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Authors: Markus Heitz

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The Revenge of the Dwarves

BOOK: The Revenge of the Dwarves
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MARKUS HEITZ
 
Translated by Sheelagh Alabaster
 

www.orbitbooks.net

 

 

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Table of Contents

A Preview of
THE FATE OF THE DWARVES

Copyright Page

The Third
I dedicate to those who read my dedication without the dedication
you
have shown, its sister volumes would have stood alone

 

“Impressive height or exceptional length of a limb is not the be all and end all of a creature. What I say is: the taller you are, the more likely you are to get hit!”

—Boïndil “Ireheart,” Doubleblade of the Firstling Clan of the Swinging Axes

 

“Now and then you hear malicious remarks about dwarves. They are said to be of inferior build, to be cranky, to have a weird sense of humor; it is told that they only drink beer that is as black as night and are not able to appreciate music unless a hundred voices are bellowing in unison. But I say: only when you have been a guest in their majestic halls, as once I was, should you have the right to pronounce on these rumors and confirm them all to be true. Let us not laugh at them as if they were lovable children with long beards, but, on the contrary, let us praise the magnificent way they have preserved all of us from total destruction. More than once.”

—Excerpts from the ten-volume work
My Life and Uniquely Heroic Exploits
—the memoirs of the Incredible Rodario

 

“Ih did aforetimes ask a dwerff as what, other than such dwerff, he fain had byn born. Ih offert the chois of myghtie draggon, all seeing magus or his own god vraccas. He did look at me in wonder and did shayk his hed, saying: ye myghtie draggons were perforce slain by a dwerff, syns draggons are no more; ye all seeing magus lykewyse was vanquysht by a dwerff, syns he is no more. And vraccas neyther schal ih be, for ther be no thing left to mak, better than his dwerffis.”

—Taken from “Descryptions of ye Ffolk of Girdlegyrd: Manneris and Karacterystycks” in the Great Archive of Viransiénsis, drawn up by Tanduweyt, collected by M. A. Het, Magister Folkloricum, in the 4299th solar cycle

 
Prologue
 

Girdlegard
,

Gray Range on the border of the Fifthling Kingdom
,

Spring, 6234th Solar Cycle

G
ronsha stood still, listening intently in the swirling fog that his yellow eyes were quite unable to penetrate, though he was one of the finest scouts in Prince Ushnart’s army. To tell the truth, he was one of only three scouts still left to Prince Ushnart. The others who had set off to reconnoiter for the Prince now lay at the Stone Gate, their heads struck clean from their shoulders.

He could hear footsteps. Many footsteps.

Swiftly he grabbed hold of his jagged two-handed sword, ready to wield it. He and his troop had made the fatal error of being over-confident when they had left the Subterranean Kingdom by way of the Stone Gate and seen the enemy recoiling before their superior numbers. And now the Bearded Ones were clinging to their heels as tenaciously as gnome excrement sticks to your boots.

Not that he was frightened of the Groundlings. Black Water, blood of the Perished Lands, flowed now in his veins and rendered him immortal. Unless, of course, someone were to strike his head clean off his shoulders.

But the enemy, unfortunately, were very good at that: even their stunted physique was no handicap there.

If they couldn’t reach the neck with their axes, they
would slice at the legs. An opponent sunk to his knees was easy to decapitate.

In the Groundlings’ northern kingdom, a place thought more or less deserted, they had come upon an unexpectedly large enemy band. He and his two fellow scouts, facing defeat, had chosen to turn tail, heading back to the Outer Lands. Maybe they could locate another escape route back to Prince Ushnart’s camp to warn him about the Groundlings; could they manage to find an exit that did not involve a battle with a horde of ax-wielding warriors?

In the Outer Lands, it was said, it was his own tribe that reigned—the orcs. So far he had not come across any, but he wouldn’t object to a little support.

“It’s steamy as wash-day. You can’t see a thing in this fog,” he overheard one of the Groundlings complain. It was essential for any self-respecting scout that he be able to understand the language spoken by the enemy.

“You’d think the wretched fog itself was wanting to help the swine.”

Gronsha objected to the term swine—it was an insult indeed to be called a pig by that barrel-sized runt of a creature. Pigs were all right to eat, but they were nothing much to look at. And he, after all, was well built, twice the size of one of those Beard-Faces. Instinctively he tensed his muscles in anger. This made his armor grate against the rock behind, signaling his whereabouts to the dwarves.

They’d heard it.

“Ah, we’ve got him.”

Oh no, you haven’t, Beard-Face
. Gronsha sprinted away
to shake off his pursuers, but again the dull metallic clank betrayed him.

He’d no idea how far he’d gone or in which direction he’d been running. And where on earth were his companions?

He only knew that it was dark all around him. Was he in a cave? He pressed up against the nearest wall, holding his breath to listen out for the enemy.

“Halt!” one of them ordered, quite close. He could hear the creak of boots as his pursuer stood still. “Can you hear him?”

No answer.

Gronsha gave an evil grin. So the Groundlings were as helpless in this fog as he was himself.

Carefully he sniffed the air, noting his opponent’s position by the unmistakable smell. He moved off, sword raised in his two hands above his head, ready to strike: he could split the creature in two with a single blow.

“Boïndil?”—he heard the voice of the Groundling querying his approach. A stocky shadowy figure emerged from the fog, and Gronsha launched his attack, sure of his target.

“Aha, so somebody’s listening to me, at least,” said the dwarf, stepping neatly to one side and wielding his own weapon in his turn. The ax-blade slashed into Gronsha’s right buttock. He let out a yell and disappeared into the wall of fog.

This was no way to fight. This was not the type of encounter he enjoyed.

This accursed fog.

He decided to retreat rather than stumble around hoping
for a chance hit before one of them managed to strike him again.

The wound on his backside was quickly closing up. The Black Immortality draught that he had been taking would heal him instantaneously, though the cut had been in a sensitive and undignified area. Typical of those devious Groundlings. They would always avoid honorable combat and sneak off and hide in their strongholds and caves.

Gronsha turned and headed back through the thick mist. Behind him he heard the screams of a dying orc, felled by a Groundling. The ghastly sound curdled his blood.

He caught sight of a small figure backing into view through the mist. Without pause for thought he raised his weapon and smashed the blade right down on the enemy’s helmet. Death struck so fast that not a single cry was uttered. Blood sprayed out on all sides.

Gronsha was not yet satisfied. “You scummy rockslime worm. I’ll cut you to ribbons!” He hacked away at the corpse in a blind rage, oblivious to the din. Laughing, he severed the bearded head and booted it off into the fog: this was his way to take revenge. His victim’s helmet and shield he took with him. They would serve him well.

As he lifted the shield the next dwarf rushed up ready to kill. “Here!” the dwarf shouted, ax upraised. “Here he is. This way!”

“Damnable maggot,” croaked Gronsha, taking the blow on his shield. The blade skidded over the edge of the metal, hitting him on the shoulder. The thick layer of lard on his body armor, designed to foil enemy weapons, had failed him this time.

Gronsha sprang back, but his adversaries were attacking from all sides. Running straight ahead he crashed against a rough granite wall that tore at his skin as he slid along it.

BOOK: The Revenge of the Dwarves
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