ASCII art reward/A-F
|ASCII Art Rewards (alphabetically by contributor)|
|A – F||G – L||M – S||T – Z|
 (03 March 2013)
“No dingo men or goblins allowed.”
The sign hung haphazardly across the tavern door. Samser took another puff on his pipe and spit. As a goblin, there wasn’t much in the way of opportunity in Steelguard Fortress, but it sure beat slaving in the mines of the demon lords. Haughty dwarves passed by him with hatred in their eyes. It was about time he was headed home.
Samser’s neighborhood was on the wrong side of the mine cart tracks. It was a place you wouldn’t show your face after the evening bell, at least if you didn’t want someone to rearrange it for you. Samser tapped the crundles on the head as he passed them by. A pair of jaguar women looked at him from a back alley. It was hard-living in the lower mines.
“Where have you been?” shouted Samser’s woman.
She was a hill dwarf from a fortress down the river. Hilga was her name, and she too had come to Steelguard looking for a future. She had three children from a previous marriage and Samser looked at them without sympathy, though they were clearly suffering. But though he had no heart to speak of, he knew something had to give.
Animal people now outnumbered all dwarves and goblins combined in the underclass. Samser thought it must be because the dwarves had chopped down most of their forests. The dwarves liked to think that none of this mattered. What was another food riot when the adamantine kept flowing?
“You need to find a job,” said Hilga. “Right now you are just another mouth to feed.”
Smirking, Samser thought it must have been half a year since he had had any solid food, but he could use a drink. Slamming the door, he followed the tracks down to the goblin bar. When he could get in, Samser preferred to drink with the dwarves. Down at Effie’s it seemed like there was a murder every other night.
Big Effie was a walking contradiction, a fat, jolly, good-natured goblin. That didn’t stop Effie’s establishment from being the most violent place this side of Steelguard. As Samser bellied up to the bar, he couldn’t help noticing a dwarf sitting by himself in the corner. Samser tried to back away, but it was too late. The dwarf noticed him.
“Do you know what time it is?” asked the dwarf.
“It is time for you to get out of this neighborhood,” said Samser.
“It is time,” said the dwarf, “for revolution.”
 (5 February 2009)
Fires burned at the edge of the vast grassland, holding back the darkness before the dwarf fortress. All night baleful howls could be heard on the plain, undead cows brought back to life by the evil wizard Maxelman. He had allowed the dwarves to live in his domain of evil, if they but bestowed on him one artifact a year. Nothing, however, could measure the greed of a dwarf. Nothing, that is, save his thirst for strong whiskey.
A dwarf stood atop the battlement, laughing drunkenly. "Get down Twan," whispered his fellow guardsman. "The night-wings will snatch you off the wall!" Twan threw his stein off the wall in defiance. Such was his vanity that he thought that they only need live through the night. Little did he know, the dawn would never come.
 (24 February 2009)
Twan held his helmet over his eyes and screamed. Fireballs smashed into the walls, shot from the gullets of a dozen dragons circling in the smoke-choked sky. Marksdwarves dove from the walls and smashed into the courtyard below. "Stand and fight!" shouted Captain Krandle. "Fear no devil!" Twan reached the courtyard just as the gate broken open wide. Pike-wielding goblins poured through the opening. Captain Krandle threw his great braided beard over his shoulder and called forth his squad of elite axe-lords, The Chosen.
Pike and axe clashed again and again as Twan crawled between the legs of the combatants. A head dropped onto the ground before him. It was the head of Captain Krandle. Twan pressed on. He would not be paralyzed with fear. It seemed that the power of Maxelman knew no bounds, but not even he could breach the inner mines. Dodging the deadly weapons, and slithering over the bodies, Twan made his way the center of the fortress.
A dark tunnel lay beyond the entrance to the keep. Twan danced down the corridor in the intricate steps that avoided the complex mass of triggers and tripwires that guarded the entrance. Inside were the mines, stocked with enough dwarven wine to keep them in the cups for ten years. Twan reflected for a moment on those above who had died. It wasn't important. He was alive, and would remain so, so long as he avoided the king and any quests he might have in store.
 (13 May 2009)
"That blasted wizard Maxelman," came a booming voice. "He shall not have my artifact staff!"
Curses, thought Twan from his hiding in the cellar, the king! The dwarf lord paced back and forth, followed by a pleading train of aristocrats, tears of rage streaming from his eyes. The staff, the cause of all the suffering the dwarves now endured, was only ten short steps away. In near berserker rage, the king threw the staff down, startling the nobles. Twan saw his chance. He shot between the nobles and snatched up the artifact.
"Scoundrel," roared the king, "unhand the magic staff!"
Twan leapt onto a keg, holding the staff high.
"Maxelman will burn this fortress to the ground to gain this staff," said the rude dwarf. "I will have this power for myself!"
The king growled, plucking the gold rings from his fingers. He hurled them at Twan, one striking the dwarf in the teeth. "Seize him!" shouted the besieged ruler. Twan jumped from barrel to barrel as the purple clad nobles chased him. As he ran from the cellar he heard king's cry, "Guards, guards!"
In the enemy camp, the vile wizard Maxelman puzzled over his battle plans. A dwarf fortress is always a hard nut to crack. One of his generals, a skeletal shade from the netherworld, summoned him from his tent. The wizard straightened his aching back, brushed his long black beard, and stepped to the door. There, standing between two fierce goblin guards, was Twan, holding the king's staff.
 (29 Aug 2009)
"You bring me the staff," said the evil sorcerer, "as a traitor to your people?"
The dwarven rogue took a step back and leveled the staff at his arch-nemesis.
"You will have the staff," said Twan. "Have it through your black shriveled heart!"
The dwarf pressed a secret button and a blade emerged from the end of the staff. The wizard called on his generals. The skeletal ghoul drew his saber and charged. Twan spun with expert skill and took out the phantom's knees, such was the power that the staff bestowed. Two more undead warlords entered the tent. Twan thrust the staff at Maxelman but a undead general threw himself in front of the blade, impaling himself and collapsed into dust.
The legless fiend below snatched Twan's ankles and pulled Twan to the floor. The staff spilled onto the ground. The dwarf felt his courage suddenly fading. The wizard snatched up the artifact and cried out with joy. The long campaign was finally at an end. The skeleton put its bony arm around Twan's neck and pulled him upright. The wizard noticed the dwarf and walked toward him, pointing the staff.
"Nice try, dwarf," said Maxelman. "Now feel the true power of the artifact staff!"
Twan caught the thrust between his palms. As the wizard snarled, Twan took the staff in one hand and with several quick motions, activated the secret switches along its length. The dwarf released the staff as saw blades swept out of the shaft and sliced off the wizard's hands. Twan jammed his helmet into the skull of the phantom general and smashed all the bones in its face.
The dwarf picked up the blood covered staff and chased the wizard from the tent. Dozens of goblins blocked his way, but he dispatched them with mighty slashes of his weapon. Just as he came within a spear's throw of his enemy, a huge dust cloud blocked his way. Wind blew down as a giant dragon landed before the dwarf. At last, thought Twan, a worthy opponent.
 (19th December, 2010)
In the frozen wastes far to the south, the dwarves toiled to construct a mighty fortress out of glacial ice. Beyond the frozen walls, at the edge of the snowy island, penguin men watched with fascination. At the center of the iceberg, an underwater volcano rooted the floating ice in place. It had not erupted in a hundred years, but the dwarves tested the mountain's patience with their constant digging. Arud the penguin man leaned toward his friend and whispered.
"I think these creatures may be more trouble than a pack of leopard seal," he said.
The wind blew harsh, clouding their view. A small man appeared through the blizzard. His beard was frozen and his skin was blue with cold. In his hand he held an iron pick. The penguin men looked at each other and clucked. The dwarf reached them, leaned on his pick and spoke.
"You must help us," he said.
 (20th February, 2011)
A red light shone from further up the iceberg. Seconds later the trio was rocked by a wave of hot gas. The penguins fell to their bellies and slid toward the relative safety of the sea. At the last minute, Arud turned to see the dwarf thrashing on the icy slope, his coat on fire. Arud turned and jumped to his feet, leaving his puzzled friend behind.
"Come friend," said the penguin man, slapping the flames from the dwarf's coat, "we must leave this island."
"You don't understand," said the dwarf. "This island was chosen. At the heart of the mountain is the Fire Star, a jewel so powerful it could turn night to day. Please, Forge Father, forgive our tampering. We sought to take it for our own and it became misaligned. Look there!"
A ray of light shot up from the volcano. Arud felt the heat on his face. The jewel's power caused clouds to burst into flame and burned its signature into the blue vault of the sky. The penguin man did not understand, but he knew he must act. He pulled the dwarf to his feet with his flipper and together they ran into the smoking ruin.
 (10th August, 2011)
The hanging bodies twitched against the wall of the evil castle. Thalfor had heard of the witch's power. That was why he allowed himself to be taken prisoner. The others around him looked far worse off. They trembled as they passed under the menacing gate. Everywhere were the sounds of screaming men. Behind, zombies with whips drove the crowd into the blood-soaked courtyard.
Before the prisoners, at the top window of the keep, stood Camestra the Wicked. One could say she may have been beautiful once, but now she was sickly and pale. Behind her stood a brawny zombie, tall and menacing.
"Now you shall all die," said the witch. "But one of you shall be my new body servant. Old Donus is beginning to give off a nasty odor."
The prisoners began to panic. Armed zombies closed in for kill. Thalfor reached to his inner thigh and pulled out a hidden blade. One by one he cut down the zombies. Camestra brought her hand to her mouth and Donus let out a low groan.
"No one will die today," said Thafor, "that hasn't died before."
 (July, 2014)
"It is in metal you trust," said Ustran, "not skill in martial arts."
"But master," said Kogan, "they must outnumber us five to one!"
"The goblins have no answer to our steel and adamantine," said Ustran. "The dwarven knights, though untested, will be unstoppable. It is inevitable."
Swallowing his fear, Kogan closed his eyes as the squires placed the helmet on his head and strapped on the last of his steel armor. At last, Ustran handed him an adamantine battle axe. It was new, an untested weapon for an untested knight. Kogan stepped out of the barracks and joined the other knights in the main hall of the dwarf fortress.
Slowly, the main drawbridge began to lower. Out beyond the moat, Kogan could see the forces arrayed against them. The goblins from the Apagan mountains were a battle-hardened bunch. They had sacked many villages in the past few months. They had even burned a fledgling dwarf fortress. If they were not stopped now, nowhere in the world would be safe. Kogan lowered his helmet's visor and stepped onto the bridge with the dwarven vanguard.
The adamantine axe sliced through the goblins like a hot knife through plump helmet roast. Arms, necks and heads were tossed into the clear air. Kogan laughed with the joy of the slaughter, his fear vanishing. Soon he found himself surrounded by enemies. He swung his axe in a circle, driving the enemy back. He was now cut off from the other dwarves, but he didn't care. He was unstoppable.
 Angry Licker
 (15th January, 2010)
The mad dwarf spun this way and that to confront his pursuers. He held a knife, given to him by his father on his first day at the carpentry shop. He could hear the sheriff shouting, the crowd closing in. Tears rolled down his face. It felt good that it was over, but all that was left was shame. Pike dwarves were filling into the room. Soon they would subdue him, and bring him to the hammerer, to be forged anew. He didn't really believe that. He doubted any dwarf did. When he went out, he wouldn't go out like a dwarf. He would die like an animal. A new fire glowed in his eyes. With a savage howl, the dwarf charged.
 (25 June 2007)
Zolon and Morul stood near the steel cage. The brown humanoid inside sat with its hands on its knees, rocking back and forth.
"Clearly, the kobold was molded from stone." Zolon stroked his black beard. He then glanced at Morul, raising an eyebrow.
"Not so fast... the yellow eyes glow. Fire was involved." Morul was a slow thinker, but he was not easily moved.
"Stagis! Bacabadabis!" The kobold began to screech in its low tongue. Zolon and Morul observed in silence until the creature quieted down.
"Was that the wind then?" Zolon asked.
"It seems the interplay of the elements is nuanced in this one, even if the final realization is... lacking."
Morul did not disdain the beast so much that he did not feed it, now that the trapper had entrusted it into his keeping. The philosopher had left a few pieces of old venison in the cage and the creature now lifted one and inspected it. After a few sniffs, the kobold pitched it through the steel bars. The dwarves watched as the meat spun through the air and landed a few yards from the cage. When they turned back around, the kobold was inches away from them, its face pressed against the bars.
"Augis," it moaned. "Augis!" Louder and louder it wailed.
Zolon and Morul covered their ears. "And this is a tempest?" Zolon said facetiously.
"Let's adjourn until the storm passes. Perhaps we can find a meal the thing will accept." Morul turned and walked down a nearby corridor, toward the kitchen. Zolon followed close behind.
After they had left, the kobold stopped moaning and sat back on its haunches. Opening its small clawed fingers, the creature smiled. On its palm rested an iron key.
 (30 December 2007)
Goblins in tattered rags pulled the chains with speed as the whips cracked. Slowly the gate rose revealing a grotesque creature bent on destruction. Its three eyes bounced on their stalks as the monster pulled itself forward on two huge, muscular arms. It came to a sudden halt as Ameltoss the wizard stepped into its path. Though he had raised it from a stinking poisonous egg, the wizard knew not whether he still commanded the beast. This was the final test. He raised his staff and commanded the monster to return to its lair. The creature's lips peeled back to reveal ten rows of razor sharp teeth. Ameltoss swallowed hard and shouted his command once more. Now was the moment of truth.
 (13 April 2009)
The dwarf Frankle ran through the corridors, chasing after the many cats that infested the fortress. He stopped when the alarm was sounded. The captain of the guard shouted orders. The dwarves rushed to their stations. Frankle, a reserve marks-dwarf, grabbed up a crossbow from the arsenal and trotted up the stairs to man the battlements. When he reached the top he saw the other marks-dwarves standing, shocked by what they saw. Taking a deep breath, he looked over the side.
At the fortress gate stood an enormous monster, dragging itself upon its vicious, clawed arms. Goblins stood around it, jeering, and hurling curses. A feeling of terror gripped Frankle's chest. In all his years in the service he had never fired his bow in anger, but no bolt could take this beast down. The captain put a hand on Frankle's shoulder. Below, a robed man stepped out before the creature. A fresh scar transected his missing left eye. It was the evil wizard Ameltoss.
"Lay down your weapons and accept a swift death," shouted the wizard. A bolt thudded down between his feet. "Somehow I thought you'd refuse. Release the beast!"
A troll stepped forward wielding a huge axe. With several violent chops, the chain binding the monster's wrist was broken. The creature surged forward. Frankle screamed in fright and fired his crossbow. His bolt, along with a dozen others, bounced harmlessly from the creatures hide. As the monster beat down the gate. It seemed their was no hope. That was when champion dwarf Rokwan emerged from the keep within the castle.
 (10 April 2010)
The sickening thud of club and bone echoed through the cavern as the dwarf explorers were set upon by a troop of trogs. Expedition leader Fidon showed his prowess, wielding his axe like a true champion, hewing through flesh and sinew. The creatures of the underworld could never be allowed to win. The dwarves rested, the enemies vanquished. The only casualty was Fidon’s boot, ruined where a trog had gnawed through. The dwarves laughed, then became silent when a growl could be heard deep within the cave.
 (04 March 2012)
Torchlight reflected in the creature's eyes, looming high above the ground. The beak scraped as it opened and closed. The great tongue probed, waiting for the next morsel. The dwarves stood still, standing their ground, but this was of no use. This was a predatory attack. Fidon knew their only chance was to fight back vigorously.
“Fire!” cried Fidon. “Lay it in there!”
The bolts bounced harmlessly off the violet feathers. The beak came down and plucked up a marksdwarf. It flipped the dwarf into the air and opened its throat wide, swallowing the victim whole. Fidon lost hold of his dwarves and they fled. The monster saw the little things run and was compelled to chase, driven by its killer instinct.
Fidon had stood his ground, but it was all over. The creature was gone, and so were his friends. He looked back in the direction of the fortress. He couldn’t return there now. He lifted his crossbow off the ground and slung it over his shoulder. He would win back his honor.
 (01 January 2014)
Time as a cycle of night and day is meaningless in the caverns of eternal darkness. Civilizations such as the dwarves dare to dip their toes into the land of perpetual night. The dwarven mine shafts break through the rocky ceiling and shatter the only barrier between the underworld and a place where it makes sense not to be afraid at all times.
Trotting as fast as his short legs could carry him, Fidon followed the tracks of the jabberer. The prehistoric monster was a throwback to a time when the underworld was full of horrors. The dwarves like to think they had tamed the world below, but the truth was there was no end to the terrors of the dark. How many more there were did not matter to Fidon. His business was with the jabberer before him.
“Squawk your last,” shouted Fidon, stepping out from behind a giant mushroom. “For tonight you die.”
 (11 June 2014)
The jabberer was taken completely by surprise. A bolt from Fidon's bow passed through its ribcage and lodged in its lung. The beast flared its feathers in a grotesque display. It no longer viewed Fidon as its prey, but instead as another male invading its territory and challenging its right to mate with other giant underground birds. Its confusion was enough to give Fidon the upper hand. He dropped the monster with a shot between the eyes.
"I'm coming, boys!" shouted Fidon.
The dwarf hero used his battle axe to tear open the dead monster's belly. Out fell three of Fidon's companions that the creature had swallowed whole. They were very grateful to be alive. Now, instead of being the monster's dinner, the dwarves dined on jabberer that night. One of the craftier dwarves fashioned Fidon a headdress out of the monster's feathers.
"Master," said Atrak, "when will we return the dwarf fortress?"
"That monster came from the Underworld," said Fidon. "We must find the portal to the world of eternal night and close it forever."
 (03 August 2007)
"You've come, Kogan. The Lordaxe. It is said you have a mighty constitution, but can you hold your own at my table?" The demon slammed the great flagon down on to the center of the table. A few dark drops splattered on the stone and smouldered.
"I can take whatever you offer, fiend, and I'll count you a poor host if that brew there on the table doesn't move me half as much as the whiskey of my homeland."
"Ah, your homeland. It will make a fine gateway to the Underworld someday."
"I wish I could say the dwarves would enjoy making a mine of this palace, but alas, your halls reek of filth. It would be difficult to persuade them."
"Less talk, more drink. You call yourself a dwarf?"
Without another word, Kogan seized the flagon with his scarred fist. He could feel the infernal heat emanating from the brew, and the smell was appalling. Even so, he hefted the drink to his open mouth and downed it completely, setting the empty flagon on the table in triumph.
 (22 December 2008)
Sweat glistened on the hairy dwarf's body as he wrestled the dark lord Slandar. Above them lay the steel orifice holding back the sea of lava that was the last defense against the evil army, if only a dwarf could pull the lever. The dwarf held the evil general's arm in both hands as the fiend tried to drive his dagger through the hero's heart.
"Slandar," asked the dwarf, "when did you become so hot-headed?"
The dwarf let go of the villain's arm and pulled the lever. As the fiend drove his blade through the laughing dwarf's heart, the gates opened above and a torrent of lava fell from the ceiling, incinerating them both in a cloud of steam.
 (27 March 2014)
Outside the dwarf fortress, life was cheap. Petty warlords squabbled over acres of dirt where peasants slaved away with no promise for the future. Once in a great while the dwarves would sally forth to bring order to the chaos. It was times like these when heroism was called for. Those that answered the call were mightier than the rest.
"Where do you hail from, hero dwarf?" asked the dwarven king.
"I have come far," said Ulrich, "from deep under the mountain."
"Danger comes from above," said the king. "How long has in been since you have seen the light of day?"
"I do not recall," said Ulrich. "But I can tell you, there is no ball of light that can stand between me and glory."
Latter that day, the gates opened, flooding the entrance of the fortress with light. If it had any effect on Ulrich, he did not show it. He had been tasked with killing a family of ogres that had moved onto the caravan track. He waited until the dwarves shut the gate behind him and vomited.
 (07 January 2008)
The mighty barbarian clenched his teeth as he snapped the arrow protruding from his chest. He laughed as he bounded through the brush after the cowardly ambusher. Just another scar among many, proving his manhood like all the rest. The foolish goblin archer tried to scale a tree to lose him. Smiling with anticipation of the kill, the barbarian took a throwing axe from his belt and hurled it at his enemy. The blade struck the goblin in the helmet, splitting it in two. As the stunned goblin sank to the base of the tree, the barbarian approached him, grabbing him by the throat.
"Well, my friend," said the barbarian. "It looks as if this game has come to an end."
 (6 January 2011)
The adventurers made their way into the hive. Long had the bee women tormented the people of Bodarga. Bram would put an end to this nonsense. The adventurers entered the huge structure through a large hexagonal door. The tunnel turned and twisted at strange angles. Everywhere was the ever-present buzzing of the enemy. Suddenly a bee woman appeared, wielding a stinger spear. Bram let out a warrior cry and charged at her, brandishing a sword. Suddenly his feet sank into the floor. A honey trap!
 (25 October 2009)
Mighty knight Dron looked on his companions with a measuring stare. To his right was Glome, a marksdwarf most renowned, cleaning his weapon, a blindfold across his eyes. Across from him stood the elven warrior princess and summoner of animals, Tigotha. At his left was Alvin, his squire. These chosen few were destined to quest across the land in search of the evil wizard Zandore.
"The vile villain is not far off now," said Dron. "I can smell his evil magic."
"It could be another one of his tricks," said Tigotha. "It wouldn't be the first time you were fooled."
"Put me anywhere up to league away from evil wizard Zandore," said marksdwarf Glome, "and the war will be over." The dwarf pulled the trigger and his crossbow snapped with sudden force.
"Master," cried Alvin, "I see something!"
 (09 January 2013)
It was a tiny speck on the horizon Dron could barely make out.
“Tell me Glome,” said the hero, “what do you see with your marks-dwarf’s eyes?”
“Two riders are approaching, maybe more,” said the dwarf.
“I will call on a great seagull,” said Tigotha, “that it might peck out their eyes.”
Alvin flinched. He didn’t like it when she talked that way. Was her violence really any better than the schemes of the evil one? He could almost see the horsemen now. They wore dark clothing and bore the standard of Zandore.
“Take them out,” said Dron.
Tigotha called on the forces of nature as Glome took aim. Alvin jumped as a shadow passed overhead. It was the giant seagull, just as the dread princess promised. The riders wheeled their steeds around and drew their weapons of shining adamantine. The seagull dove at them but they fought it back. Dron looked to his sniper.
“Glome,” said Dron, “why aren’t those villains dead?”
“They are dwarves, master,” said Glome. “I cannot fire on my brothers.”
“Enough,” shouted Dron. “Alvin, my spear!”
Taking to his great black stallion, Dron took up his weapon and charged across the field to meet the dwarves in combat.
 (25 December 2011)
Context: I've asked for a story about the ring i gave to my girlfriend. This ring was designed with the help of DF's community and had engraved symbols narrating our story, in a dwarven style.
The great warrior looked over what the dwarves had constructed. It was modest, sure, but without a doubt a home built for a true hero. The foundation was as sturdy as the root of a mountain. Its walls and roof shed all elements like shields in the heat of battle. The man smiled and looked down at the ring in his palm. It was inscribed with runes dedicated to this very day.
"Chobeat," said the girl, "can I open my eyes yet?"
Slowly, Chobeat stepped to his woman and took her hand. He slid the ring on her finger and kissed her hand. She opened her eyes and blushed, startled by the beauty of the ring.
"It is beautiful," she said.
Sadly, she wasn't the only one to see the sparkly thing. High above, Ethbesh the roc circled. Since the dawn of time, the evil bird had haunted the valley below from her nest high in the mountain. Hate and jealously drove the monster to new acts of cruelty.
Just as Chobeat was about to carry his woman across the threshold of his new dwarven house, a shadow fell upon him. With one mighty rush of talon and wing, his wife was gone. Chobeat cried out and drew his sword. It was too late.
Then he saw something glowing on the ground. The ring! He picked it up and looked at the strange pictograms. It had dwarf magic. Maybe he could yet find her. He slid the ring onto his little finger. Suddenly he heard voices all around him.
"You can hear me," said a voice from behind.
Chobeat turned around to see a smiling cat.
"I can help you get her back," said the creature. "My name is Tao."
 (26 December 2011)
Tsmuaka lifted his head from over the anvil and ran a hand over his bald green head. He looked back at the dwarf woman standing behind him, then cast his gaze around at the many dwarf miners trying to ignore him. They all want her, thought Tsmuaka, but I will be dog meat before they lay a stubby finger on her.
The goblin had been a weapon-smith in the dwarf fortress longer than anyone could remember. The dwarves tolerated his grumpy, vindictive ways because he created the finest swords in Allsphere. But when he married Oril, things changed.
The king had to pardon Tsmuaka for two murders within the first year. Why would a dwarf dare tangle with the woman of the hardest goblin alive? You just had to lay eyes on Oril. Her beauty had blinded man, elf, and animal person. It was so bad that the dwarves looked on Tsmuaka with fear and pity.
"They say Oril with be at the dance tonight," said Aliz
"What about Tsmuaka?" asked Sudir.
"Forget that old goblin," said Aliz.
 (31 August 2014)
The volcanic island of Euecana was home to the last dwarven expedition from the mountain homes. Giant beasts and goblin armies had destroyed everything else. Still, the dwarves of Euecana depended on shipments of fruit from the mainland. The chaos seemed to subside in the outside world, and fleets of traders arrived every spring and autumn. That was until the bad times. Until now.
"Sea monster!" shouted a dwarf from the look-out tower.
The dwarves in the sea-side fortress watched in horror as the tentacles rose up from the water and grappled the wooden trading vessel. It was only a matter of minutes before it was broken up and dragged underwater. It was a horror that was repeated time and time again until no one dared sail toward Euecana again.
"What do you have there?" asked Balis.
"It's a message in a bottle," said Alcor. "It bears the seal of the dwarven king of Euecana."
"That cursed place?" said Balis. "Throw it back in the water."
"The dwarves promise the hero his weight in gold if he can slay the monster," said Alcor.
"You are too skinny to make the venture worth it," said Balis.
"I will slay the monster," said Alcor. "You will see! And I will be worshiped as a hero!"
 (22 June 2009)
Torin felt the prick of blade in his spine. It was his curse to guard the gate to the lower reaches. He had been chosen because of his great size. The dwarf's expansive belly was enough to block the portal by itself. You were wrong, thought Torin. Someone braver must protect us, not a fat waste of flesh like me. Sharp claws reached out from the gate and pulled the heavy dwarf back inside. With a whimper, Torin disappeared into the darkness.
"Where is that ogre of a dwarf?" asked Malak the guards-dwarf. "Captain, Torin's late again!"
The captain set his shiny metal cap forward on his head as he descended the stairs. Another day begins in the fortress, and with it, another failure in discipline. The captain brought his rod down onto the table where Malak had been munching on a chicken leg. "See to it, dwarf!" shouted the captain. "Are you a member of the castle guard, or aren't you?"
Malak descended the stairs to the dungeon, axe in hand. It wasn't like Torin to miss a meal. Below, in the darkness, were a dozen shining red eyes. Goblins! The guard knocked a flying blade out of the air with the hilt of his weapon. He reached for his whistle, but before he could put it to his lips, they were on him, clawing, biting, evil!
 (25 April 2012)
Lightning bolts struck all around the black pyramid. Atop stood dread queen Cirne, preparing for another dwarf sacrifice. The trolls shrugged as the captive dwarf struggled. Dragged kicking and screaming toward the sacrificial slab, he could see the entrails where Cirne had been trying to divine the secrets of life and death. Seeing his only chance, the dwarf made a desperate gamble.
"I know where you can find the secrets you seek," said the dwarf.
Cirne snarled, baring four long canine teeth.
"What is your name, wise ass?" growled the queen.
"I am Kastol," said the dwarf. "Blacksmith, fourth class."
"Then by all means lead on, Blacksmith Kastol," said the queen. "For you will be richly rewarded."
Dwarf fortress Snowsmear was little more than a tower library in the icy wastes. Other than the occasional blizzard man attack, nothing ever happened there. It was just a place to store books. But these were dangerous books, not to be opened except by those willing to risk their very souls.
It was there that old Aliz worked with his novice Ibruk. Aliz had just dozed off when he heard someone stomping down the stairs. He awoke to see Ibruk standing there, snow all over his boots. Aliz made ready to scold him when the young dwarf spoke.
"An army of trolls is coming," he said. "They bear the standard of Cirne the Evil."
 (17 September 2010)
Fires burned in the heart of the mountain as the demon god Yaknor called for the death of the entire dwarf race. Legions of goblins poured up through the cracks of the earth. It was bad news for the dwarves on guard duty that night, destroyed by a thunder of a hundred creatures of the night. Those remaining fought with passion. Sword and axe clashed again and again as the forces of good and evil danced Death's dance. True heroism would be awoken that day, a shaft of light into the heart of darkness.
 (14 September 2008)
Surrounded by a troll on one side and an ogre on the other, dwarf master Alrin knew these could be the last seconds of his life. As he gripped the handle of his axe he recalled the teachings of Azrom, god of war. Matters of great importance should be given the slightest thought. It was only the minor matters that must be given the most delicate care. So, without conscious thought, Alrin slammed his axe handle into the ogre's toe. Swiftly, the dwarf ran between the monster's legs and delivered a swift kick to its backside. As the ogre toppled over, the hairy troll launched over the fallen monster and leaped toward Alrin. As time slowed in an adrenalin rush, Alrin readied his axe.
 (28 July 2008)
The master thief leapt from the tower, the royal jewels still in his hands. The pursuing guard ran to the side to watch in wonder as the burglar plunged to his death. But lo, a giant hawk flew down and plucked him out of the sky. The aging king stormed out onto the roof of the tower, still in his bed clothes.
"Curse you Faltrix!" screamed the king as the bird flew toward the horizon.
The rogue had known the hawk since it was a hatchling. It was then he had pulled an arrow from its wing. Thus began the most famous partnership of the age. The hawk rider and his steed were known throughout the land as heroes of the people, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
A dark cloud rose on the horizon. The smile fell from Faltrix's lips as the evil creatures sprung their ambush. Bat men! How had these creatures strayed so far from the mountains? The evil beings rode giant bats and shot poison darts from their blow guns. Faltrix commanded his mount to dive low. Perhaps he could lose them in the trees of the forest below.
 (28 September 2008)
Down, down into the forest canopy they flew. Faltrix's heart raced as they wove through the trees, the bat men close behind. Just when he thought he lost them, the hawk called out with a piercing cry. A net of vines dropped from the treetops above, fouling the bird's wings. They crashed to the forest floor with a thud and slid forward in the dirt. Faltrix drew his sword and cut through the web. High-pitched cackling echoed from above. Kobolds! The rogue set about cutting his avian steed free, but the hawk did not stir from unconsciousness.
"Agron!" screamed Faltrix. "Agron!"
Black shadows dropped from vines above. The kobolds drew their jagged blades. As they surrounded him the batmen caught up just it time to finish him off. A dozen poison darts landed at his feet. Why didn't they kill him?
"Agron," said the rogue, "if we get out of this, you can eat all the giant rats you want."
The kobolds parted to reveal a short wizard in a glowing red robe, a long hood covering his face. Faltrix lowered his blade as the menacing figure approached. The wizard threw back his hood to reveal the face of an evil dwarf. Faltrix threw the stolen Eye of Atheria at his feet.
"Take the jewel," said Faltrix, "just let Agron live."
"Touching," said the dwarf, "but fear not, I will have need of the rider and his hawk to complete the ultimate quest."
"Quest?" asked Faltrix.
 (8 February 2009)
Dwarves howled as the gladiators fought and bled. They were men and goblins, imprisoned since the great siege. Now, with the promise of freedom, they fought. Hanson knew the goblins could not be trusted, but he had included them in an escape plan with his fellow humans out of necessity. The dwarves had been foolish to wait so long to condemn them. It had allowed them to organize.
Once out onto the sand, the gladiators fell in behind Hanson. The dwarves grew quiet. The Baron stepped to edge of his platform. "What is the meaning of this?" cried the dwarven noble. Hanson took his trident up and ran toward the platform, hurling the weapon with all his might.
 (16 February 2014)
It was rumored that the city of Assura was built on top of an ancient dwarf fortress. The barbarians that lived there were not interested in the marvels beneath their feet. The treasures had been looted long ago. All that was left were walls covered with strange pictures and carved runes. The only people interested in that kind of thing were Dulchari wizards, and King Banatar had outlawed wizardry years ago.
"Tell me again," said young Thirby. "How do wizards work magic?"
"It is all song and dance," said Banesa. "You must merely learn the steps, the lyrics, and the tune."
As the pair passed under the city archway they felt the cold stares of the Akkarites. King Banatar had built an empire on superstition and the hatred of all things magical. It seemed unfair to Thirby that the Akkarite capital of Assura was built on top of the greatest reservoir of magical knowledge ever collected.
A strange woman in an orange robe nodded to Banesa and a group of priests appeared and hustled her and Thirby off the street. They moved from alley to alley, avoiding the patrols of Akkarite knights. All of this did little to ease Thirby's mind. He didn't trust the priests of Cenaster any more than Banatar's knights, but he had total faith in his master.
"Fear not," said Banesa. "The secrets of the dwarves will soon be ours."
The temple of Cenaster was built across the street from a neglected graveyard. Thirby couldn't help from feeling his doubts return. The priestess performed the secret knock and the wizards were allowed inside. Waiting for them was the high priest.
"Not since the Great Disaster have the signs be so apparent," said the old man. "The old gods shall return and set the world on the right course at last."
"To cast the Spell of Summoning," said Banesa, "one must read from the dwarven tablet. I alone can do this."
"Name your price," said the priest.
"You must take us to the library," said Banesa.
 (18 June 2014)
You and I have lived through the hard times. Back then the world was in chaos and no one really expected to live very long. It was then that the dwarves of Dulchari drove the forces of darkness back underground and sealed them away with stakes of adamantine. None of the young men and women who rule the city states of the Slusian Plains remember how great the threat was to the human race. It is only old dwarves like you and I that can recall the black days before the council delivered us from evil.
Then, as now, the dwarf fortress of Etwersbrot was the most impressive building still standing. The spires and domes of the fortress city could be seen from leagues away. The chambers and halls extended deep into the mountain from which the fortress was carved. Greatest of this halls was the the council chamber. Here sat the dwarven wizards of the Dulchari Council.
"Great Magoveer," said the dwarven page. "The emissaries from the barbarian provinces have arrived."
"Show them inside," said Magoveer.
The fighters from Kivik were still in awe of all the dwarves had created. As they entered the council chamber their jaws hung open in disbelief. Just one of the golden statues lining the entryway would have paid a king's randoms in Slusia. The thrones the council dwarves sat upon were also made of gold, and they towered over the poor, frightened diplomats.
"Why have you come here?" asked Magoveer, brushing aside his long dwarven mustache.
"There is a great evil in the marshland of Kivik," shouted a brave woman of the plains. "It is not of this world. Many think it is a remnant of the Time Before."
"You have proof of this wild claim?"
The bearers brought forth what looked like a great birdcage covered with a brightly colored tarp. The dwarves of the council leaned forward on their thrones with interest. With a dramatic flare, the woman took hold of the tarp and pulled it away. Inside the cage was a large swamp rodent, a capybara.
"Behold," said the woman. "Here lies Lord Bulra of Kivik!"
 (13 Augustus 2008)
Malgar, warrior dwarf woman, fought on against the onslaught of kobolds, her newborn baby still strapped to her back. She lifted her shield to block another volley of poison darts. She had been hunting, far from the entrance of the fortress, when she stumbled upon the skulking trash, no doubt planning a cowardly raid on the fortress vault. She had to warn the others. With one hand she held the bugle to her lips, while with the other she parried another deadly strike.
 (11 August 2011)
"This is it," said Thash. "This is where it happened."
The other dwarves looked around the cavern. They had followed an ancient map through the bowels of the earth, crisscrossing through leagues of twisting tunnels. They had fought crundles, run from jabberers, and followed ridiculous advice from well-meaning gorlaks. All for this. All to reach this point.
"That's it?" asked Aliz. "That sword sticking in the floor is all that's holding back the tentacled ones?"
"Yes," said Thash, "and that is why we must protect it."
Somewhere above there was a chittering sound.
"Ant men!" cried Aliz.
 (3 March 2011)
Lightning bolts rained down from the sky as the storm god Domin released his fury upon the world. Hardest it fell on the dwarf fortress, but no meteor, no matter how powerful, could keep the little ones down. King Ibruk stood upon the wall of the dwarven castle, drunk, daring the sky god to strike him down. The other dwarves cowered behind the battlements, none brave enough to pull the king down.
"Lord Ibruk," shouted a voice from lower in the courtyard, "throw not your life away."
 (17 February 2014)
"Who goes there?" shouted Ibruk.
The wind cleared the clouds of dust from the battered courtyard. Standing there were a trio of brave looking heroes. The elf looked tough, and so did the woman wearing furs of the south people, but most impressive was the dwarf. He was tall for one of his kind, a full span taller than the king at least. He took two steps forward and stared the king in the face, showing no deference to the royal blood.
"The sky god has no interest in taking your life," said the dwarf champion. "Nor does he seek to pound your fortress into rubble. He merely seeks the stolen egg you foolishly bought from the goblins."
"The egg?" asked the king. "What is your name, dwarf?"
"I am Kognar," said the hero, "servant of the sacred forge."
"You are brave indeed to point out folly in your king," said Ibruk. "I will take you to what you seek."
The meteor storm seemed to lessen slightly as the king showed Kognar inside. The elf and woman were forced to wait outside as only dwarves were allowed in the fortress proper. The king led Kognar through a series of winding passages until they reached a small room with a hole in the floor. Heavy breathing could be heard below as if some great monster was kept there.
"The egg hatched the night after it was brought here," said the king to Kognar. "It has devoured every dwarf that has challenged it."
 (18 March 2014)
"If Domon wants a sacrifice to end the fire storm," said Ibruk, "you seem as good a candidate as any."
With the crank of a hidden lever, the floor fell away from beneath Kognar's feet. Hitting the stone floor hard, the hero managed to roll and recover before the monster could strike. The monster's lair was filled with skeletons and rotting dwarven meat. The creature seemed to have become the king's favorite pet.
"Come and get him, Beaky!" cried King Ibruk.
The monster did resemble an enormous, featherless bird. It was twice the size of the jabberers Kognar knew from the caverns back home. The hero had a soft spot in his heart for animal life, but this monster had developed a taste for dwarven flesh. It had to be put down, and that was something Kognar could not forgive the mad king.
The giant jabberer moved its head from side to side, judging the distance to strike. Kognar took the time to draw his secret knife. When the attack came, it was sudden and vicious. The bird monster meant to snap Kognar in half with its razor-like beak. It was a split second too late. The hero ducked under the striking head and slashed the creature's throat.
The gurgling bellow of the dying bird mingled with the king's scream of denial. Kognar climbed on top of the twitching monster corpse and jumped up, grasping the lip of the pit. The king called for the guards, but there was only silence. The fire storm had ceased. Even the gods knew it was over. King Ibruk had to pay.
 (21 July 2014)
The elf and woman joined Kognar and Ibruk in the main feast hall. Not only had the heroes stopped the firestorm, but they had also slain the king's monster. It was clear and obvious that the king must be punished. It was also clear if the king was to be punished he could not be the god-king that he claimed. Before Ibruk was dragged before the crowd, his high priests had already been executed.
"King Ibruk," said the mysterious woman, "you have stolen Domon's pet and caused its death."
"I didn't kill it!" shouted Ibruk. "Your champion did!"
"What did you say?" asked the elf. "Would you mind repeating that?"
The king was so angry with the presumptuous elf that all that came out of his mouth was a loud chirp. He tried to speak again, but his teeth and jaw were changing. He lifted is hand and felt the new beak that had grown in place of a mouth. The elf and woman laughed as the king fled out of the room. Kognar addressed the crowd.
"King Ibruk has been punished for insulting the gods," said Kognar, "I will take his place at the throne until a new leader can be chosen."
Most of the dwarves thought this was reasonable, though there were some that thought it was an abomination to allow an elf to curse their king. Chief among the king's defenders was Administrator Sciok, an evil and scheming dwarf. In the days that followed, Sciok's representatives made the rounds assuring Sciok's coronation.
"You had better take your magic friends out of the fortress," said Sciok to Kognar, "for when I am king, this time tomorrow, they will be enemies of the state."
 (17 August 2007)
Doran rolled the gray-green schist around slowly in his fingers, examining it closely. A deep red almandine garnet stared back at him from one side of the stone. Truly a fine specimen, he thought. Perhaps this mine isn't a total loss.
The dwarf stood, brushing the dust from his trousers. Now was as good a time as any for some whiskey. Upon turning to the south corridor, he found himself face to face with a sleek velvet figure, terrible and beautiful. A pantherman, here in the mines?! The dwarf stood completely still. The creature could kill him at will. Doran's only hope was that it did not wish to eat him. Its yellow hunter's eyes gazed into his, unblinking, betraying no intention. The finely toned muscles of its body rippled as it positioned itself. To pounce? To bound away? Doran was at the mercy of the beast.
 (23 November 2008)
The only sound that the wizard heard was the breathing of the beast. The trees of the forest rushed by as the giant tiger bounded over rock and branch, the wizard clinging to its back. Muscles rippled through the great cat's shoulders as they thundered on. Soon they would reach the place of magic, the home of the forest spirit. The wizard leapt from the creatures back and turned, throwing his staff. The tiger stretched back onto its hind legs and caught the staff in its claw, now the shape of a hand. The creature snarled and spoke in an animal language few, save the wizard, understood.
"Alavaster," it said, "we near the sacred grove. Know that is swarming with treacherous elves. We must use caution."
The wizard looked down at the thick hair bristling on the back on his hand. Nothing save the spring of the forest spirit could cure his lycanthropy. No elf would stand in his way. Together, the companions walked along the natural path, carved by a hundred animals seeking an audience with the spirit. The tiger's tail began to wag from side to side. "Do you smell them?" it said.
The wizard took a deep breath through his wolf's muzzle. There was the odor of the enemy, those who would bar him from his only chance to return to human form. Elves. Shadows across the trail. They came on, one after another in a single file line. Their animal instincts proved true. The lead elf stopped when he saw the creatures. Alavaster and the tiger stood firm.
"Animal people!" cried the elf. "Shoot them down!"
 (21 July 2014)
You and I remember that fateful day, when the planets were aligned. Every dwarf fortress lit the torches to welcome the new world that would follow the passing of Earth. Everyone seemed to think the end would be quick and painless. We remember the time that came after as the Apocalypse.
Our heroes have just now begun to slay the last of the monsters born during that horrid time. Bram was chief of these great men and women. It was said that he ripped the throat out of a dragon with his bare hands. Others remember him with more kindness.
"You must stay here," said Bram, "the Garum is no place for a squire."
"But master," said squire Ketran, "the ettin has two heads! You need me to help you outsmart it."
The squire seemed to have a point, so Bram allowed him to join him as he traveled into the marshland. The pair of heroes looked out across the plain of reeds, wondering what kind of monsters could be hiding out there. The was only one monster than really mattered and that was the ettin.
The ettin was known to the people of the marsh as Death and Darkness, named after the monster's two heads. They were known to ambush caravans headed across the raised highway. Their home was the ruins of an ancient dwarf fortress set a ways off from the road. Bram and Ketran had just discovered the place, marked outside by a pile of skulls.
"Keep this rope tied to your waist," said Bram as the were about to pass into the pitch darkness. "Don't cry out, no matter what you see."
 (14 June 2007)
Doran shifted from foot to foot as he looked from side to side. Eventually the dwarf's head dropped and he clutched his beard, his wide eyes wild, staring at the dirt. They were everywhere.
"Cave weevils. Cave weevils on my crops. My pig tails, all of my pig tails are gone. But this season will be different, mark my words, by the Lordaxe it will." The dwarf pulled a bulky glove from his belt. The knuckles were studded with iron. Doran slid the glove over his hand, his mouth twisting into a cruel smile. The farmer's eyes grew dark.
One of the foot-long insects crawled in front of the dwarf, and he hammered it into the earth with his fist, smashing the weevil until it was well-ground. "Flat. I'll pound 'em all flat. We might not have cloth this year, but we'll have plenty of meal."
 Flying Olm
 (30th January, 2010)
The elf watched from above as the dwarves passed below. One by one, the saplings fell to the dwarven machetes. Let them come in a little further, he thought. The bush would close in behind them, sealing them in, away from their kins-dwarves. Then the forest would claim them, lost forever beneath the green of the treetops. The black panther woman drew back her teeth in a snarl. She turned her body on the high branch to address the elf.
"Master Elekain," it said, "we should kill them now and gnaw on their bones."
The elf felt the hunger in his teeth. His temples pulsed with rage. His eyes traced the dwarves' path back to the edge of the forest. A troop of warriors gathered there, bidding their country-dwarves farewell. Elekain drew his blade, a dagger of hardened wood, magically sharpened by the river pebbles of the Forest Spirit. He pricked his fingertip and let the blood fall.
The dwarf slapped his neck with a gauntlet and pulled it back to see a small smear of blood. He stepped out of line and scanned the treetops, pointing his pike. Grimacing, he trotted to the front of the column. Captain Dumple didn't like to be bothered with useless reports, but he had a feeling about this. He stepped up behind the head dwarf.
"Speak, Lt. Garndel."
Captain Dumple was twice as tall as the greatest dwarf warrior. It was rumored that he was sired by a man. His beard was dark and thick, his eyes fierce and flashing. He had seen a dozen battles and had come out without a scratch. He was a harsh master but was respected for he brought victory. Garndel swallowed his fear.
"Captain," said Garndel, "the elves are upon us."
 (3 July 2011)
A fierce dry wind blew up from the valley. Wandros and his dwarves lay behind cacti and sharpened their knives. After a time the goblin came. The dwarves were dead quiet as it passed them by, oblivious. As the creature moved toward the rocks, Wandros stood and beckoned his dwarves to follow.
The Valley of Gold was a real place. Wandros knew it was, and the goblin would show him where it was. Right, then left, then right again the goblin made its way around the canyon walls. There at last was the door. The goblin bent and walked inside, closing the door after him. Wandros took the doorknob in his hand.
"What's the password?" said a voice from inside.
 (14 July 2007)
"Tell me where the child is being taken and I'll let you live!" Kogan yelled down at the goblin, desperation marking his voice. Mul had shot this wretch in the leg, but the kidnapper had escaped. The goblin hanging by Kogan's hand over the chasm was just a bodyguard. The goblin smiled wickedly, taking delight in Kogan's distress. "Even now, your child is approaching the prison where he'll live out the next decade of his miserable life," it spat. "And then, well..." The fiend began to chuckle. "Where is the child?" Kogan asked with finality. The goblin closed its eyes and was silent. Kogan let the creature drop away into the darkness.
 (27 February 2008)
Dorol struggled against the coarse sackcloth. The darkness was total,and it smelled even more foul than his uncle's rotten-toothed whiskeybreath. He had been playing with his miniforge by the cave river when everything had gone black. Dorol had heard a commotion shortly after, followed by terrible undwarven screaming, but afterward just the soft footfalls of somebody running quickly along with the rustling of the sack. At once, whoever was carrying him stopped and let the sack drop hard on the ground. There was a rustling, and the sack opened. It was nighttime, and Dorol could see the face of his captor looking down at him. A goblin! The fiend pulled the cloth down far enough that Dorol's head stuck up out of the opening. The dwarf held tightly onto his toy, uncertain and afraid. "Here, eat this," the goblin said, holding out something. Dorol worked one of his hands out of the sack and took the offering. It wasa piece of spoiled meat, crawling with diseased larvae. The child dropped it on the ground by the sack. "Hey, that's good meat," the goblin complained, reaching down to pick it up. "The master gave it to me just for you." The goblin lowered its voice and mumbled. "I'd eat it, but he is always watching me, and he knows when I've been bad. "Now eat up," the goblin drew closer and pushed the meat into the dwarf's face. Like a true smith, the dwarven child struck, smashing the hammer of his miniforge into the goblin's eye! The goblin cringed, clutching his face. After a moment he shook his head and looked up at the sack, but the dwarf was nowhere to be seen. Filling with rage, driven by fear of his master's torments, the goblin shouted, "You can't run, you hairy snot! I'll hunt you, and I'll find you!" Snatching up the sack, the goblin ran off into the wilds.
 (31 October 2008)
The dwarves buried Administrator Zarhan face down, so that when evil spirits animated his soulless corpse, as surely they would, he would dig straight down into the Underworld and away from the land of the living. For a season after, the fortress was beset by a horrible howling that filled the corridors. The dwarves of the fortress were driven to near madness. Eventually the sounds faded.
It was not long after that a young engraver found a floor hatch, which had not been there the previous night. He opened the hatch and put his head through. Phantom arms grabbed him and pulled him inside.
"You fools didn't think I'd forget up from down did you?" hissed the ghost of Zarhan.
 (5 May 2008)
Merchant Prince Gramlin snorted while batting away acorn flies with his monkey hair swatter. 'Realm of Artifice,' ha! 'Dirt Fortress,' he named it. These pathetic dwarves scratched a hole in the earth and produced nothing but rock toys to offer the human caravans. The journey was long and the profits few. At last the trees cleared revealing a low hill with a single door, the trade platform lying before it. Gramlin looked around him. Not a dwarf was to be seen. They were probably sleeping off a night of unrestrained debauchery. He ordered his men to lay the goods onto the platform.
A sudden pain rocked the merchant. He looked down at his great gut and saw a crossbow bolt protruding from his chest. As he sank to the earth, he cursed. The dwarves had gone feral, maddened by their pathetic conditions. The caravan was routed and fled into the woods, leaving their precious cargo on the platform. The last thing Gramlin saw was the face of a mad dwarf, foaming at the mouth and snarling before it took his scalp.
 (20 February 2013)
Deep under the mountain, where magma pounded like blood through a rocky body, the crazed dwarf Malthis worked his dread craft. In a fortress the size of Ironside, no one really noticed when a nameless dwarf went missing. In fact, it seemed like the hill dwarves came and went like the breath of the forge. So who really cared when they disappeared?
“What is that?” asked Krang.
“I called it the Skullinator,” said Malthis.
The thing resembled a dwarf’s skull with the boney legs of a spider. Krang thought he could almost see the remains of flesh still sticking to the bone.
“What does it do?” asked Krang.
“Come closer,” said Malthis, “and I will show you.”
 (31 December 2013)
@oO( * * )
Invisible gears began to whir. The monster artifact reared back on its hind legs and took a step toward Krang, who stood still, paralyzed with fear. The skull stared, its jeweled eyes fixed to Krang's face, and began to speak. It was a dark and mysterious language of the past, but somehow Krang was able to understand.
“You must bring me the beating heart of Prince Hablock,” said the skull. “You have three days.”
Clearly shaken, Krang began muttering to himself. Malthis knew nothing of the mission. All he heard was the hum of machinery and the clicking of the ivory teeth. He questioned Krang briefly, but when it was clear there would be no answer, Malthis retrieved the dwarf's coat and showed him to the door.
The dwarf fortress was half a day's travel from Malthis's forge. That gave Krang two days to kidnap the prince in time to bring him back. Krang was on the move before he could think of a plan. It was hard to scheme when all he saw in his mind's eye were the dead jewel eyes of the Skullinator.
 (19 April 2013)
“All he keeps talking about is this Skull-o-tron,” said the castle guard.
“Skullinator!” cried Krang.
“Listen, friend,” said Prince Hablock. “I don't know what this Malthis fellow has against me, but I'm sure the Guard are more than a match for a mad blacksmith and his toys.”
It was true, the mission did seem impossible, especially after having failed with such a direct appeal. The guard took Krang by the shoulder and guided the desperate dwarf out of the audience chamber. Normally, Krang would have considered himself lucky to escape without being sent to the dungeon, but now he was on an evil quest. He immediately left the royal suites and made his way to the fortress tavern to clear his head and come up with another wicked plot.
“You want to kidnap who?” asked the barkeep.
“The prince,” hollered Krang, slurring his speech and seeing double. “I must deliver him to my master, the Skullinator.”
“I'd talk to Spernak if I were you,” said the barkeep. “He's snatched a princeling or two in his time.”
“Where can I find this wicked dwarf?” asked Krang.
“Spernak is no dwarf,” said the barkeep. “He is a goblin. You can find him across the mine cart tracks. He's probably shoveling beak-dog dung for a living.”
Krang slid off of his stool and made his way out the door. With only one day left to collect the prince, the goblin Spernak had better live up to his reputation. The mine cart tracks were quiet that time of day and Krang didn't have much trouble sneaking into the goblin neighborhood. The entire quest now depended on the skill of an unknown villain.