Niblit was scared.
Very, very scared in fact.
Not so long ago, his gnomies had uncovered ancient tablets during a tunnel expedition near Uldaman. And they told of a great evil, forged at the time of the Titans by their hands. Something had went wrong back then, horribly, horribly wrong, with one of their experiments. The end result had been discarded, locked away deep in the earth before it's awakening, never meant to see the light of day...
But as ages passed, and the world saw great upheavals, great fissures were torn into Azeroth's fiery heart. The vast geothermal forces unleashed in those cataclysms flowed unchecked, affected by rampaging elementals in unforeseen ways. The vaults did withstand the fiery siege, long enough for their builders to intervene. But the Titans had left Azeroth long time ago, perhaps never to return. And little by little, with the turning of aeons, the wards protecting the hidden vaults were slowly eroded into oblivion...
And now, at long last, this great evil had begun to awaken.
All the signs were there, Niblit cursed himself for being so silly to ignore them first, and now.. no, it couldn't be too late! It must not be too late!
"The dread Jam Flight must not succeed in their evil agenda! Never! Ever!" He said to himself very sternly, unusual for the gentle old gnome.
For this is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with draining of all it's jam.
Fortunately, that nice lady Prestor in Stormywind had promised to help, that eased the mind of Niblit considerably... she knew a lot about jam and was one of the Crusade's best buyers!
"Owwie..." was the first thing Niblit said when he woke up, head hurting. Slowly he opened his eyes, trying to understand where he was. Last night, he had been adventuring with friends in Elwynn, and had run off to get runestones so could make portals for them, he had forgot to get some that day. And then... *something*.. had swooped down from the skies and grabbed him with sticky claws.
"Ugh..." was the second thing he said, trying to sit up woozily. Then he smelled it, the smell of drying jam on himself. Curiously he looked down and saw his robes had been ruined by great rents, torn up and messed with sticky stuff. "Mmmh.. raspberry jam..." he said, tasting the stuff a little.
Then he warily observed his surroundings... and saw in the dim light, that he was in a messy cell, with what there being an iron gate and all. Weak moans of despair and pain could be heard beyond the door, there were other prisoners too it seemed. "Hmm, or maybe it's them troggs moaning about, pretending to be prisoners in order to confuse Nibbles! Ha, silly troggs!" the gnome thought to himself, clearly not accepting the fact of how horrible a place he was in.
He rose up, headache gone now, and didn't even notice the scraps of clothing falling off, leaving him in just his underpants. "Nibbles will make grand escape, that'll show them silly troggs who's who, yes!" he muttered, walking to the cell door, which was dripping in sticky jam. He started to concentrate on a spell of mighty blasting, raising his little hands... but then his stomach growled, breaking the effort. "Aah, Nibbles needs food! Smell of jam makes Nibbles hungry..." And he proceeded to cast a different spell instead, conjuring up croissants, then swiping some of the jam from the door on them. He turned around and walked away from the door, not noticing how fresh jam began to appear on it's surface.
"When Nibbles is done eating, will make grand escape, yes." the gnome decided.
And so he was trapped there, never getting through the door in time before the magical enchantments on it cut off his escape.
Niblit was stuffed.
Very, very stuffed in fact.
He had been trying to get out, desperately, for several days now. It always ended up the same, the horrible enchantment on the door ruining his attempts.
Now he laid flat on his back, on the floor of his cell, moaning weakly. His belly bulged from all the croissants and jam, and he could hardly move his arms around, much less cast any spells. At least it provided a break from all the eating as he couldn't even crawl to the door anymore (He had been doing that for a day and a half now).
But now it was too late. Niblit saw some vague shapes coming closer to the cell, coming to take him away to meet his doom. They were servants of the dread Jam Dragonflight, evil men turned to worship this new rising dark power. Laughing at Niblit, telling him looked just about ready to be fed to their all powerful masters, they grabbed his bloated body and carried him outside, where Niblit could heard the awful noices the jam dragons made, preparing for a feast of their greatest delicacy; jam filled gnome.
Niblit couldn't make out their shapes clearly enough, he felt woozy from all the jam, but clearly they must have been gigantic in size and horrible indeed, hovering in the sky above.
He could now only hope that those messages of help had reached someone and that his friends would somehow get here in time... at least his captors were arrogant enough that they hadn't bothered to remove his utility belt, and this had allowed Niblit to construct a makeshift buzzbox, even though it couldn't receive, only transmit. Cleverly he wore it as a hat, fooling his captors completely!
As the evil servants placed him inside a cage, leaving him to wait a little longer until they had finished the grisly preparations and serving as an appetizing sight, Niblit decided to take a little nap while waiting his friends, reasoning that they'd be here faster if he slept a bit.
The bar was already packed as Pzinget entered. She recognised several members of her old guild, the Gnome Crusade, and they greeted her heartily.
"How's the Retirement, Pzinget?"
"Good to see you."
Pzinget smiled and answered their questions, and settled down on a table to wait for the arrival of the rest of the rescue party. Such an influential gnome as Master Nibblies was bound to draw a vast variety of heroes out of the woodwork, she thought, and wasn't disappointed as Solaaru, Zizzleclank (who seemed to be enjoying her switch to magery), Beulan, the cursed Casiuss, his minon Leadfinger, and a whole host of others wandered in, looking to be in varying degrees of apprehension about the events that lay before them that evening.
Nodding a greeting to Kall, Pzinget blew a kiss to Chingo, who was looking raring to go, and settled down to listen to Zizzle's briefing based on the limited intelligence that they'd gathered.
"Jam... dragons? Has Nibit finally lost it?" she wondered... from the reactions around the room, she could see that several others were equally as cynical. But regardless, Niblit was being held in Durnholde Keep, and that was where they'd go.
The order was given to march double time, and the party streamed out across the Wetlands, pausing occasionally to reprimand the odd stupidly brave crocolisk.
As they took a breather at the Thandol Span, Pzinget felt strangely uneasy. She, and many others, looked up to see a giant shadow in the sky. It definitely look draconian, that was for sure. Could it be one of the black dragonflight? Did they have Niblit? As they crossed the span, eyes on the sky, the rain started to fall and the dragon whirled into the clouds, lost in the weather.
There was a hurried conversation amongst the elder members of the party.
"We'll forge ahead to Refuge Pointe, we can shelter from this rain there."
Dripping merrily, Pzinget took the opportunity to avail herself of the blazing bonfire and make some toast.
"Jam dragons, still I don't believe it." said Chingo, steaming gently as the bonfire dried his hat.
Pzinget nodded, munching her toast.
"Oh yes, just soggy."
"Anyway, we'd better move out," Chingo muttered grumpily. "This rain's not going to stop."
As the advance party climbed the hill out of the base, Pzinget's mouth went dry. She had the same swoopy feeling in her stomach that she'd had at the span. Looking around the gathered adventurers, she could see that many of them felt it too.
"Yes. Go. Now," she said. "We should mo-"
The sky rained jam. Horrible, thick, evil-smelling jam, that got into her hair, stuck her feet to the ground, and made it impossible to walk with any speed.
"Chingo, this is Blackcurrant!" she yelled, trying to cut through the globs fastening her boots to the ground.
A small gnome called Irradium tentatively tasted it, as a mage lost his temper and a fireball blazed through the rainy-dark gloom. The jam melted away.
"Hah! Firemages, go mad!" someone yelled, and the air became cloying with the scent of burning sugar.
Further along the path, they paused at Stromguard. The walls of the city were running with the same cloying lumps of jam that had previously covered the heroes. Ogres were out, trying to lick it clean.
The party moved on, collecting under the wall which separates Hillsbrad from Arathi. A shaman threw down a fire nova totem to remove the last of the jam. Pzinget, with aching feets from a long run, perched on a fallen log and wrang the water out of her hair. Her pixietails drooped miserably under the weight of the water.
"Right. I'm goin' to go an' take a look at this keep. I'm the only one of you buggers that I trust enough to do it." announced Chingo, "Stay here, and wait for my signal," he continued, pulling his hat down over his eyes.
"Who's got the bridge, Captain?" asked Zizzle.
"You an' Pzingers." he answered, stomping off into the rain-soaked grass to the right of the gate.
Sighing, Pzinget ripped off a half-hearted salute. She wandered over to Zizzleclank. "Mmm, do not like it," she muttered.
"What? Chingo going off?"
Pzinget nodded, casting an eye over the ragged bunch. They were all wet, Kall looked ready to drop, and a couple of the less experienced members of the group had falled foul of a bunch of raptors, and were now sporting bandages.
"<ppppsht> Well, I don't see any dragons," came Chingo's voice over the buzzbox. "Just <crackle> guards walkin' about... hang on... what's that..."
"Be careful, Chi-"
"What the hells is tha- <static>"
Cursing the day she ever met Chingo, Pzinget took off after him, ignoring Zizzleclank's frantic barking of orders to the rest of the troop. Stealthing past the guards on the gate, she found Chingo stood staring at a... well, it was the ugliest dragon she'd ever seen. All red and runny, with eyes like silver coins, and trying to shoot great clods of jam at the mage, who was ducking out of the way. Drawing her dagger, she advanced on the creature.
Goobleberry the Jam Dragon was not happy. It was bad enough having drawn gate duty for the second day in a row, but to have Dibbleberry as his partner again was nothing less than irritating. To finish things off, he'd just been told that the scouting patrols had seen a large party of adventurers advancing on the keep, and that they looked ready for business.
"So," blathered Dibbleberry, "I shot out this tree-mendous flame, an' then 'e buggered off!"
Goobleberry nodded absently.
"An' then, 'e sai- whassat noise?"
The dragons listened carefully. There was the clanking of mail, and the shifting of plate, and the sound of weapons being drawn.
"It's them adventureres!" cried Goobleberry. "They escaped the jam attack! Quick, look fierce!"
He bared his fangs and flapped his wings angrily as the party cautiously approached.
"Welllcome to our Domain", he hissed at them.
" 'alt! Ooo goes there?!" demanded Dibbleberry, flying lazily in circles.
The party looked confused. Then they looked angry.
"Where's Niblit!", someone demanded.
"Niblit?" said Dibbleberry, who was not the brightest of Jam Dragons.
Goobleberry rolled his eyes. "The fat gnome," he sighed, poking his brother-in-jam in the ribs with a wing tip.
One of the party stepped forwards, menacingly twirling a sword. "You've got him, and we want him back," he growled.
The dragons looked at one another. This wasn't in their job description...
"FLEE!" they yelled, taking off back into the keep. Banking to the right, and flapping down towards the holding cell, they prepared their brothers-in-jam for a glorious fight, and a wondrous victory.
Soon the heroes swarmed over the wall, to see four jam dragons stood in various poses of defiance, outside a cell which contained a very fat gnome and a lot of jam.
"Bugg'roff, or we'll jam you!" called Dibbleberry.
The heroes readied their spells. The air was soon full of flying bolts of light, freezing lances and flaming fireballs.
"RAAAAAR!" called the dragons.
"RAAAAAAAAAAAAARSIE!!!!" cried one thoroughly over-excited little gnome.
The dragons puffed out globs of jam, dodged blades and repelled spells with their thick scales... but there were too many heroes, and the numbers soon overwhelmed them...
"FLEE!" cried Goobleberry, suiting the action to the word, and darting off along the tunnel.
"FLEE FASTER! FLEE MORE!" gabbled Dibbleberry, his tail on fire.
"RAAR!" shouted one of the other jam dragons, who had activated his stealth-powers.
Arguing amongst themselves about who was going to get into more trouble about this, they shot off into the hills.
Out of breath and covered in drying jam, Pzinget heard the unmistakable sounds of battle. Pulling Chingo along by the robe, she followed the noise to its source, where she found the adventurers releasing a very fat, near-naked gnome from a cell that seemed to be made of jam.
"Nibblies!" she said happily, taking in his vastly increased girth and the croissant crumbs that seemed ti cover most of his limbs.
The gnome stood rather unsteadily on his feet and belched at her.
"Where you clothes?" she asked, but the question was lost in a babble of noise. The Gnome Crusade seemed to be insisting that their leader was taken back to their Ironforge HQ. A group wanted to go back to Stormwind to warn various authorities, and the Gnome Liberation Front, bent on revenge, were debating whether or not to stay and take out the rest of the jam dragons.
"No!" belched Niblit. "We must go and see if Southshore is safe." He struggled towards the ramp, pulling the tabard which Evagna handed him over his head.
Shrugging, the heroes followed.
Southshore, sleepy as always, was rather surprised to see a host of thirty dishevled adventurers talking about dragons breathing jam walking through its streets. A small group went to check all the buildings, whilst a few people filled in the local guards on the happenings at the keep.
"Reckon we done now?" asked Pzinget, picking some jam out of her hair.
Niblit, puffing and panting under his increased weight, shook his head. "Them draggles going to attack Stormwind! Must... must warn! Meet Niblit at gates!"
He vanished into a portal.
The heroes followed, causing a sensation as they rode through the streets of the city to long bridge across the lake, where Niblit was hurridly telling his tale to a distinguished-looking gentleman. He nodded grimly and started to stride forth, the guards of the city first standing to one side in awe of the man, then falling in behind to march to battle.
The gnomes, excited by the prospect of a great fight, started to cry various battlecalls which bounced and reverberated off of the stones of the ancient city, drawing curious glances from passers-by, some of whom joined the march.
"FOR THE CRUSADE!"
Finally, the party stood at the entrance to the keep. Aware of the danger within, they trembled in anticipation as they were led up the long entrance corridoor.
Soon, stood before the King in the throne room, they gave their terrible warning. Almost as soon as they had finished, a giant jam dragon appeared, complete with mean-looking guardians. Breathing spouts of burning-hot jam, they fell on the heroes. Spells flew, swords flashed, totems poured forth their magic, and the room rang with the screams of battle and the smell of hot fruit mixed with blood.
Pzinget wrestled her daggers out of one fallen guard, spinning gracefully to appear behind another, stabbing him in the flank. He roared in pain, turning to breathe jam on her, but she rolled and vanished as three different spells hit him in the chest. Panting, she turned to find another enemy... but there were none left. She pulled an injured gnome to his feet, and was checking him over, when a voice hissed behind her...
"OI! That was my mum!" a small angry-looking jam dragon hovered over the corpse of the fallen matriarch.
"Yeah!" cried a second dragon. "You'll never get away with this!"
"Never! Oh no oh no oh no!" roared the first.
The party came to their senses. "Jam dragons! Attack them!"
The two creatures looked at one another. "Know what, brother-in-jam?"
"FLEE!" cried the dragons together, and they darted out of the throne room.
Chronometria, Leadfinger and Jeplin set off in hot pursuit, screaming defiance at the dragons, who were encouraging each other to flee faster, and cursing any humanoids they encountered.
Listening to their cries fading, and shortly hearing a report on the buzzbox that the dragons had vanished, Pzinget wiped her hair out of her face. Her leather was still soaked through, and she ached in fifteen separate places. She looked at the assembled party... only one thing left to do.
"Pub!" she grinned, wiping jam from her blades and heading for the exit.
"Um... p-put shortly, you c-caught us at the end of an adventure."
Kall beamed, somewhat uncertainly, at her Exarch. Senya looked back at her, and Niblit and Kián - a look of (what appeared to Kall to be, at least) mild disapproval on her face.
Senya eventually moved on, probably out of confusion. Kall shrugged, and turned back to Kián and Niblit.
"S-S-So," said Kall, "w-where w-were w-we?"
"Working out what flavour it was," responded Kián. He then reached out a finger to Kall's shoulderpad and took a sample of the jam which was covering her - and smelt it.
"Blackcurrant rot," he said.
"I d-don't know how you ate this stuff," said Kall to Niblit, "b-being covered in it is bad enough."
Afterwords Thank you all who took part in this project, it was one of the largest ones I ever made and has since grown to be the seminal lore of Gnome Crusade. It wouldn't have been possible without you guys and gals.