My migration wave to the fortress was a small one, but we were quickly put to work.
Most were drafted into the military, but I was a talented stoneworker, and was tasked with smoothing the opulent chambers of the nobles.
The mayor's rooms were very fine. Private office, private dining room, grand bedroom, all filled with the greatest furniture the fortress could produce.
The walls however, were covered in deep scars, as if claws had raked every inch of their surface. My work was good, and every scar was smoothed.
A few weeks into my residency, I’d been moved on to other projects. One evening, when most in the fortress were asleep, up from the central stairway and echoing throughout the fortress came a terrible snarling and screaming. It lasted all night; I could barely sleep a wink envisioning the terrible creatures that must wait in the deep catacombs below.
That morning in the meeting hall the atmosphere was heavy, each dwarf eating their rough meals in silence, stone faced, avoiding each other’s eyes. No drinking songs were sung that morning. Our booze was sipped without a quaff.
When I could stand the silence no longer, I nudged the dwarf beside me. A speardwarf stuffing mushrooms past his beard before a day of training. I asked in a hushed, faltering voice what happened last night. What were those horrible screams that everyone in attendance clearly heard but nobody will speak of!
In reply, the soldier threw down the last of his meal, gathered his spear and walked from the hall, his face unreadable.
The room was deathly still after my question. The hushed air meant all had heard me ask, and every dwarf in the hall followed the soldier from the room, all avoiding my eyes, and taking care not to pass too close to where I sat in confusion.
That night, when the day’s work was done, I was summoned to the rooms of the mayor, which I had seen so much of during my first week smoothing stone.
He told me the story of the heroes tomb.
When the settlement within the mountain was very young, in only its third or fourth year, it was ruled by Domas the Hero.
Before the gold veins were discovered, before the weapons were forged, they had neither spear nor bow, and no dwarf with any military training. A migration wave approached the open gates.
As all dwarves know, a young fortress has many opportunities for an ambitious dwarf to rise to the top of his field, so many new faces came that year.
Within moments of the last dwarf crossing the threshold, one of them transformed into a hideous werecat, a twisted creature of claws, fangs and rage. Before anyone knew what was happening, three good strong dwarves were dead at its feet.
Domas the Hero, who had taken it upon himself to carve beds for the new workers, was nearby. Unarmed, his hands full of timber, nevertheless he charged the beast. he fought it with his bare fists.
their battle was short, but violent.
Domas’ arm was torn from his shoulder, and a massive chunk was bitten from his torso, but his mighty fists killed the monster dead.
As he fell, bleeding atop the corpse of the creature, we all knew his fate. He was bitten many times. He would also transform, at the full moon.
we took him to his luxurious chambers and left him within. Many hoping he would succumb to his injuries and perish before the curse could take him. We bolted his door and waited.
Tragically, Domas survived the month, and as the full moon rose over the mountain, the curse of the werecat consumed him.
for months we kept Domas locked within his rooms. Every month, he would transform. His injuries healed, his arm returned, his need for food or drink satisfied by the curses vile magics.
This could not continue, and so the heroes tomb was built below. Even now, in a dark, empty room, at the end of the lowest tunnel filled with coffins, sealed behind walls of silver, Domas lives, starving and cold. And each month, when the screams of the savage werecat resonate up from below, we know Domas the Hero continues to suffer.