Spring – Year 3

M’lord

Ye Armok in Heavenhome!  Helmgorge is an asylum.  Grave matters still require action, but I thought it prudent to report my arrival and assumption of duties.

Upon entering the fort I was greeted by the smell of rancid meat.  Dwarves lazily wandered around not really focused on any tasks.  The same dwarf would carry furniture one minute, craft a stone mug the next, and engage himself in hauling food a moment after that.  On the bench of the mason’s workshops, work orders were piled up to the ceiling, but there were no masons around.  I stopped a peasant, who was standing around doing nothing and asked where our masons were, fearing some sort of calamity or trauma had stunted our workforce.  His response was startling:  “chopping wood maybe, probably hauling refuse or doors.” Such inefficiency!

It was then a drunken miner stumbled my way.  As he neared I was overcome by the stench of vinegar and sour wine.  Dust covered him from beard to boot except where the wrinkles of his face belied a tendency to laugh often. Incredibly, around his neck were master-keys to the fort and the badge of authority.  This was what he said:

“Welcome to Hell-*hic*-mgorge.  I came with the original se-*hic*-ven. Things went well at first.  The original overseer, a farmer by trade, tilled out some goo-*hic*-ood subterranean farmland and has ensured bountiful harvests.  He also ably set up the stills and kept the fl-*hic*-ow of booze steady.  But as it does, the place *hic* got to ‘im.  One day, *hic* he started mucking about with my blueprints and forcing the workers to work in cramped cubes. Our main thoroughfare was only *hic* was only as wide as a dwarf and he refused to expand it.  Meanwhile he put a bunch of us to work *hic* smoothing out his bedroom and making an office for him.  He’s a good lad, just went unhinged… I blame all that time he was out under that sun.  That infernal orb does terrible thi-*hic*-ings to the dwarf mind.  I took over *hic* shortly after.  My *hic* mistake…  I’ve expanded some halls, tried to get the bedrooms up…  Well, you’ll see…  Good lu-*hic*-uck to you.”

And with that, he went back to the meeting hall where a raucous party rolled on.

This was only the beginning, for as I wandered Helmgorge’s cramped halls and sprawling, inefficient layout I came upon a horrid sight:

A citizen lay dead (amidst the purple miasma), rotting near the workshops, while “work” continued around him. Which is to say, peasants stand idle, while masons do peasant work, no one does mason work and each dwarf haphazardly engages in whatever task fancies them at the moment.  I’ll spare you from the other corpse I found.  One so badly decomposed all that remained were mouldy bones. 

I inquired into the nature of these citizens’ demise and all I ever received in response was shrugs.  It seems that 2 waves of ‘migrants’ arrived and no one really knew these fellows.  It baffles me.

These supposed migrants are a mix of what can only be described as Fratdwarves and refugees; debauched or desperate, looking only to find their next drink or someplace safe inside a mountain to pass out and escape the sun.  Naturally, caravans must have exported tales of the constant bacchanalian orgies along with our trinkets…

Most of the dwarves here seem to wander about from party to party sleeping wherever they happen to fall.  Sometimes, great works and tasks are completed with speed, other times, work orders sit untouched for months.  I suspect part of this is because housing wing is about as far away from the workshops as they can possibly be, and that on their way to work, every dwarf has to walk by a giant stock of wine, the meeting hall and one of the myriad parties almost constantly occurring.  How could any dwarf resist such temptations?  Additionally, while the residence wing is large enough to accommodate 50 or so dwarves, there are insufficient doors and beds to make enough proper rooms for our existing citizens.

With a brief survey completed of the layout concluded, I then inspected the military and found 5 dwarves armed with crossbows.  Among them, was the truant mason.  Why he was drafted is beyond me.  He is far too useful to be put in such danger.  I immediately disbanded this haphazard force and sent them to the meeting hall.  In fact I decided to round up everyone and announce my presence.  I sent word with three of the more sober peasants to gather everyone at the hall.

On my way to the meeting hall I passed our butchery.  It was the cleanest butchery I had ever seen.  Perhaps there was hope for this fort yet.  I stopped in and spoke to the butcher:

“By what name are you called butcher?”
“Eurypides, sir.”
“Eurypides, your butchery is the one bright spot in this ill-begotten fortress. How do you manage to keep this place so clean and orderly with all the madness around you?”
“Well sir, there hasn’t been an animal to butcher in 6 months or so. Hard to make a mess with no animals to butcher…”

It was then I noticed he fiddled with a fist-sized piece of jet in his hand.  It was perfectly smooth and had been engraved with an image of an Ash tree.  As the stone moved in his hand, sharply carved angles caught the light in strange ways and gave it the uncanny effect of a tree swaying in a breeze.

“Eurypides, where did you get that?”
“I engraved it sir.”
“You engraved that?”
“Yes sir. I’m an engraver by trade sir.”
“You are an engraver by trade, but you’ve been assigned to work in the butchery even though there are no animals to butcher?”
“Yes sir, I also haul food, stone, wood, furniture and finished items sir.”
“Please report to the meeting hall”

This state of affairs could not continue.

Upon arriving at the hall, a party, not surprisingly had ensued.  A mug of wine was thrust into my hand by the drunken miner, now stone-sober, whose name I discovered was Orto, and he clapped me on the back while shouting above the din.

“HAIL, HAIL ARMOK! HAIL, HAIL HELMGORGE and HAIL TO OUR NEW OVERSEER, DAR916!”

In the ensuing chorus of hurrahs, Orto leaned in close.  His gregarious smile exploded onto his face as if to conceal some secret, but his intense glare betrayed some dark truth.  That menacing look drew down a curtain of darkness that eclipsed our surroundings.  It was the dark you find miles deep under a mountain; as if the galaxy were only black and empty except for two maniacal eyes that spoke of having dug too deep or bore witness to an ecstatic vision.  It blinds me even now to recall it.  Amidst such blackness, I heard his voice echo in my head:

“Our curse is now yours to endure.  Do not judge our ways or speak too ill of our efforts.  This place shatters those who cling to conventional dwarf ways. If you survive, then we three, with Esseffbee will be brothers in suffering. Pray hard and drink harder.”

And then as if I had just surfaced from being submerged underwater, the party and the hurrahs rang in my ears.  Taken aback by the strange event just seconds before, I clumsily introduced myself and announced I would be staying in the barracks until the militia could be reformed.  I called for 3 cheers to Helmgorge, drained my mug and departed to gather my thoughts.

Since then, I’ve been gathering reports, commisioning maps and taking stock of our supplies.  Barring catastrophe my next report will be sent with the liaison  in autumn.  By then, order and sanity shall be restored. 

Armok help me.

Your Humble Servant,
Dar916

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