Goom looked back toward the Ulimni, but it was the glowing strings of the lute that held his gaze.
[the day before]
While Goom was led to the mountains by his undertakers, Fewla had made her way to the Gellring Foothills.
Gellring lay at the base of the Southern Peaks of the Shrouded Mountains, a day's journey from great Skrye in the North. She reached the small village just as the sun was setting.
Fewla had never been to the Gellring Foothills, and she didn't know her way around. She didn't know how to track down Murt, but she had an idea of where to find Dennis.
Fewla walked into the tavern, and her hooves clacked across the wooden floor. She heard Dennis before she saw him.
He was singing loudly and drunkenly in a corner booth of the tavern, and as luck would have it, Murt was with him equally drunk, but half as loud.
It was a sad sight to behold - like when you pour yourself a bowl of cereal and realize that you're out of milk.
"Aye, Murt! Dennis! Goom has been -"
"Few-lah, Feeewla! Is it you? Bowfu! Hey! Bowfu, this is my friend, this is my friend, my friend Fewla who I told you 'bout," a red-faced Murt turned to the bartender as he spoke.
"Look at those legs! Whaddid I tell ya? I told you I fixed 'em. Didn't I? I told him, Fewla. Bowfu!? I told him."
"Murt, it's Goom he's -"
"He's a dumb, dumb, mud mole, he is. Isn't he Dennis? A mud mole. Dumb."
"He is a dumb mumble," Dennis tried to agree.
"Boys! Goom's in a mess o' trouble, and he needs our help," Fewla pleaded with them.
"I knew it! Didn't I know it, Dennis? Old Goomy made another mess. Well I ain't helping!" Murt responded.
"Gah! He's in real trouble, Murt."
"I. Ain't. Helpin'," Murt replied sternly.
Bowfu, the bartender was watching all of this with exhausted frustration. "Miss Fewla, come and take this," he said. He held out a tray of some sort of shiny powder.
"No! No you don't, Bowfu," Murt was protesting. "You're not gonna conk me!"
"You take this Miss Fewla," Bowfu ignored Murt. "Take this and you're going to blow it in their faces. It will sober 'em right up. Comes in handy in a dwarvish tavern."
"I'm tellin' ya, I'm not going to be conked by you, or her, or Goom, or a mud mole, or nobody," Murt was belligerent, but his body couldn't keep up with his empty threats,
and before he could stand from his seat, he was engulfed in a cloud of the powder as was Dennis.
"Ahh! Ahh! No! No, no, no, no!" Murt screamed. Dennis was too drunk to resist.
Fewla turned to Bowfu, "Why'd he call it 'conk'?"
"Wait and see," he responded.
Murt kept screaming, and Dennis had joined in the chorus. Dennis vomited. Murt fell into a fetal position on the wooden bench, and grabbed his head in pain.
They were both experiencing a days-worth of hangover, but it would all be over in another minute or so.
Dennis had his hands wrapped around his mid-section, but he couldn't stop from vomiting a second time. The sobriety was being conked back into them.
"Water!" Murt begged.
"Two waters!" Bowfu happily obliged, "and a mop for Dennis. You know the deal."
Their wailing slowly subsided, and Murt's rosy cheeks drooped and faded into a pale scowl. While Dennis mopped up his mess, Fewla quickly filled them in on what she'd seen.
She told Murt about the cloaked figures and poor, tied-up Goom.
"Well, where were they taking him?" Murt asked as she finished.
"They was 'eaded for the Shrouded Mountains in the North," she replied.
"Gods..." Murt became serious, "Damn it, Goom! What did I tell him? There's nothing in the Shrouded Mountains but fog and dragons."
"Oh no," Dennis said, "you don't think they're going to fog him to death, do you?"
"Probably the dragon, Dennis. Atop Mount Skrye. I guess we don't have much of a choice, do we?" Murt said to no one in particular.
"But we mus' get a move on," Fewla said. "It took me all day to get 'ere, and we don' know 'ow much time we 'ave."
"We could ask Martin for a lift," Dennis said.
"We could ask Martin," Murt agreed. "Even so, he's fast, but he's not that fast."
"Who's Martin?" Fewla asked.
"Now, if we could enchant him, we might be able to get there quick enough. Actually, if we could enchant him, that might solve a couple of problems." Murt rifled through his spell book.
He found a speed enchantment called Yuk's Haste, but he had neither the ingredients, nor the skill to pull it off.
"Maybe if I still had my dragon shavings, or my jezebel root I could come up with something," he shot an angry glance at Dennis, "but I don't have anything useful."
"What if we had a dragon heartstring?" Dennis asked.
"If we had a dragon heartstring, we might be able to make do with just that, but we haven't got a heartstring, now have we Dennis?" Murt responded.
"But if we had a dragon heartstring, it would help us get to Skrye faster?"
"But if we had a dragon heartstring, it would help us get to Skrye faster?" "Do you have a heartstring Dennis?" Murt asked.
"But if we had a dragon heartstring, it would help us get to Skrye faster?" "Do you have a heartstring Dennis?" Murt asked. "Well, if I did have -"
"But if we had a dragon heartstring, it would help us get to Skrye faster?" "Do you have a heartstring Dennis?" Murt asked. "Well, if I did have -" "Dennis! You have one, don't you?" Murt was yelling. "Give me the damn string!"
Dennis opened his outer cloak, and reached into a pocket sewn into the inside. He pulled out the string which was wrapped into a tight coil.
"I only took the one! I swear it," Dennis defended himself from the dirty looks he was getting. "When Goom was stringing up his lute, I snagged one out of the bag."
"Dennis..." Fewla said with dismay.
"Fewla, I'm a crook. I'm a bad guy, and this is what bad guys do," he said. "And I'm sorry for it, but it's the way of things."
"You're naht the bad guy, Dennis," Fewla said. "Bad guys don' do rescues."
"Well, good guys don't do stealing, and they don't come from Gellring. The good guys have good dads and good grand dads. They live in good houses and they eat good food. They got good lives, and they can't do nothing but good things. There's no bad heroes, and no good villains," Dennis replied.
"Dennis, we'll talk about this later," Murt said as he snatched the heartstring from Dennis's hand.
Fewla turned away from Dennis and focused on the task at hand. "Okay, but who is Martin?" she asked.
Murt was already walking out of the tavern. "Come on, we're going to call him right now. Dennis, run and get my horn."
Fewla and Murt stepped through the threshold of the tavern and into the cold night air. The faint glow of the moon illuminated the clouds that blanketed the sky and blocked out the stars.
Within two minutes, Dennis was back and breathing heavily from his short sprint. He handed Murt a long, hollow bull horn.
Murt turned away from the tavern and faced the dark grove on the edge of the village. He inhaled a deep breath.
His stout chest swelled with air, he put the horn to his lips, and he let out a long rumbling tone that echoed through the darkness.
He sat down and took out some of his magic materials and ingredients, and he flipped through his spell book to see what he could find.
"That's it?" Fewla asked.
"Well it's going to take him a minute or two, Fewla. He's not a unicorn," Dennis scoffed at the faun's ignorance.
"I don' even know what he is!" she said.
A minute or two later, they heard the sound of snapping branches and swishing leaves. A weasel as thick as a pine tree and as long as the tavern burst forth from the grove.
Fewla fell back in a combination of surprise and horror at the sight of the giant rodent. Its fur was the color of oiled leather except for its underbelly which was white.
It had massive dark eyes and a stubby snout with white whiskers the length of corn stalks. Fewla looked down at its short little legs and wondered how it was going to get anywhere quickly.
(continued in Part XX Part II)