Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Year Under Ground

I accepted the assignment from the Low King with a heavy beard and heavier heart. However, the destiny of the mountains calls to me, and there is only one answer when the mountain calls. Well, two actually, but being squashed was not very attractive. So we set out into the wilds, my mission, to establish a viable outpost for the dwarven empire of Lor Tangath in preparation for the arrival of settlers the following year.

Our disreputable party numbered seven, with the unspoken rule that no dwarf talk of his or her past. Whether they were criminals, colonists, or adventurers, everyone was to be expected to pull their weigh. Two miners, two farmers, a woodcutter, a mason, and one who seemed to have no applicable skills whatsoever. I would however, learn soon the necessities of survival. In addition, we were given breeding pairs of dogs, and cats, one of which soon adopted me as a sucker during mealtimes, a horse, and a camel. From what musty stockpile in the mountainhome came the camel I do not know, perhaps it was all a cruel joke.

Fortunately I was given free access to the kingdom's maprooms, and was able to carefully select an appropriate site. A calm temperate area which recommended itself by the presence of a river valley, allowing easy access to fresh water. As well as the ores promised to be plentiful within the nearby mountains. Something all dwarvenkind could appreciate.

We decided to name our new outpost Taranathel, in honor of our home kingdom. The rainy season was just beginning as we started, and as such my first priority was to get the alcohol and foodstuffs under cover before they went rancid. Hot dwarven ale is no friend of ours, any brewer could tell you that it's best kept in a dark cave, preferably served fresh from a cooling mountain spring. I order mining excavations to begin.

Progress has exceeded expectations! We now have storage areas for our booze. A wood workshop and a stone workshop both followed quickly, as I hoped to put together beds and tables, for a sleep deprived and hungry dwarf is not something any of us wish to encounter.

Excavations continue quickly. At this rate, we could have the entire mountain hollowed out by the time our first settlers arrive. And perhaps a posting back to civilization would be in order. As the refuse began to pile up inside, I quickly ordered a large field cleared outside. The sun and rain will do its work on any garbage we accumulate. A large farming area was set up along the main tunnel, I feel it should suffice even when our outpost grows to accommodate hundreds, much less our seven. We did have a setback along the north tunnel, in an effort to decrease our need to get water from outside I directed our tunnelers to excavate what I thought to be an underground pool...which unfortunately flooded the entire corridor. Fortunately no lives were lost. I am puzzled however as to why we have not discovered any ore, semi-precious stones yes, but as of yet no ore of any kind.

I have just been informed that the reason we have not yet found ore is that we did not dig into the side of a mountain as I had thought. Instead we are well ensconced within a dirt hill, thus the reason that excavations proceeded so quickly. This may be a slight setback. Nevertheless, I order our miners to continue excavating exploratory tunnels, down into the depths of the earth itself. Worries that we are running low on foodstuffs prompts the creation of a butcher...I wonder how camel tastes.

I am surrounded by nincompoops! Apparently I must tell each one what jobs they are allowed to do. The camel however, tasted delicious, as did the horse. And after sending a few dwarves to hunt, there is a near collapse of the groundhog population as dwarves, elated to be hitting things, wrestle them to the ground and rip off their furry little heads. Piles of tiny skulls litter the refuse heap. At times I fear for my sanity. I have ordered separate bedrooms for everyone.

Seven levels down and still no ore?!? Failure after failure. Not only is there no ore, but the trading caravan cannot find its way here, why I do not really know, for their messenger arrived easily. Even so, I constructed a trade depot just in case they found a native guide, as well as began construction of workshops to produce trade goods. None of my current dwarves have the skills to operate many of these workshops, but perhaps the migrants will be able to use them. Expansion of the storage rooms has been completed, and my cat had kittens...which promptly adopted me as well. Unfortunately, they don't seem to realize that the rats are all in the storeroom, not in the dining area. Speaking of dining, I wonder why our farm is not producing anything.

Ahhh, of course. The farmer had readied everything, but was waiting for me to tell him what to plant...the only thing we have seeds for dullard! Mushrooms, mushrooms, and more mushrooms! One of our dwarves has taken ill, felled by a particularly vicious groundhog. The others are requesting a bucket to take water to her. It seems our carpentry division has been slacking off(oops!). Also I have heard word that Kobold and monkey thieves have absconded with some of our trade goods. Given that I don't believe monkeys to be native to this ecology, I can only surmise that they've been trained and set upon us by the Kobolds. Security measures are taken...I install a door.

Huzzah! The migrants have arrived, farmers, peasants, woodworkers, and masons. Our population explodes to 15. As well as a wondering mage that offers to take a magical portrait of the main level of our outpost. But, they also bring news that I have been recalled. While I am hopeful it is for a parade and honorable pension, unfortunately it seems more likely that my many mishaps have caused them to lose faith in me somehow. Was it building into a hill instead of a mountain? Or flooding our tunnels with my search for fresh water? The shoddy showing in the groundhog war that left one of our own on death's door? The mishaps in planting that have led to a severe food shortage over the winter months? Only time will tell.

I leave you with a picture of Taranathel as I left it. Empty workshops and empty throne rooms. Although the pub, as always shows signs of life, as do the vermin infested larders. Perhaps another ruler could bring life to this grand experiment.

Note: While I had played Dwarf Fortress before, this is the first time I'd played since the update which made the game play in 3 axis. I stumbled across the story of Boatmurdered and couldn't help but dive back in. Quite a bit has changed since I first played, as is evident, it used to be that you just burrowed into a cliff face and encountered ores the further in you went, eventually reaching an underground river which...well, not that this excuses my failures. Anyways, check out Boatmurdered for an altogether more hilarious example of what could happen.

Also, I used the Mike Mayday Graphics Edition if anyone was wondering.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Sword-Edged Blonde - Alex Bledsoe

Just finished reading and all I have to say is wow, a very impressive entry from a newcomer. First let me give you the brief, relatively spoiler free background.

Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey(read PI) living over a tavern that's seen better days. A routine assignment to find a wayward princess turns his life upside down as he's pulled into a murder mystery that spans across decades. Eddie must now try to save the wife of his best friend while confronting his own past, which may just be more horrifying than the apparent grisly murder.

Now that's just scraping the surface, to tell more would definitely edge into spoiler territory, but how its written is something to behold. The book reminds reminds me of Glen Cook, if he had written his Garrett PI books in the same manner as The Black Company. Grim and bloody detective noir mixed in with a liberal dose of fantasy and magic. People die bloody and sometimes senselessly, and trusting in the kindness of strangers is a good way to end up with a dagger in your guts. The good guys have feet of clay and the bad are downright nasty, and sometimes there's a reason.

Eddie is very much in the mold of a grim fantasy hero, old and scarred enough to have gained a healthy dose of cynicism, but still noble where it counts. And we come to see his inner journey, reliving his history and coming to terms with what he's done, is just as important as the present predicament. The rest of the cast comes through in spades, full of interesting individuals whose personalities shine through whether they are a recurring character or ones that only pass through, leaving their indelible scars upon the story. The characters were definitely the high mark of this novel, and I hungered for more.

As for the setting, it takes a bit of a backseat to the journey. It's also filled with some rather anachronistic elements, which I found humorous but other people might find rather jarring for their fantasy. These included things such as; nametags for tavern girls; customs at the border crossings; and swords being issued model names. Again, funny, but a little bit jarring if you're expecting straight up fantasy. But if you're used to the cross genre detective fantasy present in, say, the Garrett or Thraxas series, then this is definitely on that vein.

In all, this is an excellent example of its type, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed, pulling me in so fully that I only lifted my head up hours and hundreds of pages later. There are a few points where willful suspension of disbelief is necessary, but other than that I found no real problems with it, and hopefully we'll soon see more of the Eddie LaCross series.