Year - 5828
The 27th of Sandstone, Mid-Autumn
The 2nd Golden Age
When he closed his eyes, he could smell the hot smell of pork and plump helmet stew. He could feel the warmth of the sun from the safety of the mountain home. He could still reach out and see the friendly faces of neighbors and the wet lapping of a friendly hound.
Wait, no, he still felt that.
"Gah!" The Dwarf gave a grunt, lightly shoving the Redbone Coonhound off of him. His red beard was covered in dog slobber, but Zas Minedrack was quite use to the feeling of sticky spit in his beard. The tanned Dwarf gave a low grunt as he was disturbed from his nap, though he was less-than-thrilled to see that it was not only still raining, but the booming of thunder was hitting against his ears.
"You awake, lad?" Zas also hated being called 'lad'. Dammit, he was 50 years old; even for a Dwarf, he felt that he was more than beyond the use of such a title, but Zas said nothing about it to Mafol Mountainousstandard, the Expedition Leader. Oh, why their King had placed him in charge was beyond the redhaired Dwarf, but he supposed he had some kind of faith in him. The silver-haired Dwarf looked at Zas with light-brown eyes as he said, "that fall looked really bad."
"Y-yeah, I'm fine." Zas let out a low grumble, trying to remember what he was talking about, but memory of what had happened had quickly came to him, but he chose not to show his scowl on his face. "Are we at the destination yet?"
"Yes, yes. We're at the spot. We've already started digging."
Zas let out a grunt; they've already struck the Earth! He hurried onto his feet and climbed out into the pouring rain. He had pulled the hood of his tunic up, covering his long hair, but it seemed futile against the constant downpour of the rain. Oh, how he hated this, but when he saw his fellow Dwarves digging, Zas had grabbed his own pickaxe.
"Alright, sorry for the wait. I'll get to work." Zas headed to the digging site as Mafol grinned.
"Good, good!" Mafol smiled, coming out of the wagon as well and lightly petting one of the mules that pulled the cart. "I'll get the animals out of the rain and join you briefly." Mafol began to lead the two mules and dog away to shelter as Zas began to join the other Dwarves in the digging. His pick struck hard stone as a few Dwarves looked at him.
"Oi, you're alive?!" Sodel Wallpaint stared in amazement, stopping his digging for but a moment. His own redhair was done in a ponytail and his beard was double braided. "I thought you had split your head in two when you fell!"
"Ai, ai!" Dîshmab Furnacediamond nodded along, "I thought you had Armok for sure!" His own beard was white as a sheet, with his head bald and shiny.
Zas gave a low chortle, "well, no. The Gods didn't seem to want me yet." He picked away without thinking as he dug into the mountain.
"How did the fall happen?" Cerol Mirrorcave had long redhair done in an elegant braid that reached down to her waist, a braid she took pride in even now as she was soaked to her bone and it dipped into the mud. "Mafol told us that you apparently slipped in the mud." Her paler, freckled face twisted into a scowl as her green eyes looked over her shoulder. "But we know that bastard is full of shit."
"So much that his eyes are brown." Zas grinned as the remaining six Dwarves gave a loud roar of collected laughter of they resumed their digging. The sooner they could dig their way out of the rain, the sooner they could build a fire and warm up. "But no, that's not at all what happened. What happened was that while we were pushing the wagon out of the mud, the daft bastard slipped on his own two feet. He pulled me down and sent me flying down until I crashed my head against the rock."
"Ouch," winced Lokum Abbeyfortress, his hand quickly going to his own mop of messy, black hair. A grey streak ran through his unkempt beard. A thick pair of bushy brows rested upon his face, along with a noticeable wart on his nose. "That's rough, mate. But look on the bright side: when Armok rejects you, that means you're a lucky bastard!"
Zas lightly scratched his cheek, "oh, ya think so?"
"Bah!" Shem Hammercloister gave a roll of her eyes as her pick struck the ground. "That's just an old wives' tale! All that means is that you're just lucky your brain wasn't spilled all over the place!" Her skin was a rich, chocolate color, with her own black hair cut short, all that could be seen of it, however, was her bangs under her fur helmet. Despite her sour attitude, her outburst got a loud laugh from the group of Dwarves, save for Zas and Lokum, who gave a few mumbles as they went back to their digging.
"Sorry to keep you lot waiting!" Mafol's voice rang as the Dwarf hurried over to them. "But the animals are secure and I brought us food! I think we could use some food while we dig!" The mention of food caught the attention of the other six Dwarves. They gathered around Mafol as he opened up the box. Their faces, however, all fell when they saw that all that remained of their provisions were a few hard boiled eggs.
Shem scowled as she took an egg and said, "I could've sworn we had found a stream on our way up the mountain that had plentiful fish."
"And plenty of nuts and berries on our way up the mountain." Dîshmab grumbled, taking another egg and popping it into his mouth before groaning. Cold, wet, and not a single salt rock to be found.
"Yeah, uh, funny how that works." Mafol gave a shrug, "but, oh well. Just bound to happen on a long trip from the mountain home."
Lokum raised an eyebrow, "and aren't you gonna have some?"
"What? Heavens no!" Mafol declared, "as Expedition Leader, it's my duty to ensure you all eat!"
"Naturally." Zas gave a roll of his eyes as he popped an egg into his mouth.
"Come now! Don't be so glum!" Mafol assured, "come now, we'll dig out a nice little hole to wait out the rain. Then, when it stops, we'll be able to hunt! You all remember those Mountain Goats we saw on our way up? Or those Kingsnakes? I'm sure some delicious Goat-Bacon and Eggs in the morning would be marvelous!" His chipper attitude did nothing to lift the spirits of the Dwarves, but they finished off the remaining eggs as they picked their axes off the stony ground.
"What are we even calling this would-be fortress anyway?" Cerol asked aloud.
"Oh, well-" Before Mafol could finish, the mountain seemed to shake with thunder! Then, with a flash, lightning struck the ground around before them! It was hot, it was quick! The harsh light blinded them for moment, but when they opened their eyes again, they could see lightning strike the tip of the mountain as though drawn to it! No, not drawn to it, as though the mountain itself protected the Dwarves from the bombarding lightning!
And then, calm. Nothing but rain continued to come down atop the seven Dwarves.
And thus, as they dug into the mountain, they had devised a fitting name for their new fortress home.
Zas gave a sigh as he leaned against the corner of his room. It wasn't particularly spacious; it was quite small actually, but it was enough to stretch and hang his soaking, wet clothes. As he set in his white shirt and long johns, he gave a sigh as fire flickered in front of him. A hazard, normally, but what did it matter? He had nothing of value in here and his clothes were certainly too wet to burn! Besides, it was all he could do to warm himself and his dog up.
"Ya know, I always wanted a fire place." Zas mumbled, "maybe I should dig one out at some point." He supposed he could, he was a Miner-not simply a Dwarf with a pickaxe and shovel, he was a proper Mining Dwarf. But, you know, it was just that at the moment when digging out their fortress, his first priority was to dig out a simple floor, room, and personal chambers for the seven of them.
"Well, a project for later." Zas said as he lightly stroked the damp fur of his dog, the Coonhound lightly gnawing on some kind of bone. "Sigmund, I don't know what you're eating, but I certainly envy you." He could hear his stomach growl through the constant yipping of his faithful companion. He wished he knew just what it was that his dog killed to get that bone, but he shrugged it off and tried not to think about it. All that mattered, he supposed, was that at least one of them was eating. His blue-eyes glanced at the wall to his right. His pickaxe and shovel hung there proudly, but beside them was something else: a shortsword.
Its steel gave a glisten unlike the rest of his tools. He could see his own reflection in the light of the flickering flames. He could still see the day when it was forged. He was there with his father, Datan Minedrack, went to the blacksmith and watched as the high quality blade was born in the magma forges of Ral Tishis (Silver Spiral). He could hear the War Smith's hammer CLANG and CLANG again and again against the steel. He could feel the heat as it licked into his flesh. It was hot, so hot that it hurt, but his father never flinched as he watched. They stood there as he watched the smith engrave the ancient runes into the blade's face.
"Shash Gast." (Hell Cleave)
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK!
Zas nearly jumped out of his skin as his dog began to yip and bark.
"You still awake in there? Zas?"
The redhead gave a low sigh, "oh, Lokum. It's open." The door creaked and opened as the ebony-haired Dwarf entered, in his own long johns. His burly, hairy chest was still damp with the rain water.
"Ahoy, mate." Lokum grinned as he waltzed into the room, sack over his shoulder and door closing behind him. He sat by the roaring flame as he grinned. "Thought I'd check to make sure you didn't hit your head on another rock or something."
Zas rolled his eyes, "oh, I'm fine. Don't you worry about me." He watched Lokum open his sack as he asked, "you're not getting antsy being in a mountain and not on the sea, are ya?"
The former Sailing Dwarf gave a shrug as he dug around his bag. "It's not that different from a ship, I suppose. Still plenty of water at least." Both Dwarves shared a laugh, but Zas stopped when something hit his nose. He watched Lokum pull out a piece of fish jerky and throw it at him. "Here, eat, friend. You'll need your strength."
The redhead caught the fish out of the air and took a bite without thinking. Once he regained his senses, Zas had asked, "how did you get this?!"
Lokum had a smug grin on his face, "I guess you could call it my stash." The Sailing Dwarf grunted, "I knew better than to go along with Mafol's 'food larder' plan. No doubt he's eaten most of the food, even if he's done almost none of the work."
Zas scarfed down his jerky as he said, "ai, I should've seen it coming." The redheaded Dwarf gave a sigh, "but I suppose its behind us now."
"Speaking of such," Lokum said, "how's your head doing?" He pulled out another piece of jerky and handed it to Zas. "Wouldn't want you dying in your own room now that you dug it out."
"Oi, why are you so focused on that head injury?" Zas asked, "all I did was bump me head."
"Cause you slept for a week."
"Ya didn't know?" Lokum blinked, "Zas, you were unconscious for days. We thought ya died!" His skin grew cold as Lokum continued, "its why I'm adamant that the Gods spared ya. Its why I so firmly think that they have plans for ya."
"Bah." Zas tried to shrug him off, but a shiver ran up his beard. "What could they have for me? I'm just a simple Dwarf."
Lokum glanced over at his right wall and said, "a simple Dwarf who keeps a shortsword?"
"'twas my fathers." Zas answered.
"Can...can ya use it?"
"If I need to."
"Then you're no simple Dwarf!" Lokum declared, "the Gods are planning great things for you, I know it! Zas managed to scarf down his second piece of jerky as his Sigmund, his dog, began to curl up near the fire. "I'm sure you'll go down in history, Zas. Maybe you'll slay 100 Goblins with your one sword. Maybe you'll bring down an entire Necromancer Tower! Or, or maybe even bring a Cyclops to his knees!"
"Oh hohoho!" Zas gave a laugh as he said, "calm yourself, friend. I'm not some hero of legend. I'm just a simple Dwarf."
Lokum gave a shrug, "maybe, but I have faith. And when the Gods roll the dice, I can tell when they roll high. I'm positive that you've gotten a high roll." Lokum began to stand up as he said, "but I guess I should head off to Shem's room and get her some food. You know how angry she gets when she's hungry."
"You mean she can get angrier?"
Both Dwarves erupted in laughter before Lokum headed for the door. "May the Wolf Mother protect us."
"Ai, may she never lose her place in the stars." Zas said back as Lokum closed the door behind him. His stomach was satisfied, at least for now, and he was starting to feel dry by the fire. He started to lie down onto the hard, stone floor. It was rough, but he didn't mind it too much. He was a miner, he's slept in times almost as much as he's slept in a bed.
But he certainly did miss his bed back in the mountain home.
His eyes looked over at his dog. Sigmund had closed his own eyes and was softly snoring. Zas had a small smile under his grin, happy he at least brought his faithful companion before he began to drift off into the realm of sleep.
Down the Rockingthon Mountainside, deep into the surrounding forests past the base of the mountain, a creature soared through the rain. The shadows indicated it might be some kind of owl, but no; each flash of lightning revealed it wasn't just an owl. It was a feathered humanoid, soaring through the air with the wings on its back. Clad in black robes, the creature wore a skull mask over his face.
Was he Human? Hardly.
An Angel? Far from it.
He was a Great Horned Owl-Man.
And he didn't stop flying until he reached a tall, ebony tower. The Owl-Man landed upon a perch, and without a second's delay, the door began to open. The Masked Owl-Man was greeted by a groaning and moaning Human, his skin discolored into a decaying blue, with varying body parts stitched back together like a patchwork sheet.
"Good boy." He mused, petting the Zombie like some kind of pet and waltzed right past the Zombie, who just stared blankly at his master as he walked past him and into the hallway of the tower before starting to climb the steps. His robes were soaked with water, but he cared not. He was a man on a mission. And he wouldn't stop until he reached the highest point of the tower and knocked on the door.
"Mother Nycola?" The Owl-Man beckoned. "It is I, Yago. Your faithful servant."
"...Enter, my child." The commanding voice of an Owl-Woman came from behind the door. Yago reached for the door and opened it up. Yago entered the room; the office of this Mother Nycola. She was sitting in a nice chair, a book in hand as another Human Zombie stood next to her. His jaw was sewn shut and he held a try that rested a bottle of wine and hot, fresh bread. Nycola's right-eye was scarred and blind, her left all black save for a sky-blue iris. She didn't look up to Yago, even when he came closer. "What news do you bring me from your scouting mission?"
"It's of the Rockingthon Mountains." Yago spoke as he bowed to the Great Horned Owl-Woman. "The Dwarves have reached the mountain's base and have begun striking the Earth. I estimate by now, they've already dug out a chamber to escape the storm."
Nycola grew silent as she set down her book. "Interesting." She stood up; Nycola was much taller than her fellow Owl-Man. She was towering, so tall even the Human seemed puny to her. She strolled over to Yago and started to pet the younger man with an affectionate claw. "You've done well, my faithful apprentice. These Dwarves will make excellent subjects for our experiments."
"All is for you, Mother Nycola."
The Owl-Woman felt her beak curve into a beak as she headed to the door, Yago standing up and following behind her. "Now then, we shall gather our fellow Necromancers. We have plans to make."
"Shall I arm the Zombies, Mother Nycola?"
"...No." The Owl-Woman said, "not yet." She smirked down at her apprentice. "Let those Dwarves build. It'll be nice to have a new fortress and plenty of Dwarf bodies."