Stats / Background / Pictures
Current place of residence: Firiona Vie
Guild: The Council
Grizben was born and raised in a small community of Gnomes sheltered in a valley of the Steamfont Mountains, not far from Ak'Anon. His childhood was a happy one, for his father, a wealthy alchemist, could afford or make most toys a young Gnome could dream of. So it was that Grizben and his younger brother Benumkin grew up to become young spell casters.
Grizben, who loved having animals around to care for, and who liked being able to construct or invoke useful items, chose the ways of the Magician. Benumkin, having dreams of being a glorious adventurer since his earliest days, chose the way of raw power - that of a Wizard. After both graduating with impressive results from the Archanamagika Academy, the two brothers convinced their father to set them free from their duties at the family house, so that they may roam the world. Their father was wary of their bold desires for glory, well aware of the danger to their lives, but in the end gave in to their incessant nagging. So it was that the two young Gnomes began their journeys through Norrath.
At first, they hunted only around the Steamfont Mountains region, the local kobolds providing them with ample challenge. But as time passed by, they became more skilled and more confident in their powers and decided to venture further. The entered the dark forest of Faydark and traveled a long time. After a tiring and confusing journey through the misty woods, they came upon a magnificent sight - the High Elven city of Felwithe. Their jaws dropped as they beheld the lofty spires of the most beautiful city they had ever seen. At last, they were truly living their dreams. This was what legends were made of.
The brothers entered Felwithe and were amiably received by the friendly elves. The brothers visited the city, and even through their amazement at the sights they saw, they could not help but notice that the elves seemed both nervous and sad. Finally, they dared to ask them what the trouble was. It was then that they learned of the Crushbone Orcs. During a recent raid, many Elves who lived in the forest had been slain, and now most of the survivors had retreated behind the safety of the walls of Felwithe. Feeling much ire at the Elves' plight, the two brothers promised that they would help against the vile Orcs.
How boldly overconfident they had been! After stalking the woods for a long time, they came upon a large camp of the Orcs. After observing the camp and witnessing several skirmishes between some Wood Elven Rangers and some Orcs, they decided to strike on their own. A lone Orc was standing watch at the edge of the camp. The brothers stealthily got closer to it, then simultaneously unleashed two waves of energy in its direction. The Orc recoiled in pain at the two bolts of fire, then bellowed: "Centurions! To my side!". From the tents erupted several other large, misshapen Orcish figures. They charged as one toward the Gnomes, their eyes alight with malignant glee. "Gnomes like you are an insult to all of Norrath!," they roared. "Feel the might of the Crushbone Orcs, runts!"
The brothers were now in a most dire situation. They tried to stand their ground, but in vain. They could not unleash their deadly spells while the brutish Orcs were hacking at them with their vicious hatchets. As they started running away for their lives, a great bellow was heard above the noise of the fight. "Brrreeeelllll !!" A large (well, to the Gnomes it appeared large) shape appeared behind the Orcs and started hacking at them with an axe. One, two orcs fell against the surprise onslaught. Grizben only got a glimpse of a mighty Dwarven Warrior engaging two more Orcs before he received a blow on the head and lost consciousness.
When he woke up, he saw a pair of eyes watching him. The eyes were kind and blue as a cloudless sky. Elven eyes. The elf smiled at him and helped him sit up. Grizben was sitting in a bed inside a wooden room. Other wounded people were laying on beds nearby; there were tall blond elves, short darker ones, dwarves, even a few humans. "Where... Where am I? What happened?" asked Grizben.
"You took quite a beating, my friend," said the Elf in a clear, soothing voice. "And so did Dromli." Grizben turned to his left and saw the Dwarven Warrior lying on a bed beside him. His eyes were closed and there was bandage around his head. "He saved us," said Grizben. "I... I am sorry he got hurt. Me brother and I didn't mean... We... I mean..."
"No need to feel guilty, friend," replied the Elf. "We are all in this together. I shall pray for him to Tunare, and he shall be well soon. You both will. Now, lay down and rest some more."
Soon, Grizben was indeed fully healed. He got to meet their saviors. The Dwarf was named Dromli Ironhound and the Elven Healer was named Alkiran Moongazer. The two brothers ate and drank with them well into the night, at a tavern in Kelethin. They also met Alkiran's lover, a High Elf lady-Paladin named Telianna Nightmist. Dromli and the Elves had many tales to tell, for they were seasoned adventurers. They had traveled all across Faydwer and had battled the Orcs many a time. The two brothers, especially Benumkin, were delighted by Dromli's bold tales. They knew that they must join this group, and live the adventures at their side. The three kindly accepted, as they themselves were fascinated by the Gnomes' mastery of the arcane arts. And so the adventures began...
One evening, many decades later, Grizben was comfortably sitting by himself in a cushioned chair by the fire in his home, enjoying a glass of fine Rivervale brandy. The house was quiet. Outside the windows, one could see only darkness. His wife and two children were peacefully sleeping in their rooms, downstairs.
Grizben thought back at his days of glory. The company had traveled across Norrath in their fight against evil. Grizben and his companions had seen the lands of the Humans, had tasted the culinary treats of Rivervale, and even ventured near the Troll lands once. He had seen Griffins flying over the plains of Karana, had fought Undead and Dark Elves, had conversed with Centaurs.
But now the adventuring days were over. The excitement had been great, and the company of his friends had been a blessing. All but one of them: his brother. Grizben had been saddened to see that as they advanced in the arcane ranks, his brother became ever more avid for power. He always wanted more. A frightening, mad gleam could sometimes be seen in his eyes, and he continuously teased Grizben because of his 'lack of ambition'. Indeed, Benumkin had progressed faster than Grizben in the Arcane ranks, so obsessed was he with power.
The good days had ended during the epic conclusion to an adventure that fate had deemed would be their last. The companions ventured into the hold of a wicked Wight-Lord and were faced with powerful opposition. After a long, arduous fight, they were victorious, but at a great loss. Both Dromli and Telianna had fallen. Tears streaming down his cheeks, Alkiran knelt beside Telianna and sheltered her head against his chest. He cried to Tunare to heal her. Grizben started quickly unpacking his bandages, but then stopped. It was obviously too late. She was beyond his humble help, even beyond Alkiran's tremendous talents as a healer. And so was his dear Dwarven friend Dromli.
Torn by ragged sobs, Alkiran Moongazer cried out to Tunare for help. He cried and cried, but she would not heed his call. Finally, he lay his beloved down and pressed his head against her neck, sobbing quietly. Grizben put a hand on his friend's shoulder, feeling tears in his own eyes.
Through the glaze of tears, he saw his brother stepping carefully through the remains of Grizben's shattered earth elemental, and over the bodies of Ghoul-Underlings. Benumkin carefully bent down over the smoldering carcass of the Wight-Lord and searched the body. After a few moments, he pulled back a shining black wand. With avid joy in his eyes, he turned to his companions. "hey dudes i found a ebony ether wand. is it my turn 2 loot," he asked them.
Alkiran was completely unaware that
Benumkin had spoken, so stricken with grief was he. Wiping the tears from
his eyes, Grizben frowned at his brother and asked him: "What did you just
- i found a ebony ether wand is it my turn 2 loot. its alkrian who looted last right?
- Benumkin! See you not the situation we are in?"
Grizben waved at the bodies of their fallen comrades. He hated the way his brother had started to speak in the jargon of the Human Mages, power-hungry fools all of them. Benumkin at last spared a glance for their comrades' corpses.
"yeah we lost our tanks it sucks.
its gonna be hard to replace them
- Tanks? Is that the respect you show to our fallen comrades? Replace them? How can we replace them?? They were our friends!! Friends are irreplaceable, lad! Or have you forgotten that in your thirst for power?
- chill out bro im just wondering whose loot it is
- All right!! This is IT!! Out of me sight, now! I'll not have you spoil the honor of our friends any longer!
- I've had quite enough of your insolent attitude, and lack of respect! Leave us, now!"
Benumkin scowled at Grizben, clearly trying to decide whether to retaliate or not. Benumkin was not one to lash out to, for his temper was quite short. But he did not retaliate, though Grizben never knew for sure whether it was because of his small but still existing respect for his older brother, or because he had just been "outta mana" at the time. Benumkin shrugged.
"ok ill go but can i at least loot
before i go
- I mind not what you do. Just loot and leave. And seek not to see us again. From now on, I've no brother.
- ok fine have it your way. but u r gonna regret this dude.
- Leave. Now."
So Benumkin looted and left, casting nasty sidelong glances at his brother. Grizben stood in silence for a long time by his devastated friend's side, and then they set upon the unpleasant task of burying their friends outside the keep.
Of a mutual accord, the two friends journeyed back to their homelands. Alkiran, who had previously been a joyful man, was now broken. He hardly spoke at all, and even his smiles were always sad. Grizben knew Alkiran would never venture out against evil again. He was broken in his heart, and in his faith in Tunare. She had not willed to bring Telianna from the dead. Never again would Alkiran be able to show devotion to Tunare like before. When they reached Kaladim, Grizben visited Dromli's wife and son, and sadly told them of Dromli's death. The wife cried, but Dromli's son, a sturdy lad by the name of Grumli, did not. He frowned at the news and his fists shook slightly in impotent rage. He lowered his head for a time, then raised it again and looked into Grizben's eyes. Grumli's gaze was intense, as his father's had been. "Did he die for a noble cause?" he asked Grizben. "Aye, lad," replied Grizben. "He was a hero until the end. Many innocent lives were saved by his courageous deeds." Staring at the young dwarf's eyes, Grizben knew then that the lad would devote his life to pursuing his father's efforts in fighting Evil on Norrath.
Once in Felwithe, Grizben and Alkiran parted. Grizben hoped that his friend would at least find comfort among his kind. And it was true. A few years later, Alkiran was wedded to a beautiful Elven woman, and they later had two lovely daughters. But as Grizben had predicted, Alkiran never forgot Telianna, his one true love, and he never forgave Tunare.
Upon his return to Ak'Anon, Grizben was warmly received by his people, whom he delighted with his tales from all across Norrath. Alas, sad news were waiting for him there as well, for his parents had both passed away while he was traveling. This was yet another blow to Grizben, as he now had no family. Saddened at being alone in the world all of a sudden, he dedicated himself to his work for the next years. He took on his father's work as guardian of one of the four Matrix Stones, powerful protective artifacts that play a large part in Ak'Anon's defense against invaders. He settled in the cozy family house, located in a sheltered valley in the Steamfont Mountains, near a cave inside which lay the Matrix Stone.
For several years, Grizben worked at the maintenance of the Matrix Stone, and oversaw a team of Gnomish Engineers who worked on the canals channeling the energy of the Stone to the Central Defensive Matrix Engine inside Ak'Anon. In that team was a lovely young lady Gnome whom Grizben became friends with. He would invite her to his home after work, and show her his garden, his trophies from his adventures and his library. Soon, it was love between the two Gnomes, and Grizben married this lovely lady, who was named Uldia.
Over the years, Grizben and Uldia continued their work peacefully, since the Gnomish community was protected by the Defensive Matrix. No more life threatening dangers for Grizben. He enjoyed working quietly, taking care of his garden, reading in his library, smoking his pipe, enjoying a glass of Rivervale brandy, and visiting Alkiran and his family in Felwithe once in a while. Grizben found that he liked the quiet life much more than the adventurous one. After a while, even though he had lost many loved ones, Grizben felt truly happy. Especially since his wife and him had been blessed with two healthy children. Klayna, their daughter, was very dynamic and always eager to hear her father's story of his adventurous days. Though he told her that this quiet life was much better, really, she wouldn't hear it and insisted that he should have continued his glorious career. She always tried to learn more about her uncle Benumkin, but Grizben bitterly changed the subject every time. Grizben and Uldia also had a young son named Dalzin, who was quiet and gentle as a foal.
So on that evening, while he was enjoying his glass of brandy, Grizben heard a knock at the front door. Wondering who could be visiting at such a late hour, he got up from his chair and went to the door. He opened it and came face to face with Benumkin. His brother regarded him with a joyful smile. Behind him stood tall, dark shapes. "hey bro, how have u been" asked Benumkin.
The years had gone by and Grizben had in time partly forgiven his brother, probably out of guilt at having cast him out, though it was somewhat justified. So it was that he did not have the courage, or the anger, to refuse his brother that night. "Come in," he mumbled.
Benumkin followed his brother inside the house, followed by a dark-skinned man wearing a hooded red robe, who had to bend low because of the height of the ceiling. The other dark shape, a rough bearded Barbarian, started to duck to enter the house, saw exactly how low the ceiling was, then mumbled "I'll wait outside.." while pointing back with his thumb.
"Been a long time, brother," said Benumkin. "True," answered Grizben, already starting to feel the anger surge forth from the depths of the past. His brother stood next to him, dressed in flowing black robes, his ears and fingers adorned with sparkling jewelry of obviously great value. Many would have been awed by this display of rare, powerful items, but Grizben only saw an arrogant fool standing next to him.
"What brings you here, brother?"
Grizben asked warily.
"Sir, if I may," said the dark-skinned man, "I am High Councilor Zmeldryn of Erudin. Perhaps you've heard of me before?..." Grizben shook his head. "Ah, well... I guess we are far from Erudin... Nevertheless, we have come to your most lovely home," he gestured around the room, "to ask a favor of you."
"Yes, sir. I was wondering if you could have a look at these plans..." the Erudite produced a roll of parchment from the folds of his robe. He gave it to Grizben.
Grizben unfolded the scroll and looked at its contents. Unbelievable! Upon it were depicted, with a few modifications, the designs of the Central Defensive Matrix Engine! How had the Erudites come in possession of such secret information? Grizben looked up from the scroll to the smug Erudite's face.
"What is the meaning of this? Where did you get this?" Grizben knew that his brother's vague knowledge of the Central Engine could not have been enough to generate these designs.
"It matters little, sir. The Erudin library is unmatched in its completeness." Grizben scowled, so the Erudite quickly changed the subject. "I merely thought you would appreciate how we have humbly improved the designs of the Ak'Anon Central Defensive Matrix Engine so that it will merely require three Matrix Stones instead of the four it now uses."
Grizben looked back at the scroll. He frowned. Indeed, according to these designs, the Central Engine was now only fueled by three stones. The designs were clever, and extremely complex. It would take a long time for him to analyze and understand them fully. He did not wish to spend such time on it right now. At first sight, it seemed to him, though, that there were some slight design errors on the modified engine.
"And you traveled all the way from Erudin to come to my house at night to show me this? How generous of you," he said with obvious sarcasm in his voice.
"We thought you would appreciate being the first to see these revolutionary new designs, sir. We did not mean to be rude. If we were, please accept my most sincere apologies," said Zmeldryn. He looked past Grizben's shoulder.
Grizben turned and saw that his two children had been awaken by the discussion. They were standing on the top of the stairs leading to the bedrooms below, staring wide-eyed at the strangers in the living room.
"Klayna, Dalzin, go back to your rooms. It's late." said Grizben.
Klayna started passed him at the black robed Gnome. "Daddy, is this... Is this... Uncle Ben?"
Grizben sighed. "Yes, dear."
Benumkin smiled at the children. "heya little ones." He walked to them and kissed them on the cheeks. "My my, your all grown up!" Dalzin giggled and Klayna blushed, staring at her uncle with fascinated eyes. At last she was meeting the legendary hero of her day-dreams.
Grizben felt very uncomfortable. "Very well, kids, now it's time for you to go downstairs. Be quiet and don't wake up mommy." Dalzin went down the stairs after giving his uncle one last smile, but Klayna stayed and stared. "Klayna..." Grizben said in an irritated voice. At last she obeyed, and slowly made her way back downstairs.
Now feeling definitely annoyed, Grizben turned back to the Erudite, who seemed to be enjoying the scene. He handed him back the scroll. "I'm sorry, you'll have to show these designs to the C.E.H.E.*, I'm not in charge."
"yeah but your the guy whose in charge of this matrix stone," said Benumkin, pointing in the direction where the Matrix Stone cave was.
"Yes... I am..." said Grizben cautiously.
As Benumkin started to speak, Zmeldryn tried to interrupt him, but Benumkin kept talking: "cuz we need it, so can we take the Matrix Stone your looking after."
There was a long silence. Grizben stared at his brother. "You want me to let you have the Matrix Stone I've looked after for several decades?"
This time, Zmeldryn did not let the bumbling Benumkin speak. "I assure you, sir, we will not need it for a long time, and it is for the most altruistic of goals."
Now that Grizben did not believe. It would most likely be used in some ritual designed to make these fools more powerful. Grizben did not like the sound of this one bit. "I am sorry, but these designs clearly look faulty. Your modified engine would not work. I'm afraid we still need the four stones."
The two others stood dumbfounded for a few moments. "uh... I assure you, the most talented designers at Erudin worked over them, and if you would only have another look at the designs."
"I think not. I've made me decision. I trust not these plans for now. Now, if you would kindly exit the premises, it is getting late and I have to work tomorrow."
"But sir," said Zmeldryn, "If you took another look at the designs you'd see..."
"No. Kindly take them to the C.E.H.E.'s office tomorrow. I'm sure he'll look into it. Good night."
Benumkin and Zmeldryn stood there speechless. Benumkin's face went red. "bro u r doing a BIG mistake."
Grizben pointed at the door. The two left in silence.
* Central Engine High Engineer
The three dark figures were walking
briskly down the trail.
"Your brother is a most stubborn man, Benumkin."
"i know. he sux." said Benumkin.
"There's something I don't understand," said the Barbarian in a rough voice. Zmeldryn looked at him patiently, being used to explain things the Barbarian did not understand. "Why can't we just go in the cave and get the bloody stone?"
"Because," replied Zmeldryn, "It is guarded by strong protective fields. We could not dispel them in a long time. Not before the Gnomes noticed what we were doing. The only way for us to access it would be to use the Access Crystal which Grizben owns."
A tiny voice came from the bushes. "You mean like this one?"
The three all turned toward the bush. Out of the darkness stepped a tiny figure, holding something in its hands. The things gleamed slightly under the moon light.
The Barbarian drew his axe, but Zmeldryn put a restraining hand on his shoulder, having recognized the voice. "Sheathe your axe, you big ox!" He said. Then, he addressed the little figure much more gently: "Come near, my little one. We'll not harm you."
The little figured approached. It was Klayna. She was holding Grizben' Access Crystal in her hands. She offered it to Benumkin. He avidly took it from her hands.
"wow thanx. thats really cool."
Zmeldryn seemed perplexed. "How did you come by this, child?"
Klayna, annoyed at being called 'child' while she was clearly a teenager, replied smugly: "Let's just say that some chests are meant to be opened, and some windows climbed out of."
Zmeldryn smiled cunningly. That poor fool Grizben surely did not suspect his daughter had been in contact with the Rogue Guild, probably for some time now.
Klayna looked at Benumkin with admiring eyes. "Now you can save those poor people with the Matrix Stone, uncle Ben!"
Benumkin blinked at Klayna until Zmeldryn nudged him. "the poor people? *ouch* ah yeah the poor people. of course. right. lets get moving."
And so the four shapes started back on the trail, in the direction of the Matrix Stone cave.
The next morning started quietly.
It was a monday. A monday morning of a busy week. Grizben looked outside
and cursed softly. Of course, the weather was beautiful.
He cooked breakfast for the kids, since his wife was still asleep. She was on vacation that week. She had insisted Grizben take vacation as well, but with the workload related to the upgrading of the Sector 17 Auxiliary Access Valves, it was just not possible for him to take any time off. Or even work only the regular working hours. "Next month," he had promised her.
As he prepared to leave, he addressed the children. "Now, kids, don't wake up mommy. She needs her sleep. Be nice."
Dalzin looked up at him with wide eyes: "Daddy, can we take the riding clockworks to the apple hill today?"
Grizben thought for a moment. "Sure, lad, just make sure you put enough fuel in them before you go. So you'll not get stuck like last time."
"I promise dad! Have a nice day at work!"
Grizben smiled fondly at his son. "You too, lad. Bring back many apples. And Klayna, make sure he doesn't get in trouble. You're the responsible one."
Klayna grunted as her father left the house.
It was a crazy day at work. As soon
as he stepped down from the the clockwork transport that brought the residents
of his neighborhood to Ak'Anon, he was greeted by his clockwork assistant
Kritten, who seemed as distressed as a clockwork can be. "Mister Grizben
sir, there is a rather distressing emergency at the Black Hill Primary
Energy supply. We've sent a team there, sir."
"Very good, " replied Grizben, as he walked to his office.
"And sir, the Support Vortex Conductors of sector 15 have failed during the night. Most of the clockworks in the Calmvale and Whitebrook districts have gone off-line or have shown unprogrammed behavior."
"Send a team there," said Grizben as he started shuffling some of the paper on his desk.
"Yes sir, it's already done, sir, but might I also bring your attention to the fact that the Main Coupled Paratronic Generators of North Grid 3 have lost power for an unexplained reason?"
Grizben looked up at Kritten from his stack of paper. "Good heavens! These are all major problems! What a terrible way to start the week! Have you sent a team to North Grid 3, then?"
Kritten looked sheepishly at his superior. 'Well, sir, staff is running low, what with many employees taking their vacation this time of the year. I was thinking we could go there ourselves with a skeleton team."
Grizben looked at the tall stack of paper on his desk. He sighed. So much to do. Still, this was an emergency. "Very well, Kritten. Let's get going." His assistant started following him out of the office, and Grizben asked: "By the way, Kritten, have you seen a couple of strangely attired people heading for the C.E.H.E.'s office this morning?"
"No, sir, I can't say I have, sir."
Grizben, Kritten and their coworkers
headed for North Grid 3 to locate the source of the power failure. Nothing
seemed to be functioning incorrectly, and the tests took quite some time.
While Grizben was working intensely, he also received reports from other
sectors. There were numerous emergencies, in several districts. Power outages.
Clockwork going off-line, or malfunctioning, or even going berserk and
attacking their owners. Transports not responding to controls. Grizben
worked continuously for hours, trying not to lose hope even though the
emergencies came in at an alarming rate. He had never had such a terrible
monday in his entire life. This was probably the very worst monday in the
whole history of Mondays. Centuries in the future, Grizben imagined that
Bards would sing epic poems about this monday.
Grizben's concentration was suddenly broken by a shout, then a scream. Grizben looked up from the Paratronic Generator board he had been working on and his blood froze. A gnome's body was lying unmoving in a pool of blood about twenty feet from him. Hid whole team stood as if transfixed, as some Kobolds rushed inside the room. Kobolds... Here?... Impossible!...
For what seemed like an eternity, Grizben stood paralyzed, as if not fully understanding what was going on. Kobolds. Then his reflexes took over. He uttered words he had not pronounced in decades, and his fingers unleashed a bolt of flames that consumed the nearest Kobold. A short fight followed between the Gnomes and the Kobolds, who luckily were not talented warriors. Thanks to Grizben's magic, the Kobolds were all eliminated, with only a few casualties among the Gnomes.
Then all eyes turned to Grizben. There was some awe at seeing his legendary magical powers unleashed, but also fear and questioning: How had the Kobolds come here? How had they gotten past the Defensive Matrix?
Then it hit Grizben like a bolt of lightning. All those power outages. Kobolds roaming freely near the city. Past the Defensive Matrix.
He put his fingers to his temples, whispering "Good Heavens... Ben, you fool, what have you done?"
As the Gnomes were still all looking at him, he spoke louder. "Lads, we've got a situation here. A nasty one. You must bring this up to the C.E.H.E. immediately. The Defensive Matrix is down. Go to him, now. Lives are at stake."
He started jogging to the door, his heart beating madly in his chest. His wife, his children were in danger. So were all Gnomes. Because of his foolish brother.
Kritten spoke as Grizben was about to leave the room. "Sir, did you say the Defensive Matrix is down?" Grizben stopped, noticing that no other Gnome was moving. "Yes, it is. Now MOVE! Lives are at stake!!"
The Gnomes started moving, and Kritten asked: "But sir, how is that possible?"
Already past the door, Grizben shouted back "Because me brother stole one of the Matrix Stones !"
None of the clockwork transports
were working. Grizben ran like to wind toward his home. He hoped his family
was there, and still safe. He would bring them to the safety of Ak'Anon.
All around him, creatures had passed through the defensive barrier and
were invading the peaceful Gnome lands. Spiderlings, kobolds, diseased
rats all roamed freely. Grizben saw frightened Gnomes running here and
there, and shouted at them to find shelter. And he ran. And ran.
Finally, huffing and puffing, he came to his house. "Me bones are too old for this," he thought. Then, he froze. He saw that the door and all the windows to his house were broken. He rushed to the house, noticing a big pile of dirt near the door. The remains of his elemental. It had stood its ground, most likely defending Grizben's family. Grizben circled the house, noticing hoof prints on the ground. He shivered. Minotaurs.
He cautiously entered the house. Everything was a mess. The brutes had completely ransacked the house. Panicked, he went to every room. They were all empty. He called out the names of his loved ones. No one answered. Then he remembered. They had gone to pick up apples!
Grizben quickly ran out to the shack where they kept the clockwork transports for the kids. He opened the door. The clockworks were still inside. Most likely, they had not been working like most of the other clockworks linked to the External Control Grid. Luckily, those linked to the Internal Control Grid, like Kritten, were still fully functional.
"Daddy" Grizben jumped at the sudden
noise behind him. He turned quickly and saw his daughter standing behind
him, white as a sheet. Feeling a wave of relief, he hugged her tenderly.
"Ah, me sweet little one!! I feared so much for you. Are the others all
Klayna hugged him fiercely and burst in tears. "Daddy, it's all me fault!!!"
Not understanding what she was talking about, Grizben told her: "Of course not, dear. It's not. But tell me, are mommy and Dalzin all right? Where are they?"
Klayna was choked by sobs for long moments. Then, she managed to croak: "The Minotaurs took them to their caves!...."
Grizben went numb with shock.
The Minotaur raised its brutish head at the noise of intruders in the caves. As he looked up, his eyes fell on a group of runts and faeries. There were several larger runts, with their thick beards and ugly axes, and a smaller one in a red robe. There were only two faeries, light haired females in black leather dresses. "We've company, boys," he rumbled to his friends. The other minotaurs came to his side and growled at the strangers.
"These mines are private property.
Leave or suffer the consequences," he rumbled to the red robed runt who
stood at the head of the group.
"You hold in these mines some free citizens of Ak'Anon against their will", the gnome squeaked. "This goes against the Law dictated by King Ak'Anon, ruler of these lands. Release these citizens at once, or face our King's wrath."
The minotaurs roared in laughter. "And who exactly will bring this wrath unto us, runt? You?"
Grizben stood there facing the Minotaurs. Anger gripped him tightly, as he himself gripped his magic. He had to concentrate not to unleash it immediately on the vile beasts. He knew the fight could not be avoided. He looked at his companions again, he hoped not for the last time. They had heeded the calls he had sent to Kaladim and Felwithe through messages carried by clockwork couriers. He had called to them for help, and they had come. Grumli, son of Dromli, had brought with him a band of dwarven warriors. His intense gaze fixed the minotaurs as he fingered the handle of his axe, much like his father would have done had he still been here. Alkiran Moongazer was too deeply wounded in his soul to be able to face once more the perils of adventure, but he still had received his old friend's message. It was his daughter, the fair Alruna, who had come to Grizben's aid, along with her friend, the valorous Paladin Haqqika.
Grizben turned to face the Minotaurs
once more. "Yes," he replied. "Ye shall face King Ak'Anon's wrath through
us. Heed me warning well. It will not come again. Deliver the prisoners
The Minotaur snorted impatiently. "Brothers, I tire of this runt's arrogance. Let us bring the heads of these fools to Lord Meldrath."
With a roar, the Minotaurs charged the group. Grizben quickly retreated past Grumli, his dwarven brothers and Haqqika, who drew their weapons against the Minotaurs' charge. Alruna started chanting a prayer to Tunare, while the ground erupted under the lead Minotaur's feet. With a deep growl, Grizben's Earth Elemental rose from the soil and brought that Minotaur down with a thud, thumping at him with its powerful fists. So the battle began!
Later that night, the companions were all gathered in the garden of Grizben's house (to accommodate Alruna who found the ceiling inside to be quite low). The mood was joyful, for they had been victorious. Uldia and Dalzin had been retrieved from the Mines, along with a few other Ak'Anon citizens. The heroes had defeated many minotaurs, but had not dared to face Meldrath the Malignant, for Grizben had heard he was highly versed in the Necromantic Arts. So they had stealthily scouted the mines and, as soon as they found the captives, had left in great haste. Two of Grumli's dwarven companions had died and Haqqika had been severely wounded, but at least justice had been done.
After the meal, Grizben stood up on his chair and looked at the friendly faces gathered around him. The companions were there, as well as Grizben's family and some Gnome friends. "Me friends, I need your attention, please." The crowd quieted down. "The past few days have been very hard on all of us. A great plight has befallen the Kingdom of Ak'Anon. So all me fellow Gnomes, and me family, have suffered for it." He looked at the Gnomes gathered there. "And some of ye have come from far to help me, and asked nothing in return. For this, I thank ye from the bottom of me heart." He looked at the dwarves and at Alruna.
"Know that, although we tasted victory today, and freed some of me dear ones from the clutches of evil, the fight is far from being over. One of the Matrix Stones was stolen by me brother Benumkin." Grizben did not mention his daughter's part in the plot, though he was now aware of it. Still, she lowered her head in shame. "He left behind some plans to have the Central Engine modified to function with only three stones. The C.E.H.E. pondered upon them for three days, with a team of experts. They confirmed me suspicions. The designs are faulty. The Central Engine simply cannot function with only three Matrix Stones. Until we find the fourth Matrix Stone, the citizens of Ak'Anon will not be safe. We'll have to fend off attackers with sword and spear, as we did centuries ago."
Grumli spoke. "Can you not find another Matrix Stone somewhere else?"
"Nay, friend Grumli. Those four unique artifacts come to us from a previous Age of Magic. The secrets of their creation have been, alas, long lost. We know not even if they originate from this world. All we know is that, for the Ak'Anon citizens to live in peace once more, we must retrieve the fourth stone. King Ak'Anon has ruled on this. Though he recognizes that it is not me fault that the Stone was stolen, since I am its Guardian, it is me responsibility to bring it back. So, I must now leave this place in search of me brother, to find the Stone."
There was silence. All eyes looked at him sadly. Grizben could not bear to meet his wife's. They would be parted for a long time. And the road would be dangerous. Maybe he would never be able come back.
Then a lone voice broke the silence. It was Grumli. "You'll not search for it alone, old man. My father would've come with you in this quest. Since he is with Brell now, I shall."
Grizben smiled warmly at the Dwarf. He nodded his thanks. And so began Grizben and Grumli's quest for the Matrix Stone.