Hendra’s World • Book One • Part One
High on a rocky platform on a mountainside, just outside the Dwarfmade tunnel in which they had slept, Hendra stood under the stars with her armored company by her side. Three of her Maidkin — daughter, sister, niece — and 14 staunch Dwarfmen, seven from House Hen and seven of her sister’s Stalwarts from House Din, took-in the landscape from their rugged perch.
Shrouded in perpetual twilight beneath the Great Expanse of the heavens, the epic majesty of the surface features on Hendra’s world could not be understated.
Everywhere they looked, the Dwarves were surrounded by massive black and gray, snow and ice capped mountain ranges crashing through the earth’s crust, rising ever skyward, some disappearing into the clouds, some seeming to challenge the very stars for dominance of the world itself.
The colossal exteriors of the Great Elevations of D’waiv’lin, as the mountains in Hendra’s world were collectively known, were awesome beyond anything that her kind had ever, or could ever hope to carve out for themselves inside and underneath the same earth and stone that spawned the Elevations. All of the lonely Dwarven realms and half-empty cities deep inside the towering Mountains combined were nought but the work of ants in comparison to the size and complexity that time and the forces of nature had birthed and hewn from the raw elements so many untold eons ago.
All Dwarfkind felt a special connection to the Elevations, and exploring the mountain exteriors had been second only to studying the sky among Hendra’s most passionate pursuits.
From a very young age she was known for taking on the sharpest spires, scaling perilous cliffs and seemingly impossible rock faces, for conquering virgin summits that others had deemed unreachable. Her name appears as primary author on many detailed maps and descriptions of previously unseen places.
And like the objects in the sky, the features of the surface had many names and stories among the various people of Hendra’s world. (Save Trolls, again, who seem to care little for names and stories in general, and are entirely focused instead on eating, throwing rocks, and fighting among each other.) And as with the Expanse, Hendra knew all the names and all the tales of the Elevations, and loved them dearly.
Looking Northward from their current position on the cold, stone balcony, she could just barely see the southernmost tip of the vast Kaltkravass through the haze of the perpetual blizzard that raged in and around it. A deep gouge in the earth’s crust, lined with a labyrinth of jagged black pikes and sharply rising ridges covered in permafrost, the Kaltkravvass was a noisy, and to some, a fearsome place. Even from so far away, Hendra could hear the wind howling mournfully in the distant depths of the massive crag.
The sound stirred memories in her of the many years — better times than these — that she had spent exploring the Kaltgap, as it was also called. There are parts deep within its innumerable folds and complex grooves, that are actually quite warm and lush, and full of life, born from thousands of hot springs that bubble up from below the crust. In the deepest depths, where the sun does not reach, there are hundreds of winding miles of balmy, tangled, phosphorescent jungles, most of which are still uncharted. There are ruined cities of an unknown origin, as well as tales, tall perhaps, of a large, gentle, hairy folk who inhabit the Kravass, and glow like fairies in darkness.
Hendra wished she was going there now, turning North instead of South. Exploring, rather than killing. Meeting furry new friends for the first time, instead of fighting their Hel forsaken enemies, for what felt like the millionth.
Directly below their position on the mountainside, stretched The Verdin’linder Forest. A sea of dark green piney spires, undulating in the wind under the stars. This was their destination.
Hendra liked trees. As far as she was concerned, they were some of the best features of the surface. Though not as dazzling as the Expanse, nor as monumental as the Elevations, trees, and the other vegetation of the surface world, were impressive in diversity of size, shape, color, and configuration nonetheless, and whether considered individually or together, they possessed a subtle, though no less sublime beauty, which rivaled that of both the sky and the mountains.
Yet, despite all its majesty, Hendra and most of Dwarfkind spent as little time above ground as possible in these current years, as the wonders and beauty of the surface were far outweighed by its many and ever-present dangers.
Among the peacefully swaying trees there were Goblins, and worse things no doubt.