The meeting with Custagine’s three subleaders of the Guild was quick and basically a reiteration of what he discussed with Donrump the day before. He made pointed remarks in Donrump’s direction about greed at the expense of people’s ability to live and said that society has no place for such avarice, that it would infect the civilization with a choking, prolonged death.
Donrump left the meeting as soon as he could in a huff and an imperious upturn of his head. Custagine did not see him again that day, and was quite content with that. He did not like Donrump, but he could not replace him. Once past a certain rank, Guild ranks were for life or abdication. He knew Donrump would not give up his ill gained wealth, so he could only wish to survive him, then replace the vile man with someone better.
His other two subleaders, however, he quite liked. The kobold was a very likable being and the gnome was very friendly, and even flirty, with him. Coming from a species unable to have sex, however, he did not understand exactly the flirtations or what they meant.
Custagine looked to the kobold and asked, “Tihkrelk, the day has already started, and I think your eyes would be hurt. How can we get you home?”
“Ah,” said the kobold, still in the shed, “Let’s see. We’re on The Hill, not too far from The Pit, yes?”
“Correct,” said Custagine, “Do you have someone who lives within The Pit you can stay with?”
“No no,” replied Tihkrelk, “But I can get home that way.”
Rose Vine asked, “How so?”
“Lost City of Blade.”
Both Custagine and Rose Vine looked at one another, then asked around the same time, “Lost City of Blade?”
“Sure,” said the kobold, “There’s New City and Old City and so on. There’s also the Lost City.” He pointed to Custagine, “A number of dwarfs live in Lost City of Blade, in fact. You should come visit sometime.”
“I shall,” replied the dwarf, “Now that I know of it. But I do not know how to get into it.”
The kobold gave a shrug, “To be honest, many Lost City of Blade there are. Several connect to one another, but not all. Some are very small locations, the size of closets or attics or the like. You see,” he pointed to the west, “where the Hill slopes downwards at an angle there?”
Rose Vine was the first to say, “Yes, of course.”
“That’s where the Lost City started. Long ago there were rowhouses there on the hill. Then a major storm came and The Hill had a landslide that covered most of those houses. That landside is what causes that section to look slumped.”
“I see,” said Custagine, “And the buried houses remained mostly intact?”
“Indeed!” chittered the kobold, “Some damage, but mostly intact, yes. Some of us light haters figured out how to tunnel into that housing and we took it as our own residences. Then some other sections of the Lost City sprung up over time from other such disasters. A small earthquake. A bit of flooding. We light haters took each opportunity for new underground housing, seeing it as our duty to not let perfectly good residences go to waste in a crowded city. A few of the city’s failed projects also became our homes and added to Lost City.”
Custagine gave a ‘huh’ and Rose Vine nodded a few times, interested. They both eventually asked almost the same time, “Go on?”
“One former Overlord awhile ago wanted a tunnel that went through the ground level of The Hill, going from north to south, and east to west, then eventually the other four directions. They were to be paved and softly lighted and allow carriages to pass by from one end of the city to the other without having to go around The Hill.”
“Because they’d go through it. Interesting.”
Rose Vine just nodded and waited for more.
“Exactly. However, the project was never finished. Once it was also forgotten about, we closed off the tunnel entrances and finished the unnels how we liked them. Every so often an Overlord would attempt to make a sewer system, but most ran out of funds and stopped mid construction, only a few areas of the entire city have working sewers. The other intended sewers make perfectly good housing for some of us.”
“And you say some of my fellow dwarfs live in this Lost City?”
“Not some,” said the kobold, “Quite a few. Only some will be above ground like you, Custagine. Many still think the daylight will turn them to stone, so they stay underground. A few generations of dwarfs exist that never left the Lost City.”
“I can only assume,” said Custagine, “that they and your fellow kobolds kept on digging up new tunnels and expanding the underground?”
“Yes, of course. Population is always growing. But there’s a few disconnected portions of the Lost City that do not have tunnels going to, because even we who call ourselves a ‘Lost City Citizen’ forgot about them, or never knew them! A few of these disconnected ones will never be tunneled into, for they are Netherbrain or Brainslayer territory.”
“Ah, I see,” said Custagine. Both Netherbrains and Brainslayers were sapieent species, brought to the Isles of Doom by the Curious Deities, just like the dwarf, gnome, kobold and dozens of other species. But they tended to be hostile to the other Children Species, the sixty sapient species brought by the Curious Deities here, because they tended to, in short, eat brains. They could exist perfectly well on animal brains, and civilized ones will, but even so, many of the other peoples would rather avoid either of the two species.
“Yes, indeed. They have their territory, we have ours. It is a coexistence of sorts. Everyone lives content.” Tihkrelk gave a shrug, “More or less. Always someone wanting someone else’s territory, but they tend to police their own and we ours.”
“So,” asked Rose Vine, “One of the safe areas of Lost City is nearby?”
“In the Pit,” replied Tihkrelk, “lies both the safe and unsafe areas of the Lost City, actually. One safe to me is nearby. If you can provide me some shade, I can run to safety with your help. But, Custagine, Rose Vine, if you want to visit me in the Lost City, do not go this way. It’s the long way around to where I live. I’ll give you a map or show you the easy entrance sometime. Then you can visit.”
“Might as well,” said Rose Vine, “then you got time to do housecleaning before hosting guests!”
Custagine had already begun to look around and found a sheet of wood that was leaning against the back of the shed, apparently it was left here intended to be used to patch up another building. He grabbed it and offered one end to Rose Vine. They both lifted it over their heads and the dwarf gave a nod to the kobold, “This should work. Shall we?”
The trio quickly but carefully stepped from the shed towards The Pit, the gnome and dwarf holding the wood over their kobold friend, who thanked them. He closed his eyes as he hopped into The Pit, grabbed a wall, and climbed down, opening them once more after he got deep enough that daylight would not hurt him. Within moments, he was out of sight.
Rose Vine then said to Custagine, “I’d like to make you dinner tonight, boss. Stop by my place later?” When Custagine accepted the offer, she told him how to find her place, then chatted with him a bit more, flirting some before excusing herself and leaving to do her day’s business.
Custagine spent the rest of the day supervising the reconstruction of The Library, not knowing the adventures that Bop and Bash were having this day.
When the appointed time rolled around, Custagine showed up at Rose Vine’s apartment in Old City. It was a spacious place on the second floor of the building, with a nice view into a garden from her small balcony. He was admitted entrance after a short knock on the door.
Rose Vine was naked when she greeted him, her light blue skinned body on clear display.
Custagine did not seem to notice, and did not comment on it. He just entered with a polite word of the loveliness of the apartment and its furnishings, as if Rose Vine had been fully clothed.
It was she who brought it up once she passed by a body length mirror, “Oh! That’s right, my clothing! Please forgive me, boss, I forgot to put them back on.”
“I said before, Rose, you can call me just Cust.”
The pretty gnome gave a nod, “Ah…sure. Sorry, last boss didn’t even want us knowing his name. Cust. Okay. I’ll do my best to call you Cust.”
“Thank you very much.” Custagine then asked, “I know that dwarfs have a custom of nudity when we tunnel, because it matters not to us if we’re nude or not. I did not know gnomes also have a habit of nudity in privacy.”
“Not really, no. It’s not a gnome thing, it’s a me thing.”
“How’s it a you thing?”
Rose Vine tapped her bare forearm, “My skin, remember? My Polar Elf grandmother? My temperature is off, I’m often warm to hot in this city, usually hot. Even with minimal clothing, it’s a hot place for me. Nudity helps me keep cool.”
Custagine gave a nod, “In that case, if it would make you more comfortable, I can also go nude.”
Rose Vine gave a soft gasp and a giggle, “Cust, please! If you do that, you’ll get me hot!”
Custagine just gave a blank look in response, not understanding.
“It means you’d get me aroused….” Rose Vine saw he was still giving a blank look, “And…want to have sex with you….you don’t understand do you?”
“I understand the need to copulate for a non-dwarf species to have children. I do not understand how to do it or anything related to it besides it must occur before pregnancy can occur, which must happen before birth can occur.”
“Ah….er….yes, that’s….basically….right. I mean, you’re not wrong. But you’re kind of taking the fun out of sex.”
“Oh?” Custagine had begin to take off his working clothing and boots, “Sex is fun?”
“Well, it’s fun for me.” Rose Vine watched the dwarf strip with interest, looking over his hard and muscled body completely devoid of hair. For, as a stone born people, how could they grow hair? When Custagine fully stripped down, Rose Vine looked startled, exclaiming, “But!”
Custagine asked curiously, “What? Is something wrong?”
Rose Vine pointed to the junction of where his legs met, “You have no penis!”
Custagine looked at her crotch and pointed to her womanhood, “Is that a penis?”
“No, that’s a…nevermind! A penis is that long…well, ideally long….dangly thing between a guy’s legs. Though I guess in some species, like the Saurids, it’s in a sheath that only comes out when aroused. It’s…um….kind of important?”
“It is?” Custagine looked confused. He did not have a penis and never saw one, so he was unclear on the very concept. So he asked, “Why?”
“Well, aside from being my favorite part of a man’s body,” said Rose Vine, “and important for sex…no, no, mandatory for sex, it is also how men urinate.”
“Ah,” said Custagine, only slightly understanding. He then followed up with, “What is urinate?”
Rose Vine gave a blink a few times and flopped on her one chair, “But! What is….you dwarfs do not fornicate nor urinate? How do you get rid of waste?”
Rose Vine sighed and gave a shrug, “Of course. When we drink…we, being a typical species, that is…we can’t use it all. There’s either stuff in our drink our bodies do not like, or we drink too much at once, or whatever. Point is, urination is how we get rid of liquid waste from our bodies.”
“Oh, I see.”
“I know you dwarfs are big drinkers, one of you can take a keg of beer in no time. What happens to it?”
“Oh,” said Custagine, “Anything we drink, or even eat, we fully process. We use it all to fuel our bodies and grow. Anything we find we can not use we store in a special orgasn. When we die, we turn to stone, and our organs turn into maggots. These maggots that were organs leave our corpse and burrow into nearby stone and give new dwarf life. But that one special organ…it never turns into a maggot. Or rarely. When it does become a maggot and that maggot does become a dwarf, it is usually dark and evil and we tend to call it a Polluted Child. Or Impure.”
“So you don’t get rid of food waste either?”
“No, course not, food does not go to waste either for us dwarfs.”
Rose Vine made a motion with her fingers, “Turn around?”
Custagine did so, and Rose Vine saw that he had no actual buttocks nor anus. He was as smooth and featureless in the backside as he was in the front, like some sort of child’s doll. When he was done fully turning around, he sat down next to Rose Vine, and asked, “Is sex really that interesting?”
“Well, it is for me.” She looked at Custagine, studying him some. Then on impulse she gave him a hug and wrapped her arms around him, “Though, it may be interesting to try a romantic relationship for once. Without sex getting in the way of it. What do you say, would you like to try it?”
“I’m afraid I’d fail you.”
“Most men do,” Rose Vine laughed, “But let’s not worry about that. Actually, let’s ignore what I said before. I am interested in you, bo….Cust….and do have feelings for you. Have since you first visited my village long ago. I’m glad to be working with you. I should just be happy with that and not ruin it with a bad relationship. If we broke up…”
Custagine just gave her a pat on the cheek, gently, and a soft smile, “Follow your heart.”