Darius is a former high school literary and feature writer with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information and Communications Technology.
Chapter 1: The Northern Trouble
High above the mountains, Castle Isimid is believed to be home by the Winter Dwarves. It's one of the first Castles built before The Great Foileran War.
The castle, where its present ruler King Brunmaek Telchar ruled for over 100 years, is also believed to be prosperous mostly because of the mineral deposits the Winter Dwarves have made and mined from the glacial mountains of which they call "Maelandor." These deposits are then turned into fine jewelry to sell them to the other Castles, or into armors and hammers of war for their military. It was the blood of their livelihood and the heart of their prosperous Kingdom.
There are, however, some who are not Winter Dwarves that tried to venture into these glacial mountains of which none have returned. Stories echoed throughout the other cities in Foilera; myths and legends are sung in the forests; bedtime lullabies played by common folk to their children; tales travel from the land and seas of the terrible creatures that live above the North, including the Dwarves.
Although Castle Isimid, with its road covered in thick snow, tall and proud pine trees, and tallest Eastern Mountains is beyond difficult for anyone to reach — unless accompanied by a Winter Dwarf themselves, the only ones who know the path and underlying secrets to getting to their home.
It has been a theory that taking the Pinstalk River would directly get you to their gates. Travelers would need a special, mystic boat that could float upstream the unfreezing rivers. And Pinstalk forest, itself, has been rumored to be filled large and dangerous beasts, such as Winter Dire Wolves and Snow Trolls.
Castle Grimside built huge fences made in bricks, wood, and cement around their territory, with the only entrance and exit found in Malmow. They call it the Fences of Malmow. These fences are highly protected and are not reachable by any tool, any equipment, or anyone. With the help of woodland sprites, Kael Elves, and human sorcerers, it's highly protected with layers of magic.
Travelers or adventurers that dare to even reach the North are needed to be prepared when they travel and get there, for you see, Winter Dwarves aren't the easiest creatures to have their trust bestowed upon someone that easily. They are seen and known for being threats as they furiously guard their treasures — copper, iron, gold, diamonds, and glacial jades — from the mittens of those who wish to steal it from them. Though some Winter Dwarves are accustomed and open to trade, and would even sometimes show up by the bay of Castle Grimside, or in the ever large markets of Dughill. A few known Winter Dwarves are, as you say, quite nice to outsiders, friend or foe. One notable Winter Dwarf is Forhëm the old who sells mineral artifacts and archaic Northern maps in a market North of Castle Grimside in such cheap and reliable prices.
There have been reports from Blackhawks in the fences of Malmow that there have been several Winter Dwarves building igloos near the end of Pinstalk River these past few weeks. They further monitor them by several days and observed that as the day passes by, there are growing in small numbers. These Winter Dwarves are seen carrying their mining pieces of equipment and collected minerals, as well as small livestock, bags of salt, and freshwater barrels.
Some human and elven commoners, mostly farmers, residing Malmow feels threatened by these sudden turn of events, even the a the Gnomean residents of a livestock village in Malmow are getting a little afraid, mainly because of the Winter Dwarves' known reputation. The word got to the king of Castle Grimside, King Edmund II, and decided to send a few of his knights to safeguard the border — and emphasized to not create such ruckus or to provoke the current inhabitants to prevent any kind of dispute, or at worst cases, another war.
The knights have reached the gates of the Fences of Malmow after a fortnight. Knight Elduin, a Frost Elf from Castle Serkold, belongs to the knights of this group. He thought to himself that he could talk to these Winter Dwarves, somehow get through to them or gather information on what is truly happening. Knight Danira, a human from Castle Hubris, accompanies him as they ride with their horses and venture through the surface of Pinstalk forest, to the end of Pinstalk river.
"Could you really convince them to leave when we reach the tail of the river?" Knight Danira said while keeping an open eye throughout the shadowy, cold forest.
"I'm not convincing them to leave." Knight Elduin said keeping an eye out on the other direction.
"So what ARE you going to do?" Knight Danira said, with her right arm held tightly to her sword's hilt, with her cold breath disappearing in the air.
"I'm going to ask them, ask them what is happening up there in there home." Knight Elduin said, looking above the tall pine trees
"You do almost share a common ancestry."
"Almost, Danira, almost."
"Right...." After a long, seemingly awkward pause, Knight Danira spoke again.
"It's weird, isn't it?" Knight Danira said, "Winter Dwarves won't just leave their home that easily and move to the forest, we've read it in the Light Priests' books." She continued
"They won't leave the 'treasures' they have found and will still find, that's for sure, so this is new. That's why I'm going to ask them."
After an hour, they've stopped a few hundred meters in front of a Winter Dwarf igloo. The igloo seemed to have been built days ago. Smoke is coming out of its small chimney. Knight Danira gave Knight Elduin a hesitant look, but Knight Elduin held her arm, asking her to trust him. He got off his horse, creating small sounds, and walked slowly towards the igloo. As soon as Knight Elduin is about to reach the igloo, he heard a low, barbaric voice.
"Stop right there, lad."
He turned to his right and saw a Winter Dwarf, covered in a mud-colored, thick, rugged, fur-made suit covered in snow, holding a small bow with a sharp arrow. Knight Elduin stood firm, raising both of his arms up, and looked at the Winter Dwarf. Knight Danira's about to come to him when the Winter Dwarf let out a warning shot, precisely and accurately landing in front of Knight Elduin's feet.
"One more step and this will go straight to this young lad's heart." The Winter Dwarf said having a thick Dwarven accent. He loads one bullet inside his weapon.
"We... We didn't come here to steal anything, we came here to talk." Knight Danira said, slowly raising both of her hands.
"I came here to ask for something." Knight Elduin said to the Winter Dwarf.
"Aye, aye! Discard them weapon of yers first, then we can talk." The Winter Dwarf said.
Knight Elduin slowly reached for his sword and put it in the snow, kicking it far away from him.
"You too, lassie." The Winter Dwarf said with a thick, heavy Dwarven accent.
Knight Danira reached for her sword, hesitantly. She looked straight at Knight Elduin as he nodded to her slowly, wearing a smile. She sighed heavily but trusts the young knight as she did the same as him. The Winter Dwarf lowers his gun by his side. He walked passed the Frozen Elf to the entrance, stopped, and then looked at him.
"Well... are you and you're a friend just going to stand there and freeze to death?" The Winter Dwarf said. Knight Elduin signals Knight Danira to come as the Winter Dwarf goes inside his igloo.
"Aren't we going to fit in there?" Knight Danira said, looking at the seemingly small and cramped hole entrance.
"I don't know, but it does seem easy for him to just invite us inside his OWN home." Winter Dwarves are known to reject almost all visits into their home or not inviting them in whatsoever, even their own kin, since they think of them all of nothing but swindlers and burglars coming to steal their mineral treasures or good-for-nothing gold stealers.
As soon as the two entered his house, though had some trouble entering it, they were surprised by just how huge the inside of it is compared to what it is seen outside. The Winter Dwarf, putting his weapon down into a long table, looked at them and said: "You do not judge a Dwarves' home by the Dwarf that lives in it." He prepares small bowls and poured hot soup in it, giving it to the travelers.
"My name's Oakenfoot. A human and a Frost elf, ey? And both Knights, too."
"Why, is there any problem with that?" Knight Danira asked, looking around the Winter Dwarf's home.
"Not in particular." Oakenfoot said, mildly scoffing.
"Here, have this." The two knights gave it a strange look.
"Come on now, I didn't put any poison in it." As the Winter Dwarf even prepared his own and ate from it.
"So, what are ya' two shiny dressed bimbos gonna ask me?" The Winter Dwarf asked with a rugged voice while eating his soup.
"What happened... what happened up there?" The young Knight asked. The Winter Dwarf suddenly stopped and stared in his smoking bowl of soup, and then looked at the Frost Elf with a freezing gaze.
"Well, as you can see, we left of course." He said sarcastically.
"No, I mean... Uhm..."
"Oh! Pardon me for my still rock attitude. It's just been a long day with me Jigsher goin' huntin' and here I am feeding two Knights that wandered off the Pinstalk forest."
"Jig-sher?" Knight Danira asked slowly.
"Me wild, pet, giant boar. Don't be fret, she's asleep now." Knight Danira's eyes opened wide and sipped her soup really slow.
"Why... did your people left the mountains?" Knight Elduin calmly said. Oakenfoot stopped from eating and looked at the young elf's eyes. He knows those kind of looks too well.
"Aye.... Did you or your friend here ever wonder why our maps, even that old Forhëm's in the Grimside, doesn't show what's up there in the North?" He then looked at Knight Danira, who seemed to be enjoying his soup.
"No, but I do now." Knight Elduin said. Knight Elduin's Frost Elf ancestors are responsible for the creation of the Frigid Mountains, a ring of highest, almost untouchable, dangerously frozen and stony mountains that separates the North of and rest of Foilera from what's beyond it. It was believed that it was made a few thousand years ago, but there were no documents or records, not even the High Frozen Elf Priests of Castle Serkold themselves, of why it was made.
"We're keeping a low profile now, trying to be nice, practicing to get out of our hard and hurtful nature." The Winter Dwarf continued. "Because even I know what my people are capable of, and that is because we want to travel South. Most of us are."
Knight Danira suddenly stopped and asked why. "You see darlin', actually, we've been warned by our forefathers, even before the Great Foileran War, and we didn't listen." The two knights looked at him with such curiosity. "Soon from now we will pay the price, and the people below us will suffer more since they don't know what is coming."
"What is coming, Oakenfoot?" Knight Elduin asked firmly, holding his bowl of soup turning cold.
"We, the Winter Dwarves, don't know either." Oakenfoot stared heavily to the both of them, tightly gripping his bowl. "But what we know is that 'they' are more terrible than us. And it will be lethal to us all." The two Knights grew serious, looking at Oakenfoot with fear showing in their eyes.
"It will be the end of all; of everything there is and everything we know."
The two Knights left Oakenfoot's house after a few minutes, thanking him for his hospitality. The Winter Dwarf wishes them good fortune and asked a favor to let the king of Castle Grimside know that they need to cross the Fence of Malmow.
"The King's not going to like this." Knight Danira said to Knight Elduin while both are closed to the gates.
"I know, but we have to try. If there's a threat up North, these people need to be in a safe place as soon as possible."
"You are right about that, but... what if they're lying?" Knight Danira said, looking behind their snowy trails. "They could be just making up stories, like those Pixies in Midwind Forest two months ago."
"Did you see the look at Oakenfoot's face? I don't think so." Knight Elduin said. "I think they're really in trouble." He whispered. "I think we're all going to be in more than one."
As expected, the number of Winter Dwarves coming from the North is rising, and they are a few hundred meters near the gates of the Fences of Malmow. They built igloos and are still gathering even more supplies. At night, fogs of smoke are seen above the pine trees. At day, Winter Dwarves collecting more supplies around the vicinity of the forest. It was also rumored that the animals and birds near the mountains fled, and then some of the Snow Troll clans have gone missing or have fled the areas. Blackhawk Watchers and the number of Knights being sent are increased as well. Until one day, as the Blackhawk Watchers in their posts, Human, Elven, Gnomes, and other creatures near the Gates watch them, Winter Dwarves have been granted passage through Malmow with the help of several Frost elf knights and mages from Serkold escorting them to a new area located South of Malmow.
And with Knight Elduin's and Knight Danira's return to Castle Grimside, along with the biggest news of their time: the Winter Dwarf King Brunmaek Telchar, of Castle Isimid, has been killed by unknown forces.
To be Continued...
© 2019 Darius Razzle Paciente