Part 226: Pozzo: Update 1
FABLE OSTATHLOGEM, CRAFTSMITH
It was the first of Granite on the calendar again. 152.
We could tell it was spring because we finally started to get light. Not much, an hour each day and growing, but it was light, all the same. The temperature stayed the same glacial cold it always was, even in the height of summer when we were without night. But now we were getting light, and with light we could at least see our many enemies better. Some loathed the light for that - our enemies had crippled as many by their horrible visage alone as they had with their deadly gaping maws, and the tactical advantage the light gave in terms of being able to see the spawn was to most so small as to be negligible. I disagreed. In my opinion any advantage against the spawn, however small, was to be strived for and clutched on to with all available might.
Anyway, it was the first, and I had awoken early to try and carve out as many bone bolts in one day as I could.
The bone bolts weren't a huge amount of use in downing our enemies, but they allowed Uncle Jam and the rest of the guard to train, and that was good for two reasons: One, and most obviously, it strengthened them and honed their skills, all of which we would need in the coming battles. Two, and most important to me, if they were training then they were in the barracks, and if they were in the barracks they would be near the entrance when the spawn came.
There were only eleven able-bodied dwarves left, trying our best to keep everything together for the 32 of us trapped at Syrupleaf. Just eleven of us, and the rest barely better than dead weight. The nine guards were our last hope and our last line of defence, but they were remarkably cavalier about the whole situation, essentially ignoring our discussions of defense, and rarely ever doing what they were asked to. The only dwarves in the fort who could control the insane guard were our four insane nobles who were - excepting the bewildering and half-naked dungeon master Phrederick - an entirely useless suck on our resources on a good day and the biggest danger to our survival on every other day. It was largely the nobles and the guard who were responsible for the four crippled dwarves who we found ourselves looking after, most recently the animal caretaker Toja-
-who lay unconscious in one of our many many cells.
Two of the wounded - Spoonboy and Idles - had been injured in our last few sieges. They were both BISECTED.
Rounding out our motley crew of survivors were the four remaining children in the fort, who were amongst the most depressed of all here. Most unsettling was the countess' daughter MortuusLupus, who was previously one of the most talkative dwarves in the whole fort (indeed she had astounded everyone with the speed she learned to speak. Then tired everyone with the amount) who had not spoken in weeks.
She had taken the deaths of her mother and siblings quite hard, and while she once would brag loudly and endlessly about the palatial size of her bedroom the last thing anyone had heard her say was a mumbled sulk about the lack of dining tables.
I made my way through to our cavernous bone hoard. As I walked steadily past the barracks and into the cavern I remembered back to when I began my career as a bone carver, and how incredibly uneasy I had been at working the bones of our wretched foes. Now they were everywhere. Spawn bones and dwarf bones. They collected in piles at the corner of corridors and in great mountains at the bottom of stairs. The deathly silence of our nights was punctuated by the sound of overflowing bones clattering down in to the chasm. Mohawksatan had tripped over the pile that had amassed at the top of the main stairs and broken his arm.
The children used bones for building blocks. Bobthethurd had tried to start a dorfball team with them but Febreezeninja had taken offence to his wife's skull being used as the dorfball.
The Bonehoard had recently undergone its fourth expansion and at the same time had been converted into our new entrance. This was part of an ingenious plan by our mysterious post-it-note overseer Tosanu to coerce the fortress guard into defending the fort by channelling invaders through the bone hoard into the barracks where they spent their days constantly sparring and training. For their part the guard paid little attention to the works occurring around them and continued to ignore us. One grunted at me once. It was surreal.
Tosanu had in recent weeks ceased issuing his post-its and so we had muddled on without instruction for a while. Eiba had ranted cheerfully about killing a cat overseer for a week or so but we were all so accustomed to her insane ramblings that we had paid little attention.
As I walked through the bone hoard collecting up bones I thought of the strange meeting we had held the previous night. The final eleven dwarves of able-body and (mostly) sound mind had met in the dim glow of the concert hall to discuss our uncertain future. The hall itself was a sorry sight, covered in dust, with the instruments of the band still left strewn all over the stage since their abandonment in that last fateful siege before Orangesoda disappeared. But it was, at least, one of the few places in the entire fort not covered in bones.
Vander had come and spoken to each of us in turn and requested we attend the meeting. I arrived a half an hour early and sat in the hall in Sirocco's private booth. I thought of my late husband and my late daughter. I was all that was left. I sat there thinking and watched as the others arrived. First Vander, through the lower door to the main seating area. He didn't notice me up in the booth, and so I sat silently and watched him. He sat on the floor leant up against the stage at the end of the aisle, watching the door. TheWhiteCrane and rabbitmonger arrived together, not speaking. They had been busying themselves with engraving the mining shafts, recording our history on the walls, and also pictures of circles. Koorisch and Cannonfodder arrived a minute or so afterward, coming from the craft section/Bonehoard, and then Icedrake shortly afterward, the dust covering her face streaked with tears.
She had just placed the remains of her son in his tomb.
Bobthethurd shuffled in, seating himself at the back of the hall, the same blank expression on his face as ever. I was never quite sure how this brain-damaged bumpkin had been the incumbent mayor for 13 straight years, but then I never voted, and that's probably why. I watched him as he stared at everything in the hall in turn, including me, but I struggled to see any recognition on his face. Finally our three farmers walked in: JosephWongKS, who had been tending the farms alone recently, as Mysticalhaberdasher had been doing his best to tend to our four casualties finding that his tanning skills were unnecessary. Rotinaj the potash maker had been maintaining the pretence of being in the military despite having received no training from any of the champions before they died and being too scared of the unnerving roid-dorfs that made up the guard. They sat down in the front row by Vander.
Vander stood up. "Where's Fable?" I kicked a small rock down on to the lower level to grab his attention. "Oh, right. Well..." he began, "...the reason I have called you all here is simple. Since it's been two straight weeks since we have heard from Tosanu I think it is safe to say that he has disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared, or rather, didn't appear, and I think we need to consider what course of action we take now. None of you can deny that we can expect a fresh attack soon, THEY come every spring, THEY have done for years, THEY will do this year. If we do not decide what to do, we will doubtless perish. We have no leader fit to lead, despite our count consort, despite our Tax col- I mean, 'Moleboy', despite our Mayor - sorry Bob." Bobthethurd just kept staring. "Spoonboy has lead the fort in the past, but we cannot ask him again because he has been BISECTED. nippythefish lead once, but he is now little better than the monsters he captains. In fact just last month he broke Tojas arm at the behest of our late countess! ..."
"...We cannot ask Vox, nor Royal W, nor Sirocco, nor Orangesoda, nor 64bitrobot, nor Daeren, nor Silento, nor Globofglob, nor Jazzimus(1) nor anybody else as they are all dead! Everyone one of them, all of them, to a dwarf, DEAD. I do not want to lead. It is a position that is cursed. This whole place is cursed. We need to figure what to do next; I say we leave. We leave these insane nobles and these insane guards here, let them get eaten by Spawn! If we leave this month then we will have the whole of summer to make it up over the glacier to the north and to the warmth. I say we go where the earth is warm!" There was a stunned silence. After a while Cannonfodder stood up and took a deep breath to speak.
"Shut up apologist!" Vander cried. "We all know you're in their back pocket! Get out!" (2)
Cannonfodder extended a stumpy middle finger and walked out. Vander spat at his back. Flustered, he took a moment to compose himself. "Well?" he asked. JosephWongKS stood and said "We certainly need to do something before THEY come. I think his idea has merit." Mysticalhaberdasher turned and said "But what about Idles, and Spoonboy? We can't leave them here. They can't hop over the glacier."
Vander started "Well, we could-" but he was interrupted by Rotinaj. "No, we can't escape. they'll just kill us on the glacier rather than here!"
"He's right" mumbled rabbitmonger. Emboldened, Rotinaj continued. "No we'd best stay here, where we are safe! Safe deep inside our fort to hide and make Potash!" Mysticalhaberdasher just clipped him around the ear.
"You know no one expects you to actually fight them? You've got no training! You're just a recruit! For Litasts sake you're holding that damn hammer upside down!"
"At least let us wall our selves in, bridge it up! We can shut in for a few seasons, rebuild, gain strength, and be ready for them when we open the gates once more!" The room erupted into an angry hubbub. Rotinaj yelled over it. "And we can be ready for when more migrants come!" The shouting continued. I thought about my husband, Solomon. It seemed so long since I saw his face. He had run afoul of the Countess Accursed, somehow, three years before, in 149, despite his employment as a planter, and had been struck down by the hammerer Tarezax. I thought about my daughter, Miles Vorkosigan, struck down just last year by a Frost Giant during the Steamy Sieges. She was barely a year old, she had just learned to walk. She had just spoken, just a month before, she was speaking. She never even met Solomon. He was killed just weeks after she was conceived. Now she was out there on that glacier, snowed under somewhere, iced under. They were both here forever. I didn't think I could leave them, I couldn't leave here. The yelling continued, getting increasingly loud until suddenly Bobthethurd stood up and roared "NO." We all turned and looked at him. No-one had heard him speak in more than a month, and he had spoken of nothing but green glass items for years. "No. I will stay here. I will fight here. I will die here. That is the pact of the seven. Though only two of us remain." and at that he walked out the back door and we were left in silence. I called down to the dwarves on the lower floor and said "I agree. My husband died here. My child is out there, frozen under that ice. I cannot ever leave here. I don't know what we will do. I don't know who will lead us. But I will not leave this place." and at that I left. According to Koorisch the meeting wound down after that, with everyone shaken.
I had collected an armful of bones and was walking to the nearest workshop to begin when I saw Bobthethurd wander listlessly into the room. Despite his outburst the day before his face was as vacant as it ever was. I watched him stumble through the bones, stopping every now and then to regard a skull or jaw as if maybe he knew them. He probably did, knowing the expanses of the Bonehoard. I sighed and turned to the lathe to begin on the pile of assorted ribs and femurs I had collected. I was just about to start pedalling the lathe when there was a massive crack and a huge flash. Stunned and blinded, I fell to the floor. My ears were ringing and the bones fell on my head, sending sharp red spots in front of my eyes. After a while my vision cleared, and with the sound of the blast still ringing in my ears, I stood up. I looked around the cavern, looking for any sign of what had happened. Bobthethurd lay 50 metres away, in the middle of the Bonehoard, his =cave spider cloak= on fire. I ran over to him and threw my own tunic over the smoke and tried to stomp out the fire on him. As I did I roused him and he coughed and spluttered. "Are you ok Bob?!" I cried. He sat bolt upright suddenly, and hit himself heavily in the head. I looked at his face as he shook his head. It had changed - the vacant look was gone. His eyes were bright again, and he began to smile. He opened his mouth to speak.
"By JINGO if this fella ain't a blank one, what!" he roared.
OOC: Yeah so I'm going to try and write from the perspective of a different character each time, hope nobody minds. If you do...well...er...too bad?
(1) Christ this thread has been going for ages. I only just remembered Jazzimus' awesome turn while trying to remember all the dead overseers here. What a good turn.
(2) Bejesus that's a clusterfuck of warcats, and they're all dead. Sorry.
Vaga42Bond wrote :-
"There was a massive influx of new workers from other civilizations today, wanting to join us and leave their crumbling, decadent imperialist powers. They milled around outside the fortress for a while before our brave patriotic citizen soldiers asked them kindly to leave. Whether our curt but fair refusal has anything to do with our food situation is uncl---no! I was just reading from the teleprompter! No, Nippy! Please No! NOOOOOO!"
That's it. I'm making a note to take a slot as Overseer in the next fortress, and playing it Paranoia style.
Long Live The Glorious Dwarven Complex ___(Insert Fortress Name Here)___.
Stay alert! Trust no one! Keep your crossbow handy!
Avoid Hammering! Register your Strange Moods today!
Spawn Worshipers are everywhere!
Drink your booze like a good citizen.
Happiness is Mandatory.
-This Message Has Been Deleted For Security Reasons-
The Overseer is your friend.