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Author Topic: Day of the Drums  (Read 780 times)

Iamblichos

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Day of the Drums
« on: March 15, 2016, 05:04:12 pm »

That was a strange day, full of mists and threatening rain.  The old people said that the omens were bad, but the omens are always bad, aren't they?  Nobody ever says "oh look, three cave spiders means we'll find gold!" or something else positive, it's always doom and gloom and death and sorrow.  The hunters complained for weeks that there was no game in the woods; the fishers complained there were no more fish in the swamps.  We weren't worried, exactly, because we had copious stores of food, but a bit of fresh goes down good with your ale, you know?

Broomshadow was in its third year.  It was the same year we found that broad silver seam in the deep mines; Three-Braids Bim had only just come back up from the prospecting shaft the week before - we didn't know what we had yet, but there was excitement.  Nobody listened to the hunters or the fishers.  We should have.

But that day... the 5th of Granite, 523.  As long as there are dwarves who live here, it won't be forgotten.  The morning was still... too still.  The sun was out, but weak, somehow, faded... even the cave-adapted weren't bothered too much by it.  A group of us were standing by the gate.  The mayor, old Uduk Rockshadow, was consulting with us about the advisability of building the outsiders' tavern on the surface, near the main gate.  Most of us thought it was a good idea because it would draw merchants from the caravans and other wanderers, but the three representatives from the deep halls didn't think their folk would want to have to come up to the surface just to hear the news or see the new dances, so we had a bit of an impasse.  Uduk thought it would do everyone good to come see what he was planning for themselves.

Old Uduk was a mystery.  He claimed to be from a town called Fairwheels, far in the north, part of the Ramparts of Ferocity.  None of the other dwarves knew him when he arrived.  He told us his wife and children had been with him, but that they died on the road.  It was a foolish journey to even contemplate - straight through hundreds of miles of evil mountains, goblin settlements, and who knows what else.  Somehow, he made it, though.  Uduk was smart, too - a lot smarter than he let on, and that's a fact.  He knew all sorts of surprising things, but most of the time he acted stupid and confused, sort of addled-like.  When he stood for mayor, half the dwarves in the fort thought they voted for him because they liked him, the other half because they thought they could use him, but he was far too popular to be as stupid as he acted.  He was always sort of... slouched over, like he was melting.  He was fat, too, always smiling, eyes half-closed like his head hurt... ah, I can see him now in my minds eye.  He was my friend, but he was an old harmless looking baggage.

I was closest to the gates when the real fun started.  We were talking about where to put the wine cellar, when Cebol shouted and pointed at the forest.  Came a cold mist, thick, like a soup, rolling in from under the trees to the east.  Couldn't see through it.  Sun was even darker than before, but there weren't any clouds to speak of... just like the fire of the sun was guttering, close to going out.  The rest of us started shuffling, feeling uneasy, and old Uduk looked up at the woods and shook his head.  "You dwarves should go inside now," he said, and his voice sounded a bit odd.  "You should get below."  He sounded more, I don't know, more awake than usual - no trace of the usual good-natured, stupid Uduk we all knew.  The others all headed inside, but I lingered behind.  I didn't want to leave my friend, you know?

The sound of a horn came from the woods, and if I live to be three hundred like Led the Old I will never forget the sound of it.  The note went on and on, throbbing, hurting your ears and vibrating your bones.  When it stopped, I felt like all the blood ran out of my body.  I was frozen.  Uduk looked at me, and I was even more terrified.  He didn't look anything like the friend I came out with, the friend I voted for... his eyes were wide open, almost glowing with intelligence, and dark as the tomb.  For the first time since I'd known him, he stood up straight, and I was amazed to see that Uduk was a great deal taller than I had ever noticed.  I was shocked when I realized that he was also heavily muscled under all that fat.  His voice came, cold like I'd never heard it.  "Ezum, I mean it.  Get below now."  I started for the gates when I heard them... the drums.

Each beat was slow.  Each beat was soft, but it sort of sounded directly in your ear, like the drum was only inches from your head.  Each beat sounded inevitable.  The beats got into your head, did strange things to your mind.  The mists parted, and an army like I had never seen came pouring out of the trees.  Half-rotted corpses, stepping in time to the drum, marching like ants.  Funny thing is, it wasn't like you would imagine.  It was quiet.  There was no smell; there were no sounds.  Just that constant, gentle, insistent drum.  It was hypnotic, in a way, as they all surged forward.  They come quicker than you thought... the drum was so slow, but they came on quickly.  I couldn't move, couldn't think.  I always wondered what the stories meant about people who were so horrified they couldn't move, but I don't mind telling you... I know now.  I watched them as they came, no more able to run than a bird can run from a snake.  Behind them, through the woods, a figure came into view.  Tall like a human, and wrapped in black cloth from head to toe.  The ends of the cloth wrapped around its head moved like a breeze was blowing them, but there was no breeze.  There was no inch of skin to be seen... no hair, no hands, no face.  Just black.  And it moved... wrong.  I don't know how to explain it, but anyone that saw that thing knew that it wasn't human, not by a long shot.  I tell you now, that black-clad shape was as close to a figure of Death as I've ever seen.

Uduk broke the spell.  He grabbed my arm and threw me in the direction of the gates.  No, I didn't say pushed, and I don't mean pushed, I mean THREW.  I hit the ground and scrambled upwards, suddenly frantic to get back inside.  Uduk made a... roaring sound.  I've never heard anything like that either, not from beast nor man, and I hope to never hear it again.  He strode forward, and the dead just moved aside and let him pass.  He got close to the figure, and for the first time, it noticed that things weren't going according to plan.  It turned and tried to run, but Uduk grabbed hold of the cloth and... and... you won't believe me, but he pulled its head right off!  Straightaway, the mists began to disperse.  The dead all lay down where they were, just fell over.  The stench rolled out suddenly; all the smell that wasn't there before came back with a vengeance.  I vomited before I could go two steps.  The smell of rot was overpowering.

Uduk, or whatever it was, turned and looked at me, and smiled.  I saw the fangs.  I knew already, but I don't mind telling you it fair broke my heart.  He turned and walked off into the woods, bold as you please.  Could be I even heard him whistling.  I know he was a monster; I know he was cursed by the gods, that his name wasn't really Uduk, and all that.  But I still raise a mug to my friend.  Wherever he is, whoever he is, he saved my life, and Broomshadow is only here because of him.
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I'm new to succession forts in general, yes, but do all forts designed by multiple overseers inevitably degenerate into a body-filled labyrinth of chaos and despair like this? Or is this just a Battlefailed thing?

There isn't much middle ground between killed-by-dragon and never-seen-by-dragon.

Salmeuk

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Re: Day of the Drums
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2016, 08:43:32 pm »

Nice! Inspired by real events?
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"Two full-grown giant cave spiders stand over his hospital bed, refusing to leave his side." -theflame52

Due to a bug, the dwarf may contact a syndrome even if the reason he's not wearing a shoe is that his leg is gone. -button

Iamblichos

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Re: Day of the Drums
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2016, 09:06:10 am »

Sort of  :)  It's not how the undead work in the game, obviously, but it made a much better story this way.  And once you unmask a vampire, they should have the option to bolt.  They do it all the time in Legends mode...
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I'm new to succession forts in general, yes, but do all forts designed by multiple overseers inevitably degenerate into a body-filled labyrinth of chaos and despair like this? Or is this just a Battlefailed thing?

There isn't much middle ground between killed-by-dragon and never-seen-by-dragon.

BlackBronze

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Re: Day of the Drums
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2016, 01:07:51 pm »

Quite a good tale! I really liked the description of the necromancer.
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Iamblichos

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Re: Day of the Drums
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2016, 08:13:28 pm »

Thanks!  It's how I think the necromancers ought to look, as opposed to Mr. or Mrs. Normal  :)
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I'm new to succession forts in general, yes, but do all forts designed by multiple overseers inevitably degenerate into a body-filled labyrinth of chaos and despair like this? Or is this just a Battlefailed thing?

There isn't much middle ground between killed-by-dragon and never-seen-by-dragon.