[Welcome readers to the lifeforms of Caradesance.]
[Today we will be going underground. To the homes of the Dwarfs, who live under the surface of the mountains, which is known to the locals as the nation of Mist. In this rocky metropolitan underground network where the Triticum-aestivum-absolutum-est evolved, they have built a life for themselves doing what dwarfs are well-known for.]
[And Dwarfs, as we like to call them, are friendly, well-organised beings. They uphold the law to the last letter. At least until they don’t. And no matter what they say, they cannot hold their liquor. So as a rule. All alcohol is illegal within the mountains. But dwarfs still love a good drink, and that’s where they don’t obey the law.]
[Male dwarfs are slightly taller than females, and even if they weren’t. Well, you’d be able to tell them apart from the fact that male dwarfs have no hair whatsoever. Whilst females of their race have long silky breads which they braid, stubble on the top of their heads which they pattern and extensive armpit hair, which as of late has become fashionable to shave. Of course, all this has led to the largest collection of wig and fake beard stores in one location. Wig-Wham Highway they call it, and all nine streets are stocked with products for men. With designs to suit anyone’s style.]
[For nearly two thousand years, the inhabitants of the mountain caverns have mostly ignored the outside world. Although in recent years, the outside world has slowly been seeping inside.]
[Minor criminal operations began to appear at first. Then product wagons began to get hijacked at bolt point. New faces arrived after that looking for work. And the shaft towns as they’re called were suddenly filled with problems.]
[That was when the dwarven lords formed the Mounties, an organisation dedicated to upholding the law. They were given the powers to arrest, judge and sentence criminals. Although three hundred years on, they’re struggling to hold back the wave of crime. And as they continue their war on the surface world, the ever growing list of criminal activity keeps getting longer by the day.]
‘Attention.’ The commander shouts at his new recruits as he enters the room. Everyone snaps their hands to their heads in a quick smart salute. Their backs straighten out of respect. And they all ignore his fake beard as it begins to slip.
‘At ease,’ they all relax as much as they can in heavy chain-mail. Although they all still appear to be ready to pounce, ‘now then, I have everyone’s deployment letters here.’ He waves the stack in his hand to show them all.
‘But first I would like to congratulate Marken for getting this year’s bronze detective’s badge. And scoring top of the class.’ The room explodes immediately in cheers and claps. Even Little Dig joins in, and the dwarf doesn’t like the elf. Especially since the elf just (but only barely) beat him out of the one detective badge which is given out each year. The commander waits a minute before shouting.
‘Clam down,’ he gazes at Little Dig and begins speaking, ‘now then. When you’re all calm.’ The commander smiles whilst still gazing at LD, who begins to feel uncomfortable. As the training commander carries on speaking once the room is quiet, Little Dig’s eyes lock onto his bosses.
‘This year we are introducing a new policy. This policy has been handed down from the High-Lord, which states,’ he verbally composed a marching band noise before carrying on, ‘that second place will be given a spot in the MDLE. So congratulations LD, you’re going outside.’ Everyone glances at Little Dig as they begin to cheer and pat him on the back, although he doesn’t know what to say.
[The Mounties have five departments spread out across all the station houses. And the MDLE was the most sort after department. After all, the drug law enforcement office got to go outside.]
LD, as everyone calls him, can’t believe his luck. Although that’s before he remembers that last month almost forty dwarfs were killed in an attack by Rock, a new warlord of the surface world. And everyone knew that Rock was quickly moving up the ladder, destroying all the other tribal leaders in his way.
[And everyone in the mountains had overheard the talk about his deadly lieutenants.]
The commander stops them all cheering and carries on the announcement. As they quieten down once more, the dwarven commander begins to stare at the only troll recruit.
‘Now Lilly Flower, the high-lord, has asked that you be given the position of wagon-enforcer. So please wait around, as I am still waiting for your envelope.’ The troll nods whilst the commander hands all the other recruits their envelopes one by one. As he reaches LD, he smiles and says softly.
‘You’ll be one hell of a drug enforcer, Mountie!’ LD smiles in return. But before he can answer, his trainer moves on to the next recruit in line. Around him, people are opening their envelopes and wandering off towards the barracks. LD already knew his posting. And as all drug enforcement Mounties report to the same place. He didn’t need to open his letter. He knew that the gigantic but unimpressive surface shaft station where all the drug enforcement officers are posted meant he merely needs to pack his bags.
‘Two weeks travel. It’s only two weeks.’ His mind is racing as he heads towards the barracks. He must tell his mother, father, and then it hit him.
‘I have to tell Daisy Chain.’ He decides after some thought that duckling out would be easier. Although after he writes them all a joint letter, LD swiftly begins to collect up his belongings. Which isn’t hard, as he doesn’t have much. Although as he stuffs the few fake breads, a wig and his fake arm pit hair into his sack, he realises he doesn’t want to leave the capital. He sighs as he stands up straight. After all, he has no choice. His marching orders said surface shaft, so off to the new station he must go.
On his way to the taxi rank, he posts the letter and hopes Daisy is going to follow him. Although deep down, all that passes through his mind. Is how she’s an independent dwarf woman, who likely isn’t going to follow no man.
[The city of Under-Rock is connected to all the shafts, cavern towns, mining sites and new excavations using long tunnels. And as horses do not fare well in the round tunnels of the dwarfs. They’d long ago bred giant ants that were used as transport. These days, the ancestors of those ants have been bred for their size, after they’d been granted independence away from the hive collective. Only to be attached to yellow carts, which they called cabs.]
‘I’ll be damned,’ he thought to himself. His face broadcasts the thought as he steps out of the extended cab journey. After two weeks of nonstop travel, he looks at his destination. The station isn’t inside like he’d anticipated, but on the surface. The blue sky is above his head, and LD for the first time in his life feels inadequate as he surveys the building. As he does so, he realises it is built for the height of a cyclops. As he watches two such individuals stepping through the door. Houses surround the station, as well as a market.
Just inside the station is an open area. There are three doors on his left and right, a desk in front of him and a seating area, which is nearly full of people. Although the sergeant sees him approaching and speaks directly at him, although it isn’t with an amiable tone.
‘Sit down and someone will be with you-’ as LD reaches the sergeant though he salutes. And this alone stops the desk sergeant from carrying on.
‘DOM Little Dig reporting for duty sire.’ The human behind the desk sighs.
‘Green door, report to the station commander. Room 67B.’ LD nods, smiles, and then strides off through the door that the human is pointing at. Following the signs hammered into the brickwork, he finds room 67B easily enough though. As a brass plaque on the door is engraved with the words ‘Commander Leafonhim.’
Little Dig knocks, waits, and enters only once he hears the commander shout.
Little Dig salutes immediately as he steps inside. He let the door close on its own, wishing he hadn’t as it slams shut. The smell of molten sulphur causes his nose to flow with snot almost immediately. His eyes then fill up with tears as he begins coughing. Little Dig strives to stay at attention though.
‘AT EASE!’ Although as the newly promoted dwarf relaxes, he surmises the commander isn’t actually shouting, but is simply loud. As the air clears, he comes face to face with the troll as the Mounties in his red uniform leans over the desk, and begins to stare at him.
‘LITTLE DIG ISN’T IT?’ He nods not knowing what to say.
‘You’re assigned to outskirt patrol one,’ he looks down at the stack of paperwork before he carries on speaking with a quieter voice, ‘we don’t patrol the surrounding streets, but if you notice anything. Anything at all. You are to sound your brass whistle and intervein. Now most of what we do is considered clean up around here. And lately, as the surrounding towns are fighting each other, it feels like a losing battle.’ He blinks as the commander glances at him.
‘A bunk should be available for you to crash in the barracks. Report to loading tomorrow morning at 7AM.’ Little dig nods and goes to speak for the first time.
‘Yes sire-’ the station’s leader cut him off.
‘Tis commander. Not sire.’
As he wakes to the sound of a brass bell ringing, he feels strange. The showers are also overcrowded as he steps inside. Humans, elves, and dwarfs are all filing in one by one. Showering under lukewarm water for a minute at most, before they all file out once again. The breakfast tables in the mess hall are even worse. People are nearly sitting on top of one another. Although there is no conversation happening between those crowded around the tables. As Little Dig eats his bread, cheese and sausages in silence, whilst he looks around, wishing he had some fried-onions.
They all begin filing out once again, the second a lieutenant begins to ring a large bell near the entrance. Little Dig finds himself following the signs which said ‘Loading’. And as he does so, the crowds thin out as he walks through the corridors. Around him as he reaches the last corridor are seven other dwarfs and two humans who are going the same way he is.
Loading turned out to be a stable attached to the outside of the station at the rear. Carts, huge mountain donkeys and bulky bags of feed which are lying around in piles take up most of the space with. And as a lieutenant stands there waiting for them all to arrive, LD looks around. Everyone is suddenly sat on a bag of feed, as he still stands there. The human lieutenant, who is now staring at him. Smiles at him almost curly in nature, as only one corner of his mouth goes up.
‘Sit down. For the sake of Nivrean. I don’t have all day.’ He does what he is told, and those waiting laugh at him.
‘Now then today we will be patrolling Seventon, Large-Rock and Littletree. All three of the surrounding villages have been quiet in the last few days. But still we need to stay together as a squad if we disembark the cart. So keep your eyes open, and we’ll all make it back in one piece.’
He looks around and sighs.
‘As for today’s true briefing, it looks like our squad captain hasn’t turned up yet again.’
The human standing there in his dress reds looks around for a full minute before he carries on speaking.
‘So as he’s still not here, I’ll go ahead with the report,’ he unfolded a piece of paper which he took out of his breastplate, ‘okay. So last night Rock pushed Oak-Leaf out of Regaton. We believe his motivation is to reach the lowlands without the need for our tunnels. Unfortunately for us, that means Oak-Leaf turned on Cats-Eye, who lost his life and all his lands in single combat.’
‘This means there are now only six stops between us and this new dangerous warlord. Whereas this also means it will bring more drugs and booze inside the mountain. What am I missing? Oh! Yes, congratulations to recruit Little-Dig, who is now with us. And let’s make sure we give them hell.’
Ten of them plus the human lieutenant squeeze onto a normal size cart. Which seems ready to be thrown on the fire-pit heap. Each of them are holding crossbows as the cart rolls away from the station. They’re an improvement on the previous design, which is said to have been the cause of so many deaths. Which mostly occurred on the side of the Mounties themselves. But then at least the new bows are also loaded with new arrows, which could penetrate a troll’s stubborn outer layer. But still couldn’t kill one. As the cart rolls past the last brick cottage, they all sit there as not one of them speaks. And for a brief while, Little Dig is pleased about this.
The first village isn’t what he expects a troll location to look like. There are stores, houses and pavements, all of which he has heard about, but never seen before. Inside the mountains, homes are built into the rock. Outside under the sun, these buildings have shape. They’re round, box shaped, and two are even cylindrical in design. As the cart rolls closer, Little Dig finds it all so fascinating.
An arrow flies out of nowhere, and somewhere in LD’s head it screams at him that this is the end.
‘Death to burrow-lovers,’ the bolt-firer shouts. Although the person shouting is already running and jumping over fences. And within a split-second, he’s gone from sight. LD sits there frozen to the spot though.
‘What was that?’ He asks the group. But no one answers him, as they’re holding their own bows and are pointing them at the surrounding area.
As the cart moves along the streets though, it begins to pick up speed. A knot forms within the newest members stomach as the cart rolls along. They carry on their patrol route through the village in silence, whilst LD watches all the shadows. The fear of death is seeping into his mind though. And as the cart rolls out of town, the human says.
‘There appears to be smoke rising from over that hill.’ They all turn to stare. LD though can’t see what’s happening. And he also decides he doesn’t want to know. As he ponders his own mortality, the cart picks up speed.
‘Yah! Yah!’ The human lieutenant says as the sound of the stick hitting the donkeys fills the air. All his fellow Mounties holding onto the wooden railing appear terrified. And as the cart bounces along the uneven road, LD begins to notice that he is as well.
‘Hold on, or you’re going to fall out!’ The human next to him shouts over the sound of the air rushing past them. LD listens to him as he grabs the railing.
The next village up the road is on fire as they reach the outskirts. Flames are spreading from one roof to the next. Smoke fills the air with soot and dirt as LD struggles not to breathe. People are screaming as well. The sound of iron clinging against iron echoes through the air. And as the donkeys won’t move any further forwards either, they begin to pile out of the cart.
‘Lieutenant.’ One of LD’s fellow dwarfs said pointing with his hand. Everyone turns and suddenly they can all see the five trolls tramping through the smoke towards them.
‘Friend or Foe!’ The lieutenant says, ‘I demand you announce yourselves.’ They’re still moving closer though, and they aren’t answering him. So the leader of the squad does what he thinks he needs to do.
‘Fire!’ Everyone stood around the cart listens to his order. Even LD, who is shaking, begins to fire at the figures as they stride forwards through the smoke. As they draw nearer, the sound of timber crackling in the flames can be heard. Bricks begin exploding as well. And as they all load another round into their crossbows, the lieutenant screams out.
‘Fire!’ Another round is sent into the smoke. They all reload and await the next order, but the figures begin to pullback. The sound of wood breaking within the smoke grew louder, but LD can’t distinguish anything within. Nevertheless, he is not prepared at all for what is about to happen.
A troll appears in the smoke as a figure. Almost nothing but a silhouette against the greyness which clung and covered the area. They were all about to point at it, but then LD notices the troll is on fire. And he is hurrying towards them. As he moves though, the poor being is screaming. Flames lick his skin as an oil spreads over its silicon skin. Each step he unleashes another scream, which gets higher-pitched with each second.
‘Roll!’ LD shouts at him. But it is too late. The flames catch the troll’s digestion track through the melting silicon shell and the soft spots within his mouth. In less than a nano-second bits of rock fly through the air. The clumps almost hit LD, whilst the human closest to him isn’t as lucky. LD has never seen a head fold in on itself before. But as the boulder collides with his fellow Mounties, LD threw up all his lunch. As he does so, other trolls begin to explode, as they die trapped within their houses. And all the Mounties can do is stand there and watch as the village burns to the ground.
[The war of the warlords has arrived at the gates. And now the forces of the MDLE have one more problem to deal with, as the war bangs on the entrance.]
[Next time on the lifeforms of Caradesance, we delve into the longest lived being of Britstana. The vampire. And explore just what it is that makes them, well, them.]
[Until then. Remember to always tie your shoes laces, even if you’re an adult. Six people in the last hundred years within the entire multiverse have died because of untied shoelaces. Be clever, tie, don’t tuck.]