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A dwarf, a human, an elf, and two orks get trapped in a cave.

A dwarf, a human, an elf, and two orks get trapped in a cave.

A short fantasy.
dark cave entrance geometric rocks
Photo by Peng Yang on Unsplash

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A dwarf, a human, an elf, and two orks get trapped in a cave.

“I know what you mean,” said the dwarf.

Shinoro the Beautiful looked at him, thinking he was losing his mind. The dwarf wasn’t really short, as the tales tell, but definitely burly and stocky and all frowny. He had some serious eyebrows and sideburns on him. She blinked. She hadn’t said anything to him in Antian, the most common of tongues, or any language. Was he making a certain effort to impress her? She hoped not.

Egoph explained, after a moment, realizing everyone was looking at him. “…I can see it on you. You’re still thinking you can get out of here. I was the same just last week. Or was it a month ago?”

“And now?” asked Ripwick. “What’s going on in your head?”

“I’m lost in the tunnels of memory. Counting the decisions and steps that led me to this cavern.”

“Oh, holy heavens, spare us all by making the cave collapse,” Silvan said in elvish. Only Ripwick understood, being able to speak twelve languages. She laughed.

“What’d the elf say? What’d you say?” snapped Shikaza. She was having a miserable time. The normally patient, stoic, middle-aged Ork could not stand being shut in one place, much less chained to a gnarled wall of rock.

Silvan sighed and replied, “I said we shouldn’t ramble too much. It’s only going to make passing the time intolerable.” 

Shikaza sniffed at him. 

“My tusk itches,” Shinoro said.

“So that’s what you call cheek horns,” said Egoph.

“I can scratch it,” Shikaza said, then with the strength of the warrior she was, braced her back against the wall and flexed her legs up, using her toe to itch around the bone-like structure to the right of Shinoro’s mouth. “Better?”

“Much. Thanks, sis.”

“The famous Ork athleticism, best used to scratch an itch,” Ripwick joked. 

“Quiet, bookworm,” Shikaza said. 

“You be quiet, ork hag.”

“Hag? Hag!” 

“This reminds me of home,” grumbled Egoph in equal parts irritation and nostalgia.

Silvan snorted. “Is it the cave or being chained to the walls?”

Egoph smiled, replied, “It’s like being with my brothers and sisters. Idiots, all of them.”

Water dripped in the cavern. Time passed and no one came to check on them or give them food. Their discomfort grew. 

“What do we do when we have to go to the bathroom?” Ripwick asked, her freckled face screwed up with discomfort. She’d had to go for at least an hour when they were captured. That was half a day ago.

Egoph said, “Typical human. Can’t hold your bowels.”

“Sorry my piss doesn’t turn to silver and my shit to diamonds.”

The Orks laughed -- they were always ready to. Egoph grumbled. Silvan looked up to the rocky ceiling, begging, absolutely begging to die suddenly from an aneurism.

Shinoro eventually replied, “You’ll have to just go, Rippy. Judging by the smell, you’re not the first and will not be the last.”

“Yeah, but I’ll be the first here.”

“You can’t know if that’s true,” Silvan added, “any one of us could have relieved ourselves quietly.”

“The elf would know how to do so silently,” Shinoro said.

“…I don’t shit diamonds, pukeskin,” the dwarf grumbled.

The prisoners erupted into jeers:

“Oh sure you don’t!”

“Call me pukeskin one more time!”

“I bet you eat rocks too! Like fruit!”

“Please, oh heavens, end my life.”

“Silence.” A shadow was suddenly standing there. He moved into the light. It was a tall, armored elf, the chain mail so finely weaved it looked like a cotton shirt; he gave them water, fed them, and then informed them that yes, they would have to relieve themselves standing up, but a mage would come and sanitize them with a spell. He did not provide any information as to when they would be released. He did not answer any questions, save one. No, he would not trade a quick roll around the hay for freedom.

“It was worth a shot,” grumbled Shinoro, positively incensed. “Was it my delivery? Have I put on weight?” 

Shikaza rolled her eyes. “Always with how you look…”

“You are perfect,” the dwarf said in his own tongue. 

“What does that mean, diamond-shitter?” asked Shinoro.

“When they clean you with magic, your body feels like it’s been submerged in freezing water.”

Shinoro was skeptical. “No way that’s what you said…”

“Can someone please say anything else besides this banal, idiotic commentary? If I don’t hear an intelligent thought soon, I will choke myself with my own foot.” 

They erupted into jeers again:

“Look at the sensitive elf. Ooooooh.”

“Do it. If you die, they’ll check on us sooner.”

“I bet you like feet like that, don’t you?”

“I’ll tell a story.”

“Who said that?” Silvan’s head craned around desperately. “Who said they’d tell a story?”

“I will recall a story for you.,” replied Egoph, “even though you’ve done naught but insult me. I feel inspired by the situation.” After he was not insulted further, he went to stroke his sideburns with his hand. The chain rattled, reminding him that he could do no such thing. It felt wrong to him, recounting a story without being able to stroke his facial hair, sip ale, or have a fire illuminate his expressions. He went anyway, his voice melodious and pitched perfectly. You had to really pay attention to grasp every word, lest the vision he spun disappeared.

I hope you’re enjoying the story :)

“It’s a story my father, Krackmarr the Breaker, told me when I was young. It had been passed on to him by his mother, and by her father, alternating between the kin folk as The Doctrine commands. As Egoph the Wanderer, now, I tell you of the splitting of man. You might not believe it, but the world was once much larger than it is. Incomprehensibly large and vast and so full of mystery that every passing moment felt like a miracle. There were few people in it, and they lived in places that were rich with game and water. A young girl, part of the first people who were unnamed and will remain unnamed, had gone out to explore the surrounding hills. She did this often to escape her three siblings, who treated her with incessant wickedness. The oldest brother stabbed her with biting words that made her feel small. The second in line was violent and loved to fight at any moment’s notice. The third would always trick the girl, get her in trouble, and steal the credit for all good work. As the youngest and smallest, the girl was often defenseless. A lonely child like this was desperate to find her own world. She had no ally, no companion, save the mountains.

“She climbed as often as she could. And on this day, after the three of her kin cornered her and stole a gem she’d found in her trekking, she considered running away for good. She thought on this as she scaled a mountain, the clear and beautiful day having no effect on her. She wished for a friend, for anyone to be her companion. She prayed to the gods whose names came from what things were: sun, moon, water, and earth. None heeded her call.

“At the top of the mountain, she found a cave, not unlike this very one we are chained to - except it did not smell of refuse. It had a clear, clean stream flowing from it. Cupping her hands in it, she found flakes of gold. She decided to follow this stream into the mountain. It went on and on and on, and she followed it as it left the light and became dark, then became light again. She found herself on the inside of the mountain, inside a great cone that was filled with a forest and animals. A paradise. This was not just an oasis for mortal beings, but those of heaven. 

“She made friends with the gods and spirits, who had taken the shape of earthly creatures to best enjoy the natural splendor. They did not speak in any tongue she knew of, but communicated through eyes and intention, as all people once knew how to do. These creatures were immediately aware of the loneliness in this girl and led her to the sacred spring, a small pool surrounded by mossy rocks, the water steaming, a grotto of black rock towering over it in the shape of a great wave.

“‘Come here, child of earth. They tell me you need me.’ She approached the spring where the voice had drawn her. As soon as she stepped into the water, she no longer felt alone. She was complete and whole and no longer needed a thing. ‘I am Wholeness. I am Warmth. I do not understand why you are so sad,’ the god said. This was one of the oldest gods, but not the greatest. The god of Fire. Or heat, we might say today. The elves would probably call it energy since they do not believe in such gods. ‘I’m not sad anymore,’ she said and fell asleep in the warmth, waking hours later as the sun fell. She would be in dire straights if she did not get home to her family, but as soon as she left the pool, she felt crushed. Her sadness was so great that her tears caused the plants to wilt and wither where they fell. She turned back to the pool if only to touch it and gain some relief. 

“‘You cannot go home this way,’ Fire said, blazing hot, making billows of steam in the spring. ‘Tell me what I must do.’ The girl knelt by the pool and thought, trusting Fire even though gods could not always be trusted, and doubly so when they offered a gift. ‘My siblings. They are too many and too cruel. I cannot be heard. I am always ignored like I do not exist. If I was the only one who my parents could hear, then I’d finally be at peace.’

“‘What have you to offer me?’ Fire said, already preparing its power to help this girl. This alone could be said of the god, misguided as its passion was, Fire helped anyone who came its way. The girl, so beset with hope, offered the only thing she really understood about herself: ‘You said you didn’t understand me. It’s because you provide warmth and life. If only you knew what I go through, then you wouldn’t ask for anything in trade. So, I offer the bitter fruit of loneliness.’ Enraged that this mortal pointed out its weakness, Fire seethed, and invited the girl to cry her bitter tears into the pool. Fire bit into that fruit.

“The weight of these mortal emotions was too much. They drove Fire into itself, deep into the mountain, drawing the heat from the surface suddenly and without warning, becoming a pressure, a blue-hot core that fed on itself. The girl thought she’d killed Fire. The spirits and gods around her became enraged and started biting her and swatting at her, chasing her back to the cave whence she came. She descended the mountain, tears blurring her steps.

“Fire’s loneliness could not stand another moment bottled up. It exploded. The mountain burst behind her, sending rock and flames and ash into the heavens, killing the spirits. Across the world, fire cones blazed hotter than ever, burning down homes and huts and tents. In the girl’s home, Fire slithered on the floor like a snake and found her siblings, swallowing them whole, but not destroying them. The oldest, who had been the quickest to meanness, was given strange ears and a long face, like the bathounds that stalk in the night. The second in line, prone to violence, was turned into a strong brute with very distinct horns in its cheeks. The third, who had been vile for the sake of it, was made all but hairless and plain and weak.

“When the parents escaped their home, which had been set ablaze, they could not find their children. Instead, only monsters had run out, but the parents recognized them. They cried out, ‘Fire has cursed us because of you! You are changed to your true natures! Begone! Begone!’ Their transformed children tried to beg and plead, but no longer shared the same tongue. They were now entirely alone in the world. Realizing this, they took to the other corners of the earth. When the girl returned, covered in ash and despair, her parents devoted all their attention upon her. She mourned for her siblings, who had been caught in the flames because of her. Her grief followed her for the rest of her life, as the voices of her siblings haunted her in the home and village. But she was left as she was by fire. She remained strong and solid as a mountain, though she felt a coward for what she had done to her family. The mountains became her hiding place from her great shame.

“That is how the four branches of men came to be.”

“Fascinating,” Ripwick said. “I’ve never heard the tale told quite like that. Dwarves believe we all come from the same base phenotype?”

“One problem, though,” Shinoro began.

“Let it be!” Silvan shouted. Then, more quietly with a sob, “Please, just let it be.”

“Just gonna ask how they multiplied, you know, if they were the only ones of their kind,” Shinoro said. 

“I assume kidnapping,” Egoph answered. “Or they found their own gods to make requests to, further mucking up the world.”

“Also, it’s probably inaccurate,” Ripwick added. “I’d bet it was the Ork child who complained about being unheard. They do love to complain.”

“We do not!” Shinoro shouted.

“And another thing, elvish faces aren’t that long,” Silvan complained.

Shikaza muttered, “Orks are not so violent.”

“And I’ve seen plenty of humans with hair. Too much in surprising places, really,” Ripwick chirped.

The five of them dangled on their chains, thinking the story over, wondering when they’d be freed. Wondering what their own families and loved ones were doing at home. Wondering if they were all branches from the same tree, only twisted by fate and life and gods.

Shinoro began, “A dwarf, a human, an elf, and two Orks are trapped in a cave. The first one says…”

Silvan screamed and cursed and tried desperately to kick her from across the cave. The prisoners, per usual:

“It was going to be a great joke!”

“Keep those piglets to yourself, horse-face!”

“Soooo sensitive…”

“Guards! Please! This elf is losing his mind!”

And so it would be until time itself came to a halt. The four peoples might be different in shape and size and tongue - but they would always be like siblings. Blind to how close they really were.

Here’s the link to the other short story in this world: To Make things Rite

Thank you for reading and listening!

If there’s a fantasy lover in your life, why not share this story with them? Bonus points if they’re a sibling!


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If you have a sibling you would have cursed with fire as a kid, why not share a funny story? I’ll go first.👇

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Until next month, Realm Walkers,


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