DP Gregoire Fiction - An Adventure Lost - Chapter 3: Hearthbarrow
Monday October 26th 2020
“And then I zapped the pirate captain, turning him into a toad,” the man now known as a wizard told Denderin, as he listened with content, fascinated by this man's tales.
“And then what happened?” Denderin asked, eager to learn what happens next.
“Well you see, I held him by one leg, dangling him over the side of the ship. The crew mates keeping a weary eye on me. I wasn't too worried, I knew I had the upper hand. I yelled to them, 'If you don't give me the girl, and let us off this ship, your captain will be chum for the sharks below!' I've never seen pirates move so fast to give something up in my life,” the wizard added to the story.
“Alright, is there more?” Denderin still eager.
“Oh yeah! That's just the beginning,” the wizard chuckled while answering Denderin's inquisitions.
“You've been telling me a story for 3 days now, and it's just the beginning?!?” Denderin was awe struck. This man must have seen so much, experienced a lot of adventure. Surely Denderin hopes to be as great as him one day.
“Aye, and I'll tell you more about it one day if you're ever in the area,” the wizard responds.
Confused Denderin asks, “Wait, what?”
“We're here. As far as I am going to take you. You're at Hearthbarrow now. Tatuague is that way,” he points North East, “I have to go this way, to Bolkenheim,” he points mostly West, with a slight North in his direction, “So, if you're ever near Bolkenheim, look me up, and I can tell you more of the story,” he answers while waiting for Denderin to unboard his caravan.
Grabbing his belongings, and troll, Denderin steps off, “Well, thanks for the ride! And thanks for the great stories.”
The wizard graciously takes the compliment, “It was a pleasure to have you, Denderin, and you as well, troll.”
“Maybe when I get back, I can stop by for a visit?” Denderin exclaims, yet asks all at the same time.
“Surely, if I am around,” he answers.
The two exchange bits of information, before the wizard finally heads off on his way. Oxen pulling the caravan on the long road to Bolkenheim. For their journey is almost at an end, as this pit stop is a little over halfway to home.
As for Denderin, he and troll have just arrived to a little town named Hearthbarrow. Hearthbarrow is not your normal human settlement, no. It is run and primarily inhabited by halflings, known as short, jolly folk, with large, hairy feet.
It's a nice little town, with all private homes buried beneath the hills, and gardens usually grown on the roofs of each house. Any community building is left above ground, and ones that may frequent travelers have ceilings high enough to accommodate larger folk.
Hearthbarrow's inhabitants go about their daily business as usual. Weeding, plowing, gardening, tending animal and crop alike. Others work away at crafts, mainly tailoring, but there are some who whittle wood, paint pictures, play instruments, and even sing. In fact, the town is quite lively.
Denderin notices as he gets a bit further into the town he can hear a loud commotion coming from one of the central buildings above ground. He can hear a bunch of loud sounds coming from within the building, with yelling and screams. And worse yet, nobody else in town seems to worry, or bat an eye at the horrors going on behind the closed doors.
The building is slightly smaller than what an average human building would be in size, but not by much. It is a stilted building, two stories high, with a gabled roof. Stairs led up to a balcony that had seating arrangements on it, with an awning that hangs overhead. The door was beaten, worn, its green color wearing away, its pained glass windows dusty with age. A red wooden sign barely hung over head by one bolt, it swaying with the breeze, bold letters carved in yellow that said, The Boisterous Tankard.
The balcony is rife with patrons, filling most of the seats. Some look like what you'd expect your average, jolly halfling to look like. While others look gruff, mean, worn with age, and hardened by life's trials. This put Denderin at unease, despite their small frames. Troll however, was aloof to the entirety of it all, just whistling along, daydreaming in its own world.
Denderin wearily opened the door against his better judgment. His heart pounding with anxiety. What was he going to witness in such a place?
Bombabupbabupbabupbabupbabupba, detis, detis, detis, bombap, dedap, dedap, bomtis!
Looking in he has seen the craziest thing he has ever witnessed. An elevated platform rose from the middle of the room. Two halflings rotated some mechanism around the platform as the lights above it flickered on and off in various colors. Two other halflings rotated cranks on the opposite side of the room, which let in small bursts of fog into the room.
A crowd surrounded the platform, which Denderin now recognized as a stage. They all seemed to be enjoying the commotion coming from those on it.
“Want a drink, sir?” surprised, Denderin looked to see a small, busty halfling lady with a tray, several drinks upon it, her breasts hanging out from her blouse.
“Teh, neargh!” a gruff looking halfling man with a large beard and long hair illegibly says while he snatches a drink off the tray, and placing payment between the lady's cleavage.
“Ugh... No thanks,” Denderin dismisses the drink, the lady walking off.
Two burly halfling men are off on one side, wrestling and boxing each other, a small crowd gathered around them, betting coin.
One half of the ceiling is open as high as the second story, where a chandelier hangs, and a balcony looks over the inside of the establishment. It appears as if some crazy, drunken halfling is whirling around on the chandelier above, spilling bits of his drink on the crowd below.
“This place is interesting,” troll says to Denderin who is off in his own world, taking this place in.
“Huh? Yeah,” Denderin absentmindedly replies to troll.
“But I didn't ask a question,” troll replies confused to Denderin's response.
“Huh? Yeah, questions,” Denderin is too wrapped up in the events transpiring before him.
Denderin has come to the conclusion that these halflings must be clamoring around some type of band. Playing some type of music. The music felt heavy, heavy indeed. It had hard drums, heavy lute, deep horns, and gruff sounding lyrics.
The halfling on the drums was shirtless, slightly chiseled, covered in blue runic tattoos, bald, an auburn goatee on his face, his right ear pierced with two small golden loop earnings. The drumsticks he wielded were unusual, one was in the shape of a handaxe, while the other a hammer. His drums had a symbol of an axe crossing over a hammer with the word Axe curving around the top of the symbol, and Hammer curving around the bottom of the symbol.
The lute player had what appeared to be a battleaxe with strings attached to it in his hands. He is also shirtless, but wears overalls, black with dark green stripes down the length of the pant legs. He wears big black leather boots, with silver studs on the toes. He is slightly hairy, with long black hair that drapes over his face. A few tattoos adorn the arms, though they are hard to make out in this current environment.
The singer, he is taller than the rest of the halflings. Standing about a foot taller than your average halfling. He is quite built, his body sporting a moderate amount of hair. He has a black mohawk, that connects to two braids where his sideburns should be. He also has a long, black beard, braided on the sides, each braid ending in little silver trinkets.
His left nostril is pierced, with a chain connecting to a bar pierced through the top of his left ear. Each lobe has black gauges of a moderate size. His left eyebrow has a small, silver, broken hoop, with two studs on either end. His bottom lip pierced in the middle, a little stud in the middle of the hoop. The septum pierced with two fang looking things hanging down from both sides. His fingernails black.
He wears a vest, which looks to be made of animal leather, dyed black, little metallic studs adorn the shoulders, as well as run down its sides. His pants are the same black leather, with a fringe that runs down the outside of the pant legs. The belt buckle, a shriveled goblin's head. His boots big, black, and studded, a metallic buckle on top of them.
He has several tattoos throughout his body, but the one on his left breast stuck out in particular. It was a scene of a bunch of halflings, presumably the members of the band, with axes and hammers, slaying a bunch of savage orcs.
The singer wasn't even the creepiest looking member of the band, no... What Denderin assumed was a halfling was clad from head-to-toe in tight, black leather, metallic spikes running down the front and back of the suit. The lithe figure beneath the leather stomping around with large, platform boots on. A mask was fashioned on its head, it looked like some weird horned beast, the eyes glowing red. Every time a horn note was to be blown the figure beneath would writhe around stage like a wild, wicked animal, blowing its tune, smoke coming from the sides of its mouth.
The mask had one large horn that came out from the center, this must be where the music comes from. But it also had two small, ivory tusks with black tips on each side of the face. Coming off the back of the mask's head is a crown of horns, bending away from the face of the creature it was supposed to be.
Junjunjunjum! Junjunjunjum! Junjunjunjum! Boom, tast! Dist! Junjunjunjum! Haroooooot!
A gruff, heavy set of lyrics came forth from the singer of the group,
“Climb the hill,
kill the orcs,
see them laid out before you!
Listen to the screeeeeams of their children!
Lay them down,
swing axe around,
it's time to slay,
each and every dayay!
kill their newborns,
we are the storm!
The singer swings the mic around, bringing it back to his lips for another verse,
in any order,
you know what I mean,
it don't matter what you bleed!
Sew evil's seed,
it's their creed,
bring them to their knees,
beg for mercy screaming please!
Dark of night,
we do fight,
don't matter if it's by
torch or candle light!
Take them down,
without a sound,
they rest eternalleeee!
With the devil they can plead,
feel the horror of a million screams,
never escape in their wildest dreams,
because they're trapped in the eternal sleep!”
This time the singer dives off stage as he says the last lyric. This opens up for a hard, heavy drum solo, where the drummer goes crazy hammering on his instrument of choice, the singer gets passed around the stage before being put back on it.
The crowd goes nuts once the song ends. The cheers are deafening. In fact, Denderin thought he could feel the building shake a bit while this was all going on. Perhaps it did...
Then, all of a sudden the surreal happened. The lead singer locked eyes with Denderin, his stare piercing right through his soul.
Pointing at him the singer starts to speak, his voice gruff and rasp, “So, you've come to listen to Axe Hammer, have you, boy? Well, we have a special song just for you, so you soon wont forget your experience! Hit it, boys!”
The instrumentals flare up in a crescendo of a heavy yet melodic tune. The crowd suddenly surrounds Denderin in a wide circle, pushing him from one end to the other.
The singer locks his eyes with Denderin's as he begins his verse,
“Smash the human,
grind him down,
smash the human,
make your rounds!
Bash his bones,
hear him groan,
bash his bones,
make him moan!
Kick his ribs,
puncture his skin,
inflict that pain,
it's a blood rain!”
A few members of the crowd enter the circle, swinging their arms and legs wildly. They hop about while doing this, closing in on Denderin's location. Though smaller than him, Denderin fears for his life. He covers up, awaiting the inevitable blows!
It's time to dance,
fist a ready,
feet a flying,
get real sweaty!
Hear his screams,
feel his pain,
drink his tears,
don't care for his name!”*
The song continues as the crowd shoves Denderin around, hitting him in the most random spots. Though it isn't overly painful...
“OOF!” Denderin gets socked real hard.
Nevermind, it's painful, real painful, when they hit the right spots! It's terrible, being attacked by a dozen or so people half your size.
This was very exciting for everyone, except Denderin who was getting bumped around. Troll was even getting into it, punching its fist toward the ground, stomping its feet, singing along with the lyrics the best it can, “Break itsssss bonesssss, sssssmasssssh itsssss nosssse, rip itsssss clothessssss, ssssssend it home!”
“Yeah! Yeah! Smash his bones!” the drunkard up on the chandelier yells as he swings about wildly, "Whoop!"
All of the music and excitement came to an abrupt stop when the halfling on the chandelier came falling down, crashing through a table. Everyone looked over in silence to see if he was about to move. The band even stopped singing. The halflings stopped hitting Denderin mid-punch, Denderin stopped to look over as well. Even troll stopped from its rare instance of fun to look the dead halfling's way.
“YEEEEAAAAH! BREAK HIS NOSE!” the halfling sprung up from the pile of wreckage, finishing the remainder of its beer.
The crowd erupts in cheers, and everything goes back to what it was before the interruption. Denderin was disappointed that the halfling wasn't actually dead.
Denderin gets bounced around for what seems like an eternity. All sorts of hits coming his way, though he tried his best to cover his vital spots, mainly his face, and every-so-often the family jewels, when a good blow would find itself there.
Then, suddenly relief to Denderin's ears had come, he can hear the lead singer speak after what seemed like the end of the song, “Alright, everyone! Let him up! Let him go! We gave him the old Hearthbarrow Boisterous Tankard Axe Hammer welcome. Hey, barkeep! Give the lad anything he wants for dinner, a fine room, and a good drink, and put it on our tab!”
Denderin was confused. One minute he was being beaten on by a swarm of crazy halflings, and the next he is being lifted up, dusted off, and sat down at a table.
Shortly after, another topless, busty lady came his way. A pad and pen in hand, “And what can I get ye, sir?”
“What do you have?” Denderin asked, confused. He feels his lip, 'Blood?!? It must of busted in that whatever that was.'
“There's a menu on the table,” she says while pointing at the condiment and spice holder, “I'll give you a minute to look at it and I'll be right back to take your order.”
Denderin looked around confused, wondering what else to expect. He could see troll off in some corner, still punching around and stomping its feet. Muttering random things to itself. Well, at least troll was having fun. It's probably good that it gets out once-in-a-while.
Denderin looks down at the menu: all meals come with a choice of 2 sides
- Fried Chicken
- Grilled Chicken
- Boiled Chicken
- Half Chicken
- Whole Chicken
- Chicken Wings
- Chicken Drumsticks
- Chicken Soup
- Chicken Sandwich
- Eggs (made to order)
- Half Duck
- Whole Duck
- Roasted Duck
- Pot Roast
- Half Rack of Ribs
- Full Rack of Ribs
- Burger (cheese, yay or nay)
- Pork Chop
- Pot Roast
- Half Rack of Ribs
- Full Rack of Ribs
- Pulled Pork Sandwich
- Lamb Chop
- Pot Roast
- Rack of Lamb
- Fruit Salad
- Garden Salad
- Seasonal Salad
- Supreme Salad (with choice of meat)
- Platters (all platters come with side of bread)
- Meat Platter
- Cheese Platter
- Fruit Platter
- Vegetable Platter
- Nut Platter
- Combination Platter
- Boiled Potato
- Mashed Potato
- Baked Potato
- Steamed Apple
- Beef Broth
- Chicken Broth
- Vegetable Broth
- Fruit Juice
- Vegetable Juice
- Cake (chocolate, vanilla, or seasonal)
- Rice Pudding
- Fruit Pastry (apple, raspberry, blueberry)
- Ice Cream (chocolate, vanilla, or seasonal)
- Pie (apple, raspberry, blueberry, pumpkin)
- Tobacco Pipe
- Tobacco Rolled Small
- Tobacco Rolled Large
- Tobacco Hookah
- Seven Leaf Heaven Pipe
- Seven Leaf Heaven Rolled Small
- Seven Leaf Heaven Rolled Large
- Seven Leaf Heaven Hookah
- Combination Pipe
- Combination Rolled Small
- Combination Rolled Large
- Combination Hookah
'Wow! The choices!' Denderin thought to himself, as he looked over the menu and wondered what to get.
“Have you decided on what to order?” the waitress came back.
Still a bit overwhelmed, and in shock from the beating he took earlier, “Ugh... I'm not sure I want to get a lot. You see, I have quite a ways to travel and I...”
The waitress cuts him off, “It's alright, dear. You don't need to worry about paying. Axe Hammer has the bill covered, order what you want.”
Denderin looks over to troll who is still acting wild, dancing around the floor, “Troll, get over here. Let's sit down and have us a nice meal!”
Troll would normally act like it didn't hear Denderin's call, but troll knows its big ears pick up sound real well, and troll knows that Denderin knows that, so troll wont try to fool Denderin by saying it didn't hear his call. So, troll makes its way over to the table.
Denderin licks his lips, cracks his knuckles, and begins to order, “Alright, to start I would like a Combination Platter, and a separate Meat Platter. I'll take a Pulled Pork Sandwich with Bacon added to that if you could, and for the sides perhaps Corn and Carrots. My troll here will have a Whole Chicken, with Beef Broth and Applesauce for the sides. Can we get a little Cinnamon in the Applesauce as well? We'll each take a glass of Water as well as a pitcher of Ale to split between the both of us. And to top it all off at the end, I'll have a slice of your Blueberry Pie.”
The waitress furiously writes down the order Denderin commanded to her. She smiles to herself, “Anything else?”
Troll shyly has its head down, slightly peeking up at the lady's heaving breasts. Sweat glistened off of them, probably from a hard day's work in a hot, stuffy establishment such as this.
Denderin pauses for a second, “I don't believe we'll need anything else, do we troll?”
Troll shakes its head, “Nope, nothing elssse. Jusssst ssssome food for the belly.”
They sit there for a while, conversing, taking in the scenery of the locals. Denderin was a mixed bag of emotions at this moment. A part of him was still scared, angry even, but another part of him was relaxed, energized, happy... He finally knows what it's like to feel alive! A place that fills you up with so much emotion, so much energy, the amount of experiences he's had in just a few days. And so far, out of all of them, Hearthbarrow's will stick in his mind.
The food came a while later. Denderin and troll conversated as they ate, listening to the ever present music that was playing in the background.
'The food was good, the ale as well. This place wasn't bad', Denderin thought to himself. 'Troll seemed to be enjoying itself. It ate that whole chicken, bones and all.'
The rest of the night seemed like a blur. The only thing Denderin remembered is being led up to a comfortable, cozy bedroom by one of the busty barmaids. Troll taking one of the pillows from the bed, using a dresser drawer to sleep in. It was going to be a nice, cozy night.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
“Snooooooork!” Denderin wakes up startled, “Just a minute?”
Quickly he gets his things together, and gets dressed. Troll sluggishly gets up, trying several times to do a mundane task like pickup a sock.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
“Just a moment!” Denderin yells, as he gathers the rest of his clothes.
He opens the door, and staring him right in the chest is the lead singer of Axe Hammer, a big cigar hanging out of his mouth, and a smile on his face. Though he was more than a foot shorter than Denderin, he probably weighed just as much as him, but all muscle. Denderin wouldn't want to get on his bad side, though at the moment he's not sure which side he's on, considering the bipolar introduction he had yesterday.
“Top o' the mornin' to ya,” his voice gruff, a big smile on his face, as he slaps Denderin across the back, “How'd you sleep last night?”
“I... ugh... I slept pretty well, thank you,” Denderin answers, a bit of unease in his tone.
“Good, good, glad to hear,” the scary halfling replied.
“Yup, slept like I haven't in a while,” Denderin says something just to break up what would be awkward silence.
“I sssslept well too!” Troll chimed in.
The rugged looking halfling laughs, flicking the ash of his cigar, it landing on Denderin's foot. Denderin didn't dare to move, despite it still holding some heat and burning the skin a little.
“So, about yesterday,” the halfling starts.
“Yes, about that?” Denderin inquires.
“You see, we have a tradition in town, well maybe not in town, but with the Boisterous Tankard, well maybe not with the Tankard either, but we have a tradition in Axe Hammer. If you've never been to one of our shows, or been to the Tankard, or come from Hearthbarrow here, you get a little welcoming song. So you might be thrown into a pit, shoved around a bit or so. But see, you appear to be all 3. You definitely ain't from Hearthbarrow, I've never seen ye face around the Tankard, and I definitely never seen you at one of our shows. So of course, as you could guess, that piles on the beatings,” the halfling exhales cigar smoke as he speaks, it clouding Denderin's face.
Denderin processing it all, “So, like, I'm good? No more beatings? No more being...”
The halfling slaps him on the back again while laughing maniacally, “Yeah, we're square. You've been initiated enough, lad. Now that we've branded you with the Axe Hammer Boisterous Tankard way of Hearthbarrow there, you should be good for the next time you come around. That, and just because you humans are bigger, doesn't always mean you're better, we halflings here can take care of ourselves.”
All-of-a-sudden it clicked in Denderin's head, 'These halflings were racist against humans. Probably other larger races as well. Perhaps it's a stature thing? Or perhaps some humans have fouled them in the past?' Denderin wasn't sure, he just senses the mild disdain for his kind, I mean the 'harder and longer' the beatings go for every non-association you have with this town? Of course any outsider will have no association with this town, they're outsiders.
But then again, the buildings here can accommodate larger beings as well. Denderin was given food, drink, a place to stay, all for no cost. Perhaps the halfling wasn't racist, and Denderin was overreacting? Or, perhaps there was some form of racial tension?
“I'm sorry, sir. Do you hate humans?” Denderin asked bluntly, and regrettably after he realized what he blurted out.
With a laugh of unease the halfling replies, “Tah! Hardly! I'm more of an orc and goblin hating man myself. Don't really have time in my heart to hate humans or what have you.”
Denderin saw this halfling as more of a dwarf than a halfling. Perhaps he wasn't a halfling after all? Or perhaps something else was afoot?
“You don't really seem like a halfling,” Denderin's question wandered out loud.
“And what's that supposed to mean?” the angry halfling replied.
'Crap, this isn't where I want to be with him,' Denderin thought to himself. Quickly he dug out a reason, “Well you see, you're kind of burly, hairy even. And you sport an immaculate beard. I was wondering, do you have any dwarf in you?”
Caught off guard by the question, and even more so by the boy's observation, the halfling replies, “Well you see, halflings can be hairy creatures as well, it's not just all for dwarves. But, since you mention it, let me give you a little history lesson. It is said, centuries ago ships sailed across the seas. Some of the first dwarves on these lands ended up in Hearthbarrow, finding a town of halflings. Legend says that the dwarves and halflings lived in harmony, even breeding together. Though the halflings outnumbered the dwarves, it is believed our bloodline to this day carries a bit of the dwarven blood with it still. Though the only thing to back the claims are a few pieces of runic tablets, as well as some archaic metal workings. So to be a 100%, I couldn't tell you if there is some dwarf in my blood or not. All I can give you is that bit of so called history to feed that curious brain of yours. Now if you excuse me, I must get going. Me and the Heavy Metal Halflings have to ride, we have a show the next town over.”
'Ah, the temper and drive of a dwarf, mixed with the mischief and carefree existence of a halfling. Yup, a dwarf's blood runs through him alright. Oh, what a mix!' Denderin smiled to himself at his observation.