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Blackberry Bun's Oz Journal: Year 1, Chapter 5
Quote:Year 1

Chapter 5: Treasure Hunt

"Hey, you just said that we were almost there, but I still don't see a city," I said to Boli, who was still driving.

"That's because the Dwarven Capital is built not to be seen from afar," Boli said.

"What do you mean by that?" Huck asked.

"Just wait a minute," Boli said. "After we pass this slightly uphill road, you will see."

As Boli had said, the road the car was running on was slightly uphill. I could see the peak of the slope and it was not far away. I was curious on how the Dwarven Capital looked like, because Boli had said that it was much larger than Emerald City. Emerald City itself was actually not that large, but I still wanted to see how much larger the Dwarven Capital was.

"Alright," Boli said as the car reached the peak of the uphill road and stopped there. "Welcome to Dwarven Capital."

I was stunned by the view I saw. The whole city was located right at the bottom of a very large land depression. The shape of the land depression was roughly round, and I could roughly guess that the size of Dwarven Capital was about the same as Pearis. The depth of the land depression was not too deep, about half as high as the tower in Pearis, the name of which I unfortunately had forgotten, but it was still deep enough that none of the buildings were taller than the depth. From that point I could understand why the Dwarven Capital couldn't be seen from afar.

"I'm out of words," I said.

"That's the Dwarven Capital? Awesome," Huck said.

"Alright, let's go to meet the king!" Boli said, running the car again. Because the slope towards the city was pretty steep, the road was made into a series of hairpin turns. It took quite a while until we arrived at the bottom of the depression and went straight into the city. The first thing I noticed as the car ran slowly through it was that unlike Emerald City where the buildings were made from wood and stone, all the buildings in Dwarven Capital were made from stone and metal. A lot of dwarves were walking on the road, which made me notice that there were no other cars in the city.

"Hey, Boli," I said. "For a city this large, I don't see any other cars."

"Because the king banned all cars," Boli said.

"What? Why?" Huck asked.

"There was a time when all people had a car they had made themselves," Boli said. "Imagine how the road had become when all people had a car."

"I can imagine that," I said with an image of a total traffic jam in my mind.

"Therefore, the king gave an order for all people to disassemble their cars," Boli said.

"Huh? Then why your car is still here?" Huck asked.

"I'll tell you later. We have arrived," Boli said, stopping the car. All of us then got off from the car. I looked around expecting to see a castle, but instead all I saw was a marketplace.

"Where's the castle?" I asked.

"You mean the king's castle? Ha! You won't find him there now!" Boli said, laughing a bit.

"Huh? So where is he now?" I asked.

"Just follow me," Boli said, walking to the marketplace. The three of us followed Boli through the marketplace. While walking I looked around, seeing all the people, merchants and customers alike, doing their business. Some merhants were advertising their items through shouting around, some others were dealing with a customer, and there were a few who just sat down in silence. Not long later, I noticed a very lively merchant who shouted loud about his items for sale and how they would make good bargains. Quite a number of people stood around him, and most of them ended up buying his merchandise with satisfied face. I somewhat couldn't believe it because the merchant looked quite old with his white hair, white moustache, white beard, and a few noticeable wrinkles on his face, yet he acted as if he were still young.

"That one merchant sure is lively despite his old age," I said.

"I second that," Huck said. "Sorta unbelievable."

Boli then chuckled and said, "Behold the king of the dwarves! King Wulfgar Goldhunt!"

"What?! That merchant is the king?!" Huck said, completely surprised.

"That's... unexpected," I said.

"Yes, our king is also the most successful merchant in the kingdom! I already said that he is the richest dwarf, right?" Boli said.

"So, what are we going to do now?" I asked.

"I don't think I can cast the spell in public like this," Glinda said. "People might misunderstand that as an assault."

"Yeah, no way we can do that," Huck said, scratching his head.

"Heh! Watch this!" Boli said. He then shouted loud. "Attention! Prime Minister Boli speaking! All people, commence Birthday Protocol! Effective immediately!"

Right after Boli shouted, all people who had heard him stood in silence for a few seconds, then they looked at King Wulfgar.

"Oh, shoot!" King Wulfgar said, immediately jumping from his stand and running away. All people around then chased him. I and Huck were both surprised on what we saw, and we had quite an amount of questions in our mind.

"I'm sure you have a lot of questions now," Boli said. Both me and Huck nodded. "I'm the second in command in this kingdom. That is the main reason why I could keep my car. Birthday Protocol is a special order I can issue once a year. When it is in effect, King Wulfgar must be captured and brought to the city square for public interrogation. About his birthday present that is."

"And you do this every year?" Huck asked.

"Yes! Every year!" Boli said.

"That kinda sounds weird..." I said. "I mean, if you're only second in command, the king can cancel that order anytime he wants, right?"

"Indeed, but he has never done that in all these years! Strange, don't you think?" Boli said. "Anyway, let's go to the city square."

We then went back to the car and rode it to the city square. Along the way, I saw King Wulfgar being chased by a lot of people. The view was quite unbelievable because King Wulfgar, despite his old age, ran really fast and jumped around obstacles like they were nothing. The view didn't last long because soon he disappeared into an alley with many people still chasing him.

"Do you think they will catch the king? He is so fast," I said.

"No worries! He can't do much if the entire kingdom is chasing him!" Boli said with a little laugh.

"He somewhat looked happy," Huck said.

"Maybe he actually likes doing that? Nobody knows!" Boli said. "Anyway, we're almost at the city square."

"I hope this will go well," I said.

As Boli had said, we soon arrived at the city square of Dwarven Capital. It was considerably more spacious than the one in Emerald City. One strange thing I noticed about the city square was the presence of a stone throne right in the center. Boli parked his car right next to the throne, and we all got off the car.

"Now all we have to do is wait," Boli said.

"Do the people always catch the king?" I asked.

"They never succeed!" Boli said, laughing.

"Huh? I kinda don't get it," Huck said. "How can Glinda cast the spell if the king won't be here?"

"Just wait and see!" Boli said. Soon enough, we saw the king still running away from a huge crowd, looking pretty exhausted. He ran straight to the throne, and then he did a high spinning jump which ended with him sitting on the throne. It was quite visible that he was running out of breath.

"Alright, I've had my workout. Let's just get this over with," King Wulfgar said. "No, I don't want any presents, at all. End of stor... hey! What are those humans doing here?! Isn't that one the witch from Emerald City?! Don't tell me..."

"Birthday Protocol, level two! Effective immediately!" Boli shouted, interrupting the king's speech. Immediately, the crowd which had chased the king swarmed him from every direction. I couldn't see what was happening, but I could hear the king screaming angrily. When the crowd finally cleared, we saw that the king was still sitting on the throne, all chained up to it. He looked very angry.

"Boli! How dare you break our principle of not getting any help from other races!" the king shouted.

"I just have to! Every year, Birthday Protocol always ended up the same, and this time I'm going to see it end differently!" Boli said.

"Forget it! If I get a birthday present from you, I will have to give you a present too! And all people will follow!" the king said. "I have never asked for birthday present anyway, and never will!"

"We only need to know what you want now," Boli said.

"Forget it! I will shut my mouth!" the king said.

"Which is the reason I brought Glinda here," Boli said. "Glinda, please proceed."

"Are you sure about this?" Glinda asked.

"Oh we are as sure as we can be!" the crowd around us said at the same time.

"I be cursed! I'm surrounded by traitors!" the king shouted. Glinda then once again began murmuring words I didn't understand while waving her wand in a certain pattern. After half a minute, she shot a purple ray right at the king's head. Right after that, there was a large bright purple cloud forming above the king. Little by little a blurry image appeared on the cloud, and I understood that the cloud would act as a large screen for displaying the king's projected mind.

"Now with the mind projection spell on you, we will get the information we need from you," Boli said. "What do you want for your birthday?"

"I want to punish you!" the king shouted, and a picture of Boli being kicked hard at the behind by the king appeared on the cloud.

"Ouch..." Huck said.

"And I want to expel the humans out of here!" the king shouted, and a picture of me, Huck, and Glinda being chased out of the city appeared on the cloud.

"Glinda, I think you should amplify the spell to project his subconsciousness," Boli said.

"Boli! Your name will be crossed out from my will!" the king shouted as Glinda shot another purple ray at his head.

"Your majesty have told me that three times before during this week, remember?" Boli said.

"Alright! Fine! I'll play along!" the king said. Soon, on the cloud we saw a picture of the king sitting on a golden throne, followed by a picture of a castle sparkling with jewels embedded on the walls. "See? Now you know!"

"Do you seriously think we can afford a golden throne?" Boli said.

"Just give up!" the king said while laughing a bit.

"Is there anything that is affordable but you don't have?" I asked. The king looked at me without saying anything, and then a new image appeared on the cloud. It looked like some sort of yam, and the color was pale red combined with dark brown which made it looked like it was covered in dirt.

"What is that?" Huck asked.

"Beats me," Boli said. "At least it looks cheap."

"That's... Dirt Yam," Glinda said. The king then laughed.

"You're well-versed, witch!" the king said. "That's right! It's a Dirt Yam! It's barely edible and tastes just like its name! Just give me one and I'll be happy!"

"Is he really serious?" Huck asked Boli.

"We just need to find out," Boli said. "So, your majesty, please tell us your story about it."

"I'm already in a bind, and literally. So whatever," the king said. "Give me a second to recall my memories."

Soon, a new image appeared on the cloud. It was a young dwarf walking clad in exploring outfit, complete with a large backpack and excavation tools. It took me a few moments to realize that the depicted dwarf was King Wulfgar when he had been young.

"When I was young, I was a treasure hunter," the king said. "This story happened about 40 years ago when I stumbled on a legend about an ancient fort named Markash. During its active days, the fort had been used to keep treasures for funding wars. When I found out about the legend, the fort has been abandoned for centuries, but the treasures were still there."

"How did you know that the treasures were still there?" Boli asked.

"I never hunt a particular treasure without gathering information about it first, silly!" the king said as a new image appeared. It was young Wulfgar reading books in a library. "I stumbled on that legend when I read a published journal of a treasure hunter. It was written there that his team tried to take the treasure inside the fort but failed. In fact, everyone other than himself perished during the expedition."

"Quite a sad story," Huck said.

"Anyway, when I got to the location, there was a village, a very poor village, which coincidentally was inhabited by dwarves like me, I went straight to the chief to ask for detailed information," the king said. "Hey, is this cloud able to make sound?"

"No, but that can be easily arranged," Glinda said, shooting another ray at the cloud.

"Good. Now here's the conversation between me and the chief of the village," the king said as a new image appeared. In the image there were two dwarves talking. One of them was young Wulfgar, and the other was probably the village chief. The chief wore a tunic which seemed very worn out.

"You're looking for Fort Markash? It's up there on the peak of that hill," the chief said, pointing at a tall hill right next to the village.

"Are there treasures inside the fort?" young Wulfgar asked.

"Yes, the treasures are still there in Fort Markash, a lot of gold, silver, diamond, you name it," the village chief said. "Our ancestors were very rich."

"But why this village looks poor?" young Wulfgar asked.

"The path to the treasure is rigged with traps. Only the village shaman knew the safe way to the treasure, but he unfortunately passed away before the information could be inherited. That is why our people are now very poor," the chief said. "Pity, the treasure could be used for our well being."

"I understand that the treasures belong to your people," young Wulfgar said. "I will find them, and as my reward for finding it, 75% of them will be for me."

"Like I said, our people are very poor. 25% won't be enough for them," the chied said.

"I will be putting my own life at stake, you know. Alright, 60% for me," young Wulfgar said.

"Alright, that's a deal," the chief said, and the two of them shook hands. "To stamp our deal, let us eat our traditional food together!"

"Sure!" young Wulfgar said, and the two of them walked to a nearby house. Right outside it, there was a woman dwarf cooking something in a cauldron.

"Here is our traditional food, cooked by my dear wife. The main ingredient of this is highly poisonous if not cooked with our special recipe," the chief said as the woman took something from the cauldron and gave it to young Wulfgar. It was a Dirt Yam, cooked whole. "The name is Dirt Yam. You bite first and I will follow."

"Alright," young Wulfgar said. He looked at the yam and took a bite. I noticed his eyes suddenly opened wide, which meant the taste was a shock to him. He then swallowed it with a face expression as if he was suffering.

"My turn then," the chief said, taking the Dirt Yam from young Wulfgar's hand. He then took a bite from the other side of the yam and swallowed it. "Go now, traveler! And good luck!"

Young Wulfgar left the village without saying a word. After he was far enough, he spat out the Dirt Yam from his mouth. Apparently he had feigned swallowing it.

"That was... the most disgusting food I have ever tasted!" young Wulfgar said. He then walked to climb the hill.

"And in the end, I failed to get to the treasure," King Wulfgar said. "Now I have told you everything, right?! Let me out of this!"

"I still don't understand what we should give for your majesty's birthday," Boli said.

"You fool! How come you still don't know?!" King Wulfgar said as the people released the chains and Glinda dispelled the cloud. He then jumped at Boli, grabbed Boli at the shoulders, and shook him hard. "That Dirt Yam is the symbol of what I want!"

"So what you want is..." I said.

"Exactly!" King Wulfgar interrupted while still holding and shaking Boli. "It was the only hunt from which I returned with empty hand! The treasure of Fort Markash!"

"So, your majesty, how about going there and hunt the treasure again?" Boli asked while King Wulfgar was still shaking him. "If we work together I'm sure you will get the treasure this time."

"Going there again?" King Wulfgar said as he stopped shaking Boli. "Don't be silly! It's so far from here!"

"Airship is complete and ready to fly," Boli said. I was a bit surprised by what Boli had just said.

"What? Since when?" King Wulfgar asked, looking surprised as well.

"Since yesterday," Boli said.

"Heh, alright. Go pack up your things. We will leave in two hours!" King Wulfgar said.

"As you command, your majesty!" Boli said.

"By the way, you two!" King Wulfgar said, looking at me and Huck. "You didn't seem to be helping the witch. Why are you here? Just to watch my humiliation?!"

"Umm, not really," Huck said.

"I am wondering if I can get help from the dwarves for my project," I said.

"Help? Ha! The dwarves never help and be helped by any other race!" King Wulfgar said. "Not for free anyway. So, what do you have for the trade?"

"Uhh... Trade?" Huck asked.

"Yeah! Trade!" King Wulfgar said. "Be it an object or a service, we dwarves never give something without receiving something of similar value in return!"

"Well... we don't have anything..." I said.

"Then forget it!" King Wulfgar said. "Return here once you have something to trade with!"

"Please don't be so harsh with them, your majesty," Boli said.

"Hmph! Alright, I'll give you a chance," King Wulfgar said. "Come with us for the treasure hunt. Your help there might or might not worth to trade with, but we will see."

"Huh? What?" I said, being surprised.

"We're going with them to Fort Markash. That's what, buddy," Huck said, gently hitting me with his elbow. "Thank you for the chance, your majesty!"

"Get prepared and meet me right here in two hours!" King Wulfgar said, and he walked away. The crowd gave him way as he walked. There was a silence for a minute, and then Boli cleared his throat.

"Birthday Protocol, dismissed," Boli said. "Thank you for your cooperation. We finally got the information we want."

The crowd cheered and clapped hands, and then all people went back to their activities. While all those were happening, I had been doubtful about going to Fort Markash. I was never suited for such expedition, and the fact that people had perished looking for the treasure instilled fear in me.

"Are you afraid, boy?" Boli asked.

"Uhh... Y-yeah..." I said.

"Don't worry. I will protect you!" Boli said. "And don't forget that King Wulfgar is experienced on that place!"

"I know, but still..." I said.

"Are you coming with us, Glinda?" Huck asked.

"Unfortunately, I can't," Glinda said, looking pretty exhausted. "The king's innate magic resistance forced me to use a lot of energy. I must go back to Emerald City to rest."

"I see. You can come with us. I will take you to Emerald City before going to... wherever Fort Markash is," Boli said.

"Perhaps your king won't like that," Glinda said.

"Heh, don't worry about that," Boli said.

"What should we prepare?" Huck asked.

"Nothing. I will prepare everything for you," Boli said. "Go walk around the city if you want, and be back here in two hours."

After saying that, Boli rode his car and left us. Glinda was pretty exhausted so we stayed there with her and waited. I spent those two hours thinking what kind of deadly traps I would have to face in Fort Markash, and despite what Boli had said, I was still very afraid. I didn't want to perish like those treasure hunters, not before bringing all my friends back to Strawberryland.

Nearly two hours later, suddenly we heard a sound of roaring engine from above. All three of us looked up and saw an airship which probably was the one mentioned by Boli. It looked like a helicopter with short wings and the propellers were positioned at the tip of the wings. I could notice that the propellers were attached to the wings in a way that they could be tilted forward and backward as needed. At the back of the airship there was a larger propeller which faced directly behind, which meant it was used for moving forward while the ones at the wings were used for taking off, hovering, and landing. The airship then landed at the open area near us, and a door at its side opened.

"I think that means we should go in," Huck said.

"It seems so," Glinda said.

"Alright..." I said. "Let's go."

All three of us then entered the door of the airship. Inside, there was enough room for us to walk around a bit. Boli was sitting on the pilot seat, and King Wulfgar was sitting on a passenger seat behind it. There were more than enough seats for all of us, so all three of us picked a seat to sit on and buckled up.

"Alright, next stop: Emerald City!" Boli said, and he flew the airship to Emerald City. I didn't know the speed of the airship, but it only took less than an hour to arrive at Emerald City.

"We're here!" Boli said. "Where should I land?"

"You don't have to land," Glinda said, getting off from her seat and standing up. "I can teleport myself to Emerald Castle."

"Rest well, Glinda," I said.

"Tell our friends that we will be okay," Huck said.

"Thank you. I will," Glinda said, and she teleported away.

"Alright, we're off to Fort Markash now. Go get some rest. This will be a long trip!" Boli said, and he flew the airship away from Emerald City. I could only hope everything would turn out fine.

-End of Chapter 5-

For an idea on how the airship looks, think of a steampunk version of the spaceship shown in this video:
[Image: TheGrapesChildrenSig.png]
Apologies for not getting back to you sooner! Have been busy and forgot I hadn't already responded!

Enjoyable as always. Your storytelling abilities have developed and I greatly enjoy the world you've built. Great description of the city along with great buildup for whatever happens next. Birthday Protocol got some laughter from me, as did King Wulfgar's angry thoughts.
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