This is the fourth excerpt from Valkyrie: Ragnarok, which introduces Gawn and the intrepid crew of the Rat, a dwarven mine crawler. Far from home and running out of supplies, the Rat’s crew look for hope in old legends.
Not recommended for readers under the age of 12.
Gawn Dwargstul stood atop a rocky ridge, surveying the desert with his telescope. Its gears whirred like angry bees as he refocused the lenses. Below his vantage point, Ratta spat into his goggles and wiped them with the corner of his greasy apron.
“Grease, grease is what she needs. No water. She has water, plenty of water. Grease will keep her smooth.’ Ratta muttered on.
‘I’ll run smoother with some water.” Gawn removed the telescope from his eye, revealing a harsh vertical scar over his eye.
Gawn was a handsome dwarf, with thick black hair and a full beard he kept in a simple braid. He had sharp green eyes under his thick eyebrows. Blue tattoos covered his arms, the entwined dragon lords of Fear and Death. ‘Come on Ratta, you old fool. Cap had good intentions, but no amount of fresh air will do you enough good. Back to the Rat.’
‘Aye. Grease. Greasy gears. Good, greasy gears.’
Gawn patted the older dwarf on the back and led him over to a hole in the ground, which they promptly disappeared into. There was the muffled clank of a metal hatch closing, followed by the growl of an engine. Suddenly dirt exploded up from the hole, sending down a shower of grit. When the dust finally cleared, the hole, and the dwarves, were gone.
The Rat was a sleek mine crawler with eight births and a cramped cargo bay. It was a machine to be proud of, with an intricate combination of valves and chain-driven cogs that worked together in synchronized harmony to propel the drilling rig through the earth. As much as Gawn loved the Rat, it was his brother crewman that filled him most with pride.
Big Beir was the crew’s cook and joker, a dwarf who never seemed to worry, no matter what life threw at him. He stood near the Rat’s small stove, rummaging through a box of dry rations. ‘Anything?’ He asked the returning dwarves.
‘Not a drop.’ Gawn said.
Sal was Bier’s opposite, a contemplative loner who seldom shared his thoughts. He was dependable to a fault and the most widely travelled of the crew. He sat cross-legged on the decking, cutting wood for the stove.
‘See anything?’ Gawn asked Sal.
‘Same as you, I reckon. But follow this ridge and we’ll hit something.’
‘Or dive and we’ll hit all the water we could ever want.’ Tav said, lazily buckling on his breeches as he stood by his bunk. The ship’s weapons master wore his dusty orange hair in a tight mohawk that showed off the scars that crisscrossed his scalp.
‘I told you Tav…’ Sal began.
‘The Abyss runs shallow here, Tav. We can’t dive, Tav. Your mother’s a whore, Tav. Give it a break already. We’ll find water before we ever hit the boundary. And don’t give me that ‘saltwater’ nonsense. We’ve got the Geezer.’ Tav thrust his thumb over his shoulder. In the shadow of another cot, an older dwarf harrumphed. ‘Not you too, Geezer.’ Tav said, throwing his hands in the air. ‘To the Abyss with all of you, I’ve got munitions to polish.’ The young dwarf threw open a hatch and disappeared inside, just missing the laughter that erupted in his wake.
‘So, Geezer, is it true? Can you turn brine into water?’ Gawn asked.
The old dwarf rose from the shadows. He was bald, but his long white beard was braided through with golden talismans.
‘I can turn brine to wine, and more. Lead to golden ore, or your mother into a lusty…’
‘Oi, that’s enough.’ Gawn interrupted, but the gleam in his eye was full of laughter.
‘No. In a different time, maybe,’ the Geezer continued, ‘but now, no, impossible.’
‘Why?’ Sal asked.
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I’m a writer and editor of tabletop RPGs and a painter of Orks. Welcome to Rising Phoenix Games!
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