Late Winter, in the Year of the Forks 405
A pale blue fog drifts through the rough halls of Zaskidet, slipping into every corner and crack. The gibbering screams of an insane Dwarf echoes through the corridors and deserted rooms, the howling of great, slavering beasts above and below harmonizing to strike a chord of madness. The Pit, entrance to the once-hopeful fortress of Crystaltalons is blocked, walled by hasty constructions. Huddled in the cold, the last survivors of the Cult of Forks surround their life-giving Bromgev. Never again shall they doubt.
Never again shall they sin.
They have been tested by God. Those found wanting met their end by savage claw or maddening thirst. The Holy Still churns Dwarven Ale, distributing its life-saving spirits to the weeping survivors. Still cold, still hungry, now they have hope. God-of-Forks has tested them, and they have lived.
The False Prophet – the child Calvin Thompson – did not. The Yeti slew the young Dwarf, and Calvin’s screams were heard throughout the fortress. Some weak hearts were saddened by the death of the child, but most were overjoyed. No longer would they hear the blasphemies of this maybe-prophet.
Death Count: 13
Work began in the smelters and forges. Samantha Cote, Zaskidet’s undertrained metalworker, forged arms and armour from iron. What remained of the Feral Walls – Nelson Lovestrom and Austin Jones – were geared in true weapons. No more picks and fists, but swords. Bruised, bloody and broken, they took Cote’s fresh-forged weapons, donned her fresh-forged armour. No more would Zaskidet fear the Yeti, or the Spider. The Scintillating Ash would be cleansed by the wrath of God.
Suddenly, the wails above went silent – the Yeti, ending its infernal rage. The Dwarves of Zaskidet dared a peek above the Pit.
A caravan of Dwarven traders! What fools – what lovely, blasted, welcome fools – came this far north to make trade with a poor outpost? God truly smiled on the Dwarves of the Cult. The blocking wall was torn from its foundations and cast aside, and the last of the Cult stepped forward into the light. Some covered their eyes. Others, so unused to fresh air and wind, curled into balls, vomiting their last meal, weeping at their freedom. The foreign van looked upon thirteen emaciated, sickly dwarves, bloodied and bruised all, and whispered to each other.
What is this place?
They knew not the glories they passed – had not the words to express what they saw. Zaskidet sat outside the circle of the known. What happened in the fortress of Crystaltalons was not to be understood by those who did not share in the experience. It could not be known. The Cult’s suffering was endless, beyond comprehension. It transcended family bonds the way only plague and famine can – in the way of battered souls holding one another for comfort. They would never again be of the world about them. They forever stood apart.
In silence they watched the caravaners approached. Finally, the Bromgev approached them, bid them empty their wagons and spread their wares. The Cult had little to trade but the clothes of the dead, and what few gems had been smoothed by Justin Currie before his death. Hopefully, it would be enough.
Negotiations commenced. The visitors were immediately frowning as piles of clothes were thrown at their feet, stinking, torn and bloodied. Of the many hundreds of articles of clothing so unceremoniously dumped, a few caught the eye. A bauble here, a silken shirt there. Then the gems were brought forth, and these sparked real interest. A few copper weapons, made to train Blacksmith Cote in her metalworking, fetched fair prices. Barrels were bought, along with every log these Dwarves brought with them. Zaskidet shall suffer no more.
As Lara Foley and the Dwarven merchant speak, a great howl rose on the wind. The Yeti returned to wreak its terrible wrath on the Dwarves. The merchant guards, alongside Nelson and Austin, charged the beast. Though armed now with hammers and swords and decked in iron armour, the Feral Walls were quickly shown what true warriors could do – the Hammerdwarves of Kulet Am lay the beast low. The terror it eked into the hearts of the Cult at last can be staunched.
Austin, however, did manage one amazing feat. Before the Yeti died, it knocked the poor Dwarf from his feet. Austin, his grip already impaired due to earlier injury, lost hold of his sword. But the Dwarves of Zaskidet are hard, even if they are untrained. And Austin had been with the Cult since its beginning; he would not back down. Not after the horrors of the past month. Blind with his inestimable hate, he leapt to his feet and tore into the beast with his teeth, piercing skin and even snapping the bones of the Yeti’s left hand.
To close out the year, another herd of camel wandered between the glaciers of the Scintillating Ash. The Dwarves of the Cult looked over these strange animals with undisguised hunger, tired of meal after meal of wolf meat.
And finally, finally, the weather cleared. The seven-month blizzard came to an end.
Progress is slow.