“Blasted chain!” Gustav proclaimed. He tried to pull the chain to operate the bellows on his furnace. Gustav had discovered that the chain on his bellows was rusted. “I knew I should’ve oiled it up sooner. I can’t smith a thing with this in the way.”Gustav, a blacksmith in the Ironcast district of the village of Castle Graystone, looked through his storage to find a jar of ogre oil. Ogre oil was a green, thick goop that could withstand the heat and friction caused by heavy metals pulling on each other. As he ransacked his piles of tools and supplies, Gustav muttered, “Ugh! Can’t find what I need when I need it!”
“Don’t lose you’re cool, Gustav,” a familiar voice said. Gustav looked over his shoulder and spotted Desi Baron, a local adventurer.
“I can’t find my jar of Ogre Oil. The chain on the bellows for my furnace are seized up, frozen, can’t move at all. Without that oil, I can’t smith anything, and the fire will go out.”
“Can’t you just get some from the market?” Desi asked.
“I wish! Those merchants are all out, and they’re too lazy to go to the ogre settlement and get some. I might as well go there myself. What I wouldn’t give to have just one jar of it.”
Desi’s travels had taken her to the ogre settlement before. She wasn’t fond of the stinky, big, green, slouches that lived south of the Fairy Forest.
“Say, could you get some ogre oil?” Gustav asked. “You seem to be good at finding things.”
“What’s in it for me?” Desi asked.
“How’s about five gold coins? The oil usually goes for fifteen, but I’m sure you’ll get enough to sell for the rest. Mark it up on those merchants who refuse to get more.”
“Seems fair. I’ll need payment upfront, of course. Who knows what those ogres are up to these days.”
“What do you mean?” Gustav asked, as he handed Desi five gold coins.
“Last time I went by there, they were launching tree logs covered in mud and toad guts. Damn near knocked me out when one rolled into me.”
“Ah, well, good luck. I’ve got to get back to shoeing a horse. See ya later, Desi.”
Desi traveled southward, just along the edge of the Fairy Forest. The forest known for its maze of invisible walls that often lead people back to where they entered from, if they didn’t know the way through.
The Ogre settlement was south of the Fairy Forest. All around there were huts made of animal hide, with red banners that signified a unity of strength and honor. Surrounding the settlement was a wooden wall, and only one large gate as its entrance and exit.
The Ogres were a tribe of warriors that had fought alongside the Broke Kingdom during the Great Insurrection, a continental war that broke out over one hundred years ago. Having lost many of their own during that time, they were naturally protective of who entered their settlements.
“At least they’re not playing war games,” Desi said as she arrived at the settlement. She had been here before, and each time she remembered she had to cross over a rickety bridge above a river. This time, she only realized that the river was all dried up after she reached the gate, not noticing she had walked right across its empty bed.
“Ugh! Humans!” an Ogre said. Desi looked up toward the voice. An ogre was at the top of a lookout tower, and demanded, “State ye purpose!”
“I’m here for some ogre oil.”
“Aye? And I’m here for watchin’ ye stinky humans and ye dirty tricks.”
Desi folded her arms. “I don’t pull dirty tricks… any more,” she muttered.
“Aye? Wut was dat? Aye cannot hear ye!”
“I said, I need to get some ogre oil.”
“Ye, ye, I hear ye. Okay, I’ll open the gate.” With the tap of his wooden spear on the gate, it opened up. Actually, there were two other ogres on the other side who pulled on ropes to lift it. “Hurry yerself in, lil’ one.”
Desi entered the settlement, and the ogres dropped the gate behind her. It crashed down and made a loud boom. “Nice welcome,” she said.
There were ogres walking back and forth, many of them carrying buckets of water from a reserve at the far end of the settlement. “That explains the dried up river,” Desi said.
“Aye, no, nuttin’ explains the dried up river,” said a lady Ogre. “‘cept the lazy buffoon who forgot to clear up the slimes.”
Desi turned to her left and found an ogre with her arms folded, a big frown on her face, and a few trinkets on a table before her. Without wasting any more time, Desi asked, “I’m here for some ogre oil. Got any?”
“Ye jes think we Ogre have oil all around and ready for the taking, do ye?”
There was a pause as Desi pondered her response. “Yes.”
“Well it dun work that way, miss. Not usually. Sometimes me husband is jes swimmin’ in oil, and dat there stink up the hut. What do ye need the oil for anyway? We haven’t had a merchant here for some time, we thought it was no longer needed.”
“A blacksmith needs it to clean up the chain on his furnace. He can’t operate the bellows, and says he needs that to keep the fire going.”
“What a blowhard.”
“The bellows. They’re used to blow air into the furnace and that keeps the fire going.”
“I’d like to help ye, but unfortunately, me husband, who makes the oil, isn’t home. Nor have we seen a slimeball.”
“Plenty of slimeballs where I come from.”
“Aye know what ye talkin’ about, but this slimeball’s a disgusting creature. There used to be lot o’ them that just show up in the water. But the waterfall stopped, we’ve been getting little to no water, and that means little to no slime. Started just two days ago. Me husband went up the river this morning, and hasn’t been back since.”
“Maybe it would be a good idea for me to find your husband.”
“Ha! He’s lollygagging his way ‘round the mountain, no doubt if I know him as I do. And I know him. He’s laying ‘bout as usual, taking his sweet time. Fine, lass, wander up the mountain if you’d like. Maybe you can tell me husband to get his lard behind back down here and be with his wife.”
“If I find him, convince him to make me a jar of Ogre Oil.”
“You’ll get three outta him if ye do! Here, take this torch. There’s a cave up there that leads to the top of the waterfall.”
Desi traveled up the mountain and reached the cave. There were grunts and growls echoing from inside. “Must be the dope’s snoring,” Desi said. She lit the torch and entered the cave. She placed her hands along the walls, and removed them immediately, for the walls were covered in slime. “Ugh. Gross,” she said, and wiped the slime off on her shorts.
Desi followed the sounds of the growling and neared the end of the cave. There was a trickle of water flowing into the cave, so she knew she was near. When she turned a few corners, the trickle turned into a puddle, and the puddle turned into a stream. She exited the cave toward the mountaintop.
At the top of where the waterfall once was, there was a massive blob of green goop. The slimeballs had piled up and clogged the waterfall. Trapped inside their gelatinous mass was the ogre’s husband.
“Help me!” he tried to cry out, his voice muffled by the mass of slime that covered him.
Desi dig away at the slimeballs. She scooped one handful of slime after the other, tossing it aside, until she freed the ogre. He fell out of the mountain of slime and knocked her over.
“Well that was a bit annoying,” the ogre said.
“A bit annoying?” Desi asked. “You were swallowed by a mass of sludge, and all you can say is that it was a bit annoying?”
“Ye, the slimes don’t eat ogre. They latch on ta anythin’ dey can. They grow an’ are a nuisance.” The ogre wiped off the slime from his arms. “Since yer up here, care to help me clear this clog? The slime can be put inta the buckets over there, and then water can flow again.”
“This doesn’t sound like it’s the first time this has happened,” Desi said.
“Aye. Happens every three months. The slimes jes gather over time and grow.”
“Maybe you ought to think of another way to keep the slimes from getting into the water in the first place.”
“Ha! We’ve tried. Fences, wires, ye name it. No, the slimes live underwater. Not much we can do ‘bout it but clear ‘em out.”
Desi and the Ogre gathered the slime into buckets. The water began to flow slow at first, then fast, and then spilled over into a raging waterfall.
Desi returned to the village with the Ogre’s husband. “Aye, took ye long enough! Don’t ye think I be worried ‘bout ye when ye clearing out that mess?” the Ogre’s wife asked.
“Aye, dear. I got meself stuck in a mass of slime at the top of the waterfall. I’m fine though, thanks to this young lass here.”
The ogre wife turned to Desi, and said, “Dank ye.” She turned to her husband. “Make the lass three jars of oil for saving yer clumsy bum.”