THE LONG ROAD
Even the longest journey starts with but a single step
How does one even respond to someone freaking out like that? What could one say? 'So sorry to hear that old bean, but on the bright side, you haven't actually lost your sight, you're just losing your ability to discern different colors. It's called getting old.' We just ended up starring at each other, Gnarl's face a mixture between fear, and guilt; mine I'm sure looked funny somewhere between confusion, and amusement. I don't know how long we just stared at each other. Long enough that Mortis had come from the minion's barracks to check on us though. We didn't even notice him walking up, nor that he was there until he cleared his throat. I don't know if that sound is something that any blue would make when they clear their throat, but it was definitely strange. Between his constantly bubbly voice and the gravelly tone he speaks in, I really don't know how to describe it.
Turning toward the intruder, Mortis took us in, and without so much as raising an eyebrow… or whatever might pass for an eyebrow, and a completely straight face, asks us if anything was wrong. Apparently the time spent in a starring contest gave Gnarl time to think, because instead of repeating what he'd exclaimed to me, he just hung his head, and shook it 'no' from where it hanged. For some reason I felt the need to lighten the mood, and responded with, "Not much, just Gnarl here finally getting the point. That he's gotten old." Gnarl actually seemed to flinch at my words. So, not the most tactful way to say it. Mortis haltingly nodded his head once, and regarded Gnarl. And without even a word, placed his hand along Gnarl's back and led the old minion away. I just stood there and watched them walk away, slowly.
After they finally turned a corner out of sight, I let off a sigh of my own. Great, already down a minion army, no vessel to contain great evil, and no magic to help me get started, I can now also add a minion leader going through a mid-life crisis. Or, whatever qualifies as a mid life crisis for minions. Or would this be more like an end of life crisis? I mean, Gnarl is fairly old. Lightly shaking my head as though it would help me solve my problems, I head back to the other minions to see what sort of progress they might have made. Which wasn't really that much. Without someone to guide them, now that they had an opening, every time they moved some of the bracing rocks, more from the slowly growing opening would tumble down to take their place, sending the minions scattering from the falling stones. Letting out another sigh, I begin to help them navigate the hill side of stone to start removing from the top, rather than from the bottom. Which proves to be a daunting task in itself.
Finally, after some trail and error, I manage to guide them through clearing enough of the rockslide out of the way that a full grown man, namely myself, could climb and pass through without difficulty. And with such an opening I could see outside. Though I knew to expect frosty trees, and icy rocks, what I didn't expect was to find snow just the other side of the rock pile. Yeah, I remember Gnarl telling me that winter was coming, but why was there already snow? And in such thick blankets of it upon the ground. On top of that, the cave entrance seemed to be funneling the wind from the slope just the other side of the previously caved in rocks. Making it that much colder at the mouth. And if left open, that much colder in the cavern even further in.
I recall an expression like this… 'when it rains, it pours' and me without a 'hooded cloak.' Letting out a sigh, and shaking my head, I turn back into the cavern and carefully pick my way down the pile. Might as well see if Giblet's finished my shield. Cause first order of business is finding some way to cover that hole without blocking off the entrance. And fast, cause I can already feel the air in the cave entrance getting colder. It won't be long before it starts to suck what heat is left out of the already chilly cavern deeper in.
I still can't get used to going down to get to the forge. It just doesn't seem right, going down to get to a stalactite's foundation. Never mind the fact that somehow this forge which can just fit in the foyer of the main hall is somehow fit into the bottom end of the, admittedly huge, hanging rock formation. Sigh. If Gnarl gets to feeling better, I'll have to ask him about that too. Finally I emerge from the tunnel, I'll say this about minions, they work fast. The forever tunnel already has a few stair steps in it, mostly just at the steeper, or slicker points, but steps nonetheless.
I can already hear the sounds of hammer hitting metal, but… it's not from the forges. I don't have to look far, immediately to the right of the pit, where the Overlord's armory is supposed to be is none other than Giblet hammering away at the bent, and disfigured mechanism. I guess he's trying to get it back into shape… ugh… okay, I need to watch out for making bad puns, unintentional or not… that was just… bad. However, now that I think about it, why is Giblet trying to restore the armory, and not… hrm. Giblet must be one fast minion if he's already got my shield done, carved steps into the tunnel, and is now working on fixing the armory. But that still leaves the question of why he's fixing the armory.
Walking up to Giblet, I merely stand behind him, watching him. It's fascinating to say the least. It seems that Giblet works like he speaks, short, methodical, and to the point. He always checks his aim before he swings that hammer of his, scratch that, I didn't pay attention before, but that's more a sledge hammer than a simple bench hammer. Not overly big, and one not paying attention might indeed mistake it for a regular hammer, but nope, its obviously a heavy weighted head. Can't say I recognize the material for the handle though, not wood, doesn't look like bone… hmm.
It's only after I notice that Giblet has let the hammer sway to his side that I realize he's turned to me. Once again, I'm spacing out, great. Clearing my throat, I ask, "I take it that the shield is done?" Giblet merely nods, before he walks, instead of the scampering the others do, and retrieves a simple wood braced metal shield. Not big, maybe a forearm and a quarter wide, and round. He even went the extra mile and embroidered a three pronged crown into the front center. I'm guessing that's the unofficial Overlord insignia.
Placing my arm through the strap, and my hand over handle, I give it a few good strikes against the wall. A little scuffing, but otherwise undamaged. I can see why it took so long to make. It's craftsmanship would rival that of the old Empire's army smith. … Wait what! How would I know that? The shock must have shown on my face, as Giblet broke through my shock, asking, "Is not to your liking?" I turn to look at the brown smith, blink my eyes a few times before his question finally registers in my mind. Briefly I shake my head hard and quick, these distractions are getting to be annoying. "No, no, it's good. I was just wondering about an old memory that came out of nowhere." Giblet just blinked, then shrugged his shoulders and walked back toward the armory. Right, I was curious about why he was working on the armory.
"So, why are you trying to fix the armory now?" Giblet merely looked over his shoulder and replied "Master now has weapon, and shield. Will need place to keep them when master returns." As if it was the most obvious thing in the world, and turned back around before reaching the armory, grasping his hammer, and getting back to work. Again, I just blinked… ask an obvious question, get an obvious answer apparently. With a low chuckle, and a slow shake of my head, I once more tread the Forever tunnel to head back to the surface entrance.
Okay, I know that I need to head out and find something to cover that hole in the wall with, or the cavern will freeze badly this winter. But as I emerge from the Forever tunnel into the barracks, I spot Gnarl, and Mortis. I know that I should let Gnarl work through his problem first, but I kind of need to know where to look for the things I'd need to plug the hole. Besides, I am kind of curious as to how he's doing, he is supposed to be my advisor, and caretaker of what are supposed to be my minion hordes. And if he's not up to the job….
Well, I'll take care of that later, right now priority is keeping the cavern warm as possible this winter. With task in mind I make my way to Gnarl and Mortis. Gnarl is still looking rather depressed, and Mortis actually seems to have sympathy for the old minion. Fortunately for Gnarl, Quaver is no where to be found. I look to Mortis with an eyebrow raised. The blue minion just slightly moves his head back and forth, in small movements, small enough that I'd believe if I wasn't staring at him, I wouldn't have seen the movement. Dropping my head and exhaling a large breath in a huffing sigh, I move to approach the both of them anyways. The movement catches Gnarl's attention, but he doesn't turn to look at me, and Mortis ever so slightly raises his head to stare at me directly.
For a moment, my stern gaze softens to show remorse, before returning to its determined look. Mortis seemingly understands, again shaking his head up and down so little that if I wasn't looking I wouldn't of seen it. Already standing in front of the two, I consider my options. And there really is only one thing to say. "If you can't pull yourself together long enough to fulfill your duties, then what use are you to me. I get it, you've probably lived longer than most minions dare dream, seen the rise and fall of who knows how many Overlords. But the one thing you should be concerned about right now is that you have an Overlord that is in need of your advice. Even if you are no longer able to physically act in your task, as long as you can still speak, as long as you can still remember. You still serve your master." At first Gnarl openly flinched at my words. Visibly grew sadden at the mention of his long life; and genuinely seemed hurt when I mentioned needing his advice. Almost seemed to shrink back when I postulated him being unable to do anything physically. But after hearing the end of my speech seemed to start to think.
I could almost see the wheels turning in his head, as he started to understand what I had said. Started to realize that, even in his old age, and a failing body, he could be of service to his Overlord. Finally after several moments he took in a deep breath, held it, then exhaled it in a rush. Looking me straight in the eye, with something akin to a grin sparkling in them he declared, "You're right. I know more things than most minions can forget. And as long as there is an Overlord, I have a job to do. I don't have time to sit around moping about my age, come heaven or holy waters, I need to turn you into a proper Overlord. Starting with testing you to make sure the Underworld accepts you as the next Overlord."
Okay, not what I was expecting… "Testing? I thought I was already ordained as the next Overlord." Gnarl smiled, gums and all… have I mentioned how creepy that is? "Oh, you were just the nearest, and possibly best candidate, we could find. In order to be the Overlord, the Underworld must accept you first."