The Dice Goblin!

MY OLD DAD USED TO TELL ME THAT A GOBLIN'S LIFE WAS “NASTY, BRUTISH, AND SHORT SO YOU'D BETTER JUST GET USED TO IT.” FOR MOST OF MY KIND, THAT WASN'T FAR FROM THE TRUTH. BUT, HEY, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WHEN ALL YOU DO IS RAID CARAVANS, WORK FOR CREEPY NECROMANCERS FROM THE UNDERDARK, AND GENERALLY MAKE A NUISANCE OF YOURSELF BY LEADING GENERATIONS OF ADVENTURERS TO BELIEVE THAT “BREE YARK” ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING IN GOBLIN? ME, WHILE I DO ENJOY THE OCCASIONAL UNBRIDLED MELEE WITH AN UNWARY FIGHTER OR TWO, I PREFER TO LOOK BEYOND THE POINT OF MY SWORD OR MY NEXT TREASURE-LADEN MARK. THINGS OF BEAUTY CERTAINLY HAVE THEIR PLACE, A POINT LOST ON MY DEAR OLD DAD WHO, INDEED, WAS OFTEN NASTY, BRUTISH, AND SHORT. ANYWAY WHERE ARE MY MANNERS, NAME'S TALIS BALITHOR. OR TAL, FOR SHORT.
EVER SINCE I WAS SMALL, I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED STONES, ESPECIALLY GEMS. THEIR VIBRANT COLORS DAZZLED MY YOUTHFUL EYES AND I LOVED THE MERRY CLATTER WHEN I WOULD SHAKE SEVERAL IN MY TINY HANDS.
A FEW YEARS WENT BY, FULL OF NEW CAVES, AMBUSHES, AND SCAVENGING, ALL PEPPERED WITH LECTURES FROM MY FATHER ABOUT PRACTICING MY DAGGER SKILLS RATHER THAN SPENDING SO MUCH TIME ON MY FOOLISH “CLICK CLACKS”. I HAD QUITE A COLLECTION BY THAT POINT, LOADS OF REDS, ORANGES, PINKS, BLUES, GREENS, EVEN SOME PURPLES. EVERYTHING CHANGED ONE FATEFUL NIGHT WHEN, BY CHANCE, I WAS SEPARATED FROM MY DAD AND A FEW OTHERS OF OUR TRIBE WHILE SKULKING (YES, I KNOW BUT WHY LIE?) AROUND THE SEEDY ALLEYWAYS OF ARANDOR, A LARGE CITY ON THE RAVAGER COAST IN IFERRA. WE WERE HIRED BY A POWERFUL SORCERER TO STEAL A MAGICAL AMULET FROM A DUNDERHEAD BARBARIAN AND HIS TWO COMPANIONS, A WIZARD AND A BARD. BEING THE SMALL ONE, DAD HAD ME SHADOW THE GROUP THROUGH THE STREETS. NATURALLY, IT WAS POURING RAIN SO DAD MADE SURE AT LEAST HE WAS WARM AND DRY. THE GROUP ENDED UP AT THE WANDERLUST, A WELL-APPOINTED TAVERN NEAR THE CITY CENTER. GIVEN THE HIGHER QUALITY OF THE PLACE, I HAD TO KEEP A MUCH LOWER PROFILE THAN NORMAL. MELTING INTO THE BACKGROUND, I WATCHED THE GROUP SEEK OUT THE INNKEEPER AND SECURE A TABLE. THEY SETTLED INTO THEIR MEAL AND GUARDED CONVERSATION SO, NATURALLY, I DECIDED TO TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY. I WAS POSITIVE I WAS COMPLETELY UNNOTICED. AT LEAST UNTIL THE BARD QUIETLY CAUGHT MY ARM MID-WAY INTO APPROACHING A AMULET SHAPED BULGE IN THE WIZARD'S BELT POUCH. “LOOKING FOR SOMETHING, FRIEND?”, HE QUERIED. I RETURNED HIS GAZE WITH MY BEST “I'M JUST A POOR, DEFENSELESS GOBLIN” LOOK BUT IT DIDN'T SEEM TO PHASE THIS GUY. THE OTHERS NOTICED ME AT THIS POINT. THE BARBARIAN WANTED TO CRUSH ME, THE WIZARD WANTED TO QUESTION ME. THE BARD, A MISCHIEVOUS FELLOW NAMED WILMORE, HAD OTHER THOUGHTS.
“IT APPEARS YOU MAY HAVE FOUND SOMETHING THOUGH, I EXPECT, NOT WHAT YOU'D HOPED TO." WILMORE REACHED INTO HIS TUNIC AND PULLED FORTH A SMALL LEATHER POUCH. HE TOSSED IT INTO MY HAND AND I HEARD THE FAMILIAR CLICK OF STONE ON STONE. I COULDN'T RESIST AND, BEFORE I KNEW IT, I HAD OPENED THE POUCH AND SHAKEN THE CONTENTS INTO MY HAND. I HAD NEVER SEEN SUCH CLICK CLACKS. A DEEP COBALT BLUE, RESEMBLING THE COLD, DEEP MOUNTAIN LAKE OUTSIDE ONE OF OUR EARLY CAVES, THEY GLITTERED WITH MYSTERY. I WAS ALSO INTRIGUED BY THE MYSTERIOUS GLYPHS CARVED INTO EACH FACE. “ONE ROLL AND A WHOLE WORLD WILL OPEN TO YOU, MY LITTLE FRIEND.” SAID WILMORE, AN ODD TWINKLE IN HIS EYE. HE WAS SO PERSUASIVE THAT I NEVER HEARD THE WORDS OF HIS SPELL AS I GENTLY SHOOK THE STONES AND ROLLED THEM ON THE TABLE TOP.
“WHOA, THOSE ARE SOME HIGH NUMBERS, KID. WHY DON'T YOU KEEP THOSE?” I FOUND MYSELF STARING UP AT WILMORE AND QUIETLY ROLLED THE STONES. SUDDENLY, I KNEW THAT SOME REFERRED TO THESE “CLICK CLACKS” AS “GAMING STONES” OR “DICE”. I ALSO WAS FILLED WITH AN OVERWHELMING DESIRE TO HAVE MORE, THE SHINIER AND MORE MYSTERIOUS THE BETTER. I CAME TO MY SENSES THE NEXT MORNING, STILL SITTING AT THE TABLE, AS DAD SHOOK ME AWAKE AND THEN SHOOK ME HARDER FOR BEING SO EASILY DUPED BY THE BARD'S CHARM.
WE TOOK THE ROAD OUT OF TOWN, FOLLOWING OUR QUARRY. NOT SURE IF WE EVER CAUGHT UP TO THEM AS, THAT NIGHT WHILE GATHERING FIREWOOD, I FELL INTO A TRANCE AND HAD A VISION, ALMOST LIKE A DREAM. I SAW MYSELF HIGH ON A MOUNTAIN PEAK, CHIPPING SOME GAMING STONES OUT OF A GLACIER THAT GLOWED A DEEP GREENISH BLUE. I FOUND MYSELF DROPPING THE WOOD I'D COLLECTED. I STOLE BACK TO CAMP AND GRABBED MY PACK, LEAVING MY FATHER AND TRIBE BEHIND, PERHAPS FOR GOOD. VENTURING UP THAT MOUNTAIN AND ONTO THE GLACIER PROVED A DANGEROUS FIRST ADVENTURE BUT NOT THE ONLY ONE. AS LONG AS I HAVE THE MAGICAL SET GIFTED ME BY THE BARD, I SEEM TO HAVE THESE VISIONS THAT HAVE GUIDED ME THROUGH THE MANY PARTS OF IFERRA, ALWAYS FINDING OTHER SUCH STONES. SOME I FEEL COMPELLED TO KEEP. OTHERS, WELL, THOSE I OFFER TO ANY WHO NEED A BIT OF LUCK OR JUST LOVE THE “CLICK CLACKS” AS MUCH AS I DO. AS MY DAD USED TO SAY, “IT'S A GAME OF CHANCE WALKING OUT YOUR DOOR. YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN OR EVEN IF YOU'LL RETURN. A BIT OF LUCK, THOUGH, GOES A LONG WAY.”
THE STONES I COLLECT, AND OFFER TO YOU, HAVE ALWAYS GIVEN ME THAT. PERHAPS THEY MAY DO THE SAME FOR YOU? WHO KNOWS? ONLY WAY TO FIND OUT FOR SURE IS TO PLAY THE GAME FOR YOURSELF.