157 Chapter 154 Meeting the Dwarves
(I'M GLAD TO GET AWAY FROM THAT.)
'You seemed rather uncomfortable around her.'
(MY POWERS, WHEN NOT AFFECTING MY HOST, OR WORKING FOR MY HOST, ARE VERY LIMITED.)
'Ah,' thought Joseph, glancing down at the dwarven stronghold below them.
"Hmm. Cool! They are using an active volcano for a smelter and furnace," he said impressed.
"It can't be that safe though. Fourteen dwarves are coming from around the cliff to our left."
"Ah, thanks Stella."
They watched as the stocky forms of the dwarves came into view. The stories always said they were short, but Joseph didn't think they were that short. They were still over five foot and built like bricks.
(BE CAREFUL! DWARVEN MUSCLE TISSUE IS ABOUT 40% DENSER THAN HUMAN MUSCLE TISSUE, AND ABOUT 210% AS STRONG.)
'Seriously, system? Those guys look like they live at a gym.'
(THEY ALSO HAVE APPROXIMATELY FOUR TIMES THE AVERAGE TESTOSTERONE OF HUMANS, MAKING THEM MUCH MORE AGGRESSIVE. ALSO, THE TWO IN FRONT ARE WOMEN.)
Stella and Joseph stared at them as they approached.
"Why are a human and an elf in our mountains?"
"How did you get past the patrols this far?"
Apparently, the two in front hadn't decided on a pecking order yet.
"They called you an elf," Joseph said to Stella, since she didn't understand the language.
"I am no elf!" she declared, imperiously.
Joseph couldn't help but snicker. Her stance was good, and the threat was definitely there, but she twitched her nose like a bunny at the end. She glanced at him and sighed, because she knew why he snickered.
"Only you aren't terrified of that, Joseph."
The dwarves had grown quiet while they talked, obviously not understanding them.
"Fine, it's my turn," said Joseph, turning to the dwarves.
He stepped forward and grinned maliciously with his gold and blue eyes, while his shadow lifted off the ground with red and green eyes. The ground all around him began to glow as he cycled the mana through life and death. He could control out to thirty feet now, and took advantage of that.
"I am much more than human," he said in a low rumble, as if he were speaking the origin words in the dragon language. "Take us to your leader."
Stella had been listening in, through his thoughts, and had to cough, but didn't laugh.
"You'll never take us alive!"
"Protect the King!"
The dwarves shouted and hefted their weapons, ready to charge them.
"I also have ale," he said, the magic display went back to normal and he smiled.
"Well in that case…"
"Show us first…"
Joseph turned to Stella, actually amused at their quick turnaround, and said, "Stella, please show them some of the ale I made."
She sighed, then pulled out a cask. It was one of his experiments while they were in time out. ESSENTIAL WATER subjected to the WATER TO WINE spell. He could barely stand it, but Stella liked to sip a glass every now and then.
"OK, but they only get to sniff it. Get closer before I uncork it."
As Joseph repeated her words, the dwarves hurried over. As they waited excitedly for her to remove the lid, Joseph suddenly wondered if she knew how to make it herself.
"Stella, have you ever made wine, before?"
"Oh, no, but we sure drank a lot of it at victory celebrations, and I was the champion after all. I know a few things about it, but you can just create it instantly, so I never bothered."
One of the dwarves went to reach in with the cup on his belt, and Stella slapped his hand.
Joseph sighed. This was going to be a long visit if he had to be the go between the entire stay.
GIFT OF TONGUES.
"Why did you slap me?" demanded the dwarf with the cup. He was looking at his hand in surprise, as if he couldn't believe her slap had actually hurt.
"I said you could sniff it, but I'm not sharing my cask. You can get your own. He makes them," she said, pointing at Joseph.
"You can't just let us sniff something that smells that good, and not let us have a sip. That's just rude. Didn't your mother teach you manners girl?"
Stella's glare caused him to freeze like a rat in front of a snake.
"Actually, her mother isn't in this world," said Joseph softly.
"Oh, sorry bout dat."
Stella just sighed as she replaced the lid on the cask and put it up.
"So, take us to your city, or whatever, so we can trade and talk to your king. He's a mage and can make all the magical wine you want."
The dwarves huddled and whispered to each other, glancing at them occasionally, to make sure they hadn't disappeared. Joseph and Stella didn't have any problems hearing every word they said.
One leader was opposed, not liking the way they had just appeared on their mountain, and the other was all for letting them in, claiming ale that good deserved a chance. Apparently, they were sisters and always argued about everything.
"We are also looking to trade for any metals and unusual gems, and we have news we need to tell you, even if you won't trade," said Joseph.
"What news?" demanded the sister that was opposed.
"It's about the human kingdoms. All of them."
"Let's take them and let the commander decide," said the sister that was for letting them in.
"Fine. I still don't know what he means by not being human. He isn't a lich."
"One of the clerics should know."
The dwarves finally decided to take them to their city, so they headed out.
"Want any jewelry, Stella? I should get something nice for my girlfriend," said Joseph as they walked.
"A jeweled dagger," she said with no hesitation.
"Anything in particular? You have a flame blade and two daggers bathed in gods blood."
"Jewelry…that would still be…useful, if I need it," she said with difficulty. Her voice got quieter as she spoke.
"Got it. I think."
She nodded. "Good."
The entire side of the mountain was stone cut sheer. The lava boiled in the bottom, and vents took the poisonous air to the surface through various tunnels, warming the interior of the mountain much higher than the typical temperature of caves. Joseph even saw a hot spring but decided not to mention it. Only Selena would be comfortable bathing so close to an active volcano. It must have taken hundreds of mages and stone carvers, centuries to make this city.
"It's glorious. Stella, their castle is bigger than the elven one."
"What did you expect of dwarves? They actually work with stone, unlike the elves."
As they reached the gates, the older sister ran off to fetch someone. She apparently had to talk to a lot of people before she could see the commander that had been mentioned, and then everyone had to come see them. It was a good forty minutes before they could get in.
During that time, Stella had started playing some dice game with the dwarves, and had won quite a bit of coin off of them. She was about to start on their equipment, when everyone showed up.
"I told you not to gamble with her, don't give me that look," shrugged Joseph as one of the dwarves glared at him.
The commander had thicker plate mail than Joseph had seen on anyone in this entire realm.
"Who are you?" he asked them gruffly.
"I am Joseph and this is Stella."
"And why are you here?"
"To trade and to speak to your king."
The commander stared at them. "They're too puny to be a threat. Let them in. Who made that spear, boy?" he asked, nodding to Joseph's staff.
The commander looked at him for a second, as they walked along, before turning away.
"Work's crude, but shows promise. I don't know how you managed to forge it, or temper it, with those puny arms."
"I haven't truly tempered it. I never had a teacher, so I just did the best I could."
He looked back at him. "You don't look to be lying, but that's hard to believe."