(A quick recount of a gaming session, fictionalized for my gaming partners-in-crime…)
After the Good Mead clusterfuck, it kind of felt good to be doing what they did best. That was, of course, getting paid to fuck shit up and steal stuff. And the giant fucking igloo for giants… yeah. Milo rubbed his hands together in anticipation. Giants always had good shit to steal. You just had to not get squashed by the giants. That’s what Geoff was for, wasn’t it? And that idiot Testikles and his pig. You could rely on Testikles to go in – he’d been thinking of ‘hard’, but recalling the way Testikles liked to fight naked, Milo winced. There was going in hard, and then there was Testikles and his fucking ‘war horn’.
It really didn’t bear thinking about.
For some reason there was a big-ass hole in the ice just south of the bigloo. (That’s what Milo called it in his head. Bigloo. Really bigloo.) It didn’t take much scouting to see it led into a tunnel that came up somewhere inside the bigloo. Why? What the fuck for? It smelled oily and greasy, not giant-shitty, so it wasn’t yet another stinkpit. Still, Testikles chucked a lit torch into it and stepped back.
‘What’d you do that for?’ whined Alea. Milo grimaced. No doubt the hairy little idiot would explain. And sure enough…
‘Back home we had a silage pit,’ said Testikles, looking carefully over the edge of the hole. ‘Seven people went into it. None returned. The torch still burns,’ he said. ‘The air is good.’
‘Sweet,’ said Geoff. ‘Let’s do this.’ The elf went through the motions, with all the hand-waving and the chanting and the fingerpointing and the magic wand shit while everybody stood around looking uncomfortable. And sure, it was kind of useful to climb around like a big stickyfoot spider, clinging to walls and ceilings and shit, but Milo always had a sneaking fear that one day Geoff would fuck it up and Milo would be turned into a big spider and somebody would smack him with a book or something.
It didn’t happen though. One by one, they stepped over the edge of the hole, clinging to the icy tunnel by the powers of magic. Even Testikles’ fucking war-pig. And didn’t that just look weird as shit? Huge fucking ugly boar with a saddle and bridle, walking down the icy wall…
The tunnel came up inside a room made of ice. ‘Don’t lick the walls, Testikles,’ Milo said, hoping the other halfling would be stupid enough to do just that. Testikles just grimaced, though, and pointed to what looked like a scar on his tongue. Milo winced again.
The icy walls were thick as fuck, but enough light filtered through to show five big barrels haphazardly arranged around the room. Nothing else. ‘Fuck,’ Milo muttered. Geoff broached a barrel and sniffed.
‘Whale oil,’ Geoff said.
‘Beef hooked!’ added Testikles, grinning as if he’d said something clever.
‘Five barrels,’ said Milo. Shit. Whale oil wasn’t cheap. ‘That’s probably… fifty gold the barrel, I reckon. Sweet!’ Cautiously, he stuck his head through a gap in one of the walls that served as a door. Another room lay beyond. The only thing visible was a gigantic sort of… bed. It was huge, and stuffed with with furs and a big-ass pillow. ‘Cool,’ said Milo. He clambered up and burrowed into the furs and pretended to be asleep. ‘Look at me! I’m a giant!’
A moment later, something dripped on his face. Milo’s eyes snapped open. For some reason, that fucking idiot Testikles was pouring the opened barrel of whale oil into the bed and all the furs and everything. Milo spluttered, spitting fishy-tasting whale oil and rolling out of the bedding as quick as he could. Not quick enough, though. He was greasy as fuck. And the hairy little fucking idiot was still filling the bedding with whale oil!
‘The fuck was that for?’ snapped Milo, glaring as he scraped whale oil out of his hair and clothing.
‘I have made an enormous torch,’ said Testikles seriously. ‘If we need a torch, now we will have one that is gigantic big.’
Alea stepped forward and patted Testikles cautiously. ‘I’m sure that’s a terribly good idea,’ she said, eyeing the now-empty barrel which had only recently contained a small fortune in hard-to-obtain oil. ‘But remember: before you do things, Testikles, we’re supposed to discuss it with the party first, aren’t we?’
Testikles face fell. ‘Yes, Alea,’ he said. He shoved the wooden barrel into the middle of the oil-soaked sleeping furs. ‘It’s a really big torch, though,’ he said.
There was another door out of the room. Well… another gap in the wall, anyway. Milo stuck his head round the corner and saw a long, tall hallway of ice that gave onto some kind of dim room at the end. Geoff’s spell was still working, so the elf magician scurried up the wall to the roof, and scuttled along until he could see the room at the end.
A few minutes later, Geoff came back. ‘Mammoth’, he reported, hanging down from the ceiling like some kind of badly dressed bat. ‘Woolly mammoth. And it looks pissed.’
Alea and Iledove looked at Testikles. ‘We want to rescue those stolen kids,’ said Iledove. ‘Maybe you could talk to the mammoth, Testikles?’
Testikles wriggled happily, like a kid getting patted by a schoolteacher for doing his homework. ‘Sure,’ he said happily. ‘I will be friends with the mammoth. I have never been friends with a mammoth before.’ And just like that, the little fuckhead trotted off around the corner.
Not much later, Testikles came scurrying back. ‘The mammoth is very angry,’ he reported. ‘He thinks we killed his master and he doesn’t want to play or be friends. Also, he speaks Common. Like the wolves. I have never met so many talking animals before.’ He glanced nervously back over his shoulder. ‘I think I will wait in here,’ he said. ‘That mammoth does not like me.’
Which showed good taste, Milo thought. ‘I’ve got this,’ he said, and before anyone could stop him he scrambled up the wall and went hand-over-foot along the ceiling. How much longer before the spell wore off, anyway?
The room at the far end was fucking huge. And there really was an angry-looking mammoth in it. There was also a big-ass throne made of ice, and a big, clear block of ice with what looked like a dismembered giant frozen inside it. Well, then. Milo sneaked to the ground, out of the creature’s line of sight. No sense letting it know he could climb the walls. He stepped out from behind the throne and cleared his throat.
‘You!’ said the mammoth. ‘Your kind is to blame for this!’
‘Not my kind,’ said Milo. ‘I’m a halfling. What’s happening, big guy?’
‘My master is slain. I am mourning. Your presence desecrates this sacred space. Begone or I will crush you!’ The mammoth flapped its ears menacingly.
Being crushed didn’t feature on Milo’s day planner. He held up his hands. ‘What if I came to pray for your master?’
The mammoth peered at him suspiciously. ‘You… may do so. You may leave a gift, if you want.’
‘Copper,’ said Milo, holding up three pennies. ‘That’s money. It’s important stuff. Do I… do I put it on the throne?’
‘Yes,’ growled the mammoth. It sounded really weird.
Cautiously, Milo risked his three pennies onto the icy throne. It was fucking huge, and there was a weird rune carved on the back of it, but beyond that it was just a big-ass chair. ‘Can I sit in the chair?’ he said.
‘No!’ said the mammoth angrily. It stomped a foot. The ice trembled.
Milo didn’t feel like arguing. ‘So,’ he said breezily. ‘Nice place! What’s the rest of it like?’
The mammoth looked… what? Sort of… pleased? As if it was proud of the bigloo for some reason. ‘There is the war room,’ said the mammoth. ‘And the whale room. There is a sleeping room. And a prison.’
Bingo! ‘Oh, yes,’ said Milo. ‘Hey, yeah. We heard there were a couple of lost kids out here…?’
The mammoth’s eyes narrowed. ‘They must suffer!’ it said. ‘Humans slew my master! Now I destroy their kind.’
‘Whoa there, big guy,’ said Milo. ‘I hear you. I really do. So… the kids?’
‘They will die!’ snapped the mammoth. ‘You will die if you do not leave. You live only for the gifts you have given!’
‘Okay, then,’ said Milo. And yeah… that was one big-ass, stomping motherfucker of a woolly sonofabitch. Definitely not something Milo felt like fighting. ‘I’ll just… be off then. Nice meeting you!’ He turned and scurried back up the hallway before the mammoth could do anything really unpleasant.
Back in the bedroom, they had a quick discussion. ‘We need to find those kids,’ said Iledove, her face set in that expression of damp-eyed nobility that Milo associated with demented lepers and religious doorknockers. ‘It is our duty!’
‘Fuck that,’ said Milo. ‘You didn’t see the size of that hairy cunt!’
Geoff nodded, and even Testikles looked sort of thoughtful, which wasn’t his regular expression at all. Milo pointed. ‘Anything that makes Testikles look like that… We need a plan.’
It was decided that while the spider-clinging ability still remained, they’d sneak along the ceiling, scout the place out, and hope the mammoth didn’t look up. How could it, anyway? It didn’t really have a fucking neck, and its eyes were on the sides of its big, hairy fucking head.
Testikles wasn’t having a piece of it, though. That mountain of furry fuck had done the impossible, it seemed: the little barbarian twat looked like he was genuinely scared of the thing. ‘I remain here, with Scrote,’ said Testikles. ‘I will guard our escape.’
Well, it was probably all to the good. Testikles couldn’t sneak for shit, and his big-ass war pig was even worse.
Even without Testikles and Scrote, sneaking along the ceiling of the bigloo was pretty scary stuff. Alea could be quiet – though not nearly often enough for Milo’s liking – but Iledove had the armour and the boots, and all that. And bits of the ceiling kept scraping off and falling. Worst of all, though, when they got to the big room they realized the biggest flaw in the plan.
‘The doors,’ whispered Alea. ‘We’d have to climb down almost to mammoth-eye-level to get through them.’
Geoff nodded. ‘We need some kind of a distraction,’ he hissed. ‘Something to draw the mammoth away.’
Milo shrugged. ‘I’ll tell Testikles,’ he whispered. ‘That’s the sort of shit he likes doing’.
Milo scurried back along the ceiling until he got to the bedroom again. To his surprise, the oil-soaked giant bed was now pushed across the open doorway, like a furry, greasy barricade. That was a big fucking bed! He knew Testikles was strong, and sure, the floor was slick and icy… but that must have taken some effort. ‘Hey, dickhead,’ Milo hissed.
Testikles looked up. His eyes widened.
‘Shut up and listen,’ said Milo, before the barbarian could open his yap. ‘We need you to distract the mammoth. Can you do that?’
A huge grin split Testikles hairy face. He nodded vigorously, and slapped the weird little hunting horn he’d been carrying lately. ‘I can distract!’ he said. ‘Very distract! You watch!’
‘Yeah, okay,’ said Milo. ‘Just… let me get back out there first, okay? And watch yourself. If that fucking thing catches you, he’s going to fuck you up good and proper.’ He scurried away to rejoin the others. How long did that goddam spell last, anyway?
What followed was… difficult to describe. First, the mammoth raised it’s trunk and flapped its ears. It swung its colossal head from side to side, as if listening. ‘What the fuck was that?’ the mammoth snapped. And that was weird as fuck, because there had been exactly zero noise. Milo had even been holding back his farts for fear of alerting the monstrous thing. But… yeah. There it went, down the hallway, exactly as if it had heard… what?
Alea grinned, and looked at Iledove. ‘Good work from Testikles,’ she mouthed. Maybe she was going to say something more, but then something happened.
Exactly what, nobody was really sure. One moment, Milo was watching the arse-end of an angry woolly mammoth as it trundled down the wide ice hall, and snorted in surprise to find a bed pushed across the doorway. ‘This will not stop me,’ it snarled, and pushed hard into the room, the big bed crunching as the mammoth stomped it.
But then Milo heard Testikles voice: ‘Smoke this, you big furry freak!’
Then there was a fuckalmighty roar and a massive blaze of flame and a rush of super-hot air. There wasn’t even a scream or a squeak from the mammoth: the arse end of it flew back across the hallway, borne outwards on a colossal ball of fire and thick, black smoke. Gobbets of flaming mammoth-meat blasted down the hall. Balls of burning mammoth hair oozed vile, stinking fumes. Milo gasped, and choked. ‘Fuck me,’ he said, and scuttled down the wall to the floor, where the others joined him.
‘What the fuck was that?’ said Alea, staring at the hellscape at the end of the hall where huge globs of scorching, burning mammoth fat mingled with shattered bedframe and an inferno of blazing bedding. ‘What the actual fucking fuck?’
‘Whale oil is extremely volatile,’ said Geoff. There was a loud pop! from the fire and a blazing chunk of mammoth-fat blew past like a smoky, stinking, hairy comet. ‘Exceptionally volatile,’ Geoff said.
A chunk of the ice wall nearby flew outwards, startling all of them who’d been standing there, staring dumbly at the colossal mammoth barbecue. A familiar tusked snout appeared in the new hole in the wall, but it quickly disappeared to be replaced by Testikles grinning (and slightly singed) face. Peering through the hole, the halfling barbarian announced: ‘I distract him!’
‘Fuck… my… life,’ Milo muttered.
After that, things were kind of anticlimactic. Milo got his three pennies back, but there was fuck-all else to be had except stinky bits of flaming mammoth. There was a pretty neat statuette of a Chuwinga in what was probably the war room, but when Milo claimed it, three fucking Kobolds bobbed up from behind the furniture and demanded its return. They said they’d killed it. Milo pointed out it was a stone statue. The kobolds insisted it was theirs. There was only one way that was ending, and Geoff blew all three of the little fuckers into flaming gobbets. Not as impressive as the fucking massive mammoth conflagration that was still fucking burning, stinking the place out, though.
There was another room with a dead, partly butchered whale in it, for fuck’s sake. There was also a wall where there should have been a room, which was likely the prison – but the door was probably one of the three on the outside, and those two big-ass fucking wolves were still out there. So, yeah, fuck it. They borrowed Testikles idea and just chopped a hole in the wall – Testikles and his axe, that big goddam pig and his tusks, Milo and his Fists of Fuckery (love those gloves!), and even some red-hot spellcasting from Alea and Geoff. Building houses out of snow and ice was pretty fucking stupid, Milo reflected as they pushed through into the prison area.
That was predictable enough. Big iron cage hanging from the ceiling, two inbred mutant kids stuck inside. One of them had frostbitten hands. They did a lot of snivelling until Milo bent the cage up and let them out. Then Iledove did her healing thing, and Alea got them into a big blankie. Instead of leaving through the regular doors where the big-ass wolves were probably still lurking, they went to the back of the bigloo, to a stretch of the wall that was already badly melted by Testikles little ‘distraction’. A few minutes work, and they were out on the tundra again, on their way. Bye-bye wolves!
Or it would have been bye-bye. But that fuckhead Testikles kept on about the remaining four barrels of what he called ‘Kaboomf!’, and everyone eventually agreed they’d have to come back with the big wagon.
Back in Dougan’s Hole, the reception was… well, lukewarm. They showed the kids to the Town Speaker, and asked for their reward. She just laughed. ‘I don’t give a fuck about those little inbreds,’ she said. ‘You promised to kill the fucking wolves!’
‘Bullshit!’ snapped Milo. ‘You’re just a fucking cheapskate! Tell her, Geoff!’ But nothing happened, and when Milo looked around, Geoff was conferring with Alea and Iledove.
‘That’s true,’ said Geoff at last. ‘We promised to kill the wolves. There’s no reward for the kids.’
‘None?’ Milo snapped. ‘Let’s just go and see about that!’ So they walked a couple more blocks and sure enough, a bunch of skinny scroungers came out and glommed onto the pathetic kids. And it was all, like, you’re heroes, and the kids are saved, and you’re wonderful, but nobody tossed so much as a copper penny in Milo’s direction. Like they thought rescuing kids from certain death at tremendous risk was a freebie. Assholes!
It got even worse at the tavern. Skrun the Innkeeper hurried to the door when Milo arrived. ‘You’re back,’ he said. ‘I cooked your fish!’
That should have been good news. Milo was looking forward to a big old feast of smoky barbecue fish. But there was more.
‘The whole town loved it,’ went on Skrun. He was a sad-looking cunt with big dangling moustachios and a face so thin you could open letters with it, if you could read. And if anybody gave enough of a shit to send you letters, which nobody ever did for Milo.
‘Whaddya mean?’ said Milo.
‘Your fish was so large, most of the town has been fed,’ said Skrun. ‘I kept some for you, of course. Here!’ Skrun handed him a covered platter, and pulled back the lid. The plate had a couple fish steaks on it.
‘Fuck me!’ said Milo, staring at the steaks. They were sizable, but… ‘That was a fucking colossal fish!’
‘One of the biggest I’ve seen in these parts,’ said Skrun cheerfully. ‘Everyone was impressed.’
‘Where’s my fucking fish?’ said Milo. ‘Is this it?’
‘Oh!’ said Skrun. ‘I nearly forgot. Here.’ He handed Milo a bag that clinked nicely. It had a pleasant weight, too. ‘This is your share of the proceeds.’ Milo gawped. Skrun laughed. ‘You didn’t think I forgot? You got seventy-five percent.’
‘But… I wanted my fucking fish,’ said Milo – and it was right then that Testikles shouted something about a wrestling match, and picked him up round the middle and just fucking carried him away. And then Testikles giant fucking pig just sat on Milo, and every time Milo opened his mouth to complain, Testikles poured mead into it…
…which was okay, really. The pig was warm. The floor had a rug. The mead was cold. Milo struggled a bit for the show, but… yeah, okay. More mead. Besides, it was better than listening to Iledove and Alea going through their tortuous talk with the man Seffek they were supposed to meet there in the meadhall. Milo had only the haziest recollection of what that shit was about. Something something… bounty hunter dwarf… serial killer, blah blah blah more mead.
And then Iledove said something that made sense. ‘That fish was great,’ she said, and the gathered villagers in the taproom all nodded enthusiastic agreement. ‘You’re a wonderful fisherman,’ she said, and Milo had to agree. Hadn’t he caught the biggest fuckhead trout anybody had seen? He was going to say as much, but Testikles poured more mead into his mouth, so he swallowed and nodded. ‘You should go fishing again,’ said Iledove. ‘You should go right now, and take all these people and show them how you did it!’ And she grabbed Testikles before he could drown Milo in mead.
‘Yes!’ said Milo. ‘Get this pig off me! Yes!’ Scrote moved with a grunt and a sigh, and Milo sprang to his feet. The room wobbled a little, but Milo felt fucking fantastic. ‘More fish! I will fish! I will bring back an even mightier trout! Who’s with me?’ he yelled, raising his arms in the air. ‘Who’s with me?’
By the time he staggered out into the dim twilight, the inn was pretty much empty…
Testikles gripped his axe eagerly. Any moment now, Iledove would say the word and he would battle this Seffek. At least, if Seffek didn’t bleed properly. Or something. Or maybe if he didn’t heal properly. Whatever. There was a plan. Testikles knew that, and he gripped his axe.
‘It’s a quick test,’ said Iledove. ‘It’s nothing, really. A tiny bit of blood.’
‘But I told you,’ said Seffek in his quiet, cold voice. ‘I was born on midwinter. I have the Blessing of Aureole. I do not feel the cold – but this makes me seem strange to your senses, Paladin Iledove. There is no need for this.’
‘Hold still,’ said Alea. She had a little dagger, and she reached for Seffek’s hand.
‘I can’t let you do that,’ said Seffek with a little smile, and suddenly he was holding a sparkly, shiny sword made out of ice. His smile looked nasty.
‘Oh fuck,’ said Alea.
‘Is that the signal?’ said Testikles. ‘Is it now?’
‘Yes it’s now!’ screamed Iledove.
Seffek slashed at Alea, and blood went everywhere. The rage came over Testikles and he tore off his clothes and smashed Seffek with his axe and Skrote carved him with his tusks and furniture broke and plates smashed and the innkeeper screamed, but Seffek didn’t fall down and Testikles saw his skin was white and cold and his eyes were blue like ice and his big sharp sword was icy too. But Geoff did a fire thing and Seffek got burned and Testikles saw Seffek didn’t like that so he grabbed Seffek and tried to throw him in the fireplace only Seffek was stronger than he looked, and he didn’t move.
Iledove did something that made a big noise and a flash of light, and Seffek staggered a bit. He was cold in Testikles arms. It was like grabbing a cold, dead thing only Seffek moved and struggled. He was strong, but Testikles was stronger and Testikles had Skrote to help him. Together they dragged Seffek to the fireplace, and Geoff shot another fire. Seffek fought and struggled but he wasn’t fast enough with his ice sword to hurt Testikles, and then Testikles kept him wrapped in his arms and jumped into the fireplace with him, roaring and singing.
Seffek didn’t like that at all. The fire burned him and it burned Testikles too but Testikles was deep in the red and the roar and the rage and the fire made him laugh and he held Seffek while Seffek screamed and struggled and Geoff shot more fire. But then Seffek said a word that wasn’t a word and the room filled with mists, and suddenly he was gone from Testikles grip and Testikles was alone in the fireplace, blistering and smouldering and that was no good!
Testikles jumped out of the fireplace and looked around, but already it was done. Seffek somehow had got behind the bar and stabbed Geoff a lot, but Iledove had hit Seffek with her holy thing and Seffek fell down. He was pretty dead, but Testikles didn’t trust him because he’d been cold, cold even in the heart of the fire so Testikles raised his axe and cut off Seffek’s head and threw it in the fireplace, and then Seffek’s body all of a sudden turned to rot and decay and a strange, wispy sort of human shape rose out of the body and then blew apart in the breeze with a sad little wail, and Seffek was really, really gone.
Skrun the Innkeeper was frightened. ‘What did you do?’ he said. ‘What did you do?’
‘Hush,’ said Iledove. ‘He was evil.’
‘Yes,’ Testikles said. He pulled his clothing back into place, and pointed at the mouldering corpse. ‘See his body there!’
‘It can’t be,’ said Skrun, which was stupid because anybody could see that it was. ‘He rotted! Nothing rots here! It’s too cold! Nothing rots!’
Then Geoff made Skrun sign a paper that said Seffek was dead because Seffek’s head was all burned up in the fire, and his body was all stinky and disgusting and they needed something to show the bounty-hunter dwarf that Seffek was dead. Skrun was happy to sign the paper, and he said they were all heroes for killing the evil Seffek.
Then Milo returned with a crowd of drunk people and they were carrying the biggest fish Testikles had ever seen and they were carrying Milo too on their shoulders and cheering and some were vomiting and everyone was happy and even though he was a bit blistered and scorched, Testikles thought it was all right because now they were the heroes of Dougan’s Hole.
They drank all night and sang songs and danced. The next day, they went back to the ice house with the burned mammoth. The big wolves tried to attack them but Testikles split one of them in half, and Geoff figured out a new thing that let him shoot lightning into the bumhole of the other wolf and it was mostly dead and then Milo shot it with a crossbow and it was all dead. So they gathered the barrels of kaboomf and they hacked up the frozen dead whale for the polar bears who pulled the wagon they got from the goblins, and they went back to Dougan’s Hole where a nice woman thanked them for the children being rescued and gave Alea a pair of warm boots. And Milo was specially happy because they dumped the burned, split, stinky dead wolves on the Speaker’s doorstep and she had to pay them all the money she promised – and best of all, Skrun the Innkeeper hadn’t let her have any of Milo’s fish, just like Milo asked.
And Milo was even nice to the boy whose hands were frostbitten off, for some reason. That was weird. Testikles decided to keep an eye on Milo after that – all the way back to Bryn Shander.