Who is Gargath indeed. As learned as I believe myself to be, there is always something new I did not know. There is a legend of great renown among the dwarves of a creature so horrifying the mention of it was enough to send dwarf children scurrying to their chores or to pull the covers over their heads without a further peep.
I had heard similar tales of bogey men, usually in the form of demons, that sent me and the other orphans to our duties. Now that I have fought actual demons, I’m both less and more worried for the likes of this Gargath.
Bob told us the tale as he knew it, and the two gods interceded as they sought to correct inaccuracies, or to add a colorful comment for their private amusement. I did not capture all of their comments, snide or otherwise. Not every word uttered in my presence needs to be captured for posterity. Some are better off forgotten.
Here is the tale as best as I can recall.
“In the lands to the east, where the great sea rose after the cataclysm, there had been a kingdom of dwarves, mightier than any in the known world. They had delved in every mountain range in their kingdom, building mighty underground cities. Their wealth was immeasurable and their deities were strong. The armies of the Purple Mountains were feared across the lands.
When the Emperor of the Bountiful Kingdom brought the nine and sixty kingdoms into a vast alliance, the Purple Mountain clan were the last to join. Their king was prideful, having never lost a battle, and wrung special concessions from the others, giving those in purple and gold advantages in both trade and diplomacy. Of course, this did not sit well with those they had warred with over the years. Their closest neighbors grumbled at the special treatment gifted to the Purple Mountain’s Majesty, poisoning the alliance even before the ink had dried upon the final treaties.
Histories show that the nine and sixty held their peace accord for more than three hundred years with only minor border skirmishes. Rumors held that two of the elvish kingdoms, along with one other unnamed benefactor, plotted against the Purple Mountain clan.
The elves were the most aggrieved, they all agreed on, though both Thunder Jack and Old One-Eye thought the elves were silly prats; not a surprising coincidence. No one seemed to know who this third party was, but Bob believed it was a great wizard. He got this clue from Wizard Tim, though he was vague, as usual.
Thunder Jack said wizards were wankers.
Old One-Eye was more circumspect and was happy to know I was on good terms with several of the sneaky vermin.
Bob ignored the sniping comments of the gods and continued his tale.
“When the first Merric assassinated the emperor of the Bountiful Kingdom and his legions of fanatics began to sweep the lands, the armies of the Purple Mountains marched to take advantage of the situation by attacking their nearest neighbors for grievances real or imagined.
None of the three dwarves with me had a clue to these grievances. Mind you, none of the had any love for the elves. Well, Bob was fairly neutral, but he was a special person. Neither of the gods knew of any grievance that merited the actions of the Purple Mountain Clan, however.
“The Purple Mountain clan were arrogant,” Old One-Eye said.
“Pompous,” was Thunder Jack’s comment.
Bob shook his head. “Power mad and greedy.”
The other two looked at him, but did not argue.
“Some say the appearance of the broken wells was a result of what happened next. The wizards in Skyfell have ancient texts that speak of great stones falling from the sky and striking the Purple Mountains. Others talked of burrowing creatures that rose up from the pits of the seven hells. Wizard Tim believes this second to be the truth, for he has seen such creatures. There is also ample evidence that the stones that fell from the sky shattered the Purple Mountains, and the lands around them sank into the rising sea.”
“A tragedy,” Raucous snarked. “A loss to the world, I am sure.”
The dwarves eyed her, but made no move to correct her commentary.
I quite think she enjoyed antagonizing the lot of them. She winked at Thunder Jack at one point, and he returned a smoldering gaze her way. I was fairly sure I’d be dousing the two with water before the tale was finished.
“The armies that did not perish in the sinking of the kingdom made their way into the land of their enemies and vanished from history, or made their way back to the greatest of the Purple Mountains, rallying to the cries of their monarch. The battles in those halls was both fierce and devastating to the Purple Mountain Clan. Their losses were insurmountable, yet they destroyed their enemies as they themselves perished in the battles. Here it is reported that the greatest of the worms broke through the last bastion of defense, ravaged the king’s guard and with one great gulp swallowed the Purple Mountain’s Majesty, ending the last of that once great clan.”
“Again, it doesn’t sound like that great a loss.” Raucous interjected when Bob wound down. “I’m guessing that great worm is Gargath.”
Bob nodded. Thunder Jack rose from where he sat and moved to sit next to Raucous, handing her a mug of ale that he materialized out of thin air.
“Gargath,” Bob said rather loudly, in a vain attempt to capture Thunder Jack’s attention to no avail. “Gargath,” he repeated, “gathered the wealth of the Purple Mountain clan and sleeps upon a bed of gold.”
Ah, I finally knew where this was going. “Dragon,” I said, matter of factly.
“No, the others said in unison. Well, Bob and Old One-Eye said. Thunder Jack and Raucous said nothing intelligible. They had drained their ale and were attempting to swallow each other’s faces. Old One-Eye made a disgusted noise and scooted away from the two, but I think I caught a hint of jealousy on his face.
“Worm,” Bob practically shouted. He held his arms wide apart for emphasis. “Big, giant worm, like a leech, that can burrow through stone and defecates gold and platinum.”
Lovely, a giant leech large enough to defeat a dwarf army and destroy a mountain.
“It’s all about the gold then?” I asked, baffled by Bob’s point.
“Not gold,” he said, moving to face me and take my hand in his. “The Purple Mountain’s Majesty had one treasure he prized above all others. It is that we seek, dear Merric. It is that treasure that will help mend the world.”