The Fate of the Dwarves - By Markus Heitz

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to all the friends of the “small folk.”

You have earned this!

“Word goeth that ye dwerffes be greyt relayters of riddles and wit. One of ye most famous is sedd to be the tayle wheyre an orc asketh a dwerff ye way and ye dwerff answereth.

Ye tayle goeth lyke this: One aurbit orbit an orc was strollyng along a road, its eyes fixed on ye path, but still not knowyng whych way to tayke.

It so happened that a dwerff was standing at that very crossroads seeing what was to be seen. Ye dwerff bore an axe of pure vraccasium, his chayne mayle tunic was strong and fynely wrought, fit to withstand ye arrows, swords and blaydes of all kinds.

And it was clear from his stature that he fain must be one of ye fiercest and most valiant warriors among all ye tribes of ye dwerffes. His beard was brayded and oiled. Tiny pieces of gold were to be seen thredded into sed beard, whych was twisted around with fyne silver wyre to keep it in form. A very master among dwerffes, to speak true, with his hair and his weapons and his armour!

And so the orc comes and sees the dwarf…

And then the dwarf comes…

And ye orc comes up to him and asks ye twerf dwerff whych road where long to tayke”

—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 4300th solar cycle, a fragment, much of the document having been destroyed in fire.

“To be totally honest, I don’t care for the story at all. I still don’t understand why the whole world seems so keen to know the punch line. In my view the whole thing is a complete waste of time. But, you know what? They all laugh. It’s beyond me.”

—Hargorin Deathbringer, Leader of the Black Squadron.

“If I have to tell the joke about the orc and the dwarf one more time, even ONE SINGLE TIME, I’ll go dwarfingly fighting mad, and I shan’t rest till all the idiots who want to hear the stupid thing are slaughtered. I swear this on my crow’s beak!

And I don’t care if it’s a twenty-headed dragon asking for it or a singing dancing talking unicorn or a shiny fairy who’s got a thousand wishes to grant me. I DON’T CARE! I’ll kill them all, no matter who they are! No more jokes, got it?”

—Boïndil “Ireheart” Doubleblade from the clan of Swinging Axes, of the secondling folk, spoken at a banquet held in Mifurdania in honour of the comedians and descendants of Rodario.


The Outer Lands,

The Black Abyss,

Winter, 6491st Solar Cycle

The air was filled with the smell of bone dust, ice-cold stone and frosty damp. The thin-armed creature stepped cautiously out of the shadow of a rock and blinked. Ten paces ahead the shimmering made everything on the far side appear hazy. The same as always.

The nameless creature sent a long green tongue over the skin of its doglike face, revealing needle-sharp teeth. With two of its sixteen fingers it explored the short dark fur under the dirty armor, scratched itself and yawned. It adjusted the armor that was pressing uncomfortably on its balls.

It gave a sigh of relief and then another yawn.

On the orders of the Strongest One it had to keep watch from dawn to dusk and immediately report any changes to the quivering vibrations in the air. It was a boring task. Thankless and boring.

After a while it picked up and ate a yellow beetle emerging from under a moldering thighbone on the ground. As it chewed it occurred to the creature that not one of the hundreds of its own kind could remember a time when the air had not shimmered.

It grunted and kicked at the black wall of rock, then strolled up to the edge, trailing an over-long sword. As the rusty brown metal blade scraped against the rock floor, it collected yet more dents and notches.

The creature sat down