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“Treasure! Treasure! Treasure! Gold! Gold! Gold!” shrieked the mad Dwarf as it attacked Taran with its pickaxe. Taran ducked and the mining tool whizzed past his head.

“Taran, help me kill this lunatic!” yelled Gimor as he came puffing up behind the Dwarf.

“Kill meeeeee!” howled the Dwarf. “Nooooooooooo!” He turned and swung at Gimor, who hurriedly parried with his sword.

KLANK! The sword broke right down near the hilt, but it turned the blow.

Taran leveled his bamboo spear and lunged at the Dwarf. Somehow, the mad dwarf swung his pick behind his back and batted the spear off to the side, very nearly impaling Gimor in the process.

Gimor and Taran leaped around the Dwarf in mad melee. For a moment, it looked like they might win.

The Dwarf shortened up on his pickaxe and delivered a crushing blow that broke Gimor’s jaw and almost his neck. The Troll went down in a boneless heap. Taran tried a 2-handed thrust toward the Dwarf’s back, but the Dwarf kicked out with one sturdy leg, caught Taran in the gut, and hurtled him over the edge to fall to a fiery doom far below.

Feeling as if his ribs were crushed, and seeing the lava coming up fast, Taran pulled the ring off his finger, and faded away just before his spear smacked into the lava and went up in a burst of flame.

“Never trust a Troll,” muttered the Dwarf as it searched Gimor’s body. He found the ring on Gimor’s hand – the only thing that looked remotely like treasure. He managed to pull it off the Troll’s hand, and when he did so, Gimor’s form wavered and faded out of existence . . .

The Trollgod bellowed, “Medics! Two more racers . . . incoming!”

Meanwhile, SilverHorn thought Certain Doom was better than going into an arena in his current condition, so he doggedly turned right and plodded onward.

He hadn’t gotten very far when he came to a big pile of mushrooms lying on the tunnel floor. A sign said: ‘Magic Mushrooms! Eat them and be enchanted. Satisfaction guaranteed!

In the goblin village, the big Balrukh ordered the Goblins to make a pie for his pet. “Rarrkk, my son, show him the bridge, and help him get the pie made.”

“As yuu command, O Marrrx Emoose,” said the young Balrukh. “Come, Rrraff, wat doo yuu need for a pie?”

“Some kind of large flat container would be good,” said Rrraff.

Rarrkk found him a big flat bowl of fire-hardened clay. On the way to the king’s house where he found it, he pointed out a short path through the cave walls at the back of the village. They went down it for 10 feet and came to a big iron bridge that spanned a chasm full of fiery magma.

“Now we need something to put in the pie,” said Rrraff when they got back. “Do you have any bat droppings?”

“There arr plenty of batz arounn hirr,” said the Balrukh.

They gathered other ingredients: fermented mushroom caps (yum), ground-up bones (mmmm), some mud for texture (glurk), and finally some layers of mushroom skin for a crust. When it was done, it weighed about 30 pounds.

Rrraff made a huge bat-dung pie for the Balrukh.

 

Rrraff said, “Call the big Balrukh, I am ready to show the trick.” He picked a small plaza not far from the tunnel that led to the iron bridge.

When the big Balrukh, the little Balrukh, and all the Goblins were gathered around, Rrraff went into his act. He danced and capered all around the edges of the pie, pretending to slip and fall in, and catching himself just in time. Soon he had the Goblins all dancing with him, and even the Balrukhs were tapping their feet.

Finally, Rrraff stopped, making a great show of being out of breath. “Oh great one, I think I dropped a magic ring into the pie. Can you find it for me?”

The Balrukh bent over to scrutinize the pie. “I don’t see anything,” he growled.

“Look closer!” said Rrraff, standing by the pie’s edge, and pretending to search.

The Balrukh brought his great face right down next to Rrraff. “How do you expect even me to see through this gunk?” he asked.

“I don’t!” yelled Rrraff. He grabbed the edges of the pie plate and jammed the whole thing into the big Balrukh’s face. SPLAT! The Balrukh reared back roaring with the shock of it. He had bat shit in his eyes, a new experience for him, and one guaranteed to bother even a Balrukh.

“Now that’s what I call funny!” said Rrraff, and he took off before the stunned Goblins could do anything to stop him, into the short tunnel, and as fast as he could go toward the iron bridge.

Rrraff pounded across the iron bridge, his feet making thunderous echoes. He looked back and saw the small Balrukh gaining on him, and at the same time a huge cloud of bats began to flutter up from where they had been hanging under the bridge.

Rrraff was almost to the other side . . .

(to be continued)


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