Part 60: Silento Boborachi: Update 10
The data recovered from the battle is incredible! Drakenel's sword has been recovered and is awaiting analysis in lab. Pouring over all of the debris and wreckage from the battle has given me little time to manage the fortress. Thus, I must give up my overseer's position to greater concentrate on my work. With the lab and manufactory in full swing anyway, I see no reason to be burdened with micromanagement any longer anyhow.
One odd thing, a spawn wrestler that was flung against one of the many cliff walls managed to survive it seems, but it just hangs there, impaled upon the cliff face. I send some champions right next to it, but they do not seem to see any threat. So we are currently under a state of siege by an enemy hanging off a spike in the mountain side. I've ordered a rock pile constructed nearby for any of the dwarves to get some throwing practice in. First to knock down the spawn wins a week vacation from refuse hauling.
SodiumChloride is taken by a mood. After the artifact is created, I have him put under watch for spawn influences.
Spring has arrived, and the MESSENGER should be by for my last note at this time. I've taken my leave as overseer. Time to check on that elf in containment chamber 3.
You see an imprint on the back of the page, as if someone had written on the next page and ripped it out, leaving the pressings in the page, however, it appears to be nonsense.
Dpouspm: uisftipme fqtjmpo sfbdife. Ibwf hjwfo dpouspm cbdl up mpdbmt. Sfrvftujoh beejujpobm qfstpoofm, jo qbsujdvmbs uif hpcmjo Es. Nbshvt. Uif mbc jt gvmmz pqfsbujpobm boe gvmmz dbnpvgmbhfe. Fnjuufs jt qfsgfdumz uvofe up uif tqbxo dsbojbm xbwfmfohui bddpsejoh up Cjseljo't frvbujpo. TC pvu.
Here's the pre-battle file.
Here's the end of the year file.
markus_cz wrote :-
OK, guys. I am very, very, very sorry about the following. But I couldn't resist.
Chance II wrote :-
SyrupLeaf cross-dressers unite!
Screaming Idiot and Sirocco, we're goin' on a roadtrip!
Skullbuggy wrote :-
What are the rules on fishing in unfrozen waters? Could it be done on this map with some magma based melting (and a defensive perimeter wall with underground access tunnel)?
Why bother unfreezing it? Frozen fish stays better.
Plus they don't try to get away when you catch 'em. Works out well for everybody.
Sirocco wrote :-
Drips echoed through the dark. No one came here. It was perfect.
The sand raider's head rocked back, a tooth flew into the corner trailing an arc of blood and saliva. He struggled with his bonds, but it was useless. They had been tied well. He spat on the floor and glared stubbornly at his captor. The dwarf slipped into shadows for a moment and then returned with another chair which he straddled. He looked at the sand raider for a moment, not saying anything. Then he carefully and delicately wiped the blood off his gloves with a rope reed cloth. The sand raider groggily noticed that the cloth had a picture of a bucket on it - no, it was a picture of a picture of a bucket. Bloody dwarves. Suddenly, his captor spoke:
'I've given you every opportunity to co-operate Mr... Raider. Tell me what I want to know and I will stop.'
The dwarf punched the raider again, a sickening crunch. His nose had been broken this time. His fucking NOSE. Crimson blood looked black in the dim torchlight as it flowed down the raider's face.
'I'LL NEVER TALK!' he screamed, pain and rage fusing together.
'You will, boy,' the dwarf said. 'My fellow dwarves up there? They don't even know you're here. I'm not sure they'd appreciate my... efforts. But I know what has to be done. I know what kind of scum you are. And I know...'
He leant closer in his chair, his nose almost touching the sobbing raider's face.
'That you will talk.'
The sand raider looked at the dwarf, fury in his eyes. He spat in the dwarf's face.
'You're making a big mistake, friend,' said the dwarf dabbing at the stain. 'A very big mistake. I've got a friend who has very... unique methods of persuasion. I didn't want to bring him down here because - well... what he can do? It makes even my eyes water.'
The raider remained silent.
'So be it.' said the dwarf and whispered something into a tin can and string hanging from the ceiling. 'I almost feel sorry for you, you know? Almost.'
Ten minutes passed. The sand raider fidgeted. Was it his imagination or was his keeper looking... agitated? What was going on?
A voice called from the deep.
Again, he wasn't sure, but for the briefest of moments, he could have sworn an expression of horror passed across the dwarf's face. He had been scared before... but now the raider was terrified. The voice called out again.
Dwarves have such sinister voices. The owner of the voice melted out of the shadows.
'Hi tehsid!!!' the other dwarf said. 'Alius said he couldn't come so I did instead. What's goi-'
'A word, Sirocco,' said tehsid. 'Over here, away from... him.'
'What in the blazes are you doing here?!' tehsid hissed under his breath. 'Why would Alius send you of all people- oh... this is because I dropped that damn crossbow of his isn't it? When I get my hands on him...'
'Huh?' said Sirocco, who had been making shadow pictures on the wall.
'Well it's too late now, he's already seen you. If he thinks I've made a mistake I'll never get anything out of him. OK, listen to me Sirocco. We're going to go back there and you've got to do your best and look, ah... tough.'
'I can be tough!' Sirocco replied and flexed his muscles. 'Grr.' he added as an afterthought.
'I'm questioning a sand raider I captured a few days ago. I need you to soften him up... let him THINK he's going to get out of this alive. If he thinks he's got a flying chance he might just co-operate. I'm bad dwarf; you're good dwarf. I'm going to be asking all the questions, so just follow my lead and don't. Do. Anything. Stupid. Alright?'
The sand raider strained his ears trying to hear what the two dwarves were saying but it was all whispers and sibilance. He struggled with the rope but it was quite firm. How did it come to this, he thought. Why did we travel hundreds of miles to a glacier on the arse of the planet? Why?! He came close to openly weeping, but held back. Weakness would not help him.
The dwarves returned.
'This is my friend, Sirocco,' said tehsid sitting down on the chair. 'He's just about the meanest son a bitch you're ever likely to meet. He once killed one of the Spawn of Holistic with his bare hands just because he thought it was ugly. So if you don't answer my questions, Mr Raider... we're going to have a problem.'
The raider looked at Sirocco, his eyes wide.
'Grr,' the dwarf said. 'I've got a big, uh... hammer! Very dangerous! Uh... grr!!!'
'Are you going to talk, Mr Raider?' asked tehsid. 'Or is my friend going to use that hammer to stove in your bloody skull?'
The raider stammered. 'I... I...'
'How many of you are there?!' tehsid screamed in the raider's face. 'Where are you keeping Flat Banana?! Answer me! ANSWER ME!'
'Yeah!' said Sirocco. 'And that's a really nice turban! I tried to make one once but it was no where near as swirly as yours.'
'I d-d-don't know what y-you're talking about!' the raider spluttered.
tehsid leapt forward and grabbed the raider by the scruff of his neck. 'You took a child from us! Years ago! Tell me where! Tell me where or I swear to Armok my friend here will remove your left eye!'
'Roar!' said Sirocco. 'I'm an eye-gouging monster!' He pawed the air. 'Roooaaar!!!'
'H-h-he's mad!' the raider said. 'Please don't let him hurt me! I- I'll talk! I'll t-talk!'
tehsid stood up. 'Yes, yes you will. Sirocco, I'm going to get a chisel, I want a record of everything he says engraved so we can refer to it later. Stay here and keep guard.'
'I need to pee.'
'I'll be back in five minutes,' said tehsid rolling his eyes.
After tehsid was gone, Sirocco sat down on the floor and watched the raider who did his best to both not make eye contact and not let the dwarf leave his sight. It was difficult. Suddenly, the dwarf stood up and approached the raider, idly twirling an enormous steel hammer between his fingers. A sickly warmth soaked the raider's trousers as his bladder surrendered its contents. 'P-p-please...' the raider whispered. The dwarf leant down and stared the miserable creature in the eyes.
'Want to play a game?' he asked. It was not a question.
tehsid was in good spirits as he walked back through the tunnel. Perhaps Sirocco wasn't such a failure of a dwarf after all... well, no, he totally was, but at least he was actually USEFUL for something.
He turned the corner, and his blood went cold. Both chairs were overturned, the raider was nowhere to be seen. Sirocco was slouched against one wall, mumbling incoherently, his head slumped between the knees. A wave of panic washed over tehsid. He grabbed Sirocco by the shoulders and shook him forcefully.
'Sirocco! Are you hurt? What the hell happened?! Where's the sand raider?!'
Sirocco's brow furrowed. 'You can't play Hide and Seek by yourself, tehsid.' He smiled.
'That would be silly.'
Screaming Idiot wrote :-
"Yeh called me?" asked the short, stout, heavy-set figure with the unkempt red hair and beard and squinted eyes that didn't seem to point in the right direction.
Skullbuggy looked up from his pile of papers and grimaced at the dwarf's smell--the dwarves of Syrupleaf weren't fastidious by any definition of the word, but Screaming Idiot took his lack of hygiene to an entirely new level. The foul fellow took to sleeping in coal bins and rubbing his body with a combination of grease and syrup, convinced that the sticky mixture would ward away the spawn.
"I did," Skullbuggy said, gesturing to a comfortable-looking chair in front of the desk. "Could you sit for a moment?"
"Aye," replied Idiot. But as he went to sat down, his beady eyes widened as he looked the piece of furniture over. "My, 'tis a fine chair ye got there!"
Skullbuggy nodded and allowed himself a rare smile. "It is. Note the edges--it menaces with spikes of obsidian and kitten leather!"
"Very nice," murmured the dirty pump operator. "So whot kin I do yeh fer, mister Skullbuggery?"
"I've been going over the records," the bookkeeper said, "and I've noticed some... discrepancies."
"Yes," Skullbuggy said as he adjusted his specs. "You listed your gender as 'female' in the census. Any reason why?"
Screaming Idiot looked uncomfortable for a moment. "Erm... I did it fer tax purposes."
"Aye. Didnae wanna pay tha outrageous taxes levied on a single an' availabibble fellar such as meself, yeh see."
Skullbuggy blinked. "What?"
"Aye," he said as he thumped his chest. "So I did tha clever thing an' 'ad meself listed as a woman!"
"The... what? The taxes are the same regardless of gender!" Skullbuggy said incredulously.
"Exarctly!" Screaming Idiot said with a wink. "So it won't so look odd when I takes meself up a husband ta take advantage o' all tha sweet, sweet tax breaks!"
"I know, ye're totally astounded at me geniusity, aren't ye?" the thick, stout dwarf said as he leaned back on the chair, smudging it with grease. "I get married, get so many breaks that they charge me negative taxes, an' then I retire a wealthy, happy man! An' all it took was a little tricky-trickery an' some situational homersexiality."
The smartly-dressed dwarf hid his face in hands gnarled by gripping quills in the ever-present chill of the fortress. "While I won't point out the fallacies in your plan--such as we can't charge negative taxes--I will say that it's not particularly wise to admit to fraud to a registered officer and then expect praise for such a 'clever' plan."
"Wait," he said, his breath reeking of cheap dwarven ale, "so yeh think this was a bad idea?"
"It's not the greatest ever devised, that's for certain."
"Bah!" He stood up and turned to leave. "Ye're just jealous, yeh little tagnut! But I'll show ye, I'll show alla ye!"
"Send my warmest regards to Oni Elem," Skullbuggy called as he went back to his work and tried to ignore the rancid, smokey grease-stench that was left in Idiot's wake. "Poor fellow must be blind, deaf, and unable to smell."
markus_cz wrote :-
Dear mr. Screaming Idiot,
Will you be my new Teacher?
My name is Markus Cz. Clasplashes and I am 11 years old. Recently we moved to Syrupleaf with my mommy Icedrake and my older brother Leperfish. I'm looking for a new Father for my mommy, but there is this Stinky Old Gray Beardless Elvish noble who visits her every day!!! Every time he comes my mommy sends me and Leperfish away, to read the engravings or play "Sirocco Says" or watch a Siege. But it is very hard to find a new Father when the noble is around! Everyone is scared of him! For example, I asked mr. Chance II if he wanted to meet my mommy and he responded he wasn't interested in women. See?!
My mommy told me that Skullbugy (that's the noble's name) told her that I'm almost old enough to start looking for a job. He wants me to leave! I don't want a job! I want a father!
But I think you could perhaps help me? I heard that before you became a Champion you were a very skilled Mechanic. Would you be interested in becoming my master and teaching me how to operate mechanisms, and axles, and windmills, and pumps, and Levers? Levers would be best. Back in Uristrist we had a Lever that killed nobles! Do you think we could build one here in Syrupleaf?
Have a nice day!
Markus Cz. Clasplashes
PS: If you help me, there might soon be a single mommy in need of a brave Father like you!
Screaming Idiot wrote :-
(The note is scrawled on dingy, stained parchment that smells faintly of cheap dwarven booze and stale grease. The spelling is atrocious.)
Dear Markie Mark Cuz Clasplasheses
So yer wantin' a fine teachin-type fella, huh? Splendid! I'll teach yeh the finer points o' operatin' pumps and smashin' heads with said pumps! I'll show yeh tha ropes, I will!
Course they ain't ropes, but a series o' gears an' levers an' switches an' at least one well-trained badger.
Speakin' o' badgers, I read that yeh said ye be wantin' a new daddy! Well, I been lookin' fer a child ta teach and raise as me own. It'd be magical, it would! We'd 'ave drinkin' contests an' vomitin' competitions an' mebbe on occasion we'd find an elf an' beat 'im within an inch o' his life with a wrenches an' hammers, aye!
I'll teach yeh tha ways o' tha world, lad! Me da an' 'is da' an' 'is da before 'im was pump operators an' by Armok's left testicle I ain't aboot ta let such a storied tradition die with me in this forsaken wasteland o' ice an' snow an' more ice!
Signed, Screamin' Idiot (Skeramin Ijot)
'Ave yeh ever eaten a live rat before?
Idles wrote :-
Diary of the Miner 'Idles' Workrains
Those madmen. Their scheming will mean our deaths--all of us. Those Parasol fools. I suppose these written words do not break my vow of silence; I dare not tell another of my part in their work, but I cannot keep these thoughts to myself! They do not suspect what I know.
They had me digging what seemed like the utility pipes for an obsidian farm. Water above magma. But it was a strange device! The chamber of the thing was scarcely large enough to hold a child. So I watched them finish the construction. I listened as they killed the kobold laborers, once the thing was finished. I peeked at their reckless "experiments!"
They think they are creating weapons of war, but with each finished "essence" blade, the menace of this place grows stronger. They are forging the instruments of our own destruction.
Diary of the Miner 'Idles' Workrains
The stone speaks.
You turn a corner in the empty tunnels, deep below the fortress, and it is as if a great host of whispering spirits is only a step ahead of you. And then it is gone.
There is something here, with us, in this place. Something far worse than the spawn is buried here. I can hear it in the stone.
Tiny Turtle wrote :-
Ugoshidor lijan Nudenzethruk en Tinny Turtler, "The notes and confessions of Tinny Turtler", a leatherbound diary.
This is a leatherbound diary. All craftsdwarfship is of the most mediocre quality. It's decorated with stains of ink and pools of booze. This object menaces with spikes of paper and spawn bone.
On the item is an image of a crossbow and a hammer in black dye. The hammer is crossed over the crossbow.
On the item is an image of dwarven runes. The runes spell out "The notes and confessions of Tinny Turtler".
Estimated value in flutes, -2.
The first entry reads thusly;
I write this down for the sake of my own fading sanity, as the need to confess and come clean is clawing at my very soul. Even though this diary will be kept safe and hidden from my comrades, I have every plan to reveal it at my deathbed - no matter how near that day may be. I write this for future generations, so that the chronicles of this fortress can be as complete as possible, so that I may be judged by history and maybe, just maybe, forgiven.
We'll start at the beginning, quite some seasons in the past.
I'd love to be able to place the all guilt and the weight of my sins upon Chance II's shoulders, for it's with his actions where this all began. He's a brilliant, if vastly disturbed, dwarf - one that saw the need to truly understand our greatest threat, the Holistic Spawn. He had attained a sample of one of their fallen and laid it across a table in his study. There, he dissected it carefully, taking notes and documenting their appearant strengths and weaknesses. The former many, the latter outright depressingly few and hard to capitalize on.
The whole process caught my interest and I spoke to him several times over the days when he scuttled out of his study, pale and shaking, to drink himself into oblivion and grab whatever morsels of food he could. He scared me, I admit, but I stuck to him like a beetle to dung, asking him as much as I could, trying to get him to let me see it; mayhaps assist. At first he wanted nothing to do with it, but eventually he caved in. I do wonder whether his decision to let me in was because he needed help, or to share the weight of the insanity that irradiated from the spawn's preserved cadaver.
While he chipped away his notes into the very walls - scattered and chaotic messages, all frightening and disturbing - I allowed myself to make use of his scientific tools. I had a theory, a weak one I admit; that just like the wondrous, magical essences of plants can be distilled to make drinks of wonder (alcohol), the raw power and fury of the holistic spawn might be distilled into something similar. I can't say where I got the idea, it just struck me as a truth like a dwarf taken by a mood, but I found myself desparate to try it. So I did. Forgive the dryness of the following paragraphs, they detail the experiment:
The first step was to identify and extract a suitable organ. The heart was my first thought, but I had no luck at finding it - neither in the cadaver or within the study itself. It took just under an hour of pressuring Chance to help me, before he finally told me that the chunk of obsidian on his desk was just what I was looking for. It struck the fear in me, and I cannot imagine how he must have felt, realizing it on his own - their beating hearts are literally molten magma. For the first, but not last, time I felt the tendrils of Holistic's corrupting influence touching my sanity.
Knowing that I could not extract what I needed from the spawn's heart, I moved on to the brain. Using a borrowed hammer named Patsy and chisel named Elaine, along with a few hours of painstaking and careful work, I removed a piece from it's cranium about the size of a child's fist -- think Leperfish, not Markus Cz's tiny, girlish grabbers. From there, Chance did me the favour of extracting a piece of the monster's brain - without ruining the rest of it. Clean incisions rewarded him, and in turn me, with an excellent sample in the form of a cube.
To extract the spawn's power, I placed the cube within a glass tube, it's top hooked up to a two headed bottle. As I brought flame to the tube's bottom it cooked the bit of brain, causing water and other gasses to be released in the form of steam, which I collected in the second bottle, air escaping through its second mouth. Steadily, I increased the heat - ever so slowly, over the period of a few days, charring the sample until naught but ash remained. And ontop of that? A thin layer of a blackened, viscous fluid. This is what I was after.
I extracted it from the tube, separated it from the ashes and collected it in a small clay glass, which I sealed with leather, kitten-fat and elven-craft string. This was of course to keep the fluid from spilling, and destroying days of work - but largely it was to keep the wicked, awful stench from escaping. I cannot even begin to describe the stench to you, but do take my word; it's the foulest thing a dwarf's nose could ever come in contact with. I admit with no shame that every time I caught a whiff, the results were powerful fits of projectile vomits. Even poor Chance fell victim to it, resulting in hours of hard work as we wiped his puke off his notes, the wall.
The next step in the process was to harness the power of the spawn, to take that power and lend it to our warriors. Although I had no misconceptions about the idea of any single dwarf being able to outmatch a spawn, any advantage this might lend them could still save lives. Just like the idea of distilling magical happiness and liquid industrousness from plants and weeds, I assumed that turning this foul drop of spawn-power could probably make a potent drink. However, I'm no brewer myself and I shamefully admit I may have damned another's soul in my quest. I bribed him, a solid sixty flutes - each finely crafted, each marked and verified by Manuel Calavera himself. Personally inspected, guaranteed by the state. A small fortune, but I was certain it'd be worth it. He added the foul tonic into a single batch of whisky, and we waited.
When the drink was done, it was signalled with a thick cloud of awful miasma that clung to walls and choked the very air. Nowhere near as powerful as its raw form, thankfully, it was still enough to nearly drive a number of haulers into manic depression. Even Sirocco, bless him, had a momentary bout of pouting (A small mercy, almost half a minute of quiet from the dwarf). The brewer was made to destroy the drink immediately, but not before he managed to save a single stout, secured in a thick, wooden box that just barely managed to hide the stink. He gave this to me, along with a few choice words about the sexual promiscuity of my late mother, and even her very species. I do not feel she deserved that, bless her heart, though I cannot say I didn't deserve the verbal blow.
At this point, I had what I wanted; something I named 'Battle Booze'. A mixture of the powerful and enhancing effects of alcohol and the raw and potent fury of a spawn's essence. Yet, it had to be tested. It took a good long while before the chance revealed itself - a year or two? I can't remember, the days and weeks and months all melt together in this damned place. I digress. The Spawn of Holistic had arrived in great numbers - and again, dread and fear and insanity gripped the fortress.
As we geared up and gathered our weapons, none of us had any false hopes of survival. We expected to go into battle, to lose ourselves in war and die in a martial trance; maybe we could take some of them with us. Maybe we could delay their advance long enough for a miracle. I decided, just as we were about to head for the gates, that this was the time. I grabbed a fellow war-dwarf by the shoulder, and offered him a good luck drink. He accepted it graciously and drank the whole thing in a single swig! For a moment, the faces he made at the taste and smell that hit him the moment after had me worried, that he might just throw it all up and ruin the experiment. But no! Like a true dwarf, he kept it down and gave me honest thanks. His breath nearly had me gagging.
His name was Drakenel and I fear his death was my doing.
I don't know if the amazing rampage he unleashed upon the spawn was from the tonic, the artifact blade he held or his raw talent; but I hold no doubt that his death. Just as victory was to be his, something in him changed. His martial trance snapped and he was brought back to reality - face to face with the maddening sight of the spawn, hopelessly surrounded. His face, his very beard, growing pale and old in an instant. I saw him wither before me, as if a hundred years had been forced upon him along with a hundred more blows from the claws of the spawn. I believe I killed him, and thanks to that damned sword I cannot say for certain whether the drink worked at all.
I need to know for certain. Whether it's insanity that drives me, the touch of the fey or -- I don't know, maybe I'm just not a good dwarf. I must continue the experiment, no matter the cost, as at this point, it's my only hope of redemption.