The Great Cycle
The Great Cycle
The wind whips the snow around, stinging the eyes of the three dwarven companions. Their packs heavy on their backs as they make their way up the mountainside. Norvin, the youngest and least bearded of the three, drops atop a rock protruding from the snow, beneath a great pine.
"Why do we have to do this?" He asks, surprisingly breathless.
The other two dwarves look at each other, knowingly stroking their great beards. Neither seems in the least bit winded.
"I mean, why do we have to climb this dreadful mountain in the wee hours of the morn to spy on the Stink-breaths? We know exactly what they're gonna do. They've been doing it for..." Norvin trails off, uncertainty in his voice.
The older, grayer dwarf, Bhakru, looks down at Norvin resting on his rock. "Son, all we know is the Great Cycle. Do you have any memories of before?"
Norvin looks at his elder and shakes his head. Bhakru continues, "We need to break the Great Cycle and we need figure out how. If you've got better ideas, speak up!"
The third dwarf, Trogh, is a portly middle-aged dwarf. "And don't call them Stink-breaths. They're goblins. If we wanna break the Great Cycle, we need to at least stop childish name calling."
"Well, their breath does stink!" Norvin retorted, annoyance creeping into his eyes. "Last week, one of 'em jumped on top of me and I could smell it. Smelled like rotten arse. Then he tore a chunk outta me throat." He unconsciously rubs his neck, even though nothing is there. "Swear I can still feel it."
Trogh pulls Norvin to his feet. "You know that's not how it works."
The trio starts hiking again, nearing the next ridge. Before the sun breaks the horizon, they crest the ridge. There, they can see the goblin hovels clearly. Twigs and skins and mud and stones all hastily thrown together, barely looking like they'd stand up to a stiff breeze. Even in the pre-dawn hours, the goblin camp was awake. Dozens of goblins scrambling about grabbing weapons, tearing apart a recent kill, blood and filth covering the entire camp.
"So, what're we looking for?" Norvin asked, eyeing the goblin feast with disgust.
"I dunno." Bhakru said. "Anything that might help us gain the advantage. Anything that might be causing the Great Cycle. Hell, anything shiny."
And then they heard it, at the same time, the sound of stinking, rotten arse-breath. None of the trio had time to turn, but they knew the goblins had found them as they felt their skulls crush under goblin-made rock-clubs. The pain was intense for a brief second, then the world was dark.
Norvin shot up in his bed with a start. Screaming, he grabbed his head. "Fucking ow! Inconsiderate Stink-breaths! That was me fucking head!"
He shot up out of bed and ran out the door of his hut to the nearest river. Seeing his reflection calmed him down. He ran his hands over the back of his head, making sure there were no dents.
"Hahahaha," the hearty laugh was coming from Trogh. "After all this time you think you'd be used to it. Dying sucks, but it leaves no permanent marks."
Anger and embarassment flashes in Norvin's eyes. "It's not funny, Trogh! I'm tired of dying, I'm tired of waking up just fine. I've been stabbed, beheaded, had my head crushed, my throat bitten out, stabbed some more. Oh! And there was that one time three Stink-breaths ate my guts while I was still alive!"
"Ever had one rip off yer arm and beat ye to death with it?" Trogh asked. "Because I have. Not fun. But we always come back, we're always fine. C'mere, boy."
Trogh put his arm around Norvin's shoulders, leading his to the edge of the village.
"Look up there," Trogh pointed at the sky. Today was particularly clear, and it was as if you could see past the sky. "They say on days like today, you can see the ‘Eyes of God’. If that's not worth fighting for, then I don't know what is. And it's not like we got much of a choice. We fight, we die, we're reborn. You know how it is. It always snows here, and when the snow lightens, the ground shakes something fierce and the snows pick up again. Terrifying but such is our lot in life, boy. So, suck it up and make sure you're ready for sundown."
And with that, Trogh trotted off back into the village. Norvin kept looking at the sky, cursing God under his breath. But something shifted, he could swear that through the clouds he saw a pair of beautiful eyes. He was confused. These eyes were soft, curious, caring. He had seen the ‘Eyes of God’ once before, but they were harsh, calculating.
Pride swelled in Norvin's chest. Today, God was different. Today was the day the goblins died.
As night fell, the goblins broke through the northern treeline as they did every night before. It was only moments before the first swords tore through goblin flesh, before the first goblins ripped and tore and dwarven flesh with their teeth and claws. Screams of death were all around. Goblins were eating dwarves alive, dwarves were slashing swords and cleaving goblins with axes.
It was the same as all nights. Bhakur crushed a goblin skull with his bare hands before being taken down by two larger goblins. It was a favorite trick of his. Trogh was swinging around a large pike with a goblin skewered on the end, a goblin-kabob, he liked to call it. Everywhere he looked, Norvin saw goblins and dwarves dying. It had become nothing more than a game.
But his resolve could not be broken. His God's eyes looked right at him this day. This was the day he would secure victory for his people. This is the day the Stink-breaths would meet their maker. This is the day...
The rough dagger had a chip in its blade. He felt it snag in his throat. His life faded from his eyes. He hated dying like this. Drowning, throat slit, bleeding out. They all took so long. Norvin fell to the ground and watched the battle play out before his eyes as his life-blood flowed from his slit throat. To add insult to injury, or maybe more injury to injury, Norvin could feel goblin fangs sinking into his left shoulder. The whole world went dark around him.
The sun woke Norvin up. He was unusually sad this morning. His God had looked upon him and didn't care. Fuck his God...
He made his way to the tavern, he needed a drink.
"Here ya go, lad!" Someone placed 25 coppers in his hand.
Ah, yes. The Death Toll. The dwarves bet on who will die, most kills, who will survive. War and death had become a game and Norvin was gaming the system. Every day he bets 25 coppers that he will die. He's only lost his bet once. He didn't want to bet too much; else folks'll catch on. But 25 coppers were enough for three mugs, if he negotiated with the bartender.
Today, his ale wasn't satisfying. It tasted too bitter, didn't fill his belly enough. Today, his God forsaked him. Today, he was done with defending his home, done with dying again and again. Today, he was leaving.
The Edge was something of legend. Forever ago the dwarves tried to escape this inescapable nightmare. Roughly a mile away from the village, it is said that they discovered a glass barrier too high to scale. Legend says that they saw a giant world beyond the Edge. But since then, not dwarf has ventured that far. It was pointless. But today, that was where Norvin was heading.
It took the better part of the day, hours after the ale was gone, and he was no longer warm from its effects. The sun was on the horizon when he walked into it. The Edge.
It was nothing like anything he had seen. It was hard to describe. His world, what he had known for as long as he could remember, just ended in a glass wall. Pressing his face against the glass, Norvin could see a gargantuan room.
It wasn't long before Norvin noticed the two colossi. One was a woman, smaller than the other, with an adorable air about her. Her features were soft, inviting and yet, somehow also intimidating. The other colossus was terrifying. His feature angular and unforgiving. His eyes, they were the ‘Eyes of God’ Norvin had seen in the past.
The male colossus stood in the darkness, but the female walked over to Norvin, and picked his world up in her hands. Pulling him close to her soft face, she spoke.
"Thank you, Wesley!" She said. "It's so cute!"
And with that, a great earthquake rocked Norvin's world.