30th August 2019 – Marieke Sjerps
“Every evening, one of the older dwarves will tell Alda a legend or a piece of history from a bygone age.”
Hi! I’m Marieke, the narrative designer for The Dwarves of Glistenveld. I thought I’d use my first blog to tell you an ancient dwarven story and shed a little more light on the history of Glistenveld.
For centuries, dwarfologists have investigated why dwarves have six distinct personality types. Much dwarven lore has been lost. Fortunately, before the goblin siege of Glistenborg and the death of the king, King Hafna told a newly spawned Alda Fisker the legend of the Sextuplespawn.
It’s Alda’s favourite time of day. Just before she’s off to bed, it’s story time. Every evening, one of the older dwarves will tell her a legend or a piece of history from a bygone age. Today, it’s her turn to sit with King Hafna himself. Every young dwarf gets called to court to listen to the king, but that doesn’t mean she’s not nervous. She’s put on her favourite set of fish-patterned pyjamas, rebraided her red hair, washed her face, and hurried barefooted to court. Now she’s standing in front of the huge doors, her heart hammering with excitement as they open. The guards wave her into the cavernous throne room, where King Hafna sits in all his splendour. She’s a little nervous as she walks up to the throne, but the king smiles indulgently at her, as if he’s really pleased to see her.
‘If it isn’t young Alda Fisker. Welcome. Come, come, have a seat,’ he says, patting the space beside him. The throne of Glistenveld is so wide, two dwarves can fit comfortably in its cushioned seat. Alda hops up to take a seat, sinking deep into the velvet. She’s never been so close to the king before. He’s got thick brown hair and sparkling, dark eyes. ‘So it’s my time to tell you a story, isn’t it? I’ve thought about which of our legends would be of most interest to you. I hear you have a brother.’
‘Yes, my twin, Steinn,’ Alda says eagerly. ‘We spawned together.’
‘You know that’s quite rare, don’t you? Usually, dwarves come out of springs on their own. But have you ever heard about the first time a spawn produced more than one dwarf?’
‘No! I didn’t know there was a first time.’
‘Excellent.’ The king rubs his hands together, settling in for the story. ‘In the Elder Days, all dwarves lived in perfect harmony. It is said that there were no clans and no classes. All dwarves had finely balanced personalities, and were good at everything – fighting, foraging, engineering and mining. In fact, they hardly ever spoke to each other, because they had everything they needed within themselves.’
Alda laughs. ‘That doesn’t sound like any dwarves I know. Steinn and I never stop arguing.’
‘That’s because they weren’t like dwarves nowadays! Why would you talk to anyone if you’re already a perfect dwarven specimen? They didn’t have nice sit-downs together, the way you and I are doing right now, because they didn’t need to! But one fateful day, a goblin snuck into the dwarven city. His name was Sneak-Snout. Sneak-Snout wanted to show the dwarves what it was like to be confused and conflicted. He hated dwarves, because they had stamped out his family. He hid in a barrel, stuck his feet through holes in the bottom, and made his way to the Elder Forge. There were dwarves at work there, hammering the anvils all day and night, but Sneak-Snout was cunning.’
‘And he had a barrel,’ Alda adds helpfully.
The king pats her head, his large hand heavy on her thick, stiff braids. ‘And he had a barrel,’ he agrees, smiling. ‘Remember, Alda, never get too big for your barrel. Otherwise you won’t have anywhere to hide in an emergency.’
‘Uh-huh. But what happened to Sneak-Snout?’
‘He slipped right under the guards’ noses. Now, back in the Elder Days, all dwarves were spawned at a single Spring rumoured to lead straight down to the Underworld. Whenever the clan wanted to add a new dwarf to their numbers, a dwarf heart would be crafted out of gemstones at the Elder Forge, and it would be cast into the Spring. Then a dwarf would pop out, and that was that.’ King Hafna snaps his wide fingers, his gold rings glinting in the candlelight.
‘Was there only one clan, too?’
‘Yes, but it didn’t have a name. They didn’t need one, because there weren’t any other clans to get confused with.’
It’s hard to imagine dwarves that don’t bicker, who don’t even have clans. Alda loops the end of her braid around her finger distractedly as King Hafna continues the story.
‘Sneak-Snout gouged some eye holes into his barrel, ducked way down, piled some sawdust on top of his head, and crept into the smithy. There was smoke billowing, and hammers pounding, and sparks flying everywhere. But Sneak-Snout was sharp. He took his time. Remember, Alda, always count your tools. A barrel doesn’t just appear out of nowhere.’
‘I will, King Hafna.’
‘Good. The dwarves working the Forge that day didn’t count their tools. That’s how Sneak-Snout was able to steal a hammer. And that’s not all he stole.’
‘You mean…’ Alda gasps.
‘Yes. He stole a dwarf heart, right from under the nose of Rakel Forgeborn, the master smith. With the precious jewel clasped in his claw, Sneak-Snout snuck into a darkened corner of the smithy. He crawled out of his barrel and put the dwarf heart on the floor. Silently, he raised the stolen hammer, and then he waited. He held off until he saw one of the smiths prepare to beat a metal plate into shape.’ King Hafna raises his arm, the deep red fur of his sleeve falling back to expose a wiry wrist. ‘The goblin raised his hammer exactly in time with the dwarf smith, and finally brought it down onto the heart with an almighty CLANG!’ The king thumps his fist onto the armrest of the throne, and Alda lets out a little shriek. ‘The dwarf heart shivered like a living thing, then slowly, cracks started to appear, as if it was breaking from the inside. The heart didn’t shatter completely, but it was fractured on the inside, broken into six parts.’
Alda’s eyes are watering with fright, her heart pounding as if it had just been struck with a hammer. ‘Sneak-Snout broke a dwarf heart?’
‘He did. You know what he did next?’
‘He put it back.’
‘What?’ Alda gasps. ‘Why?’
‘Just wait,’ the king says with a little smile. ‘Sneak-Snout put the broken dwarf heart back onto Rakel Forgeborn’s workbench. And did the master smith inspect her materials?’ He looks at Alda expectantly.
‘No, she didn’t. That’s why you must always check everything you work with, whether it’s raw ore, a chisel, an axe, or another dwarf.’
‘Yes, King Hafna,’ Alda chimes obediently. She just wants to hear the rest of the story.
‘So Rakel Forgeborn, who was used to everything working perfectly, didn’t think to check the heart. She picked it up and walked over to the claim, ready to welcome another dwarf into the world.’
Alda has twisted her braid around her finger so many times, it’s cutting off her circulation. ‘What happened?’ she whispers.
‘Sneak-Snout clambered back into his barrel and watched from the shadows as the smith took the damaged heart and threw it in the Elder Spring. For a second, as it fell down, nothing happened. Then, all at once, bright lights flashed from the depths of the Sping, in a spectrum of six colours. The smiths heard terrible screams from down below – one agonised cry splitting into six different voices. The ground shook. A sulphurous smell filled the whole workplace. The other dwarves ran out, but Rakel Forgeborn was frozen in place. That’s how it came to be that only a single dwarf and a little goblin were witness to… the Sextuplespawn.’
Alda clasps her hands to her mouth. She’d only ever heard of a Doublespawn. That’s how she and her brother Steinn were spawned. They emerged out of the Spring together, looking like two sides of the same coin, with their dark skin and their flaming red hair. She knew it was a rare event, but… ‘Six dwarves?’ she exclaims. ‘Out of a single Spring, all at once?’
‘Six dwarves, and they were nothing like each other. When a soul from the Underworld entered the broken heart, it shattered into six pieces. Those six fragments became six dwarves. There was Gloomy, Gutsy, Dreamy, Hearty, Sassy and Brainy – the six archetypal dwarves. Sneak-Snout’s plan had worked. He had fractured a dwarven soul, and introduced conflict and confusion to our kind. As he watched, Sassy picked a fight with Gutsy. Before long, they were brawling. The little goblin knew he had done what he had come to do. In complete silence, Sneak-Snout hitched up his barrel and slinked back to his goblin friends. And that, dear Alda, is why dwarves have six different characters. Ever since that day, every dwarf that has spawned has tended towards one of the six aspects of the broken dwarf heart.’
‘Steinn will never believe this,’ she murmurs.
‘That’s because ever since the Sextuplespawn, dwarves have mistrusted each other, and more importantly, themselves. Take that lesson from this story, Alda, even if you forget everything else. Your fellow dwarves are all parts of your heart. We’re strongest together. That’s why we have a king. It’s my job to hold the pieces in place, no matter how much we quarrel.’ As he says those words, Alda imagines she can see a hint of tiredness in his brown eyes.
‘It must be hard work.’
‘Hard work is the fate of every dwarf, Alda. Now, off to bed with you,’ he says, patting her back.
‘Thank you, King Hafna. Good night.’ She clambers off the throne and leaves the king alone in his hall. That night, in hushed tones, she recounts the whole tale to her brother Steinn. He believes every word she tells him, even the little details she makes up for added effect. Just before she blows out the candle, she looks over at her brother, finding him already asleep and drooling slightly. She wonders who the king has to confide in. ‘Good night, Steinn,’ she whispers, as the room goes dark.