Chatpter 5: Don't say the M word

It was a couple of months later after the bedrooms had been set up that an event of some significance happened at the fort. It was late evening, although it was hard to tell as the sky outside was always cloudy and dark, and the dwarves were sitting round the tables of the main hall. They had just sat down for the evening's roast mushroom risotto along with mushroom wine and mushroom biscuits when they heard the doors blast open. Magnok was quick to jump to his feet and get the axe ready. These days he kept it almost perpetually by his side.

"Oh god!" said Taffer standing to his feet, "Yetis?"

They heard the doors slam shut and voices in the long tunnel.

"Hello? Is anyone there?" said a non-Yeti evidently.

Magnok signalled to the others and they peeked their heads round the corner one by one. There were five dwarves standing in the corridor in fur coats and sacks over their shoulders.

"Hello?" they called squinting in the darkness as their eyes were not as accustomed to the dark as our four dwarves.

"Who are you people!" demanded Magnok, "And what do you want?"

A dwarf who looked like their leader stepped forward rubbing his hands, "Please!" he said puffing for breath, "We've come a long way. Our wagon… it was attacked!"

"Oh dear," sighed Taffer, "and we were doing so well…"

The dwarf continued talking looking briefly to the other dwarves around him for encouragement, "you see we were on our way to start an out post on the glacier. It all started a few days ago. We heard strange noises, ghostly scrapings against the side of the wagon. They didn't attack us at first until a few days later. Arrick and the others managed to fend them off the first time but the second time they came back in greater numbers. Our wagon was destroyed. You have to help us!"

"I don't know if this is a good idea," whispered Taffer in his ear, "We were doing fine by ourselves"

"I thought it was you that wanted more dwarves?" hissed Magnok back, "nevertheless I'll talk to them"

He turned back to face the leader and nodded anxiously, "So what are your professions?"

"Forgive me," said the leader, "My name is Zasit I'm a mechanic. This is Kadol," he said gesturing to a chubby fat dwarf lady, "she's a cook and a butcher"

"Oh we need her," said Taffer nudging Magnok in the ribs

"This here is Shorast a talented weaponsmith," he said pointing to a dark haired dwarf who nodded, "this here is Goden. He doesn't talk much but he's good with a hammer. He was part of the squad assigned to protect us. Unfortunately he's also the only part left," he sighed shaking his head.

"This beautiful lady here," he continued gesturing to a female dwarf, " is Erria the jewler"

"Lose her! Lose her!" hissed Taffer in Magnok's ear, "She's useless keep the other ones but lose her! Find an excuse and send her out to gather wood or something!"

"Er I can… hear you talking…" said Erria uncomfortably.

Magnok grinned his optimistic smile and looked down lustfully at the beautiful Erria, "I don't know I think she'll make a good brewer"

"I'm a jeweller," she replied with a frown.

"I think she'll make a good jeweller," he said ignoring that he had been corrected. He gazed at her neat blond pigtails all braided up and at her beautiful blue eyes, "I think we can find a place for her jewelling and stuff. Don't you think?"

"She's very pretty," observed Urist.

"What? That doesn't even make sense!" said Taffer irritably, "how is that a premise for anything!"

"Yes I think we can find places for you all," beamed Magnok, "Taffer show Erria to the jewels will you?"

"We don't have any jewels or gemstones or anything," said Taffer his eyebrows horizontal, "do you want me to show her to the raw hides dripping with rotten crundle meat instead?"

Magnok briefly glared at Taffer before turning back to Erria with a beaming smile, "We'll find you some gems to cut don't worry. Taffer we're going to need some more beds for our guests but for now Erria you are welcome to sleep in my room…"

"Er no thanks…" she said warily, "its okay I can sleep on the floor"

"Are you sure? It gets very cold at night?"

"Yes I'm fine. Really…" she added.

"So then… come in?" said Magnok with an unsteady grin. He led them down the corridor to the hall and they sat down on a few of the spare chairs.

The five new dwarves talked uneasily about the horrors of the planes outside. It seemed that Magnok and his party had been lucky with their embark. Zasit and his people had originally set out with fourteen although the expedition leader was now dead along with the other eight. They were five migrants if you could call them that.

The group had some food with them which they dutifully shared out. If they wanted to stay here without a fight then they would have to make a good first impression and Zasit knew this only too well.

There was great joy amongst Magnok and his dwarves who had not tasted cave lobster for months [or anything other than mushrooms]. Most of the food was eaten that night but there was a little left over for the following days. Taffer stuffed some of the sweet breads in his pockets when nobody was looking. He might as well make the most of a bad situation.

"I don't know if you've heard of Tobul Kolasmel?" said Shorast the dark haired weaponsmith.

"Isn't he the legendary weapon smith who created the hammer Grond?" asked Taffer once again showing an irritating display of knowledge.

"Indeed he is," said Shorast with pride, "I studied with him in dwarf city"

"Good for you," said Magnok indifferently giving the impression far too easily that he really didn't care, he turned his head to look at Zasit and started speaking with his mouth half full.

"So why did you come out here? This isn't exactly Undergrotto is it?"

"Well we came out to start an outpost," sighed Zasit fiddling with a stone mug, "I don't know in hindsight why. The others had such enthusiasm at the time. I guess I was just convinced; bored with the monotony of life"

"Are you still going to start your outpost somewhere?" probed Taffer.

Zasit fell silent and looked awkward, "Well I don't know what the rest of you think, but I was kind of hoping to stay here and do our best, maybe make a living with you people?"

"You can stay here as long as you like!" chirped up Urist, "Right Lumpy?"

"Wrgt!" he replied his mouth full of sweet bread. Taffer slapped his hand against his head.

"So," said Zasit stroking the stone table, "Who is who amongst you dwarves? I take it you are the leader?"

"Yes," replied Magnok, "My name is Magnok, stone mason and stone crafter. This here to my right is Taffer a carpenter and butcher"

"I'm not a butcher," he glared.

"Oh how exciting!" smiled Kadol the chubby dwarf. She grinned at Taffer, "I'm sure we can have lots of fun in the kitchen!"

"Yes except that, I'm not a butcher!" he reiterated, "I just had to do it because we had dead crundles and if I didn't they would all have started to rot. Still that can be your job now so have fun with all the rotting corpses we're going to bring you"

"What, you mean to say you opened the caverns?" asked Zasit looking shocked.

"Yea don't worry about it we walled it off," shrugged Magnok, "It's perfectly safe. Besides it's the only way Urist can farm in this wasteland"

"Walling it off isn't enough. There are creatures in the depths that are perfectly capable of flying over walls," said Zasit with a shake of his head.

"He has got a point," said Taffer, "I've heard of Giant bats and of course the forgotten beasts that roam the subterranean lands always lusting after flesh. The creatures of the depth which have no name"

"We can deal with it in our own time," shrugged Magnok, "it's hardly a problem. We've been here what a couple of months now? Haven't seen so much as one forgotten beast"

Zasit did not look at all convinced but he kept his thoughts to himself all the same.

"Well lads," said Magnok when everyone was drunk and full of food, "I think it's time to get sleeping wherever it is you want to sleep. In the morning I'll get lumpy here to carve out some rooms for you all and we'll get some beds made aye Taffer?"

"Aye…" he responded half-heartedly.

"I expect you all to help with carrying the stone to the dump, as they're going to be your rooms after all"

"Where is it?" asked Kadol pushing a final piece of mushroom into her podgy lips, "The dump I mean?"

"We'll show you tomorrow," said Magnok waving his hands, "Enough for tonight I must bid you good night. Tomorrow we will outline how we can further put our talents to the glory of Armok"

"Or just plan how not to get killed for the rest of the year," added Taffer

"That too," nodded Magnok, "Dwarves! Good night!" he said raising his mug with a slosh of alcohol. He promptly fell over backwards and passed out.

Taffer leaned over and took a piece of the sweet bread left on his plate and dipped it in the mushroom wine, "So there's an extra spare bed if anyone wants it tonight"

"He's your leader?" asked Erriol in disbelief

"Yep, life's a bitch eh?"

"He's a pervert," she said, "I can't believe he suggested that to me"

"Yea he's like that what a reacher huh? Anyway about beds… You're welcome to sleep in my room for the night if…"

"No thanks…"

"Oh well…" sighed Taffer clicking his fingers, "It was worth a try"

Kadol was quick to claim Magnok's bed for the night as the others were all too polite. Taffer soon found himself dreaming away in his nice Fungiwood bed. He'd saved the nicest bed for himself and he grinned as he snuggled up under the covers at the thought of Magnok waking up on the freezing floor. The rest of the migrants went to sleep in the hall. They listened shivering to the wind outside and that horrible whistle that came in through the crack in the doors. There was mixed feelings about the encounter on both sides. Both sides were of course wondering why on earth they'd decided to embark here in the first place.

Morning came to the fortress with hardly the slightest inclination as there was next to no light that could make its way inside from those freezing tundra skies. The migrants groaned as they looked about them in the dark their eyes slightly more used to the gloom now. Shorast the weapon smith groaned as he rolled over. Every part of him ached and was freezing.

Magnok was still out cold drooling on the floor when Taffer walked in. He strolled in stepping over the hammer dwarf Goden and pulled up a stone chair loudly to seat himself where Magnok had been seated the night before. Pulling out sweet bread from his pockets he started munching loudly and poured himself a drink.

"Have you heard of sneaking?" grumbled Zasit rubbing his head.

"Yes," shrugged Taffer munching away, "Its time for you guys to get up anyway"

"Maybe you should wake him up?" suggested Shorast pointing to Magnok on the floor.

"No that's okay. My life is good while he's not conscious I was hoping to keep it that way, at least a little bit longer"

Kadol groaned watching Taffer eat through the gloom. Goden propped himself up leaning on his copper war hammer and pushed himself uneasily to his feet. Standing over Magnok he turned his hammer round the other way and poked the expedition leader in the ribs.

"Please not the plump helmet men!" he whimpered drooling over the axe handle.

"Try poking him in the teeth," suggested Taffer not looking up from his breakfast.

"This is awkward," said Zasit rubbing his head.