Shineydown

Across all towns and settlements there are certain standards which must always be met. There must always be a governing figure, there must always be a place to relax and socialise, and there must always be someone who spends more time at this place of relaxation than anyone else, someone who appears an oddity to everyone else, but no one questions them or their presence. The town of Shineydown was no different. With land both fertile and flat, Shineydown was perfect for the growing of crops, namely a variety of grain, and within years of settlement the entire town sprouted up around it’s famous farm and on-sight distillery. The town itself was nestled on one side along the edge of a great chasm that jutted deep into the ground further than the light of day could penetrate. In years gone by, many had attempted to venture deep into the chasm’s bowels, dreaming of what possible riches might await them. None would ever return. The people of Shineydown were locals. In most cases they were born within the town’s limits, but it also had it’s own fair share of visitors.

On the third moon of the sixth month, one such group of visitors made their way to Shineydown. Three strong in number, they rode within a glimmering carriage of gold, pulled by six bright white horses. In the driving seat sat a small boy, his face sweaty and tired. He held onto the reigns with all his might, terrified that at any moment the horses might bolt or change direction too quickly, he would loose his grip and the whole carriage would lurch itself off into the gaping maw of the grand chasm. This boy went by the name of Eric, to those inside the carriage he was little more than a squire, someone to carry luggage and polish boots, but Eric had dreams. He knew that one day he would become a knight in glorious shining armour, and on that day he would finally make his family proud of him. Strolling alongside the carriage was a Giant with broad shoulders, huge fists, and a collection of damaged ramshackle armour. He went by the name Gotchgut, and shuffled along beside the carriage in absolute silence, his purpose being to protect the man inside. This man was unlike either the squire or the Giant. He sat with delicate poise, his clothing consisting of fine embodied cloth interspersed with a heavy plated suit of armour. On top of the man’s head he wore a hat, but not just any hat, for it was this hat that was the man’s true love. The man had sired many children both in and out of wedlock, but neither the children nor women did he love as much as this one hat. It was because of this hat that the man had even renamed his entire house, and while his advisors had informed him how unsuitable it was to rename yourself after a hat, the man had done so, forever being known as Baron von Fancyhat.

As the carriage pulled into Shineydown, it came to a halt in front of the town’s tavern, a large building with heavy set features, protruding buttresses, and thick oak doors. Eric the Squire quickly hauled himself off the coach’s driving seat before scurrying to the side door of the carriage. With a careful pull followed by a rehearsed bow, the Squire opened the door of the carriage, and gestured with respect to the passenger within. The Giant shuffled a few steps away from the carriage across the dirt covered ground, a large blade slung over his shoulder. The weapon was long enough that a normal human would have struggled to carry it with both hands, but Gutchgot wielded it with one as if it was no heavier than a broadsword. Gutchgot sniffed the air, the smell of brewing ale filling his nostrils. He smiled, already liking this town. From behind the Giant, the Baron stepped gingerly from his carriage. His plated feet stepping lightly on the ground in stark contrast with that of the lumbering Giant by his side. The Baron adjusted his hat, it sat proudly on his head, a rim wider than any other, it was adorned with a vibrant range of accessories, from bright coloured bird feathers, to precious stones and jewels that dangled from golden chains. The Baron placed his hands on his hips and surveyed the township before him.

“This will do” the Baron muttered to himself.

The three men stepped into the tavern, the smell of aged smoke and stale ale clinging to the air. The Giant entered ahead, his right hand gripping his great weapon tightly. The Baron followed swiftly, his nose raised high while his hat’s accessories jingled and swayed with every step. Behind them both was the Squire, in his arms he clutched to the Baron’s bags, his legs only just managing to remain straight under the immense strain and weight. Gutchgot the Giant stumbled clumsily towards the tavern’s bar, his posture still stooped from the building’s low ceiling. Reaching the bar, the Giant slammed a mighty fist on the solid wood, opened his palm and deposited a small pile of golden coins. From across the tavern, the voice of the Baron could be heard. He had found a vacant table that was as far away from the other patrons as he could manage.

“Two of your finest rooms please” the Baron called, ensuring that his voice remained smooth and unstrained.

Behind the bar, the tavern keeper collected the coins and turned to his serving girl who quickly hurried towards the waiting Squire to take the heavy luggage. She smiled at the young boy, they were both of similar age, and she saw something in him that reminded her of himself. From across the room another voice was heard “your finest rooms!” It called, in a high pitched mocking voice. The Giant turned in it’s direction, his fists clenched ready for a fight. There, sat squarely beside the tavern’s warm glowing fire was a short man, covered from head to toe in heavy plate armour. This man was short, very short in fact, his armour looking like it has been made for a child rather than a man. The small man’s face was covered by a beaked visor from which he seemed to peer through thin slits for eye holes.

“What did you say, pipsqueak?” Bellowed Gutchgot, a manufactured anger in his voice. It wasn’t that the Giant was genuinely angry, more that he had been hired by Baron von Fancyhat to act as protection and muscle. If he was to perform his duties as bodyguard, he would need to act the part.

“Don’t mind him” said the tavern keeper, a man who much like the plated heckler was shorter than the average person. This man was a Gnome, with a long, moustache and receding hairline, a large bulbous and bright red nose, and small squinty eyes, he looked almost ridiculous “that’s just The Midget. He comes in here from time to time, has a drink, just one mind, and goes on his way. He doesn’t mean any disrespect”.
The Baron nodded to Gotchgut, who nodded back. The Giant gripped his weapon in both hands and shuffled across the low ceilinged room towards the fire and the small man. Gutchgot stood, towering over the small man despite his hunched posture “I asked you, what did you say?” Gutchgot’s tone was forceful, his teeth gritted with determination. The Midget looked up at the Giant, or at least it appeared that way, as the helmet tilted in Gutchgot’s direction, his actual eyes hidden behind the thick beaked cover. The midget laughed a cheeky cackle, “You’re a big one, eh?” The Midget replied, and he poked the Giant’s swollen belly with a gauntlet covered hand “and I’m not talkin’ about your height!” Gutchgot growled with genuine anger, and with a massive fist reached down for the Midget.

Before he was able to reach the small man, the Midget had darted away from the Giant’s grasp, the movement almost impossibly fast, smooth, and nimble for someone covered in heavy armour. From his belt the midget pulled a sheathed sword and smacked the pommel into the backside of the Giant. Caught off guard, Gutchgot stumbled, and fell head first into the table the Midget was only moments before sat. The table splintered and broke under the Giant’s huge bulk, at the same time the Squire rushed to Gotchgut’s side, his arms trying to lift the huge man from his prone position. Gutchgot grunted and pushed the boy away “GET OFF ME!” The Giant shouted as he clambered to his feet.

Back at his table, the Baron stood and raised his hand towards the Midget. “What is the meaning of this? How dare you treat my man like that!”

The Midget paused and faced the Baron before letting out another cackle. He grabbed at his chest, and bent over, slapping his armoured thighs hard “What ARE you wearing?” The Midget shouted “It looks like you killed a Dub-Dang Bird and shoved your head up it’s butt!”
The Baron’s face turned red “The insolence! How dare you speak that was of The Fancyhat!” The Baron turned to the tavern keeper and extended a finger “You! Do you not think this is the most finest of hats you have ever seen?” The tavern keep’s face turned purple with shock and embarrassment “Yes sire!” The Gnome spluttered. “And you!” The Baron continued, pointing to a young couple sat at a table not two feet away from the bar “Would you not say this is the most splendid of hats any man could wear?” The couple looked at each other, and bit their lips in unison “of course my Lord” they finally spluttered “most splendid”.

The Baron turned back to the Midget. “Then what right do you have to claim other wise, filthy peasant!”

The Midget tilted his head back violently, the covering visor on his helmet sliding open with the force. Inside gleaming eyes spied out from a shadowed face, it’s skin a dark green, with a large pointy nose protruding far from it’s face. The Midget laughed once more, before turning on the spot and darting out of the tavern. The whole tavern suddenly in uproar, the thought that for all these nights a goblin had been among them, drinking their ale and quietly mocking them behind their backs.

Gutchgot turned to face the direction the Midget had left, and smiled to himself. He had met many before in combat, goblins, humans, gnomes, and even trolls, but none had ever gotten the better of him the way that this one had. Quickly he removed the smile from his face, replacing it with a forced scowl. The Giant didn’t know when, or how he would meet that Goblin again, but he looked forward to it in anticipation. “What a vicious little midget” Gutchgot muttered to himself before turning back towards the rest of the tavern. The Baron stood by himself in the middle of the room, a look of true shock and fluster on his face. Gutchgot sighed deeply and escorted the Baron back to their table.

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