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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Maxymiuk's Avatar

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    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: All a dwarf needs - the saga of the Zuntir Clan (DF Community Fort)

    At night they slept, huddled together in the steadily growing tunnel. By day they worked, ignoring the cold biting at their skin and the hunger crawling in their stomachs. They had next to nothing, but dwarves, of all the races of this world, were perhaps the best suited for surviving this ordeal. They had a natural affinity for improvisation, and an uncanny ability to adapt to any situation - a gift that couldn't be lost even after decades of soft living in the safety of a mountainhome.

    By the end of the first day, the wagon became several neatly arranged piles of its component parts. The large boards would go towards construction, the wheel spokes would serve as handles for makeshift tools, and there were countless uses for whatever bits of metal they could peel off, or tease out of the wood.

    Obadiah had been right in saying that, for the most part, their learned trades would do them little good right now. There was a mountain of work before them, and most of them would learn only by climbing it. That was the only way they could.

    ***

    "Can you make a crossbow?"

    Milski straightened with a groan. He'd been dragging the wood salvaged from the wagon deeper into the nook created by the western shoulder of the hill, where they'd be shielded from the worst of the snow. Once the underground space was expanded, it'd need to be moved inside to dry properly, but for now he turned to the dwarf who adressed him - Obadiah.

    "What?"
    "Do you know how to make a crossbow?" Obadiah repeated. "You said you're a weaponsmith."
    "Er... sure. I learned to make every weapon. I don't see how it matters though," Milski shrugged. "I'd need a forge for that, as well as an anvil, not to mention proper tools."
    "Of course. But I was thinking you could use some of that wood instead."
    "Wood?"
    "That's how they started out, actually. And in frontier settlements, where metal is a luxury, that's what they're usually made out of?"
    "Wood?"
    "I'm asking because Raroy spotted a herd of wild horses this morning, and until the snows thaw hunting is our best bet for acquiring food," Obadiah smiled weakly. "I know you're no carpenter, but you're probably the only one who would know where to even start. Can you see what you can do? I need to check on how Jahjah's doing with the digging."

    "A crossbow made of wood, huh?" Milski muttered to Obadiah's back, then snorted. "Why not. Already made a sword out of stone after all."

    ***

    Zazit grimaced when she saw who it was approaching her and laid down the chunk of slate she was hauling, adopting a challenging posture.

    "What do you want, elf-lover? I'm busy."
    "I need to talk to you," Obadiah sighed inwardly.
    "Talk. Then get lost," she sneezed, and wiped her nose on her sleeve.
    "You worked with bone, right? Do you know how to make bolts out of it? For a crossbow? We'll need them fo-"
    "Yes. That's all?"
    "Er, no. We don't have anyone who knows how to work with leather, but I was wandering, since you already know how to work with bits of animal, mayb-"
    "Fine."
    "But we- Oh, you'll do it?"
    "Yes."
    "And, er, you won't mind the smell? As I understand, the tanning process involv-"
    "I don't," Zazit snorted and spit out a chunk of phlegm. "Maybe the smell will keep you away from me."

    ***

    Jahjah frowned when the pick hit the wall - there was suddenly a lot more resistance, and above all, the strikes sounded different - a soft "ching" instead of a solid "chak." He ran his hand along the wall and found that a small piece of it was loose. He tore it away and walked towards the exit from the tunnel, where there was light, but even before he got there he could feel that the texture and the weight of stone was different - definitely not slate.

    Exposed to daylight, the rock revealed itself to be a chunk of grayish-white crystal. Moonstone. An inexpensive gem, still valued by jewelers for its color, which went well with almost anything. He knew many traders called it a "traveler's stone" and carried moonstone trinkets as luck charms on their journeys.

    He sighed and threw the piece of rock away. Their journey was over, and what they needed now was proper, solid stone. He hoped this gem cluster wasn't very large.

    ***

    "Are you sure you want to do this?" Obadiah asked again.
    "Yes," Derek nodded solemnly.
    "Because if no, I can easily ask Milski for help. Or Jahjah. Or do it by myself," he hefted the crude hammer - a piece of flat-topped stone tied to a spoke with a length of leather harness - in his hand.
    "I'll help."
    "Are you absolutely sure? I saw how you were around those horses on the way here," Obadiah indicated the one Derek was holding, that even now was exposing its flank to him, to be petted. "You like them and they like you. All I'm saying is, maybe it's not the best idea to watch me kill one."

    By a stroke of fortune the horses that pulled their wagon were a mare and a stallion - a breeding pair, and someone suggested keeping them alive for that purpose. But they needed food now, as well as the bones and leather that could be processed from the corpse. And, as Derek pointed out, with a herd of wild horses in the area, All they'd need to do was to stake out the mare in the field away from the camp and wait for one of the stallions to get interested.

    Of course, deciding to butcher a horse was one thing. Doing it was a whole other matter. It would be grim and bloody work, that Obadiah decided to do himself, so he was genuinely surprised when Derek offered to help, abandoning his attempts to turn the frozen ground into a field. And, truth be told, he was glad the smith did. The horse knew something was up, and balked when Obadiah tried to lead it away to the area he assigned as the butchery. Derek calmed it down, petting it, and murmuring assurances, managing to lead it to where Obadiah waited with the hammer.

    "I will not enjoy it," Derek agreed calmly, taking off his cloak and wrapping it around the horse's head, covering its eyes. "But I will stay."
    "Why?"

    The smith didn't answer, instead rubbing a piece of crushed mica between his thumb and forefinger, and using it to mark an "X" on the cloak covering the horse's forehead.

    "Would you want to die alone?" he said finally. "Make sure you won't need to strike more than once."



    ***

    This was the place.

    Raroy walked uphill, away from the camp. She had to hurry. She'd be missed soon - with just the seven of them here, there could be no anonymity. But she needed time alone. Time to see, to hear.

    Although eyes and ears didn't matter here. She [i]felt]/i] this was the place - her place in the pattern. Right here and now, this was where she was supposed to be.

    She stopped to gaze back, down into the valley. She saw snow-covered slopes and, far to the south, a forest. She would need to learn about this place, to know it as well as she knew the mineshafts back in the mountainhome. For that she would need an excuse. An explanation for long absences.

    Her eyes picked out movements across the valley, on the opposite slope. The herd she spotted earlier today, no doubt searching for food, the way animals always did. They would serve. She would go back to the camp and tell Obadiah he had a hunter.

    "WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME THERE WOULD BE SO MUCH BLOOD?!"

    But right now, she had a bit more time to look around.

    ***

    "And I suppose you'll be wanting me to deal with this," Celes pointed at the pile of... horse littering the 'workshop'.
    "Well," even though Obadiah managed to clean most of the blood off himself, but his clothes were already taking on a decidedly rusty tinge, "I thought that since-"
    "Save your excuses, chief. I'll do it."
    "Oh? You will?"
    "Well, yeah," Celes crossed her arms on her chest. "See, I figured something out."
    "Oh," Obadiah said with a sinking feeling of dread.
    "As it is, I'm the only one here who knows how to set up a still. And now you want me to take care of provisioning as well. So you know what I figure?" the brewer grinned. "I figure right now I'm the most important dwarf you have."
    "We all have vital jobs," Obadiah said, keeping his tone neutral. "No one dwarf can do every-"
    "Right you are, chief. We're all vital, every one of us giving all they have," she nodded amiably. "At least until the booze runs out."
    "Is there something you want, Celes?" he demanded a bit more harshly than he intended.
    "Who? Me? No," she smiled cheerfully and turned to walk away. "Just thinking out loud here."

    ***

    Years of traveling and studying various maps left Obadiah with a good sense of direction and a thorough knowledge of the lay of the land. Therefore, he had a good idea of where the soldiers have abandoned them, and where the nearest civilized settlement was. What he was not sure about, was whether he should tell the others about it.



    Even putting aside the fact that they were technically in human lands - the only reason they didn't encounter any on the way here was because their caravan traveled in the middle of winter (which, upon reflection, was probably the entire point) - the mountain range their tiny camp was huddled up against had a... reputation. He didn't know of any goblin forts, but strange beasts roamed the foothills, and even came down to attack the human settlements to the south.

    This valley seemed peaceful enough, for now, and he found himself torn between the obligation to warn the dwarves under his lead, and the fear that adding yet another worry to the mountain each of them already carried on their back would cause someone to break. No, better to keep silent for now. They had no weapons to fight back with anyway, even if they were attacked, and there was no point in having everyone jump at shadows.

    He hoped this was the right decision.


    **************************************


    Incidentally, does anyone know whether ice will melt if you mine it out and chuck it into an underground pit? A Cold biome means the spring thaw comes roughly halfway through Slate, and while I'm pretty sure I had dwarves survive that long without drink before, that was back in 40d, so I'd like to have an emergency backup plan just in case.

    And I'll have to say no to the "cut wood with wood" idea, since I'm convinced it's a bug and an unintended exploit.

    And silly just to say out loud.

    Next update probably sometime during next weekend.
    Last edited by Maxymiuk; 2010-06-07 at 06:39 AM.