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Threetoe's Stories, and Analysis

Dwarven Assault

By Threetoe

Ternus lifted his head above the trench and caught a crossbow bolt in the helmet. He dove down and got a mouth full of dirt. He scrambled for his helmet and wrenched the bolt free. Ternus read the inscription on the shiny metal missile. "Send the humans back to the Soul Forge!" High above the trench, balls of fire arced back and forth through the sky.

The chubby soldier whimpered with fear as a flaming catapult shot fell in the trench nearby sending up a chorus of dying moans. Ternus knew nothing of warfare. He had worked in the mess hall until even he was called upon to fight. A soldier in battered armor approached him. The man's eyes were wild with anger. He spit words from a mouth hidden entirely by a long moustache. It was Sergeant Malcom, the most feared warrior in the kingdom.

"Get up swine! Fight, or I will kill you myself!" screamed Malcom.

Malcom delivered a series of vicious blows to Ternus's face and kicked him in the ribs.

"If the dwarves had a pile of pork chops in their mess, you'd probably lead the charge yourself!"

Ternus's face turned bright red and he struggled to his feet. Malcom smiled and handed him a crossbow. More fireballs fell on the trench. Malcom crouched beside Ternus and taught him to recognize the difference between the boulders and the flaming missiles by sound alone. By the intensity of the barrage Malcom could tell an assault was coming soon. He passed along the line handing corked glass balls to the men.

"The alchemists spent months making this much acid. It wasn't cheap. Use it wisely," said the Sergeant.

The barrage lifted from the trench and fell behind them on the wooden fort beyond the barren field. Malcom barked an order and the soldiers lined the trench, aiming their deadly crossbows. Somewhere behind the enemy lines a horn sounded. Slowly, one by one, a wide line of tiny shapes heaved themselves out of the distant trench. They trudged slowly across the wasteland between the trenches, hurling insults and wielding great battle axes.

"Don't fire until you see the color of their beards," growled Malcom.

Slowly the dwarves came, burdened by their thick, steel plated armor. When they were in range Malcom gave the order to fire. Most of the bolts bounced harmlessly away, but many found their mark. Malcom had trained his men to aim just above the beard where there was a gap in the armor. Many a small warrior fell, killed instantly by a shot to the face. Ternus laughed, firing and reloading with glee. Vengeance at last.

After what seemed like an eternity, the dwarves reached Ternus's trench. In close quarters a dwarf is nothing to be trifled with. Ternus's crossbow was cut from his hand by a swing from an axe that tore his tunic and ripped through his flesh. Ternus look down, expecting to see his innards pressing out of the wound. The dwarf raised his axe again but was brought low by a crashing blow from Malcom's great iron club.


The soldiers leapt out of the trench. As the dwarves struggled to follow, Malcom hurled his glass bombs at them. Ternus tried desperately to free the corked globe from his belt. A dwarf's helmet appeared at his feet, its stubby arms clawing at the dirt. At last Ternus freed the bomb from his side and hurled it at the dwarf. It shattered against the dwarf's helmet and sprayed acid across his face. The dwarf gurgled and screamed and fell back into the trench.

"That's right, men!" Malcom howled, "Let's send these short bastards back to the mountain!"

Ternus drew his sword and jumped back into the trench after the fleeing dwarves. After a bloody fight Malcom and the other sharpshooters lined the trench, picking off the dwarven survivors as they ran back to their line on stumpy legs.

That night the men enjoyed extra rations brought up from the fort. Ternus and Malcom enjoyed the food in silence. The sergeant knew the dwarves would not give up that easily. A dirty faced soldier spoke up.

"Why doesn't Baron Bulshunt give the dwarves back their cursed bed?" said the man.

Malcom looked at him, amused.

"That is an artifact bed. Who ever sleeps in it will have endless joy through the night," said Malcom.

"Ah," said the soldier. "I can see why the Baron would have need for such a bed."

The men laughed. The barrage was light that night. Perhaps their would be no assault tomorrow, thought Ternus.

Rocks and fireballs shot to and fro all through the morning. Sharpshooters shot down three of the men before noon. Ternus was sober again. It seemed the siege would never end. There was a pause in the barrage. Malcom stood up, listening for a moment. Then Ternus heard it too. A strange whistling sound.

"Cover!" cried Malcom.

Ternus pressed himself against the dirt wall. A hail of barbed arrows fell into the trench. One soldier was too late. An arrow struck him in the leg. Ternus watched in horror as the thorns began to grow, sinking deeper into his flesh. Malcom kneeled down next the soldier and drew a knife. The soldier screamed wildly as Malcom carved out crawling barbs. But it was too late -- the man had lost too much blood.

"Elves," hissed Malcom.

The barrage started again, but this time the projectiles landed with wet thuds. A large green sack landed in Ternus's trench. The top of the sack burst open and out of it a thick purple mist began to rise.

"Cichi Cichi poison!" cried Malcom. "Run! Back to the fort!"

Ternus tried to crawl out of the trench but something caught his leg. The purple cloud had already crawled beneath him and a soldier had grabbed onto his ankle. The man's lips were already black and his eyes were bleeding. Ternus reached for his crossbow and shot the man in the neck.

Deadly arrows fell on the men as they retreated. Not half the soldiers reached the wooden fortress alive. Malcom led Ternus and a group of archers up to the battlements. Ternus looked out over the barren battlefield. Here and there dying men moaned with their last breaths. Everywhere there was the thick purple mist.

The fort shook violently. Out of the purple fog came thick iron rods fired by dwarven ballistae. Huge sections of the wall collapsed sending defenders crashing to the ground. The mists died down revealing a huge dwarven army on the march. Ternus looked behind him at the Baron's quarters. That was where the coward was hiding -- probably under the hated artifact bed.

"Any of you," cried Malcom, "are twice the man of any dwarf!"

Crossbow bolts whistled passed the sergeant's head as he rained down bolts onto the oncoming dwarves. It was as if Malcom knew no fear. Ternus knew better. If courage failed them now, they would be captured by the dwarves. They would be spared only to be slaves or die by the executioner's hammer. Ternus lifted his crossbow with blood soaked hands and fired into the dwarven vanguard.

The dwarves smashed into the wooden fort, shielding their faces from the raining bolts with plate mailed gauntlets. When they began to cluster around a breach in the wall, Malcom shouted and leapt from above wielding his iron club. The men drew their swords and jumped after him.

Many a man's legs were cut from under him by the half-sized, bearded monsters. Yet through the screams Ternus could hear great clanging sounds as Malcom smashed the dwarves with his club, sending them flying through the air. The bodies piled higher. Dwarves scrambled over them on all fours only to be shot down and added to the grisly mound.

The situation grew dire. Ammunition was scarce, and the enemy kept coming until Ternus thought there must be no dwarves left in the mountain. Someone raised the white flag of truce. It was Donald, Captain of the Fort. A party of dwarves appeared atop the pile of dead. An elf was with them. Malcom watched the dwarves approach Captain Donald, the sergeant's eyes filled with calm malevolence.

"The bed, Akurlkala, was intended for the elves," said a grey bearded dwarf. "It was a dowry for the dwarf princess, soon to be married to the elven king."

Donald looked to the elf in confusion. He met with the coldest gaze he had ever known. The dwarf continued.

"You have not only provoked the dwarven kingdom, which was apparently your intention, but the elves as well. You have no chance. Hand over the bed, and the offending Baron, and you and your men shall live."

Captain Donald swallowed this news with no joy. After a heart beat he summoned the guards and told them to fetch the Baron and his beloved bed. Ternus watched as the veins began to pulse in Malcom's neck. The guards emerged from the Baron's quarters carrying Baron Bulshunt atop Akurlkala, the artifact bed. The bed menaced with spikes of gold and silver. The Baron hid under the sheets as if they could make him invisible.

Just as the men passed the bed to the dwarves, Malcom raised his crossbow. "Cowards!" he screamed. Ternus pulled the weapon down as it fired. Malcom turned on him with the ferocious stare of a wild beast. Ternus pleaded with his eyes and slumped to the ground. The bolt had pierced his thigh. Malcom slapped away Ternus's grasping hands and stormed out of the fort. Ternus heard Bulshunt's cries as the dwarves bore him away on the bed, but his eyes were ever on Malcom. He watched until the warrior disappeared into the wasteland.


    • possibility to have military with a complicated hierarchy with many ranks
    • people with knowledge of specific weaknesses of opponents can share them with their allies
    • rewarding troops with extra food and so on
    • insubordinate mutiny talk when things are going poorly, can just be joking, but even that can start something
    • a military commander can take advantage of negotiations during wartime to effect a change in non-military leadership, or to otherwise go around their non-military superiors
    • people who become disillusioned with their entities might become hermits or otherwise wander the wilds
    • visual indicators of shame, like being red-faced -- works for emotions in general
    • personal insults derived from personal weaknesses, based on atts and past history etc.
    • hiding under furniture, especially under beds
    • slower adventure mode projectiles could take multiple moves to resolve, possibility to hear these even if you can't see them, so that you can move
    • sending messages to enemies, leaving notes for them, even on projectiles
    • threats of violence and violence or shame to rally soldiers
    • using liquids/gas as thrown/shot weapons, could use a container that shatters
    • stopping to check if you've been fatally wounded after a strike
    • dying people reaching out and grabbing for others, these people might be killed if they are inhibiting movement
    • mercy killings
    • surrender, terms of surrender