One Stands Alone

“Uncle! Uncle! Did you hear?” cried the young dwarf, running down the hall. “Uncle Lolor, did you hear? The count is rearranging the military. He’s putting the best into the Guards and giving them adamantine!”
“Yes, I had heard that,” replied Lolor Tusungdastot, militia captain of the Tin Keys and stalwart defender of the Dwarven Fortress of CityLions.
“Well, you’re the best, right?”
Lolor sighed. “Some say I’m a good fighter, yes.”
“So you’re in the Guards now?” asked the child.
“No, nephew, I am not. The Count was very apologetic. He said I’m too good. He needs me as a militia captain. He says I am an even better leader than I am a fighter. So, no. I am not a Guard.”
“You won’t get to wear adamantine?”
“No, I’m afraid not. The Guards are meant as shock troops. They are melee fighters. The militia is supposed to hang back and provide covering fire, maybe help mop up at the end, or serve as a last line of defense should the Guards fall. We aren’t meant to go toe to toe with goblins, and so we don’t need the protection of adamantine.” Lolor looked disappointed, though.
“But that’s not fair! You’re the best! You have more kills than anyone!”
“Oh, I just got lucky. In a melee, anything can happen. Even the best can die. You shouldn’t glorify warfare, Urist. Don’t look up to me, look up to your father. He is a true hero. He MADE that adamantine armor. A young dwaf should aspire to become a master craftsman, not a warrior.” Lolor was a humble dwarf. “A warrior’s life is wasted. ‘Hurry up and wait.’ Do you know what that means? It means, most of the time, a warrior is twiddling his thumbs, or hauling rock. I get the chance to be a hero maybe once a year. Your father comes home every night knowing he made something useful that very day. You sit around, you train, you sit around, you train, and then the call comes and you must run. Maybe to glory, maybe to your death. It is a hard life.”
“But all the women love a warrior, right? I mean, you must get tons of girls!” Urist asked gleefully.
“Young and stupid girls love a warrior. Women love a man like your father, who can provide for them, and who will be there for their children, and who will become a wonderful grandfather someday. What women wants a dead hero for a husband?”
Urist, looking bored with the now serious conversation, said, “Ah, you’re just bitter ’cause you didn’t get into the guards. When I’m a warrior, I’ll be a guard and kill trolls, and goblins, and dragons, and titans, and-”
“Captain! Captain! We need you! Please, sir, no one else is ready! everyone is changing their gear and heading to their new squads!” cried a young recruit running down the hall towards them. Lolor tried to remember his name, Meng, was it? He was in a different squad. He looked to be wearing spider silk pajamas.
“Slow down, lad. What is it?” asked Lolor, ignoring his young nephew, who continued to list the various monsters he would kill in the guards, “and unicorns, and, uh, rutherers, and…”
“The Count has a bad feeling. He said the framerate is dropping!”
“The carpenters are working on wooden frames more slowly than normal? That is a bad sign. Carpenters are notoriously sensitive to the presence of large numbers of Goblins. But it could just be cats.”
“No, sir, the cats are all tied up!” the recruit looked worried.
“And the Kitten Watch Posts?” asked Lolor, beginning to feel worried himself.
“Kittens one and three reporting, sir, but Kitten Watch Post two is empty!”
“What? Did no one refill it with kittens after the last raid?” barked Lolor, now quite concerned.
“No! The Count is furious! He sent that miscreant animal handler Urist McRedshirt, you know, the one who likes to wear red shirts? He sent him out to fill it. He said he doesn’t even care if Urist gets killed, it will serve him right. But then he ordered the Guards out to watch over him, anyway.”
“The Count has a notoriously soft heart. So why are you here? I’m not in the Guards.” asked Lolor.
“That’s just it!” shouted the recruit, looking a bit wild eyed, “The guards are all down in the forge room picking out their new adamantine. The rest of the squads, no one knows where anyone is, everyone is confused trying to find their new barracks and equipment. You’re the only one in charge I could find!” shrieked the recruit, realizing he might be fighting alongside the famous Lolor Tusungdastot in his underwear.
“Well, it looks like you Pajama Fighters are fully equipped,” quipped Lolor.
“Sir?” asked the recruit.
“It’s a joke, son. Go put some clothes on. I’ll handle this. It’s not as if the Count is going to realize and admit he’s wrong to send McRedshirt out there right now, and wait until the squads are formed up.”
“You’re going out by yourself?” asked the recruit, fighting to hide his obvious relief.
“Oh, it’s probably nothing. Hoary Marmots or something messing with the carpenter’s heads and killing their frame rate. I’ll be fine.”
“You’re Lolor Tusungdastot! Of course you’ll be fine, sir! I’ll go put on clothes.” said the recruit, running off.
Lolor patted the shaft of his trusty steel battle axe, checked the string on his steel crossbow, and looked down at his nephew Urist, who was still listing monsters, “and Giant Cave Spiders, and Giant Moles, and Giant-”
“See? Hurry up and wait. Now I’m out into the rain and the sun, probably for nothing, but maybe to my death. Is that glorious?”
Young Urist looked up, awed. “Yes,” he said.
“Well I was wrong about you, then. You are a dumb young dwarf who will be perfect for the military,” sighed Lolor. “Now get back home, stay away from the outdoors for a while, okay?”
“Yes Uncle!” cried the child, running off to fight imaginary trolls.
Lolor strode quickly out the fort’s trap protected south sally-port, looking for the animal handler. Walking through the damp and foggy cloud forest thickly blanketing the high mountain valley that was home to the fortress of CityLions, Lolor quickly spotted the animal handler by his bright red shirt, and his entourage of mewling kittens and noisy young dogs, destined for war training.
“McRedshirt! Ho!” yelled Lolor, “Hold up, the Count has sent me out to protect you, he says he thinks there might be Goblins about.”

And that was when Lolor heard a throaty chuckle from behind a nearby tree. “Did you hear that, boys? Their fancy-pants Count thinks there might be Goblins about! Do you boys see any Goblins?” said a fearsome looking Goblin warrior, stepping out from his hiding spot.
Five more Goblins stepped out from hiding. “Uh, aren’t we Goblins, boss?” asked one of the ugly brutes.
“Oh for the love of… you idiots ruin everything. Just kill him,” barked the leader.

Lolor Tusungdastot, Militia Captain of the Tin Keys, stood alone in the center of a circle of six Goblin warriors. Lolor drew his Crossbow, but the Goblins were too close. “McRedhirt! Run for it! Through the emergency hatch!” he screamed, worried there might be more Goblins lurking nearby.
“AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!” replied McRedshirt, running right past the hatch, “It was locked just a moment ago and I can’t find a path to it!”  The Goblins advanced on Lolor.
“Don’t want to play fair and fight me one on one? Oh right, you are Goblins. You know nothing of honor. Well, it’s your funeral anyhow,” muttered Lolor, bashing the first Goblin in the legs while dodging a clumsy strike from a second. Quickly reversing into a backhand bash to the body of the first Goblin as he spun around, Lolor deflected an attack from the third with his shield, continuing his spin into a devastating blow to the head of a fourth, spattering brains all over his nice new steel crossbow. He rounded up at the first, who was clutching his leg, and bashed him in the arm, then in the guts, and finally in the head, getting more goblin brains on his crossbow. The leader struck down one of the two dogs trying to protect their master, the animal handler in the red shirt. Lolor entered a martial trance, and the world turned red. A goblin rushed him, and they tangled together on the ground. Lolor bit his toe off and spit it in his face, jumping up and away from an attack by another. Two down, four left, said the tiny part of his brain still capable of language. He bashed the Goblin writhing on the ground and holding his foot. The Goblin stopped writhing.
The two remaining foot soldiers looked to their leader. To his credit, the leader barely hesitated. Snarling, all three advanced, trying to circle behind the militia captain. That was when the second dog attacked, a furry brown whirlwind running in between the goblins, snapping at arms and legs. The dog grabbed a goblin by the hand and shook him. The leader and his henchman jumped at Lolor, one going high, one going low. The leader landed a lucky shot with his axe as Lolor deflected the attack of the other, tearing through Lolor’s steel mail and opening his arm to the bone. Stunned, Lolor collapsed to the ground. His martial training took over, and he dodged by reflex alone as he regained his wits. Once, twice, three times he rolled away from the goblins furious assault. Then he saw an opening, and leaped to his feet, inside the Goblin leader’s guard. He punched the leader in both hands, shattering the bones with his steel gauntlets. Seeing their leader drop his weapon, the final two Goblins broke and ran. Finding himself alone and disarmed, the leader did two. Pursued by dog and Dwarf, he rand for the nearby hills. Running after, Lolor remembered that his crossbow could be used for more than bashing. He shot the fleeing leader in the leg. The dog quickly tackled the now limping leader. Lolor suddenly remember that he was also carrying an axe, and cut the leader in two.
Looking back down the valley, he saw his squad forming up outside the salley port. He also saw McRedshirt, running BACK past the hatch again, screaming “They have crossbows! They have crossbows!”
Grimly looking down at his bleeding arm, Lolor Tusungdastot sighed. A militia captain’s work was never done. “Come on, boys, they are trying to rush the drawbridge! To the ramparts!”

Later that day, the Count came to congratulate Lolor at the hospital where he was getting his arm stitched up. “You know, Lolor, the deeper we mine that adamant, the closer we come to hell.”
“Yes, Lord,” said Lolor.
“But we can seal off the mines, you know. Hopefully our seals will hold as well as adamantine. Still, the poor fellow who is down there mining is done for. And you know how I hate to risk the lives of any of my people. That is why not everyone can have adamantine. We must not be greedy, and unleash hell upon the world.”
“Yes, Lord,” said Lolor, wondering where the Count was going with this.
“You know I used to be a simple miner, Lolor,” said the Count.
“You were never a simple miner. You founded this place.” replied Lolor.
“Yes, well, one does what one can. I think I might pull out the old pick, though. Just for old time’s sake. Can’t hurt to stay in practice. And I might just have a present for you when I get back. How do you feel about the color light blue?”

This is about how things went down. I had sent a guy out to replace a kitten I had forgotten to replace after the last raid, and I foolishly rearranged my military right then, because the last piece of adamantine armor had just been forged. I rearranged the squads, removing everyone from their squad and putting them in a more appropriate, specialized squad. Only the militia captains didn’t get rearranged. Only one was awake. The fight scene is taken right from the reports. I thought Lolor was done for. I thought McRedshirt was done for (he really was wearing a red shirt!) I thought both the dogs and the kitten were done for. Well, we lost one dog. One dog got a real name, earning it without any war training! Lolor was just a whirlwind of death. He finished off three and chased the fourth to the edge of the map. If the gobbo xbowmen had gone for him and the three guys of his squad who had formed up, it would have been a slaughter, instead they rushed the bridge and fell into the trapped outer refuse courtyard below. In this game, skill really matters. Training pays off. Keeping your militia out of harm’s way until they can handle themselves is crucial. Let them fight disarmed but still armored goblins you catch in your traps.

If this story inspired you,
Learn to Play
with Peter Tyson's new book.

4 thoughts on “One Stands Alone

  1. Wow, bravo, bravo is all i can say. this story awed me, and reminded me why my discovery of dwarf fortress was such a great thing. when the game seems to be getting dull, it throws something like this at you and completely redeems itself!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *