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Threetoe's Stories, and Analysis

Half Dwarf

By Threetoe

Gunter looked at his clean-shaven reflection in his father's shield and smiled. He would pass. Twice as tall as his brother and dwarven father, he had taken after his mother. He put down the razor and quietly made his way out of the attic. It had long been Gunter's dream to join the City Guard, a position barred to those with dwarven blood. He wished to bring criminals to justice and prove his manhood to his father, a veteran of the Goblin Wars.

Below he could hear the clang of the hammer at the forge, where his father spent his days when he wasn't drinking at the dwarven pub. Before he reached the bottom of the stairs, his brother Klipso ran to him holding a lengthy scroll. He held it high so Gunter could see it. It was inscribed with symbols and diagrams Gunter could barely understand. Klipso explained, between sharp breaths, that he had redesigned the city's aqueduct system. Gunter frowned.

"The High Council will never accept such proposals from a half-dwarf," Gunter said.

Klipso lowered the scroll revealing an angry, red-bearded face. His mouth dropped when he saw Gunter's bare chin. Gunter pushed passed him and made his way into the forge. There his father worked at the anvil, surrounded by the piles of horse shoes and farm implements he had created. Gunter scowled. Once his father had been a great weaponsmith, creating magnificent arms for the dwarven kings. Now he toiled to make tools for the peasants.

The dwarf's great muscular arm rose and fell, hammering the hot iron, his back to the door. Gunter looked above his father at the weapons hanging on the wall. With loathing he saw the axe he had forged as a child. Why had his father kept it? The handle was bent and the blade was dull. Below it hung Klipso's axe, shining and perfect. Gunter clenched his teeth.

"Father?" he said.

The old dwarf turned, his face almost entirely hidden by a long grey beard and enormous eyebrows. His hand shook the hammer as if keeping rhythm. The old dwarf winced at the sight of his naked-faced son. Slowly, he turned back to his work. Blood rushed to Gunter's cheeks. He left the forge in a rage. Across the hall, he saw Klipso at his desk, already drawing up new plans. Tears in his eyes, Gunter reached for the door.

He was stopped by a voice.


Above him on the stairs was his mother, tall and beautiful. Her long red hair fell over her green night gown. Gunter could not look at her. She came to him and leaned with him against the door.

"You wish to be human," she said, "but you must never forget your whole self. Embrace your gifts."

She pushed open the door and Gunter went through without a word.

In the castle courtyard, Gunter stood in a line with the other recruits. His head was now shorn like his beard. They wore the white tunic of the Guard. A black eagle was emblazoned across their chests. The captain of the guard strutted up and down the line as he gave his speech.

"The High Council has entrusted you with power to keep the peace in the Empire!" shouted the captain. "We are threatened from without and within. While the centurions keep the goblins away from our borders, you must combat an evil that strikes at us from the very heart of the city."

"Dwarves have long pretended to be our allies. Many sought to gain our trust by serving in the Goblin Wars. But I tell you, they are the real enemy. They dig in the ground like the goblins and are that much closer to the Underworld. I tell you, the time has come for a cleansing of our city!"

Gunter stood at attention, sweat dripping from his face. A guard in steel-plated armor walked down the line passing cudgels to the recruits. They were released from the castle like a pack of wild dogs, eager to prove themselves to their masters. Gunter had always imagined himself in the shining armor of a centurion, sword and shield in hand. Now here he was, with nothing but a bare head, a white tunic and a wooden club.

They prowled the streets until the light grew dim. Those citizens that saw them ducked back into their houses and bolted the doors. At last they found a lone dwarf, stumbling home after a drunken spree. One of the recruits called to him. The dwarf looked him dead in the eye and spit. Gunter watched in horror as the recruits descended on him like jackals hungry for the kill.

The dwarf was knocked down by a vicious blow to the head. Gunter dropped his cudgel and covered his face with his hands. He could still hear the dwarf's cries. He began to shout himself to drown them out. A rough hand grabbed his wrist and pulled his arm down. The hand belonged to Aryn, a recruit from the slums, who was missing all of his front teeth.

"Are we too sensitive to enforce the law?" laughed the brute.

Aryn handed Gunter a torch. The recruits held the bruised and battered dwarf against the wall of a building. Aryn took Gunter by the shoulders and pushed him toward the bleeding victim. Gunter could see the fear in the dwarf's eyes. He stopped short of the dwarf. The recruits looked at him and smiled.

"Light the beard," said Aryn.

Gunter stood paralyzed. The recruits waited, twirling their cudgels. They began taunting Gunter, questioning his manhood. Finally, Aryn seized the torch, and lit the dwarf on fire. The recruits laughed as the dwarf fled through the street. Not knowing where to go, Gunter followed the recruits back to the castle. Maybe if he reported the brutality to the captain, Aryn and the others would be punished. In the barracks Gunter cried, holding a pillow over his head so the others wouldn't hear him.

The next morning the captain awarded Gunter's squad high honors. They were made official guardsmen with Aryn as their leader. Gunter was issued a sword, along with armor and a helmet. The captain handed Aryn a list of possible dwarven meeting places. He ordered that the dwarves be rounded up and taken to the dungeon. Gunter doubted that any dwarves would live long enough to make it to the castle. Aryn passed the list around to his men. Gunter gasped when he saw the name -- his father's pub.

As the troops marched out of the castle, Gunter broke away from the formation. He quickly made his way back to his old neighborhood. If he didn't act swiftly, his brother, his father, all his old friends would be dead. He stopped at the door of a windowless stone building. He opened the door and was greeted by a crowd of stony, bearded faces.

"The High Council wants you dead!" yelled Gunter. "Flee while you still can!"

"Your kind aren't welcome here, guardsman," said an old dwarf.

Gunter looked around the room for his father. He was not there. Gunter ran back to his home to warn his family. There, standing at the front door, was Aryn.

"Deserting are we?" said Aryn "I wonder what we'll find when I search your home."

Gunter drew his sword and charged. Aryn jumped out of the way and Gunter suddenly found himself surrounded by a dozen guardsmen. Gunter made one last lunge and was knocked unconscious by a blow from a cudgel.

Laying curled in the corner of his cell, Gunter tried to recall the interrogation. Had he betrayed the dwarves? Had he murdered his family with a confession? He reached up and felt his face. His beard was thick. It had only been a day. There might be hope yet. Footsteps sounded on the cold stone floor beyond the long iron bars. Gunter raised his head, feeling the pain of the cudgel blow.

"Son?" came the familiar voice.

It was his mother. She wore a green cloak, her long red hair tied back behind the hood. Gunter leaped up and grasped the iron bars. Their hands touched. Gunter sobbed, trying to apologize, but no words came to him. She put a finger to his lips and told him to hush.

"You have done a great thing," she whispered. "Long have we known this day would come. When you left, your father and brother went into hiding. When the guard began rounding up dwarves, you gave us warning just in time. Now, there is someone who wishes to speak to you."

In the far corner of the cell a stone moved at the base of the wall. Gunter went to it and helped it free. From out of the wall came Klipso, Gunter's red-bearded brother. He held a scroll in his hands.

"Father designed these tunnels, as he had foreseen this crisis," said Klipso. "They run from the city, all the way to the dwarven mountains. Through them, our people can escape. But they are not finished yet. We must buy the others time. You will receive a visitor tomorrow night."

Klipso disappeared through the hole in the wall and drew back the stone. Gunter was excited, but angry at the same time. Why was he not told of these things? He turned to his mother.

"You must be strong," she said. "The time will come when all will depend on you."

They touched foreheads and she walked away. He reached after her.

"Want your mama?" laughed a sinister voice.

It was Aryn. He wore the gold sash of a lieutenant. He ran his cudgel across the bars of the cell and barked like a dog. Spit sprayed from his gap-toothed smile as he laughed. He called Gunter a traitor and a coward and promised him soon he and all the dwarves would be dead. Then the bully left him with his thoughts.

That night the dungeon was filled with the cries of dwarves too slow to escape the guard. Gunter covered his ears and tried to wish the world away. He could not imagine how he had ever wanted to be a guardsman. If he could, he would make them pay for what they did. Though now, he had no idea of how to overcome his fate as an outcast, traitor to both halves of himself.

The next morning Gunter heard the clank of steel boots on stone. The captain of the guard appeared behind the iron bars of his cell. Aryn stood behind him, grinning like a snaggletooth hyena. The captain took off his high pointed helmet and ordered the prisoner to step forward. Gunter stepped boldly before the iron bars. He knew that if he held out until the night, his brother would bring help.

"Where have the dwarves gone?" asked the captain, brushing his moustache. "Lieutenant Aryn tells me you deserted your squad to warn them of the upcoming arrests."

Gunter stared into the captain's face and said nothing.

"You will tell me what I want to know," shouted the captain, "or on the morrow you will face the gallows!"

Gunter smiled. He knew that tonight he would be free, escaping through his father's tunnel. The captain's plump cheeks turned bright red. He stood stammering until Aryn whispered in his ear. An air of calm cruelty came over the captain. He spoke in a voice quiet but clear.

"Aryn tells me he found a forge in your mother's house. If you don't tell me where the dwarves have gone, perhaps she will."

Gunter's hand shot through the bars. The captain batted the clawing hand away from his face. Aryn clutched his sides, howling with laughter.

"Tomorrow, you will die," said the Captain. He left the dungeon, the evil lieutenant close behind.

That evening Gunter paced in his cell. He must find a way to save his family. It might already be too late. The tortured screams of the dwarves echoed through the dungeon, quickening his panic. The hours passed and Gunter slid down against the wall, pulling out patches of his beard with vicious yanks. A grinding sound came from the corner of the cell. Gunter pulled the stone away, anxious to see his brother at last.

Out of the hole came an aged, gray-haired dwarf. It was Gunter's father. The young man was overcome by a sudden feeling of shame. He sank to his knees, bowing his head and cried. The dwarf put his hand on Gunter's shoulder. Gunter looked up with sudden urgency.

"Mother!" he cried.

"She can take care of herself," said the old dwarf.

"But what are we to do?" exclaimed Gunter.

The dwarf held something in his hand. It had always been there, but Gunter had not noticed as his father had always handled such things. It was the curved blade of a peasant's farming tool. His father handed it to him.

"The time has come to use this," said the dwarf. "We must make our stand here until the tunnel is finished. When the guards realize you have escaped, they will follow us into the tunnel and there we will hold them. None of the other entrances must be found until the evacuation is complete."

Gunter followed his father through the crawlspace. At almost every step the dwarf told Gunter to mind a blade or tripwire. Gunter asked him about his brother Klipso.

"Your brother created these!" said his father in a voice filled with pride. "I couldn't have cobbled together such mechanisms with these old gnarled hands."

Gunter glanced around at the deadly traps. How long had they been preparing for this? Back up the passage he heard a shout. They had been discovered. No doubt Aryn had come in the night to torment him. Gunter turned to his father.

"Father, what if fail you? What of mother and Klipso?" cried Gunter.

"If we die, our ashes will be mixed together and forged anew," said the old dwarf. "I leave you now, you must face these men alone."

Gunter looked down at the old dwarf, uncertain.

"The time has come, son," said his father fiercely. "You may only be half dwarf, but you are more of a man than they will ever be!"

Gunter faced the entrance of the tunnel boldly, feeling the weight of the curved blade in his hand. The guards came on at once, torches in hand, swords drawn. The foremost guard tripped over a wire sending the deadly machinery in motion. Great saw blades descended from the ceiling and iron-tipped spears shot from the walls. Limbs and entrails were sent flying through the air and sliding down the rough hewn walls. Gunter bent down heaving, trying desperately to vomit quickly so he could face his enemy with a clear mind.

Further back, in the cell, he could hear a voice ordering more men inside. He knew that hated lisp anywhere. It was Aryn. Soon enough men had been ground up that the machinery was jammed. Gunter could see a man approaching, unsure on his feet as he stepped over the bodies. He could just make out the gold sash in the torchlight. It seemed that Aryn himself had been chosen to lead the final charge.

When the light of Aryn's torch had almost reached him, Gunter stood, holding the curved blade behind his leg. When he saw Gunter, Aryn's scowl became a fierce, toothless grin. He dropped his torch on the ground and took his sword in both hands.

"Take away all the dwarven toys," laughed Aryn, "and all you have is a mama's boy!"

"Let the dwarves go, Aryn," yelled Gunter. "They've done you no harm!"

"So," said Aryn, amused. "It's just as I thought. Maybe, after your dwarf father is dead, I'll pay a visit to his grieving widow!"

Gunter held his anger in check and stepped calmly toward his enemy. Aryn sucked a breath through the gap in his teeth and lifted his long sword over his head. The tip of the blade collided with the low ceiling. Aryn glanced up to see his mistake. It was all the time Gunter needed. The curved blade whipped out from behind his leg and caught Aryn in the neck. The body fell spurting blood.

Outside, in the cell, the captain looked on in desperation. He would make his home in a cell like this if he failed the High Council again. Something shot out from the crawlspace and bounced off the iron bars of the cell. The captain jumped. It was a severed head. Kneeling to inspect it, he instantly recognized the broken-toothed smile of his lieutenant. A voice boomed from the dark hole.

"Release the dwarves," growled Gunter, "or his fate shall be yours!"

The captain ordered his men into the hole. None would follow. A guard wondered aloud why the captain didn't lead the next charge himself, if he was so eager. The captain tugged nervously at his moustache, his left eye winking uncontrollably. The men stood motionless as Aryn's dead eyes stared up into infinity. At last the Captain ordered that the breach in the wall be sealed up. He announced that he had personally thwarted a planned dwarven invasion and that they would all receive medals. He left to inform the High Council himself.

Blood pounded in Gunter's veins as he raced down the passage. His excitement grew as he passed lines of dwarves who cheered him as he ran. At last he found Klipso and seized him up, laughing as the boy's legs kicked helplessly above the ground. Gunter's father emerged from the shadows, smiling, pickaxe in hand. He beckoned the brothers toward him. In the darkness they could see a single shaft of light. Gunter peered through the opening across an ocean of grass to the Dwarven Mountains beyond.

A few days later, high on the mountain slope, Gunter watched as a rider approached across the golden field. Klipso sat upon his shoulders to get a better view. When the traveler reached the mountain she threw back her green hood to reveal a head of flowing red hair. Gunter's father patted his son on the arm.

"Home at last," said the old dwarf.


Race/interspecies relations come up in the story. There can be racial barriers to entity entry and segregation in certain locations, even to the point where there are purges and so on. Where there are physical or mental differences, torment and cruel treatment can be based on these. Whether or not creatures of different species can interbreed is completely open to question in the game -- as long as they have the same basic body type, it can do averaging or selection of stats. It can also do some randomization, such as a hybrid having a larger size than either of the parent species (this occurs in nature). It's also possible for a hybrid creature (or even a non-hybrid creature of a different species) to attempt to pass itself off as something it is not. This would have to be determined by skills, disguises, appearance variables and the overall similarity of the physical and behavioral variables of the creatures in question.

There's a notion of childhood rebellion and proving yourself and being rebuked by your parents for going about it in a stupid way. This motivation can drive plots.

Blueprints and other design documents might be worthy additions.

There are elements of brainwashing young recruits, as well as walking up and down in front of a line of troops and giving speeches of various kinds. There's a sequence where somebody declares victory upon their own defeat to placate subordinates and evade punishment. These kind of excuses can add flavor even if it's difficult to make them matter in game terms.

There are also some tactical elements, such as cutting a group off by going to their destination in advance, funneling the enemy into one place so you can face them at a spot of your choosing, splitting up and reuniting later at rendevous points and safe houses, warning people of impending doom, passing around lists of targets and targeting multiple locations at once. Any of these can be projects during work on army or squad based elements of the game, and so on.

There's a prison sequence. Elements such as confessions and interrogations are required, and other elements like secret entrances and visitors coming to tell you things and so on can be useful. Guards can torment prisoners, and special visitors from your past can come specifically to torment you. An interrogator might threaten you with execution if they have the power to have you pardoned, and they can threaten your relatives and friends. In the face of interrogation or other such confrontations, there should be ways to express defiance, such as face-spitting or simply failing to answer questions.

The words 'drunken spree' are used. These are clearly key game concepts.

People that are stifled might pull their hair out. People might try to muffle the sounds of their own shame. People can have reactions when they fail their own morality checks and realize they've done something wrong.

People can be missing lots of teeth for various reasons.

You might be able to mark the passage of time by the length of your hair or other growing body feature, depending on yourself individually and your creature type.