Chapter 1:



Dwarfs enjoy holes. Pull a dwarf off the side of the streets of Thumper and set the question to them--”Hole?” Some may answer straightforwardly--others will, smirk in their beard, mention donuts of frost and flesh. Yet it is a near guarantee their answer won’t arrive negative (unless one complains of the hole in their coin purse). The answer to “Why?” is simple: Dwarfs enjoy holes. But exceptions can always be carved from even the stoniest of the stout. Once, one exception mistakenly fell far through the earth. Concluding his unexpected journey to the bottom of a pit of dirt and stone, he stewed. Indeed, the dwarf hated the hole. But the mystery of this strange and unnatural hatred is not a difficult solve.

Simply: this dwarf was not always dwarf.

No, not by extinction nor eradication but simply never being offered the chance, dwarfs do not exist in all planes of reality. In one plane, a dwarf frowned in a hole. In another, he was once a boy. In the former plane, the fabric of reality governs itself by EXP. In the latter, he worked on the family farm: tilling its soil, milking its cows. In the plane of dwarf, milk markets at two gold a jar. In the other, the boy chiseled a sturdy, weary back. He gained respect for the earth and most its creatures, but the same could not be said for his own. Childhood observed his free time sapped, his teenaged hands later telling a similar story. Before the boy knew it, he was a man. He found his palms hiding behind layers of callous, weary caked into the dirt of his fingernails. The man developed a slight hunch. He grew into the clothes of his father who had himself grown unable to plow the fields. This task, like all others, fell into his child’s worn hands.

The son swung the scythe against grain on grain until his barbering satisfied the expectations set forth by his father. Soon the field of yellow fell into itself ready to be swept into bales. This task, like all others, fell into the man’s hands. The sun set itself against the hills, dark beginning its infection of the sky darkening all below it. The son sat in the shade of his barn while it lasted, close enough to hear on occasion a muffled moo. Light slipped from sight, but the son remained. He had begun to hate his father, resenting what was seen as an open air prison. Time spent outside was time alone--this felt the better alternative. But the dark around him grew darker, and he watched the porch light flicker alive alerting of his father, his son’s name echoed. Instead of returning the call, the son stood up from the earth and fled into the forest. The farther he ran, the less the voice carried. Green blurred on both sides. Skidding against rocks, the son fast became aware of the imposing nature surrounding. His sense of direction did not travel with him. He did not feel fear--in fact, he felt annoyed at having potentially disturbed the critters who called these woods home. He also became annoyed at hysteria--ultimately his reasoning--and turned round to trudge back towards farm and father.

Little light offered the son home. It was dead of night; this fact well known. Very dark, an eventual realization the son had. He bumped into a tree and tapped it lightly. He hit another and gave a frown. It was the third collision that caused a cracking, the man lost to his rage soon kicking and chipping his victim with wild anger. Catching himself moments later, he fell to the ground in a heap. He clenched his fists in repeated cycles until the strength in them gave out. Moonlight now slipping past holes in the canopy of leaves above, the man stared at the glinting off his ravaged fingernails. It became cold--this fact well described. He continued to stare, unaware of the branches that began to sag closer and closer--then, his feet lost the ground as wood limbs snatched the son into the air. Struggling, he fought with a strength the bark disregarded, bark that twisted and chipped away to reveal a face of contempt.


The son stared back in disbelief. He wished to protest against the accusation but could not find the energy within him necessary.


The son shook his head weakly.

“SPEAK UP, BOY... SPEAK WHEN SPOKEN TO...”, the tree demanded. But the son could not acquiesce.


At once, the ground beneath the son gave way to a great fissure, dirt whipped into the wind by wild, thrashing roots. He glanced below in horror, for the only dark darker than the dark around him was that now directly under. Mercifully the son could not contemplate the horror of the situation long, the branches once wrapped round now suddenly giving slack, the man plunging into the abyss. His color soon faded from sight, and the hole became wholly dark once more.

Ataga Corliss