Book 3, Chapter 124

True Friendship

“Very good, Richard. This is some of the best alcohol I have tasted in the 130 years of my life. Although every human visitor has known we dwarves like liquor, yours is the best.” Bamor then pointed to the three remaining buckets, “Are these three barrels any different?”

“Why don’t you try them all?” Richard waved.

“Alright!” Bamor immediately had the guards open the rest of the barrels, finishing them all off alongside his elders. These barrels truly were inferior to the first, getting blander as he went along.

A thought struck Bamor, his gaze at Richard suddenly lighting up. “Are these the things you want to offer in trade?”

Richard smiled in reply, “These barrels are all of different qualities: supreme, high, average, and mediocre. Descendants of the noble Toro Anvil, how is the taste of the mediocre liquor to you all?”

Bamor exchanged looks with a few of the elders, one of whom admitted straightforwardly, “Even that is very good. The best alcohol from the previous humans tasted just like this.”

Richard’s smile grew even more charming, “It’s this mediocre liquor that I’m offering at a price of five gold per barrel.”

“What!?” Six of the eight elders actually leapt up from their seats. The past traders who had come here had taken fifty gold a barrel for such alcohol. Richard’s price was basically as good as a clearance sale.

Bamor was extremely surprised as well, but he remained silent. If even the mediocre liquor was so cheap, one didn’t need to ask how much the rest would cost. “So, how much have you brought?” he asked in a low voice after the commotion from the elders died down.

“My caravan has 20,000 barrels.”

“WHAT?!” Even Bamor was moved by this number. This batch of liquor could last all the dwarves in Forgefires for a week.

However, Richard continued, “There are also 5,000 barrels of both the high and average grade liquor in total, but only ten that are of supreme quality. Those can be considered a bonus.”

Bamor’s case rose and fell rapidly a few times before he answered loudly, “Very well! Richard, what else have you brought me other than liquor?”

This time around, Richard was even more straightforward, “Foodgrains, namely barley, wheat, oats, and corn that add up to a total of 3,000 tonnes. And that is only the first batch.”

This time, Bamor just leapt up from his throne. “Foodgrains?” his voice reverberated through the room like thunder.

“Foodgrains,” Richard was quite composed.

“Why foodgrains?” Bamor’s gaze was electric.

“Why not?” Richard’s beard made his smile look particularly charming to the dwarves.

Bamor immediately took large strides down the steps, standing in front of Richard and extending his arms. Richard bent over, tightly hugging the man.

The King’s hug was a symbol. In this moment, Richard was truly accepted by the dwarves of Forgefires.

Forgefires Stronghold was so grand in scale that it could accommodate up to 500,000 dwarves, which was the entirety of the kingdom’s population. The main reason for the dwarves’ sparse population was a constraint in food. The climate in the Ashen Plateau was a bitter cold, so only some parts of their valleys could accommodate agriculture. Food had been a problem for the dwarves ever since they had been driven out from the plains, only slightly resolved when they dug deep into the ground and found large swathes of natural caves with edible mushrooms within. However, even if they planted mushrooms in all the caves they could find that was only enough to maintain the population.

The strength behind a true saint’s hug was as imposing as a mountain. Richard could barely breathe, but he suffered through it until Bamor let go and spoke to him. “Richard, my friend… What do you wish for from the Forge?”

Richard had long since been prepared to answer, “Metal, ore, weapons, armour, firearms, and of course, gunpowder.”

Bamor’s eyes twinkled as he laughed heartily, “Your appetite is enormous. However, you deserve it. You will not be disappointed in the friendship of the Forge!”

The noble delegates all beamed with joy. Every word of Bamor’s promise was as valuable as cases of gold.

When the Bloodstained Highway project had begun, many of them had been puzzled by Richard’s decision to carry large quantities of alcohol and foodgrains in the caravans meant for trade. Liquor was a traditional staple of trade between humans and dwarves, the latter of which could not resist fine wine at all, but food was a different story. It was cumbersome, difficult to transport, and limited in value. Many could not comprehend what he hoped to gain with that decision. It was only now, as the scene unfolded before their eyes, that they understood the significance of the foodgrains. They were exchanged for true friendship.

Richard could sense the gazes behind him filled with joy, envy, and admiration all at once. This had nothing to do with foresight at all; anyone patient and meticulous enough would gain some understanding of the situation in the Ashen Plateau after interrogating so many dwarven slaves. The human countries had large numbers of dwarves as slaves themselves, and being so close to the Ashen Plateau the Bloodstained Lands were filled with them. It wasn’t difficult to actually acquire the information; it was just that almost nobody would think of doing such a thing.

……

Bamor held a grand banquet to welcome Richard’s party, leaving his elders to discuss the details of the trade with Olar and the various noble representatives.

Richard and Flowsand spent a peaceful night in the castle, and the next morning she mentioned to the king that she wanted to see the holy shrine where the dwarves paid respect to their ancestors. She said it was to revel in the splendour of the dwarven ancestors, as well as to understand their culture better. Of course, Bamor approved immediately. There were more than ten heroic characters in Forgefires’ history who had outstanding achievements, and the King was a man who was proud of his heritage. He was very willing to share their glory with these friends of another race.

The shrine was buried deep in the mountain, a majestic building complex where the main shrine was fifty metres tall. An enormous furnace was right in the centre of it all, boiling iron constantly flowing out from within. Around the furnace were over ten dwarven statues in various forms; even Richard could sense the faint divine light on their surface. Every one of these dwarven statues had reached the level of a valiant soul; any one of them was worth a sacrifice on its own.

There was an altar beside the furnace, the statue upon it much larger than the rest. This particular dwarf held his hammer up high, shaping a weapon on an anvil. The statue was vivid and lifelike; Richard felt a consciousness stirring within it when his gaze fell upon it, returning the stare and instantly causing his mind to buzz. He felt a splitting pain in his head that left him on the verge of collapse, as though he had been struck by an iron hammer.

Flowsand immediately cast a soul protection spell on him, while Bamor rushed forward to shield him. “Noble Toro Anvil!” the King said in a resonating voice, “This is not an enemy of the dwarves but a friend! He brought fine wine and foodgrains in bulk, enough to keep all the dwarves in the castle fed for a long time!”

The statue of the founder of Forgefires seemed to hear Bamor’s words; Richard felt the heavy pressure on his soul slowly dissipate. One had to know this statue only had a sliver of Toro’s power within it. The true shrine was buried further underground.

“It’s alright now, friend!” Bamor grabbed Richard’s hand apologetically, shaking it with some force before pointing at the statue, “Look, that forged hammer and anvil were both divine weapons used by him when he was alive, holding unimaginable power. Whenever Forgefires acquires precious materials and prepares to make a legendary item, we use them in order to succeed. At least ten legendary items have been formed on that anvil in the past few centuries!”

Richard’s gaze fell on the hammer and anvil, and this time he noticed the undulations of power from the two divine weapons. A thought suddenly struck his mind, “Your Majesty, these weapons should require formidable strength and skill to use. Are there any master smiths in the Kingdom who can completely unleash their powers?”

“Of course!” Bamor replied proudly, “and more than one too! Outside of myself, the forging elder Crushedrock can completely display their powers.”

Richard was delighted, “That is simply wonderful! I have two precious image diamonds on hand, and was intending to embed it into something. However, I could not find a master capable of processing it; I believe you or Elder Crushedrock should be up to the task.”

Bamor’s face grew solemn, “Image diamonds? That’s a tricky item to handle… But since it’s a request from a friend, we will do our best.”

Metalwork and gem embedding had always been a field of expertise for smiths, especially those who were dwarves. Richard toured the entirety of Forgefires outside of its restricted areas over the next few weeks as Bamor and Crushedrock worked without rest, using the divine weapons left behind by Toro Anvil to embed the diamonds into a silver case. The case was merely the size of a brick, its base black with silver edges. The entire body was made of an alloy of obsidian and silver, the base and connecting components even being pure silver. This left the case extremely sturdy, but it still retained a great affinity for magic. The image diamonds were embedded perfectly into the bottom of the case, combining perfectly with the metal.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: Hestia

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA