“What do you think you are doing?” Trevan yelled as he snatched the crossbow out of Yeark’s hands. “Why did you shoot that boy?” Trevan could hardly contain his anger.
“That’s no boy,” Yeark said. “That’s a gnome!”
“I don’t care if he is a gnome. That still doesn’t give you the right to shoot him for no reason! I’m going to see if he is okay. You had better hope that he isn’t dead.” He ran to him and could see that he had been mistaken. The short individual laying there with an arrow in his soldier was indeed not a boy. Trevan hadn’t noticed the beard from a distance. He had never seen a gnome before. The wound, though serious, wasn’t fatal. He carried him to the cabin and laid him on the bedroll he had laid out for himself. He dressed the wound and saw to it that the gnome was resting quietly.
“Now tell me why you shot this gnome,” he said.
“Because he is a gnome,” Yeark answered.
“So you just attack every gnome you see?”
Yeark looked surprised at the question. “You don’t know anything about kobolds, do you? Gnomes are our mortal enemies. He probably knew I was here and was coming to kill me. And if you tried to stop him he would kill you too. You should let him die.”
“I am not going to let him die! He wasn’t coming here to kill anybody. He called to us from the road. I’m guessing that he was just a traveler looking for a place to stay the night.” He finished wrapping his shoulder and turned to Yeark. “Now listen to me. This is important. You are not to attack anyone without getting my approval first.” Yeark rolled his eyes and turned away. “Do you understand me?’
“You sure have a lot of rules,” Yeark said.
“Do you understand?” Trevan repeated.
“Yes,” Yeark said. “No attacking anyone unless you tell me I can.”
“That’s right,” Trevan said. “That is my first and most important rule.”
Trevan was exhausted. He laid down next to the gnome and quickly fell to sleep.
When he woke up the next morning, he saw that his patient was still sleeping and appeared to be comfortable. He looked around at the devastated structure. It was strange to look up and see the sky instead of the familiar exposed beams and underside of the roof he had looked at all of his life. Then he realized the kobold wasn’t there. He walked over and lifted the board Yeark had placed to hide his hole in the floor. He wasn’t there. Trevan thought for a minute that Yeark had run away. He was rather hoping that he had. Then he realized that the kobold must have stayed up all night working on the cabin. All of the loose debris was gone and the floor was reasonably clean. There was a small fire burning in what was left of the fireplace and a small batch of fresh firewood neatly stacked beside it. To the other side was bucket of fresh water. Somehow the kobold had found a metal drinking cup and set it beside the bucket.
A voice came from what had been the back of the cabin. “Look what I found.” Trevan turned to see the small kobold proudly holding up two arrows in one hand with a bird stuck on each. Following behind him was a goat he was pulling along by a rope in his other hand. “They must have run away when the dragon attacked,” Yeark said. He stepped over the charred baseboard where the back wall of the cabin had been and brought his prize into the center of the room. Now Trevan could see he had shot one of their three chickens and their rooster. He didn’t even bother trying to explain to Yeark what he had done wrong, but he was glad to see that he hadn’t killed the goat.
“We could eat them like this, but I like mine cooked a little,” Yeark said as he stuck them into the fire.
“What are you doing?” Trevan said. “Aren’t you going to clean them first?”
Yeark said “They aren’t dirty. Besides the fire will burn off most of the feathers if that’s what you are worried about.”
“I guess I don’t care how you eat yours,” Trevan said as he removed the hen from the fire. “But I’m going to show you how to clean and properly cook a bird, if you are going to be cooking for me.” He sat on the only whole bench and proceeded to instruct Yeark on the proper procedure for plucking all of the feathers, removing the head and feet and the innards. Then he made a proper roasting stick and placed the chicken over the fire.
“You’re not going to eat this?” Yeark asked, pointing to the parts Trevan discarded. Before he could answer Yeark was eating everything but the feathers.
From the back of the cabin a voice said, “You know, if you put the heart and gizzard in a pot of water with some turnips and onions you could make a nice soup.” It was the gnome. He was awake and sitting up. He cast a quick spell and the tin cup by the bucket rose into the air, dipped itself into the water and floated to him. It delighted him to see the shocked expression on their faces.
With Trevan’s aid, the gnome fully recovered in a few days. Trevan made Yeark pledge not to harm the gnome, or take anything that belonged to him. The gnome said his name was Raerpin Gimble Janker Skor Mikkennis Din Nackle, but most people just called him Gimble. He told them the story of the dragon attack. But he didn’t tell them about his magical gem. That he kept in his pocket. After hearing what the dragon did to Hetsdale, Trevan asked Yeark, “What can you tell me about this dragon named Abraxas?”
“Everyone knows about Abraxas,” said Yeark. “He is one of the oldest and most powerful of the Great Worms. It is said that the place he sleeps is somewhere in the Black Mountains, in a cavern under a volcano, on a bed of treasure accumulated over the centuries. The stories of his greatness are legendary. I only wish we had arrived here earlier so I might have seen him.”
Trevan tried to suppress his anger. “If we had arrived earlier I may have been able to save my father!” he said.
“You would have died as well,” said Yeark. “You heard how the fighters in Hetsdale all died trying to defeat him. You wouldn’t have had a chance. Many adventurers have tried, all have failed, and most have died.”
“Someday I will succeed where they failed. I will find Abraxas and avenge my father,” said Trevan.
Then he asked, “Why would he have destroyed Hetsdale and killed my father?”
“For Abraxas to have come all this way, he must have been looking for something specific.” said Yeark. “He wouldn’t have destroyed Hetsdale if they had given him his due respect and if they had given him what he asked for. Instead, they attacked him! They should have known what would happen to them after that. He must have not found what he was looking for in Hetsdale and was still looking for it when he stopped here. Was your father hiding a gem of some sort, perhaps a magical gem that would be of special interest to a dragon?”
“I already told you that we didn’t have anything of much value,” said Trevan.
Gimble said nothing, but he was sure now that Abraxas was looking for his magical gem. He was also sure that the kobold would slice his throat and give his gem to that evil dragon if he found out about it.
Trevan felt responsible for the gnome’s injury and said that he was welcome to stay here as long as he wanted. Over the next few days he told Gimble his story and how he had acquired a kobold. Although Yeark tended to sleep all day and work all night, he proved to be quite helpful in re-building the cabin. Gimble never quite trusted Yeark, but he liked Trevan and as soon as he was able, he began to help with the rebuilding.
Gimble and Trevan became close friends. Trevan even laughed at his pranks. Gimble had no place to go, so he decided to stay for a while. He didn’t tell Trevan, but one reason he stayed was to protect him from the kobold. He would sleep with a dagger under his pillow, and would wake up at the slightest sound. He was sure that Yeark intended to kill them both at his first opportunity.
Trevan began learning the draconian language from Yeark. Gimble decided he would learn it too. Gimble could already speak gnome, common and goblin. Learning draconian seamed to be a little easier for Gimble than it was for Trevan. They learned by asking Yeark questions, usually while working or doing other things. They started by asking for the draconian words for common everyday things like table, sky, sword, fire, etc. Yeark didn’t know the draconian word for some things. For instance, the closest he could come to “Father” was “he who was the last male with the mother before the egg was laid” or “the tribal leader”. He said that the tribe’s leader has the right to claim all eggs. Yeark believed that he was the reincarnation of the last kobold to die before he was hatched, so it made no difference who the father was. “True dragons are much smarter than kobolds, or humans, or gnomes,” he said. “I am sure they know draconian words for many things for which we have no words.”
Then they started putting sentences together. This was very hard for Trevan. He almost gave up a couple of times, but with Gimble’s help and encouragement he persisted. Yeark was very impatient, and when he spoke in draconian he spoke quite rapidly, often punctuating the end of his sentences with a kind of high pitched “yelp”. They learned that dragons spoke slowly and, according to Yeark, used many more words than necessary. He proudly proclaimed that draconian was the one true language from which all others descend. He said that kobolds, who don’t live as long as dragons, invented writing so they could pass their words down from one generation to the next. They taught writing to the dragons but the dragons have never used it much. Then Trevan and Gimble proceeded to learn to write the dragons language.
When Gimble mentioned how similar the written draconian language was to the writing used in magic, Yeark said that dragons brought magic into the world and taught it to the other races. “Magic is as natural to a dragon as breathing is to other races,” he said. “The magic of dragons is in the blood of kobolds as well. Many of my tribe were born with the ability to harness this power and control it to perform useful tasks, what you would call casting spells.”
“I haven’t seen you casting any spells,” said Gimble.
“For the tribe to prosper,” said Yeark, “each kobold must carry out his required function. I, like most others of my tribe, am more suited to performing mundane tasks. This in no way lessens the magical mature of the dragons blood that flows through my body. Neither does it lessen the importance of the fighter or miner to the success of the tribe.”
“Dragon’s blood, my grandmother’s big red toe!” said Gimble. “Magic is everywhere. You don’t have to have dragons blood to use it. We gnomes get our magic from our closeness with nature. Clerics and shamans of all races obtain their magic from their deities. Wizards learn to directly manipulate the power of magic through their studies.”
“That’s right.” Trevan said to Gimble. “Father said that he could feel the magic of nature. He said that some rangers could cast spell using this magical force. This must be the same power that you use for your magic. I suppose it is the same magical force that Druids use for their spells. But you said that draconian writing looks like magic writing. Do you know how to read magic?”
Gimble said, “I saw magic writing in a book once, about twenty years ago, but I can’t read or write it.”
“You don’t look old enough to have seen anything twenty years ago,” said Trevan.
“I’m forty eight years old,” he said. “Gnomes live a lot longer than humans. I wasn’t old enough to go off on my own until I celebrated my fortieth birthday.”
One day while the three of them were trimming a log for the cabin construction, Trevan asked Yeark what traps are called in draconian. Yeark thought for a minute and then he asked Trevan, “How many different words do you have for trap?”
“Well,” said Trevan, “I can think of several different types of traps. There are rabbit traps and snares and pits.”
Gimble said, “I’d say that they are only two types, mechanical traps and magical traps.”
Yeark said, “There are over 200 draconian words for trap. Each consists of a prefix for the creature that is the target of the trap followed by the intended purpose of the trap and there is an optional suffix describing the type of trap. The target creature can be the creature’s name, if the target is a specific individual, or the race of the target, such as human or gnome for example, or the general creature type. The general types are;” Yeark held up his hands and pointed to his fingers one at a time as he recited, “ flying insect, crawling insect – which includes normal spiders, tiny – like frogs or rats, small – like wolves or kobolds, medium – like human or elf, large – like elk or bear, very large and gigantic. Traps for very large or gigantic creatures are usually built for a particular creature or race. The purpose of the trap is; to discourage, to slow, to capture, to injure, to maim, or to kill. The type suffix, if it is included, is the basic kind of trap – such as pit or snare.”
“So,” said Trevan, “what would the draconian word be for the trap you found me in?”
“keir-aia,” said Yeark. “Keir is draconian for medium size creature, like you. Aia means ‘to have’, or in this case it means to capture. You could add misanne, a pit type trap, and it would be keir-aia-misanne.“
Trevan suddenly grew flush with anger, threw down his ax and lunged towards Yeark. Gimble jumped between them and grabbed Trevan’s arm. Trevan stopped and Yeark jumped back. Trevan yelled at Yeark, “Capture!? That trap killed Kaylan! I don’t think it was made for capture!”
Yeark said, “I was answering your question! Are you are going to attack me every time you don’t like the meaning of a word?”
Gimble said, “Nothing would please me more than seeing that dirty kobold beaten into the ground, but he is right about one thing. You are going to have to control your temper.”
“You’re right,” said Trevan, still staring at Yeark. “But why would you lie about the trap name?”
“If you will calm down,” said Yeark, “I’ll explain.” Gimble let go of Trevan’s arm as Trevan took a step back. Yeark relaxed a little and continued, “I’ll tell you how traps are graded. Kobolds always design traps for the minimum required effect. It can then be enhanced for a possible greater effect. A trap intended to scare might wound or maim. A trap intended to harm or capture might kill. As long as the trap performs its intended minimum effect it is considered successful. Its name reflects this minimum desired result. If it also causes additional damage it is better. We often enhance traps after they are made.”
Trevan was determined to finished rebuilding the cabin long before the first snowfall. He and Gimble would find a good tree. Trevan would chop it down. Gimble would top it and remove the limbs. The two of them would drag it back to the cabin site. Yeark would trim and shape it, and would notch and fit the corners. Gimble rigged up a device to help lift the finished logs into place. Each log was squared off and made smooth on three sides and the bark was left on the outside. Yeark cleaned, shaped and finished the interior of the cabin as it went up. They replaced the charred wood floor but left the boards loose in Yeark’s corner to cover his sleeping pit. They rebuilt the fireplace using the bricks from the old one. The roof hadn’t burned, but the rafters were broken in several places. They were able to re-use most of the wood from the old roof and all of the old wood shingles. The new cabin wasn’t going to be as tall as the old one, but the floor was just as big.
Not what I was expecting but superb anyway! Nice one!