The Fields of Ruin
*Contains mild language! Also, the dialogue might be difficult to understand at times, but its quite easy. I wanted to retain a unique feel to the story so I opted for a different approach when it came to the dwarven dialect.
‘Daggerhatred. Its very name struck pride into the hearts of many dwarfs who’ve heard it whispered among the hushed gossip back at the Mountainhomes. It was a proud and mighty fortress; towers of 50 feet high made of glimmering metal mined by the best miners within the realm. A massive fortress with untold riches awaiting any desperate kobold that would dare try to steal from the mighty dwarves of Daggerhatred. For they were the be… -‘, ‘Hauld oan, hauld ye horses! Wot vile naf ar ye feedin' me boy?’
The human trader was taken aback by the abrupt lack of trust from the dwarf, ‘I’m telling you how it was. Look if you don’t want to listen I got other things to be doing, like selling my stock to customers who actually want to buy!’
The dwarf let out a rapturous laugh. ‘Calm yer knickers. Nae 'at Ah hink yer haverin me oan', but ye meint hae it mixed up wi' daggerscorn which isnae tay far fom daggerhatred.’
The trader was about to raise his voice when he saw the gaggle of dwarves further ahead looking on with their beady eyes. Potential customers he thought, best be careful here.
‘Perhaps your right, maybe I got the two mixed up...’ he conceded.
‘Ye did. Daggerscorn is ‘deed a mighty fortress ay stone. Daggerhatred however is a manky pile ay dirt wi' a hole in a groun. If yer gonnae caal 'at a fortress ye meint as awel say mah mammy is easy oan th' eye.’
The trader wasn’t going to win this argument, and he was starting to come around to the idea that he may have been telling the story wrong.
‘Fair enough fair enough,’ he said, patting the dwarf on the shoulder unaware that he was committing sin by doing so. ‘So,’ he said, continuing, ‘what will you be buying off me today, hey?’
‘I'll be sellin' ye mah axe if ye dornt tak' yer grubby hans aff me, mucker!’
‘Easy now… sorry about that, bit of a habit you know?’
‘We willnae be buyin' anythin' aff ye. But Ah will seel ye a sang.’
The trader looked bemused, ‘A song you say? And what might I do with a song pray tell?’
‘Yoo'll listen an' gie th' fucken tale reit thes time. It's a sang abaut daggerhatred, abaut wot really happened. Listen up boy, fur it is a sad tale. A tale ay woe.’
Daggerhatred. Its very name struck fear into the hearts of many a brave dwarf. Not the kind of fear one might have when facing despair. Not the kind of fear one might feel when darkness seeps across the land, cloaking it into a misty blackened shade of nothing. No, it’s the kind of fear that one might have when asked to go live there. A fear brought about by knowing that Daggerhatred is nothing but a pile of dirt in the ground, an embarking gone wrong. Daggerhatred, as one dwarf put it, a heap of shit that isn’t worth taking a dump on.
So, when Barbarityturmoil, otherwise known as Strongarm by his peers, was asked to go to Daggerhatred, he didn’t hesitate. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about the fact that Daggerhatred was nothing but a hole in the ground; it was because he didn’t listen to gossip and rumours.
‘Sae thes place, it’s a mighty fortress, aye?’ asked Strongarm.
It’s hard to lie to a dwarf like Strongarm. Tall as he was, for a dwarf, it wasn’t his height that intimidated others, it was his frame. To look at him; you might be mistaken to take him for some sort of small tree. With arms the size of trunks, legs with bulbous muscle overlapping one another and broad shoulders that a couple of dwarfs each could rest upon, you certainly do not want to lie to a dwarf like Strongarm. If that wasn’t enough; it would be his great fiery red beard which was neatly braided, leaving a bushy top and two braided long strands dangling from his chin. His head was bald as it was common among dwarfs, but sturdy and hard as stone it was.
‘Err, 'at it be Strongarm, ‘at it be. Best ye be goin then.’ But apparently some people don’t really care and will lie regardless, usually because such a lie might mean they can live a little longer.
Not much more was said. Strongarm packed his things and went along with three other migrant dwarves, who for better or worse, were also in the dark on Daggerhatred. Otherwise nobody would have turned up …
It was an arduous journey that took the better part of a year on dangerous roads. Summer came, winter went. When they finally arrived on the outskirts of Daggerhatred, summer was once again around the corner. They had gone through their own supply of food, were desperately hungry and weak from the journey, but they made it. Daggerhatred.
‘Whaur th' fuck is it?’ Strongarm muttered to himself, wondering where the fortress was at.
‘Ahoy! Ahoy!’ The party of four migrants turned to where the sound was coming from. A young female dwarf who looked around forty was approaching them from afar at a brisk pace.
Strongarm approached her, ‘Ye frae daggerhatred?’ enquired Strongarm.
‘’At Ai be, ye th' new labourers?’
Strongarm looked her up and down with wandering eyes.
Her clothes were ragged looking, with the odd splash of blood and what seemed to be fish guts displayed over her working apron. She was of average height for a dwarf and had that gentle but blank look about her. Strongarm knew the type of person she was. He formed an image in his head of a dwarf ploughing through a field of daisy’s singing aloud and skipping along like a wee innocent dwarf, oblivious to the dangers of the world. The image sent a cold shiver down his spine.
‘Ni’ tae meet ye. Aam Dotust Swordstank,’ she took his hand forcibly and shook it fierce. The nest of brown hair she had atop her head was shaking like a raggedy bush.
Strongarm noticed it as well; he thought it was rather unusual for a dwarf to have such a head of hair flowing freely like that, especially one who is a fish gutter. She was also clean shaven. Not a single tint of hair could be seen on her face. Strongarm was starting to worry about what sort of policies they might have at Daggerhatred. If all the women were beardless… “Nay!” he shuddered at the thought.
‘Aam knoon as strongarm.’ His grip tightened as Dotust regretted taking his hand.
Swordstank let out a faint squeal as Strongarm finally loosened his grip. Strongarm indeed, she thought. It’s been quite a while that Dotust Swordstank had to look up into the face of another dwarf, for Strongarm was unusually tall.
‘Thes haur is Uglyshingle, oan accoont ay his scars,’ said Strongarm, introducing Shingle to Dotust.
Dotust wasn’t interested in admiring Uglyshingles scars; instead she seemed more interested in what he was wielding.
‘O, aye ‘at's his axe. A mighty hin' indeed.’
Uglyshingle raised his axe for Dotust to get a better look. Dotust couldn’t help but look in awe; it was as if she had never seen an axe before. It was a Double-sided silver axe, with braided hair tied to the handle and sturdy strong leather for its grip. An engraving was featured on the hilt in the language of old. A mighty axe indeed, thought Dotust.
And she ran…
By the time the four migrants had caught up with her, she went down into a hatch built into the muddy ground, screaming out loud about an axe.
Strongarm turned to Uglyshingle with the sort of expression that one might give upon discovering a tea party in the woods consisting of dwarfs and elves sipping out of tiny cups made of silverware and gossiping about the weather amongst themselves.
Shingle simply shrugged his shoulders, ‘Dornt look at me. It was th' axe 'at sent 'er in a fricht.’
Before Strongarm could make heads of the situation, all of the occupants of Daggerhatred popped out of the hatch. All seven of them.
‘An axe! An axe!’ they cried.
‘Shingle, gie yer axe ready. Thes coods be some sort ay axe worshipin' cult!’ Strongarm shouted out.
‘Dornt ye woiry boss! I'll be ful ay maggots bfair anyain gits thes axe aff me!’
‘Calm doon, a' calm doon!’
An elderly dwarf stepped out in front of the excited crowd. Skinny as he was, and frail looking, but elegant in his style and choice of clothing which consisted of long flails of silk coupled with leather patches upon his shoulder and knees. He had a long flowing grey beard, triple-braided in true dwarf fashion and a shiny bald top, wrinkled with age. This fellow dwarf, thought Strongarm, was their leader.
‘Now, Ah tak' it yer th' new workers we waur promisd?’
‘Indeed, an' wot is thes excitement for an axe aw abaut?’
‘I'll teel ye wot its aw abaut. It means we can hunt! We can forage fur food! We can strike doon a mighty elk wi' 'at thaur axe. It means food, guid lad, food!’
‘But Ah dornt understandd. Whaur is daggerhatred? Ah dornt see anie fortress haur?’ asked Strongarm.
The elder leader stepped out of the way as the group parted, and pointed towards a small mud stained hatch into the ground.
‘Daggerhatred’ he said.
Strongarm simply replied with the only words that came to his mind at that very moment… ‘Fuck aff, yer havin' a laugh sirely!’
Hours went by as the elder leader explained in detail about the woes of Daggerhatred. He explained to the migrants that their benevolent leader from the Mountainhomes had screwed up proper, and instead of embarking upon a mountainside like originally planned, they ended up on a patch of fertile land next to a flowing river. Not all bad some might say, if you were a trodding farmer, he’d say. So instead of pickaxes, they needed shovels. Instead of miners, they needed farmers. Instead of miners, they needed hunters. Instead of miners, they needed fish gutters.
The elder leader went on about how they made the best of their situation. They dug and dug, but naught a stone was found. Instead, they turned Daggerhatred into a thriving farming community. With farms above and below, Daggerhatred had amble supply of brew and edible plants. But it was meat, the elder leader cried, that they craved the most, and none dared risked hunting without some sort of weapon. He went into further detail on how the quartermaster messed up their gear; supplying a crossbow with no bolts.
Strongarm was given a simple choice. To stay and help out or to leave and risk the roads once more. They decided to stay. At first, it was out of pity. But as the months went on; pity changed to pride. Pride that a shithole like Daggerhatred could be changed into a lesser shithole. The sort of pride that no dwarf will admit to, not even one plastered with drink.
Four months later, Daggerhatred was doing marginally better. They now had a dedicated hunter, Uglyshingle who had the only weapon throughout the entire fort. Strongarm was made the military commander, and the elder leader had ordered for a set of chestplate bone armor to be made for him; on account of them not finding any metal yet.
All was well for a time at Daggerhatred. The fortress of eleven dwarfs, pitiful as it was, they were happy. No, happy is too strong a word. They were content… No, content is too strong a word. They were mildly content. They were marginally better than content when they were shitfaced and full of Berryprinkle wine and good oul dwarven ale.
The harvest was good. The food was decent and the drink was piss. To them though; it was good piss. And that’s all that mattered to the dwarves of Daggerhatred.
So all was well … until Spring came along.
Spring. Spring didn’t bring the harvest to Daggerhatred. Spring didn’t bring joy to the dreary drunken souls of Daggerhatred. Spring brought terror. Spring brought hatred.
It brought death and nothing more upon its winds.
‘Spider! Giant feckin spider! Ah hate giant spiders!’ shouted out Uglyshingle, as he swung his mighty axe into the face of a six eyed monster. Its body was gigantic, its mandibles were large and its hairy legs were equally large. But Shingle didn’t care for descriptive terrifying text. All he cared about was getting his axe stained with the juices of this ferocious beast.
With a thud and a howling screeching quail, the spider was dead, and Shingle’s axe was stained with the greenish tint of its foe. He spat for good measure as the beast lay motionless at his feet.
‘False alarm lads!’ he shouted out towards a dwarf who was coming to help.
Shingle noticed something odd though. The dwarf quickly turned and did a legger. Shingle knew that expression, but before he could act a great pair of mandibles had seized him around the neck.
With a snap, Uglyshingle’s head lopped off and went sailing at an arch towards the nearby river as the spider swung the body to the side.
‘Spiders! Giant forest spiders ur approaching, alert the fo-aGRHADh…’ Snap! The sound of bone breaking apart echoed throughout the forest as another dwarf fell.
A dozen spiders had come to the farmlands of upper Daggerhatred with a purpose to feed. There were more screams as the farmland civilians ran for their lives as the spiders pounced upon the poor dwarven folk, snapping at their heads and tearing the flesh apart.
‘Strongarm, Gie yer gear! We got spiders abune!’ shouted the elder.
Strongarm was furious; he knew this would happen sooner or later.
‘Ai tauld ye thes woud happen! Ai tauld ye wae needed weapons! Hoo th' heel am Ai tae fight them!’
‘Ai dunnae strongarm, use yer arms ur somethin'. Dae somethin'! Ai need tae help th' woonded, git outa mah way!’
Strongarm fetched his only means of protection, a flimsy chestplate of armor made of bone. Bone from a dead animal. He never wore the damn thing but now it was time.
With his armour strapped on, Strongarm went down to the brewery to have one last drink. Deep down he knew this might just be his last one. Then he had another. And another. When he realized he was sufficiently hammered and capable of fighting giant venomous spiders unarmed, he went upstairs and opened the hatch.
Carnage. Blood. Severed heads of his comrades. No dwarf should ever see this. It was much worse than he had imagined.
A dark raged seeped into his very heart. A burning hatred for eight legged creatures had nestled itself into his soul. Then he saw it in the corner of his eye …
It was feasting upon the carcase of Dorak Kaine, a good friend of his. A giant beast of a thing, desecrating a beloved dwarf. Strongarm let out a mighty roar as he charged at the foul beast.
It didn’t have time to react; he latched onto one of its many legs, and with a fearsome tug he ripped it asunder from its body. A cry of withering pain could be heard from the beast, but Strongarm had no time for mercy. With the very leg he ripped from the spider, he started smacking it across the head with it; beating it into the ground with ferocity and determination.
‘Die! Die! Die!’ was all he shouted as he finished it off, its head crushed by its own leg.
Strongarm heard it just in time. A hissing sound, he turned and saw what was charging at him. It came at him, looking to wrap its mandibles around his head, but Strongarm was too quick for it. He wrestled with the mighty beast. This one was even larger, bolder and more fearsome, but to Strongarm it had eight legs and six eyes, and it needed to die. Its mass didn’t matter to Strongarm, not to this dwarf.
Wrestled with it he did. Both shapes tumbled together as Strongarm fought against the overbearing spider, but just as he was winning the scrap something struck him from behind.
‘Blasted vermin!’ he cried out as a sticky white substance enveloped him. ‘Ye grottie fucken backstarbin' webshootin' ponce!’
Strongarm was caught in a web. This didn’t look good he thought, as he squirmed and moved within the confines of the web. The great beast of a spider he was wrestling with prior was now eying him up, its great mandibles was ready for him.
‘ARGAHD!’ he shouted out as the mandibles wrapped itself around his head.
‘Gie yer dirty paws aff mah heed!’ with that, Strongarm was free from the web. He ripped apart the mandibles and started gnawing at the beasts eyes, gnashing at its very sight. Strongarm ripped it out and spat it back at the great spider.
‘Sae its true. Ye dae taste like chicken! Ai shaa hae a mighty feest ay spiders tonecht lads!’
With that the spider ran from Strongarm. Bloodied, injured and something about chicken made it decide that running was its best option now. Strongarm was busy kicking to death one of the spiders that had shot at him, before deciding to finish its bigger sibling. He chased after it; running with a gaping open wound upon his head, blood flailing from it. Strongarm didn’t care for any of that. It had eight legs and it needed to die.
But something was amiss. Strongarm suddenly felt weak at the knees. His pace soon turned into a slow jog, and before long he was on the ground, panting for air.
‘Venom! Shuda known!’
He tumbled to the ground and in the corner of his eyes he saw the approaching terror. It was back.
‘Go oan, hoddin cheap shot me Ah daur ye!’ he muttered out in failing breath, blood dripping now from his mouth.
It grew closer, and closer. It was deeply scarred, missing an eye along with its mandibles but it wanted vengeance and Strongarm knew that look better than anyone.
A hair raising screech was heard from the beast, as it fell to the mighty blow of Uglyshingles axe. Vengence would have to wait, it would seem.
Strongarm blinked. Of all the things he saw, this was the least expected. Dotust Swordstank, the fisherdwarf wielding the axe of Uglyshingle stood panting and out of breath. She threw down the axe and knelt beside Strongarm, comforting him.
‘Out. Run. Go…’ was all Strongarm could muster. She closed his eyes and said a silent prayer to Amok.
Swordstank did what she did best. She ran as fast as she could, daring herself not to look back upon the field of ruin.