User: muklin
Race: Dwarf
Gender: Male
Role: Striker
Class/Level: Scout/Barbarian/8
"Darkness is my Domain, and Cramped Quarters my Calling.
The Mine. The Cave.
Give me mazes of corridors and catacomb of crypts.
I can Run, I can Fight.
Grant me Peace and I grant you Peace.
But stand before me, and you will find an axe in your back."

Born in the Northern Wild Lands, in the territory of the Blackroc Orcs, my family were a simple band of Dwarven prospectors, believing they were destined to discover a dynasty inspiring seam, of gold, mithril, gems or better. We traveled from mine head to mine head, always living in fear of raids from the nearest village of Orcs. Whenever the mine head was discovered, we would endure a raid, but could flee to the relative safety of the depths to wait out the storm, while a hurricane of brutes ransacked whatever recent gains they could lay their hands on. Memories of my youth recall the pitch blackness of the mine, the warcry of Orcs, their barbarian natures urging them onward.

And then we would begin again. Begin again at the next mine shaft, ever infatuated with the search for the Great Find. An infatuation I did not share.

I respected these natural enemies, for one must respect an enemy, especially when he wields a weapon that would sweep your head from your neck as the exploring child sweeps the flower bulb from the stalk. I fled the mine, whenever I could get away, whether I had chores or not. The nearest Orc village was large enough not to need to be carefully guarded, and I spent many hours watching the warriors spar, hunt and train. They worshipped some strange god and I often saw a diminutive priest dressed in heavy grey cloaks passing through the village, but I had no interest in that, and concentrated on the usefulness of their combat techniques. A local cave complex, which had no use to either Orc or Dwarf, became my hideaway. I emulated the training I had seen, modifying it to suit my form, and height, and the weapon of my kin, my great Dwarven WarAxe. Father caught sight of me one day, skipping out on my quota of ore to haul. His words were harsh, echoing in my ears as I ran up the tunnel. As they still echo today.

My cave system was a hotbed of frustration that day. I trained, working away anger at a family who worked fingers to the bones, in a gamble of fate, a throw of the dice for a chance at greatness, with nothing to show for their work but a pile of worthless rubble, Orc ruined furniture, and memories of fear. I don't know how long it had been, but suddenly I was aware of a pair of eyes watching me, watching from a dark cleft I had thought a dead end. As soon as I stopped, they were gone. Inquisitive, I searched the dead end, and found a tiny passage heading deeper. Following deeper, it opened again, to a tunnel that ran further into the darkness. No sign could be seen of the mysterious watcher, and I kept my wits about me as I delved deeper, fully alive now, throwing my own handful of dice. The nature of the tunnel's destination and the nature of the watcher became apparent simultaneously, as I rounded a corner and beheld an amazing sight.

Gold, Gems, Mithril, unprocessed ore, and precious quartzes and crystals, the chamber was filled to overflowing! A dim half light that seemed to filter down from a larger opening in the ceiling, illuminating the room so I could see even without my darkvision. Atop the heap, I saw a diaphanous figure, shifting like the shadow of a tree in the wind, climbing to a roughly formed throne at the summit of the hoard. The shadow sat, playing with some rubies at the throne's armrest, and appeared to be deep in thought. I shifted my weight, and began to make ready to leave, but was careless, and a single gold ingot, dislodged by my foot, clunked heavily against the next, and the mysterious watcher knew he was now the watched. Immediately, the shadow gained solidity and form, meta-morphing before my eyes, growing. Dark wings sprouted from his back, and the face elongated, eyes turning to black coals beneath cragged and leathery ridges. I waited not, to discover the final form of this monstrosity, but fled for my life. Not a moment too soon, as I felt a blast of dark energy behind me, robbing me of warmth, slowing my movements, but not enough to stop me from finding my way through the tunnel to my cave complex again. I did not stop there, but fled, blind with fear.

The mine head was dark as I approached it, my family still working the mine, I supposed. I had circled back several times, cautious to ensure I was not followed, and found nothing. I was about to step into the clearing surrounding the main hut, when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an extra shadow. Perched on a ridge above the hut, was the form of a large, serpentine form. I could see it watching me closely. "Fool!" I whispered to myself, thinking I could sneak and hide from a dragon. I stood, looking at the creature and somehow sensed some cruel smirk of expression. At that moment, I heard approaching Orc cries, and hesitated only a moment before fleeing blindly, my fear overcoming me. My father appeared at the door, startled by the Orc cries and seeing me in the dusk, stopped there long enough to call to me. Long enough also for the first black fletched arrow to find its mark in his chest.

I ran until my lungs could breath no more, and my legs could carry me no longer, a long way, by my standards. Dawn was breaking when my fear finally faded and I found myself still alive. My mind cautiously stepped over the events of the day before, and I knew my father was dead. I grieved then. Days passed as I passed in and out of territories which I half recognized, until I recognized the accent of the orc sentry I was stalking, making ready to steal what passed for his evening meal. I realised I had made my way back to the region of the Orc Village... and that final mine head. The last smokes rising from the burnt out hut was visible long before I reached the clearing, and I slowed as I approached, taking it all in. Orcs were passing into the mine, emerging loaded with sacks of gold. Confused, I carefully considered the situation, and a memory of a Dragon's Smirk finally caused me to realize the truth. This Shadow Dragon had used my family to search out his horde, pouncing only just as a seam was about to be uncovered, then using his fearful clergy of Orcs to gather the spoils.

I carefully left the area once more, angry and defeated, knowing I had no chance against a village of Orcs commanded by a Dragon, and vowed to return some day, with an army at my back, and some brave cavalier, fool enough to name himself Dragon Slayer, at my side. Until that day, my pain and guilt will smoulder in the back of my mind. Life goes well, though, and my skills learnt from the Orcs, and from sneaking through caverns have stood me in good stead. I have new friends, who come close to replacing my family, especially since their interests of adventure more closely match mine. Civilization was a shock at first, but I have come to be able to sit easily at a tavern table with a mediocre human ale at my elbow, and I find that the burn to avenge my father has abated to only a mild heat. Someday that Shadow Dragon's path will cross mine, and I will repay the monster his due, but until that day, I live in the knowledge that though my families infatuation with it was valid, their destiny was never to enjoy their Great Find.