Dwarf Fortress Stories

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A familial tragedy

04 November 2014, 17:55 Rating: 21 [+]

We had gathered around the workshop, waiting to see what the fledgling ranger, and loving father of 8 (eight!) would do. Nil had attracted the rapt attention of a few of us after the trade caravan had left, when, while out on the hunt for wombats, he suddenly dropped his crossbow and his countenance took on an unworldly aspect. Nil had rushed back into the fortress of Copperflag and without a moment's hesitation, expelled the tenant craftdwarf at the workshop where he was absent-mindedly producing pots.

Nil's face glistened with perspiration, his eyes glazed and vacant, as he surveyed his surroundings. We knew immediately what this was, and what he must be thinking: this is the place where he would produce his masterpiece. His life's work. 

He picked up a piece of charcoal and knelt on the floor, and with his eyes fixed on a point in space above him, managed to sketch a perfect rock. Suddenly, he took off and grabbed a piece of nearby granite and returned to the workshop - his sanctuary. He took up the charcoal again and sketched out a perfect drawing of cloth.

This was still our first year here at Copperflag. We hadn't yet managed to establish any sort of textile industry at the time, as up until now, we had more important tasks at hand. Nil was filling the floors and walls of the workshop with pictures of cloth - there was none available in the fortress. I talked to the others and we all agreed: let's get this dwarf some cloth.

We quickly built a farmer's workshop and a loom. Luckily, we already had some pig tails around, waiting to be brewed. Quickly, we ran and grabbed them, extracted their precious fibers, spun it into thread, and produced some cloth. The quality reflected the hasty measures to produce it, but it was cloth.

Nil ignored it. Even after waving it in front of him like a banner, he kept drawing cloth - but the images were not clear enough to discern what material it was. We all silently hoped that he didn't have wool on his mind, as no one had brought any sheep or alpacas on our journey.

One of the older gentledwarf's in the group reminded us that you can often find cave spider webs in the caverns, which can be spun into fine silk. While every dwarf wanted desperately to view the caves for themselves, most agreed that we were not ready to brave the potential dangers. We talked the miners into delving deeper in the earth, to look for the caverns. They pierced the ceiling of the cavern, and we all peered inside.

Euphoria. Bliss. Sheer rapture filled our hearts as we surveyed the caves. Surely, this is what every dwarf lived for. Our eyes beheld the majestic tower-caps and fungiwood, swirling pools and fountains, glittering gold and gleaming gems. We stood with bated breath, before remembering our purpose - spider webs.

I lighted upon a small group of webs - huzzah! The miners dug down near the webs, and the bravest among us ran out and gathered an armful of webs. Dread seized us as we noticed, farther in the distance, that there were more webs - belonging to a giant cave spider. We chose not to alarm the poor dwarf out there of the danger, but we didn't need to. A sudden but distant rumble shook the walls of the cave. Pause. Again, a rumble, but ever so slightly louder. Pause. Again, a little more intense. Pause. The dwarf kept calm, but wasted no time in finishing his job, and returned to the cave entrance. He sprinted back to the cave entrance and hopped over the wall that our mason was already starting to build. The mason hurriedly slapped stone on mortar together, as we crowded to see the threat for ourselves. A giant toad hopped to the wall, rubble falling all around it. Her slimy tongue found its way through the last small hole in the wall, probing our tunnel, before returning. Udil shoved the last stone into place and tangible relief washed over us.

The others returned to the loom, while I stayed behind and asked the mason to put up another layer of wall, just in case. She assured me that all we needed was one, but I insisted on another. There was no way that I'd have that beast roaming around the fortress. At the loom, they spun the web into silk and the silk into the light, smooth cloth. Surely, this would break Nil's trance and allow him to continue his labors.

The danger, the fear, the sweat...all for naught. Nil didn't even notice the silk. His masterpiece must have required wool cloth. We bowed our heads in subtle despair. There was no chance we could provide it to him, and we knew what would happen next.

As the days passed, Nil became more and more agitated. When he ran out of charcoal for drawing, he used blood. Of where he got the blood, we only thought the worst. We met together in the dining room to discuss his impending fate. Perhaps we should seal him in the craft room, lest he emerge as a danger to himself and others? 

Alas, it was too late. Nil burst into the dining room, clothes torn, foam dripping from his mouth and beard. Nil grabbed his wife, a humble cheese-maker, and started beating her bloody. We all stood with gaping mouths as the drama unfolded around us. Of course, she was not having any of it, and fought back, but with the berserk rage that Nil was in, he easily overpowered her. Four of Nil's children, seeing their mother's plight, jumped on Nil to restrain him. In his rage, he flung all of them off, but forgetting the attack on his wife, looked at the next closest dwarf: myself. My eyes widened, and I stumbled back against the wall, hands above and in front of me. To this day, I am ashamed of my cowardice. Luckily for me, his family came back in the fight. A punch to the head from his daughter. A scratch from his son. Ignoring it all, he took another step towards me. Kick to the leg. Bite to the arm. Another, slower step. Several punches in the chest and stomach, while a couple of his children held his arms. Still, another slower step. Finally, Urdim, his 11-year old boy, stood directly between me and him, and just before Nil could reach me, Urdim's foot shot out faster than anything I've seen, and Nil's lower body exploded. Nil's son, with blood dripping from , slowly walked outside, obviously in shock.

It's been a couple of months since the incident, and Nil's family is still grieving the loss. Everyone else has returned to their duties as normal. Urdim, while lamenting the loss of an otherwise loving father, has taken a sort of sick pride in the kill. When recounting the events, he somehow fails to make the connection that the man he killed and his deceased father are not the same person. Perhaps this is for the best.

Recently, a representative from the mountainhomes came and visited us. He regaled us with tales of the world beyond, and we told him in great detail of the incident here at Copperflag. After hearing all sides of the tale, he pulled me aside, and said he'd like to meet me in private. Immediately, feelings of regret and guilt swept over me again, and I expected chastisement for being craven.

Instead, the reprentative said that he saw great potential in me. I was a natural leader, and took charge early on when charge needed to be taken. He told me that the mix of leadership and cowardice that I possessed was perfect for nobility. He'd put in a word for me with the local baron, and perhaps even the Queen would hear of me. In the coming months, I would be groomed for nobility, and if I proved my cowardice more, and became more demanding, then I would be formally recommended to join the ranks of the gentry.