Side Story: Love Song 1

The day after Custagine bent his halberd and left his clan, three other dwarfs left the cave complex that is their home to explore the surrounding area and try to find Custagine’s trail. Sadly for the trio, they were unable to find their hero, and thus unable to join up with him.

On their way back to the caves, the group shared a dejected look on their faces, each feeling their hero had abandoned them. They felt the stirrings of a new life calling to them, only for that option to be taken away. Tromping heavily through the woodlands, they barely heard a strange voice calling to them from a tree.

“Greetings, why the dead expressions, oh dwarfs?”

The trio looked at one another, then one stepped forward, the more vocal of the group, “First, who might you be?”

Dropping down from a tree branch and landing with barely any noise was an elf male dressed in greens for both tunic and leggings. Though he was a male, he had a lithely built body, a gogreous looking face, and a beautiful voice, his blonde hair a carefully messed spiky style, “Indeed, my manners, please forgive my lack thereof just this moment. I am the wandering elf skald known about as Vocal Nectar.”

The dwarfs looked at each other and all shrugged, before their speaker stated flatly, “Never heard of you.”

Vocal Nectar looked dejected, “Never heard of…? Are you just stuck in your caves all your lives?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

The elf pointed out, “But we’re in the woods, not in a cave.”

“We were trailing behind a hero of our clan, but we do not know where he went, nor do we see him. And we can not find his trail.”

“Can not find it because he did not leave one, or because you do not know how to follow one in the woods?”

The dwarfs looked at each other for a bit, frowned, then their speaker responded, “Nevermind. Our hero is gone, and the life he dangled before us is likewise gone.”

“Gone? Why is that?”

“Because we can not follow him, so we can not live that life!”

Vocal Nectar gave a quizical look, before asking, “Why can’t you simply…live your own lives?”

The dwarfs all looked at each other again for awhile, communicating in shrugs, brow quirks, and head tilts. Their speaker finally asked a question obvious to them, but incredulous to the elf, “You can do that?”

“What do you mean….?” The elf gave a sigh then leaned against the tree he jumped from, “Of course you can do that. Everyone has their own life, they can live it as they wish.”

“How do you do that?”

“How do….oh, I see.” The elf skald gave a soft grin, “You must be from the Steel Clan, am I right?”

“How did you know that, elf?”

“I recently visited your cousins, the Iron Clan. Before that, I visted the Bronze, Silver, Copper and Gold Clans. In their own ways, they were stubborn about this or that, or ignorant of one thing or another. But they all understood each person is their own person. The Iron Clan, however, warned me of your clan.”

The speaker frowned, “What did those people say?”

“That out of all the dwarf clans, excepting mayhaps the Platinum or Titanium ones, yours are the most conservative and traditional of the groups. That if you wish to see what the original dwarfs were like, visit them.”

“Are we really so steadfast in how we act?”

“Stagnant could also be used to describe it.”

“This is getting nowhere. Tell us, elf, how we can live our own lives!”

The elf pointed in a random direction, “Go that way. Do what you want as you go. Speak to whomever you want, about whatever you want. Eat what you want.” He then pointed in the opposite direction, “Or go that way. It does not matter where you go, what you do, or whom you are with, so long as it is all by your own choice.”

The dwarfs looked dumbfounded before their speaker asked, “You can do that without a leader?”

“What?” The elf laughed gently, “Of course you can. You’re in charge of your own life. Do what you want. Within reason, mind you.”

“Within reason?”

“Don’t kill someone. Don’t steal from someone. By sociable and nice, treat others in a way you wish to be treated, be charitable but not gullible, bust most of all, be the best you that you can be, and you should be fine.”

“Mixed society is confusing. Is it worth it?”

The skald shrugged, “I’ve found it to be. It is one thing to live among your own people, but that seems like it would be boring after awhile. Was to me. There’s so many other peoples in these big Isles that you will always find something interesting and new to occupy your time. It is the only life I wish to have myself.”

The dwarfs conferred a bit before their speaker asked, “What are some interesting places to go to?”

“Well…sticking to just the central isle, with which we’re currently upon, has five major cities and many smaller ones. Now, I can’t say which would be most interesting to the lot of you, so I’ll just suggest the five major cities with the advice that you can find the smaller places that may interest you from there. The first city, for example, the City of Blade, is in the almost exact middle of this isle, and is the largest. There, it has a wonderful library that holds books to show you about other areas of interest in the Isles.”

“Which direction is this city?”

Vocal Nectar pointed into a third direction, “A number of days that way. You’ll need to cross a great and impressive bridge known as the Bridge of Betrayal or Betrayal Bridge. Once crossed, you’ll be in the Kingdom of Blade. Follow the main road into the City itself.”

The three dwarfs nodded, “And the other four cities?”

The elf pointed north, “To the far north of our main island here, is North City, the City of Portals. It is so called because there are portals that lead from the Isles to the rest of our supposedly very large world. I hear there’s other peoples we never even seen before, and some of the destinations can be random but wonderful.”

The dwarf speaker shook his head, “No, that’s not going to happen.”

“Why not?”

“We’ve barely left our cave. It will be hard enough for us to travel the whole of the world! We just need one place to go to, one location where we can learn how to live our own lives and understand the Isles. Give us another option.”

The elf skald pointed east, “In ancient days, it was supposedly called Genidelphia. Now, East City is known as the City of Libraries. If the City of Blade has one great glorious library, East City has so many they’re almost literally a maze to journey through. The eternal question of quality or quantity.”

“We can’t read.”

“Well, alright, that can be a problem. I’d be willing to teach you.”

“Just tell us the other cities!”

“Give a dwarf a taste of freedom and they get pushy. Alright.” Pointing south, the elf continued, “I hear stories it used to be called Moon Harbor City, before the Curious Deities fell upon the Isles and introduced our various peoples, when only humans lived here. Now, South City is the City of Seaports-”


“What? Why?”

“The sea means more places to go, it means more places to explore. It means more of the unknown.”

“I can see that.” Pointing west, the elf continued, “Smeltore City used to be its name in the days of the humans-”


“What now?”

“What was North City’s name before the Curious Deities, when only humans lived here?”

“Traverse City. May I have your permission to continue?”

The dwarf nodded magnanimously, “Continue, continue, the permission I deign to grant.”

“How gracious of you. West City is now the City of Crafters-”

“I’m going there!” This was from a dwarf in the back who never spoke before, “Thank you.”

“Ah….welcome?” Vocal Nectar gave a bit of a blink as that dwarf just walked off without another word, heading to the west, and, presumable, West City, the City of Crafters. He looked to the dwarf he prominently spoke to, “He was one of your clan’s artisans I take it?”

“Yes, and once he had an idea in his head, he had to act upon it. Thank you for this information.”

“You’re welcome. Mind if I ask who this hero of yours is?”

“Custagine, of the Seven Heroic Wonders!”

The elf pushed off of the tree and stood up properly, “Of course. There were eight, though.”

“Well, whatever. You wanted to visit the clan you said?”

“Yes, this is true.”

“Follow me, I will take you to the cave entrance and introduce you to the guards. I won’t go back in to the Clan’s territory, however, but I can guide and introduce you.”

“Very gracious of you. Where would you be off to then?”

The dwarf gave a soft shrug, “I think the City of Blade, for a start. Then, once in the middle, I’ll wander aimlessly from there but return to Blade.”

“A sensible plan.” The elf looked at the other silent dwarf, “And you?”

The dwarf stayed silent, simply pointing down in the direction where Vocal Nectar first randomly pointed moments ago. Then, he walked off, without every saying a word.

“You people just do what you intend without explaining yourself to others, don’t you?”

“Don’t you?”

“I can honestly say, good dwarf, that I have never met a people before who just assumed the others of their community knew what they were doing, without explanation or even speaking of any sort. Almost all of us, when working with others, talk to each other to explain what we intend to do and how, and how others can help. After working together for some time, when people know their roles, they can work together without talking, but that takes time. Furthermore, we tend to talk to socialize and be friendly with one another.”

“That sounds like a strange and possibly terrible life.”

“From someone who makes a living singing songs and telling stories, your people’s silent preference is horrifying to me.”

“Yet, you’re going to my clan’s home anyway?”

“Yes. I’ve been to the lands of other dwarf clans.”


“Other peoples fascinate me, of course. The dwarf clans are interesting in that each of them are unique.”

“How’s that interesting?”

“Besides the humans, there’s sixty of our peoples in the Isles, yes?”


The elf walked at a very slow pace to keep pace with the short legged dwarf, “Most of those peoples have a monoculture. You seen one Brainslayer, you seen them all. Same is true for the Firbolgs, the Trolls, the Tengu, and so forth.”

“As you say.”

“indeed, as I say. Some peoples, however, have multiple cultures within one larger culture. Elfs and dwarfs, for example. A desert elf has a different culture than a grass elf, and the Gold Clan of your people were different than the Bronze, though all elfs share some culture in common with one another, and all dwarfs also have an overarching culture.”

“So you study culture, and how they are different?”

“I do just so.”


“Because I tell stories, it is my job. If I learn cultuers, if I learn what is important to each people, how they think, why they think the way they do, how they view the world, I can tell better stories to them? And then I can transport the stories of, say, the Lagomazons to your own clan. And tell stories of your clan and their heroes to the Dolphinoids. And so on.”


“Because….because I think everyone is better the more we know of each other. Because I think if everyone knew each other’s cultures, we could all be friends. Because I think we’re the sum total of a huge mosaic that only improves with the spread of culture. In my own little way, it would be my method to improving our world. Mayhaps, in some small way, the Giants understanding the Ogres betters us all.”

“It seems you know what to do with your life.”

The elf rested a hand gently upon the dwarf he’s been befriending, “It’s called your calling. Fate willing, you will find the one thing, the only thing, that you can do with your life. And you will dedicate yourself to it. And your piece of the puzzle of life will be polished and set and firmly lock itself large across our world.”

The dwarf looked up at the elf and gave a little smile, “If I find out how to live a life of my own, I want that. A calling. Even without being able to follow a leader, I now have a path I can work with. Thank you.”

“It’s nothing. I’m now interested in seeing what your calling is, and what your life will bring to the rest of us.” The elf inquired, “So I know who to look for in the future, what is your name?”

“I don’t have one.”

“Why not?”

“None of my people do.”

“Custagine has one. It is Custagine.”

“Custagine is a hero, he is different from us!”

The elf stayed silent for a bit, then gave a shrug, “Perhaps not so different than you think.”

The dwarf considered before offering, “Perhaps I should find my name before I find my calling. Then I shall look for you again, Vocal Nectar, looking for your name across the Isles, after I have found my calling, so we can meet again.”

“I look forward to that, my friend.”

The two continued on for some time, the dwarf pointing to a cave, “Almost there.” He guided the elf to a secret side cave, up on the cliff, “The ground cave entrance is trapped. This is the safe way in. My people are not kindly, but they are hospitable. We have stone hearts.”


The dwarf looked askance to his new friend, then asked, “What do you intend to teach my people, anyway?”

“Stories of others. I think one thing will be in common, though. I think….I think I should teach them love.”

Custagine: A Peaceful Job 8

A dark shadow of a tall human overcast Custagine’s grieving form, and the dwarf could feel the man sneering down at him. In a moment of rage, the dwarf spun quickly upon his knees, lashing out with his right hand. He intended to kneecap the man, to force him to kneel down also, and in some ways to pay respects to the dead, at least in posture.

When Custagine’s hand connected to Donrump’s knee, the strike was so hard that the human’s entire left leg had been obliterated in a mist of blood and splintered bone.

The human fell hard on his back, screaming in abject pain. As he did so, Custagine stood up with a dark frown, “I know the responsibility for this lies upon your head.”

“You’re crazy, you stupid dwarf! You’re insane! I’ll get you for this, I’ll destroy you!”

“Then my sons will avenge me, and their grudge will not abate until they destroy everything you love.”

The human kept writhing in pain, shouting vindictives to Custagine, before he said, “They deserved it, it all deserved it! And worse!”

Custagine glared death down at Donrump, his one fist balled up so tight he could crush the very air. His left gripped at a halberd haft that no longer existed, “You are fortunate. The mere possession of a weapon tempts its owner with its use.” His empty left hand cleaved the air, “And I am sorely tempted to put you our of this world’s misery.”

“Do it! Kill me, be a murderer!”

Custagine frowned darkly, his balled fist shaking and trembling, and he growled a simple, “You’re not worth it. Live with it. Live with your pain, live with the knowledge that you’re just not worth the effort of killing. Live with the knowledge you’re next to nothing.” He turned away and stalked off, “You’re nothing. Nothing but a shadow of a past best left forgotten.”

The Overlord of Blade and most of the Council had been moving towards the grounds, and all had witnessed Custagine’s assault upon Donrump and the damage he did in a single punch. The Overlord broke away from the group and said, “Custagine…a moment.”

The dwarf looked upwards, frowning, “Old friend…I am sorry your day started thus.”

“Ignore it, I have seen worse.” A look towards Donrump then to Custagine, “Truth be told, I wish I could have done what you did, myself. He is abominable. But he has powerful and dangerous friends. He’ll try to gain his revenge through legal means, I am sure, and he has powerful lawyers.” A glance then to the Council, “And sadly, powerful witnesses.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that should be the least of your worries, frankly. His other friends are dark and criminal at their best. Do not let them find you.” The Overlord looked towards The Pit, “Get going, before they find you. And leave this city, before I’m forced to send search parties to find you myself. The entire Kingdom is no longer safe for you, for now.”

“Yes, I guess so. I thank you, but do not put yourself out for me.”

“Hah! I wasn’t planning on re-election, so it is nothing to worry about.” The older elf looked at the human, still screaming in pain, giving a soft smile as no one came to help him yet, “However, I may need to, in order to prevent him or his allies from doing so. For forcing me into being a politician yet again, you should apologize.”


The elf shook his head, “No, don’t worry. Just go.”

“A favor, first. The other two, Tihkrelk and Rose Vine, they’re good people. I’m afeared of their safety now.”

“Fret not, but go now. It won’t be long before someone will arrive seeking your arrest.”

Custagine started towards the Pit, then asked to his elf friend, “How did I do that, anyway?”

“I know not, friend, I have never seen such a display of power ever. Be careful.”

Custagine saluted his friend then jumped over the edge of The Pit and landed on a small cliff several meters below. Then he scaled downwards in the encroaching darkness, his vision sliding into the dwarfborn spectrums that allow them to see underground, their natural habitat. He walked about some recent wooden scaffolding, hopped over to a house whose side is now the roof, thanks to its fall into the Pit, then scampered across the outside piping of said house to stone stairs. He carefully walked across some water pipes and jumped down onto an ancient stone edifice. Then briskly walked across some more recent wooden bridgework and into a small tunnel that was hidden inside the ruins of another old manor. It was thus that he entered the Lost City.

He memorized the map that Tihkrelk gave him before, and walked down the underground passageways, mindful to avoid Netherbrainn or Brainslayer territory. After almost an hour, he wondered if anyone ever did arrive to help the severely injured human before entering Tihkrelk’s abode.

The kobold was sitting in the middle of his living room, holding a candle before him, as he used a long and thin bladed knife to gently and carefully carve into the candle wax. Custagine watched for a time, listening. As he paid more attention, he heard Tihkrelk whispering a story to the candle while he was carving into it.

Once done, Tihkrelk put this candle on a shelf full of candle wax of many older and long burnt down candles, then turned to get another one. It was then that he noticed Custagine’s presence, “Ah! i wasn’t expecting…that is…” The kobold gave a guilty little shrug, “Come in?”

Custagine walked in and smiled gently, “Thank you, forgive my abrupt appearance at your home. An interesting place, this.”

“Thank you.”

“Is that why your people always demand a portion of your salary be done in candles? What you were doing earlier?”

Tihkrelk gave a short frown, and a deep sigh. He gave a shrug and sat on the floor across from Custagine, “We try to keep it private. It’s not something we tend to share with others.”

“I heard you telling a story while you were carving.” Custagine looked at the candles, noticing there were several lined up, all carved with Kobold runes. He looked back to Tihkrelk, “Can I ask what it signifies?”

Tihkrelk shrugged, “Have you been to the Street of Spirits?”

“I planned on it, but now I’m afraid I won’t be going there.”

“Why not?”

“A story I will tell after we’re done your explanation, fair?”

Tihkrelk gave a nod, “Fair, as my explanation involves stories.” He pointed to the candles, “We inscribe stories into the candles. Mostly true, some false. As we carve the runes of the stories into the candles, we talk the stories to the candles. When a story is done, or we have no room for more candles, we burn them all and watch the candles burn down.”

“Whys that?”

Tihkrelk sighed gently, “It is our belief about the afterlife. Do dwarfs believe in the afterlife?”

Custagine gave a shrug, “We never thought about it. I heard Rose Vine’s story about the gnome belief. But I guess dwarfs believe we become stone and just stay stone. So mayhaps my future after my death will be to exist as some sort of statue. Why?”

“I’ve never heard a dwarf talk about their belief about such, curiosity. The candles are our method to give our stories, the stories of our family, our enemies, and so on, to The Great Storyteller. Then, in the World of Stories which The Great Storyteller rules, the spirits of the dead enact those stories. That is what we believe.”

“So the falsehoods you put into the stories when you inscribe them into the candles…?”

“Mostly to try to help our loved ones get better placement in the afterlife. Sometimes, for a great enemy, to try to devalue their worth in the eyes of The Great Storyteller and thus put them in worse roles.”

“Interesting. It is but the second afterlife thoughts I have heard, but has become my favorite. With one minor change, I’d wish it for myself.”

Tihkrelk asked softly, “What change?”

“I’d make sure everyone was the main character. That everyone’s stories were of equal value.”

Tihkrelk gave a soft chuckle, then pressed for Custagine’s explanation. The dwarf told his story about this morning, about the fire, the deaths of Bop and Bash, about his punch to Donrump, about his need to leave Blade now. Tihkrelk focused on the punch, asking, “Have you ever had such strength before?”

“No, never.”

“Any dwarf?”

“We’re stronger than the average being, but nothing like that. I’ve never heard of a single punch being able to destroy a boulder or pulverize someone’s leg that it becomes fog and fragments of what once it was.”


“Somewhat. What if I shook someone’s hand, only to find I destroyed that as well? Pat someone on the back to congratulate them, and suddenly see their ribcage shatter upon the ground?”

“Yes, I can imagine so. Can I ask what plans you have?”

“The only one I can think of, for now, is to leave the kingdom, then try to figure out my own strength in solitude. Then, I would like to explore the Isles, learning more about people’s visions of the afterlife. Ultimately, however…”


“Ultimately, I want to find somewhere where peace reigns, and live the rest of my life there.”

Tihkrelk moved towards a set of drawers and began rummaging in one, asking, “Does such a place exist?”

“If not, perhaps I can make it, yes?”

“Perhaps so. That would be an interesting story to write upon candles.” Tihkrelk then handed a badge towards Custagine, “Take this, keep it always.”

“What is it? I’ve never seen such before.”

“Nor should you have,” Tihkrelk said with a smile, “The Guild has many branches. You were in charge of the public face of it. I’m sorry to see you go, by the by.”

“Thank you.”

“Of course. This badge will mark you or anyone holding it as a special agent of the Guild. No matter where you go, show it to a local Guild branch and you can request nearly any supply you may need.”

“I don’t need to pay for them?”

“Excepting sonsumables, which honestly costs us little enough to worry about, it is expected an agent take what they had to another Guild location and turn in to that location that which they do not have need for any longer. Agents that are lost to us, or never return the items, are scarce enough, and that which they tend to find often more than pays for material goods we lose.”

“That which they find?”

The kobold nodded as he took another candle, blank as of yet, “New mineral resources, food, fishing spots, spices, lost technology, we look just about anywhere.”

“Can I ask one last favor?”

“Of course.”

“Rose Vine…”

“She has my support, do not worry. We’ve been friends for quite some years.”

Custagine gave a nod and stood up, pocketing the badge, “Thank you, Tihkrelk, your kindness will be with me always. I hope your own story be told in glowing terms.”

Tihkrelk looked to his candle in this hand, then to Custagine and laughed as the dwarf headed out.

Custagine kept walking out. He left the City of Blade through an old and never used sewer tunnel of the Lost City. He left the Kingdom of Blade not long after.

Four months later…

Custagine used his chisel for one last time, flaking off a piece of rock from a statue he had crafted. He looked over his creation with some admiration, then clapped his hands and spoke to it, “The ‘Goyle people are born when a craftsman puts their heart into their work. This is, perhaps, the only way one of my people can ever meet one of their own children in their lifetime.” Custagine clapped his hands a few more times, “Please, oh my work, please, oh my stone heart, come to life, I implore you. Please allow me the honor of knowing one of my sons.”

The statue did not move.

Custagine kept pouring his heart into the statue until sundown, at which point he heard stones cracking and wings flapping. The newly birthed ‘Goyle gave a gravelly growl, “Name me, father.”

“You may think it a silly name, a sentimental one…”

“The ‘Goyle people always wear with pride the name our crafter gave to us.”

“Then, Loved One, I greet you.”

“And I you, father.”

The two spent several days together as the newly birthed ‘Goyle and its father, Custagine, talked. Custagine taught his child about the world, and his dreams and desires. Then one evening the ‘Goyle asked a question that would define its life.

“What would you wish me do, father?”

“It’s true, then? A ‘Goyle can be asked of one wish, and they will try to fulfill it?”

“It is not untrue, father. So long as it does not go against our own personal virtues. So long as it does not blaspheme our own paradigms. So long as it is not a wish for evil.”

“I left someone important behind in the City of Blade.”

“One you love? Your first loved one?”

“Yes, in more ways than one, yes. I ask you to find Rose Vine, a blue skinned gnome lady, and protect her. Can you do that, Loved One?”

“I can and I shall. Such is a request with integrity, you have given me a great honor.” The ‘Goyle began to flap its large stone wings and fly up, “A message for her?”

“Tell her, if you please, that I’m sorry and I wish things were different. And…and that you’re my message.”

The ‘Goyle gave a nod of its head and flew away to the City of Blade. Loved One became yet another loved one that Custagine would never see again in his life.

Two days later, Custagine finally finished climbing down from his mountain retreat and began walking the flatlands, off to explore the Isles and find his place within them.

He had but to cross Betrayal Bridge once again.

Custagine: A Peaceful Job 7

It was a unique experience for Rose Vine, to have a nude person in her bed and no promiscousity happening. Custagine and her simply slept, his one arm around her, the gnome having one of her best sleeps in her life. She was oddly very happy about this.

The next morning, she made breakfast for the two. Custagine stated he had to check up on the Library again today and assign a few managers and overseers for it, so he could focus less on it and more on other projects. And, he added, to spend some more time with Rose Vine, for he had questions he wished to ask her. After breakfast, the two promised to meet up together for lunch. Then each departed to do their work for the day.

As Custagine was going up The Hill, Bop and Bash were sluggishly moving down it. The pair of ogre halflings were obviously worn out, though they did give the dwarf a friendly greeting.

“Hi, boss.”

“Boss, hi.”

“Hey guys, morning. Tired?”

“Much done have we been doing.”

“Yes, many things having been done by us.”

The dwarf gave a soft nod, “Ah, that’s good. You two want a night off? I can try to find some substitute night guards to take over for you.”

“No, boss, okay it is. Many things are done, no more have many things to do.”

“Yes, boss, no but thank you. With our many things done, tired no longer so much we be.”

The two nodded and kept on walking, waving to Custagine, “Sleep we do now,” the one said, but with their backs to him Custagine could not figure out if it was Bop or Bash. The other twin said, “Then play we can.”

Custagine gave a wave to the backs of the two half-ogres then kept walking up The Hill. There, in the morning hours, he chose several harder working and more earnest looking individuals to talk to. These are the ones that have been here since open recruiting and the ones he noticed were working the most. After talking to the group, he selected a number of them and assigned them oversight over portions of the project. He felt secure that the rebuilding of the Library and its inevitable improvement would continue unabated, and that he could focus on other improvements to the city soon.

Throughout the morning, he did something very odd to him, something he never did in all his life. He kept on thinking about Rose Vine. About how her hair looked in the morning sun, how her light blue skin smelled, how she felt when he hugged her. His heart skipped a beat often in these thoughts, and his breath caught several times only to be released in long sighs. He heard about this phenomenon before from his fellow Heroic Wonder, Moonlight Kiss.

He was in love. Apparently.

The person of his affection, Rose Vine, spend her morning in her office drafting up several items. As the one in charge of all the caravans and supplies, she could influence the economic lifeblood of the Isles. She re-routed routes to Runner’s Rest while simultaneously drafting a call to adventurers to explore the location and report back to her. She also drafted up several summons for adventurers who want longer term work with bonuses paid on retrieval of specific objects. Then she began to write down ideas for a more permanent solution to two problems, the finding of lost books and cultural artifacts and the rise of the wandering and oftentimes reckless adventuring people.

This morning she thought not of Custagine, but of numbers and projects.

But the two still had a skip in their step as they went to the Gnome restaurant they agreed to meet at for lunch. Gnome foods are delicate and almost fully vegetarian. The cuisine includes edible funguses and milk products, eggs, and several different products made out of soy. And noodles. Gnomes seemed to like their noodles.

During lunch, after the small talk and catching up on the Guild’s progress was made, Custagine asked from nowhere, “Can I ask you what love is?”

Rose Vine stopped sucking her noodles into her mouth at once, looking up at her dwarf companion with a blink. She bit down, letting the noodles not in her mouth fall back into her bowl, ate what she had in her mouth, then reply with, “You…do not know?”

“No. I suppose without the need for sex, dwarfs do not need love.”

The gnome frowned before she shook her head, “No no, the two are different things.”

“Are they?” Custagine tilted his head in thought, “Have you been in love?”

“With my parents, of course. My siblings. Cousins, aunts and uncles. Well, most of them, some I intensely disliked. And my dog growing up.” Then she scooped up some more noodles and some tofu and ate them.

“I meant romantice love. With another person. The love of poetry.”

“Have I been in love?” Rose Vine chewed her tofu then swallowed, using the time to muse on the question, “I don’t think so. I’ve been in lust, but not love. Not that kind of love.”

“Oh…” Custagine said, slightly dejected. He went back to eating the hearty soup, taking a bit of cheese and a bit of boiled egg.

Rose Vine studied her companion a bit, trying to look into his eyes, which he kept from her as best he could. She asked quietly, “Cust…are you in love?”

“I’m not sure. I think so.”

“With me?”

The dwarf gave a nod, “I think so.”

Rose Vine gave a soft smile, “That’s sweet, Cust, but we haven’t known each other very long yet. Love takes time to bloom, doesn’t it?”

“Does it?” Custagine cut up some noodles and a bigger block of tofu with a fork, “Moonlight Kiss told me that you know it when it happened and that it could happen in an instant. She said that your mind houses your loved one, due to how much you think of them.”

“That’s also sweet.” Rose Vine sat back in her chair some and smiled, “Moonlight Kiss, the half-elf from your Wonders, right?”

“The same.”

“It sounds like she was in love herself.”

Custagine gave a shrug, “Coming to think of it, you may be correct. She always seemed to have Blwthwyle on her mind.”

“Oh? The desert elf lady, yes?”

“The same.”

Rose Vine thought about the time the Seven Heroic Wonders (all eight of them) visited her hometown and gave a nod, “They’d make a cute couple.”

Custagine gave a few moments, before asking, “Would we?”

“Cust, I….”

Custagine shook his head, “No no, pardon me. I did not mean it like that. I mean, maybe I do. But today, right now, I meant it from a hypothetical. Outsider perspective. If we were a couple, would we be a ‘cute couple’?”

Rose Vine gave a smile and a soft laugh, “I…can only imagine so.” She kept on eating a bit, finishing up her bowl. Custagine had done so somewhat after she did, which gave her some time to think. She admitted, “It’s not that I don’t like you, Custagine. It should be obvious I do. Last night was…confusing.”

“Because we did not fornicate?”

Rose Vine gave a slight blush, then a shrug, “Mostly. I haven’t learned to relate to men, well, men not of my family of course, without there being lust involved. Sex. For me, I always thought lust came first, then when that cooled down, when you’re with your partner not because you’re having sex with them but because you want to be, that was love. Love seemed to me to be a cooled, condensed product of lust.”

Custagine gave a short nod, let the conversation pause a bit, then asked, “But now?”

“Now…I have no idea, honestly. I like you. I care about you, in fact. I’d wish, perhaps, that I could have your child. Maybe. I count you as a friend and am thankful we met. I did not know I had a Custagine shaped hole in my life before you entered it.”

“Is that not love?”

Rose Vine shrugged, “I have no clue. Cust, I can safely say that if something happened to you, I’d be mortified.”

“As would I.”

“Hush, let me continue, while I have the courage to do so. I don’t want to lose you, I don’t want to see you hurt, I don’t want to bring hurt to you. I want to like what you like because you like it and hope you like what I like because I like it. I want to work with you because I think we could, together, make great works. Biology be damned, I’d probably like having a family with you. I want to spend time with you, I want to talk more with you, and I want to be a better person because of you. Is that love? I’m not sure, honestly. I suppose many would say so. Is it friendship? Certainly. Maybe it’s something in between?”

Custagine reached out and gave her a pat on the hand, “Maybe it is something in between. I thank you. I also feel the same way. I particularly want to be a better person.”

Rose Vine gave his hand a squeeze and a laugh, “You’re a Heroic Wonder! You saved the Isles from being destroyed in the Void! You’re pretty good.”

Custagine shook his head, “That was the actions of a good warrior-”

“Great warrior,” she interrupted.

“A warrior. It was the actions of a warrior. But I don’t want to be a warrior at all, I seek something better than that. But with you, I do want to be a better person.”

Rose Vine gave his hand a squeeze, then smiled, “What do you seek?”


The gnome lady was shocked that a warrior with such skills that their peers were very small in number wanted peace so bad, that she gave a gasp. The way he intoned it spoke from his soul, that there was something deep in his soul that guided him to that path. She asked, “Can I ask why?”

“My uncle…as I never could speak to my father, of course….told me of times before the Godswar, before tribal wars, before wars between kingdoms. He told me stories about when peace reigned, and all the various peoples of the Isles came together to make the greatest works ever to grace creation. He told me of this in such words that the fantastical became real inside my mind. It seemed like a world apart from our own but one I could almost touch. And would do almost anything to live within. It seemed worthy of giving nearly everything else up for.”

“Intereting…I can envision a young Custagine skipping his weapons training practice just to listen to these stories, or search for one last kingdom clinging to the peaceful era.”

Custagine laughed loudly but briefly before nodding, “Not too far off, Rose. It is about as you say.”

Rose and Custagine simply sat, holding hands, looking at each other. Eventually, Rose Vine spoke up, “May I ask a question?”

“You may ask me anything, of course, always.”

“Ah…thank you,” she said demurely before continuing, “Anyway. It’s true, isn’t it? When a dwarf dies, they turn to stone and their organs turn into maggots and become the next generation? That your sons only come from your death?”

“It is true, yes. Each dwarf tribe has their own Hall of Heroes deep in their homeland where the statue corpses of our deceased, the ones that could be retrieved from their manner of death of course, were kept. Those that are gone from us, such as a dwarf devoured by a dragon, or drowned in the ocean, we carve their likeness into the cave walls themselves to distinguish them from the statue corpses.” Custagine used his other hand to lift the bowl of soup to sip some broth before continuing, “Once a year, we celebrate our deceased by lighting torches before each one, telling stories, cleaning off their bodies, and offering wishes to them. It is the only holiday dwarfs celebrate.”

“Fascinating,” said Rose Vine, “I never thought another’s culture could be so interesting. I suppose that may be because of my own people’s recent past, as our own culture was squashed during our period of slavery to the giants.” Custagine gave her hand a squeeze and was about to say something but she shook her head, “No no, it’s okay. The past is the past, if it could be changed, it would be the future. We’re free now, and we’ll be free forevermore, that is what matters. I have an important question for you.”

Custagine gave a nod, “Please, ask.”

“Dwarf tradition has it that one of the surviving brothers of the deceased raises the sons, and typically it is the brother closest to the dead, am I right?”

“With some exceptions, such as if said uncle would be idiotic or infirm, yes,”

Rose Vine leaned in a bit, “I know you do not like your own brethren very much, and a dwarf alone will have no one to raise their sons. If I can not have kids with you….would you consider me to raise your sons for you?”

Custagine gave a bright smile and patted her hand with both of his hands, “You’ve taken a large weight off my shoulders, as, indeed, I had no one in mind to take my sons. If you are earnest about it, I would be happy to have you bring up my sons. Thank you very much.”

The two stayed silent for a bit afterwards, then paid for their lunch. They stood up, Custagine saying, “This was good food, let us return here again.”

Rose Vine smiled, keeping her hand in his own as the two left the shop, “Good conversation as well, let us continue it again.” The duo walked down the street a ways before she suddenly stopped and tilted her head, “I thought of another question.”

“Hmmm? Whta would that be?”

She gave Custagine a soft look, “Ah…welll…I wouldn’t have asked out of nowhere, it relies on what we just talked about. And since the topic had been broached…”

“Oh? A delicate question this? But pray, continue, ask away.”

“What does a dwarf believe in for the afterlife?”

It was Custagine’s turn to stop. He considered the question deeply for some time, before asking, “Afterlife?”

“Yeah, after you die, the you that is the eternal you, your soul….where does it go? What happens?”

Custagine frowned darkly and looked downwards, “That…I honestly have no idea about. I do not think dwarfs have an afterlife?”

“They don’t have one?” asked Rose with concern, “Or they do not believe in one?”

“Both?” A pause, “I’m not sure, actually.” The dwarf paused again, “In a way, we live on in our sons. I assume that was good enough for other dwarfs, though I can’t speak for all my people. Perhaps we tend to be a people that defines themselves in labor that we have no time to spend to think of such concerns.” Another pause, “This is….disconcerting.”

“I’m sorry for bringing it up, dear Cust,” frowned Rose Vine, who gave the dwarf a tight hug, “I did not mean to darken the day. I just assumed everyone had a vision of the afterlife.”

“Well,” mused Custagine, “Let us put the shoe on the other foot.” The two continued to walk down the street again, “What is the gnome afterlife?”

“Oh, it’s rather silly, actually. Please don’t ask.”

Custagine gave her a soft grin, “You brought up the topic, I must ask you what you think of it!”

The light blue skinned gnome sighed, “Fine, fair.” She gave a shrug, “We’re a descendant of the Fae, so we believe that we return to the Faerielands as beings of pure light. There we can exist forever as these balls of light. And we can interact with the world with illusions. But, ah…”

Custagine asked, “But?”

“But,” Rose continued, “our heroic people, those of virtue, and so forth, we believe that they can travel from Faerieland to this world, and use their illusions to drive mad those that did wrong to our people in life. That the reason the giants are going insane now is because of our dead heroes getting revenge for the giants enslaving our people. Some of our people are still spiteful, and that anger may have influenced the belief.”

“Your opinion on it, Rose?”

“My opinion on it, dear Cust, is that I will know for sure about the afterlife when my life ends, and that there is naught I can do to alter it. That I should live my life while I have it, and my afterlife, if any, while I have that.”

Custagine gave a short nod, “A solid opinion.” A few moments pass as the couple continued to walk hand in hand before he inquired, “But now I am interested in this topic. Who and where can I go for other opinions on the matter?”

Rose Vine pointed vaguely westwards, “Over in Old City there’s the Street of Spirits. There is as good a place as any.”

“I suppose,” mused Custagine, “that there are books written about such as well.”

Rose Vine laughed, “Sure, and they’d have been easier to find before someone went renovating the Library!”

The two spent the rest of the afternoon together, and ate again at Rose Vine’s home. Custagine cooked a homestyle dwarfin meal that was his favorite. They spent the night again, naked but only snuggling and both slept a great and peaceful sleep.

Others, however, were not sleeping this night. Others this night were about, plotting. And others had been acting upon plots. And this night had been the visitor of tragedies. This night glowed red with the furious dance of vindictive flames.

Custagine returned to the Library the next morning, to see the last bits of it burning to ash. To see the skewered bodies of Bop and Bash.

To see the crimson haze of rage flare before his eyes.

Custagine: A Peaceful Job 6

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.”


“What boss?”

“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?”

“How’s that?”

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.”

Custagine: A Peaceful Job 5

Custagine started the next day by arriving at the work site a bit early. He mostly did so to see Bop and Bash, and see how they did on their first night on duty. When he arrived, the twins were guarding the front door together, heads a bit droopy, fatigue evident. Also evident were their tracks in the grass, apparently one or both of the half-ogres would walk about library to make sure nothing was happening around the other side. Custagine could see at least six trackways in the dew, meaning the twins did such a patrol at least six times. When he got close to them, their heads were drooping some and he said gently, “Hey, guys. Long night?”

“Night was night.”

“Long is long.”

Custagine looked from one to the other, giving a shrug. It was too early in the morning for him to really understand, “I suppose. Anything happen last night?”



“Uh…which is it guys?”

The halfling twins looked at one another, then Bop said, “Walked about the building twice me did.”

“Five times me did! Like walking more, me.”

“Well,” nodded the dwarf, “I thank you for standing guard. Go ahead home and get some good sleep.”

“Sleep! When tired, sleep good!”

“I do it better than you!”

Instead of running off, the duo walked at a brisk pace down the Hill and away. They shoved each other once, gave a loud laugh, then continued on, apparently joking with one another.

Custagine only had to wait for a short time before two of his subleaders arrived. The one was a very short kobold wearing a leather apron and frilly top. The other was a blue skinned gnome woman in a one piece red dress.

To the large eyed kobold he asked, “Did you bring no sunhat or parasol?”

The kobold blinked his large eyes a bit, asking, “You…understand the sunpain?”

“My tribe often traded with kobolds a bit deeper in a neighboring cave complex. My own people hated the sun, bought they thought that it was because the light would kill us. I can attest to the fact that’s not true. But I understand you may want to head off soon as you can, so you don’t get too much sunlight. Let’s see…” Custagine looked around some, then moved over towards a small shack with some tools in it. It faced the right way that its back wall and roof would block the morning sunlight, “Please, use this if it would help.”

The kobold scurried into the shack, keeping the door open. He thanked Custagine softly, “You are kind.”

The gnome lady, a bit shorter than he, propped herself up against an exterior wall of the shack and gave her boss a soft smile. She asked in a gentle voice, “What kind of meeting is this, boss?”

Custagine looked around a bit for the arrival of the third person he was expecting. After a bit of waiting, he shrugged, “Looks like he’ll be late. To be honest, part of this meeting was to talk to you each in private, so we may as well do that now. Ah…” He gave a brief shrug, “I suppose this will work. I’ll talk with you in the shack and you outside of it, and the door will give just enough privacy, I imagine. That okay?

Both gave a soft nod, and neither said anything to the contrary, so Custagine walked into the shack with the kobold, shutting the door gently behind him. He then began, “You’re the Guild’s chief accountant, yes?”

“Of course, sir,” said the kobold. His people are the biggest bankers in the Isles, nearly every single bank in the Isles is owned or managed by one of the kobold peoples. The kobold then bowed to Custagine, “Oh, my name is Tihkrelk.”

“Custagine, it is nice to meet you, Tihkrelk.” Custagine returned the bow, then asked, “How much do you trust Donrump?”

“About as much as I love staring into the sun.”

“Right, me too. I need your help. I do not trust him, I do not like him. He hungers for money too much. You know where all the money goes and how it all comes in. I need you to find any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. I want you to be keeping an eye on him for me. Can you do that?”

“I can, but the question should be, am I willing to?”

“Fair enough,” nodded Custagine, “Are you willing to?”

“Enthusiastically and for free. It will be my pleasure.”

Custagine gave a soft laugh, “I like you already, Tihkrelk. Is there any question you may have for me? Anything to talk about?”

The kobold chittered a bit as he thought to himself, then gave a nod, “Well, sir, it’s like this. You Seven Heroic Wonders saved my people once. My entire tribe, but two, had their lives saved by you eight. Eight…seven…wait…”

“I know, it doesn’t make sense to me, either. Storytellers and historians think seven sounds better for the group name, I figure.”

“Well…okay.” The kobold gave a twitch of his fingers. As a lover of facts and numbers, thinking about a group of eight people being called the Seven Heroic Wonders would give him some fits. Eventually he coughed and then continued, “I’d like the autographs of each of you. Starting with you.”

“I can give you mine, yes. And I can give you letters to the other Wonders to introduce you to them. I can even give you an excuse to take business trips to meet them. But there’s two you can’t get the autographs to, sadly. And perhaps a third.”

“May I ask whom?”

“Riastarthae I can’t sense any more….”


The dwarf tapped his head, “We worked so well together because we could all communicate to one another with our minds. We can sense each other across great distances.”

“What an interesting ability!”

“Thank you,” smiled Custagine, “Anyway, Riastarthae’s link is silent. I’m not sure where he is, or what’s going on with him. He may be injured, or dead, or in a coma, or just trying to break the link.”

“A shame. The other two, sir?”

“Shenta’s already off the Isles. She went to North City…the City of Portals or City of Gates, whichever you prefer…and is away, exploring the larger world. I know not where she is besides that.”

“Oh. Hard to get, then. Hers would be a crowning achievement.”

“Hah!” Custagine gave a short laugh, “I suppose so. As to the third, that would be Ironguts. He has, sadly, been killed. I’m not sure how.”

“Sad, sad. Liked him I did. He was my favorite. I mean, ah….second favorite. Sir.”

Custagine laughed again, “Don’t worry. I prefer honesty over courtesy. Be honest. I can take it. May I ask why?”

“Well, he was a Runner. So he was my people’s size. But he played these tricks that were quite entertaining. Sir, a request?”


“I can work some of the finances around to hire some adventurers.”

“Adventurers?” inquired the dwarf.

“Freelancers. Wanderers. Explorers. Troubleseekers. Ruins raiders. They’re people who risk their lives for thrills and adventure and finding treasures. Most have a specialty of some sort. I can hire a group to try to find out how Ironguts died and who killed him. Then maybe a group of bounty hunters to bring them to justice.”

Custagine gave a short pause and a soft hmmmm. Then he nodded, “Alright. Let’s work on the investigation for now. But your priority is still on Donrump.”

“Sure, understood. I think you’ll like the results.”

Custagine nodded, “I’ve no doubt, with you in charge. Now, anything else?”

“Not today, sir.”

Custagine grabbed the door handle, “If you’ll excuse me then. I’ll let you know when I’m done.”  He then departed, shutting the door behind him. When he left, he looked to the gnome lady leaning against the wall, “Did Donrump arrive yet?”

“No. He’s late.”

“He is,” said Custagine, “But it is okay. It gives me time to meet you. Rose Vine, isn’t it?”

The lovely gnome lady gave a soft blink and nodded, “Ah, yes, it is. I didn’t know you knew me already.”

Custagine smiled, “We very briefly met before. I talked with your mother more than you, but she spoke of you.”

Rose Vine thought a moment, her eyes then going wide, “I remember now! You and the other Seven Heroic Wonders stopped by for supplies in our town!” She then grinned, “Hey, I wonder, how come there’s eight of you?”

“Confusing, isn’t it? I’ll talk about it later with you, okay?”

The gnome nodded, “Sure, boss. Maybe over dinner?”

Custagine gave a nod, “I’ll be happy to then. I’ll buy whatever dinner you like most.”

Rose Vine gave a soft sigh, grinning, “I meant as a date, Custagine. May I call you Custagine, boss?”

“Of course. But…what’s a date?”

Rose Vine looked startled a bit, then gave a short laugh, “Oh! Oh, my mistake. I completely forgot. I…I’m sorry.”


“Yes,” the gnome lady said, “Your people don’t…can’t…have sex. And you don’t have females. So you don’t know social customs very much, do you?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“A date is when two people go out to be romantic with one another. They get to know each other better, and if they like each other, continue to date. And if they really like each other, they will fornicate and marry. Sometimes in that order, sometimes marriage first.”

“I do not understand all that. However, I would still be willing to date you if that means sharing dinners with you and become friends with you.”

The gnome lady gave a bright smile, “I’d like that, boss. Custagine. Custagine boss. Boss Custagine. Sorry.”

“Don’t be. Cust is fine, actually, if you like.”

“Ah…but it’s too…”

“No no. I insist. You may call me Cust.”

The blue gnome lady gave a soft blush, nodding her head, “Thank you, si…Cust!” She asked, “So what did you want me to do for you?”

“May I call you Rose?”

“Yes!” said the lady readily, “Of course, Cust!”

“It’s like this. When I had workers moving books from the library here to a warehouse, less wheelbarrows full of books arrived than there should have. And I’m not even sure how many books each wheelbarrow had on them, I suppose it was variable depending on size and weight and…”


“Huh? Oh. Anyway, I’m afeared that some of the books may be lost.”

Rose Vine gave a soft giggle.

“What’s funny, Rose?”

“Ah, not the lost books! It’s your choice of words. Afeared is rather archaic, I haven’t heard someone say that since….since my polar elf grandmother!”

“Ah?” Custagine looked over the blue skin of the gnome, “Is that…”

“Yes, it is.”

Custagine thought a moment, then asked, “I don’t know about sex, because my people are unable to have it. But I do know that the product of two different species is a halfling, and halflings are sterile. And that means they can’t reproduce.”

“This is true. But a few halflings are not sterile. Nastrians, Lagomazons, Elfs, if at least one of those is a parent, then there’s an even chance that their child or children can reproduce. My mother was lucky to be born with the ability to do so. And that’s how I came to be here, with blue skin.”

Custagine nodded a few times in the short story, “I see. Interesting. Are there any others that can do this?”

“I’ve heard of a few other peoples who can breed halflings that are fertile. But the books?”

“Oh! Yes. I’m giving you discretionary funds, and, thanks to our kobold friend, an idea. Hire these ‘adventurers’ peoples and look for the books for me.”

Rose Vine nodded, “Sure, I can do that. Just the books?”

“How’s that?”

“Well, there’s other things of cultural importance, right? Lost cities. Statues. Cartouches. Wonderful buildings we do not know of any more. Paintings. Songs. Jewelry.”

“I get it. OK, let’s broaden that out a bit. I want the focus to be on the books, because they’re pretty perishable. Water, fire, even bad air can destroy them. But every item of cultural importance is to be recovered. For places that can not be moved, like your lost cities, mapped, catalogued and explored. Do you want to do that?”

“Yes, sir, but you really should have asked Tihkrelk to do that instead.”

“Why’s that?”

Rose Vine gave a soft smile, “Because his people practically worship books.”

Custagine: A Peaceful Job 4

The next day, just over two dozen workers showed up atop The Hill, in addition to the two halfling ogres of the prior day. Custagine split the workers up into two groups, and had the two halfling ogres to step aside. Half of the workers he tasked to preparing to build a proper wall. The other half he tasked with removing as many books as they could, taking them down to a warehouse he leased near the bottom of The Hill.

“But why?” asked one of the halfling ogre twins.

“Yes, why but?”

“The removal of the books, or having you two stay by my side?”

The large pair gave a soft shrug, “Both?”

Custagine nodded softly, “Guess that’s fair. For the removal of the books, that’s simple. I want to renovate the entire library and remake it with modern materials and techniques. Something so precious as the place where books are held should have a better building. Stronger construction. Proper shelves for books, proper racks for scrolls, proper display cases for maps. And so on.”

“And no book in library make easier work doing.”

“Yes, what he say well I say too.”

Custagine nodded, “Ah. Yes. Well. I agree with you two. Besides, it’s a pretty risky move, and I don’t want the knowledge lost”

“What risk?” asked the duo.

Custagine pointed over The Pit, the gaping hole where the Curious Deities fell as, and became, the Mummy Deities, “I want to float the library over that!”

The twins oooohed a bit, then considered, “How get in do people do/”

Custagine unraveled their words a moment, before nodding some and pointing out, “Well, bridges of course. Big, arcing, stone bridges. Or maybe…” He gave his chin a tapping and thought a bit.

“Him lost in mind.”

“Yes, imagination land has visitor.”

Custagine snapped out of it after a bit, “Stone bridges would work. But someone may want to get up there faster, or safer, Maybe a few small buildings here and there about The Pit with those magical runes of teleporting so people can arrive in the library easier.”

“But how it float?”

“Yes, lots of people under it blowing hot air?”

The dwarf gave a point vaguely northwards, “The Portals have reopened and North City is once again trading with other places outside The Isles. That includes floatstone. Floatstone will make the library float.”

The twins gave a bit of a nod, agreeing with one another, “Smart, him.”

“Hey now,” Custagine blurted out to a laborer, “Careful with that!” The laborer was carting off several books at once in a wheelbarrow, the cart overloaded and dropping scrolls here and there. He looked to the halfling ogres, “Would you mind helping with those? In fact, I got a job for you two today. Someone stays at the warehouse and makes sure everything is taken care of there. The other one walks back and forth between here and there recovering anything the workers dropped. You can switch off the work whenever you two are bored of what you’re doing.”

“Do that, we can!”

“Yes, sound good it for us is!”

Custagine gave a nod, “Good. Come on back during lunch, bring me something, and I’ll treat again.”

“Yes, we do!” both said, and then ran off exhuberantly.

Custagine spent the rest of the morning inside of the library after that. He went from one area to the other, slightly nervously monitoring everything. The workers were not themselves literate, so saw no inherent value in the books they were working with. They were just here for the money they’d earn for working that day. Many would be back tomorrow. Some wouldn’t be. A few would bring friends, and new strangers would likely appear. That’s just how it worked typically in jobs like this.

But to Custagine, he wished that the workers paid a bit more attention to what they were doing. More than once he was visibly pained as a worker actually stepped on a book or a scroll that they dropped out of their wheelbarrow, or just carelessly ran the wheel of said tool right over someone else’s dropped items. Whenever he could, he’d run with his short dwarfin legs to try to save the items that he could. He chastised the workers carting the material out to be more careful, and mostly ignored what the half plastering and starting up the west wall’s repairs.

Custagine gave a loud gasp of shock as one of the workers casually tossed a gold filigree embossed book into a wheelbarrow that had already been stacked to overflowing. He managed to grab hold of the book before it fell on the floor, snatching it and holding it tight to his chest. He shouted to the entire group, “Everyone, be careful! Please!” some workers, for a time, were more careful. But as soon as Custagine’s attention was elsewhere, most drifted back to doing the work with a minimal amount of effort. And oft was the case that careful labor was tossed aside to achieve the minimal effort.

Custagine did praise the people working on the west wall, but pointed out some methods he wanted the workers to use to make sure the finished construction was secure. It was shortly after explaining a technique to one of the workers that he heard a less than polite ‘ahem’ behind and slightly above him.

He turned around to see the form of the elder human with the obvious fake hair that looked like sunburnt straw greet him with a scowl. He asked, “What do you want, Donrump?” with a short and terse voice.

“These workers are all to go home. What you are doing here is to stop immediately.”

“Excuse me?”

The human with the small hands pointed at Custagine, “This is not an approved project and you are not using Guild labor. As the head of the Guild, you are supposed to think about enriching the Guild itself. I will not allow you to run around with these charitable projects when money is to be made.”

“Excuse me?” Custagine repeated. He also noted his own hands were larger than the human’s, which is odd to him as the human had many more feet of height over him, “If I’m really head of the Guild, then I have the authority to do what I want and you’d only be able to blow hot air. You’ll be more respectful to me from now on, underling. As for this, as it’s a city project, I’m using city funds to hire citizens of the city to work on it as my duty as City Treasurer. If you have a project for the Guild to undertake that needs my approval, submit it to me. Otherwise, you have authority of your own over several divisions in the Guild, you want to make money, you go and make money.”

“Fine, I submit this, ‘sir’.” The sir was very strained. “Fire all these people. We can hire immigrant laborers for fourteen copper a piece a day. That’s a fraction of the two silver pieces you’re offering. We can then charge the city your proposed budget, artificially delay it, then charge another ten to fifteen percent on top to finish the work, calling it overage fees or incentive for expedited labor. We can make a nice profit on it.”

Custagine growled, “Not for this project! You want profit, fine, find me projects that are of little importance to the city at large and we’ll have Guild laborers work all over them. But projects important to the city, such as waterworks, food, housing repairs, and excrement removal are off limits. As is the library.”

“They’re just books. We can’t make money on them. We do not even charge people to rent them. What good are they?”

The dwarf took a step back, “What good are they? They’re a link to our past! To a future people dreamed of! To history and philosophy and the dreams of others. We can learn languages with them and see art we could never see in person. Why,” he held up the book in his hands, “This is the only copy of ‘He Whom She Loved’ in the entire kingdom, maybe the last copy in the Isles!”

“isn’t that the fairy tale?”

“Maybe,” nodded the dwarf, “But that’s not important. What is important is that this copy still exists and what is in it. True or not, it may have secrets to False Heaven that we’d never know of otherwise. It’s invaluable just on that alone.”

“We can’t get to False Heaven, we can’t sell to them, we can’t buy from them, why should I care?”

Custagine scowled at Donrump, “Didn’t you own a bunch of casinos in the casino mecca of Chance, only for them to go out of business five times?”

Donrump look indignant, “I fail to see the point!”

“The point is, you obviously can not see the true value of things. Now I’m giving you an order as Guildmaster. There’s three of you that report directly to me, I want to see all three of you here tomorrow morning. Then, I never want to see you at the library again.”

Donrump gave a scowl, sneering at the dwarf. He did not reply, only instead turned and quickly walked off.

As this talk went on into the early portion of the lunch hour, Custagine was left finishing the talk with only two witnesses about, the halfling ogres, who had returned with lunch. All the other laborers had went off in small groups to find their own meal. The duo asked, “What problem him?”

“Don’t worry about it, friends.” He looked into the bag, smiling in satisfaction at the gnome food brought to him, “Donrump is just a small minded man with small hands.”

“You know what say hands small of man.”

“Yes, Not grip big things able to do.”

Custagine did not get the joke, if there was one. He just gave a short nod and a shrug, “Anyway. I was wondering, what are your names?”

“Bop am I. Bop he not is.”

“Bash not he. Bash me I.”

“So you’re Bop and Bash?”

“No,” said the duo, “Me and he Bash and Bop.”

Custagine looked from one to the other, then shrugged, “Alright. I can follow that.” He couldn’t, but they did not need to know, “But I wonder, who gave you the names?”


“I do not know much, but I know with species who have parents, the parents give the children names. But you two are orphans, aren’t you?”

The halfling ogres nodded, “Parents no have do we,” they said.

“Can I ask what happened to them?”

The one that Custagine thought was called Bop said, “We killed in birth mom person.”

“Dad person druid ogre. Big. Powerful. Not know him did birth we were.”

Custagine gave a short nod at that. So apparently their dad never knew he impregnated their mother, and she died giving birth to half-ogre twins. Then he asked with his eyes bulging some, “Your MOTHER was the human?”

“Big mom!”

“Mom huge! Had to be!”

Custagine nodded again, sighing, “Sorry to hear that. So who named you?”

“Other kids orphans.”

“Lots and lots, named us they did.”

The dwarf asked, “Have you ever wondered what your intended names were to be?”



“Names are important,” said Custagine, as he began to ate his lunch, “Because they tell you who you’re supposed to be. Who your parents wanted you to be. The dreams they had for your future.”

“Fake names make fake future?”

“No good is that, good future we want.”

“How we do get real names?”

Custagine looked from one to the other and back, then shrugged, “If your mother wrote your names down somewhere, you could read them.”



“Why not?” asked the dwarf.

“No read can we,” said both halflings.

Custagine gave a short nod, “I can teach you. Or I can read it for you if you found anything.”

“Look will we!”

“Maybe stash of our treasure young it be!”

The trio ate for a bit more before Custagine asked, “Out of curiosity, how many wheelbarrows full of books made it to the warehouse?”

“Me count ten fingers and one finger. And again eight fingers and lastly five fingers.”

“Do me count nine fingers. Then six fingers. Then that it, cause here we come.”

Custagine added it up, “I thought I counted forty nine wheelbarrows being carted out. That makes ten unaccounted for.”

The halflings kept eating for awhile, because hungry, they were. Finally they asked, “Huh?”

Custagine shrugged and shook his head, “Something for me to worry about. In the meantime, I got an idea for you both.”

“Oh! Boss good ideas we like!”

The dwarf gave a short smile, “Ah, thanks. How would you two like to guard this place at night?”

They both frowned, “No like!”

“Why not?”

The twins stated, “Day work, night work, sleep none.”

The dwarf parsed this and nodded, “Ah. Of course I mean you’d only have to work at night. The daytime you can use for anything you want, such as sleep.”

“And playing kids?”

Custagine nodded, “And playing with the children.”

The twins looked at each other, then nodded, “OK, we guards. Boss, bye.” Then the two went off, taking the rest of the day off. They figured they started night work now, so day work was over. As they left, they talked to one another about which groups of kids to play with this afternoon.

Custagine: A Peaceful Job 3

Custagine went right up The Hill the next day, early as he could. He only stopped by a small food vendor on the way to grab breakfast, today it was a course but filling Ogre treat. It was hearty and filling and good for a day’s work, but it was not very tasty. Ogres were really dumb, and they never learned proper ways to cook. But they did it well enough.

He arrived at the top of The Hill with a bright smile, and headed towards the Library, each step he took brought  that smile down until it turned first into a frown, then a scowl.

Only two people were here.

“What’s going on here?” he started off, “Who are you two, and where’s everyone else?”

“Well, sir, see, it’s like this,” started one.

“Our boss, he say it a simple job. Not need many people. Only send us.”

Custagine went to the side of the Library with the great gaping hole in the wall, pointing to it, “Does that look simple?” Then he quickly followed up with, “Are one of you even a carpenter?”

Both men looked at one another, gave a shrug, and shook their head. The one offered, “We’re just general laborers.”

“Yeah,” said the other, “You know, lifting, hauling, stuffs like that.”

Custagine looked from one to the other with a sigh, “I…fine. Alright. Which of you knows the city the best?”

They each pointed at one another and said, “Him does.”

Custagine gave the two a look over. They were mostly human, but had something different about them. Taller, heavier. Hairier, sloping foreheads. Bigger noses and ears. He asked, “Half-ogres?”

“Twins!” they both said gleefully.

Yes, Custagine now saw the family resemblance. He shrugged a bit with a sigh, “Your mother must be proud. Alright, you both know the city well?” He glanced at one halfling – the term used for anyone who is half of one species and half of another – to the other and back again, “Huh.”

“Yes,” said the one twin, “It is confusing.”

“Even we do not know which of us is really us,” offered the other.

“Of that I have no doubt. Alright, let’s do this. I’m going to write up a bunch of posters looking for more workers. When I’m done, I want you to post them across the city. Can you do that?”

“Sure, that’s something we can do.”


Custagine shrugged, “Good for me. OK, you, the one on the right, you. When we’re done, you walk down that hill and post the posters all over the city to your right. And you on the left, you do it to the left side of the city. OK?” Custagine had little doubt the brothers did not understand east from west.

Both nodded their heads, then started to sit down.

“Wait wait!” started the dwarf, “Hold up. This will take awhile, so you can’t just sit around, you need to do something.” He pointed to the Library, “You see that destroyed section?”

Both halflings nodded, “Yes, looks back. Nasty. Very bad. We sad.”

“Why’s that?” asked Custagine.

“Like library,” says one.

“Like reading,” the other states.

“You two can read?”

Both nodded eagerly, “About the only thing we can do well!”

The dwarf gave a rub of his chin, “Well, shows me for judging. Alright, while I’m writing up the posters, you two go in the Library and take all the books from the ruined part of it and put it in the good part of it. The really bad books put in the center hall so I can look at those later. Can you do that?”

Both gave a quick nod, “Sure, of course!”

Custagine quickly amended, “Without spending all your time reading them?”

The duo looked at one another, then shrugged, “Probably?”

Custagine gave a faint, “Good enough,” then clapped them both on the shoulders, “Alright, make me proud. I can’t wait to see how hard you two work!”

The two halfling ogres ran off into the library, only to smack into the door frame. They both tried their best to enter in at the same time that they stuck themselves together. Being that neither was very bright and both wanted to be first in, neither thought to angle themselves in a way to let the other in first.

So Custagine had to shove them both forward on their lower backs, then went about. He moved over to one of the larger buildings, where the Council holds supplies, grabbing writing utensils, lots of poster papers and a portable desk of short stature that you can use as a lap desk. He took them all back to the hilly area before the Library, and began to do his own tasks. A few small rocks kept the used and unused papers from blowing away.

A few people came strolling by on their way from one location upon The Hill to another, or from the city itself to a location here, but he did not really pay attention to them. Once he was in his work, Custagine kept his mind focused. He was so focused that he did not notice his assistant, Donrump, move by him in mid-morning, giving the dwarf a sneer.

Sometime before lunch, the twin halflings stepped on over to him and blocked his sunlight, casting two huge shadows over him and his paperwork, “Done, we is!”

Custagine finished one more poster before looking up, asking, “What?”

“Done, we is!” they said in unison again.

Custagine glanced to the Library, then the daylight, then gave a nod, “Ah, well. Very good. Do you two have any money?”

“Yes, we carry coins.”

“Good, good,” Custagine pointed downwards, “How about you guys go take a lunch break. Go ahead and grab whatever you like and bring me back something. I’ll pay you back for all our meals.”

“Oh, good boss!” said one.

“Yes, much loyalty we give you!” said the other.

Custagine gave a fond smile, then added, “You can either take your time and return after the typical lunch hour is over, so you have a long break, or you can come back earlier and put the posters up when you return. Once they’re up, you’re done for the day and can go home.”

“Good boss, but tough boss.”

“Yes, hard decisions to be made.”

“How so?” asked Custagine.

“Not mind nap after lunch, we do,” offered the first.

“Uh huh,” said the second, “But also not mind being home early, play with our kids.”

Custagine gave an eyebrow quirk at that. Kids. These two had kids, plural. He gave a short shrug, smiling, “Well, I’m sure you two will make a good decision.”

“Maybe one of us will take the nap,” said one.

“And the other of us will go home early,” said the other.

Custagine looked from one ogre halfling to the other and shrugged, “May work. Bring me back something, remember. Just no ogre cuisine, ate that for breakfast.” He then looked about the non-existent workforce, frowning and muttering under his breath, “For no good reason.”

The two ran off, skipping a few steps. Custagine gave a short sigh, then went back to work. He lost himself in thought as he drew out the posters. They had pictures of The Hill, the picture of what most people see a laborer, which was a stick figure and a pickaxe, and pictures of the coins being paid for each day’s worth of work. Then he wrote out in the most commonly used language, that of humans, on the bottom the details of what he was looking for.

Suddenly, Custagine’s daylight was shadowed by the forms of the two halfling ogres. He looked up curiously, asking, “Back already? But you weren’t gone long.”

“No, but can be fast, us two are.”

“Yes. Bring food back, did we.”

“Course you did,” said Custagine. He finished the poster he was working on and set it in the finished pile, then asked, “What did you get?”

“Foxling food,” said the one.

“Good meat. Very good.”

Custagine began to wonder if the duo always talked in order, for her had noticed that they tended to talk in a way almost to finish or at least compliment the other’s sentences. Like one had the mindset to start a sentence and the other was better at finishing. He just shrugged and nodded, “Sounds good. Join me?”

“Eat with you, us do?” the duo asked.

“Sure, why not?”

“Much loyalty,” said the one halfling.

His twin agreed, “Earned much, good boss.”

“So, which did you two decide on?” asked Custagine as he took out his spiced and finely chopped meat sandwich from the bag the duo  offered to him.

“Early go home, play with our kids.”

“Children are future, after all.”

Custagine gave a short shrug, pointing out, “I wouldn’t know. But I guess it’s true.”

“Why not you know?”

“Yes, no children have you do?”

The dwarf gave a sigh, frowning, “Sadly, no. No dwarf knows their own children.”

“Oh, sad that is,” said one comfortingly.

“Yes, children good. They like you, but better.”

Then the duo said together, “And sex fun.”

Custagine looked from one to the other, stating, “You know, I’ve always heard that, but I still do not understand what sex is.”

The two ogre halflings gave a collective gasp so deep that it almost created an atmospheric disturbance, then very frenziedly they began to explain, extremely poorly and not very intelligibly what sex is, what made it enjoyable, and why they try to have it as often as possible. It left a rather bad taste in Custagine’s mouth, the dwarf barely understanding it more but liking it quite a bit less.

As the two were speaking, animatedly and obscenely, several members of the Council and the Overlord passed by. Custagine didn’t offer them a nod, out of social concern for them. He wagered the did not want to associate with him currently, due to his companions being so vulgar, and gave that respect. After lunch was done, he offered the stack of finished posters and said to the brothers, “Remember, one of you to the right of the city and one to the left. Post them all, not too close to one another, and when you run out you can go home.” He then dug out of his coin purse what he owed for everyone’s lunch and the day’s wages for the duo. Then he gave each a small bit extra.

“Very boss good!”

“Yes, but work to do then home we must!”

“Play with kids again! Hurray!”

Custagine stood up with a sigh and walked over to the Library. He studied the work, giving a soft hmm of satisfaction, “Not bad at all, actually. I should have given a better tip.” The duo had near completely recovered all the books from the ruined west wing and placed them into the east. The ones they did not were all in neat piles. He spent his afternoon moving those and studying the whole he did, seeing how to rebuild it. Often, he’d gaze into The Pit just  below the opening and gaping former location of the west wall, thoughtful.

Then when he was done for the day, he left. The Overlord came near, asking, “How went today?”

“Not as good as I’d have hoped, honestly. I thought I’d have more workers.”

“Give it a few days. You have great workers in the two you were with today.”

“Oh? The two halflings?” asked the dwarf.

The elf gave a nod, “Yes, they’ve been very helpful. Lots of the city had them to thank for aiding them. Good with the kids, too.”

“So they said. Hey…they don’t eat them, right?”

The elf gentleman snorted, “My, no! Why do you ask?”

The dwarf sighed, “Folk tales of my people said ogres would eat other people.”

“No no. They love kids, and kids tend to love them. Must be because of their simple personalities, they’re pretty childlike themselves. Of course, to an elf…”

Custagine gave a tilt of his head, “Wait, you say kids. Not their kids. Why?”

“Halflings are not capable of reproducing of course.”

No Story, So Setting Info

Couldn’t write a story last night, so have some setting information instead.


The Godswar was a gigantic war that took place between the Curious Deities and their proxies, the mortal peoples. Elfs were assigned as generals of the war. The Curious Deities came in three camps, the Selfish, the Selfless and the Self-Aware, ten male and ten female deities per camp, making a total of 60 deities. Each deity also brought, created, or altered the various species to add sixty intelligent species to the Isles in addition to the native humans. No one knows anything about the Godswar, no one can recall. People just know it was fought and, at the end of it, the Curious Deities became the Mummy Deities and fell to the centermost point of the Isles. Shortly after this happened, a foreign devil and his minions tried to use this void, but the Seven Heroic Wonders (of which there are eight, but historians are bad at facts!) destroyed the foreign devil and the other commanders of his.


False Heaven is full of incredibly powerful humans and a rare few members of other species, usually there by invitation. They were a wildcard faction in the Godswar, able to more or less stand up to a Curious Deity. After the Godswar (and later during the ‘Saving the World’ arc), several of them declare themselves the New Deities, but most of the Isles are tired of deities so call them False Deities. False Heaven is about the same size as one of the seven ‘smaller’ isles, except that it flies at about the height of a low cloud. Many theorize that False Heaven actually was one of the smaller Isles, and say it was likely Magic Isle.


The ‘smaller’ Isles are not very small at all. They’re each about the size of England and Wales, give or take. The main island is about the size of Australia plus three of the ‘smaller’ Isles together. The focus of the ‘Saving the World’ arc is on the main isle, but future arcs will be set on the smaller isles. The isles are:


1-Twin Isle, which is really one isle with a gigantic lake in the middle of it. Lots of marine life have a colony in this lake, so Dolphinoids, Piscethons and others will be found here easier.

2-Dark Isle, which only gets as bright as a day during a solar eclipse. Shadowborn tend to live here, but there’s a large population of sun-fearing dwarfs here as well.

3-Wild Isle is where creatures like no other exist. Further, the terrain is extreme. It’s not just a forest there, it’s a primeval forest that other forests only aspire to be. Mountain are not just mountains, they’re natural skyscrapers.

4-City Isle is one gigantic city. From one coast to the other, it’s a full city and nothing but. Food is grown on rooftop gardens, in parks the size of a few city parks, and fished out of the sea. Much of it is imported. It is an urban maze that even natives of the Isle get confused in. Each city block has its own style, and small neighborhoods tend to act like smaller cities within the larger one.

5-Jungle Isle is a jungle’s jungle. The undergrowth is as tall as a grown man and the overgrowth is a full canopy. Few people live in the depths, any signs of civilization tend to be along the coastline. Life here is savage, often short, and tends to be more primitive.

6-Desert Isle is one giant desert with a river running through it. Said river ebbs and flows depending on rain and luck. It has several ruined cities in the middle of it and three main ones near the coasts. Ancient pyramids dot the landscape. Giant reptiles run wild across the sand. One of the Heroic Wonders, Blwthwyle, is native to this isle.

7-Ice Isle is a polar paradise. Snow and ice everywhere, the temperatures are barely above freezing on a good day and typically dip below zero. It is somewhat warmer on the coastline, where warm ocean winds will sometimes blow in, so most civilization is found there. Native animals include giant wooly beasts. There’s supposed to be an ancient wise woman trapped in the ice in this Isle.


Then there are two other major locations, which is the underground of the Isles, which can link any and all of the Isles together in long, winding tunnels. The other is the moon, which does not orbit the planet of the Isles. Here, the world of the Isles is so large, the moon actually ‘orbits’ around the Isles, not circling about them like ours would, but running in a circle like a pendulum might. It circles around the region of the Isles, but stays basically where it is in space. In here, the moon is what actually gives daylight

Custagine: A Peaceful Job 2

Custagine knew what his first job as the Treasurer of Blade was going to be. He wanted to reinforce the giant crater with dwarfin earthworks techniques, so there was little risk of further buildings slipping into the hole. Once that was done, he desired to send teams down into the hole to demolish the buildings much too dangerous to use and reinforce the supports for the buildings that could still function safely.

The Overlord readily agreed and quickly issued an edict to make it official.

The next day, while settling into his new home, he drew up the plans for the bulwarks as well as projected amounts of supplies and laborers needed for the first three phases. He’d need to verify this with others, people with more experience in the field, people who could see difficulties of the project one pair of eyes could not, but for a first draft, he was very much pleased.

Looking over the plans for errors he may have missed caused him to chuckle. The foundation of this project lay in old dwarfin fortifications for war, when they had to defend themselves against Saurid invasions. He was quite pleased that he could used concepts of war for the peaceful purpose of housing. It made him smile deep inside.

Custagine saw that is was later in the evening, quite later than he had expected, really. And he had not eaten all day. He packed up his paperwork in a safe carrying case then set off to find some dinner, then off to the daily informal meeting of the Council.

Custagine heard that, in the City of Blade, there’s one place to eat. The Avenue of Cuisine, which is actually four roads and an old gatehouse. The centerpoint, the old gatehouse, is one of the old gatehouses from the days when the first city wall existed, that which split New City from Old City. Without much use any longer, the gatehouse permanently had the portcullis in the upper position and the gate open, the gatehouse itself converted into two big restaraunts. Seating with a view was atop the gate’s towers.

But that was just a small part of the Avenue of Cuisine. The eastern and western running roads on both sides of the gate, in New City and Old City, were where most of the food was really at. Street vendors lined the roadways in the New City, for they couldn’t afford real establishments. In the slightly wealthier Old City, the newer construction allowed for places designed just to be eateries. Long dining halls, small cafes, hole in the wall family joints, Old City had all kinds of places to eat.

One could walk down just these four roads and eat across all the Isles of Doom.

Custagine had a slight impasse, however. Dwarfs do not eat for pleasure, they just do it to survive, just like everything else they do. And he knows if you’re here, eat for pleasure. He slung his carrying case across his chest, safely, and walked into the section of the New City that had its part of the Avenue of Cuisine. Mostly to satisfy his gnawing hunger and partially to get into the mindset of eating, he took a few things from a few street vendors to eat on the walk.

He grabbed a few sticks of sweetmeats, a vegetable soup which he found surprisingly delicious, and a small bag of ‘Corn That T’were Popped’. He didn’t ask how or why it was popped, or what popping even meant, but he was pleased with it.

But those were just appetizers at best. If he was only going to eat one meal this day, it had to be larger. So he went off towards the Old City section of the Avenue of Cuisine and strolled alongside the walkway where all the fronts of the eateries rested against.

Each of the establishments had written in its own native language what it served. As there were sixty different people in the Isles, this would be extremely confusing to anyone not of that species, or had not learned that particular language. It made for a beautiful chaos of words, but it was still just a chaos until you focused. Luckily, each of them also wrote the same information in the one language everyone uses.

The human tongue.

He knew he was not interested in dwarfin food today, though it may be a safe bet for him. He wanted to experiment, to try something he had not before. He knew Netherbrain food was right out, for they found neural matter to be the height of delicacies. Elfin food was something for a very refined palate, and even though both Blwthwyle and Moonlight Kiss cooked elfin staples for the Heroic Wonders, he still was not used to it. So he simply strolled down the street, passing by places that sold those three cuisines, looking for something else.

Dolphinoid food smelled pretty good, but he noticed that it was all fish. Fish was one food no dwarf ate, for no fish exist in large numbers underground. so he started to pass by them also. As he could not eat rocks and minerals, ‘Goyle places were likewise skipped.

He came to be in front of a Shadowborn establishment. He remembered Rudricke stating on a few occasions that the best food in the Isles are the Shadowborn’s. He rememberd Ironguts fighting that Runner food was the best each time that came up, asking Rudricke why Shadowborn food would be so much better.

“Because, friend Ironguts,” Rudricke would explain, “The Shadowborn have a very diminished sense of taste. Further, it seems, of their sense of music and pleasures of the…ah…other pleasures. So to make up for these deficincies, Shadowborn learn the best techniques and use the best ingredients, so they can have even a fraction of the taste in the food that we would taste easily.”

That was good reasoning for him, so the first Shadowborn place he saw, a smaller place with only seven seats, was where he decided to eat.

Now, he did not know what the food was, he wasn’t aware of the names of each dish. So he asked the chef as he took a seat, “Something with meat, no fish. Some vegertables. Sauces. A stew or soup perhaps, though looking for something less liquid focused than those.”

The chef gave a nod, his grey face giving a slight twist as he thought of what a dwarf may like that fits those criteria. Then he began to make Custagine’s meal.

“Not very crowded tonight,” Custagine said to break the silence.

The grey skinned man kept silent for a bit as he concentrated to precisely cut the food in front of him, using a small knife on a carrot to precisely carve said vegetable into a pagoda. Once done, he nodded, “Not very crowded most nights.”

Custagine inhaled deeply and sighed, “Shame. This place has a nice smell to it.”

“Lots of spices.”

“Is that so?” Custagine gave a rub of his chin, “Hey, tell me, does everyone along the Avenue of Cuisine use spices in their foods?”

The cook looked at Custagine curiously and shrugged, “Not sure. Probably?”

“Nine out of every ten?”

“Not sure. Probably…seven out of ten. Maybe more. Maybe nine out of ten.”

“Maybe, huh…” Spices. That could be something he’s looking for. He knows he wanted to diversify from just having a gold based economy, but not sure what else to use. But spices, if in enough use, just may be it.

“Yeah, anyway, here you go, food. You want a drink?”

“Ah, yeah. Any bee…actually.” He smiled to the cook, “Whatever you have that you think will go with this best.”

“Yeah, sure, got what you want.”

Custagine was about to dig right in, before noticing the food. It was mostly meat with some vegetables. But the meet was cut precisely to form specific shapes. Namely, words in Dwarfin for ‘Good Eats’. The carrot that was carved into a pagoda stuck upright out of a sauce for dipping the rest of the food in, the sauce of two colors that intermingled like a painter’s brush just glided across them. Potatoes formed a field with which peas and corn played a sport upon. Custagine kept on staring for a bit, before going, “Hey…”

“You eat with your eyes first.”

Custagine looked from the chef to the food. He stared at it for a time. Then he had an itch in his mind when he had an idea that could be barely contained and he felt that he just learned an important life lesson. He gave a short laugh and agreed, “So it is!”

The meal was, to put it simply, quite delicious and Custagine was very pleased. To the sullen joy of the chef, Custagine would visit for dinner at least once a week for as long as h e was in the City of Blade. Whenever he left on business, it was often the place he would go first when returning to the city. He had other favorite eateries, including some run by other Shadowborn, but something about this place held a place in his heart.

He arrived just in time to the informal council meeting. Happening almost daily, barring weather or festivals, or the actual weekly council meeting, it was more of a social gathering than one of council business. To be sure, some of that was discussed, but mostly topics to finalize what was voted on before or ideas to vote on later. Never debates.

It was always held in one of the oldest cafes in the city, over drinks, upon the outdoors veranda. It gave a beautiful view of the city. Typically.

The cafe abutted against the crater within the hill. across the street from it, the City Library, with one portion of the West Wing of it destroyed and fallen away into aid pit. The exterior wall was never repaired, the wing completely open to the elements and thieves.

Custagine quickly gave his presentation about the bulwarks and recovering use of buildings fallen inside the pit. Then he packed his material up and barely stayed around while the council members talked gently amongst themselves, generally agreeing on the merits of his plans. By the time they agreed to vote on it next regular meeting, he was almost across the street.

Custagine stared across the open wall with a deep frown, his hands balled into fists, knuckles turning white. What he saw almost brought him to tears while desiring to yell to the heavens simultaneously. Books were being destroyed due simply to exposure to the sun, wind and rain. This was a terrible sight to him.

While dwarfs did not have books of their own, when he first arrived in the outside world, he discovered the usefulness and pleasure books incarnate. He asked Blwthwyle to teach him to read, and whenever he could, he was reading through one book or another. Any topic, and genre, learning or pleasure, he’d read whenever he had time and whatever he had at hand.

A library was almost a religious structure, and this was almost a desecration.

Custagine quickly tromped back, giving a soft wave to the other council members as he passed by them, moving as fast as his shor dwarf legs could take him. He headed not back to his home, but to the headquarters of the guild. He had to do something about this, quickly.

“Ah, sir, good evening,” came the secretary in the lobby, “We are almost closing for the eve…oh, sir. I didn’t know it was you, sir.’


“Pardon, sir?”

“My name is Custagine.”

The human demurred softly, rubbing his hair a bit, “Ah, yes sir, it is, I know that. But as you’re the head of the-”

“Then I decree you and anyone else who would call me ‘sir’ instead call me Custagine.”

“Sir, that is…I mean…it’s rther uncouth.”

Custagine walked on through, “I’m a dwarf, I live for practicality, not social graces! Now send in my deputy!”

“Which one, sir?”

“Custa…what do you mean, which one?”

“You have three deputy heads that serve under you directly, sir. Er. Custagine, sir. Sir Custagine.”

The dwarf gave a shrug, “Do I? Send in whoever’s here.” He then finished his trek into his temporary office. His real one was still being renovated. Custagine had already grabbed new papers and began to work on new plans, to save the City Library.

“You asked for me, sir?”

“Custagine,” grumbled the dwarf.

“Right, sorry, the secretary told me,” the human said as he entered in, shutting the door behind him. He glanced at the papers, asking, “How can I help you?”

“How many laborers do we have right now not currently on project?”

The human, an older elderly man with a set of straw colored false hair atop his bald head shrugged, “I’d need to figure specific, but I think about five heads and…”

“Good, that’s enough for now. I want to put them to work.”

“Certainly, doing what?”

“Rebuilding the West Wing of the City Library,” Custagine said quickly.

The elderly human gave a shrug, “And who is paying for it?”

Custagine gave a short, “Huh?”

“We do nothing if it does not bring profit. Who is paying for the project?”

“I don’t know! Just do it!”


“It will put people to work.”

“Yes, but can’t,” repeated the human.

“And why not? And don’t give me profit.”

The human shrugged, “Nothing can be done for free, even if we may want to do it. I couldn’t care less about that ancient abode of books, myself. However, if someone were paying for it, I’d pretend to care as much as their gold earned.”

“Knowledge is always profitable, deputy.”

“Is it, sir?”

The dwarf stomped his foot, “I’m not arguing this with you. We’re putting something up against the exposed wall to protect what’s inside. I don’t care how the money is earned, whether I have the city pay for it, or issue a tax break to us for it, or some other means. I’ll pay for it myself. But you…whatever your name is….will start to make this happen, now. I want those five heads and their teams on site at the break of dawn tomorrow.”

“Donrump, sir.”

“Excuse me?”

“My name, is Donrump. And I will…just this once…start the project off without proper procedures. But I must warn you, this is not something that will happen often. Money first, then work or product.”

“Fine,” grumbled Custagine, “So long as we’re agreed tonight. This will be good.”

“Good does not bring gold.”

Custagine: A Peaceful Job 1


“Peace is the only thing you have to fight to take, that once you have, you must share to use it,” is something that, according to Custagine’s uncle, his father would say.

Custagine never knew his father. No dwarf ever could. The next generation of dwarfs are born, literally, from the corpse of their father. A mono-gender species of all males, the dwarf lifecycle is simple. Once a dwarf dies, its body hardens into stone and becomes a statue. As that happens, their internal organs turn into maggots and burrow into the ground. Those maggots will seek out rocks and ores and then grow within that rock. After a random amount of time, they’ll spring forth physically fully formed but mentally still in need of nurturing. So typically their uncle will educate them, should any of the uncles still be alive.

As a strong, typically hard to kill people, the dwarf clans were often asked to provide troops to various groups for war, and thus they rarely knew peace.It seemed like a strange and alien concept, something far off in a dreamlike realm. It was like water to a drowning person in a desert or gold to the greedy in debt. Peace was like that to Custagine, a concept that was so foreign and strange it just crept into his brain always. Forever there, always itching at his consciousness.

He knew not how many he slew, if he killed at all, or for that matter, what he slew, when fighting in the Godswar. Like every participant of the Godswar, no one knew what they did in it. No one knew who they fought for, nor against, nor alongside of. He just had feelings and fleeting glimpses at the edge of his soul the things he may have done during the battles, and he liked it not at all. He liked not who he thought he was during the time when he knew not whom he was.

Being assigned as the head of the guilds was an accomplishment he enjoyed. Sure, there was some fighting to get him completely seated, but his clan had the most prestige amongst the dwarf clans, and the few merchant houses not owned by dwarfs reluctantly agreed in exchange for certain trading rights. He was not privy to the final negotiations, it was all a conflict, which he did not want to partake of, for he was sick of conflict of any kind at this point. Being one that abhorred ceremony also, he eschewed one of those and simply and humbly acceped the regalia of his office and the paperwork giving him his authority.

In no real rush to start his position, Custagine took a leisuerely path around the main Isle from his clan’s homeland. He still desired to make it to the city of Blade before his appointment officially began, to be sure, but he saw the sights of the world as he went by. He was curious about the world he helped fight to save. about the people who live in part to his actions, about the beasts who continue to exist because of his efforts.

Custagine stopped for a time at Betrayal Bridge. A large, ornamented all stone bridge spanning a wide chasm that was almost halfway between his own clan’s homelands, the Kingdom of Blade, and the southern end of the Kingdom of Moohs, it had been constructed with great care and obvious defensive value. Each end of the span had been built as a powerful gatehouse, with a pair of defensive towers on each side of each gate. The wide bridge was further defended in the middle, where two more powerful gatehouses had been built upon the bridge with their towers anchored into the side of the bridge where the span of the bridge and the supporting columns met together. The oddest thing about Betrayal Bridge lay in the fact that no country lays claim to it, nor has records of its construction. Betrayal Bridge, it is said, just is. As a show of goodwill between neighboring nations, none held a monopoly on guarding the bridge. Either no guards were posted at the bridge, or each of the region’s powers supplied an exact number of guards for it, typically four, one for each guard station. Currently, no one was guarding the bridge. This would typically invite bandits and opportunists to take residence within, but none have yet taken over.

As a dwarf who lived most of their life underground, Custagine had some knowledge of stonework that humans just did not. The bridge was quite simply, beautiful. From all viewpoints. It was built perfectly, the stonework was well designed, the placement and arches and details all perfect. It was obvious to him that love went into the building of this bridge. And it was strange to know that no one ever claimed to being its creator.

While he’d have enjoyed taking in the view here, not just of the bridge, but the large trees nearby and the deep chasm the bridge spanned, he could not. He gave a last look downwards, seeing the craggy upthrusts of the ground within the chasm and the fog that nearly eternally clung to the rocks far below, then trekked onwards.

One uneventful journey later got him to the city of Blade a day before he was to take up his position as head of guilds. He was greeted at the gate by a few guards and given a small escort of two of them. They took him not to his assigned residence, nor his new workplace. They took him to the Palace of the Overlord.

From the gate to the Palace was quite the journey in itself. It seems the newest buildings were closest to the city walls. The buildings were created almost haphazardly, with residences right next to industry and long stretches of businesses intermingled with more houses in between. Most were built of stone, almost all of them were built uniquely. While many were the approximate size of humans, Giants did exist in the City of Blade and they could not live in such small houses. So very many houses were built on a gigantic scale, each one being built approximately the size of a city block and five stories in height.

Elfin houses were never built of stone, they were all wood, and not worked wood. They lived in houses of living wood, with leaves still blooming across the walls and roofing. Dolphinoids lived in magical water spheres, their homes just big balls of water that existed here or there. Being very social beings and having no concept of shame or privacy, they paid no attention to anyone who stared into their housing to watch them.

The irony of this portion of the city was that, even though the housing and the other buildings seemed to be really new, it was called the Old City.

The New City of Blade lay beyond, where the flatlands of Blade started up the Hill of Blade. In ancient times of long ago, the Hill of Blade was a meeting place for human tribes all over. Legend has it that it was here, before the Curious Deities arrived at the Isles of Doom, that a great leader united all the tribes of humans together. Here, on the hill, that leader proclaimed a desire for peace and snapped his own blade in half. He asked all the other tribal leaders to do the same, and after assurances of how to live together in peace and a formation of a new civilization, they did so. Then, they buried all their broken blades and left to live in peace for a time, until the Curious Deities arrived and ruined that dream. Custagine could admire those ancient humans, and despise those deceased deities.

The New City was so named because the original city of Blade, oft called the Original City nowadays, was built on the top of the hill, with its own set of walls. When the city continued to grow and population scaled unabated, people were forced to build outside the first city walls, making the new city. Built centuries ago, the New City was very old and falling apart. Houses were just as much ruined as fanciful. Broken walls were boarded up by any material their owner could find, be it wooden planks, stones, bricks, or in some cases, rusted bits of armor. Roofs were often sunken in, sometimes with gaping holes in them.

The people of New City were just as intermingled as those of Old City, neighbors being of any of the siixty species plus humans. Humans were still the dominant in terms of population, but the other peoples all were jointly involved and existing in this living community. New City did not belong to any one people, it belonged to the people of New City. And they were fiercely proud of their part of the City of Blade that had very long ago seen the last of its good days.

Custagine crested the hill to where the Original City of Blade lain. The sight shocked him, for there was a gigantic crater in the hill with buildings barely clinging to the ground that was their foundation. The Original City of Blade was devastated, it looked like a wasteland. Worse, it looked like a wasteland that had been the victim of two natural disasters preceding a meteor impact.

And that wasn’t far gone from the truth. At the end of the Godswar, the Curious Deities, now deceased, fell to the Isles of Doom as the Mummy Deities. More to the point, they fell into the Hill of Blade, burying themselves deep into the ground within the hill. This had destroyed most of the Original City, nearly eighty percent of the hill’s top being a vacant gaping hole in the earth that marked the tomb of once powerful deities.

The people of the Original City had rebuilt some of what they could. This was where the wealthy and noble lived. This was where the premiere merchants resided. This was where the artisans birthed culture that others imitated. This was where the curious fell dead. If those of the New City were proud of their region of the City of Blade, the survivors of the Original City were doubly so. Fiercely proud of who and what survived, they did their best to rebuild what survived or incorporate the surviving ruins into the newer construction.

The Palace of the Overlord, the ruling center of the Kingdom of Blade, was, of course, at the center of the Original City of Blade. And, of course, it did not survive the impact at all, it was splintered into fragments and lay down below amongst the Mummy Deities. The current Palace of the Overlord was ironically named. Along the edge of the hill that did survive, where the original wall had fallen apart, overlooking the New City and Old City, was an outhouse. And on that outhouse hung a golden sigil that used to be one of the door knockers of the original Palace of the Overlord’s kitchens. As many records as possible that could be saved rested in the New Archives, which was nothing but a fire pit with the chimney caved in and a bit of metal bolted on a swivel to close the pit itself to keep the precious papers safe was it in its entirety.

“Welcome, Custagine! I’d invie you to my throne room, but it gets crowded quickly.” The Overlord was fairly quick to joke about his own predicament, for, as an elf, moreover as Blwthwyle’s father, he understood that change was always and forever happening. And that some change may be for the better and some may not, and you must simply accept that nothing will last forever. Not even an immortal elf.

“Thank you, my friend.” While Custagine and the other Heroic Wonders were friends, he knew Blwthwyle’s father long before he knew her, and long before he moved to Blade, much less became its Overlord. It was a quiet, but firm, friendship, one where they could pick up exactly where they left it decades agone. Custagine looked out at the view before him, then said curiously, “I’ve always wondered, why is the Old City the newer constuction and the New City the older one?”

“The New City is so named because it was newer than the Original City. That, of course, makes sense,” said the Overlord. Then he pointed outwards, “And nowadays you’ll rarely find someone who understands this, but what we call the Old City now used to be the Walled City, for it lay between the two walls that circle the city. The death of the Curious Deities made it so that the area we now call Old City took the name out of irony, for there’s a newer city in Blade.”

“Oh? Just where can you fit another part of this gigantic city?”

“Right here, of course. Where the Original City was we’re rebuilding. Residents have taken to calling it the Newest City of Blade. I suppose in the future, if we expand again, they may need to rename it to the Almost Newest City or something. But that’s a problem for another year.”

“Where would you expand, though? The walls are sturdy and aren’t moving, and building walls that could encircle yet another Old City’s worth of land space would be prohibitive.”

“Yes, I’ve thought of that. But there’s another city already, here.”


“Why, there, the Buried City of Blade.” The Overlord pointed into the giant pit, and Custagine could finally see, or rather he now noticed, that old houses had landed upon outcroppings, or melded into the sides of the pit, or stacked upon one another. Parts of houses were clumped together, obviously springing from what used to be multiple different residences, with rope bridges spanning the ways and forming what could very liberally be considered streets.

As he was taking all this in, he whistled, “That just shows the strength and resiliency in the citizens of Blade.”

“Agreed. But I was also thinking of beyond the walls, also. A city without walls about it. Maybe the Expansion City of Blade. A city that continues to grow outwards as far and wide as need be.”

“Interesting,” Custagine imagined it. Then he asked, “Have you ever thought of building upwards, as well?”

“No, maybe I should! The Upper City of Blade!”

“You people sure like your various cities.”

The Overlord gave a brief laugh and a shrug, “Perhaps. We’re a united people, deep down, you can’t spite any citizen of Blade, anywhere they lived, without spiting others from all over the city. When invaders march against us, we all unite together as one. But even so united, even being one gigantic family, we do have our own peculiarities. Our own cuisines, our own slang, our own vision of what the City of Blade really is. We’re fiercely involved in whichever region of the city we call home and are competitive with the rest about our love for our chosen region.”

“You seem to love this city.”

“More than anything,” the Overlord agreed. Then he laughed and told a joke only an elf can make, “I’ll die an Urban Elf…nay, I’ll die a Blade Elf, or I won’t die at all!”

Custagine had to recall what Blwthwyle said about elfkind one time. She did not talk about this fact but the one time. Elfs live on the mana around them. If an elf lives for a century in the same area, that mana will change them to reflect what that region represents. Blwthwyle, born a Desert Elf, could become a Grasslands Elf if she stayed within the Kingdom of Moohs for too long, for it was a grasslands. She cursed it as a remnant of the Chaos that all elfs were born from, and explained that the tattoos upon an elf’s body were designed to help lock their forms so they did not devolve back into the Chaos that they are still part of. Combined with an elf’s immortality, the only way they may die is through extreme violence, and Custagine understood the joke and finally laughed.

The two stood in silence for a time, Custagine glancing into the pit with some regularity. Then he made mention, “Tomorrow, I start…”

“I know. Congratulations. I have a request to make of you.”

“As head of the guilds, I’m supposed to be impartial to…”

“Yes, I know,” the Overlord interrupted, “Don’t worry. It’s not in regards to that.”

“Oh? What then?”

“Your companion, Rudricke, is planning to rebuild his ancestral kingdom. I offered to loan funds and material, and personelle, to make it possible.”

“What? But why?” Custagine looked at the ruined areas of the city, “Surely you could use these resources here!”

The Overlord gave a shrug, “Maybe, but we’re already having laborers working on top of one another and resources piling up because they’re dumped in the wrong spots. We’re confused here. I need to clear a lot of that out so I can organize it all properly.”

“Yes, I suppose I can see that.”

“Besides, I gave him the condition of not only being a trading partner to us, but to trade with other regions through the North City of Portals that they’re far closer to, for us here. He’ll pay back the support over the course of years by giving us trade goods, and ideally at the most opportune times for us to recieve them. It’s not exactly one sided.”

“I can see that. What favor did you have of me then?’

“I want you to oversee our relationship with him, of course. Make sure he has what he needs. Pass on our requests for what goods he obtains. Arrange the transport. All that.”

Custagine gave a nod and a shrug, “Yeah. I can do that. Perhaps I can visit him more often due to that.”

“Yeah, maybe. Hey….how would you like to also be the Treasurer of Blade?”