158 Chapter 155 Backing Up The Tough Talk
While they walked, Joseph sent an invisible mage eye around. He quickly discovered that, as soon as the dwarves were out of sight, they stopped acting like ale obsessed simpletons. It became obvious after a few moments of looking around, that they acted the way they did, specifically for their benefit. Some of them even chose to take different routes when they discovered there were visitors.
He was particularly interested in their workshops and a group of their mages were working to keep the volcano under control. It looked to be a constant job.
Keeping the eye in the corners, in case any of them could see it, he remembered that he could see them at the age of 7. Since he hadn't bothered to learn the beta version of the system here, and his level was only 1, he didn't want to risk getting caught. Then he saw a group of their elite forces, and they were all glowing red.
(IT WAS MEANT TO DISCOURAGE PEOPLE FROM FIGHTING ENEMIES TOO MANY LEVELS HIGHER THAN THEM.)
'They needed that much help?'
(I CAN USE THE FEAR AND AWE THEY FEEL, ONLY WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE, JOSEPH.)
The door they came up to was ornately carved, with images of a dwarf defeating a six headed hydra, then being crowned king. It took six dwarves, three on each door, to open it. Joseph didn't miss the dusty footprints they were leaving, meaning, they didn't use this entrance very often. He looked around as soon as they stepped inside.
There were royal guards along the walls, positioned between great carved murals. The elite royal guards were positioned along the walk way they proceeded down, and standing on either side of the throne, were two princes…er, one prince and one princess. Her beard was neatly trimmed and decorated with tiny precious gems.
Joseph ignored all the comments that Joe started throwing at him about girls and hair, so he used telepathy to send them to Stella. She gave him an icy glare.
'Joe, we're going to get burnt food again. Shut up.'
'Eh, I don't care, we don't need to eat anymore, remember?'
'And you think she's not going to force it down our throats?'
Joe was silent as he mulled that over, then sighed and went back to working on the summoning circle.
They stopped in front of the throne, and Joseph looked over the dwarf wearing fancy armor.
"Where's the king?" he asked, looking over at the commander who had brought him here.
He looked at him suspiciously.
"What do you mean?" he asked slowly.
"The guy sitting on the throne is not the king. The armor's fancy, but he's obviously just a guard. Those are the royal children, and everyone else are just guards…is this some kind of test?"
He shook his head and said, "To see through the disguise ring is quite impressive."
Stella raised an eyebrow.
"Cut the crap. You led us on a roundabout while everyone got this little farce together. That door hasn't been opened in months; I could hear the squeak of the hinges. Now, are you going to lead my master to your king, or are you just wasting our time?"
"Stella!" snapped Joseph, shocked.
"What? These guys aren't the idiots they're trying to show us. They're guards. They're warriors. Whatever reason they have for their act, I'm sick of it."
"Just because they're acting like that doesn't mean that you should call them out on it. What if they're afraid of showing us how impressive they are?"
The dwarves were obviously listening in. When he gave her the gift of tongues, that meant he didn't swap back and forth between languages when he talked to her anymore. The shock they had at her initial outburst, had worn off, and they were starting to get annoyed and angry.
"Your etiquette teacher never taught you how to deal with warriors, only diplomats. This guy we're trying to see may be a king, but he was a warrior before that."
Joseph mulled that over, then nodded. "All right. I concede that you are right, but we are guests still."
"Fine," she said, turning to the commander. "Are we going to see your king, or not?"
The commander was the only one in the room who didn't seem to be upset. He was fighting to keep a smile off his face. Even though it would have been hard to see through the beard, the twitch was still there.
"Can you back up your tough talk?" came a voice from behind the throne. The dwarf that stepped out into view had scars covering his face, that the beard only managed to emphasize, instead of hide.
"Of course," she said, stepping forward.
All of the elite guards quickly surrounded her and the king, as they started to circle each other. Joseph could tell that she was holding back on using any magic, and the twitching of the king's fingers told of his desire to hold a weapon.
The elite guard that had been sitting on the throne stepped forward and hefted his axe, before dropping it onto the stone floor, and proceeding to drag it around in a circle.
"The first one out of the circle, looses," he said, stepping back. All of the guards in the circle cried out a hurrah, and slammed the long handles of their axes on the ground.
Stella smiled and took a stance, as the king twisted his head, cracking his neck, and then took his own stance.
Joseph watched as they rushed at each other. Stella was faster, more agile, but the dwarf obviously had more experience. He managed to grab her shirt, ripping it as he heaved to throw her. She ignored the flap as it fell, revealing her stomach, and turned, touching the ground briefly as she stopped her slide and charged back at him.
This time, as he reached for her, she jumped, stepping lightly on his shoulder, she kicked out at his head. He threw himself to the side, causing her to miss and land in a crouch. He stopped his own movement with a grunt, only inches from the line, and charged back at her.
They fought this way for two hours, dripping sweat and panting hard, every time they pulled apart. At the four-hour mark, the elite guard stepped forward.
"Enough! Your majesty, none has managed to hold out this long."
Stella was breathing just as hard as the king as they both broke out in huge grins and laughed.
"Alright, we can talk. What do you want?" asked the king, taking a towel from his son and wiping his face off.
Joseph casually touched Stella, and her torn clothing was mended, as she stepped next to him.
Joseph waited a heart beat of a moment, to make sure it was his turn to talk, then said, "I am only here for a week. Then I shall return to my own realm."
"Ah, those damn humans summoning people again?" The king shook his head in disbelief.
"Yes, well, I was wondering if you would all be interested in coming back to my realm at that time?" asked Joseph.
"And why would we be wanting to do that?"
"The system that you all have will be gone. Only that which you have worked on yourselves, will remain."
The king's head snapped up and there was a wicked twinkle in his eyes. "Really? And how would you know that?"
"I'm getting rid of it. It's horrible. Also, all of the human kings have been cut off at the knees. They're useless as rulers. I imagine it's going to be horrible chaos."
"That's fantastic!" cried the dwarven king with a grin so wide you could see his chipped teeth. "We've hated that cursed system forever! I've always insisted on everyone working for their own good. This is going to get good. Hey! Spread the word! Tell the guards that all trade is to be halted and to start stockpiling over the next couple of days! We're going to watch from our mountains and laugh!"
Joseph shut his mouth. This was not the reaction he expected. It was clear that none of them were interested in coming back to his realm. He wasn't sure how to feel about that.
"Take our guests to go shopping! Don't take them to that crappy human section that we have, take them to the good stuff. They are to be treated as proper guests!"
The commander thumped his chest and turned, taking them out as the guards scrambled to spread the word. There weren't any roundabouts taken this time, as they were taken to a section that was a slightly too short for them.
While the dwarves they encountered here were surprised to see them, none of them questioned it as word from the king spread like wildfire. They found quite a use for the stuff Stella had taken from all of the human treasuries. When it was time to leave, Joseph was very pleased with the visit.