “Next time you should probably read your companions’ character sheets, specifically their personality traits.”

You can’t ride me!” Smay protested. “Yes I have wings, but dragon riding is forbidden! It’s unethical, demoralizing, de-de─”

“Degrading?” DM offered, surreptitiously rolling a d20 on a nearby rock. 

“Yes, degrading! It degrades my pride as a dragon!” Smay spat. Morthose was unperturbed.

“Well, would you rather have pride or adventure? Because if we can’t get off this island, we can just sit around and smell the flowers till we get bored and head back.”

Smay hesitated. Clearly, he didn’t want to have come all this way for nothing. DM muttered, “Oh very nice, using a bond against the trait,” and rolled another D20.

Smay caved. “Fine, but swear to me that you’ll never tell anyone.”

“Sworn.” DM confirmed, picking up both dice.

“Cross my heart.” Mothose grinned. “Now, how do I mount?”

After flying off the island, Smay, with DM and Morthose on his back, circled over the few other islands near them. They were equally small and empty. The largest wildlife were some insects. 

“Where are all the humans?” Smay asked, confused. “I thought you said there were humans out here, Morthose?”

“I’m sure there used to be. Maybe they just decided that these islands have nothing to offer them and moved somewhere else?” Morthose offered. “Just keep flying, I’m sure we’ll find them eventually.”

They flew onwards, their circles getting bigger and bigger. Hours passed and nothing happened. The sea beyond the islands seemed endless. DM took a nap, leaning forward on Smay’s neck, but Morthose stayed wide awake, hungry for adventure. After another hour of flying aimlessly in circles, Smay muttered quietly “This world sure is big.” 

“Well of course it is. DM did say it was a globe.” Morthose responded, eager to do anything to make the time passage more eventful. A quarrel would at least guarantee a source of amusement for the next few minutes. 

“Yes, but he didn’t state it was a big globe.”

“Well it certainly had to be larger than our world at the very least. I’d say we haven’t nearly flown enough to cover both elf and dwarf territories, so probably only a small fraction of the human world.” 

“Well if you’re so smart, how will we find those humans? I want to see one in person!” Smay shot back.

“Well, for starters we can pick one direction and stick with it instead of doing these weird loop-ti-loops. We’re more likely to get somewhere then. We can put it to vote.”

Smay hesitated, eyes flickering back at Morthose and DM, who still appeared to be sleeping. “It wouldn’t be right to vote without DM.” 

“Well if you agree with me we’ll have an easy majority. He doesn’t even need to wake up.” 

Morthose’s argument was logical, and Smay did want to change things up a bit. His brief hesitation fading, he said “Fine, this was your idea after all. We can follow your suggestions.”

Smay changed directions, his wings slicing evenly through the air as he glided into a curve, away from the islands. “Any particular cardinal direction?”

“Hmm…” Morthose considered. “I have a good feeling about going east.”

“I thought DM was the one who worked with instincts and luck. You’re much more logical than that.” Smay said, confused. 

“Correct,” Morthose said. “East means the sun’s at our backs. If it keeps DM warm, he’s less likely to wake up. However, even without that, I still have a good feeling about east.”

“Maybe it’s because young men are supposed to go west, and you felt like disobeying the rules?”

Morthose laughed. “What caused you to roll so high on your wisdom today Smay, making all these observations and assumptions?” He felt Smay shift uncomfortably under him. “Seriously, this was never really your forte, you don’t have a sage background. Leave the quirky mental assessments to DM.”

“Well then you leave him the ‘background’, and ‘rolls’.” Smay snorted, beginning to toss his head, but then freezing when he remembered DM laying on his neck. “I can’t stand it when you start talking like that as well.” He finished in a lower voice. 

“Deal.” Morthose said, smiling now that he had what he wanted. He leaned forward, his stomach protected from Smay’s hard scales by his thick dark jerkin, and stared at the sun sparkling on the endless seas below him. Below the surface of the water he thought he could see dark shapes flickering in and out of view. “Smay, could you go down a bit?” He called over the wind. Smay, obligingly, started circling, slowly sinking through the air. 

When they got close enough to the water to feel the spray kicked up by the wind and waves, Smay wouldn’t go down any further. 

“Why did you have me go down?” He asked. “There’s no place to land, certainly no people, just a bunch of water.”

“I thought I saw something.” Morthose said, his eyes hungrily scanning the water for any more of those strange flickering dark shapes. 

DM yawned, stretched, and said “Probably just the glint of sunset off rocks, Morthose Haulding. This area is renowned for its treacherous waters.” 

“You didn’t have me roll for that information?” Morthose’s surprised face is comical. 

“We’re riding a dragon. There’s not much flat space to roll anything, and I doubt either of you would be willing to take a plunge into that cold mess,” DM gestured to the rippling orange ocean, “to retrieve lost dice, so no. No need to roll this time.”

“Yeah, well, if we’re done here, I’m getting up out of the spray range.” Smay said. “Being wet and buffeted by wind isn’t fun.”

“We should probably start searching for another island on which to stay the night.” DM said. “Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll might already be getting levels of exhaustion from carrying us this much.”

 “I’m not that tired,” Smay protested, yawning, “I could keep going for the next couple hours.” He turns to see both DM and Morthose staring at him. 

“You just yawned.” Morthose pointed out the obvious.

“That’s just because talking about being tired makes me tired, okay?” Smay defended. Morthose just raised an eyebrow. 

“All this bickering still doesn’t disprove my point.” DM said. “You still need to work on finding an island because there is no guarantee that one will show up in the next couple of hours.”

The sun sank lower in the sky, Morthose and DM were both on the lookout for an island to rest for the night, and eventually off in the distance Morthose spotted a dark shape. Smay headed for it. He had been constantly drifting lower for the past couple of hours, and, by the time he reached the island, didn’t even have the strength to go and circle around it. So after they all landed, DM volunteered to scout out the surrounding areas, voluntelling Morthose to come along.

“You’ve barely used any of your spell slots today, Morthose Haulding, don’t go telling me that you need a long rest already.”

“You had a nap! I was up the entire time, I’m too tired for this.”

“Characters should always post a guard or scout when they’re in unfamiliar territories, no matter how tired they are. It’s just common sense, even if this is your first game you should know that!”

“Seriously DM, I want to rest!”

“You’re an elf, you only trance for 4 hours.” DM snorts. “You can do that when we get back. Don’t worry there should be plenty of time before dawn.”

“Should be? How long are you planning on staying out here?”

“As long as it takes to make sure there are no adversaries.”

The island -well it was more a conglomeration of jagged dark rocks- didn’t even have any trees, so Morthose was skeptical that it could house any hidden ‘adversaries’. After creeping across bare sharp rocks in near darkness for half an hour for no apparent reason, Morthose was more than tired. He was cranky.

“Oh how terrifying,” he muttered moving forward to another ‘suspicious point’ DM had noted. “Another amorphous shadow. Whatever shall I do?” 

However, when he got close to the rock casting the shadow, he realized it wasn’t rock at all. It was too smooth. He tapped on it. Too hollow. Strange. A ruthless grin crossed his face. Strange was excellent. Perhaps DM did have something with his insistence to scout everything. Carefully, as if he would startle the giant object, he snuck away back to DM, insisting they go back to camp before he would tell of his finding. DM didn’t object.

Once back at the makeshift camp, DM summoned ‘rations and wood’ as he called them. Smay woke up, started the fire for them, and then Morthose told them of his intriguing find. 

“EPIC!” Smay shouted. Morthose shushed him. “Epic!” he reiterated, a bit more quietly this time. “Perhaps it’s a human home! Or like, a record of where they all went and how we can find them.”

“Or why they left in the first place.” Morthose added, “maybe we could drive the annoying elders out the same way.”

“Unlikely.” DM stated blandly. “Those ones won’t move unless you force them to.”

“Did I say I wasn’t going to force them?” Morthose asked, his smile diabolic. “Anyway, I was thinking we, or more specifically I, should scout ahead.”

“You mean using It?” DM looked intrigued. “I thought you mainly used that for special occasions or political sabotage.” 

“Of course I meant using Spyder, and sabotage makes it sound so criminal. More like political reconnaissance and manipulation.” 

“I dislike how you call it a Spyder.” Smay said. “I don’t like spiders, they give me the willies.”

“I mean, it looks like one of our fuzzy friends, it has eight legs, and I use it for spying. Why shouldn’t it be called a Spyder?” Morthose’s logic was impeccable, but wasn’t enough to calm Smay’s fear. “Anyways,” He continued despite Smay’s frown. “I was planning on doing it tonight, you guys get me close enough, I’ll go into my trance, and scout ahead. If all seems clear, we can head in on the ‘morrow.”

DM pulled out a die and rolled it first, but Smay agreed wholeheartedly. The boys moved closer to the strange building, found a hidden spot, and then settled in for a long wait. Morthose released a small, 8 legged object out of a tiny pouch around his neck, and carefully slid it onto a mound of pebbles, well away from Smay’s feet. DM was also removing something from a pouch around his waist, however, Morthose paid no attention to that as he sat himself down on a nearby rock and threw his soul into the void. 

“You good Morthose?” Smay’s voice echoed strangely through his connection with the Spyder. Morthose blinked back in real life, re-centering himself. 

“I’m fine.” he said, “Just takes a little getting used to at first. That’s all.”

“Okay, because you didn’t look to be doing so great half a second ago.” 

Morthose rotated the Spyder’s visual sensors and scanned his own body. Nothing appeared to be wrong.

“Really? What was the problem?”

“You were drooling.” Smay giggled. 

“Oh? Well you try to do any better, big guy.” Morthose’s response was clipped and annoyed. He carefully started to navigate down the pebbles he had placed the Spyder on earlier, and scuttled away from the group into the darkness. 

“What are you doing DM?” Smay asked, Morthose rolled his eyes behind closed lids back in his body. It was like Smay forgot he could hear him as soon as the Spyder was out of sight.

“Rolling his stealth of course. It’s not like he can do it currently.”

Morthose turned off his human ears, relying instead on the sounds the Spyder was making up. If his friends weren’t talking about anything useful, he needn’t hear them. Scurrying to a small crack where the too smooth stone met the jagged rock, he began looking for a crack, a break, anything that would let him inside. Vaguely, now that he had some time to himself, he wondered how much DM actually knew about his situation. He was always making those little snide comments, references to events he couldn’t possibly know about. As if he was asking Morthose to reveal more. Morthose shook the Spyder’s head instinctively, and redoubled his search efforts. 

There was no need to involve Smay and DM. He could take care of it himself if it hadn’t already died down by the time they arrived back. He didn’t want to tell them, to get them involved, to have them judging him like everyone else.

Suddenly, something flickered in Spyder’s lenses. A light? Coming from where? He swung the viewpoint over the source of the light, a small crack in the hard smooth shell. Slipping through it, he sped Spyder along strange ropes and into a small, dark corridor that seemed to be made for it. Occasionally light flickered through small series of holes out into a wider hallway. A person sized hallway. However, Morthose kept Spyder inside the dark corridor. Absence of light didn’t bother him, and a larger hallway meant more chances of being caught, so staying in here would be best. After all, the two were going in the same direction. Morthose drove the Spyder along the corridor, sending it further away from the small crack that he entered through, eventually remembering to check back in with DM and Smay to tell them what he was doing. 

“Anything interesting happening out there?” he asked, just in time remembering to turn his sound detectors– ears– back on. Perhaps he shouldn’t have turned them off in the first place, being disconnected was dangerous. If he wasn’t careful, his soul wouldn’t be able to find its way back.

“Umm… wouldn’t you know?” Smay asked, confused. 

“I turned off my ears for a while because you were being annoying.” Morthose said bluntly. 

“Well nothing much, DM rolled an eleven out here a while back, but wouldn’t tell me what it was for.”

“It was for Morthose Haulding, not you Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll. All you need to know is that he succeeded that saving throw.”

“Excellent.” Morthose stated dryly. “Good to know I’m still alive. If either of you are interested I found a way in for me, I’m looking for a way for you guys now. This appears to be some sort of building. There’s a large corridor, Smay would fit down it if he kept his wings and tail tucked in, and I’m in a small tunnel filled with weird ropes off to the side of that. Honestly, I find it hard to believe, but this building might be made entirely out of metal. It’s not iron or copper, but something else. I haven’t seen any wood on this thing at all, even the ropes are more metallic than woodish.”

“No way!Smay gasped. “It’s too large to be forged!” 

“Perhaps they forged tiny pieces and then stuck them together?” DM offered. 

“I mean, it’s possible, but would be very expensive to make.” Morthose pointed out. “Anyways, I’m going to keep looking for anything wooden or a door to the outside for you guys. If I hear anything, I’ll contact you. If you need to get in contact with me, tap my shoulder. Morthose out.” he turned off his ears again and jerked Spyder to a halt as the lights in the corridor next to him flickered. Strange. What was even stranger though is that they hadn’t been flickering all this time. Fire danced, candles flickered, but these lights had been constant. 

Carefully he scuttled Spyder out of the small tunnel and into the large corridor, up the wall, onto the ceiling, and next to the light emitting device. It was so bright up close that he had to turn down the sensitivity of the Spyder so he could see it clearly. It was a long rod, implanted in the ceiling, the glow coming from inside where miniaturized lightning jumped between wires. Morthose was mesmerized, the Spyder leaned forward, the glows warmth bathing it’s sensors with a comfortable brilliance. Carefully, ever so carefully, Morthose moved the Spyder’s left front leg up, and touched the outside of the rod.

A loud noise nearly caused his soul to jump out of the Spyder there and then, and the light suddenly flashed, turning a brilliant red as the wail continued. All the lights in the corridor were red now, and above the wailing of the alarm, Morthose’s Spyder picked up the faint sound of people shouting. Did he somehow trigger a trap?

Quickly he scuttled back to his hidden pathway and reached back to his normal body to communicate with Smay and DM. 

“Somethings wrong here, an alarm just went off.” Best leave out that he could have caused it. “Good news, there does seem to be other people here. I heard them chattering over the noise. Should I keep going or head back?”

“All players make their own decisions.” DM said, noncommittal as always.

“Go for it!” Smay cheered. Morthose’s body grinned. He wouldn’t have listened if they had told him to stop, after all, if they were the type of people to tell him to stop they probably wouldn’t be his friends, but getting their agreement felt liberating and bonding at the same time. 

The flashing red lights were disorienting, so Morthose quickly switched the Spyder’s visual sensors to heat detectors. Strangely enough, the items he identified as rope that filled this area all had strong cords of heat inside them. Following them down the pathway, he started to speed up. Spyder suddenly stepped in something though. Whatever it was, it was wrong. Back in the real world, Morthose felt his body clench up, spine arching, teeth clamping down, and a hiss escape his lips. Spyder jerked back from the wrongness  and Morthose saw what it was; the wrapping on one of the ‘ropes’ had melted and the heat trail had been broken, leaving the two sides of the cord shooting out dancing sparks. The Spyder’s legs had connected the pieces, and the miniature lightning had traveled through him. Carefully, Morthose directed the Spyder around the two pieces, making sure not to touch either of them again. 

Morthose felt a strange, ghostly pressure on his real arm, and turned on his ears.

“…Morthose! Can you hear me? Morthose! Can you-” Smay repeated

“I can hear you just fine, Smay.” Morthose interupted “Is everything alright on your end? Why did you distract me?”

 “Is everything alright?” Smay’s voice drifted through to him. “That’s what we wanted to ask you! You just sort of… stiffened for a bit there. Then there was this weird rumbling coming from the building! And then, silence!”

“I’m fine, just stepped in something nasty.” Morthose downplayed. “What do you mean the building rumbled?”

“Just that!” Morthose let his body release a sigh. Smay was sensitive to such things, DM would say he had a proficiency in perception, but his descriptions weren’t very helpful. However, if he said something had happened, it probably had. 

“I’ll go try to figure it out.” He decided. 

“Good luck!” DM offered, right before Morthose turned back off his ears and directed the Spyder out into the open corridor. 

Glancing to either side, he sped along the wall, darting up to the corner where it met the ceiling. Scuttling along, he quickly noticed what had changed. The lights still flashed red, the alarm still blared its ear-shattering tune, but to the left of the large hallway, a door had partially opened, leaving a fresh smear of pure metal when the surroundings held dust. 

It was a large door. So large, Morthose reasoned, that perhaps the opening thereof could be said to cause a rumbling. It would certainly be large enough for him and his companions to enter by at least. However, who else had entered through this door just earlier? Doors didn’t open on their own, and a rumbling suggested that it didn’t open easily, although it doesn’t look like somebody forced entrance either. The only option Morthose knew of that could create that effect would be magic. 

Interesting magic. A smile crossed his face. He directed the Spyder towards the open door and crossed it’s threshold. Running down a few more corridors, he followed the twists and turns to their end, an open hatch to the outside. Excellent. 

He scuttled the Spyder to a crack between the metal wall of the building and a sharp rock, and then abandoned it.

Morthose’s body jerked again, his eyes flew open and his smile split into a wide grin. “Found it!” He proclaimed. DM, who was sitting on a nearby rock, startled. Smay cheered. 

“So what caused the rumbling?” He asked, helping Morthose to his feet.

“A door opening. We have an entrance. Let’s go!” Morthose said, dusting himself off and setting off at a brisk trot. DM hurriedly scooped up his dice, as Smay sped off behind Morthose. 

“Wait for me; you don’t want to accidentally split up the party, now do you?” He called behind them. Morthose obligingly slowed down, and Smay jerked to a halt ahead of them, like an overeager puppy who’d reached the end of his leash.

“Morthose!” He complained. “Really?” 

“Didn’t think you could hear DM from all the way up there. Besides, the entrance is this way.” Morthose explained, pointing to his right. 

“Sure you just didn’t want to use that spell on me?”

“Ehh?” Morthose’s smile was naughty. “I mean, it’s a possibility, but that doesn’t make it reality. Now come back here so we can all go the right way.”

“Fine.” Smay acquiesced. Reaching the door only took a couple of minutes, and Morthose paused to scoop up the Spyder, carefully putting it back in its pouch. 

“So where do we go from here?” DM asked as they arrived at the door that had mysteriously opened. 

“I vote left!” Smay said excitedly.

“Why? Do you have a good feeling about left?” Morthose asked, grinning. 

“Well if you and DM can have ‘good feelings’ so can I!” Smay announced. 

“That’s the spirit!” Morthose laughed, turning left down the passage. “We should probably be quieter from here on out. Remember, I heard voices a while back. It’s quite possible that sound carries very well in these hallways.”

“We wouldn’t want to scare away any humans.” Smay giggles. 

“More likely they’d meet us with guns.” DM mumbled quietly to himself, reaching for his dice bag.

“Did you say something DM?” Smay asked.

“Nothing important.” DM pulled out his percentile dice. “Does anyone have a flat surface?” He asked Smay and Morthose.

“Just roll it on the floor.” Morthose suggested.

“Floor dice don’t count.” DM complained. “Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll, could I roll them on your wing?”

“Nope, sorry DM. I might let you ride me when pressed, but you are not using my wings as a glorified table. That’s where I draw the line. Can’t you just, roll it on your hand?”

“It’s not ideal, but I suppose…” DM grumbled, casting a spell. A ghostly blue hand appeared in thin air. Smay glanced back curiously as the DM rattled the dice, threw them into the air, and the hand raced around catching each of them. “A 62? I was hoping for something more unique.” He muttered, shaking his head. Then DM grabbed three D20s, rolled and tossed them for the hand, “12, 16, 2. Well, nevermind that earlier statement” He grinned. “This is going to be interesting.” 

As they rounded the next corner, Morthose ground the party to a halt as they saw a short figure go around the next bend.  “Are humans really that small?” Smay whispered loudly.

Morthose stared at the corner ahead of them. “I don’t think so. We should be careful up ahead. What if that guy was bait to lure us into an ambush?”

“So no running him down, got it.”

“They could have been female, you know,” DM added on. Morthose and Smay looked at him. “Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll called them ‘him’. That character doesn’t have to be male.” Smay opened his mouth to protest the correction, but DM hurried on. “Not that I’m blaming you. After all, this sort of thing is common in this time period. Just something you should keep in mind in the future.” He started going forward uncomfortably, stepping just a little too far around the corner, and walked right into a very short gnome. 

“GAAHHH! I told you there were ghosts here, Papa!” The gnome shrieked, tripping on his heels as he tried to scurry back. An older gnome poked his head out of a room nearby. 

“There’s no such thing as ghosts, Genri you idiot! They’re only…” He hesitated, scanning Morthose, DM, and Smay. “Intruders!” He judged, grabbing his sword with one hand and his son with the other. “INTRUDERS!” He shouted, louder than his original proclamation. From all around them, Smay, Morthose and DM could hear the pattering of tiny feet on metal getting closer.

“What the hell are you?” The older gnome asked. “Nevermind that, this was our find! We were here first! Take yourselves and your giant lizard-beast elsewhere!” His accent was hard to decipher, but after a second, Smay understood what the gnome had called him. 

“I’m a dragon you half-wit! Not a giant lizard! DRA-GON!” Morthose snorted with laughter at Smay’s fury, but the gnome only clutched his sword tighter. 

“Whatever you are, get your scaly butt out of here! This is our claim!” He shouted back. Smay glared at the gnomes, but the man stood his ground, shielding his kid with his body.

“Why should we?” Morthose responded to the older gnome, grinning eagerly at the thought of a challenge. “We only just arrived.” 

DM sighed disappointedly, glancing at his D20s in the palm of the ghostly hand “And here I was hoping I’d finally be able to use you for persuasion.”

“Well, we won’t give up this ship easily if that’s what you were hoping for.” The old gnome said glaring at Morthose’s smirk and Smay’s indignant face. “Genri, get behind your uncles.” The little gnome scuttled back as more gnomes trooped down the hallway. 

Behind Smay, Morthose, and DM, another group appeared. DM muttered, “Rolling initiative.” flicking his dice into the air again. 

Morthose’s eyes flickered around them. It was clear, he hadn’t expected nearly so many adversaries. 20 gnomes now lined the hallway, and they could hear more approaching. However, his confident smirk stayed in place as he prepared a spell. 

The two groups faced off, neither willing to make the first move. The old gnome at the front of the party ahead of them held his sword at the ready in a defensive position. Suddenly, Smay sneezed. Fire spurted from his nostrils in tiny vats. The gnomes yelled and attacked. DM dissolved his mage hand and began casting a complex spell, pulling out a few ingredients from a bag on his belt. Morthose grin became positively feral as he casted inflict wounds on the gnome that had challenged them and summoned his sword. The gnome died almost instantly, and his friends started joining him soon after. 

Smay snarled as the small gnomes battered his bulk, fighting back with his fire and claws. Most of their daggers and short swords did nothing to him, but then one of them pulled out a strange device. He pushed the butt end of the device into his shoulder, carefully sighted down the long barrel, and fired. It made a loud BANG! And Smay’s snarls changed to a shriek of pain. His tail shot out like a battering ram sending the gnome and the offending device flying backwards. Both broke against the wall. 

DM’s spell was just a little too late, the blue shield flying up between Smay and the gnomes at their back as the dragon shrieked in pain. Morthose looked rattled, glancing away from his current opponent to look back at Smay. 

“What the hell was that?!” He shouted over the battle raucous.

“Trouble!” DM shouted back.

“Should we retreat!?” Morthose asked. DM hesitated, a worried look on his face. 

“Players must make their own decisions!” He finally said, although Morthose heard the hesitation behind it louder. 

”I have a plan, follow me!” He called back to Smay and DM.

He lunged into the crowd of gnomes, casting cloud of daggers as he went, clearing a path for his friends. Gnomes in front of him scattered, terrified of the flying, spinning knives. Morthose laughed, barging into the room the old gnome had come out of. DM followed close behind him, and Smay came in last, limping. DM sealed the door behind him. Morthose’s laughter stopped when turned and saw his wounded friend. 

“Smay, are you okay?” His face twisted from gleeful mirth to dead serious in half a second. “I’m going to go back out there and destroy all of them.” He whispered, seeing the long scratch the bullet had made and the blood leaking out. He turned, heading for the sealed door, fireballs appearing in each hand. 

“Stop!” Smay called. “It’s fine. I’m fine, Morthose, DM can patch me up.” 

“It’s not fine! They hurt you!” 

“Perhaps, but we got them pretty good too, right?” Smay smiled. “DM already sealed the door, and going up alone against like 25 of those guys with the weapons they have doesn’t seem like a great idea.”

“I could take them.” Morthose snorts.

“You didn’t see the weapons they had. You think a dagger could pierce my scales? Morthose, they had something that shot fire and metal at me. Dragon scales are the hardest thing out there, and whatever they had pierced that.” Morthose glanced over at Smay’s face, then to his wound, and back up to his face. Smay looked frightened. DM carefully began casting non-verbal healing spells, silently offering his own version of comfort.

Morthose’s face twitched, vengeance and pride wrestling with friendship. 

“Besides.” Smay grinned through his pain. “Wouldn’t it be better revenge to find whatever they were after in here and take it for ourselves? Then we’d have an exciting story, new scars, and a souvenir when we get home!”

Morthose’s face continued to twist for a second and then settled on a smile. “Fine. You win. No more slaughtering of whatever those creatures were.” He looked- really looked- around the room for the first time. Outside they could hear the chaos of the gnomes trying to decide what to do. Inside the room bolts and nails were scattered about. Devices layed around, half taken apart, some still attached to the walls. Only one was completely unattached and remained un-dissected. It was small, perhaps three feet tall, white, and had a handle on the front. The back was metallic and had a small group of strange ropes poking out. DM prodded it, apparently intrigued. 

“Do you think this is what they were after, DM?” Smay asked, grabbing the handle to lift it up. Instead, a door swung open. Inside the boxy device, there were a few shelves, but it was otherwise empty. 

“What is it?” Morthose questioned, glancing disappointedly at the inside. 

“Roll hmmm… investigation.” DM decided, Smay held out his claw for a die, DM handed one over and he rolled it on the top of the boxy thing. When the die stopped spinning, a five stared up at him. 

“Do you want to roll as well, Morthose Haulding?” DM asked, offering him another die. Morthose shook his head. “No need. There’s only a few options it could be. I recognise the ropes from the back, I saw them when I was in the Spyder earlier. They carry miniaturized lightning.” DM shrugged, and rolled the die himself, snorting when he saw the result.

 “Why would those weird short things want lightning?” Smay asked eagerly.

“A weapon, obviously.” Morthose looked confident. “Being struck by lightning is never nice, if you could carry a miniaturized version of it, and then deploy it at will, you could fight off any number of enemies. That’s why they didn’t want us here, they didn’t want anyone else getting their hands on it.”

“That makes so much sense!” Smay’s jaw dropped open in shock. “And if anyone without the knowledge tries to deploy it, they could end up with a huge explosion instead! An explosion to end the world!”

“Exactly.” Morthose nodded intelligently. “We should take this back home as our ‘souvenir’ and then stick it somewhere nobody else will ever get their hands on it.” He yawned, the excitement of the battle leaving his body exhausted, reminding him what a long day it had been. “But first we should take a nap. We’ve done a lot today, I don’t think I can teleport us as well.”

“We could fly back.” Smay offered, but he was also yawning. 

“You nearly fell into the sea earlier today.”

“Did not! And I’ve rested since then!” Smay protested.

“Yeah, but those creatures are probably camping right outside to catch us as soon as we leave. Haven’t you noticed how quiet they’ve gotten? They want us to think they’ve left.” Morthose yawned again. “Best to take a nap in here where it’s safe, and then teleport out on the morrow. When DM’s spell finally wears off, they’ll come in to find us mysteriously disappeared and their precious weapon gone.”

Smay sighed. “Fine, have it your way.” He muttered, curling up on the floor. “Although I wish I could see their faces when they come in here. It’d be hilarious.”

“True. But you can’t have everything in life.” Morthose agreed. DM nodded sagely, leaning back on Smay’s warm scales. Morthose joined them, smiling quietly to himself.

They fell asleep.

The next morning the three woke up refreshed. They couldn’t hear any sound from outside the room, but they were still cautious to not talk about their plan too loudly. Smay grabbed the doomsday device, DM gave Morthose the coordinates, and Morthose teleported them back to the first island they had arrived on in the outside world. It only took a few seconds to pass back into their world, but it took a lot longer to drag the device through the tunnel. When they got back to DM’s library Morthose frowned. 

“I feel like I’ve forgotten something. Do either of you remember what it was?” DM shook his head, Smay only looked at him blankly. “Eh.” Morthose shrugged. “It probably isn’t too important. What do you guys want to do now?”

“I don’t know.” Smay sighed. 

“How about…” Morthose began, Smay perked up. “Trying to activate that device?” Morthose finished. “You know, doing it properly! I’ve been studying it, and I added a powersource, so now all we have to do is connect a few wires. Having a lightning blasting weapon would be so cool!”

“But what if we do it wrong?” Smay frowned. Morthose stared at him, a surprised look on his face. Smay had never disagreed with him this bluntly before. 

“Don’t be such a downer Smay, an apocalypse could be fun! Whatever the outcome, it would certainly liven things up a bit.”

“Morthose, be serious for once.” Smay said. “An apocalypse means the end of everything we know.”

“Including boredom.” Morthose shot back. “Come on, Smay. Aren’t you curious? If we do it right we get a cool new toy, if we do it wrong we have to save the world from a problem we create! Either way, we have an adventure!” 

If dragons had lips, Smay would have been chewing on his. DM silently rolled a die, smiling in anticipation. “Fine.” Smay conceded. “But promise me if the world ends you will try your best to save it.”

“Oh, fine!” Morthose grinned, pleased he got his way. “DM–” His words were cut off as DM suddenly stood up.

“We have guests.” He said mildly, frowning.

“The heck? What’d they come all the way up here for?” Smay said, puzzled. Morthose froze, his expression unreadable. 

“You should probably hide our ‘souvenir’, Smay.” He said, as a loud banging began on the library’s double doors.

“Coming!” DM called out, hurrying to get it. Smay bustled around, moving the device to the back of the room. Morthose slowly walked behind DM to the front door, arriving just as the soldier at the head of the platoon said. 

“Morthose Haulding?”

Morthose stared at them cooly. “Gentlemen.” 

“Excuse me for asking,” DM said, glancing quickly between Morthose and the soldiers gathered. “But what is this all about? Why are you disturbing us?” The soldier ignored him, keeping eye contact with Morthose. 

“Morthose Haulding, you are under arrest for the murder of Paran Mithrandir. You must come to the capital with us immediately so the courts can decide your fate.” Morthose’s solemn face didn’t even flicker with surprise.

Link to Part Two

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