Part 186: Orangesoda: Update 1
Every month in the mountainhomes, i'd get letters from my mother at syrupleaf.
An odd one, she was. Despite talk of allies being ripped apart, the hollistic spawn swarming the gates and ravaging the fortress, angry moles devouring their caretaker's underlings and battles against massive dragons she would write of them like they were amazing stories. Every detail would be written about in excited, exaggerated ways.
She told me of "rock music" as well. It seems her and some dwarves formed a band in syrupleaf that played a...different kind of music. A few merchants here, the ones lucky enough to actually come back from syrupleaf, have actually seen these concerts in person. They told me that it was very different. It was loud, angry. They would smash their own instruments, light things on fire, shout every lyric as if it were a battlecry and every song was about death, chaos, destruction and great bloody battles.
I never really saw the appeal in that. I did just fine listening to the musicians here and their rhyming songs about ale, women and great warriors. I guess some would consider me..timid. I never speak much unless I need to, I don't really have any leadership qualities or combat skills...I just work on my crafts in peace. I'm getting pretty good at it anyways.
Today, however, I received notice that my mother had died at syurpleaf. In my family, it's customary to take over for a deceased family member from another fortress so long as they're directly above you in age.
So here I am, in the frozen wastes on a wagon heading for syrupleaf to take over my mother's job as an instrument crafter and.."rock star", they call it. Meanwhile, my younger brother gets my cushy metalcrafting job back home.
Somehow I feel like I got ripped off in this deal, not sure why.
As I neared the fortress, amazed I wasn't ripped apart by spawn on the way here, I expected the place to be some sort of massive ice fortress, guarded by legions of dwarves in bloodsoaked, obsidian-spiked armor going by my mother's letters.
Instead, I found what must've been a nice place at one point, but was now a depressing sight. The ground was covered in bones. Bones of animals, dwarves and...something else. Iv'e never seen bones like these. There were guards, but only a few disorganized ones. The ground was caked with blood, vomit and other odd fluids and the dwarves all seemed to mope about as if the gods had abandoned them.
Maybe they had, going by the sounds of things.
Despite all of this, Syrupleaf was one of the richest, most profitable fortresses in the known world. I am baffled as to how this place had made so much so fast, not even the mountainhomes had such wealth. All we had were antmen invasions and afterwards dinner consisting of the legs of said antmen. Strangely delicious.
There were many rooms to choose from, thankfully. It's just...there were too many to choose from.
Out of so many rooms and beds, a huge fraction were empty. To some it may not sound so bad, but someone from the mountainhomes, where even into the night one can hear drunken laughter, arguments and mining work, walking to your room in eerie silence, hardly ever passing by another dwarf in the living quarters hallways and then laying in bed in complete quiet...it's bad enough that it's no mystery as to why those beds were empty.
The next morning, I decided to tour the fortress a bit. I went down a floor and found a few workshops and shops, though strangely only one had a merchant present. It's as if nobody here worries about thieves.
Things turned sour quickly. In a strange, inconspicuous corridor lost behind all the hustle and bustle of the shops, I found a secret prison of some sort. Within one of the dusty cells, a member of the royal guard of all people was chained up.
His hand was badly mangled to the point where it looked more like a dog-gnawed rabbit corpse than a hand anymore. His left leg was quite obviously broken too and he seemed to be in a sort of daze. I tried to get his attention, but got no response. I think it's best if I never return to this area and pretend iv'e never been there, lest I end up in his place.
Back at the shops, the resident philosopher "Mortal Sword" approached me. He went on about how, perhaps, if he raised the prices on all goods, we'd be less inclined to spend so much time acquiring funds for material possessions. We wouldn't steal for the money to buy a new mug or cheat at dice to get a few more gold coins. We'd be happy without anything to worry about, quite literally, he says.
I told him to stop talking to me before I use my material fists to give him something to worry about. I think I need to work on my insults but it worked.
In a cave nearby, two miners were arguing over what to do about the mining cavern that hugged the chasm, an "Idles" and "Deadly hume". Idles claimed they'd done enough, while Hume says that they could easily get cave spider silk if they dug into a chamber he saw north of them. I idly pointed out that there was signs of gold ore in the north wall, which whipped both into a mining frenzy to dig out the whole seam.
I then decided to meet with a few people that my mother had wrote about. First was a "Manuel Calvera", who she often wrote about. He was the bass player in the band, using a bass guitar made of mammoth and polar bear bones. Though now he was the lead guitarist, since my mother's death at the hands of, coincidentally, a polar bear.
He showed me the legendary drum that a dwarf had made for their band, it's deep thundering tone unlike any other when struck. He says that it was created with divine inspiration, though often "divine inspiration" could just mean "booze induced hysteria".
Afterwards I thanked him and told him that my mother wrote often about their concerts and how "ridiculous" she thought bone instruments were at times.
His response was to spit plump helmet wine all over the floor and shout "ORANGE WAS A WOMAN!?"
It seems through an elaborate use of paint, leather, fur and cloth, my mother had disguised her own gender. Going through her notes in her room (after washing the wine out of my clothes) it turns out she figured nobody would take her music very seriously if they knew she were a girl. Rather ridiculous, but that seems plausible for her. Always with the insane ideas and overthetop ways around things.
I decided to take a detour on my way back to the "main" part of syrupleaf, AKA the part that isn't abandoned save for a stray dog or two. The path lead me into more forgotten corridors, where I discovered two strange pits...they seemed to be made to just be pits, but the rock outcropping made it rather obvious that these could be execution methods. I wondered briefly if I went to the bottom that I would find the smashed remains of that royal guard in the secret prison. There was something wrong in the fortress, something besides hollistic's spawn.
That evening, I was to play in the band. Iv'e never been so damned nervous in my life. I can't play a guitar! I could hardly play the drums let alone a heavy guitar made of stone! Though, it was my job now. to make these things and play for the entertainment of others.
Quite a few showed up eagerly when they heard we were beginning. That nice kid Markus showed up, though I don't know why leperfish didn't come with him. Eiba, the crazy mole trainer guy, brought his moles in to listen as well. It was kinda cute in a strange, weird way. Uncle Jam, one of the fortress guard and Deadly hume from earlier were also present, though I hope they were ment to be on break and not skipping their duties to watch me mess up.
Strangely though..when we began, I felt as if something was urging me to pull the right strings, to make the right motions. It's as if a sheet of music was engraved into my very brain as I played. I was surprised at how well I was doing, it was like those martial trances they say some military dwarves enter, only with music! Oddly, nobody else seemed to shocked, they just listened.
Before I knew it, we'd played the whole song "Tehsid the spineripper" perfectly. I can hardly remember much besides starting, then being sweaty and tired before a cheering crowd. I nearly passed out when I saw the countess, accursed, approach from the seats and walk up to the stage. I figured I was about to have my skull caved in by a hammering not too far from now.
"A performance like that could make a peasant into an overseer."
Val Helmethead wrote :-
The Musings of Osrob Scattermoles - Philosopher
Rationale for Fortresses Upon the Dwarven Frontier
What have we, the Dwarven people, gained from these Fortresses? Built upon dangerous land, often in the worst of extremes and sometimes within spitting distance of our strongest foes - few have survived long enough to be considered even a peaceful town, unlike the Mountainhome which has survied many years of relative prosperity. No, the fortresses are typically characterized as nasty places, where lives are brutish and short, danger lurks above, below, and inside every rock, and its citizens are a motley collection of volenteers, drifters, and those cast out of proper Dwarven society.
Consider the arguments against further Fortress expansion. Boatmurdered nearly lead to a war across the multi-verses with the Elves and Humans after the aptly named "Operation Fuck-The-World" slayed an entire human caravan and burnt down the entirety of the region's forests. Headshoots is responsible for the creation of our greatest foe, the Arch-Demon and mother of the thrice-cursed Spawn - Holistic Detective. In each of these cases, only one dwarf survived to tell the tale. In countless other cases we've lost royalty, unimagionable numbers of our young nobility, and even our caravans have been decimated by attacks on the dangerous roads. All for a few trinkets of Adamantine sold back to the Mountainhomes.
Many leading Dwarves would say this is not worth the time, the treasure, or the lives.
Consider though with such tempting targets, have not the spawn, the sand raiders, the goblins and ogres and frost giants attacked the Fortress instead of the more heavily defended Mountainhomes? The reward in the greater populace of the Dwarven Kingdoms alone must more than make up for the loss of life and treasure sunk into these Fortresses.
Also, how much more do we know this day in the fields of biology, physics, and chemistry from the practical work done by these fortresses of inovation? Magma theory, mole dog taming, soul infusion of weapons and armor, spontanious generation of carp, knowlege of the outer reaches of HFS - just to name a few! Our theoretical models of drawbridge working would not be so complete without the chance to practice in the field. The Science of digging, also, has increased tremendously once we discovered the 3rd dimension. Additionally, the tradition of 1 Overseer with near limitless power each year has given us the chance to test social theories in ways we could not have done in any other way.
Finally, consider our champions. Have not the best of our people come out of the Fortress program? Have not those filled with a wonderlust and unable to function in normal Dwarven society found a chance for their combined talents to shine far greater than any in the Mountainhomes within the walls of their fortresses? These forts give the best of each generation the chance to prove themselves in a way that strengthens Dwarven-kind in ways we have not even begun to think of on this day.
So, before we discuss the follies of Fortresses, please ask yourself if the benefits do not greatly outway the risks. I'm sure you will see, as I have, of the necessity of places like Syrupleaf.
markus_cz wrote :-
Fragments of a broken stone tablet are to be found amidst the bones on the bottom of the sacrificial pyramid. Upon assembling all the pieces, it reads:
Dear mr. Skullbugy,
I hope this letter reaches you
in good he . I don't know the address to the Litast's realm, but I hope this is allright? Could you please take this letter and read it to my older brother Leperfish? I wanted to send it to him, but I realised he still couldn't read. Then I wanted to send it to uncle Screaming Idiot, but this was the same problem. However, in the end I remembered about you!
So please read:
I miss you. Are you ok? Mommy told me to ask you if they feed and cloth you well. Do they? Uncle Idiot once told me there would be heaps of beaver steaks and mole dung chips and other delicousnesses, so I hope he was right.
I am terribly sorry for the incident. I promise I will never ever want to play Frost Giant Siege during a regular siege anymore. Perhaps it will make you happy if I tell you that you would have probably won?
Anyway, I hope you're having fun. Mister Skullbugy once told me the when we die we can take up any form in the Litast's realm. S I guess you finaly get to be the sword, wielding a two-handed axe and riding a war cat. Is it cool?
Could you please ask mr. Skullbugy to read this to mr. Idiot?
Dear uncle Screaming Idiot
Yer havin' fun there?! Everyone down 'ere been 'avin' fits of melankholy 'an sadness 'an tears 'an stuff eva since ye left! Been sayin' we lost da finest Operateur da world 'as eva seen! The hole o' Syrufleaf ain't da same 'thout me dearest mister, an' teacher, an' uncle!
Everybody keeps sain' we're doomed 'cause there's nobody to Operate da Pumps now tha' we have them! An irony, ain't it?! There's da huge and mighty and elaboratitive doomsdevice tha' pumps magna fr'm da guts o' da ground itself, an' not a single Operateur to Overseur all da pumps and other fine mechanisisms!?
But ye ken what? Ye ken what?! I've been yer pupil fer da past five years! I think I ken how to Operate stuff, o' yeah I do, dear sah! I'm gonna be the finest Pump Operateur Syrupleaf 'as ever seen since yer departure, an' I promise this by da beard and bones of mr. Skullbugy!
Ne'er promise by yer own stuff, as ye yerself tought me!
O' yeah, I almost forgot... ye don't need ta worry aboot da smokeables trade!
Thank you for reading this to them, mr. Skullbugy. You are very nice, I think I'm beginning to like you! My Mommy Icedrake says she sends you kisses.
Markus Cz. Clasplashes,
15 years old
PS: Any chance you could persuade mr. Sirocco to send me one of his lollipops?
Daeren wrote :-
Markus_cz quietly turned his back on the shattered tablet. He remembered that all good sacrifices must be burnt or destroyed in order to reach the Heavens, so he had smashed his letter in hopes of it reaching his fallen brother and surrogate father. Brushing a few scraps of bone out of his way, he began the long, hard climb back up into the fortress, sadness bearing down on him like a great weight.
As the door slammed shut on the sacrifical chamber, the broken bits of tablet began to shine with a twinkling light, and soon were nothing more than glowing beams of energy. They floated up the long chimney up the ziggurat, emerging from beneath the statue of Daeren. They circled around it for a moment, then silently hurtled up into the sky like shooting stars.
Inside the statue, Daeren's wearied soul took a brief moment from its vigil to direct the letter to its destination, and watched it soar where he could not. Not as long as he had a job to do. The sun rose on the glaciers of Syrupleaf, glimmering with a few extra bits of light.
HiFiHero wrote :-
Skullbuggy Mengigam looks down upon Syrupleaf from up high, past the clouds, past the sun, past the stars. In the realm of Armok, in the hall of champions, he looks down upon the fortress he once called his Mountainhome. He shakes his head and sighs. He turns back, away from the window.
"Those damn fools are going to get themselves killed," he says.
"More comp'ny fer us, then!" says Screaming Idiot, heartily, holding a mug of ale in one hand and a cigar in the other.
Skullbuggy smiles and sits down.
A slump shouldered and unassuming dwarf stands meekly to the side, muttering in agreement. Skullbuggy and Screaming Idiot turn to eachother, heads ducked together.
"Who be that'n again?" Rumbles Idiot.
"I'm...I'm not sure, but he's been following me around since I got here." Replies Skullbuggy.
With his typical tact, Screaming Idiot turns to the newcomer. Blasting twin trails of still-foul-smelling smoke from his nostrils he asks, "Here then, who do you be?"
Chafing under the dual stares, the unknown dwarf replies "HiFiHero, sir. I ventured to mighty Syrupleaf before I met my end. I was a hunter, you see...."
"Ah," Replies Idiot, "Ambush'd by sand raiders? Caught out by 'dem Frost Giants and their funny horses? I'm knowin' ye didn't get caught by THEM Or'n ye wouldn't be here. What was it, then? Us Syrupleafer's' the toughest o' the tough!"
"I got eaten by a swallow."
Skullbuggy and Screaming Idiot turned back to what they were doing without another word.