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Chapter 5: Old Greytooth

April 27, 2023
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While Gontro and Rom’s meeting seemed pure chance, it was more than fate that brought them together that day outside the Coliseum.

The history of Tolkheim is inseparable from the chronicles of great sorcery and intrepid adventurers. Unlike our past in the Age of Conflict, however, heroes and sorcerors no longer squander resources seeking greater ways to destroy each other in combat. Wars of conquest seldom rage through our lands. This is the Age of Chance, and we solve our disputes great and small through more civilized means.

Our story begins– or rather began– with an unlikely adventurer named Rom and a drunken cynic named Gontro (who STILL owes me more than a few shields). That, however, is only half of what happened. In truth, the story began two days earlier– a day when Gontro smelled particularly of stale whiskey and false bravado.

It was about a three day ride north of Shallowharbor…

“What in tha hells do ya think you doing!?” A scattershot of potatoes accompanied the screams coming from the door to the room. A distinctively lopsided one smacked Gontro right between the eyes, knocking him onto his rear. He was naked for all but his shorts, the pale scars all over his green body seeming to shimmer after so rarely seeing the sun. Over his shoulder he hastily slung a sack, cramming clothes into it as he dodged the root vegetables.

“Sorry Sorry!” He shouted, getting to his feet while shielding his face with his hands. “I was riding. I was tired. There was an empty bed in an empty room.”

“This. Is. MA. HOUSE!” the woman screamed, bursting into the bedroom with an iron frying pan in one hand and a potato in the other.

“I know– Well, I didn’t know.” He struggled to his feet, still spitting out pieces of raw potato. “I’d been ridin all day and I was tired and drunk. It was just a bed.”

“You think you can just climb inta people’s windows!? Sleep in tha beds?” She chucked the potato just as his hands lowered, nailing his unshielded face again. She darted back inside the door for a moment, quickly returning with no frying pan. Instead she held a smooth stick as tall as her. The end was covered in bright red runes and glowed dimly.

“Woah woah, what are you doing with that? I just saw a bed. It was empty. I thought this was an inn.” He backed away from the woman, clearly terrified. He continued in an apologetic tone, doing his best to muster some charm. “It really was a lovely bed by the way. Best inn I’ve ever slept in. How much ya charge?”

“We use this to fire tha clay,” the woman said dryly. “It’d probably treat you liken clay too.”

“Oh my dear lady, can’t we settle this with an honorable game?” Still backing up. Faster now.

“I know ya Gontro Greytooth!” The woman shouted, gesturing as if stabbing him from a distance with the staff. “You just want to beat me in Legends Reborn and taken whatever ya like. This is ma land! Ma house! Shoo!”

A massive fireball suddenly sprung from the end of the staff towards Gontro. He turned tail and ran out the front door, darting sharply to the right to dodge. The fireball nearly singed his sparse gray hair on the way by, but then it slowed and wheeled… turning around to race back towards him!

Normal people across Tolkheim frequently have potentially dangerous magical artifacts on hand. In the Age of Chance, even a brigand like Gontro would never expect someone to engage him in direct aggression and violence!

“Oh, that’s cheating.” Gontro muttered to himself, now frantically digging into his bag while running full speed and mostly naked. He lost three earrings and one tunic while he was digging about, but finally he discovered what he was looking for. His hand emerged from the bag carrying a delicate scroll bound with gold string. He fumbled a great deal with the knot– so much that he had to stop running as his massive orc hands desperately tried to untie the flimsy gold.

He turned to see the coming inferno. Just seconds now. He bit the gold ribbon with his massive teeth, ripping the scroll open. “Take me to Kolton!” he yelled. He disappeared a wisp wink before the fireball roared past where he had just been.

Now, one who has never fast traveled before can’t properly respect the amount of pain and terror that happen in the few seconds while your body has no substance on this plane, but it’s rather similar to being shot with a large fireball. You can understand then that when Gontro reappeared in a muddy ditch about two days’ ride to the southwest, he continued howling in agony as if on fire. After a few moments, he realized he had in fact not been incinerated and his screams melted into laughter.

Several hours later… and after a well needed trip to the Kolton tavern, Gontro felt like a new orc. The scroll wasn’t the most pleasant way to travel, but at least it got him where he was going. He stopped in front of an old building, out of place among the well kept thatched roofs around. It seemed as if it would collapse at any moment. Somehow, the front door was entirely covered in cobwebs, even though the sign read ‘Open.’ A rusted and crooked sign above the door identified the shop as ‘Noggin’s Portents and Curiosities’.

Gontro had been here many times before, and he knew NPC had always looked like a hole in the ground. He confidently pushed through the cobwebs to open the door.

He strode into the dust covered shop. The door seemed to let the first light in years into the room. Glass cases full of oddities were scattered about the room. Gontro leaned towards one of the curios… unable to see through it due to filth built up on it. He pulled his glove off his hand and drew a quick illustration too scandalous to speak of here.

“Stop sullying my shop with your depravities you green son of a bugbear.” said a small figure at the front counter– almost entirely imperceptible in his tattered robes amongst the dust and grime. He stood on a stool behind the counter and still only rose up to Gontro’s shoulder.

“Noggin!” Gontro shouted with a suspiciously exaggerated smile coming across his face, rushing towards the speaker with outstretched arms. “It’s been too long! How’s the family?” The orc embraced Noggin in his massive arms and picked him up off his stool, twirling him.

“Put me down! Put me down this instant!” The Orc laughed as he plopped Noggin irreverently on the floor. The gnome straightened his robe, annoyed. “This is why gnomes don’t associate with orcs. It’s not been too long– better part of a decade is not long enough to be without you and the trouble you always bring, I warrant.”

“Oh c’mon Noggin. It’s not like that this time. Totally worth your while.” Gontro dropped to one knee to meet the gnome’s eyes. “I need new creatures– just like the old days. You forge me some tokens, we both get rich and famous.”

“This,” the gnome gestured around the shop as he walked back around the counter to his stool, “is not the old days. I could honestly use the work. My son has partially taken over and he’s giving NPC a slow death. Likes it dark and dreary in here, hangs with a weird crowd. Calls himself a ‘rogue’. Wife says it’s just a phase, but 67 years is nearly a full grown gnome!”

As the gnome grew more comfortable, Gontro leaned in closer over the counter. “Remember the Onyx Dragon? From Harry’s old tokens?”

“Hard to forget that one. Never been another like Harry’s Onyx Dragon.” The gnome nodded in satisfaction of the memory of his work.

“I need one. I know it’s been awhile… you can make another one, right?” Gontro gripped the edge of the counter in anticipation, his green knuckles turning white against the display glass.

“I’m an old gnome Gontro. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, let alone how to recraft the finest beast I ever knew.” The gnome glanced down at Gontro’s hand. “And pray tell why you so desperately need one of Harry’s signature creatures? You could get any number of Creatures in any city along your travels.”

Gontro narrowed his eyes at his old friend, then sighed, backing away slightly from the counter. “You’re right. It’s not the old days Noggin. I can’t compete like I used to. Why do you think I keep my SCL invitation through Shallowharbor? I couldn’t hold a title anywhere but some backwater burg like that.”

He slumped against a display cabinet nearby. “I need some new tricks. I’m just using old ones in sillier ways. Becoming a has been in front of my own eyes. That dragon would make a statement. Wow people again.”

“Well, I still think it’s stupid that you would need Harry’s tricks,” the gnome said, standing and walking across the room to a desk in the corner, “but I hate to see a big, proud moron like you so sad, so yes, I’ll help… for an appropriate price.”

Several hours of drunken sleep later, Gontro awoke where he laid on the grass in the forging yard with a poke from Noggin’s walking stick. “Get up ya bag of grass. You need to fill in some info here”

As the orc lazily rose off the ground, the gnome was already busy at his forge. 10 stone disks lay ready, and a complex array of symbols were drawn on several pieces of parchment that were sloppily spread across the surface of the forge.

While surely made for someone of his stature, Noggin still looked comically small, double checking his work at the great stone circle atop the device. Gontro could smell the fumes from the mana combustion engine inside the pedestal starting to charge its magic.

Token forges can be a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on the needs (and wealth) of the tokensmith. Forges can imbue many different magical items, but many smiths favor tokens, cards, staves, or some other common item.

“I still have the template,” Gnoggin said without so much as a glance up from his work, “but I crafted it using a Permanent Image Containment lens that Harry had of the real deal. Unless you have a PIC this time, you’re going to need to help me.”

“You’re the smith,” whined Gontro as he stretched and yawned. “How am I supposed to help

“Because I’m older than dirt, and you’re lucky I remember your name,” the gnome snapped. “Now get over here and describe the thing while I engrave.”

The gnome pulled out the first stone and the surface of the forge spun as red lightning crackled around it. He placed it in the groove in the center of the spinning circular table and took two hooked implements from the nearby table, turning them towards the now whirling stone. “Go, now! How big was it?”

“It was at least the size of several small houses. Probably about as tall as the New Sanctuary Arena, and two… no three times as wide.”

“That… doesn’t sound right. Are your sure?” The gnome raised an eyebrow.

“Oh yeah, you’re right. Probably as big as four of those arenas. And its tail spikes were larger than jousting lances.”

Noggin took a break from engraving briefly and held up a sheet of parchment, narrowing his eyes. “Like that?”

“No, no! The spines jutted out further… curved at the end like Sylaxian swords. And the teeth need to be bigger.”

“Yes, I think that’s it. I remember it clearly now.” He went back to his work at the forge and his hands moved in a flash, etching as the disc spun so quickly Gontro couldn’t even see it. “Alright. That oughta to do it.”

He handed the token to Gontro. He held it up in the light and admired it before putting it down and preparing to summon. “Noggin, the years certainly haven’t diminished the quality of your work.” The token began to flash purple, then in a poof of smoke, the Creature came.

At first Gontro put his hands on his hips, beaming at his new Onyx Dragon coming to life on the test table, but then the creature opened its jaws to reveal a mouth with dreadfully terrifying teeth… but not quite in the way the orc had hoped. Its teeth curved and split into multi pronged jagged points. Terrible to behold, but much more terrible to have in your mouth! It roared and backpedaled, seemingly trying to jump away in fear of the mass of daggers in its mouth.

The spines that had dotted its tail and back began growing larger as it backed up. It turned around as if confused, before its head abruptly transformed into a wing. Its left wing let out a poof of smoke, suddenly becoming an extra leg. Then the… thing stumbled. And down it came. As it hit the ground, it made the sound of shattering glass, then the pieces of dragon started to drip away. Just like wax too close to the fire. First just a few drips, then mercifully only a puddle in the workyard.

After a few minutes of silence with both the gnome and orc standing around the sticky spot where the token had been, Noggin finally broke the silence as he went to clean up his workstation. “Well. That sure was something.”

“Something?” Gontro let out an annoyed grunt. “That wasn’t my Onyx Dragon.”

“Well, obviously we don’t remember it as well as we thought.” Noggin reached into his pocket to fetch a pipe. “I may be in my 170s, but you’re the old man here Gontro.”

“So what do we do now? Try again?” Gontro fell to his haunches in the dirt.

“Ha. Do you want to take your chances on that again?” Noggin shook his head somberly. “I imbue a token by making a magical facsimile of a real magical creature. This one clearly wasn’t close enough to the real thing… not by a longshot. I told you, Harry had a PIC last time. Without a magical imprint from the creature itself, I’m just a gnome making a forgery.”

“So we’re just out of luck entirely?” Gontro growled. Noggin couldn’t decide if it was defeat or frustration.

Noggin shrugged and began to walk back into his shop. “Well, unless you want to go hunt an Onyx Dragon or you have Harry’s original token… yep.”

“…Harry’s token” Gontro said with a smile, standing up. “Noggin, either you’re a genius or I’m an idiot-”

“Both” Interjected Noggin as he puffed on his briar.

“Anyway, I know right where Harry’s token is. Conveniently, I got a match there in a few days.” He stood up and dusted himself off, his brash confidence renewed. “I’m riding out for Shallowharbor. I’ll be back with the token by week’s end.”

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