ASCII art reward/T-Z
|ASCII Art Rewards (alphabetically by contributor)|
|A – F||G – L||M – S||T – Z|
 (30 October 2015)
The battle was bloody and short. Kogan's dwarven cavalry had come under attack by a group of goblins riding on vicious beak-dogs. Kogan and his dwarves slew many of them, but they were hopelessly outnumbered. Kogan himself was tackled off the back of his mule by a leaping goblin commando. The villain held a dagger to Kogan's throat and the dwarven leader dropped his weapon.
“Where are you taking us?” asked Kogan.
“Shut up, dwarf scum,” said the goblin.
The dark tower was decorated with all sorts of works of art stolen from around the world. The villainous demon has taste, Kogan had to admit. Too few of his mule riders had survived. Still, they might be able to assassinate the evil leader given half the chance.
“Ah,” said a sinister voice, “the guests have arrived.”
Kogan and the remaining dwarves were shackled to a set of stone thrones and forced to watch as the demon danced its way into the room, shaking its limbs and many tails. Kogan was thoroughly revolted by the display as the demon came near. He had nearly worked his hand free of the shackles as the demon climbed on top of him.
“Are you ready to die?” asked the demon.
“You first,” growled Kogan.
 (4 November 2007)
The mighty warrior felt the power run through his arms as he held up his fallen enemy's sword. He laughed as the body beneath him oozed the last of its life into the dirt. It hadn't even been much of a challenge. It was as if the worthless cur just gave up his life for nothing. Now all he had to do was return the villain's sword to the king and claim the reward.
On his way back to the castle the warrior swung the sword around his head, singing cheerfully as he skipped along. A small quick hand darted from the branches above and snatched the sword from his grasp. The warrior yelled and searched the trees above for a glimpse of the thief. A pair of yellow eyes stared back at him. A kobold!
 (12 September 2014)
The trunks of giant redwood trees rushed by as the bird riders dove in and out of cover. Above the forest canopy, giant bats circled in the night's sky, whilst down below the goblin army of Darkmaster the Evil marched on, stopping every once in a while to take cover when the dwarven bird riders launched their javelins. It was clearly a suicide mission, but the bird riders were sworn to protect the dwarf fortress by any means, even if it involved riding the elves' preferred steed.
“I'm sorry master Aliz,” said Kogan, “your nuthatch refuses to perform today.”
“What is this nonsense?” cried Aliz. “Since when do dumb animals dictate how they should behave? I shall have the thing plucked!”
“Here, Sir Knight,” said Kogan. “Take my bushtit. He is battle-tested and ready.”
Mounting the giant brown bird, Aliz launched into the sky. He checked and double-checked his javelin holster to see how quickly he could draw the deadly missiles. It was a new moon that night, but it hardly mattered. Darkmaster's bat riders used echo-location to pick out their targets. The stars seemed shallow in the sky that night. Maybe Aliz would die soon, but if he did he would die a hero
 (17 October 2011)
"He's not worth it, Gatal," said the dwarf woman.
Gatal lowered his crossbow. The goblin looked pathetic and beat-up. All his fellow thugs were dead. Still, there was no reforming their kind. The best thanks he could hope for was a dagger between the ribs. He raised the sights of the crossbow to his eyes.
"No!" cried the goblin.
The bolt barely missed the goblin's ear. He scrambled up and ran into the woods. The dwarf woman took her hand off Gatal's crossbow.
"I told you he wasn't worth it," she said.
"And how do you know such things?" grumbled Gatal.
The dwarf woman snapped her fingers and it began to rain.
 (17 March 2012)
Those were the good times, only yesterday. Any child born this day would begin their life in an age of darkness. The dwarf fortresses were all shut, blocking out the evil that now flooded every city and hamlet. Sunlight itself was a thing of the past, for now black clouds crowded out the sky, raining blood on the helpless beings below.
"If only my child were like a seed, blessed Lenge," cried the desperate mother, "to plant in the ground, in order to spring up in a better day."
The baby grew silent. Tears pouring from her face, the girl carried her baby outside and set it beside a large stone. There she dug a pit and placed the child inside. With a quick prayer to Lenge, she began to fill in the earth.
Many years later, an elf girl found the old house deserted. Nothing stood but rubble and an odd stone in the ruined garden. The elf tried to read the odd script on the smooth rock.
"Here lies my son, Arkur," said the elf girl. "May Lenge protect him."
The earth began to shake and a giant leaf sprouted from the ground. It unfolded and revealed a young man, naked inside. The girl approached. As if bound by a spell, she touched his cheek. His eyes opened and he rose.
"There might still be time," he said.
Toady One and ThreeToe are continuously working on Dwarf Fortress since 4 years ago (well, when that was that written, in early 2007). On the same Idea, the Toad Preservation Society is trying to bring a very modest but continuous support. One result of this support is that ongoing series of art rewards. Slowly a story unfolds. Of course, the main target for the donation is not to get the reward, but to show the Bay12Games team that we love their project and value their effort. So let's consider each bit of that series as a nice present.
 (11 October 2006)
Deep in the fortress, a lava man springs an ambush on the treasurer, who is happily counting coins. Could this be the beginning of the end?!
--The Toad Preservation Society, 11 October 2006
 (12 November 2006)
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Hammered and burnt by molten fists, the treasurer collapsed. That will teach him to count coins near the magma flow. More lava men erupt from the magma as a fortress patrol enters the room, one of them the treasurer's wife. Fighting back tears, she screams in wild rage as the soldiers charge the beasts. Will vengeance prevail this terrible day?!
--The Toad Preservation Society, 12 November 2006
 (5 December 2006)
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Indeed, vengeance did prevail, though it was bought with the lives of soldiers. The Axedwarf Aloran, wife of the treasurer, grieves now over the charred body of her husband, her grief-stricken face shining red in the magma's light. Yet the lava men were only driven forth by rumors deep within the earth, ever rumbling now, ever approaching the lip of the glowing pit discovered by the miners not long after the bridging of the magma. The sound reached even the heart of the fortress, where Regukar the Mason has begun a mysterious construction. What fey mood has possessed Regukar?! Will Aloran's mourning be troubled by even greater dangers?!
--The Toad Preservation Society, 5 December 2006
 (10 January 2007)
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A great crash echoed down the inward passageway.
"More beasts deeper in the mines?" said Narol fearfully, a recruit, the only member of the patrol save Aloran to survive. His right arm was burned horribly and he now held his axe in his left hand, weakly.
"Tell the Baron that lava men have entered the mines. I'll remain here." Aloran unmoving eyes stared over the bridge toward the mines. There would be no discussion. Narol stumbled up the opposite passage to the workshops.
Regukar was in the lower mason's shop, gazing into his hands, his face aglow with the light shining upward from his palms. The Baron was there as well.
"What is this? Did I not commission an obsidian throne? Why was this workshop built so near the magma flow if I'm to be seated on granite for the rest of my days?" The Baron sounded annoyed, but he was also trying to stare over Regukar's shoulder to see the treasure. The Baron reached for Regukar's wrist, and the mason turned violently and spat in the Baron's face just as Narol careened into the chamber.
"The Stout Wheels have held the bridge, but lava men are in the mines! Many are dead... Aloran is guarding the mine entrance alone..." Narol collapsed, breathing heavily.
Narol was gone, but Aloran did not notice. "I will kill them all," she said, and she walked down the bridge into the mines, leaving the bodies of her husband and the recruits behind. As she descended into the mines, the magma's light faded and she was engulfed by the dimness in which she had spent most of her life. Yet ahead she discerned an eerie glow. The miners had located these pits not long ago as they hunted for hematite. The lava men must be using them, accessing the mines away from the magma flow, Aloran thought, though she did not dwell on it long. Soon her mind was focused again on death.
Suddenly the light was blotted out, followed by a shaking that almost knocked Aloran from her feet. "COAH! So long I have waited for my master... only to find this sweet hairy dumpling. It must be time for the Great Feast." Aloran could discern its corpulence through the darkness. A lardy bloated creature, like those that made raids from the river, yet more grotesque, covered with translucent boils -- and many times larger. The thing croaked, "I sense... COAH! You have lost someone recently... your husband. Worry not, little dumpling! You will be reunited in my innards when I am done feeding."
Aloran did not speak. She would not entertain the creature -- she would have it dead.
--The Toad Preservation Society, 10 January 2007
 (11 February 2007)
And it keeps going and growing !!
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Aloran hacked at the thing's wide belly with her battle axe. It lurched backward, avoiding the full force of the strike, and crashed into the cavern wall. Immediately, as if its lardy mass had bounced off the barrier, it leapt forward and knocked Aloran to the ground, pressing down on her shoulders with its great slimy hands. Its mouth opened, and a slick lolling tongue poured out like thick syrup and covered Aloran's face. It was going to swallow her whole! Unable to breathe, Aloran fumbled around in her boot and pulled out a small pointed hammer. Struggling to maintain consciousness, Aloran swung the hammer from her elbow. The point pierced one of the great creature's eyes, which popped and drained a viscous pus over the dwarf. The thing backed off of the warrior's body, its fat tongue dragging on the ground, leaving a broad swath of spittle. Aloran stood, breathing heavily, her axe secure in her right hand. She advanced on the retreating beast, her weapon lifted over her head. She wound further backward, then brought the axe blade around in a sweeping arc down on the bloated fiend's tongue, forking it.
Two more silhouettes appeared in the eerie glow above the beast's quivering form. As they approached, she could see they were gray and glistening, partially encased in shimmering pale shells, each walking on four stumpy legs. They look like cave oysters, Aloran thought. She raised her axe.
"Aloran!" Three recruits with swords rushed down the passageway. "The Baron sent for us. Are you all right?" Aloran did not turn to face them as the demonic oysters crawled over their bleeding companion.
"How dare you spit on me! You'll receive two hammerstrikes for this!" The Baron was livid. He had called for a peasant to notify reinforcements for the mines, of course, but now he was free to chastize Regukar. Narol was still only semi-conscious, resting on the floor.
"I created it! It is mine!" Regukar's eyes were glowing with a fierce light. He shifted his weight from foot to foot and held his arms close to his body, the light of his creation showing through his interlocked fingers.
"Nothing is yours! You used stone from the miners, the miners carved that stone out of the mountain, and the mountain belongs to me. Now hand the object over for inspection, and your past transgression might be forgiven." The Baron held out his hand.
Before the Baron could react, Regukar grabbed his chisel and brought it down into the Baron's forehead. The Baron crumpled, hitting the stone floor hard. Regukar chuckled and ambled off down the passageway toward the mines.
--The Toad Preservation Society, 11 February 2007
 (13 March 2007)
Even if Toady is now deep into its work and the malor works on maps/moving armies, he took time adding a new part to these now ongoing story...
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Aloran, still winded, faced the two oyster demons. The recruits stood by her side in a line blocking off the passageway. The beasts slid down the toad's massive body, landing before it with a splatter. The fiends moved slowly, but they had almost reached the dwarves.
Two of the recruits, Roal and Daron, cousins who had just began sparring two weeks ago, lifted their swords and assailed the creatures. Roal brought his weapon down hard on the shell of one of the beasts, but it was deflected. From the space between the shell plates, a massive slimy appendage burst forth, ringing Roal and dragging him inside. His lower body dangled from the creature. Daron grabbed his legs and pulled, but Roal would not budge. The other oyster demon raised up on its back legs and came crashing down on Daron. The dwarf's head slammed hard against the passage way and he went unconscious. Roal's legs twitched as the second demon turned back to the remaining warriors.
Aloran had regained her breath and charged with the other recruit, Nlan, a dwarf from the north burrow. The recruit stabbed at the demon's body, sinking his sword deep into its flesh, while Aloran aimed low and hacked off one of its stubby legs with her axe. As it toppled, the thing spit out a stream of goo onto Nlan's face, which began to steam. The recruit chortled and fell to the ground, unrecognizable. Aloran finished off the creature by hacking into its soft body repeatedly.
The other demon had completed its meal. Roal's lower body detached and fell to the ground, and the oyster beast let out a belching noise. Another sound emanated from its shell soon after. "I sense... loss... your husband... reunite..."
"Silence, beast," Aloran spat. "The toad made the same promise and failed to keep it. Your kind use hollow words." At that moment, the toad demon's bleeding body quivered, as if it were laughing.
The oyster spoke again. "Daron... reunite... Roal..." The slimy appendage slid out and looped around Daron's right leg. Aloran ran forward, swinging her axe down on the oozing tentacle. It was cloven asunder and fell to the tunnel floor, pouring out a thick white paste.
As the oyster backed into the toad demon's still quivering form, the entire tunnel filled with a blinding light. Aloran turned and saw the vague form of a dwarf raising its hand, from which the radiance emanated. The light faded just enough for Aloran to make out the details. It was Regukar, the mason. In his hand, he held a glowing schist mini-forge.
--The Toad Preservation Society, 13 March 2007
 (16 April 2007)
All right, the Reward continues (this is the same story):
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Captain Kogan stood with his dwarves on the stone road before the great arch, beard dripping from the drizzling rain that had been falling since the early morning. No word had been sent from the Baron concerning the deep mining operation for nearly two weeks. The King had grown impatient and the Captain had been sent to investigate.
The soft patter of rain on stone was slowly drowned out by a series of whirs and chirps coming from within the fortress. It was like nothing the Captain had heard before. He had his soldiers position themselves before the entrance with the marksdwarves kneeling in front of the others. The sounds drew closer, until a small shape could be discerned emerging from the shadows beyond the archway.
It looked like a lizard, twisted into that form from rusted iron strips, but it walked on its rear legs with a jerking and uncertain gait. In the center of its head, visible through the metal frame, was a drooping lump of granite that appeared to be molded around the iron. The stone glowed with a faint red light.
The dwarves watched awe-struck as the metallic creature continued advancing until it finally stopped under the great arch. Its head swiveled back and forth, eventually settling on the group. The lizard's body grated against itself, and from somewhere within, it emitted a piercing whistle and charged.
"Fire, Bomtek! Now!" Kogan ordered.
The marksdwarf shot a bolt at the creature. It hit the granite lump, shattering it. The iron strips collapsed into a pile.
"W.. what in the name of the Lordaxe was that?" Nunon stammered. "Where are the guards?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," said Kogan. He walked forward and pushed the remnants of the creature about with his hammer. "Something sinister is afoot. We'll scout as far as the upper meeting hall."
Captain Kogan and his dwarves passed under the arch and disappeared into the dimly lit fortress.
--The Toad Preservation Society, 16 April 2007
 (10 May 2007)
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"Get out of there!" Kogan screamed. It was too late. Lokar was lost. Only Bomtek, Nunon and Captain Kogan himself remained. The rest had been mauled beyond recognition by the metallic beasts. The passage to the upper hall had seemed clear, but it was a ruse. The walls had come alive. The lizards were everywhere.
Now Kogan and the others were running for lives, pursued by the iron fiends. They could outrun them if they didn't stop to fight. The dwarves were approaching the meeting hall, though Kogan held little hope for that place now. The only way out of the outpost lay behind them, through a maelstrom of metal fangs.
"The upper hall!" Kogan shouted when he spotted a light ahead. The torches were still lit? Perhaps the guards were able to stand after all! Kogan and the others ran on, the din of whirs and chirps behind them driving them forward. At last, the tired soldiers crossed under the arch and entered the upper meeting hall.
"I'm so pleased you could join us!" a voice boomed from the back of the chamber. Kogan looked out between the pillars. There on a granite throne sat a dwarf, his face twisted in madness. In his hand he held a glowing object. The stone floor before him was crawling with the metal lizards. On his right, a fire burned in the shape of a tall man, lighting the entire hall. On his left, a dwarf woman was tied, struggling against her bonds, hatred in her eyes.
"Do you like my little friends? Arshosh and I will make more, many, many more. The miniforge is all-powerful!" The crazed dwarf cackled. "With it, I enslaved the spirit of fire, bound stone and metal to my will, and soon, soon! Oh, yes. Soon I will use the power of the miniforge to create a new race of dwarves! Aloran will be the first! Then all of you will join her! And you shall call Regukar your master!"
--The Toad Preservation Society, 10 April 2007
 (June 2007)
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The soldiers had been quickly subdued, lashed to the floor by a writhing mass of metallic lizard bodies. Regukar walked slowly to the place where Aloran was restrained.
"Now, Aloran, let us begin the ritual of transformation." Regukar held the shining miniforge near to the dwarf warrior's face as she continued to strain against the ropes. The crazed mason lifted a tiny hammer and struck the minianvil once. The fires of Arshosh rose to the ceiling of the great hall and twisted around its many granite pillars. A tongue of flame engulfed the miniforge and the anvil began to glow even more brightly.
Aloran felt her skin breaking. The unbearable pain spread throughout her entire body. Metal blades tore through the flesh of her arms and legs, and she felt a force trying to subdue her will. "Regukar is your master. Regukar is your master," a voice in her mind whispered. The ropes snapped as the blood-covered blades continued to rise. The voice became louder and louder until it was all she could hear, drowning out her own screams.
Through her tears she could see Regukar had buckled over, laughing uncontrollably, and the sight filled Aloran with an all-consuming hatred. This contemptible dwarf could never be her master. The pain and the voice faded away, and her animosity began to manifest itself in the power of her limbs. The metal was part of her body now, and she felt its presence as surely as that of her own hands.
Looking up, Regukar noticed Aloran's steady gaze, and worry crossed his face. "My slave, the transformation is complete. Call me master," the mason stammered. Aloran said nothing and punched Regukar in the face with her metal-bladed fist. The knives stuck in his head, and the full weight of his dying body hung limply from Aloran's straight arm. Regukar's mangled face slid slowly backward, and free from the blades the dwarf crumpled to the floor and lay unmoving on the stones.
The tongue of flame slowly lifted the miniforge from the mason's clinging hand. As the glowing object slipped from his grasp, his raised arm fell back to the ground, and he breathed his last. The spirit of fire withdrew its flames, bringing the miniforge to the center of its translucent body. The demon turned to Aloran and faded from sight. There was a sudden crash as the metallic lizards fell to pieces.
--The Toad Preservation Society, June 2007
 (20 February 2007)
Shrolnak glared through the rusty iron bars.
"Eat yer meat, ya hairy maggot," the goblin snarled as it pushed the bowl back towards the dwarven child. "It'll make yer beard longer."
Aliz kicked the bowl away again. "I'm not eating until I get my mini-forge!" Aliz crossed his arms above his plump little belly and turned away.
"Minnn.. what's yer mini-forge?" The goblin was confused. The only toy it had ever owned was a cracked elf skull.
The dwarf child's eyes lit up. "Uncle Kogan made it! It glows in the dark!"
"Glows in the dark, eh... I'll poke around." The goblin scrambled away from the prison and disappeared around a corner. In a few minutes, it returned, its hand cupped around something that glowed purple through its bony fingers.
Aliz moved toward the bars, his wide eyes reflecting the eerie light. The goblin held its right hand through the bar and dropped the glowing object into the child's waiting palms.
"Now eat yer meat." The goblin wandered off.
Aliz was still staring into his hands. A sinister smile spread slowly over his face.
 (12 March 2007)
"Where is the Soul of the Dark Power?!" Arugor was screaming now. He had fooled a dragon to obtain the wicked gem, and now it was nowhere to be found. Shrolnak groveled before him.
"Master, I.. I don't know..." Shrolnak had never truly adjusted to kneeling before the troll, but it couldn't be helped. His master had been gifted with a cunning far beyond others of his kind, and Shrolnak was powerless before him.
"Lies! Your hands still shine with its aura! Where have you hidden my treasure?"
"T.. that gem? I thought that's all it was. I... I let the dwarf child play with it."
"What?! Fool! I must reclaim it before it is too late." Arugor was bothered that Shrolnak had somehow managed to avoid the intricate traps in the Soul Chamber, but he would leave that matter alone until the gem was reclaimed.
Just as Arugor turned to leave, a plump dwarven child floated into the throne room, trailed by a billowing mist. In his hands, he clutched a deep purple gem. The hovering child had a wicked grin twisted into his bearded face. Arugor and Shrolnak shielded their faces, helpless before the radiance of the wielded Soul.
The child levitated higher, close to the ceiling, and looked down upon the quivering monsters. "With my power, I shall build the greatest mini-forge the world has ever known!" The dwarf was enveloped by the purple light and passed through the ceiling.
 (16 January 2009)
Sword and axe clashed again and again as the fighters struggled to best each other in mortal combat. Arrows rained down on the field of battle as man, elf and dwarf fought at once to win the day. Randar took up the sword for the dwarves. With his mightiness he tried to kill Giltra of the elves, but the champion was too fast. The battle seemed endless. Roars of terror and pain were everywhere. Just then a squadron of dragons appeared, lead by Madnar the Evil. Could there be any hope?
 (14 January 2010)
The combatants turned to face the dragons as they landed. Madnar dismounted his towering red monster, followed by a short stranger, his eyes dark and shining. Randar stroked his beard as he observed the young warrior. He carried a sword of strange design. Giltra would not wait. She notched an arrow and fired before anyone could blink. The young swordsman knocked it out of the sky before it could reach Madnar's chest.
"Fools," chuckled the villain, "allow me to introduce Lord Strider. His powers are unmatched in this world. Now you see there can be no hope."
Randar set his heels and charged, sword raised. Lord Strider struck a martial pose and set out to meet his dwarven adversary. As they met, the sound of steel ripping steel echoed across the battlefield. As the dust cleared, the dwarf found himself gloating in victory. Strider lay broken and sullied, his weapon shorn in two. Madnar was horrified. Had his reign of evil come to an end?
 (18 February 2011)
The boy's body churned and twisted, though cut in two. The dwarves watched, horrified as the two halves stood, bloody gore bubbling over their severed ends. Madnar cackled with glee. Sensing the danger, Giltra shouted, "Randar, quickly, or there will be two of them." The evil king watched, amused, as the heroes rushed to do battle with the demon.
With passion, the dwarf and elf did damage to the multiplying demon. No matter how hard they fought, the army of demons kept growing, chop after bloody chop. That was when Randar saw Madnar giggling in his dragon-saddle. Without warning, the dwarf moved.
With one swing of his axe, the dwarf hero struck off the head of the dragon. He pushed off of the dragon's neck with his boot, and in a second was in the saddle with the cowering Madnar. The dwarf pulled a knife from his boot and put it to the evil king's throat. The army of bloody demons turned away from the elf and looked to their new master.
"Release the elf," commanded Randar.
"I," stuttered the king, "I lack the power."
The dwarf saw the villain fiddling with a talisman around his neck. Randar took it from him, a blue jewel, the color as deep as the sea. With one mighty kick, Randar sent the king tumbling onto the battle field. Seeing what was to come, the elf backed away. Randar held the jewel high.
"Demon from the Underworld," cried the dwarf, "devour that trembling sack of filth!"
 (25 June 2007)
"There it goes!" Doran hollered as the bit of plump helmet sailed out into the darkness. The mason had been at the whiskey all morning, and now he was dangling his legs over the chasm with his lunch, throwing mushroom pieces to the gray fliers. One of the bats sailed silently into view and snatched the food as it fell.
"A bat's a bat, and bats like mushrooms!" Doran slurred as he took another swig from the flagon. "Let's try something a little larger."
The dwarf ripped the cap from one of his plump helmets and tossed it out into the abyss. It dropped out of view, without any sign of the fliers. Doran pouted.
Suddenly, a great shape flew up from the chasm, right by Doran's face, blowing the braids of his beard back over his shoulders. It looked like a gray flier, but many, many times larger, as large as one of the brown bears out in the forest. He watched as it disappeared off above into the distance.
Doran looked down at his lunch. "I... I guess I'll finish the rest myself."
 (18 September 2013)
Life in the shadow of evil. The villagers of the Slusian Plain were never safe, not when Darquan and his goblins were on the loose. Even the dwarves in their mighty fortress feared him. But it is said that even those who stand the tallest shall lay as low as the rest of us in the end.
Outside the village of Otla was one such bully. His name was Dulcus, and he was Darquan's general in charge of the Slusian invasion. He was resting in his camp outside of town when the word came that one of the sentries had gone missing. He called for his armor and stepped outside.
One of the main failings of goblinkind was their lack of peripheral vision. The minute he emerged from the tent, Dulcus swung his head to the right. Had he first looked to the left, he would have lived a lot longer. As it was, the great dwarf adventurer Aliz, was waiting, just to the side, prepared to take his life with an enormous axe.
 (28 June 2014)
"Dulcus!" cried the goblin watch captain. "Dulcus!"
In time the goblins would find their leader's headless body, but by then Aliz was long gone. The hero made good time, racing through the Otla woods, avoiding goblin sentries as he went. Outside the city gate, he made the bird call that was the secret password. Once inside, he made his way to the king's feast hall.
People of the human race stopped in their tracks to marvel at the dwarven specimen of herohood. Aliz was half a span taller that the tallest dwarf. His tan skin was stretched over ripped muscles. His beard was full and black. On his back was slung the axe named Pain-striker. In his hand he held the severed head of Dulcus, dangling by the violet hair.
"It was a mistake to do this," said the king. "Brave though it was, killing Dulcus has thrown our defenses into disorder."
"How could slaying the wicked general be a mistake," asked Aliz, genuinely confused.
"I knew how Dulcus thought," said the king. "It was as if I could read his mind. He never made a move I couldn't predict. Now he will be replaced by another, unknown to me."
"Then I will slay them too!" cried Aliz.
"You cannot take on the entire goblin army by yourself," said the king.
"Just watch me," said Aliz.
 (15 August 2015)
"What is that disturbance in the formations?" asked Darquan.
The old man was almost reptilian in appearance. He was peering into a crystal ball with his lieutenant, a king cobra snake man, standing over him. It was from his dark tower, in the heart of the poisoned marshland, that Darquan commanded his goblin legions. Something was going wrong, something the signs hadn't predicted. Looking closer at the disrupted battle lines, Darquan discovered why.
"But, he is just one dwarf!" exclaimed Darquan.
"Look clossser," said the snake man. "He isss much more."
Indeed, as the wizard watched helplessly in his tower a single dwarf hero made his way through the goblin battle formations, axe first. Heads, arms, and entrails were thrown into the clear air. The goblin commander, seeing the hero heading his way, called for a general retreat. Darquan hissed and dashed his crystal ball against the ground. A tame gremlin swept up the pieces and put them with the others.
"Ready my giant bat," said Darquan. "I shall deal with this mess personally."
 (16 April 2012)
As the black bear ran, Betan could feel the cold air burning in its lungs. An invisible line connected the heart of the beast to Betan's crossbow. The marks-dwarf let out one final breath and let fly. The animal fell tail over snout and skidded to a halt before an old pine tree. Betan emerged from behind the log where he had been hiding and brushed the snow from his nose.
"Capital shot, Betan," shouted Duka.
The man child Duka, like Betan, was just another hireling, bound to the caravan. Ever west they rolled, over snowfield and desert, bound for the fabled adamantine mines of Shoutrock. The pay almost made it worthwhile for an average dwarf, but Betan was anything but ordinary.
It was the call of the wild that Betan answered. That, and an end to the troubles at home. As he watched Duka run toward the kill, he took a swig from his flask. They were deep in the savage wilds now. It was Betan's duty to deal with the local wildlife. He had tracked the bear far from the caravan. Maybe too far.
"It has been a while since I've had a dwarf to eat," said a voice that seemed to sound inside Betan's head.
He turned to see an enormous black panther with a single green eye in the center of its forehead. Betan lifted his weapon, but the monster batted it out of his hands with a swipe of his claw. Without even thinking, Betan launched himself backward into the air, pulling his knife at the same time. He landed on his feet, three spans away.
The monster approached. Everything in its nature was predatory, an evil spirit of the forest. Not content to lay down and die, Betan jumped at the panther, brandishing his weapon. The creature leapt up too and the pair collided, tearing and slashing until they slammed into the ground in a bloody mess.
"Betan," pleaded Duka. "Can you hear me Betan?"
"He has shot his bolt, kid," said a deep voice.
It was Cuthom, the leader of the caravan. Betan had always thought of him as a father, or maybe an uncle. Though human he wasn't that much older than Betan, but he had a pragmatic way about him dwarves admired. The old man rubbed his hands together and breathed into them.
"We'll have to bury him before another one of those man-eaters finds him," said Cuthom.
"But he isn't dead yet," cried Duka.
"Then you will wait with him," said Cuthom as he turned back toward the wagons.
Panic clawed its way through the pain as Betan blinked his eyes, looking first at the body of panther beside him, then to Duka. It wasn't only Betan who was afraid. It wasn't long at all until Duka began to pace back and forth. Betan thought the boy might actually try to kill him.
"You'll be dead in another minute," said Duka, "but there is no sense in me waiting."
The boy walked over to where the crossbow landed in the snow. He lifted up the weapon and walked back over to the fallen dwarf. Absentmindedly, he brushed the snow from the bowstring.
"You won't be needing this where you are going," said the boy.
With that, Betan was alone.
"It seems I misjudged you, kid," said Cuthom. It was not a compliment.
The only man looked at the crossbow in Duka's hands. The telling crafts-dwarfship said it all.
"You may need that pea-shooter where we are bound," said the caravan master.
The wilds of Allsphere were boundless, extending endlessly in every direction. Only a fool would think to set their dimensions on a map, or worst still, to set across them unprepared. But who could prepare for the treachery of those closest to him?
A trail of red lead away from the scene of the slaughter to a still pond from which Betan drank. He washed his wounds and found that, though serious, none were mortal. The worst was his leg, the bone snapped in two just below the knee. Tears streamed down his face as he thought of justice not done.
It was not justice in the end that moved him. As he lifted himself up against a tree, he thought of Cuthom and young Duka. It would be revenge that spurred him on. His wrath would pick him up and set him against those than wronged him. Then the pain returned. One step before the next.
 (12 April 2011)
The scream faded down into the darkened ravine. Woge laughed and lightning struck nearby. How could he do it?, Shato thought. How could he just throw her down to her doom? Drunk, Woge staggered away from the precipice. Seeming to see Shato for the first time, he said, "Do you know what I just did? I killed your woman."
A flash lit up the hill, much as the lightning had done all night. But this was different. The night found Shato standing over Woge's dead body. The murderer thought he would have two victims that night, as he was cruel and quick with a blade. He didn't know that Shato was a wizard. Shato felt the weariness that came with the use of his power. This was magnified by his loss.
"Where is Omli?" asked the sheriff. "Where is your pretty wife? She has been gone for some time."
Shato looked at the pale, dumpy man with disgust. Most people in the village assumed that Omli had run off with Woge. Only lately had people come to suspect foul play. No one had heard from them. It was as if they had disappeared completely. The sheriff stared up from under his hat at Shato.
"Kobolds, perhaps?" suggested Shato.
"Ah, no," said the sheriff. "You see, kobolds rarely hide the bodies of their victims. You can always tell the kobold victims by the sores left by the poisons they use. No, I don't think kobolds."
"Bandits then?" asked Shato.
"But what was there to rob?" asked the sheriff. "No belongings were missing from their dwellings. None of the local fences have reported seeing any of their things. No, Shato my friend, I believe they were murdered."
"Murdered?" asked Shato. "But, Why?"
"Because they were lovers," said the sheriff, "and you know it!"
The wagon ride to the fortress was bumpy and freezing. Shato was shackled next to half a dozen thieves and murderers. Half way up the mountain, the guards were replaced by dwarven soldiers. Capital murder was a crime under the jurisdiction of the dwarven overlords of Gulbarkia. One of the prisoners kicked Shato in the leg.
"You're that weirdo that killed his wife," he said. "You'll go to the Hammerer for that!"
"What you say is half true," said Shato. "Things will be set right."
 (13 April 2012)
The punishment for thievery was death by hammering. It was thought that the soul would be forged anew, sped to the underworld on a river of blood. The goblin must have known this, yet here he was, on trial for his life in the courtyard of the dwarf fortress. What kind of person would tempt fate so? A hush came over the crowd. The trial begins.
"State your name, thief," said the dwarf sheriff.
The goblin said nothing.
"You stand accused of burglary of the royal treasure room," said the sheriff. "How do you plead?"
The goblin spit upon the stage. The sheriff made ready to strike the prisoner when a hurried dwarf burst onto the scene. He whispered something into the sheriff's ear. The law dwarf turned purple with anger. He ordered the dwarves to clear the platform and the prisoner taken back to the dungeon. The hammerer was visibly upset.
In the dungeon, the goblin sat quietly, alone in his cell. The other prisoners called out, cursing the goblin's luck, but became still when they heard the sheriff coming. The law dwarf was flanked by two castle guards. When he reached the barred door of the goblin's cell, he ordered the prisoner to stand and come forth.
"While we were putting on the show for your silly trial," said the dwarf, "someone made off with Oceg the artifact stool. You must think you are pretty smart. We will see how smart you are at the bottom of Stillwater lake."
It was faster than the sheriff could react. The goblin's arm shot through the bars wielding an improvised knife. The sheriff fell to his knees, clutching his eye. The steel bars slammed into the other dwarf as the goblin kicked open the unlocked door. Stunned and confused, the dwarves were unable to catch the escaped prisoner.
"Omli!" whispered the goblin, once he reached the rendezvous. "You have it?"
"Of course, Asmuk," said the young man, lounging on the wooden stool. "How could you doubt me?"
 (31 Oktober 2015)
The expedition leader, Kogan, was an unrepentant glutton. The assassin's thought themselves clever by poisoning his favorite dessert, sweet-pod pie. They didn't count on him feeding the first bite to his dogs. When his pets died, Kogan was furious. He called all his lieutenants to him. He would find the culprit if he had to execute every dwarf in the fortress.
“We had better go,” said Smelark.
“Wait until the first round of interrogations,” said Aliza. “If we flee now, he will know we are guilty.”
The goblin didn't accept this wisdom. Smelark knew that if he waited to be captured he would be tortured for sure. If he had learned anything in the dark tower it was that he was no good under torture. He would spill the beans for sure. Ignoring Aliza's advice, he stole a horse from the stable and disappeared before dawn.
“I will find him, my lord,” said Aliza.
“It is a dangerous mission,” said Kogan, “shouldn't I send one of the knights?”
“I know how this one thinks,” said Aliza. “I will bring him back dead or alive.”
 (23 May 2011)
The beak-dogs could not hunt by smell. It was with their bulging black eyes that they could see through any disguise. On their backs the goblins rode. They were chasing escaped prisoners, two elves and a dwarf. The dwarf couldn't get far. Not as far as the elves. Not in this country.
"Hurry up short-stuff," said the elf. "I can hear the beak-dogs chirping."
Aliz the dwarf thought it might be better if they did catch him.
 (12 April 2012)
"Run for your lives," shouted Aliz. "I will take out this trash."
With the chain that bound him as a slave, Aliz rose up against his enemies. One beak dog skidded to a halt before him. The goblin rider sneered and lifted his spear. The other beak dog tried to charge past but Aliz threw out the end of his chain and caught the thing around the neck, causing it to spill its rider in a cloud of dust.
The surviving beak dog let out an ear-piercing chirp. The rider hurled his spear but missed Aliz with his failed attempt. The beak dog moved slowly backward as Aliz began to swing his chain. The goblin rider howled and brandished his saber. Aliz took him out with an expert stroke of the chain.
Now free of all control, the beak dog reverted to its predatory instincts. Face with the crazed fury of the wild animal, Aliz turned and fled. As the beak dog gained up him, Aliz did something unthinkable. He leapt onto the lower branches of a tree and pulled himself up. The monster's beak snapped shut right below his feet.
 (7 January 2011)
The calls of the loons echoed across the misty lake. Aliz had come here from the mountain to seek answers, and as he looked up to the hills leading down to the water, his heart still felt sorrow. He was cursed, you see. Every weapon he made would break, and every foundation he laid would falter. This was an ill fate for a dwarf. Aliz fell to his knees at the water's edge and prayed to the faeries that dwelt there.
"Why do you cry, Aliz?" said a resounding voice.
"All the work I do is of dust," cried the dwarf. "Why do the gods let me live?"
"But your weapons are destined to bring down giants," said the voice, "and your works to last till the end of time."
 (7 April 2012)
As Aliz lifted his head, he met the eyes of a girl. She was beautiful, as magic spirits go, but also terrible. Any dwarf could tell you how the ghosts of the woodland tricked them into doing this and that. Aliz was no fool. As he rose the spirit came to him. It had a hammer in its hand.
"Take this tool," said the faery. "I give it to you freely. It has the power to create anything you can imagine. But know this, in order for it to work, you must use it to destroy something of greater or equal value."
Satisfied his curse was broken, Aliz skipped back to town, whistling a merry tune. He thought of the wonders he would create once he reached the dwarf fortress. Sitting on the back of an oxen cart, Aliz withdrew the hammer and looked over the many designs etched in its surface. They seemed to change before his eyes.
"Destroy something of greater or equal value," Aliz said.
"What did you say, little man?" said the ox driver.
"Nothing," said Aliz, drawing his cloak over the hammer.
"Firesign Fortress," said the driver. "You made it."
"And I will re-make it," muttered Aliz as he jumped from the cart.
 (9 September 2012)
Firesign Fortress was the pride of the dwarven empire. Beings of all races came from far and wide to marvel at the wonders there. Aliz was no exception. He looked on the domes and spires of the mountain home with both pride and jealousy. One day, he thought, one day it will all be mine.
That night he set up shop in a low-rent part of the fortress. There he began the secret work of using the magic hammer. At first it seemed ridiculously hard. He would smash a table and recreate it in a second. But he could not make his fortune doing this.
Frustrated beyond reason, Aliz roamed the hallways. He stopped at the glass window of Kogan's dress shop. Looking at his hated reflection, he hurled the useless hammer through the glass. Instantly coming to his senses, he climbed through the broken window, took the hammer and fled.
Back at the shop, he felt the hammer tingle. The designs on the metal seemed to glow with their own light. He took the hammer to the anvil and began to hammer out the very air. At last, sitting on the anvil, was a perfect beer stein.
"You," said a voice from behind. It was Kogan. "Why did you break my window?"
"It wasn't me," said Aliz.
So began Aliz's life of crime. All over the fortress things went missing or were right-out smashed. All fingers pointed to Aliz, but he flatly denied responsibility. All the time his smithy business was booming. The sheriff knew something was up. It was only a matter time before the villain made a mistake.
 (23rd April 2010)
A knock came at the mead hall gate. A powerful blow, nearly tearing the doors from their hinges. King Wrathbeard drew his sword and strode to the entrance, flanked by his elite warriors. He nodded to his men and they unbarred the door. The doors swung open, revealing the enormous, heavily-muscled body of Grum, half-giant, lord of the hills.
"Where are my chickens?" growled Grum. "You are to offer me four fried chickens on every Tuesday! Friday it is!"
Wrathbeard stroked his whiskers. "What have you done for me lately, Grum?" asked the king. "Goblins still haunt the highways. Jackal men still harass my herds."
Grum left the hall in confusion, sure he had been tricked. Back on his hill, Grum watched as a carriage was stopped by goblin bandits and the nobles stripped of their valuables. Feeling his stomach rumbling, Grum stood and ran toward the highway.
"Where is the rest of the gold!" yelled the goblin.
The nobles coward, fearing for their lives. The goblin raised his whip, better to lash them again. A huge hand caught him by the wrist. Grum tossed the goblin into the air. The nobles screamed. The half-giant scowled.
"I will have my chickens," he said, "whether you live or die."
Suddenly, one of the nobles took on a sly look. He was thin, weak looking man in dark robes. The others backed away as the dark noble approached.
"Who promised you chickens, friend?" asked the noble.
"King Wrathbeard give Grum chickens," said the half-giant.
"Well, Grum, my friend," said the noble, "Baron Gravesly knows that King Wrathbeard lies to Grum and eats all the chickens himself!"
A powerful blow knocked the mead hall doors off their hinges. The warriors jumped to their feet and reached for their weapons. The half-giant leapt inside and sent men hurtling through the air. The king stepped out of his chamber, half naked, a sword in his hand. The mead hall was a bloodbath, the half giant gasping, looking for more men to kill.
"Grum!" commanded the king. "Why have you this?"
"Wrathbeard," said Grum through a mouth full of slobber. "You ate my chickens."
Anger burned in the king’s chest. He ground his teeth with the thought of that striver besting him. He attacked the giant, slicing the monster across the face, slashing out an eye. Grum cried out in pain, and the king struck again, but the blade bounced off the creature’s rib. Wrathbeard raised his blade to strike once more, but his luck had run out. Grum dashed out the king’s brains with one vicious blow.
King Gravesly’s reign was one of terror and tyranny. All feared "Gravesly’s Dog," the evil monster that plagued both noble and commoner alike. It was into this sad place, that an adventurer appeared, a young man, slight of build, but with the appearance of inner strength. The peasants looked on him as he rode to town. Could he be the one to save them?
 (27th December, 2010)
Thunder across the midnight plain. Captain Gilroy and his men had been marching all day in the driving rain, all to bring news of the defeat at Tradalfadad. If they did not reach the castle soon, the king's legions would be unready to face the enemy already at their doorstep. Gilroy looked at the thick grass to the sides of the trail. Something charged out of the grass behind him, knocking one of the soldiers senseless.
"Kobolds," shouted Gilroy. "Make ready!"
The knights drew their swords as out of the grass charged a dozen menacing beasts, kobolds on their backs. Keebis Clan, thought Gilroy, the boar riders. The head kobold was a mean-looking creature, not cowardly like the rest. Gilroy took aim at him and lowered his visor. He set his leg and charged, sword raised over his head. Unflinching, the kobold kicked the sides of his wild boar and held his spear for the kill.
 (08 February 2011)
Some say the world rests on the back of a giant tortoise. Only few would know for sure. The dark wizard Afbacam was fleeing from justice when he escaped through the cracks of the earth. Ramet followed him. He was hero to his tribe, and with all the villages' money, he had hired a band of dwarves to take him through the darkest recesses of the world.
"The gorlak said he went that way," screamed the dwarf, "so he went that way!"
It went on for hours like this. Ramet and the gorlaks watched inside the dark grotto as the dwarves fought and cussed. They had been traveling the dark roads underground for days. There was no sunshine, and the whiskey had long since run dry. Ramet took to his feet and sighed. Slowly he meandered toward the direction the gorlak indicated.
"Don't venture there alone," suggested the little yellow creature. "The Jabberer might get you."
 (20 February 2007)
Kogan hurtled through the darkness, the two long braids of his golden beard streaming behind him. It was too much weight! The wings tied to his arms, made from stretched frogman skin and giant cave spider legs, fluttered uselessly as the chasm walls rushed by. He had been nervous the night before and, as usual, had gorged himself on plump helmet biscuits and dwarven rum. Now he was falling like a granite block. Kogan wondered if the philosophers were correct -- were these chasms actually bottomless? He would be able to survive for several days without food or alcohol. Seeing nothing but blackness below, Kogan resigned himself to the journey ahead and began to sing his favorite drinking song.
 (19 May 2007)
*###*****##** #*#*##*##**## ##*#*****#*## #*#*##*##*#*# #*#*##S##*#*# #*#*#*#*#*#*# #*##*###*@#*# ##**#***##*## #*#*******#*# *###########*
It had been two days. Kogan was dehydrated, and he had begun mumbling to himself. "Whiskey... my dear whiskey..."
Suddenly his fall was arrested by a force which seemed to hold him by the arms and legs. He still fell, but slower, and slower still, until he stopped entirely and hung in space. The dwarf tried to spin, but he was unable to move. Thick, translucent ropes held him. The reality of the situation dawned on him, and he felt sick. It was a giant web. He had been ensnared by one of the dark huntresses of the deep.
As he strained his eyes in the near-total darkness, Kogan could see her. A bloated many-legged creature, her body clear, her organs visible within. She was already moving toward Kogan, deliberately picking her way along the lines that were safe for her to grasp with her cruel claws. The creature chittered in anticipation as the dwarf struggled against the webs.
 (20 September 2007)
*###*****##** #*#*##*##**## ##*#*****#*## #*#*##*##*#*# #*#*#####*#*# #*#*#*#*S*#*# #*##*###*@!!! ##**#***##*## #*#*******#*# *###########*
The spider was upon him. With what little motion Kogan had in his arms, he tried to bring the wings between himself and the voracious beast. He flailed helplessly, marshalling a defence that would embarrass even a child of his people.
Yet the spider stopped. She looked upon him with her many emotionless eyes. The dwarf could discern nothing. The spider's head bobbed up and down slowly, and she lifted several of her legs and waved them in simple patterns above the web.
A sudden realization struck Kogan -- the spider legs in the wing frames. She thinks I'm trying to speak to her! Kogan continued to wave his arms around as best he could, and she responded in kind. Giant cave spiders are solitary creatures, Kogan thought, so it must be a mating ritual. "But giant spiders eat their mates after breeding with them," Kogan muttered in horror. "I can't think of a worse way to die!"
 (13 November 2007)
The movement of the spider's legs had ceased. Now she simply looked upon Kogan with her cold, glassy eyes. Her sinews tensed -- she was ready to pounce! To what end, none dare say, though many a gruesome and unseemly scenario had played themselves out in the recesses of Kogan's strained mind.
A moment passed, and the bloated thing leapt forward! As she landed on Kogan with the full weight of her body, the dwarf felt himself tear free, and the web and spider passed up and beyond his sight as he plummeted downward. Oh, what happy chance is this! Kogan thought. He was free from fear now. If his body was broken into a thousand pieces on some protruding rock, what would matter? At least he would no longer sire an army of evil.
Soon enough, Kogan sensed that the walls were closing in. He could not see well enough in the oppressive darkness of this deepest part of the earth, but he felt their nearness. The dwarf said a prayer to the Lordaxe to grant him a swift death.
Kogan felt his bottom smack hard into a smooth slope and he slid disoriented into a twisting tunnel. The friction burned, but his descent was slowed, and Kogan found himself gliding down an obsidian tube. Out of a hatch he fell, landing face first in a pile of stone trinkets. Uninjured, but sore, the dwarf stood. It still felt as if the air was rushing by him, but he was teetering on solid ground.
The chamber was lit by torches. It was almost cheerful. The trinkets were all finely crafted. It wasn't dwarven work, but each object had its own peculiar charm. Kogan picked up a slate carving. It was a rabbit wearing a jester's hat.
"Hey oh, what are you doing in the figure room?"
Kogan looked up. A mountain gnome was peering around a doorway. Only its tilted head was visible.
"I fell," Kogan said, indicating the hatch.
"Oh my!" the gnome said with an equal measure of elation and surprise.
"You're our first visitor in years!"
"Visitor?" Kogan asked.
"Yes, my friend! I'm Largee Pottums! Welcome to Toy Land!"
 (27 February 2008)
"Toy Land," Kogan said flatly, utterly dumbfounded. The sheer implausibility of the situation managed to drive all feelings of hunger and thirst from his body.
"Yes, Kogan, it's Toy Land!" Largee Pottums exclaimed, jumping out into full view. "Where do you think all of your toys come from? Your crafts shops? Hoy hey! That would be the day!"
"Yes, our cr... wait, how did you know my name?" Kogan scratched his head.
"Do you remember the miniforge you got when you were six?" Largee Pottums asked.
"Th.. yes," Kogan finally resolved to think a little less about his situation.
"Gnomes!" Largee Pottums said proudly. "And the toy axe you got when you were eight?"
"That too?!" Kogan exclaimed. He had such fond memories of the axe. He used to beat his friends with it mercilessly.
"Gnomes," Largee Pottums replied, nodding in satisfaction.
"What about the puzzle box I got when I was nine?" Kogan asked.
"That was your uncle Dorol. And you just hated it didn't you? Oh ho!" Largee said.
"Y... yes," Kogan said, disappointed. He had hoped to have somebody to blame after all these years. At least he could confront Dorol should he ever return home.
"Gnomes make the best toys!" Largee concluded. "Mountain gnomes for the dwarves, garden gnomes for the humans, and dark gnomes for the goblins. Toys, toys and more toys!"
"Gob... what about the elves?" Kogan asked, not knowing why he cared. Like any able-bearded dwarf, he held elves in contempt.
"The elves? Hey oh! The garden gnomes used to make their toys. But they're so finicky! One deer bone figurine and they found us out. Humans can appreciate a deer bone figurine. The garden gnomes are much happier now, if I do say so myself. And I do! Oo hoo!"
Kogan grunted in affirmation. He could emphathize with the garden gnomes. Elves were nonsensical creatures.
"Now, my friend, it's time to talk to the Boss," Largee Pottums announced, clapping his hands.
"The Boss?" Kogan asked.
"You can't make toys without a Boss. Let's go! We haven't had a visitor in so long, he'll be excited to see you. Oh yes he will, sure as sweet pods!" With that, Largee Pottums skipped through the doorway, with Kogan following after him.
 (1 July 2008)
################## ###.........%....# ###....%.......%.# ###..............# gg@+++g+=g%g=%/=|#
"Now tell me, Kogan," said the white-bearded gnome from his plush gaudy chair, "why you leapt into the chasm in the first place." The Boss's coat was nearly bursting at the buttons; the red fabric made his belly looked like one of his puffy cheeks.
"It was my dream. I wanted to fly," Kogan said sheepishly, "like a bat, soaring through the still air free as a spark, but my calculations failed."
"Ho ho ho," the plump gnome merrily laughed. "What a brave dwarf you are! Now that you're here in our secret workshop, I was concerned about letting you return home, but perhaps you wouldn't stay up above very long before daring the chasm again."
"The chasm... the spider..." The dwarf shuddered at the memory.
"Largee! Largee Pottums!" the Boss of Toy Land shouted. "Our friend Kogan needs some ease for his troubled mind. Why don't you show him around Wimble Wizzer's workshop?"
"Hoo hey! Right away!" came the familiar voice from the doorway. Kogan bowed awkwardly to the Boss and followed Largee out of the cozy room.
Kogan was awestruck. It was like a scene out of his wildest imaginings during one of those late nights at the drawing table. Airborne contraptions looped and soared beneath the high stone ceiling as gears turned and wings flapped or rotated according to the whims of a particular design. Down below, three gnomes repaired and tinkered with the devices on creaky wooden tables.
"Wimble-wee, Wimble-woo!" Largee shouted into the workshop. "I have a guest for you!"
One of the gnomes inside turned toward the door and smiled weakly while shaking his head, "Largee, my boy, who ever taught you to speak in such a manner? Surely it was a gnome no less exuberant than yourself."
Largee presented the still-stunned Kogan to the master of the workshop. "This is Kogan, a dwarf, as you can see (hoo-ee!), and a fellow maker of flying machines. The Boss has sent him down here to have a look."
"Ah? So it's to be an inspection, is it?" Wimble replied gruffly. "Well, you won't find these topside, but we're planning to sneak a few of the truest models in during the next festival. The timetable is a strict one, and we're still struggling with accidents." At this, there was the sound of metal grinding on metal above as one of the machines lurched and crashed into a table below. "The Boss is jolly as they come, but he is also a grueling taskmaster."
"Ho ho ho," came the laughter from the doorway. "Wimble Wizzer, you grumpus, is that the way to greet a new worker?"
Kogan turned toward the Boss, who was now standing beside him. A new worker? The dwarf's eyes were wider than ever, and he turned slowly back to the workshop, wearing a smile more full of unabashed joy than any he had worn in his entire life.
"Well, you know, Largee," the Boss said, turning to the other gnome standing at the door. "If he wants, we could just let him go back home, if we found a way to make him forget all about Toy Land."
"We could bonk him on the head! Hee-whoa... bonk!" Largee yelled, snapping his hand at the wrist.
"Ho ho ho," the Boss chuckled. "Don't you remember? Sometimes you have to bonk them again and again, and they still won't forget!"
Kogan missed all of this banter, bent over the tables as he was, looking over the damaged machine with Wimble and the others. After a moment, Largee and the Boss slipped out of the room, leaving the new worker to his workshop.
 (19th July, 2014)
You and I have lived through the hard times. It has been years since the fall of the dwarven empire and the start of the endless wars to carve up what was left of its corpse. The old capital has been conquered and re-conquered countless times. It was there, after all, that treason was born in the feast hall of the dwarf fortress.
"Where is my favorite knight?" shouted King Koland. "Bring her forth."
From among the armored dwarves, a dwarf warrioress emerged, decked out in shining plate armor. All the crafts-dwarfship was of the high highest quality, down to the engravings on the helmet she carried at her side revealing a head of platinum blond hair. Her movements had purpose, like a mountain lion hunting her prey. The king smiled. He knew as long as she belonged to him, his authority would never be questioned.
"I declare," said the king, "if there is a finer knight than Ashke in all of Cogita, let him come forward and claim my crown."
There was silence in the feast hall. The king had made his point. Ashke turned and faced the crowd, an arrogant sneer on her face. She knew no one could face her because of her divine gifts. She was stronger than a bear and faster than a great cat. She fought for the king for he was set on the throne by gods before she was born. Many of the dwarves had known no king other than Koland.
Just then there was a knock at the door. The wood beam that barred the door was split lengthwise by the force of the blow. The smile fell from the king's face, but Ashke's grin became even more fierce. She longed for every chance to prove herself. Koland ordered that the door be opened.
As the pieces of beam were slid away the door slowly swung open letting in a blast of cold Winter air. Ashke's hand fell to the hilt of her sword. There was nothing visible in the doorway but wisps of snow. The brave knight called out, but there was no answer. The king put his hand on her shoulder.
"I know you are brave," said the king, "and would do anything for me. This is the hardest thing I can ask of you. You must stand aside."
Confused by Koland's request, Ashke didn't notice as the red knight stormed into the feast hall. The rest of the dwarves backed away against the walls, as if the creature's presence itself was a source of pain. The knight was half a span taller than Ashke, who was, herself, tall for a dwarf. Red paint was splattered in chaotic patterns across the knight's helm and breastplate. His arms were bare and the skin was covered in scars.
"Speak your challenge, knight," said Koland.
"Anything Ashke can do," said the red knight, "I can do better."
"Speak, lord," said Ashke, "and I shall kill him."
"You cannot slay him," said King Koland, "for he is my son."
 (19 December 2010)
The mining of the dwarves was as an irritating vibration in the bronze giant's head. For five hundred years he had struck a heroic pose. Now his anger was so great, he must act. Stiffly at first, the colossus dismounted his pedestal. A jungle had grown up around his temple since he had been placed there. Where were those who worshiped at the shrine? Dead, while the dwarves lived? There would be nothing left of their mountain but rubble.
As he passed through many lands, his anger would not fade, for it was as large as he was. He did not usually care for what he stepped on, but this time was different. He stopped for a moment and looked below. Underneath his foot was a tiny speck. He pinched it up and held it before his eyes. It was a giant tortoise.