Got Humans in the Mines
From the cave’s mouth, Topsoil warily eyed the road and the forest beyond. The starlight was too bright for comfort and the vast night was far too large. How anyone could stand living without a firm, visible ceiling to keep the open sky out was beyond the mountain dwarf’s understanding. Their only solace the unyielding darkness of the cave behind and the glimmering moon above, a blessing even to subterranean monsters.
A friend appeared on the road, riding up on a Bumblebee scooter. The rider parked at the cave’s entrance, took off her helmet and shook her head to smooth out her hair.
“Hallo, Roots,” Topsoil grunted as they stroked their beard. “Ya send my love to the Fish?”
“She asked me to give you her thanks, she adds a bit of your mushrooms to her morning tea every morning.” Red Kelp, dryad, said as she hugged the dwarf who grunted in response.
The dwarf furrowed their brow and returned the hug. “Gotta get that wife of yours accustomed to the soils. Can’t be good, all that water.” The dryad smiled and said nothing before squeezing the dwarf one last time and letting go. Topsoil had gifted Strawberry, mermaid, Red Kelp’s wife, a small mushroom bouquet at their wedding. With tending, it has lasted for years.
The pair waited in comfortable silence for a few minutes before Magma “Ham” Hamilton Flamingo, gorgon, slithered up the road on her long snake tail. “Hallo, Scales,” the dwarf offered in greeting and received a kiss on their cheek. The gorgon’s snake hair each flicked their tongues and tickled the bearded warrior. “Logarithm here yet?” Ham asked before taking Red Kelp’s hands in hers and squeezing. The monsters kissed in joyful greeting.
As if summoned by her name, the mechanically minded villain, Anna Logarithm, appeared in an ill-placed Teleport spell, falling into a spectacular heap. “Yes,” she and Topsoil answered simultaneously and with equal gruffness.
The dwarf picked up the villain as easily as a piece of cloth and placed her upright. “Hallo, Gears.” The villain grumbled and dusted herself off, “Hello everyone.”
As is proper, dinner was served before business was discussed — a fungus feast of shrieking horrorblooms, deadly black rot spores, and plates of rare wyvern’s wing, a thin mushroom cap with a delightfully wooden flavor.
“Why did you invite us, Tops?” Anna asked as she leaned back and puffed a bubble pipe. All eyes (except a few strands of Magma’s snake hair, who yawned and went to sleep) turned to the mountain dwarf hosting the gathering.
“Got humans in me mines. Want help gettin’ them out.” The dwarf tugged at their beard thoughtfully, contemplating the sentence and wondering, with an editor’s air, how it could be reduced in words. He nearly lost himself in the thought.
“But… you…” Red Kelp began, confused, “…how many are there?”
“Lots.” Topsoil’s cheeks reddened and their eyebrows knit into a scowl as the dwarf struggled to contain their feelings.
“You missed us,” Magma cut with a joyful smugness. Topsoil growled a bit in quiet, annoyed confirmation. Red Kelp smiled at Anna, who winked in response and puffed her pipe.
A few days later, the guard captain shouted to her archers to aim and fire. Before the volley could be released, however, roots as thick as rope and as strong as giants reached down from their position in the cavern’s ceiling. The archers were lifted and casually tossed aside into a heap. “That’s three points!” Red Kelp cheerfully shouted. “Each!”
“Don’t wizards count as ten?” Magma asked as she toppled the turned-to-stone magic users.
“No,” Topsoil mumbled as they readied their battle axe, eying the enemy party’s leader. “Wizards count backwards. S’why they’re wizards.”
“Doesn’t seem fair, you don’t even bother counting skeletons!” Anna yelled as she grappled with the invading party’s necromancer. Surrounding them, mechanical statues were battling with undead monsters, each tearing the other apart.
“Because they are nobodies, Logs,” Magma offered sweetly as she took out an elven healer. Topsoil let out a wheezing, bellowing laugh and had to knock their opponent back to regain their balance. “Wait,” the mountain dwarf commanded the confused knight. The mountain dwarf took a few more minutes to laugh, doubled over, batting back the knight every time he attempted to resume the battle. “I said, wait, ya tin can!”
It took about two weeks for the dwarf, villain, gorgon, and dryad to clear out the caverns and drive back the invading heroes. The old friends could have done it much faster, even individually, but kept a slow and leisurely pace so they might better enjoy their time together. It had been years since they had a campaign together and the work warmed their hearts.
As the last hero decayed to dust, their body claimed by the Netherworld’s magic and resurrected in their home kingdom, the party of monsters sat around the stone dining table once more, feasting and laughing and boasting and promising to adventure again soon.