Continue the Valkyrie: Ragnarok story as the crew of the Rat finally reach their home. What will happen to their stowaway in The Lion’s Den?
“Never underestimate the depth of our work, Gawn.” The captain sat in his command chair, speaking with pride as the Rat rolled slowly down the great highway, past tall monuments, towards the vast doors of the dwarven city. “We dwargen have built more than a city. We have built a civilization beyond the taint of men and elves, yes. We have built libraries and mills, mines and inventions, sure. But our true genius is not in any one individual thing. Our brilliance is the interconnectivity of each individual part. A meshing of gears so harmonious that the system sustains itself. No such colossal creation could function without this harmony. Yes, maybe for a time, but entropy would win out, eventually. That is the fault of humanity. They are too short sighted and proud to build something that can both support the system it exists in and be sustained by that system. Yes, they can innovate, and their systems are continually improving, but their works lack the agreement across all parts. Like themselves, their inventions are individual in nature.” Gawn nodded to show he was still listening, though his thoughts were more on seeing home again. It wouldn’t be long now
“It is a lesson we take from nature.” The captain continued. “The birds eat the fruit of the tree, they spread the seeds and saplings grow in new lands. The blossoms of the trees provide nectar for the bees, and so on and on it goes. Such harmony cannot be created from chaos. There is architecture built into the system. As Argitekos built our world and gave the oceans their ebb and flow, created a harmonious, interconnected system, so we mirror his divine creation, a creation that ultimately fulfils his mighty purpose. We all have purpose, Gawn, and it’s time for you to fulfil yours.”
Gawn looked up, paying attention for the first time. “Captain?”
“You’ve done a good job as my second in command. This last outing was a close thing, but you kept the boys together. It could have gone horribly wrong, I can’t deny it, but we’ve made it through. I’m of a mind to recommend you for promotion.”
“Thank you, Captain. I’m honoured.”
“You’ve earned it.”
There was a moment of silence as the Rat crept between two giant stone monoliths. Cascading lava illuminated the large inscribed pictograms that covered it. The play of the shadow in the red light made the features all the more striking, as if they contained the very fires of the lava within. They recorded the great histories of the Dwargen of Grothoring Highhold, a record of the mightiest of the dwargen kingdoms beyond the Mistiga Barg in Avernos.
“One day your deeds will be marked on one of those stones. You’ve the aptitude for it.” The captain said, smiling. “I can see you’ll do great things, Gawn. Protect our great work.”
What hell is this, Faya thought as she awoke inside the belly of a terrifying creature. She guessed it was a dragon because of the smoke, the red hot fire that burned somewhere unseen and cast red shadows on the black walls, and the awful roar. Tiny black creatures of soot danced around her, then leapt across her skin and made it prickle. Worst of all was her thirst. She was sure a creature of ash was choking her with its gritty hands.
I’ll die here. Please, Mother, let it be soon.
She heard her mother’s voice answer in the incessant clanking, but what she said was just beyond understanding. She saw wondrous sakrust falling around her like manaleaf from above, but it turned to acrid slag in her mouth and made the thirst worse.
A sudden hiss made her jolt. There was a violent shudder, then everything went still. The red reflected off the innards of the beast seemed to dim, but the metal dragon or whatever it was was surely only asleep. Gaining enough of her wits, she knew she had to flee, now. She scrambled over the iron decking and through the vaguely remembered crawl space, back into the storage compartment where the dark haired dwarg had hidden her. Was it the longing for sakrut or some other tincture that had given her the visions? She wasn’t sure. She kicked hard at the door. And again. Again. Finally, the lock broke and the door swung open. She rolled out and dropped down, into the shadows below a ledge that ran parallel to the dwargen contraption. Someone heard the commotion and shouted something after her, but Faya was already running.
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Rodney is a writer and editor of tabletop RPGs and a painter of Orks. He is worryingly fond of mill decks in Magic: the Gathering and a self-confessed Japanophile.