Just thought I’d post my story on this separate thread before the short story contest ends. Look out for author’s notes coming out posthumously! One Man’s Meal is Another Man’s Poison Kromm Brokksson, the eldest Longbeard of Barak Varr, was grumbling. Again. He had had news that the Longbeard who was supposed to be telling stories to the Beardlings today, Bael Dragongaze, had overdone it on the Bugman’s XXXXXX and was recovering from an immense hangover, and Kromm himself had been ordered to take his place. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the Beardlings, he just felt that he was too old to be messing around with youngsters, being 379 years of age, and that he would be generally better off just sitting in the tavern with Dwarfs of his own age, slurping beer and grumbling about the loss of his axe. He certainly couldn’t do that while the Beardlings were present - their mothers would scold him no end for the use of such bad language. As he trudged into the Great Hall, Jormgard Greathammer the Runesmith wandered over to him. “Ah, Kromm! It was most kind of you to volunteer to step in and entertain the Beardlings today,” he croaked. Kromm was just about to reply that he didn’t volunteer and was in fact roped in to do it by his superiors, when the Runesmith joked, “I trust you know that they’re all sitting by the hearth, assuming you can remember that far back to when you used to do so. I’ll be back in an hour to take them all on a tour around the armoury.” The Runesmith then promptly left, leaving Kromm, grumpy and slightly befuddled, to make his way over to the great chair reserved for storytellers where all the young Dwarfs of the hold were sitting around. There were at least two score of them sitting there, from the youngest children, around 4-5 years old, to adolescents of around 19-20, and all of them watched Kromm as he stumped over to the chair and sat himself down with a grunt. “Right then, young’uns, I’m here to recount stories of the days of old today, as Bael is not available,” Kromm said to the assembled Beardlings. “From what I’ve heard he got hammered with ale in the tavern!” One of the older Beardlings called from the back rows, which caused a wave of laughter from the younger Dwarfs. “Anyway, “ Kromm growled, glaring at the cheeky Beardling before continuing, “What tale do you want to hear today?” “The tales of Gotrek and Felix!” Cried one of the younger Beardlings. “Pah! Gotrek and Felix? Why, every Dwarf and his mountain-goat on this side of the Worlds Edge Mountains know all about those two and their adventures,” Kromm replied, “Now, how about I tell you of the time when I met the Lizard Folks of the south? Gotrek and Felix never met any Lizard Folk on their travels, now did they?” About half the Beardlings shook their heads instantly at this, while the other half sat there and looked vacant. “Now then, let me see. It was about three and a half centuries ago. I was a young miner who was embarking upon my first venture beyond the mines I was working in, as I had been chosen as one of the company who were to escort the delivery of six cartloads of iron to the Lizard Folk. “It had all started when one of them had arrived at the very gates of Barak Varr. You see, the Lizard Folk are not like us Dwarfs - where we are all one race, the Lizard Folk are made up of three separate groups of beings all living together to survive. The first lot are about as small as Goblins, while the second lot are each taller than an Orc. The last group of them are each bigger and more fearsome than a Ogre, and, lucky for us, about as stupid. In any case, it was one of the smallest ones who reached our gates all those years ago. The Gatekeepers had never seen anything like him before, and quite understandably remained cautious. He was as thin as a twig, with a bright red crest on the back of his head, big yellow eyes, each about as large as my nose, and small sharp teeth that could give you a painful nip but were nothing too formidable. He demanded to see the king, and claimed that he was a diplomat, but he wasn’t going anywhere without a dozen Hammerers all around him. I wasn’t allowed in the Great Hall - of course, a sprog like me at that time was far too young and inexperienced - so I had to rely upon what the others who were there told me, chiefly the Prospector, old “Smelly” Grond Hamarrsson. He informed all of us that the little visitor’s kingdom were willing to forge an alliance with us if we could provide them with a large amount of iron. Of course, we had plenty of iron - it’s the most common resource in the World’s Edge Mountains - so we gladly accepted. Our Corps were chosen to deliver the iron, and according to Smelly, we would be accompanied by the 5th Ironbreaker Corps, the same group who used to stand guard at the very deepest depths of our mines, so we were in safe hands. “I was certainly excited - it would give me a chance to see a good deal more of the surface world than I would if I had refused to come - and quite a few of the other younger miners were equally as enthusiastic. Soon enough, all thirty of us, the little ambassador and two dozen Ironbreakers set out with the six carts the next day. Each of them was pulled by a sturdy mountain pony and laden with iron ingots. We travelled along the old mountain road to the west for a good few miles, before we swung sharply to the south around one of the junctions. Gradually, as we made more and more progress, the mountains started to disappear, and rolling green foothills took over, although a branch of the river that served as our natural harbour was still here to guide us. Soon, however, our party reached the outskirts of the Badlands, which are riddled with Orcs, Goblins, Giants and Trolls, so we had to be increasingly wary as we went along the road, For much of the journey I found myself walking alongside the little diplomat, and I was finally able to see what he looked like. At first I couldn’t stop thinking how scrawny and pathetic he looked, but then I wondered what he thought of us. We might look just as odd to him as he did to me. He was all on his own away from home with strange company, which was how I felt too. He deserved more respect than we were giving him, so I did the decent thing and asked who he was. He replied in a very squeaky voice something like ‘Itzi-Mitzi-Bitzi’ or something silly like that. I was surprised that he could understand Khazalid, but he then said something more about him being from the ‘great city in the hidden marshes’ and immediately saw that he had mispronounced a basic verb. In any case, he was telling me how his city was running out of metal to make weapons, the reason for which they needed the iron, when I heard Smelly Hamarrsson give the order for us to halt. Dead ahead of us, in the middle of the road, was a tradesman’s cart. It obviously hailed from the Empire, no race of manlings makes more shoddy things than the men of the Empire. When we marched over to it, we found that it had been raided. Whatever had been in the cart was now gone, as we thought, meaning it had been the cargo that had attracted the attackers. The crew and horse were dead, but it was the way they had been killed that made us shudder. The blades that had slain them must have been blunt and crude, and that could have meant only one thing - this had been the work of Orcs. We continued on our way, but after seeing the evidence of Orc attack, we were even more cautious. The bodies were quite freshly slain, meaning that the raiders were not far away. Indeed, we would find out later that they were closer than we thought. We were marching through a particularly dense patch of forest, making sure we kept to the road, when there was rustling in the bushes ahead of us. We all stopped and levied our weapons, all except for the ambassador, who hid behind me and poked his head out to see what was approaching. Soon enough, an Orc emerged from the undergrowth to face us, along with another, and another, and yet another, until the whole road was blocked by an Orc horde that outnumbered us at around three to one. The Ironbreakers advanced ahead of us and locked shields to form an impenetrable wall, before the burly Big Boss at the head of our foe bellowed the command to charge. Barely five seconds passed before the Orcs threw themselves into the shield wall with a deafening slam. All us miners hefted our picks and formed a circle around the cargo, while the tiny lizard rushed into the middle to stay with the ponies and the iron, the latter of which, to him, was priceless. He then unstrapped a horn made from the appendage of one of the creatures of his homeland, and blew a low, sonorous note that echoed throughout the forest. The Orcs, bemused for a moment, stopped to listen to the sound, before they launched themselves at us again. Initially the Ironbreakers had the upper hand, weathering the Greenskins’ blows with ease and felling many of them in return, but more came, and the first Ironbreaker was toppled by an Orc blade. This chink in the shieldwall made it easier then for the enemy to break through, and gradually they wore the wall of gromril down. Soon the last one was dead, surrounded and cut to pieces, before the monsters turned on us. It looked as if we, along with our cargo and companion, were lost, but then something astounding happened. The Orc attack faltered as most of those who weren’t immediately fighting us began to turn round as one after another of their number were slain by long spears thrust into them from the back. Initially I didn’t have a clue as to what was going on, but as the Orcs’ other enemy killed more and more of them, I noticed blue reptilian jaws sinking themselves into Orc necks, and long blue spiked tails delivering punishing blows. Our companion’s bigger cousins had arrived! Although we didn’t know who these creatures were at the time, we threw ourselves at the Greenskins with renewed vigour, and between us and the ambassador’s warriors the Orcs stood no chance. Their whole line collapsed as their warriors turned and fled in all directions, knowing that they were beaten. We made no attempt to pursue, for at the time we did not know whether these new visitors were friendly or hostile. However, that was soon decided when our little reptile companion ran over to them and they made no attempt to harm him. He spoke to them in a strange language we had never heard of before, and they put down their weapons to show they meant no harm. They still looked formidable with their huge jaws full of teeth, but we trusted our companion’s judgement and did the same. The ambassador then arrived back to us and said in his squeaky voice that his people were truly grateful for the generosity we had shown them, and that they would take the carts of iron the remainder of the way back to their city. He then whistled and three of the huge troll-sized ones lumbered over, each one picking up one of the iron carts and its payload and hoisting it onto his back as easily as if it were a backpack. Just before he and his new escort were about to leave, I thought that it would be an especially friendly gesture to provide him with a gift he could keep for himself, and I took the piece of chuf out from under my helmet and gave it to him. There’s nothing like a piece of fresh mountain goat’s cheese to keep you going on a long journey, and I thought he may want to eat it on the way home. He sniffed at it tentatively and decided to try it before leaving, taking a small bite out of it and swallowing. However, he didn’t seem to like it very much as he gagged and stuck out his pink tongue, before politely saying that he would have some roasted Chuxtli Beetles when he got home, whatever they were. I felt quite a bit more sorry for him then for only being reared on beetles all his life, but on the other hand, that meant more chuf for me! In any case, we then parted ways with his band, and while he and his cousins departed south, we stayed and buried each of the Ironbreakers and carved a small prayer to Gazul onto each of the spots where they lay, for we couldn’t carry them home with us. We then retraced our steps and returned home, our mission complete, without further incident.’ The assembled Beardlings, impressed by Kromm’s tale, all clapped resoundingly now that the end had been reached. “And the moral of that tale, young’uns, is ‘Always remember to take a piece of chuf with you under your helmet’, so you’ll never be hungry on a journey. Oh, and also if you do meet any Lizard Folks on your travels, there’s a manling expression that you may want to take heed of: ‘One man’s meal is another man’s poison’. They don’t seem to like the food that we like. I don’t know why, but there we are. They’re not Dwarfs, so they eat different things. Now, what story would you like to hear next?” “Gotrek and Felix!” several young Beardlings shouted. Sighing, Kromm composed himself again and began to tell the tale of the Zombie Slayer.