Leckalump the Redbearded Dwarf had already strained sixteen ales through his beard, and he was only getting warmed up. He drained another one, slammed the tankard down onto the table, and stood up.
He'd had a good day. A gang of vicious road bandits lay rotting in the forest, and he'd found a pile of loot in their animal hide tents. And there was no way of sorting out the ownership of the gold coins, so he'd decided that stealing from thieves made things all right if he didn't think about it too hard. That's what the ale was for, anyhow.
That's what Leckalump liked about gold. It was always solving its own problems.
He wobbled towards the nearest wench. She leaned against the bar, holding a glass tumbler.
"You're gripping that drink like it's your heart," Leckalump said, winking. That line always worked. It sounded so clever.
"No, my dear, I'm gripping it like it is yours," she said, smiling sweetly back at him. He heard glass shatter and wondered why the barman was so clumsy. Then he looked down at the blood-covered shards in her hand.
"You should see a healer," he said.
"My husband was a healer," the woman replied. "And I'd like to see him. But he's dead. He was being paid by a group of heroes to tend to the wounds that they'd received during a battle with highwaymen. One of the heroes wandered away from the party to relieve himself against a tree. He saw a heinous little dwarf come through their encampment swinging his ax and screaming about how the good things in life all end with someone going 'aaaarrrggghhhh!'"
"I wouldn't know anything about that," Leckalump replied.
"And then the hero tracked him to this tavern, before turning up on my doorstep so that I could get my revenge," the woman said. "Are you sure that you don't know anything about that?"
"I swear by my honor as Leckalump the Redbearded Dwarf," Leckalump said, "Besides, what kind of motto is that? That silly dwarf should take a page from my book. My motto is 'all good things in life end with the other guy going 'aaaarrrggghhhh!' Are you sure that your hero isn't a liar?"
"Very sure. I'm offering a handsome reward for the capture of the dwarf that did this."
Leckalump turned, very slowly, and surveyed the room. Then one of his hands shot up faster than a corpse out of a grave at a necromancer's convention. He pointed at the only other dwarf in the room.
"It was him that did it, I heard him bragging about it earlier!" Leckalump cried.
The woman turned to look at the dwarf that Leckalump indicted. The dwarf had drunk himself into a stupor and drooled quietly into his grey beard, oblivious to the noise of the tavern.
"The hero described the maniac as having a red beard. Say, what did you say that your name was?"
"Leckalump the Dwarf," he replied. "Anyway, it's getting quite late and I should be going. I'd be happy to help you find your angry dwarf but it'll have to wait. I have a lot of gold to spend tomorrow."
"Just keep your eye out," the woman said.
"I will," Leckalump said.
He wobbled up the stairs to the room that he'd rented in the tavern. The bag of loot that he'd stuffed under the mattress made the thin pad bulge in the center like somebody was hidden underneath the blanket.
Leckalump lifted the mattress, and the person who was hidden underneath the blanket rolled out. A moment later, Leckalump had his ax in his hand and a scowl behind his red beard.
"You!" the dwarf bellowed at the woman. "How'd you get up here so fast?"
"It was easy to beat you up here while you were stopped on the staircase and puking over the edge," she replied.
"Well, what're you trying to do? I'm a skilled warrior, and I shall chop you in half if you think of attacking me."
"No doubt," the woman said, "but I have ruined your prize."
"It's impossible to spoil gold! Now begone with ye, wench!"
The woman fled. Leckalump took out the bag of loot. He saw that the gold inside was covered in her bloody handprints.
"Pah," Leckalump said. "No worries there, I've found bloodier gold elsewhere."
Leckalump put it back under his mattress, blew out the candle, and went to sleep.
He woke up when he was turned out of his bed and landed beard-first onto the floor.
"What's that?!" he bellowed, leaping up and punching his attacker. His fist smashed into something very hard, and very cold.
In the moonlight, he could see the shine of the golden man that stood before him.
"Neat!" the golden man said, staring at himself.
"Who are you?"
"The healer that you killed! But now I think I shall smash you in the face!"
The golden man smashed Leckalump in the face. He reeled.
"Now I think I'll go find that wife of mine and heal up her hand."
Leckalump watched as his treasure walked out of the room.
The Moral: gold rarely solves its own problems, unless it takes the form of a man and socks its problem in the nose