Merry Elf’n Questmas

Shelf Elves were a misunderstood and often mistreated lot. Thanks to their Jolly special these natural allies were immune to any morale penalties. This meant that on any given side, these elves got the worst jobs. Need a latrine dug in a blizzard? Send a Shelf Elf. Foreign dignitary needs some ‘company’ on the road? A Shelf Elf won’t mind. Got a suicide mission that needs run? The Shelf Tribe isn’t going to miss a few members. Short on funds? Disband a Shelf rather than someone “useful”. This was simply their lot in life and the Shelf Elves really did not mind... Except for Grumple.

“Excuse me Chief” The odd elf asked as he ran up behind his leader.

Grumple was special. He was different from all the others in his tribe. His clothes were the same brightly decorated style that his tribemates had. Just like the others, he had the Fabrication special. Looking at his upkeep and stats, he was the basically the same as any other Shelf. For some reason, Titans only knew why, this Shelf Elf did not pop Jolly. Instead he was Independent. This meant that Grumple did not really fit in with the other elves of North Pole.

“Yes, you have to attend the feast Grumple. Everyone does. Besides, it is fun.” Chief Peppermint said with a frown (which only Grumple could illicit).

As far as sides went, North Pole was fairly decent to their Shelf Elf tribe. Tsar Nicholas kept a sizable population of the elves. Although he worked them hard, he also rewarded them with specialty rations and amenities. He provided them with a barracks, called the Workshop, from which to do their Duty. Chief Peppermint and the others were perpetually grateful for the lives that they had been granted. Well…except for Grumple.

“But Chief.” Grumple pleaded. “It may be fun for the Whos and his Majesty, I will give you that. We always get the short end of the candy cane though. We all get jammed up onto the little balcony while the other elves get to be down around the dance floor. The lower quality provisions are left to us for the feast. It simply isn’t fair. I don’t like it.”

Grumple saw things differently than the others. Their monarch cruelly worked the Shelf Elves on and off turn. Although he did keep a goodly population, he also did not hesitate to disband elves if the tribe needed to be either punished or trimmed. Their barracks were simplistic and small, the tribe had to sleep three to a bunk most turn and there were never enough blankets or coal to keep out the cold. When rewards were dispersed, there was rarely enough to go around and they usually came just before a new grueling assignment. There was also the matter of the Who Elves.

Tsar Nicholas loved the Who Elves and he often said so emphatically. He kept a massive standing force in the Capital, Santasburg. They represented nearly the entire defensive garrison. Due to their Festive special and their natural Rhyme-a-mancy these elves were a great joy to have around, both on and off the battlefield. They were known for their imaginative ingenuity and abstract wit. The Who Elves were recognized as being essential to the side. Unlike the Shelf Elves.

Chief Peppermint looked down at Grumple with pity. She wanted to do something for him but did not know how to help the poor man. “Life is not fair. I order you to go to the Questmas feast. You know what? I order you to have a good time. See you tonight.”

----

North Pole was a winter dominion. In fact, it was very rare for sides to assault the Northern capital due to the lockdown which the weather kept on the region. This left the festive Who Elves with a great deal of time on their hands. With this time, they liked to come up with what they called ‘holidays’. Basically, each of these holidays consisted of some excuse to have a celebration. Sometimes a feast, other times a dance, occasionally even a game or bit of sport. One of the side’s favorite holidays was Questmas.

A long time before the Who’s current chief, Daltry, the tribe had encountered a powerful barbarian caster named Omni. This caster told them of Questmas, a widespread idea in which sides occasionally took mutual breaks from war to attempt mystical Quests hidden around Erfworld. Typically, sides would strike short-term alliances and work in friendly competition to complete whatever their Questmas objectives were. North Pole was special. It had a Quest all its own, hidden deep within its stably controlled territories.

In the heart of Northern lands there was a great cavern called the Frostborn Crypt. Inside this cavern was said to be a great slumbering beast, a guardian of a powerful artifact. It was Predicted that once a force could awaken and stop the guardian then the treasure would be released. Ten thousand turns of might and prosperity would be granted to those who prevailed. It was also told that the key to the Crypt waited within the Elves.

Every four hundred turns or so Overlord Nicholas would declare it time for Questmas once again. A great feast would be had by all, including the Shelf Elves. After the festivities, three stacks of Shelfs and three stacks of Whos would be chosen for the honor of partaking in the assault. After thousands of turns, the secrets of the Crypt were still unrevealed.

It was time for Questmas once again.

----

That evening, Tsar Nicholas stood up from the head table of the Questmas feast. “Welcome one and all. Chief Daltry Fizzlinker, thank you for arranging such a marvelous festivity. Chief Patty Peppermint, it warms my old bones to see the smiling faces of your ho-ho-honorable tribe.”

Cheers and laughter passed through the crowd. Many elves tooted their jingtinglers or popped off biffboffers. With this season’s festivities coming to a close, everyone was excited for another Questmas (except for Grumple). Being chosen was a great honor despite the recognized danger.

“He-he-hello my fair citizens. The time has come for yet another warlord to challenge Frostborn.” The portly Overlord’s cheeks were flush with the warmth of alcohol and merriment. “My champion this season will be the warlord Sirius Blowha-ha-hard. His great successes on the battlefield have easily distinguished him for this prestigious recognition.”

A smattering of applause was all that was forthcoming. Sirius was a man who was liked neither around court nor with the troops. This would usually mean that a commander be utilized dangerously until their Duties croaked them or being sent away far away for whatever task. The problem was that he had proven an extremely capable leader despite his personality. The Northern warlords primarily spent their time on the southern borders of the side’s territory, that was where most of the action was. Commander Blowhard spent most of that time winning. His reputation for unexpected victories had become near legendary.

Sirius stood and waved to the assembled crowd.  His dark hair and tiny moustache accented beady little black eyes. He had dark brown leather armor equipped despite the feast and was covered in various medals and badges. As he spoke, he gesticulated wildly. “I will be victorious where so many have failed before me. None shall stand in my way. My skills are unmatched among our armies or the armies of our foes. This dungeon will fall and I will claim the mighty artifact for our glorious side. Guardian or no guardian, I am unafraid. We will trample our enemies before us so that we might spread our dominion far and wide. My honor for North Pole! My glory for North Pole! My Duty for North Pole! My life for North Pole!” By the end of his speech he was screaming with enthusiasm.

An impressive cheer rose up amongst the feasters. A few elves at one table even whistled their swizribbs. They did not much like the speaker, but they couldn’t help but like what he was saying.

Grumple had heard rumor that rather than being honored, Blowhard was being sent intentionally to either croak or triumph. Either way the court would be pleased. No one had ever come back from an expedition to challenge Frostborn Crypt. Although the challenge was meant as a serious one, it was also acknowledged as highly dangerous. All manner of wagers had already been placed on this year’s success. As usual, few people had expectations for the chosen group to return.

Tsar Nicholas held up his hands and regained the floor “As we all know, Questmas is a risky endeavor. I for one would like to see a successful attempt.” More enthusiastic cheers arose for their Ruler “To this end I ha-ha-have decided to send a champion from each of our natural allies.”

Surprised oohs and aahs broke out amongst the gathered elves. Nothing like this had been done before. Neither elf tribe popped leadership very often. In fact, currently the Shelfs did not have any    commanders at all.

“I name the champion of the Whos to be Cindy-lou. She has done a wonderful job of clearing ferals from our territories. He-he-her tribe regards her hi-hi-highly and I trust she will be invaluable to this quest. Please Cindy-lou, stand and join us at the he-he-head table”

The little blond elf made her way to the front of the hall and was given a seat between Chief Weirdomancer Rudolph and Who Chief Daltry. Everyone could see she was trying to smile, but her expression betrayed confusion and worry. She did not seem happy to receive such an assignment of honor.

“My decision regarding the Shelf tribe was a bit ha-ha-harder. You currently have no leadership available among your ranks. Although the side is as strong as ever,” Uproarious cheers erupted within the hall. Some of the Whos set off garginkers and many banged trumtupers. The elves seemed intent on proving their loyalty by sheer volume. “We simply do not have the extra funds to frivolously raise one of you to warlord just for Questmas. After much consideration I have come to a suitable solution. Grumple Grumperson, stand and take your place at the head table.”

A hushed whisper passed among the crowd as everyone sought out Grumple. Silence quickly descended over the party…except for Grumple

There he sat, humming softly and apparently playing some sort of game by wiggling his toes. He had not yet realized what had happened or that he was now the center of attention.

“Hmm hmm hmm” Nicholas cleared his throat along with a silent order for attention.

Grumple looked up at his monarch with a start. No one was moving and they were all still staring at him, even Nicholas. Especially Nicholas. With an odd expression of amused curiosity, the elf took a long look around. “What?”

----

Chief Patty Peppermint walked along Cocoa Lane on her way back to the Workshop. Her face showed obvious frustration, a rare expression for a Shelf Elf. The alcohol was helping her mood, but not enough. Once she got back though, she had hidden away some SugarPlum Dust, the really good stuff too. It was going to be a holly jolly evening… except for Grumple.

Trailing morosely behind her was the Independent elf with a look of consternation on his face. In his case, a common expression.

Patty was losing all patience and she was tired. “It is an honor and you will do as you are told, Grumple. I mean it this time. Nicholas himself ordered you chosen. Who knows, you might be the one to unlock the Frostborn, huh?”

“Oh jellybeans! We both know that isn’t going to happen.” Grumple huffed along as the pair came upon the Workshop of the Shelf Elves. “Why me? There has to be someone better suited. What about Jingles? He is always looking for action. Or maybe Marsha? She is so mellow, all in all much more representative of our people. She would make a far better champion than I.”

The Chief rounded on her argumentative clansmen. “It will be you and only you. Is that clear? You were chosen because you are Independent. With your ability to selectively engage enemies and your proclivity for free thinking, you may as well be a commander. All you lack is a leadership bonus. It was decided that a led stack with no bonus is still better than an unled stack. You are going.”

As they stepped up to the Workshop door, Grumple crossed his arms and stomped his foot. “No. I am not going.”

Chief Peppermint’s cheery veneer had finally broken. Her eyes and tone went sharp, almost angry. “I don’t want to go on a suicide mission either Grumple. You are going. Nicholas orders it. Commander Sirius orders it. I order it. If I were you then I would get my gear ready and rest. You leave at start of turn.”

Grumple tried to speak but Patty slammed the door to the Workshop in his face. He allowed a few moments to let her get well inside the shop before he too entered.

As he walked toward his shared bunk no one would look him in the eye. The whispers were focused on him, he knew it.

What does one say to a croaked elf walking?

 ----

The nine-turn trek to the Crypt was arduous and unpleasant. Grumple may as well have been a garrison unit for all that he had travelled in his life. In fact, the constant bone chilling wind made him wish that he were. One turn, the weather was so harsh that the group only passed two hexes. The landscape was entirely barren and unforgiving. Snow and ice seemed to cover the entire world. He was surprised to find that he missed the comparative warmth and cheer of the Workshop.

Commander Sirius had been assigned three 8-stacks each of Whos and Shelfs. Among the units under his command were four Wumbus, the Who Elf knight equivalent, and each of them an impressive level 6. An entire stack was made up of archers armed with fierce diffendoofers, mastercrafted bows that doubled as Rhyme-a-mancy instruments for the Whos. The Shelfs had no advanced units or specialty gear of any kind. In fact, Grumple noticed that nearly all his brethren were level 1. The Shelfs were not prepared for any serious combat.

As Luck would have it, the group did not encounter anything beyond a few low level individual ferals.

If not for the detailed map which the expedition possessed, Grumple was certain that Commander Blowhard would have been lost in the wild. Even when they came to the hex which held the Crypt, the group took hours of searching to finally find the opening below.

“Okay Elves.” The Warlord huddled everyone close to listen to his battle plan before descending. “We are unsure exactly what we are walking into. I will be guiding the group with orders as I can. Follow my lead and keep on your toes. When we do encounter the beast, Cindy, I need your stack to open fire immediately. After a volley or two, my stack will engage the guardian head on. The Infantry stack will attempt to flank and engage the beast from its rear or side. Cindy Lou, once we have engaged, you and your archers are to support with Rhyme-a-mancy and selective fire. Shelf Elves, stack for stack screen the Who Elves. Grumple, your stack screen mine. Your mission is to ensure that my stack and I survive for as long as you can. If you have openings you may attack, but never at the cost of defense. Is that clear everyone?”

Cindy Lou and her Whos all chimed ascent enthusiastically. Even the Shelfs nodded with resignation… except for Grumple. “Actually no, I do not fully understand the orders. We are going to get torn to shreds! Are we only here to throw ourselves into oblivion so that you can swing your saber?”

“Yes actually, you are.” Sirius looked Grumple square in the eyes as he calmly answered. “The beast has a taste for Shelf Elves. While it devours all of you, we will ruthlessly pummel it. The time you buy me should be the advantage I need to croak the terrible beast. This is the very reason you were sent. Sacrificing you will do a great good for North Pole. You should be honored.”

The elf froze in shocked betrayal. Before Grumple could form a response, the group moved down into the cavern under Sirius’ silent order. Grumple’s stack got to go in first.

After a short descent in a narrow passage, a large natural cavern opened wide. In the lamp light Grumple had trouble seeing the entire space, but near the opposite wall there was evidence of brickwork. With nothing else of note, he continued in that direction without waiting for an order. A large alcove had been constructed against the wall of the cave with a door at its rear. Intricately carved up the wall was the looming visage of a deamon, its jaws spread impossibly wide as if to swallow whole stacks. The door filled its mouth, shaped to look like massive fangs.

Grumple was already done with this terrible place. “Looks like the Crypt is closed this season. What a shame. I guess we will have to head back and try again later.”

Ignoring Grumple, Commander Blowhard strode arrogantly to the sealed door and knocked it three times with his fist. He had begun to yell something but was quickly interrupted by the stone fangs snapping open. The barest moment later a booming thud echoed up the passage, quickly followed by a screeching roar that shook Grumple deep within his bones. The unmistakable thump thump thump thump of large galloping feet began to roll up the darkened passage below, it sounded like more than one creature.

Sirius was an exceptionally skilled level 7 and he showed no signs of being phased by the recent developments. “Archers and Infantry stacks move to the left of the opening and up against the wall. When the beast emerges, I will draw its attention and engage it from the right. Infantry you will charge the rear of the creature. If it comes at you instead, I will charge the rear. Cindy Lou, your stack will position near the maximum range of the diffendoofers without taking penalties. This should enable you to maximize the volleys you can unleash before melee begins. If we have it distracted, move deeper into the room to open up your line of fire on its flank. Shelfs, you have your orders. Singing.”

All three stacks of Whos burst into am eerily cheery song, considering the circumstances. Their lilting harmony filled the cavern and uplifted the spirits of all … except Grumple.

The thumping footfall echoes escalated to an almost constant rumble as they drew closer. With another ear-shattering shriek, two massive green arms latched onto the edges of the doorway and the monster heaved itself out and into the cavern. As big as a Whalerus, thick green fur covered the whole beast from tip to tip. Each of its six legs ended in padded paws which were shaped like giant mittens, except with fierce black talons poking out. A long rounded tail poked out in the rear. Its wide jaw and bared fangs gave the impression of a malicious grin. The sickly yellow of its eyes and smile nearly glowed against the toxic green of the beast.

Even before the beast had landed, Cindy Lou and her Whos unleashed with their diffendoofers. The skilled archers fired true, with arrows striking the beast clean in the face. Each and every shot rebounded uselessly off and to the ground. Grumple clearly saw one of the projectiles precisely strike the eye of the beast only to bounce away. Despite their initial ineffectiveness, the archers utilized the other function of the diffendoofers and redoubled their wonky battle song

As an enemy unit, Grumple could only see the most basic info for the beast. Now that he could get a clear look at the thing, the futility of this quest was immediately quite apparent. The stat block simply showed its name and a pulsing red skull emblem. The Gwinch, as it was apparently called, was impossibly far and above Grumple’s own level and power.

Sirius and his Wumbus defiantly charged the beast despite its strength. This unfortunately meant that Grumple and his companion stack dashed forward as well. The Knights attacks were all ineffective just as the arrows had been. The Warlord struck with such ferocity however, that his saber splintered into dozens of fragments. Not a one had caused even a single point of damage.

Atop the beast’s head were two protrusions, somewhere between ears and whiskers. They curled suddenly while the Grinch opened its maw and fiercely inhaled. As it did so, a sparkling light drew up from inside the Shelf Elves in Grumple’s stack and was sucked into the beast.

The color from the Shelf Elves literally drained away, even their clothes and weapons dimmed. The seven other stacked elves slumped to the ground. Their greyed forms seemed nearly lifeless. Deep expressions of sorrow had settled onto their faces…except for Grumple.

From within him bubbled up anger and scorn, for poor Grumple’s heart shrank three sizes that turn.

The Gwinch snatched one of the grey elves up and popped her whole into its mouth, not even bothering to chew. With the second of its front paws it casually batted Sirius up and away from the elf stacks. As the Warlord crashed to the ground there was a loud snapping sound. Grumple saw the Leadership bonus of the Knight stack evaporate. Sirius Blowhard had been struck down in a single blow.

A strange burbling sound began to emanate from deep within the Gwinch itself. The beasts tail swung up and wide as a large mass moved along the length, as if something were being pushed through. At the tail’s tip a sphincter opened and out plopped a black leathery sack nearly the size of a horse without legs.

That was too much for Grumple. Whatever was happening was beyond his skill, his level, or even his understanding. He was not a true commander, but in this moment he realized that his greatest Duty was to himself. If he were not alive then he could do nothing for his Ruler or Side. Croaking in this Titans forsaken crypt would serve no purpose.

He broke stack and fled from the beast. He ran through the stone deamon mouth as fast as his feet could carry him, not once even bothering to look back. Harrowed screams and jaunty music followed him down the tunnel.

Although Shelf elves could not see in the dark, they did have very sensitive eyes. As Grumple dashed along, he quickly realized that the farther down he went that the better he was able to see. A faint green glow escalated to that of a torch and then dozens of torches. He wasn’t sure how long he had run but he suddenly came into an extremely large cavern. This was not an empty cavern either. Scattered all around were large eggs, big black leathery eggs. Each had a large green x set in the top which looked sticky and moist. It was from these x’s that the glow emanated. Eggs were packed all along the floor of massive the chamber.

Grumple did not like this place. The eerie green light was ominous and strange. A slight smell of mildew hung in the air which made him realize that it was highly humid as well. Despite the locale, it was very warm too. Unable to go back, he pushed on despite the imposing atmosphere. The eggs were scattered almost randomly, which gave a network of curving paths that Grumple was small enough to fit through. He imagined it was similar to walking through a forest, a dark warm leathery forest.

From within the tunnel came the distinct sound of the Gwinch galloping down toward the egg chamber. The return pace was considerably slower than the charge up the tunnel, but Grumple still worried. He wanted to run but he doubted he had time to gain any significant distance. Instead he tried to move quickly toward the wall and he crouched behind one of the glowing eggs. Despite his fear, he could not help but peek around his cover to watch the monster. If he was going to be eaten, he preferred to see it coming.

As the beast entered the chamber it lifted its head and powerfully sniffed the air. It seemed to pause and listen, but then it continued inward. Within the grasp of its front arms were two greyed Shelf Elves. The Gwinch made its way across the floor, clearly being careful to not harm or disturb any eggs. Without a clear reason, the Gwinch suddenly popped an elf in its maw and swallowed. A few moments later and another fresh egg was squeezed from the creature’s tail. After devouring the other elf, it casually bounded over and back up the tunnel.

As soon as the monster was out of sight Grumple took off through the chamber. Moving deeper into the cavern was his only option so he did so with the utmost haste. Twice more the Gwinch returned for a Shelf snack and to lay another egg or two. Both times Grumple froze where he was and watched the beast intently. The creature seemed to no longer be alert but instead focused on its eggs.

On the far wall of the egg chamber a large structure slowly loomed from the murky glow. It was inset with the wall and nearly three stories tall. Large stone columns held up a high peaked roof and a wide set of stairs gave access to the open doorway of the building. Grumple had never seen a crypt before, but this edifice seemed to fit squarely within his imagining of what one would look like. The complete lack of decoration or ornamentation somehow added to the foreboding Signamancy of the place.

Despite his newly dampened emotions, Grumple still found himself hesitant to enter the crypt itself. However, a third return of the Gwinch reminded him of the necessity. With apathetic determination he ascended the stairs and passed into the darkened building. Inside he found a long corridor. He steadily pressed on even as blue-white torches began igniting as he passed them. The warmth from the egg chamber rapidly dissipated until Grumple was certain that it was colder within the crypt then it was out in the storms. Despite these things, his options had not changed so he continued inward.

Eventually the passage opened into a wide room. A massive ice formation dominated the space and it lightly pulsed with the same blue-white light of the torches. In front of the ice was a raised circular dais on which a sword appeared to be forced into the stone, blade first. Nothing moved within the chamber…except for Grumple. There appeared to be nothing else within the space as well as no other way to leave.

A paltry annoyance was all Grumple could manage. “I suppose that means I will croak here, trapped within this tomb.”

no” A distant voice whispered from an unseen source. “come forward and experience the freedom which comes with great power.

To say that Grumple was scared by the intrusion of the mysterious voice would be an exaggeration, but he was certainly startled. As he spoke, he moved forward toward the blade. “Where are you?”

“we are both before you and long gone. claim the blade and all will become clear, Frostborn awaits you Grumple”

As he ascended the three steps of the dais, each step in turn alit with blue-white runes. The elf could feel some sort of powerful magic take a hold of his very being. It was exhilarating. Without thought or question he reached out and took the sword’s grip in his hand. His world began to shrink as the voice spoke more clearly within his mind.

“You now wield Frostborn, a blade of unmatched power and remnant from the Age of Alpha. This potent magic item was crafted by a Puppet Master and then permanently merged with the very essence of the same caster. There is no other weapon like it anywhere. You will know all of this and more soon enough.”

Grumple screamed as his body was stretched and inflated. In a few agonizing moments he grew to be much taller than any Man. His arms and legs thickened and his muscles hardened such that they were now comparable to sturdy tree limbs rather than their previous taffy-like strength. In a rush all his stats raised dramatically, as did his senses. Independence had become a full Leadership special and he gained Heavy atop everything else. He was no longer sided, but instead had become barbarian. His type was no longer Natural Ally, he was something new and yet somehow forgotten. His flesh was now a deathly white and he could see in his reflection on the ice that his eyes glowed that same blue-white.

“Frostborn is the key. Use it to unlock us from the ice.”

A life-long streak of defiance reared itself within Grumple. “And if I should refuse? Why should I obey your Orders?”

“You have already chosen. We can see it within you. Orders will soon be irrelevant as we will be one.”

What the voice said was truth. Grumple effortlessly withdrew the sword from its stone resting place and began to furiously hack at the pulsing ice. Chunks and shards sheared easily from the mass and the elf was able to move swiftly toward its glowing core. At its heart stood an imposing set of blackened erftanium armor. Images of bones, fangs, and claws decorated the entire suit. Tiny gems set into the eye sockets of screaming skulls caused them to shimmer that same blue-white color. The inside of the set was lined with silver Hellahound fur as well as a long dark cape. If he could still feel terror then this would have done it, but terror was beneath him now.

 Just above the armor was trapped a fiercely spiked helm. Grumple could sense that the voice was coming from this item. “Now don the Mail of the Winter Warlock. The intricate enchantments woven into these plates will protect you from a great variety of dangers. This item too has a caster distilled and bound within. That spirit of a Shockamancer provides access to a wide array of potent offensive magics. Wanton destruction will be at your very fingertips. The awakening is nearly complete.”

Grumple had never worn armor before but he had no difficulty in applying it. It was as if the set wanted to be worn, that it was telling him what to do. As soon as he buckled the last gauntlet into place, he roared with the overwhelming rush of pure power which overtook him. This pain felt good. It was the pain of every fiber in his being having been charged to its maximum potential. He felt unstoppable. As he was overtaken with energy, so too Frostborn ignited, sheathed in an icy flame.

“Now, rend us from the ice so that we may awaken within you.”

His heart was determined to this course of action, but Grumple’s curiosity had not abated with his transformation. “But who are you?”

The question of who has not applied to us in a hundred thousand turns. We are the Helm of Kel’Arthad. Just as Frostborn and the Mail hold the essence of a unit, so to do we. The ancient Thinkamancer King bound himself and his Chief Croakamancer to a Titanic artifact in a desperate attempt at eternal life. In a sense they succeeded. It was from this binding which we were born. Delay no longer. Our knowledge will be yours once you equip us. We will be one with you Grumple.”

As soon as Kel’Arthad had slipped onto his brow the entire world shifted and then refocused. Grumple had become something more than himself. He could feel the breadth of knowledge which was now a part of him. A lust for power and inflicting pain settled into his frozen heart. The weight of thousands upon thousands of turns trapped alone within the ice buried all joy or happiness within him. Contained in him was the strength of many powerful units. He was nigh unstoppable.

With no further need of explanation, Grumple turned and powerfully strode from the Crypt. Upon the elf’s approach, the Gwinch faithfully bowed and began to purr a soft sound of contentment. The beast had been masterfully patient, but it too was eager to be released into the world once again.

Grumple made his way swiftly to the center of the egg chamber and held Frostborn aloft. “Come forth my minions. The time of awakening has come!”

An enormous pop and hiss resounded through the cavern as each and every egg squelched open in unison. The Gwinch roared with triumph even as it’s hundreds of spawn climbed from their long resting place.

----

Santasburg fell quickly. The Gwinch alone was enough to obliterate the gates while the many Maxlings swarmed up the walls and over the defenders emplaced there. Grumple and Frostborn had to release one powerful Shockamancy blast against a stack of flying Snow Archons, the only air force that the capital could muster. North Pole had not been ready for anything like this assault.

For a time Grumple waited behind the Gwinch, allowing the beasts massive stats to protect him from any potential harm. After a time though he grew impatient. He knew for a fact that the Northerners had nothing strong enough to seriously threaten him. Especially not as their troops were so mercilessly croaked. He eventually broke stack and marched defiantly toward the villa of Tsar Nicholas.

A solid contingent of defenders awaited him there. The Maxlings had yet to overrun this part of the city and the most powerful units had been in the Royal Guard anyway. They had chosen to make their stand in their Rulers home, although it would matter none.

A Northern Warlord in their traditional red suit stepped to the fore and called out to the approaching Grumple. “Halt where you are. The Tsar of North Pole commands you to put down your arms and surrender.”

Rather than slow, Grumple took to a full run. His move was very high despite the bulky armor. He closed the gap and slammed Frostborn blade first through the chest of the shocked warlord and down into the ground. From this a shockwave of artic cold erupted and swept many Northern units off their feet. “Tsar Nicholas Bergermeister, you will surrender your side and remaining troops to me now. Otherwise I will simply wipe them from this place and claim it anew.”

Without awaiting a response, Grumple closed his fist in a dramatic gesture to the sky. As one, all the bodies of the fallen Northerners stood and stacked with Grumple’s troops. They had been raised as White Wraiths. He now stood amid a max stack of powerful uncroaked creatures. His own army now desperately outnumbered the Tsars remaining forces.

“Ha-ha-have you no ho-ho-honor?” Nicholas squeaked out from behind his terrified guards. “This is an insult and shame. Will you swear to me that my elves will be taken care of? IF so then I wil cede defeat.”

Grumple smiled a ferocious grin which even the Gwinch would have difficulty in matching. “Oh yes, the elves will certainly be taken care of. They have an important place in my new domain.”

The Tsar sighed deeply and closed his eyes. “At least tell me the name of my conqueror before I abdicate.”

“You do not recognize me Sire? I am Grumple Grumperson. The very same elf which you sent to croak within that Titans forsaken Crypt. I unlocked Frostborn as you ordered”

The Northerners stopped with looks of disbelief and confusion frozen on their faces.

Chief Patty Peppermint took a step out from behind a group of Wumbus. “Grumple? You… I… How?”

The hulking Warlord held Frostborn aloft and pointed it at the Tsar. In a thundering voice far louder than could be mundanely produced he boomed. “Surrender NOW!”

Tsar Nicholas Bergermeister simply nodded and the entire capital flashed. Shackles appeared on the Northerners. Every ounce of cheer or color had drained away from the city, replaced by ice and steel. Blue and white banners now hung displaying the spiked Helm of Kel’Arthad as a black emblem. Grumple released a mighty blast from Frostborn and the Tsar was simply gone in a poof, leaving behind only a strange tangy scent and a pair of smoking buckled boots.

All around the city the Maxlings howled with murderous glee. The Gwinch added its monstrous roar to the cacophony and Grumple hollered out above it all. “Welcome to Blizzaro. After all of this time the reign of the Witch King has finally come.”

Slowly and reluctantly the Northerners turned to Blizzaro. The Who Elves were given no such chance as they were systematically slaughtered. The Shelf Elves simply wept… except for Grumple.

----

Credit to the amazing and talented Omnimancer - The originator of Questmas

Comments

    • kellyleona

      With no further need of clarification, Grumple diverted and effectively walked from the Crypt. Upon the mythical person's methodology, the professional assignment writers steadfastly bowed and started to murmur a delicate sound of satisfaction. The monster had been amazingly quiet, however it also was anxious to be discharged into the world by and by.

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        • Bandaid

          I might have phrased that better. I did not mean to say that I did not enjoy your story. Also, the fact that Christmas (or Questmas) is in the title of a story there is no guarantee for a happy story, far from it. So I do not want to imply in any way that it is a bad story. If I thought that I would not have tipped it.

          I just feel sorry for the people featuring in it. Even Grumple.

          • Salvage

            Sorry to hear you did not enjoy the story Bandaid. Thank you for saying so though. I always appreciate honest feedback.

            I am curious, if this exact story were told but without Christmas references, would it have been better? Do you think you would have enjoyed it in that case? Is the only issue the juxtaposition of the expected feeling and the actual tone of the story?

            I don't see much difference between this and many other Erf-fics. It is certainly dark, but so is Erfworld in many ways. I find myself a bit confused by your concerns.

            Again, thank you for your feedback and reading my story.

            • Bandaid

              Well, what to say to that? Happy Holidays, would you like some horror together with your doom and gloom?

              Nice writing, not so nice story Salvage. Especially for the people featuring in it. Except Grumple.