I impart unto you a tale of woe, of sadness so great perhaps only we dwarves, being of long life and longer memories, are able to fully understand. No matter, it is the story of a woman and her child, and what the Fates have bestowed upon them both.
There once was a quiet dwarven village set within a great mountain chain. For hundreds of years the inhabitants had hunted the mountains and farmed the lowlands, traded with neighbors and existed in the same fashion as their ancestors, never questioning their place or their future. They lived in peace and were happy on their mountain.
One day a child was born among them, a daughter to a nondescript couple who were as content and as happy as their neighbors, and there was much rejoicing. A woman-child would grow to marry within the village and produce more children, as had been the way for generations.
After a few years it was noted with raised eyebrows that the daughter was not quite like the other children of the village, although exactly what or why could not be determined. Accidents seemed to occur in greater frequency when the child was around, not to her but to others who were in the vicinity.
As the young child grew into a young girl, the strangeness became more evident. At the urging of the girl and her family, she was tested thoroughly by the leader of the village, a religious leader of some menial magical ability. It was he who determined that the girl was possessed of some innate magic that he could not understand, and the girl was branded dangerous.
The girl wondered if perhaps she was dangerous, for she knew that her mind sometimes did things she did not will or even wish for. People who made her angry suddenly fell and broke bones. A merchant who had cheated her father suddenly became gravely ill, though later recovered. These things she knew she had caused, unwillingly, but kept her thoughts locked up inside lest she and her family incur the wrath of the villagers.
It was all for naught, for the villagers had their own suspicions and soon concluded that the girl, now grown to a young woman, was possessed not only of magic, but of evil. Her father disavowed her mother, blaming his ex-wife for the child and calling his daughter “demon-spawn”. The mother in turn denounced her daughter and left the village in shame.
Ostracized and alone, the young woman moved into an old hovel on the edge of town where she made a scant living pretending to be able to read the future to travelers and adventurers.
One day, while bathing in the stream some distance from her home, she was caught unawares by a group of young male turnip farmers on break from their drudgery. Naked and defenseless, she endured their cat calls and name calling with silent composure.
Soon, however, sticks and rocks were hurled at her in disdain and as one struck her in the head, before her dazed eyes, one of the roughians was pulled, as if by an invisible hand, from the rock ledge he had been standing upon.
The others, upon seeing the skull of their comrade crack when it struck the rocks below, ran quickly back to the village shouting about the young woman’s “attack” and the death of their companion.
An unruly mob formed, made up of the men tasked to defend the town in times of turmoil. They headed straight for the stick and mud shack the young woman called home. Silently, bitterly, the young woman awaited them, knowing neither fear nor anger, only regret at having not lived a normal life like so many others.
The men easily broke down the door and seized the woman, tying her with rough hemp rope. She fought briefly, but had already accepted her death as imminent, almost finding relief in the fact that it was now in sight.
But the men’s anger was not satiated. The capture had been too quick, too easy, and their anger was great, their blood boiling in their veins. And so, these dwarves of previous honor and integrity, each one in turn, took the woman, pouring out their fear and hatred and bloodlust in a fashion far worse than battle.
The dwarven woman’s suffering cannot be known by those who have never endured its like.
At the end the men were ashamed and appalled by their actions, and in an effort to hide what they had done, beat the young dwarven woman until she was nothing but a mass of broken and bloody flesh. In this way they left her, allowing her to suffer just a bit longer before knowing eternal relief.
But that relief was not to come. Shortly after the men left, confident that they had killed the woman, a hooded form entered the hovel. The form moved quickly to the crippled dwarf and tended her, slowly easing life back into the broken body with herbs and artifacts.
Seemingly countless weeks passed and the cloaked form tended the woman, keeping her alive but, by the account given to me, not much else. No healers from the village could be asked to assist, and the visitor had hidden the small hut behind a majicked veil of frosted brambles so as to prevent further attacks.
The young dwarven woman did live, though her body had been punished beyond imagination. She could not walk, nor feed herself, and had been deafened in the attack. Yet within these months, bitter knowledge was gained by the one who tended her. The young dwarf was with child. The visitor kept this to herself until it was obvious to them both.
After such extended and intensive care the visitor’s fair elven face was frozen in the dwarf’s mind, ice blue eyes set in pale skin framed by long white hair that cascaded as the snow falls. Against the young woman’s wishes the visitor kept her alive through arcane arts and majics until it was time for the child to be born.
As the male child was painfully birthed amid screams of agony, the lifetime of hatred and shame the woman had endured came pouring out of her in a curse. A curse which she spat upon the village she had called home.
A curse of revenge, bathed in the loathing and repugnance she had absorbed all her life, this she now threw back upon the villagers ten-fold.
The curse ran thus: No male dwarf born of the village would ever have intimate knowledge of a mate without reliving the liberties of his forebears on the object of his attentions. Each would leave his love as bloody and broken as they had her, their enemy.
At this, the valiant young dwarf died, a lifetime of pain and confusion ending as the gods took and embraced her.
Seek not the village, for you will not find it. Soon after, the womenfolk began having “accidents” which ended their lives, or simply disappeared. Within a month the village lay deserted, and was soon lost to the wilderness.
The visitor took the male child far away, away from the suffering of the small hut, and placed him in the sturdy, capable hands of a blacksmith whose own children had died in a fire. She imparted unto the dwarven smith the boy’s history, only perhaps a fourth of which the dimwitted man believed.
And so the child grew into a boy, and learned the trade his “father” taught him. Working in the forge gave the young dwarf a strong arm and equally strong back, and he was soon making tools and weapons for an arms trader who had a shop in a faraway and exotic place.
The blacksmith had decided early on it was better for the boy to simply believe he was his son, and nothing less. He vaguely recalled the urgent words of the hooded woman who had brought him the boy, but had dismissed them as soon as she had left. The mad words of a magess could bring nothing of good.
As the boy became a man, his eye was captured by a local dwarven girl. Diatra she was called, and she was a beauty to behold. She had bright eyes, thick legs and an equally thick beard and they were soon seen together almost all the time. None were surprised when the young man asked for her hand in marrige nor when she quickly accepted.
They were wed on a beautiful spring evening, the stars so bright in the sky above it appeared as if the Gods themselves were looking down in approval. And that night the two newlyweds escaped to their new home, a home they had built together, to consummate their wedding vows.
It had never occurred to the young man to question his father about his past, because the old dwarf had never told him that he was not his own blood.
It never occurred to him that he, too, had been born in the cursed village, just on the edge of town, where so much death had taken place that even grass refused to grow there.
Even as the red rage of the curse passed from him and he stared down at the bloody, lifeless body that had once been his beloved Diatra, the dwarf did not understand.
He ran to his father, who broke down in tears and confessed all, the words coming through in a torrent of anguish as the old dwarf remembered the magess’ words of warning.
The pain nearly unbearable, his history known to him now, the dwarf ran from his father’s house and into the wilderness, screaming in gut wrenching torment his own vows:
Never again would he love another, and to his dying day would he seek his tormentor, she who had been the cause of his mother’s despair and now the cause of his wife’s death. His mother should have been allowed to die, and he with her.