On Dwarven Names

– From Notes Regarding the of the Foundation of ToadChapel by the Dwarves of the Big Mountain 2.19 (Ysidor, dwarven chronicler)

~

Naming conventions in ToadChapel and similar dwarven satellite communities display a consistent patronymic format.

When a dwarf is born, he receives a name of his own by which he will be almost universally known. It is quite rare that a dwarf shares more than his given name with those outside his own community.

When using his full name, however, as on important ceremonial occasions, his personal name is written and spoken second, while the patronymic comes first. Thus, the name of the infamous Tù-bïdi Herling can be understood as ‘Herling, son of Tù.’ His brother, or perhaps half-brother, the hero Tù-bïdi Tùrmundd, shares a father with Herling, and thus shares his patronymic first name.

It is possible by recitation of a string of patronymic names for a dwarf to trace his lineage back as far as memory will allow, and many dwarven families place great importance on the oral memorialization of the generations of their ancestors.

A True Discourse Upon the Character of Tù-bïdi Herling of ToadChapel

Fragment (spurious) 1.1.II.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

[this apocryphal fragment appears to have been written much later than Nuddle’s account. It may originate from a marginal note or accompanying commentary to A.M. 1 which has crept into the text.]

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what what two merry and sober men said when old Nuddle gave his first speech to the people of ToadChapel. I swear its truth upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

Friar Barpholemeu*: Herling’s full of himself, ain’t ‘ee? Puffed up full of hot air. I wouldn’t spare him the fleas in my bed.

Iterin: Nor I, friend. And who be he?

Friar Barpholemeu: That’s Herling, cock-o-the-walk and a climber, to boot.

Iterin: Don’t like the look to him. Not very merry for a dwarf. I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Iterin, ex-vizier to the satrap of Mynos.

Friar Barpholemeu: Greetings, friend! I am called Barpholemeu, friar of the Bufonian Order of Peripateia.

He’s spoilt. Mother gave him everything he ever needed and much else beside. The tackle on that bow’s solid silver**!

Iterin: Hot dog pie on a plate! A silver bow out here, shooting roe deer for the dinner table? That’s a weapon fit for a king! A great merchant, at least.

Friar Barpholemeu: You may have a point there. Damn thing’s near useless in a hunt.

Iterin: Well, I don’t like the look to him, nor the sound of him from your tale, good sir monk. Now, I see you carry around your waist a keg of some godly brew. Say but I have a fearsome thirst…

* Friar Barpholemeu is known to have arrived in ToadChapel only after Herling’s unsuccessful attempt to strike a devil’s bargain with the goblin shaman. The author has presumably chosen Barpholemeu and Iterin for the legendary virtue of each.

** This, at least, is true. As ToadChapel was a small and self-sufficient agrarian community, precious metals such as silver and gold, lacking utility, were comparatively scarce. The silver bow Herling received from his mother is well attested in the scholarly literature, though it has been lost for over 600 years.

A Debate Concerning What Sort of Thing a Mind Really Is

Fragment 1.II.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what was said between the esteemed sages Holos and Nunc-bïdi Hyûm as they conversed beneath a dead and ancient tree in the Garden of Contemlpation. I swear its accuracy upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

[Nunc-bïdi Hyûm]: … Don’t you see, my long-lived friend? By now you ought to have grasped the main idea.

[Holos]: But all there is is the main idea. I grasp it, like the whippet grasps the hare. On the doorstep of eternity, I grasp it clearer and clearer.

[Hyûm]: Don’t speak in riddles! And don’t speak of eternity, either. You’re not that old, and you’re assuming a lot there. The rabbit might still slip from your jaws.

Put it this way: the dog is nothing more than an observer. Before him sunlight and shade dance across a vast meadow. The meadow, like some gay and riotous garden, blooms with many flowers of all colors and shapes. Birds and bees, butterflies and gnats fly through the blossom-scented air. The wind’s blowing creates billowing waves of grass, sends seeds sailing across the green, and rattles even the trees, which are now pushing forth new buds. Yet the dog sees only the rabbits nibbling the tender grasses. He searches for a rabbit he can catch. The meadow is nothing to him, there is only the rabbit. So: does the dog have keen eyes or not?

[Holos]: Now who’s speaking in riddles?

[Hyûm]: Who, me? It’s a metaphor, and you put me up to it. But answer the question. Do we grasp reality through focus, or by the tug of wind on our beard, the sound of birds flirting, the smell of — what’s that?!

[Holos]: I believe I’ve stepped in some sizable beast’s fresh dung. This is exactly the sort of thing that ought not to be tolerated in the Garden. In here there’s too much dirt and not enough contemplation.

But you see this meadow you picture does not exhibit beauty per se, but a sort of lovely and attractive chaos, which ensnares our mind’s eye…

[Hyûm]: Watch your step! More droppings! There really are a lot of them.

[Holos]: The keen eyes of the coursing-hound, like the mind of a true sophotaster…

~

The sages of ToadChapel, of whom there are many, are loosely based upon figures from our own history.

Holos, the most venerated of all the sages, shares some of the views of the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Plato has exerted such a dramatic influence over the last 2,500 years of thought that one 20th Century thinker declared of the European philosophical tradition that “it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” Plato advanced a view of the world in which true reality lay beyond our powers of observation, the human mind was often led into error by the demands of the body, and the objects of perception were poor copies of perfect ideals.

Nunc bïdi-Hyûm, a merry dwarf with a hearty appetite, expresses key tenets of David Hume’s philosophy. Hume was an 18th Century Scotsman who contributed a great deal to many fields of study. He reminds us that our immediate experiences cannot be reasoned out of our ideas altogether, and argues that our minds are, ultimately, nothing more than bundles of perceptions.

A Surprise Visit to GaGa

In the half-light of the early morning Herling neared the tidy but slightly dilapidated home where GaGa dwelt with her two strange wards. He tried to place his footsteps as cleanly as he could. GaGa lived in the raddled outskirts of ToadChapel, where many of the buildings had deteriorated, decayed, or collapsed altogether. Herling had never visited GaGa at home, having only addressed her in the public square on market day or as he caught sight of her skirts passing the blacksmith’s shop where he often spent his days. Truthfully, he had not so much addressed her as admired her from a distance.

“Ha! I walk as quiet as the night itself! I’ll surprise GaGa as she’s setting the kettle to boil. Won’t she be pleased to see me!

Those younglings… I must be rid of them. GaGa has no business tending them, rearing them, showering them with her kisses. Better those kisses went only to I! Well, it won’t be long until they do.

Isn’t this a tidy trick, brave Herling? To bait the hook for those little humans and for the maid as well.”

Herling pressed his ear to the wooden door of GaGa’s house, listening with annoyance to soft voices within.

“What’s this? GaGa’s already got a guest. Dûae, by the sound of it. When GaGa is mine, I’ll not listen to that maundering nitwit ever again… and I’ll rid myself and ToadChapel of those troublesome children for once and all!”

Herling’s Speech to the People of ToadChapel

Fragment 22.I.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what was said in the village square of ToadChapel on the morning after the theft of three of farmer Meddard’s chickens. I swear its accuracy upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

[A man]: I seen three strangers on the road yesterday!

[A man]: Ah, Whent, we ain’t had three strangers in a month of Sundays!

[A woman]: I saw a man slinking around in the evening, before that ol moon turned red. He was trying to avoid someone’s notice.

[A woman]: Must have been John Mus!

[A man]: It was that boy GaGa keeps along with his sister! They blew in rotten and they’re sure raisin’ Cain around here now!

[A man]: He’s right, I seen that boy Gramm chasing Med’s chickens half the afternoon. How do you argue with that?

[A drunken man]: I saw a pair of wicked little goblins did it! There was a two of em, skinny and ugly, with long noses, long arms, and short legs. And there was a big one behind em, past the treeline. Biggest goblin I ever heard of.

[A man]: Fuddle you’re drunk! Your grandfather never saw a goblin and neither did you.

<murmurs>

Herling: Good people of ToadChapel, will we sit here and debate these details of local history? This man’s chickens <gestures to Meddard> are missing. They’re very unlikely to be found alive. Think of your own chickens! Think how your children will cry when you bring home cold straw from an empty coop!

Now, it seems that multiple witnesses saw Gramm, ward of GaGa, attempting to abduct the very chickens which have gone missing. He’s a well-known roustabout. We barely know him or his sister, they just popped up one morning like mushrooms after that terrible storm.

The evidence is undeniable. But our inaction is worse. It’s time we start asking the hard questions. Who are these strange children? Where did they come from?

I’m going to pay Ga-Ga a visit and see what she knows. She’s knows more than she lets on. And the town of ToadChapel deserves to know who’s living among us!

[A man]: Do you need help? What if she runs?

Herling: No, we can’t just pound on GaGa’s door and accuse those children of chicken theft and worse. I’ve got to build my case against them. I’ll draw her secrets out with cunning and catch those two wild rabbits in my net of words.

Luckily for us all, GaGa can scarcely resist my charms and blandishments. Why, I’ll expose those young scamps and offer their lovely guardian a shoulder to cry on when their misdemeanors have been exposed!

You all see about locating those birds. Track them down! Something’s got to be done!

[A man]: Get the dogs!

[A man]: Don’t you think they roasted em by now?

[A man] Roasted the dogs? Barbaric!

[A man]: Or stewed em. Pot pie, mayhap.

<murmurs>

Chapter II: Robbers and Rogues

Trouble had occurred during the night, and by the time a weak sun was well clear of the Western horizon the tale of that trouble had spread like a nose-drip through the town.

On the night of the red moon no storm had come, no lightning split the dark nor thunder spilled frail old men from their beds. All through the night streaks of cloud had raced swiftly across the sky, obscuring and discovering the ominous rust-colored moon which hung above the village. The wind wickered across the fields around ToadChapel, but it was not quite savage. It drove on through the night, as if on some mission of grave importance.

No, the trouble was not quite so ominous as all that. The trouble involved a brace of chickens belonging to an unfortunate turnip farmer named Meddard. Though details were vague and contradictory, it was widely reported that between zero and seven chickens had been abducted in the night. Suspicious persons of every description had been seen, alone, in groups of varying sizes. One man even claimed to have seen a band of green-skinned goblins.

Now, this might seem like a lot of fuss about some chickens, but these birds provided Meddard’s family with eggs to eat. Virtually every villager in ToadChapel either owns birds or trades with a neighbor for eggs, and the theft was as worrying to his friends as it was devastating to poor Meddard. With Winter looming, now was the worst time to face such a loss. Some of the village men were even getting up a search party to try and locate the missing fowl.

Though she was not among the crowd of half-sleeping villagers gathering in the square, GaGa was among the first to know about the theft, having learned of the poaching through one of her countless back channels of gossip. If I knew who told her, it would be in the story.

“Probably that John Mus,” said Dûae, GaGa’s oldest friend. The two sat around the tiny but well-used cookstove in the yellow morning gloom of GaGa’s single first floor room. They were each knitting something, although it was never clear what until these mysterious somethings were suddenly on the head, hands, or feet of some confused but grateful recipient. The smell of some long-simmering sauce from the night before lingered in the room.

GaGa said nothing, and both dwarf women kept their wooden needles moving in neat, regular patterns. The blunt tips traced a kind of rune in the air. The needles seemed more like an extension of their hands than objects only temporarily in their grasp.

“Probably that John Mus. He’s a wild one. My sister says he stole her husband’s wedding ring, the wine out of the Chapel cellar, and the gaoler’s pretty wife. A genuine rogue.”

Dûae spoke as if her own experience perfectly captured the essence of how things work. Her own limited social circle and narrow range of experience were, she thought, a perfect microcosm of the wide world. But GaGa understood, perhaps more than she let on.

The orphans were not yet awake, or pretending as much. Just a few minutes earlier GaGa had tossed a handful of sausages onto an iron skillet, and now the small but tidy kitchen was beginning to fill with a mouthwatering smell. Listening as the fat sizzled, GaGa knew the children would soon come racing down from the maze of keepsakes, curiosities, and creations they shared above. Though she almost encouraged the pair in their wandering, wondering ways, she was a practical woman, and she wanted that room clean. And she wanted those nails hammered in. If it took sausages to get them rousted from bed in time to complete their chores, she would to cast that lure.

All of a sudden there came a knock at the door. Without waiting for an invitation, in walked a stout young dwarf, swaggering and spruce in a rustic way. He bore a beautiful crossbow worked all over with silver filigree. The important-seeming dwarf looked around the poorly-lit room haughtily. ‘Those for me?” he asked. As he was reaching for one of the sausages, GaGa noticed the curious faces of Mills and Gramm peeking down from atop the darkened stair. She turned back to watch this obnoxious newcomer snap off a bite of the breakfast she was preparing.

“We’re investigating some chickens, ma’am. Case of theft, plain and simple.”

“If you already know the chickens pulled the heist, why did you come to us?” asked Dûae.

“That’s not what I meant. It seems three chickens have gone missing from farmer Meddard’s coop overnight. Now don’t tell me you think they just got up and walked off!”

“I shall not,” said GaGa. “And I’m quite certain it was a pair of chickens, not three. But what do you really want and why have you barged into my house like a brigand? Return that sausage to the skillet, it’s not finished browning on the outside.”

“Yes ma’am, I’m, uh, very sorry. That’s beside the point. Let me introduce myself,” said the officious dwarf, struggling to recover his dignity. “I am called Herling, son of Tù. I am elected to lead a search party for these missing birds. I notice you’ve a fine skillet full of fresh sausages! Chicken sausages!”

GaGa gave the intruder a look that would have withered a more perceptive man. “Those are pork sausages, as you surely know,” she said. “The grease is still on your fingers! Now tell me why you are here and stop acting like an imbecile.”

Herling narrowed his eyes and shot suspicious glances back and forth between GaGa and Dûae as he prepared to speak. “We’re just following up on an anonymous tip about a certain dirt-caked human boy who was spotted in Med’s barnyard yesterday attempting to catch the same chickens whose whereabouts are currently unknown, presumed eaten. Seems he figured out a way to make off with three of the poor birds in one night! Now, do you have any information for us? Where’s that young jackanapes? He’ll pay for it!”

As GaGa and this Herling continued to spar like this with one another, Dûae herself spotted Mills and Gramm peering down from above. Both children seemed genuinely terrified. Dûae waved the children back from the stair without attracting the attention of the ever more agitated interloper, using her knitting needles to signal her meaning. Better to keep this sort of thing in the dark for a while, she thought to herself. You can always remember more later.

“Well see that you do keep an eye out, you old she-wolf! You too,” Herling practically roared, again addressing both women. “One from each of you. You’re known to harbor two strange humans, a boy and a girl child, and this village wants answers from you! I know there’s something you’re not telling us! And we want to talk to that Gramm the minute he returns. I don’t know why you sent him to fetch water from the spring, the village well is much closer and just as good. You’re a soft-headed woman. Ha! Now I’m off to track down some villagers to try and find those missing chickens. They’re mostly likely already eaten, in a pot pie or stew, perhaps, but something’s got to be done. I’ll be at the forge coordinating the search. Send Gramm to me immediately when he gets back from the spring!”

Herling spun around on his heel and stomped out of the house, grabbing his half-eaten sausage back out of the skillet without so much as a thank you or a goodbye.

The stair leading to the second story of the tiny house was empty now. “I think I’d better have a talk with the young ones,” said GaGa as she took the skillet off the stove. Dûae nodded in agreement and set her careful knitting neatly on her chair, then followed Herling out to see that he wasn’t still lurking at the door.

~

Herling’s fine bow, like few other items in ToadChapel, is made with precious silver. I have used true metallic paints on this item to differentiate it from objects made of base metals.

Other objects in ToadChapel emit, absorb, or otherwise interact with magic and other forces.

~

The story continues here.

The Problem of the Two Children

Fragment 21.I.19

– from the Annus Mirabilis 1 of Nuddle, ToadScribe novice

~

The following is an Accurate Record of what was said between the assembled sages of ToadChapel after the goatherd brought the strange children to the village square. I swear its accuracy upon the Great Oath I have sworn within the Outer Door of the Order of ToadScribes:

[The goatherd, whose name I did not learn, brought the children to the village square. The children were very dirty and seemed to have been buffeted by Fate. Nevertheless, they seemed more curious than afraid. For instance, I saw them curiously eying Nunc-bïdi Hyûm’s jelly doughnut for some time. The goatherd had approached most august Holos and the learned Isidem and engaged them in conversation as if they were old friends. As I moved closer, this is what I heard the surprised sages say]

Holos: …Well what are we to make of all THIS?

Isidem: And what’s This then, Holos? It’s not like you to shout.

Holos: These little ones. They’re so… unpredictable.

[The goatherd wandered away and seemed to gesture to Nunc-bïdi Hyûm and the remarkable Dr. Immanuel Cannott. Their conversation then drew the attention of Holos and Isidem, who turned to see what was all the commotion. The strange children now huddled behind the stammering goatherd, who seemed to have recognized how venerable these great men truly are.]

Stammering Goatherd: Here be 2 tiny humans. Never seen em before. No names. Hungry.

Nunc-bïdi Hyûm: Haha! tabula rasa! tabulae rasae!!

Now we shall see! Ahahahaha!

Cannott.: Have you been at your cups already, Nunc?

Nunc-bïdi Hyûm: Me? What, me?

It never hurts to keep a full glass and a positive attitude.

Cannott.: Yours are the easy manners of the morally incompetent. Why, next you’ll say…

[At this point the goatherd and the strange children drew apart to eat a light luncheon. Though reluctant to miss the learned discourses of the assembled sages, at this point I hurried off to the Office of Records to register the arrival of two such new and utterly unknown persons as these storm-blown orphans.]