Jexis and Rhomarax, two outsiders in a Dwarven settlement, have long tried to make a living, and long been rejected. This is until stirring of corruption and something darker are revealed that explain the hatred they have received. Now the two outsiders are the only thing preventing the Hill Dwarves from destruction.
Chapter 1 - Glitterdust
Coils and springs littered the oil stained workbench and sawdust glazed it like a fresh coat of varnish. At the centre stood a small figurine of wood and iron, shaped in the rough form of a dog. He flipped down the visor that framed his spiked orange hair. Everything seemed tinged with blue for a moment.
A hand over the machine, he muttered some Arcane words, feeling that connection to the magical threads of the world tug slightly.
Lightning struck the dog as it hopped violently.
"Ahah, it's alive!" It was not Jexis' best work but it would have to do for now.
Digging into his pocket, he found the portable sun dial and clicked it open. Bits of light circled each other slowly, a shimmering representation of the time.
"Spiggets!" Jexis squeaked. The figurine had been a distraction, after all how long could a person hammer out the dents in pots and pans before it drove a Gnome crazy? "Cloxan!" He shouted.
He felt, rather than saw, the entity enter the room. If you squinted on a clear day, you could just make out a slight shimmer effervescent in the space it occupied. Being near it was a strange feeling to. It felt like wearing a pink shawl as the threads warped around it.
"How are you today?" Jexis giggled.
Cloxan never spoke.
"I need you to work with me again in here." A magical sensation buzzed in his extremities. The Unseen Servant loved helping to craft.
Immediately a large tray lifted from the counter and fell in front of him, A hammer followed suit, a large pair of tongs and more. All the while Jexis hummed his favourite drinking song.
Oftentimes he supposed his line of work was a lonely job, in the basement of his little manse, with a magical fart for a butler and now a toy dog the size of a nut. All he'd learned of hospitality had come from the Hill Dwarves of Wissenruhl.
Jexis kicked back and accepted the freshly squeezed sweet lemon juice. He thought fondly of what crabby old Skormdir would say about his blatant misuse of magic as he took off his boot and pulled out a screwdriver. "Something, something joke something."
"Who cares what the old man thinks, he can go suck a lemon, eh Cloxan?"
"Something, something never listen something."
Jexis pushed the boot away and stood up from his stool.
"I spent my whole life listening. Tired of voices by now." Jexis threw a cog at the wall. It plinked and rebounded onto a shelf filled with half made failures. "I don't need people, I don't need you!"
Jexis let out a breath.
Jexis' head rose up from the workbench. Had he fallen asleep?
Pulling wire from his face he looked around.
Everything was normal, though the room seemed a little dark. As he thought it though, that feeling subsided.
Visor down and palm face upwards, he threw a long chant into the air and the room around him drew itself atop his hand, bobbing up and down as it span slowly. After 10 minutes, he had a full map of the room like an illusion through the visor drawn in blue lines. If he flipped it up, he wouldn't see it.
It was an old spell, able to detect Magic, but it wasn't picking up anything. Still, this one couldn't pick up invisible things, he hadn't gotten that one down yet.
Instead he flipped it back up, bent over his stool and rummaged. Through a cluttered drawer.
Finally he came across a pouch and hoped that he wasn't just going crazy.
"Cloxan, have you got a- ah- atchoo!" He let the pouch open.
Golden dust sprayed into the room, falling like a shower every surface.
It'd be a nightmare to clean.
He wiped his nose and scanned the room.
In the corner, something gold shifted.
An person sized clean area appeared inside the glitterdust.
The door jarred open and banged shut.
"Spiggets Cloxan, I knew it!"
He put on the boot he'd been tweaking, clicked the heel on the floor and felt a sudden rush of speed pump through his legs, threatening to cramp but he was used to it now.
The room streaked by in a blur. Jexis had to swallow the familiar nausea.
Once he was out the door and up the stairs he stopped, looking for the golden footprints.
Sure enough they led past the small table and chair, beyond the bookcase and stopped at the door that hung ajar.
Outside the evening drifted by in clouds of pink and orange. Small lilies wafted fragrant air over the cobble path that led to the gate flanked by low stone walls.
The were no footprints, only an official looking dwarf staring with his brow furrowed as Jexis peered around the rotund figure.
"Master Daergal, may I have a word."
Choice was only an illusion when Grisli Ironhands spoke.
He wasn't like to find the suspect anyway, so he let the magic drain from his shoes.
"Of course, sir."
He moved out of the way.
Grisli was very much a grizzled old dwarf. His deep red hair fell speckled with grey like a painting accident from beneath his square, horned helmet, just like the braided beard that hid every facial feature besides his bulbous nose. Oh and the scarf. It was an ugly thing, something hee had picked up alongside an elven friend hundreds of years ago. Legend said they fought the Mages tower of some distant land under the thrall of a blue dragon and his allies. It was all speculation since he refused to talk about it, but rumours had followed him to Wissenruhl and in his presence, you couldn't help but think them true.
The dwarf sat deep in a chair, head in his hands.
Jexis poured a shot of Deepwater Whiskey for the both.
There were moments, fleeting ones, when he felt pity for Grisli. They were both special cases in Wissenruhl. Just as he was a Gnome, Grisli was a mountain dwarf, and there was a deep resentment between those two particular clans, Jexis had learned.
He drank his shot immediately, drank Grisli and poured another two. "What brings ye here?" He asked, handing out the amber liquid.
Grisli looked up and took a long breath.
"Rumen wants the 35 gold ye owe him." He snatched the drink and downed it. Slamming the glass on a side table. It creaked and leaned slightly on its gimpy leg
"I see it's gone up another 5." The warmth had already reached his belly. Suddenly he felt a little sick.
"That's what happens when it's been seven months since you paid for your Guild Charters." Grisli shook his head.
"Well if the Franken brothers would stop raising their iron prices- ye know tinkering only earns a few coppers a piece here." The words vomited from his mouth. "Least it does for a Gnome." He muttered under his breath. "Kellech keeps undercutting me, I have only one friend who can do nothing to help and the Grand Guild Council says they're booked for another 10 years!"
"I ain't no enforcers so I'm not going to push for it, but Rumen won't wait much longer. Consider this a friendly warning."
"My gratitude to you and yours." he said, quite formally. "But I know the venerable Ironhands doesn't come this deep into the Shallows without good cause."
Jexis poured another drink for the dwarf.
He took it gladly.
"Ye oughta consider coming to the Centre Spire. I tell ye, them magics of yours would earn ye far more than hammering pot and pans all day."
Jexis mouth twisted, and not from the taste of the third glass.
He pulled out the first excuses he thought of. "I don't do with fighting."
"Ye'd better start." Grisli said in a low tone. "There's more as can be done than fighting with ye magic I'll wager."
"Magic should not be so blatantly misused. It is a sacred art." He said the words like lines in a play.
"Ye sound like old Skormdir-"
"Wait, why hard I better start?"
Grisli looked hard at him. He drank the whiskey and held out his hand.
Jexis filled it up again.
He took another drink and grunted out "is why I came here."
Jexis waited for him.
"Can we talk privately?" He asked.
Jexis thought for a moment.
"Ah, yes!" He squeaked. "Follow me."
Once more he went to his workroom, stood aside for Grisli.
"What in Achlain's Halls happened here?" He stared wildly at Jexis.
"Scour the room, make sure it's empty." He ordered as he locked the door.
"Ain't nobody here-"
"just check, please."
Jexis locked the door, went to his mystery draw and pulled out a crinkled scroll.
Grisli was in the middle of swatting the air when he stopped. "Is this the point of origin?" He motioned towards the man shaped gap in the gold.
"No." Jexis returned to the door.
"Then how'd it get here?" His brow crinkled.
"Is the room empty?" Jexis ignored him.
Grisli scowled and went back to catching cobwebs and dust.
The scroll unrolled with effort. When it's face was bare was when the pounding started in his skull. Nothing looked right, like trying to red a language like your own, but not your own.
He read the first word and gagged. That pulling of the threads was there but it was different. He read the next word and his vision started to blur. The third word made the world swirl and the fourth almost had him passing out.
The feeling drained away with his strength.
A few moments of utter Silence was what he needed.
He saw Grisli's mouth move but no words came out.
Leaving the area, he sat down heavily on his stool.
"Did ye hear me?" Grisli didn't like being ignored, Jexis guessed.
"I was casting a spell." He replied, simply.
"Aye, weird stuff too. What was up with ye?" The wrinkles inches forehead went deep. "Didn't look right."
"As simply as I can put it, the kind of magic wasn't right. Er, imagine fighting with ye hammer, but it's heavier than it ought be, the shaft is shorter and it's actually a sword that's trying to choke ye."
Grisli regarded him with a raised eyebrow.
"Divine Magic ain't my thing."
"Ah." Grisli nodded.
"Now we can talk, but quietly."