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Beethro the Delver II - Hallholder Bombus Defeats the Eyeball Pudding (By Erik Hermansen)
Hallholder Bombus Gadhan chaired all meetings of the Smitemasters' Guild. Technically, if he were ever sick or at some other business, Second Hallholder Ungred Brem would hold the Hall, with a Third, Fourth, and Fifth Hallholder standing by to cope with cascading absences. However, in all of Hallholder Bombus' twenty-seven-year career, he had never failed to be present.
This well-known fact irritated Beethro, who felt all members of the Guild ought to spend the majority of their time underground, working in their trade as dungeon exterminators. After all, how could one represent his fellow Smitemasters, without going beneath and doing a bit of real work? Most everyone in the Hall went on lengthy subterranean purges, not seeing daylight for months or even years. Bombus merely consulted on prestigious jobs for Kings and upper royalty, and sent his employees down to handle anything dangerous. Beethro doubted this smug fellow with his perfectly arranged follicles had touched a sword in his entire life.
"Beethro Budkin," cried Bombus from across the Hall, "the Mighty Smitemaster himself! Glad you could make it. Sit down. Have a seat!" Beethro nodded acknowledgement. Already the Hallholder was off gladhanding another arrival. Beethro looked around the room, which contained a few hundred men and women. "So many new faces," thought Beethro. "Good to have youngsters getting into the field." But he had a hard time recognizing anybody. "No Grimbert. No Ocken. I thought Cousin Branthro was going to show. And where's Barbarag gone to?"
"Hey there, hey there!" A silly youth, fresh out of clearing school, bounded up from his stool to face Beethro. "Mister Budkin, can I have a look at your sturdy sword?" In Beethro's early days, he would never dreamt of making such a request of a senior Smitemaster. He was about to have the dumb kid lick all the roach guts off his blade, but fortunately, another member had already pulled the boy aside, and was giving him a lecture on basic courtesy and protocol. "Ah," thought Beethro, "there's the old Guild Spirit, keeping the pups in line until they've learnt a bit of respect."
Beethro settled onto a stool near some people who didn't smell much worse than he did. He was resentful of recent notions that members ought to arrive clean and well-dressed. Sure, he was willing to brush off a bit of dungeon dust and drippy innards, but there was no need to be prissy. He dozed in his seat, while Bombus and certain other always-present members waded through heavy Guild routine sludge.
(In case you wish to know what transpired while Beethro slept: Smitemaster's Oath Recital; attendance-taking; old business; motion to reclassify an old business item about "appropriateness of eyeball pudding" as new business-"nays" had it; motion to create a new category of business called "slightly old business" which would come after "old business" and before "new business"; seconded and carried; motion to reclassify previous old business item about "appropriateness of eyeball pudding" as slightly old business item; seconded, hand count, and carried; old business concluded and on to slightly old business; point-of-order objection that the previous motion to create "slightly old business" category would go into effect on the next meeting, and therefore no slightly old business should be talked about at this meeting; much gnashing of teeth and then on to new business.)
At this point, Beethro was awakened by a promising announcement.
"Chicken with gravy sauce!" said Bombus.
"What?" cried Beethro jumping to his feet. "Where is this chicken with gravy sauce?" Several others had woke up from Beethro's yelling, and cheers rang out at the exciting prospect of food.
Bombus calmly waited for the ruckus to clear and returned to his speech. "Let me repeat myself: We are stricken with grave loss--a loss of professional credibility, when our clients make accusations. I'm not saying everyone is doing it, but clearly there is some seeding going on out there. Otherwise, how would the dungeons be so quickly repopulated?"
"No food being served after all," thought Beethro sadly, "just another tedious anti-seeding sermon from that puffer, Bombus."
"Seeding" was the alleged practice by unscrupulous exterminators of leaving roach eggs, living tar, and other spawnables in the hard-to-reach areas of a dungeon after completing a job. Exterminators are hired to clear an entire dungeon without a trace of vermin remaining. But the suggestion was sometimes made that exterminators seeded dungeons, to gain future business slaying the offspring of their left-behind monsters.
Beethro wanted to shut this familiar and pointless talk down. "Look here," he said. "There probably hasn't been a real case of seeding in fifty years. What you've got is a bunch of shameless blueblood cheats who've got money to build five-hundred-room dungeons, but don't want to deal with maintenance. If they dig out a big complicated space, critters are going to move in, and a one-time hack job isn't going to keep the place clean forever. So you try to sign your kings and dukes up for a biannual service plan, and somehow this is a big surprise to them that they'd need this. Of course, they start howling about seeding, hoping to squeeze a hush discount out of you."
"I agree," put in Gribbles Prutkin from across the room, "but also we all ought to consider how easy it is to miss a few spots occasionally. Dungeons are needlessly large, full of secret passages, and an exterminator can't be blamed if he happens to let a couple monsters slip by."
"Don't make me sick!" spat Beethro. "If you can't smite them down--every last one--then stay up top and let me do an honest job for you. Ever seen a blue door before?"
Gribbles probably didn't deserve this abuse. He struggled to contain his anger. "I understand that the blue doors are meant to detect when all monsters on a level have been cleared, however I've witnessed several times when they've opened prematurely. I suppose some of us would get a bit complacent, and rely on the blue doors, instead of performing a thorough search of a level."
Bombus saw rumblings ahead and interjected, "I am going to write down both of your suggestions. Let's see, 'Reasons for Seeding Complaints', eh, how should we put Beethro's?" His chalk rapidly squeaked out a polite summary of Beethro's comments. "And then I'll write down Gribbles'. Yes, it is good to keep a record, so nothing important is lost."
"And another thing," said Beethro, who suddenly felt a bit important, seeing his words on the chalkboard. "I was just beneath in Dugan's dungeon. On one level, I saw a door, which could only be opened from the other side. But the other side could not be reached."
"Ah! There was a crumbly wall somewhere that you could have gone through," someone suggested.
Beethro shook his head. "Absolutely not! I searched the entire level five times."
"Then there must have been a mimic potion in the room. The mimic could hop across and open the door for you," said someone else.
"Don't you think I would have thought of that? My point is that some of these dungeons have passages that let the monsters in from just one direction, and don't allow us to perform a full cleaning. After you leave, the creatures just spawn up again and take over."
At that point, other attendees enthusiastically began offering other explanations, and Bombus was drowned with them. Three hours of opinion-sharing passed, and everyone eventually grew desperate to finish business so they could eat. Bombus' list looked like this:
(Click for Larger View)
Sensing that a resolution of some sort was needed, Bombus put on his most statesmanlike demeanor and spoke. His voice dripped with brotherly benevolence.
"Fellow Smitemasters, I am so honored to be a small part of this excellent dialogue, and I sense there is much, much more that can and should be said." (uncomfortable shuffling amongst the members) "We should probably spend several more hours tonight seeking to understand each member's valuable opinion." (loud throat-clearing from all parts of the room) "There are a multitude of problems facing us that require carefully-considered solutions. I would dearly love to continue," (people looking for things to throw) "but I think right now a temporary conclusion is needed," (sighs of relief) "a coming-togetherness, a statement of the common ground we all share, despite small differences in thought. There are certain things all Smitemasters should stand for and other things that all Smitemasters should stand against. It is vital, I think, to clearly state, that we, as a group, are against the despicable and unethical practice of seeding and that we are also against the despicable and unethical cuisine of eyeball pudding. With that in mind, I motion that the Smitemaster's Guild modify our Official List of Wholeheartedly Disapproved-Of Items to include seeding and eyeball pudding."
Bombus hated eyeball pudding, and there was one member who, neverfail, brought the smelly stuff to every meeting. The pro-eyeball pudding faction was too tired and apathetic after the lengthy proceedings to put up a serious resistance, so Bombus' motion passed easily. The only practical effect of this being that eyeball pudding was, in the future, not served at Guild potlucks. This disappointed some people, but mostly pleased everyone else, since eyeball pudding is nasty.
Beethro the Delver: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
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