Cravat – A Well-Deserved Drink
The gremlin lifted his mug toward the ceiling, spilling suds all along the floor. “And then, we all watched as a creature made of blood drew from the well—the most frightening demon I’d seen up until then, but it wouldn’t be the last!”
“Another round for Cravat Keeno, the mighty monster slayer!” one of the other gremlins at the bar hollered then. The others around them broke out in cheer as well, sloshing about their drinks and making a mess.
The short, olive-skinned fellow behind the bar wore a look that seemed halfway between a grin and a scowl. Anyone who looked in his direction would have seen a mouth that was missing a few teeth, making it that much harder to discern his feelings. Still, when Cravat turned to regard him, and to hold out his hand for another ale, the fellow ensured he was happy for Cravat’s stories. The escapee from the dungeon brought in many customers that night, as it was.
“So where is this dungeon?” a younger gremlin, just old enough where his ma wouldn’t come looking for him any longer, wondered. His tone was caught in such a way where it almost sounded like a challenge.
“That’s the thing,” Cravat said, lending a mysterious sound to his own voice. “You’ll never know where the entrance is, because it’s always moving.” He could see the looks of incredulity facing him from the crowd, and he placed his mug on the counter to be able to gesticulate with both hands. “We called it the Living Dungeon, and that was an apt enough name for the place. It was like it had a mind of its own, and if it wasn’t for me, none of us would have escaped from the dingy, dark place.”
“What was the scariest part of being stuck there?” another gremlin asked, his eager eyes widening as he pushed his way past the others to learn the answer to his question.
“Well, the place wasn’t scary on its own,” Cravat assured. “If I had just been sitting in the same chamber the entire time, I might have died of boredom, but…” He allowed his words to trail off, but he imagined for a moment that he was back in the dungeon. He shuddered before making eye contact with the person who asked the question. “It felt like the farther we traveled, the more dangerous things grew. Between icy ghosts, fearsome tree creatures, and traps like you wouldn’t believe, it might be a bit difficult to pick just one terrifying thing. Although…”
He hopped off the chair, sweeping his hand high and to the ceiling. “In the final chamber, we were faced with a mighty stone titan, its rocky flesh showing fissures and fire like veins in its body. All of us—from different places and different times—we banded together to take down the huge monster. But no one could manage to even give a scratch, and it was throwing rhinotaurs around like children’s dolls.
“It took one look at me, the smallest combatant on the battlefield, and decided it would try to make an example of me,” Cravat continued. “It smacked its hand to the ground, but I was already gone, rolling out of the way. It swung its arm across the floor, but I scrambled up and over its stony fingers. It glowered and roared at me, trying to intimidate me, but I simply stood my ground, leveled my crossbow, and pulled the trigger.” The gremlin whistled as he moved his pinched fingers slowly through the air. Then he clapped his hands together and looked to his eager audience with widened eyes. “In that moment, I showed all the others that the titan could feel the same pain it inflicted on us. As it grabbed its eye and writhed in agony, those I inspired marched up to the monster, and finally wielded their weapons as bravely as they could.”
The cheers continued, and indeed, as more gremlins entered the tavern deep in the Undermire, they were swept up in the tale as well. Cravat could not keep the smile from his face, and he reveled in telling more of his story, even when asked to repeat some of the same moments again and again.
He looked around, seeing all his gleeful audience, but he had to admit, he was more drawn to a distant patron then. She sat in the corner of the tavern, the lanternlight barely reaching her. Cravat could make out some details about her—a dark leather outfit, her blue hair, and the daggers she had stabbed into the table in front of her—but it was her subtle smile that caught his gaze the most.
The gremlin storyteller turned back to the bar and asked the tavernkeeper to bring a drink her way.
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