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Roachmeat - krammer

"Unka Beethro?”

Beethro Budkin looked up from his chair to see his nephew Halph standing in front of him. “Can I ask you a question Unk?”

Beethro sighed. Much as he loved his nephew, he was very inquisitive, and when he wanted to know something it usually meant Beethro would be talking for hours. At least.

“What is it Halph?”

“Why did you become a smitemaster?”

Beethro grinned.. “Because I was a stupid impressionable kid who didn't know any better,” he said. Halph looked puzzled, so Beethro went on, “The Budkins have been delvers for years. There was old Gunthro Budkin – very famous, he's a legend at the guild – my old great-great-grandfather, Dinfro Budkin - Cousin Claythro as well, although he went off and built his own tower out by the coast - strange guy he was. I thought I'd join the family tradition. Anyway there was no way I was going to take after my father and become a builder. Nothing so boring as making walls.”

“Mum says it's because you're too lazy to make an honest living,” said Halph, innocently.

Beethro scowled. “Your mother says a lot of strange things. She doesn't mean them.” He brightened. “Anyway she wasn't so irritated when I brought back roachmeat for dinner that first time.”

“Why? What happened?” Halph asked.

“I'm about to tell you! I don't know, kids of today... no patience...”

Halph knew when his uncle was about to start a Good Story, so he settled down to listen.

“I had just graduated Clearing School. That was an amazing place. Full of old guys who'd been in hundreds of dungeons. Boy, did they tell some crazy stories! Anyway, I had finally got my certificate, and so us fresh graduates thought we were expert smitemasters now. Heh. Were we all wrong! There's only one way to learn delving, and that's going into real dungeons. Clearing School might teach you how to whack orbs and swing a sword, but they don't tell ya how to survive. Now, where was I? Ah yes...

“So me and Gribbles and Mulpum and a few others went down the tavern to celebrate our graduation. And maybe we had a bit too much of old Fluskin's finest – you don't remember Fluskin, he was the bartender at the Serpent's Tail Inn, great guy he was. Full of interesting stories. His old man was a delver too – you see, delvers get everywhere. Anyway, as I was saying, we were downing the stuff and Mulpum got a bit tipsy and starts telling everyone how we were all great smitemasters and we could clean out anywhere. And then this guy comes up to the bar and starts telling Fluskin how he's got a cellar needs clearing and nobody he knew was brave enough to do it. So – I was really drunk, don't know what I was thinkin' – I told him I'd do it easy, next morning.

“Of course, when I woke up next day and remembered what I'd said I was terrified. Thought I was gonna die. But I got my sword – a good one too, got it as a prize at Clearing School for winning the Fastest Orb-Striker contest. Great fun, those were. Anyway, went round to the house and the guy shoved me straight into his cellar. And there was a roach right ahead of me. Horrible thing. I -“

“Were you scared?” Halph asked eagerly.

“Scared? Me?” Beethro scoffed. “Well - a little. They are kinda frightening the first time ya see them. Anyway I slashed my sword at it and it collapsed instantly. OK, maybe Clearing School wasn't a complete waste of time. If I hadn't known how to kill a roach I'd have been a goner. Then I realised there were a few more. Anyway, I went dead slow (monsters are a bit dumb, they only see you if you move) and I killed them and moved on to the next room.

“After a bit I got used to the roaches, once I realised they were really dumb and you could trap them behind pillars and things. It took me a lot less time than I thought it would, and when I got out the guy gave me 20 greckles and said I could take the corpses because the meat was good. So I dragged a couple home and Vonnifa met me at the door, and it was her turn to cook dinner. Your mum was always a lousy cook - but don't tell her I said that - so she was really pleased we had some decent meat for once. I'd never tried roach before but it really was delicious. So that's why she was so happy I became a delver. It was only when I started coming home smelling of dead things she complained. Never known anyone so fussy as Vonnifa.”

Halph grinned. “And then you just kept on delving,” he finished.

“Pretty much,” replied his uncle. “Until I realised just how big some of those dungeons get. They can take literally months to clear. And the pay's not really that good. And it's not just roaches, you get all kinds of nasty stuff down there. And the monsters come back eventually anyway. Honestly, it's not all it's cracked up to be.”

“Yeah, but – you must like killing all the monsters!”

Beethro considered. “Nah. Not really.” He stood up. “Although they do taste good. In fact as soon as I can give it up I will.”

Halph stared, aghast. “But... what would you do instead?”

Beethro Budkin paused at the door. “I'd run a restaurant. After all, I'd have no problems getting enough meat in, would I?”