Part 38: Jazzimus Prime: Update 11
Syrupleaf - Chapter V Part 11 - The Long Restless Night
1st Moonstone 142
I decide to check and see how our military is progressing. I don't know whether or not to believe these nightmares, but I can be sure that our fortress must be prepared to defend against another assault when it comes.
I hear voices coming from the craftsdwarf workshops in the main chamber ahead.
"So there we were in Clapcraft, making introductions all around. And when they asked me what skills I could bring to the fortress, I told them that I was a bone carver. A bone carver! And they believed me. I had never carved a bone in my life before I got here. I was a wood burner for the last five years before I came here, but I hated it, and I knew they wouldn't need any of that here anyway. True story!"
I walk into the main chamber to see Manuel Calavera chatting with his friend OrangeSoda, the two of them taking a break from producing crafts. Upon seeing me, Manuel Calavera suddenly goes quiet and turns bright red. OrangeSoda just grins and waves at me in greeting.
I just shake my head and keep walking.
I reach the barracks. Royal W has truly done an excellent job of training the recruits, who have come a long way in just a few short months.
I watch as Firos and Spermy Smurf engage in a practice duel, Royal W barking instructions and encouragement.
I think I see something else moving out of the corner of my eye.
Suddenly I feel a chill in my bones, noticeably worse than the usual chill of this place. I get up and walk out of the barracks, and the feeling goes.
I really need to get more sleep. Armok damn these nightmares.
24th Moonstone 142
Ever since the nightmares started, I haven't slept much most nights.
I'm not really sure what the word "night" really means at the moment, to be honest. The fortress has its active hours and its resting hours, but the sun hasn't shown itself for weeks.
I finally fall asleep for the first time in a long while, only to have another nightmare. The demon faces me, its voice addressing my mind.
"Do you really believe that a few soldiers can stop a demigod? Consider your situation, Jazzimus. Perhaps I am closer than you think. Perhaps your actions are just making things worse."
The demon vanishes and I find myself in bed again.
12 Opal 142
The peasant ultimatequix comes running into my study to inform me of the news.
The miners of Syrupleaf have struck Adamantine.
My heart begins to race. Perhaps this discovery will make the entire ordeal of overseeing this fortress worthwhile. We can outfit our soldiers such that they will be truly prepared to meet the threat of any invasion.
Then I remember the demon's warning.
It had said that it was closer than I imagined.
I rush into the depths of the mines, screaming for the miners to stop immediately.
I can be sure that something sleeps beneath the adamantine. That must be the answer to the demon's riddle. There will be no more of the material mined from here while I oversee the fortress.
I reach the lowest mineshaft and shout the order to the miners. Rixaxun, sewermancer, and The Deadly Mole had already mined out a significant quantity of the material before receiving the order to stop.
It is too risky to dig for more. But there is no risk in putting to use that which we have already unearthed.
15 Opal 142
As I enter the furnaces to check the status of the production of adamantine arms and armor for our troops, the furnace operators OutOfPrint and The Strangest Finch greet me, a glum expression on both their faces.
"What's wrong?" I ask. "Do you need more time?"
"It's not that," OutOfPrint says. "It's just, well ... I think it has to do with the fact that the magma from our volcano has to travel through hundreds of yards of frozen earth before it reaches the furnaces. Once it gets here, it has sort of, well ... cooled off a little bit."
"We haven't had any problems with any of the other metals, no problems with iron, even steel is fine, but the fires just don't get hot enough to smelt adamantine," The Strangest Finch adds.
Well, this is just great. Of course it couldn't have been this easy.
"Well, what about the ore? Our masons can work that just like they could any other rock, right?" I ask.
"I suppose so," OutOfPrint replies.
19 Opal 142
The mason Goosekrieg carves a series of statues from the adamantine ore. Smuggins the fishery worker and Slaan the glassmaker, their own professions not having kept them particularly busy in this fortress, carry the statues down to the Crypt of the Fallen Heroes, where they will watch over the tombs for the rest of eternity.
Later, as I sleep, the demon once again visits my dreams. In my head, its voice seems to come from every direction at once.
"Do you think that you can hide from me by refusing to dig deeper into the earth? You still don't understand, Jazzimus."
I awaken with a start. It is so hard to sleep with all of these nightmares.
11 Obsidian 142
That evening, I meet with Spoonboy, the first leader of Syrupleaf after its founding five years ago, to discuss the situation over dinner.
Fortress chef JosephWongKS has prepared an amazing meal featuring exotic meat imported from the humans which has been spiced with quarry leaves. Spoonboy, having taken up the art of brewing during the past few years, has brought a barrel of his best ale.
At least this fortress can get a few things right, I have to admit to myself.
"You don't look like you've been getting much sleep, Jazzimus," Spoonboy says. "Something the matter?"
"Oh, nothing, just ... bad dreams ever since the battle. Nothing serious. So tell me, why was Slaan hauled off to jail, anyway?"
"Bobthethurd had requested that he produce a set of glassware. Slaan didn't come through, so Bobthethurd ordered him off to jail."
"But we don't have access to all of the resources for a glass industry here," I counter.
Spoonboy leans in and whispers. "The mayor's like that sometimes. He took a nasty knock in the head during his first year here, and I don't think it ever really healed all the way."
"So, anyway, what do you know about the legend of Holistic Detective?" I ask him.
"As I'm sure you've heard, she was once a mighty dwarven warrior, who was eventually corrupted by dark forces. Nobody is sure of the truth, but most agree that the madness started at Headshoots soon after the demons were released from the earth. Some say that Holistic Detective killed all of the demons that climbed out of that glowing pit, but others swear that a great demon lord emerged behind the others and somehow took possession of Holistic's soul. I guess we'll never know if that's true.
"Anyway, what we do know is that things were different there after the demons. A dark cult sprang up in the fortress, and dwarves engaged in dark and dubious worship. Holistic was seen walking across a river of magma without suffering any injury. Just before the fortress collapsed, it is said that she would forgo the use of her mighty hammer, and simply beat her opponents to death with whatever she happened to be holding in her hand at the time. Usually this would be her brown leather backpack, but a few dwarves claim to have seen her use other things as weapons from time to time; bone sceptres, masterpiece steel armor, that sort of thing."
29 Obsidian 142
The face and voice of Holistic Detective speaks to me again that evening.
Unlike the other times, though, this is no nightmare. This is real.
I've hardly slept at all for the past few weeks, and haven't fallen asleep yet tonight.
At least, I don't think I have. How can I be sure?
Sitting in my bed, I see the face before me. I hear the voice.
"All of your work has been in vain, Jazzimus. The constructions, the mining, the battles, the crafts, all of it is for naught."
I pinch my arm and feel the pain. Surely this is no dream ... I think.
A small rivulet of blood runs down my arm where I pinched it, staining the bedsheets.
"I am already here, Jazzimus. I am already inside your fortress. I walk amongst your dwarves, and you cannot even see it."
30 Obsidian 142
I don't think that I slept at all last night. Strangely, though, there is no mark on my arm where I remember having pinched it.
My mind is in a deep fog. I force myself to walk over to the barracks.
I am so tired.
The military situation at Syrupleaf is much improved. I guess that's good news. Royal W's training has made several of our dwarves into champions already.
Sirocco, Spermy Smurf, SwatJester, Syntax!, and Male Man have all been given either an axe or a hammer of steel by Royal W in recognition of their accomplishments.
Two of the champions are in the barracks right now, in fact, getting ready to spar. The hammerdwarf Spermy Smurf and the axedwarf Syntax! face each other down in mock battle.
But something is wrong. Their weapons. They should be wielding an axe and a hammer...
Syntax! swings his Masterpiece Plate Greaves in a wide arc toward Spermy Smurf, who steps aside and counters by swinging a suit of Masterpiece Plate Mail at his opponent.
They may as well be wielding leather backpacks.
I feel a bitter chill in my bones, and the laughter of a demon in my mind.
The color drains from my face and my knees nearly buckle under me. I fight to keep from passing out.
Dizzily, I stumble down to the furnaces.
"Phrederick, I'm putting you in charge now. I'm going to need some time to myself to think things over." I walk away without further explanation, leaving the dungeon master with a confused expression on his face.
As I walk back through the main chamber, I glance out of the front gate to the east. For the first time in months, I see that the sun is rising.
Or perhaps it is just a hallucination from lack of sleep.
END CHAPTER V