The TaleMaster 2… The Dwarves Tale

This little tale started itself about a dozen years ago. It was originally a one page background for a D&D character. Then came a dream or three which added so much more. Life & Death interfered for many years. I’ve begun dreaming of the tale again, recently. This will eventually be a book, I hope.

If you’re just joining the story, here’s a Link to previous part

So please, go get yourself a tall cold beverage, adjust your reading glasses and settle into your comfy chair….

  The Seth runs his hand through his coarse grey hair, causing greater disarray, then strokes his wispy beard and settles his patched and faded robes. He picks up the tankard, takes a quick swallow and places it back on the floor.

  As he begins, his voice gains resonance and depth. “And so begins the tale of ‘How the Dwarves Came to the Mountain’. This happened long, long ago before your Grandfathers-Grandfathers time.

  ” The GoldSmith’s great, great, grand-sire was The Blackfist, thane of his clan. This clan of dwarves lived in a series of great caverns at the northern end of the Mohz Mountains. They had lived there for as long as anyone could remember. Some legends say that this is the clan from which all other dwarves have come. Of course, those are only legends while the tale you are now hearing is truth.

  The Blackfist had three sons: Degel-draug (by his first mate who died bearing the boy), and Alriac and Kharthi (by his second mate).  Blackfist and his sons were great metal workers and made many useful and functional items for their home caves and for the few traders who happened by. Degel-draug was first-born, so according to the dwarven ways he was next in line to succeed as The Blackfist. As time passed and the sons matured it became apparent that Degel-draug was not as good a metal-worker as his sire. Although he tried very hard to do exactly as his sire said, things usually didn’t work out quite right.

  Alriac, next in line should something happen to Degel-draug, and Kharthi, the last-born, both had the gift of metal-working. They both could fashion swords and daggers, pots and vessels. Their work was so similar in quality and style that only the Blackfist could distinguish between them. Alriac and Kharthi tried to help their brother, to teach him their skills, to protect him from their fathers’ wrath. First with advice and encouragement, then with assistance at the forge, and finally, they tempted Degel-draug with, what was at the time thought to be, a minor deception. The three sons plotted and planned until they arrived at the perfect scheme.

  Degel-draug started `working’ at the forge at night, while his brothers continued to work with their father each day. Alriac and Kharthi worked diligently each day producing a little more. Soon they were each making one and a half times as much as they had before, secreting the excess for Degel-draug to pass off as his own. The Blackfist was impressed with the quality of Degel-draug’s ‘work’ claiming to all who would listen that one could not tell the difference in the work of his three sons. The Blackfist also stated that Degel-draug had only needed solitude to concentrate and perfect his craft; the seclusion of night provided this. 

  Degel-draug spent his time in the forge either reading The Chronicles, writing prose or legends, planning lavish entertainments for the future, or, when in a contemplative mood, staring at the stars.

  The sons grew as time passed, filling out from their work at the forge, maturing into men. They kept up the deception not knowing what else to do. They married the young women their father had chosen for them, moving from his cave and settling into their own. Alriac worked hard each day at the forge, perfecting his craft, sustaining his small family of two. In time Alriac and his mate presented the Blackfist with their son, Elriad, the Blackfist’s first born grandchild.”

  The Seth leans over and picks up his tankard. He drinks in the heady aroma of the black-wine before taking a small sample and rolling it around on his tongue. His grey eyes continue to scan the children’s faces throughout this small ritual, as they have through his recitation of the tale, to measure their reaction – and his worth. The Seth takes another small swallow and continues…

  “In the one hundred ninety first year of his honour The Blackfist’s attention was taken away from his sons, and their work, by the arrival of the Redfist clan. The Redfist was a good hundred years younger than he, not much older than his sons, and led a much more sizable clan. A war erupted and by a simple twist of fate both The Blackfist and The Redfist lost their lives and their clans two days after battle was joined. The war was halted abruptly by unspoken mutual agreement. A period of mourning ensued for each tribe: seventeen days for the Redfists, and one hundred ninety-one days for the Blackfists, a day in remembrance for each year of their honour. The new Redfist wanted no wars with anyone, feeling that to be a futile act, and took his clan west to the Fuahn Mountains, leaving before the Blackfists had finished their mourning.

  Degel-draug was now The Blackfist. He asked his brothers to continue with the deception because he was eager to take up the other duties that came with the honour. Alriac did not answer immediately. Then he told his older brother that he could not help, but he would not hinder him. Kharthi told Degel-draug that he would help, and by haste in speaking the seed of doubt was planted.

  Tens of years went by and The Blackfist’s secret was safe, but doubt of Alriacs loyalty grew and grew in Degel-draug’s fevered mind. Degel-draug came to believe Alriac had hatched the deception, all those years ago, in order to reveal him, at any moment, to the clan. Or had a plan to kill him and thereby gain the honour. Or maybe Alriac had planned the whole thing in order to dishonor him and gain the honor.

  First one and then several men came to Alriac stating their dissatisfaction in the clan. He counseled patience and hoped that his own would last. Degel-draug’s imbalance was beginning to be noticed by the clan.

  An accident, a glancing blow, with a newly honed blade, was dealt to Alriac by his apprentice, slicing a gash from shoulder to elbow. He was cut to the bone, pieces chipped out. Kharthi called in the best herbalists (Degel-draug, in his state of mind did not understand what had happened) but even with all their skill Alriac fell sicker still, fevered and thrashing. His bandages leaked greenish pus and smelt terrible. The herbalists tried poultices, teas, and plasters, and finally in desperation leeches, but nothing helped Alriac. One short week after the accident Alriac died and Degel-draug, obsessed as he was with doubt and jealousy, didn’t even realize. His distrust shifted from Alriac to Alriac’s son, Elriad. Even with Kharthi’s defense of the boy and his `wild tales’ of Alriacs death, doubt and fear of Alriac/Elriad intensified in Degel-draug’s mind.

  In the forty-third year of his honor, a trading caravan came through and Degel-draug entertained them with a lavish feast. He drank from the old vintages a little too thoroughly and spoke without thinking. The caravan master offered to “take care of the problem” for him and Degel-draug paid the fee of 72 gold without a hint of haggle. Befuddled as he was with drink, he had no idea what he had done. Obsessed as he was I’m not sure that it would have mattered.

  Elriad got word of the plot, through some of the men who had complained to his father. Deciding to evade the trap and leave the clan he asked the men to join him. He alerted Kharthi, gathered his family, the men, and those others who chose to go, and in the space of a night they left the Clan of Blackfist, set off on hegira.

  They headed south through the Mohz mountains, thirteen men, nine women and numerous children, four of which had to be carried. Along the base of the mountains they journeyed for three days before beginning to search out a new home. They crossed numerous dry ravines and then, farther south, a few creeks. Seventeen days into the journey, a storm blew in from the west, over the mountains. The sky grew black as night. The thunder rolled off the mountains deafening the dwarves. Lightning cracked over their heads, filling the air with the electrical smell of ozone. The dwarves hid amidst some giant tossed boulders, waiting for the storm to pass. For a week they waited and watched while Aquia, Soll and Lunya battled. On the morning of the eighth day Soll arose, alone in Her glory, looking none the worse for Her eternal struggle with Her sisters.

  The dwarves again pushed on. For twenty-five days they had been homeless, seven spent cowering amidst the rocks! Morale had never been lower. Surely soon a home would be found. They traveled through bramble and gorse, great forests of pine, oak, ash and elm, working their way farther and farther south. The search for a new home seemed never to be completed as one location, and then another and another, were dismissed as unsuitable. Then, in the mid-morning of the forty-third day of the search, Vitara…” 

  “That’s my name!” Vitara breathes excitedly. The Seth looks sternly at the frail, angelic child at his feet and picks up his tankard. Vitara’s eyes grow huge and resemble great emeralds shot with gold. She gasps, and with a star-fish hand covers her mouth. The Seth takes a small sip his steel grey eyes looking over the rim, straight into the childs eyes all the while. As he moves the vessel to the floor he says gently, “It’s alright; I did the same, every time I heard my name until I was almost three …or was it almost four?” His eyes twinkle as he watches her. He knows her fourth birthday was just over a week ago, a lifetime to one that age. “You will come to know that you can not listen while your mouth is running.”

  “So, in the morning of the forty third day of the search, Vitara, Elriads first-born, asked her father if a home would ever be found. Elriad told his daughter they would find the perfect place; they would know when it `felt’ right and they would be home. On they trudged through the rest of that morning and into the afternoon. Then as they came around the base of a mountain they found it was the last one. They had reached the end of the mountain range. Elriad was struck dumb. All that way and still no home. Where were they to go now?

  A shout raised Elriads eyes and he saw his sisters’ son, Grond, pointing out towards the plains. He raised his hand, shielding his eyes from Soll, and looked south. A small peak, a mere bump was just barely visible on the edge of the horizon. A spark of hope flared within him. Another mountain range! Surely it held a home for this small clan.

  Leaving sign for those who might follow, they pushed on across the plains and suddenly, into a desert. Such desolation had never before been witnessed by this clan. Spirits ebbed, hope was fading. Had the decision to leave the old home been a wise one? As the party pushed on, down trodden and footsore, they came to the realization that this mountain stood alone. Feeling very alone themselves, and somewhat cast adrift in this unfamiliar land, it seemed an omen from The One to find this place just now. A solitary mountain for a small, newly formed clan.

  The small, weary party pushed on. They reached the base of the mountain three days later, just after full dark. Camp was made and an expectant hush fell over them. No-one wanted to explore until morning so that Soll could shine Her blessing upon them. The mountain had looked promising as they had approached, but twilight had turned rapidly to dark, the details impossible to make out. Morning would be arriving soon, then they would see. All stayed awake throughout that night, even the littlest ones not wanting to miss the first rays of the dawn. A companionable silence encompassed the group. All felt the peace of the place surround them and almost seem to lend them strength for the day ahead.”

The Seth clears his throat then coughs. Drel hands him the tankard wordlessly, intent on having the tale continued. The Seth takes a long drink then hands the vessel back. His eyes take in the few who have stopped at the edge of the tent to listen to the tale. Catching A’drui’s eye he scratches his right ear. The boy takes the worn copper dish from the floor in front of him and deposits two copper in it before passing it back, toward the newcomers. Nodding the Seth continues the tale…

  “The group of dwarves sat with their backs towards the rising sun, facing the mountain. As first-light dawned, the mountain came alive and seemed much larger than it had the night before. The shrubs and vines almost glowed in the half light, now silver, now the palest of greens, dancing to the tune of the constant breeze. As they watched, the first rays of Soll touched the top of the mountain and it glittered, like a crown on a royal head, silver and peridot-green. A collective gasp came from the group, as if they had held their breaths through the long night, waiting for this moment.

  Soll continued Her journey up through the heavens, touching the mountain with Her gaze. As She traveled higher, and Her rays touched the herbaceous cape of the mountain, it bloomed! Starting just below the crown and inching its way down the side, each blossom burst into color. Magenta…fuchsia…yellow… Aqua as pure as a mountain stream. A red as deep as half dried blood. Greens..from palest chartruese to deepest emerald. Blue,.orange,.silver,.grey,.purple. Every color, every shade and hue ever seen, bloomed and shined from the mountain side in synchronization with the rising of Soll. 

  The little group of dwarves sat stunned near the base of the solitary mountain. You see they had never witnessed this, unlike you and I who have seen, every morning of our lives, the blooming. They had been hoping for a suitable home and it seemed they had found a palace. From under its cloak of blooms, where there were rents in the mass of color, the mountain itself shone through, its skin glittering like diamonds. Proudly it displayed itself for their inspection.  The little group rose in wonder, and made their way towards its base.

  After some discussion it was found that none of the men could detect any caves or tunnels, natural or hewn, and doubt again began to spread. The beauty and peace of the place was not enough. A cavern, or even a small cave that could be enlarged in time, must be found to protect the group from the elements and give them the sense of security that we all require. The group, disheartened but not yet willing to give up, made their way up the tall mountain. Although steep, a way up was found. Cutting back and forth across the eastern face a switch back trail was hewn. The mountain seemed to have had its western side sheared off, eons ago, making a circular route impossible. As the day and the dwarves progressed, it became hotter. The blooms, so fragrant and exotic, were sensitive to the heat and hid their faces. The dwarves also began to wilt as the heat of the day increased and began to oppress them.

  Upon reaching the summit the dwarves were again in awe of the beauty and majesty of the place. A breeze blew constantly from the western edge cooling them. A plateau, about three acres or so of luxuriant grasses, spread before them. The plateau was oval in shape with a slight indentation on the western side. The vines from below crept over the edge there, the starting line of their race over the grasses. A small herd of sheep was startled, disappearing over the southern edge. Here and there along the sharp edges, quartz, in varied colours peered.”
  The old man takes a slim wand from the cross braces under his stool, unnoticed until now. With it he sketches a rough map in the hard packed dirt at his feet. The children scuttle close in order to see…

  “The height of the lonely peak allowed miles of country side to be seen. To the North, just barely discernable past the rising heat of the desert, the Mohz Mountain range shimmered. To the East, scrub prairies that turn to grass lands in the south. Lush prairies filled with the greenest of grasses and wild herds of sheep to the west, fading to a tree line in the far distance. North-west the grass turns to scrub and then to desert again.

  After resting and sharing their first meal since their arrival, the dwarves descended the southern face along the almost indiscernible sheep trail. They moved as one, circling around to the west and looked up…and up. Rising over 750 feet, draped with blossoms, the mountain rose. Elriad was later heard to say that this sight of the mountain, dressed in tresses and capes, had moved him, touched him deeply as nothing ever had, before or since; and that She should have remained so and not have been shorn for any man.

  A feeling came over them all as they gazed at its heights and Elriad knew they were home. Without a word being spoken the men took out the tools they had carried all this way and set to work. A way was made, behind the vines, working them carefully loose to hang in front of the path. Almost halfway up, near the center point of the western face, The Cave was uncovered. The vines were pulled back, away from the entrance and tied. Soll made Her way into the entrance as did the dwarves. They found, after a short passage, a roughly circular cavern about fifty feet in diameter.

  As Soll lowered Her head behind the western horizon the party settled in. Elriad left the cave and climbed to the top of the mountain once more to give thanks to The One. After meditating on the proper forms and phrases, to ensure that he was heard, Elriad thanked The One for this new home, the endurance and fortitude lent by Him to this humble clan, and asked for guidance, so that all would make wise decisions in this new place. He asked for continued endurance so that the clan might thrive under these adverse conditions. Ending his meditations with the ancient rituals, he looked up to find Soll had finished her journeying and Lunyas journey was just beginning.

  Elriad arose to his feet and found, much to his surprise, that his knees, elbows and forearms were damp and some what muddy. He had felt nothing during the ritual! He bent to examine the water skin at his feet, thinking that maybe he had trod on it and caused it to burst. The skin appeared fine, just as it had when he began his meditations. But where had the mud come from? Elriad bent and started searching through the vines. Lunya appeared full faced from behind a cloud bank to lend Her aid. Upon further scrutiny he found that he had been kneeling just on the edge of a mushy, muddy area about fifty feet in diameter. No-one had detected this earlier due to the lush vines covering the area. Amazed at the discovery, and hoping this was a true source of water and not left from the last big rain, Elriad made his way quickly back down the west face, using the vines to lower himself.

  As he entered the cavern, muddy and leaf strewn, he wondered how long he had been on the plateau. The cavern had been transformed! Glow globes, brought all the way from the old cave, had been placed here and there around the walls giving a warm, homey feel to the place. The beds had been rolled out at the back of the cavern and looked almost irresistible. The children had pulled their bed rolls together and piled them up to make one large thick square. They were all piled together on this, like a burrow of rabbits, keeping each other warm.

  The few remaining supplies had been unpacked and sorted. What looked to be all the remaining food was spread on the finest, most clean burlap near the entrance. A small fire was burning directly in front of this, its smoke escaping down the passage. Elriad moved around the fire and surveyed the cavern in wonder. This was home. They had arrived at last.

  “And so ends the tale of `How The Dwarves Came to The Mountain’.” The Seth takes another long pull from the watered wine, watching the small crowd that has gathered deposit coins in the copper plate and disperse; measuring the childrens reactions. Drel,as always, has hung on every word, in places mouthing the words along with him. The rest stayed alert, enjoying the tale not realizing the history they had absorbed. As long as there were children to listen the past would not be lost.

  Durlije rises, placing Vitara on her feet. “Thank you for your company”he says bowing to her.  He works out the cramps from legs and back, stretching, then speaks to The Seth. “I thank you for the tale, you honour the Dwarves. As always, the tale was told with accuracy.” He bows low to The Seth. Then he turns and makes his way up to the Bazaar, becoming lost in the crowds.

continued in Part 3

© RiaD; all rights reserved


Skip to comment form

    • RiaD on October 7, 2007 at 20:29

    unvarnished truthful opinions only please!

  1. im coming back later tonight when theres not so much going on here!!  ive gotten about halfway through this one….cant wait to finish..

  2. this is a great deal of fun to read.  Have you thought about publishing this?

  3. she is right… wonderful writing and love the characters

    and we have our own serial it seems to me because there must be more… this is only the beginning of the story!!!

    smooches to you RiaD!!!!!!!!!!

  4. enjoyed it! Very well written, and you are a painter with words. It has a nice flow and keeps the mind and eye moving. can’t wait for the next episode. 

  5. The Seth has just taken his first pause to drink. I will continue upon my return from London later today. It would be a shame to spoil it by letting thoughts of tomorrow’s protest distract me from the tale…

  6. and I have. This is a fascinating place Ria. I know it will bring you success by and by. Some talented soul will have the pleasure of illustrating this too.

    20 minute’s drive from where I am sitting now,  is a tavern. The Eagle and Child ( Bird and Baby) to the locals, on St. Giles in Oxford. There one can sit in the same nook as Tolkien and Lewis, in the great men’s chairs. I tried to be inspired in this way once. It didn’t work for me, but you seem to have spent some weeks there. I do hope you keep this up – as you are inspired to do.

  7. I really think it is marvelous!

    The only thing I worried about is the water source.  You left it unanswered, and without the water, they could not have declared it permanent home.

    You fill out details I can see, Ria.

    That Rocks!


    • pico on March 5, 2008 at 00:15

    I know you’re creating a wholly unique fictional culture here, but the real-life history of bards and storytellers could provide some interesting ideas.  Oral culture tends to be highly stylized, and for good reason: if you’re going to memorize a long story, you better have some tricks!  For Homer it’s the use of flexible epithets (Achilles could be “swift-footed” or “god-like” or “leader of men”, depending on how much room the storyteller needs to fill in the line), or parallel phrasing like in Beowulf, etc.  They may be memory tricks, but when we read them we get a good sense of the ancient orality of the tale:

    On kin of Cain was the killing avenged

    by sovran God for slaughtered Abel.

    Play around with this a bit!  How does the Seth, even with his formidable memory, keep all the elements of the story together?  Are there formal aspects to the organization of the elements, or a register of the speech, that give the story subtle cohesion?  Is there an underlying language to his tale that differentiates it from the normal speech of your characters?  That would make the interruptions, already interesting and sometimes comic, even more marked.  

    But I’d definitely keep them differentiated to some extent.  I found lines like this a little jarring:

    They found, after a short passage, a roughly circular cavern about fifty feet in diameter.

    Is that the kind of thing a storyteller says?  It sounds more like a written description, less like a compelling detail for a bardic tale.

    Incidentally, the line I found most fascinating was this:

    Degel-draug spent his time in the forge either reading The Chronicles, writing prose or legends, planning lavish entertainments for the future, or, when in a contemplative mood, staring at the stars.

    So your culture has both oral storytellers and an ancient written culture!  How does an oral storyteller feel about referencing the competing written culture in his tale?

Comments have been disabled.