Chapter 4 - Within the Mountains

Chapter 4 - Within the Mountains Chapter 4 - Within the Mountains

Status: Finished

Genre: Fantasy



Status: Finished

Genre: Fantasy



Fearing that which was rising from the ancient tunnels the miners take refuge within the dwarven city under the Lonesome Mountain. Due to his lie to protect Neya, Alan becomes the middleman between the king and the miners. After meeting the dwarven court, he learns there is more to fear within the city than outside of it.
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Fearing that which was rising from the ancient tunnels the miners take refuge within the dwarven city under the Lonesome Mountain. Due to his lie to protect Neya, Alan becomes the middleman between the king and the miners. After meeting the dwarven court, he learns there is more to fear within the city than outside of it.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter 4 - Within the Mountains

Author Chapter Note

Fearing that which was rising from the ancient tunnels the miners take refuge within the dwarven city under the Lonesome Mountain. Due to his lie to protect Neya, Alan becomes the middleman between the king and the miners. After meeting the dwarven court, he learns there is more to fear within the city than outside of it.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 15, 2013

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: March 15, 2013



Chapter IV

Within the Mountain

Back at the mines, the mysteries from the abandoned entrance remained unknown as did the merchant’s delayed arrival. Starvation was no longer their first concern. With no one to turn to in these times of darkness, they asked the dwarves for shelter. At first they were not pleased by the thought of having their own city invaded by thieves and murderers, yet they understood that the death of the miners could cost them their trade opportunities with the humans. The city below the Lonesome Mountain was sealed from the tunnels and the gates to the surface could stand against anything both from the surface and the Underworld. The underground settling was built upon four levels. The humans were to settle themselves in at the bottom level were they could be constantly watched by the dwarven guards from above.

I miss the sun.” thought Alan. “I miss Neya. Now that she is gone I truly feel shackled …”

He was lying on the cold stone, sleepless as he was. He had no clue whether it was day or night for now they lived in the darkness. The flames from the torches all over the city reminded him of the sky and its stars. Around him were about thirty people all moping restlessly. They were hungry and they were constantly tired. Infants were crying as usual here and there. It kept everyone awake. Even the dwarven king, Odroth, had no sleep. He stood up on his isolated, crafted-in-stone palace and stared out at the humans. He had both pity and anger in his eyes. Alan could not see that from where he was standing but he knew. Their benefactors were not hiding their constantly growing resentment. It has been only seven days since the humans entered the mountain and the tension between the two races reached alarming new heights. Many people went back to their thieving ways now that they were in a city. The dwarves were known for being easily angered so a response soon followed back. Without a word from the surface world, things were bound to get out of hand. The king saw himself losing control over the city.

Suddenly, they heard a swoosh coming from the upper levels. Seconds later a random arrow pierced a man just a few feet away from Alan right in his chest. A moment of silenced fell upon the city, followed by shouts and roars. Few criminals started climbing up to the first level to take revenge on the dwarves. Seeing them taking their knives out the dwarves got scared and started throwing whatever they could put their hands on. Men threw heavy rocks, women emptied the chamber pots and children started running up to the third level. It was a riot unworthy of both races. The guards were too few to hold back everyone on both sides. The king yelled.

“Silence! I command you to stop before you bring the mountain down. That was a king’s order!” He ran out of breath so he blew his horn. Once again everyone ignored it. Angered by their indifference to him, he grabbed the bow from the guard standing right next to him and lit the arrowhead in the nearest torch. He aimed at a barrel of sulfur standing along on a cliff – a leftover from the last time the merchants visited the city. The blast harmed no one but the rocks that followed it fell on two humans and a dwarf, cracking their skulls wide opened. The riot stopped and silence fell once more upon the city. This time it was the king who broke it.

“Gather yourselves all together for I have an announcement for human and dwarven ears to hear.”

Odroth spoke without even acknowledging the deaths he caused. He was a just king most times but his ways were known for their recklessness towards his people. Despite this, they worked and the dwarves got used to closing an eye whenever the king would act on an impulse. While each one was trying to find a spot as close to the palace balcony as he could get, the king noticed his three victims.

“I can no longer stand here and watch this once mighty city taken down by thieves. Tall or short, I see worthless scums from the surface and from my own home roaming these streets. This cannot stand no more ... The mountain is crying.” he said in a softer voice. “Its halls and tunnels are filling with unknown evil surrounding our homes. Our gates may hold for now but we must take notice that we are unaware of the nature of enemy. Its shrieks that rise up all the way to the surface have never been heard before by any creature of this world. We may even face the return of the gods.”

“But why must we fear the presence of the gods? Is that not what our peoples have longed for all these ages?” cried out a human voice from the crowd.

“We want the safety of our chantries but we cannot face the gods once more. The last time it happened they turned axe against bow and left our homes in ash and ruins. Seeing what they have caused to the world of lesser creatures they returned up to the north, beyond the mountains. They sealed the pass with the Living Stones: golems and rock-trolls that could move mountains at the swing of their enchanted maces. These creatures were to keep everyone in its right place. Seeing how the mountain pass was sealed it could be they took the tunnels in the Underworld.”

“Tunnels from the north?” yelled out a few dwarven voices. “I never heard of such a thing. We were cut off from the other dwarven cities only two ages ago and that is nowhere long enough for our kind to reach the north.”

“Tell me, Borgond.” said the king turning towards a man in a cloak sitting on the balcony next to him. “You are a wise old man that lived in this city since it was the heart of the Dwarven Empire. You’ve travelled in your time more than most of us all together and have seen things of this world and of the old world. Could it be that our tunnels stretch out to the lands of the gods? Is it them that haunt the mines?”

He was the oldest creature underneath the Lonesome Mountain. He looked as if he’d long passed his time. His wrinkles went deep inside his forehead and his eyebrows almost covered up his eye sockets. Death came less often to those beneath the mountains.

“I … I have no memory of such paths but then again I seem to have fewer memories of most things these days. I may be old but my wisdom is fading and I cannot say. I, for one, do not remember walking such roads. Still, we shared the Underworld with orcs and others even older than them. Perhaps they have reached the North and we pay for their curiosity … But what we must not forget is that old legends speak of a god buried deep into the darkest pit …”

The man was rambling on. Realizing that his words led nowhere the king stopped him and continued his announcement.

“Gods or no gods, these creatures are not of this world and we must act cautious. But if we want to conquer our enemy, we must first conquer our fear. And before that, both humans and dwarves must conquer their hatred towards one another. It is this war cry from beneath that calls for an alliance between our peoples. I say this will be an act of courage that will open the gates of our city back to the Dwarven Empire and will cleanse the miners of all their crimes. We will rise from the lowest ranks of our races and receive the titles of heroes.”

Everyone was interested in what the king had to say. Redemption was a thing everyone at the lonesome mountain looked upon with desire. Alan’s hand squeezed his mother wrist as he pulled her from the excited brawling. He too was thrilled at the idea of freedom now that he was truly stuck there a crime he did not even commit.

“The shrieks may be frightening but that is the sound of us escaping our fate and our cursed destinies. We will lead on into the mines, into the darkness where we will face that which no one has ever faced and return victorious to a world where bards sing our names, kings hold feasts in our honor and maidens will blush at our sight.”

Everyone cheered together as if nobody had fought just a few moments before.

“But,” carried on the king when the ovations went down “we must have order if we want to stand against the unknown. Therefore, I am here to ask the surfacers to name by vote their spokesman. Let it be known from the very beginning that this is a brotherly union and we, the dwarven people, do not wish for the miners to succumb to us.” The king had his people outnumbered. It seemed that in their short and still meaningless history, high numbers is the one thing humans had. Alan could not believe the honor Odroth Kunsbaar the Forth was allowing his guests. The only residents that were allowed to vote in such matters as this one were those of the Free City. Over there the king’s decision was never final. It was the people’s gathering who decided what was to come of their beloved city.

“So speak, my guests, who is it that you wish to carry out your words to me and keep you all together?”

Everyone was silent. A few names rose from the back of the crowd but they did not reach the king’s ears, a clear sign that they did not catch on. Then a few people turned and saw Alan standing there keeping his mother safe. His reputation grew overnight ever since his presumed killing of Gabe. The man Neya stabbed was in fact one of the most feared miners. Stories had it he was not even supposed to be at the mines but ran away from a death sentence to a place no guards would have searched. Lena, Neya’s step mother, looked at her son with wide eyes that reflected the torches’ light and shouted as hard as she, an old woman, could.

“Alan! I suggest Alan, my son, the one who freed you from the terror that was Gabe.”

Then everyone started looking in his direction making him feel uncomfortable. Soon, his name was upon everyone’s lips, carrying out all the way to the king. When he heard the mass of humans all cheering the same name he realized it was a decision that would please most of his guests.

“As king I stand here and ask this Alan to stand up and show himself.”

The people in front of him stood aside making a path for him. He felt somehow guilty receiving such an honor for a deed he never truly committed. But he was set to protect Neya so he started telling himself the lie everyone believed. His mother was following behind him prouder than she had ever been.

When he reached the first row of human he stopped and took an awkward bow in front of the king. He let out a short yet powerful laugh.

“Have you not heard me, boy? Such pleasantries are of no use towards someone with your title. You will be a member of the noble families that reside at my court. You will eat and drink at my table and the dwarven people are to look at you with the same eyes they look upon the members of such families as the Roh’fors or the Krunburds. If our guests agree I am here to name you Spokesman of the Surfacers. What say your people, Alan?”

“Aye!“ the humans all yelled out at once.

It made the mountain tremble and along with it the unknown creatures behind the gates shrieked louder than before.

Everyone’s smile faded. The king turned towards his helpers sitting besides him on his balcony.

“Give him and his mother their own quarters and have the kitchen-maids prepare a festive lunch.”

No human ever sat at a dwarven king’s table before. It was truly an honor for a bastard-born and a criminal nevertheless to end up at a royal feast; especially in a time with supplies ever so scarce.

Alan was brought to the room he was given. Its walls were incredibly smooth and they were painted in a light blue. He noticed the paint was shiny because the light was reflecting upon it yet he saw no lightened torch. And then he realized. His room was connected to a ventilation hole that went up all to the surface of the mountain. Light managed to pass through the hole every day when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. When it hit the painted wall the room was basking in light. His eyes hurt for it had been long since they saw the daylight but even so he was glad. It gave him hope for the future. After a few moments the sun passed and the room was once more swallowed up by darkness. He went to sleep.

Few hours later, he was woken up by a dwarven servant. She asked him to go along with her and he complied after splattering a handful of water from a nearby bowl on his face. He had to take slow steps for her to keep up with him.

“That’s why they’d make terrible scouts.” thought Alan taking a quick look at her small legs.

But what they lacked in speed and agility, they made up for in strength and resistance. She pushed the right stone door of the throne room with one hand, while Alan had trouble pushing the left one, using both arms. The king was anxious in his throne. The path from the entrance to the massive throne was marked by a straight wide lane paved with brown, shiny tiles. On both sides of it stood statues of heroes and near the throne two bigger figures of an old god. They meant nothing in that day and time but serving long forgotten gods became a habit to the dwarves as well. Between each statue, was a dwarf; noblemen by their jewelry and their posture. They all stared at Alan, with no expressions upon their bearded faces, as he was walking down towards the king. Reaching the throne, Alan took yet another bow just as before. The king seemed less amused this time around.

“I hope you will not make a habit of this, Alan. Look around and tell me how many of the dwarves are on their knees?”

Alan turned his head without rising and saw the dwarves in the eyes, being at their level, while on his knees.

“None, my king.” he replied.

“Well than why are you on yours? I have named you a member of my high court. I share my home with you and I will not have you take a bow every time we shall pass by each other. So rise now and never bow the knee as long you live within our tunnels. Is that understood … friend?” he said, unsure of the status he just gave Alan.

“Of course … friend.” Alan replied lowering his voice towards the end.

“Tell me then. What is your family name? Who shall stand by me in front of our people? Being of the mines I don’t expect you to be of any noble houses yet surely you must have a father whose name you share.”

“I have not met my father. He was released from the mines when I was two years of age. My parents never had a king’s blessing upon their marriage so it remained unbinding leaving my father free to walk back into the west once his punishment was over.”

“Long story short, you are a bastard-born.” said the king in a monotone voice.

“As most miners, my king.”

“You must not misunderstand me. I do not look down upon any of my guests. Yet, I fear, my people are not as … open-minded as the people in this room.”

“I find my rank amongst my people quite fitting, if I may say, my king.”

“And why is that?”

“I am not a highborn as you spoke before. Unlike noblemen, I have been touched by hard labor at a young age. I share my people’s pain. My hands have been covered by coal dust for as long as I remember yet they were never covered with the blood of my fellow men.”

“Is that so? Were you not named, “killer of Gabe” by your own kin? Have my ears mistaken me?” the king was suspicious and unafraid of showing it.

“My king, I stand here before you summoned by non-other than yourself and you seem to be accusing me of things that hold no ties tour matters. My crimes were justified. I may have killed one of the worst criminals to have ever roamed these mountains but, truth be told, he was an old man who took pleasure in tormenting those weaker than him sometimes a lot weaker … children my king. It was no act of bravery or courage. It was a mere action to save my sister. I stand by my deeds and as a spokesman of the miners it is your opinion and the opinion of my people I must fear not that of the city. We stand here not by choice but by necessity and I am certain your invitation, or so to speak, has other reasons than the dwarven kindness which I heard so much about.”

“How dare you talk down to the king? Odroth has saved your people from the rising hell and you stand here accusing him of having darker motives for this act of compassion? That is not how you address a king.”

“I have not met any other king. Forgive me if I was too familiar, too fast.” Alan responded realizing he was in no position to have pride.

“He puts at risk the very peace of our beloved city. Your presence here brings nothing but fear amongst our people. Our city has never been so populated not even back in the old days when we were capital. The air now is heavy and you fill it with foul stenches that your people bring from the surface.” another dwarf continued.

“Leave the boy be, Lor’Horn Krunburd!” yelled the king at the nobleman. “I do not need your petty words against those of our guest. Unfortunately, he speaks the truth and I have no intention to hide from it. Besides, I am afraid this foul odor comes not from above but from beyond …”

“I’ve noticed that too, your majesty. It comes from the gates that were shut down ever so long ago. I’ve come to know of this after my usual walks towards the temple.” intervened Borgond.

“You are not to interrupt me as I speak, old man.”

The king seemed to have little regard of the old man’s opinion each time yet his presence in the high court was justified by traditions. In times when the dwarves were mightier than any creature of Azum’rah, the high court of each city included the oldest and therefore wisest citizen. Borgond Kelmihr was present in the king’s hall because of this ancient tradition. The king never cared for the old man’s opinion yet he asked of it whenever his people were around. The Kelmihrs were well-known for living incredibly long lives. The long line of these “traitors of time”, as the king called them, was about to come to an end for Borgond was the last of his name and had no son to carry his name. Alan quite liked the old man. He gave him a look of understanding.

“What is there to do then, my king? As a voice of my people I’m here to tell you, you have the full human’s support in whatever your plan shall be.”

“A statement, I see, in the name of your people, regardless of the fact that you have not consulted with them. I wonder if you truly understand the responsibility I am giving you. You are but the link between our peoples, not a leader. ”

“I understand that, my king but, I do believe my people do not have a choice when it comes to aiding you in what is to come.”

“That is true, my friend. I do believe you are wiser than I would have guessed a human of your age or your class to be.”

“Thank you, my king. I am undeserving of your kind words”

“There you go with the pleasantries again. It seems there is no compromise with you: you either insult me or show total submission. Besides, those were not words of kindness I addressed you. It was but a mere observation; not even a good one. I fear, my friend, your understanding of things will only trouble both of us more than it will be necessary.”

Hearing this, the old man nodded softly, staring into the ground as if talking to himself.

“Dinner is served” yelled out a woman from the other side of the room.

“Come now” said the king “we shall discuss our plans further in the dining hall. Our feast is about to begin.”

Odroth licked his lips, a gesture unfit for a king but due to his beard nobody noticed. As he got up from his high throne he realized how much taller his new member of the high court truly was. Suddenly, he felt losing his power in front of Alan, a frustration all dwarves had towards the surface creatures.

“You must understand, boy. I have nothing against you or your kind. Yet in these dark times a king must be careful who he invites in his chambers.”

The king changed his tone and carried on speaking in a deeper voice that showed concern. Alan’s answers so far and most of all the sincerity in his voice gave the king a reason to trust the people’s choice.

“You see, Alan,” he continued “I fear for my people. I promised an honest collaboration between our two sides and I feel I must do my share for that to happen. To make you understand where we stand as a city I must tell you a little bit of history.”

They all sat down at the table.

“After the first age, the world stood in ashes. It was brought down by the Gods that used the lands, from one seashore to another, as fighting grounds in their quest power. We were but mere tools. Back then, the Underworld and the elven kingdoms were in good relations, trade made both our race flourish. Then Gods entered the Underworld from the surface. They promised us the world if we were to follow them into battles. In the upcoming wars, all races turned against each other. The world of Azum’rah lost entire empires in a few years back there. We too, the dwarves, stood on the edge of total extinction. After the wars were over and the fires settled, the few remaining dwarven cities decided to close their gates to the surface world so no such evil could ever come to the Underworld again. It was a wise decision until my grandfather, King Taluh’zaar, decided enough time has passed in order for us to open up to the surface once more. And so we did only to find you, humans, clueless of this world and clueless of your existence upon it.”

“We too are descendants of the Dwarven People. Or at least that is what the legends tell us.”

“The legends are true. The dwarves under the Forbidden Mountain, as you call it, were old enemies of the capital. They too wished for the glory of that title so when your dwarven ancestors committed the Great Sin, as it was called thousands of years ago, it shamed the city beyond retribution. They threw you out into the unknown surface world something we, as exiles ourselves today, thought was a heinous crime against our own kind. Disgusted by the punishment they gave you, we seized all trade routes and contact with them. Their response came in a similar manner and shut their gates towards us. The scouts we sent after your ancestors were never allowed to pass through their city. In these times I see an opportunity to save our exiled brethren has risen once more yet I fear, Alan, that we are not as excited of this as we were a few thousand years ago. You are of the outside world, where the ceiling has no limit and everything dwells in blinding light. Your return reminds people of the gods who once came at our door just like you.”

“But if you fear the surface ever so badly why is it you try to maintain yourselves in such good treaties with my people?”

“Ah yes, here is where my hidden motives lie, as you mentioned it before. This city is doomed, Alan. Our people have forsaken us and …”

“T’was your greedy, selfish grandfather that doomed us all to heck. It is a wonder that you, as his grandchild, are permitted to sit upon his throne.” interrupted Lor’Horn with a severe unpleasantness towards this matter.

“I fear you are losing me, my king.” said Alan embarrassed. “Why is this city doomed and how exactly did your grandfather doom it?”

“My grandfather’s vision of a union between our two worlds was not shared by the other dwarven cities. They even considered it to be an insult. In an act of rebellion against the Dwarven Empire, King Taluh’zaar opened the gates to the surface. It was the first time since your people’s exile. Yet, as the gate towards the surface was opening, the ones towards the dwarven depths were closing and we remained sealed. It seems, my friend, that we share the same fate.”

“Aye … still, the matter of the doomed city is unclear to me.”

“The tale I telling you has not reached its end. Allow me to finish it and your wonderings shall cease.”

The king’s seemed to enjoy storytelling no matter how gray the story truly was.

“Very well” he continued. “We’ve learned a few years back that the walls of our city are starting to feel colder to the touch. Upon the eastern parts of the city the stones are wet to the touch. The sea is eating the mountain away day by day. So it has since the beginning of time yet nobody ever expected for the mighty mountain to cave in.”

“So this place will be swollen up by the eastern sea.”

“Indeed it will… indeed it will.” His voice faded out. “But if you are to help us stand in front of the unknown danger of the deep I am certain we will once more be welcomed by the empire.”

Alan seemed to be thinking hard about what he was going to say as if it was a matter of life and death.

“Will you abandon this place to flood and return to the empire?”

“I fear that must be done. If we were to open the gates to the other cities now we would be thrown out of the Underworld for defiling the orders of the Empire. Yet if we open up the gates, victorious against the uprising danger, we will be forgiven and we will return to the empire leaving this cursed capital for the fish to dwell in.”

“But if the city should flood wouldn’t the water invade the other cities of the empire as well?” Alan asked with a childish curiosity.

Lor’Horn pounded his fist against the table, angered by what the guest was implying.

“How dare you come into our house, eat with us at our table and spit such horrible words towards our ears? The Dwarven Empire will not fall! It cannot fall! Human dwellings may be shaky but our dwarven walls are built to last for as long as the there is life in our bones.”

The old man, Borgond, coughed a dry cough into his fist interrupting the meal in a manner that made the king raise his eyebrow with disapproval.

“I for one feel the life running out of my bones.” he laughed soon after.

“Silence! There are serious matters to discuss here.”

“Of course there are … there always are …” the old man drifted out of focus and soon fell asleep on his chair.

“That takes care of one of my problems.” said the king smiling. “But no there is no way the Dwarven Empire would fall if our city should fall. After we will return to our people in the depths we will bring down the mountain ourselves and stop the water from filling.”

“Aye, we will!” confirmed a member of the Roh’for house who was well known for being keen on explosives. “With the mountain down the water will never pass.”

They all smiled and mumbled amongst themselves in approval.

The old man was awaked by their boasting. He kept his head down and looked at each one of them with judgmental eyes. Then his attention was drawn towards Alan who did not share in the excitement of his hosts.

“But what if we fail … ” Alan ruined their timely rejoice.

“We won’t, we can’t but, in truth … we mustn’t. Even if we open the gates to our city the other cities of the empire are many day’s walk away and they too have their gates shut from the tunnels that connect them with us. Our ancestors built them strong and they are thick enough that the waters wouldn’t get in. even if we drown the empire will not fall.”

Borgond shook his head in disapproval but he said nothing. Neither the king nor the noblemen paid attention to him yet he seemed to stir interest in the new arrival at the court.

“The only matter that remains discussing then is that of our tactics. Tell me, human, have you ever held a sword?” the king said eating a chunk of pork with one hand and cleaning his beard with the other.

“I have not, my king. I was born within the mines and never knew the world of my people outside my shack upon your slabs of rock. Besides, men are peaceful creatures. The only war we fight is the one with wild beasts from the Untamed Forests.”

“Ha! It seems you know of the humans outside the Lonesome Mountain even less than we do. But that is a matter that does not concern us the dwarves. Your relations with your people are not of our concern. I figure most of the miners never held a sword in their hands and if they did they did not use it wisely. You will remain within the city and keep your people in order. It is a task of no lesser importance than fighting in the first row. If the city falls … we all go down with it. The peace between our people lies upon your shoulders.”

“I understand, my king.”

“Now that we are all aware of this city’s situation, I do believe we were setting our military tactics. New or not, Alan is not the only member of your court, king.” Lor’Horn added excited about the fight to follow. He was a dwarf of average size for its kind yet he had more strength within his arms than most. The scars upon his face were a clear sign that he has lived a few battles himself.

He envisioned the war to come to be of enormous proportions, hordes upon hordes for him to slash and pound with his war hammer. He was born after Odroth’s grandfather opened the gates towards the surface. This meant he took part in no dwarven war and the only battles he fought in were between two clans of noble blood right there in the Underground City. He did not belong to either of those clans yet he had this constant craving for all that is violent. It felt like forever since his weapon tasted blood. When the riot between people started that very morning, he immediately had his hammer drawn from his back where he kept it at all times. Wishing for a life of violence, he enrolled in the Underworld’s Watch who were basically the guards that kept order in the cities. Soon he found it boring and when a citizen showed him disrespect for the law he lost control of his rage and killed him, pounding him into the rock long after he passed away. Yet, he remained a nobleman and a member of the king’s court, something that puzzled the dwarves themselves. Alan could see the lack of respect Lor’Horn had towards his king and how Odroth tolerated his words.

“Now, my king, I have been head-counting this morning and I trust the humans add a good two thousand men able to fight to our city’s army. There are also many wenches, indeed but their cooking skills can be of use to the army we are building. I am unaware of who belongs to whom down there, but I trust there will be no problems at the lower level of the city.” Lor’Horn added giving Alan a look. “All together, there are a solid three thousand able to bear arms and there are three gates to this city. I say, split the army in three for we know not which path is worse.”

“Can’t we take one gate of a time to ensure victory?” said the king looking rather unpleased by this.

“Ah yes, safety in numbers. The only problem there my king is that we are short on time.”

“It seems that, for creatures of the stone, we are always in such a rush …” mumbled the old man half asleep.

“It’s not just time but the unpredictability of the enemy. We know nothing of him. We could just as easily go down one tunnel and he could be rising on another.” Lor’Horn continued explaining.

“Then perhaps it is best if we leave back here a part of our army. I say one hundred hammers and twice as many crossbows will suffice in case of siege.” the king said

“My people are not the most skilled of warriors but I have been told that the crossbow is easy to master, much easier than the hunting bow.” Spoke Alan.

“Aye … that much is true. But we cannot trust to have an army of humans in a dwarven city while our soldiers are deep in the tunnels, regardless of who is the spokesman in charge.” the king said with a worried voice.

“Then it is settled” added Lor’Horn who seemed bored with the ongoing dispute “we will leave behind one hundred dwarven melee fighters and half as many crossbowmen of our kind. The rest will be of the human race. The rest of the warriors both men and dwarf will be sent off into the tunnels, equally divided and will leave outposts where three men will stay. In case of confrontation we will alert the city sending the message from one outpost to another.”

“But …” the king said doubting the simplicity of Lor’Horn’s plan.

“There is no reason for further complications, Odroth! You might be my king but you yourself named me Wielder of Hammers, master of our military affairs. Do you truly wish to take that title from me now on the binge of a real war?”

The king bowed down his head as if guilty of something.

“The people await our decision. After the feast, we will have one more gathering and give news to every soul beyond the mountain of our plans.”

Alan was already full for a human stomach does not need as much as that of a dwarf. After asking permission to leave – which made the dwarves laugh – he stood up and decided to go see how his mother has settled in. He heard small footsteps following him close behind. As soon as he turned a corner and was unseen by those who still feasted a small, old hand sprint from the shadows and grabbed his wrist as hard as an old man could. It was Borgond and he was breathing heavily from the small chase that following a human was for him.

“We … we must speak as soon as possible!”

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