Echoes of Invasion: Dwarvish Discourse | Scene 8

Neither Daven nor Port have personal connections among the dwarves at the refinery, so Heppa and Tric are forced to rely upon their own charming personalities to get people talking. They split up, each taking a minder.

Tric figures that refiners are beneath smiths in the grand hierarchy of dwarvish careers. Looking to boost their egos a bit, he decides to bring up a story he heard once about a legendary dwarf who started as just an ore refiner but nonetheless grew to greatness. Stepping up to one worker, he leads in with, “That looks like a pretty good piece. That’s as good as Marten the Great would do. Wasn’t he among one of the best dwarvish refiners ever?”

The dwarf raises a bushy eyebrow. This must be one of the elves—potentially spies—that she has heard rumors about. “And what does an elf think they know aboot Marten?”

“Only that in elvish society, we hold up Marten as an exemplar dwarf. Now there’s a dwarf with perfect craftdwarfship who was able in combat and a reliable ally. There are some stories that tell of Marten working with elves and on occasion humans, but really, why bother?” 

Having thus broken the ice, Tric talks some with Almarin about the refining process. He asks what becomes of the water it uses. Almarin tells him that the dwarves are trying out an experimental new mining technique. Once a week they get in a huge quantity of unprocessed ore in tiny pieces that they need to refine. They are using way more water than they used to because they have to wash the pulverized rock and separate it. Vast quantities of water are consumed for that purpose.

“Whatever that experimental mining process is, it is causing shocks up on the surface,” Tric tells her. Almarin is not surprised, and she says that everything around the refinery seems to shake when it happens. “Right, but there’s a big bog, a swamp, right above you.”

“That’s got tae be quite a ways up. There is plenty of solid stone above oor heads.”

“There are cracks in the stone from all of this,” Tric insists. “You can see bubbles coming up when this happens. I’ve seen those bubbles, and that’s where the worst water is. And given those cracks, I’m worried that the water from the bog is going to stop being up there and start being down here. Now, I don’t know everything about dwarves, but I don’t think you can breathe underwater, can you? If you can, blink twice.”

Almarin stares at the elf. Probably nae a spy, considerin’ hoo daft he’s actin’. “Na, dwarves can nae breathe underwater. What, dae we look like merfolk tae ye?”

Dwarvish merfolk? Is that a thing? Tric makes a mental note to work on that idea more later, but he does not allow himself to get lost in his thoughts. “So, this is bad for both of us then,” he insists. “You don’t want your home to get flooded. I still want to be able to enjoy soup at home…” Almarin counters that architectural issues are outside the concerns of the refinery. Tric tries to produce some convincing credentials. “Trigadur asked us to check out the refinery to better understand—”

“Aye, aye. Trigadur’s responsible fer the project. But ultimately, everything is Lord Knutan’s call. If there’s a threat tae the whole settlement, Lord Knutan would want tae know.”

“Great! When can you and I petition him?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! I’ve got all this refinin’ tae get through,” Almarin says, turning back to her work. Despite Tric’s efforts, he cannot make her feel any sense of urgency. The project has been going on for a year, and she doubts anything will change in the next few hours. But she does advise him, “Yer best chance is at dinner time. Sometimes Lord Knutan opens the floor fer questions.”

“One last question… The smashing things up into small pieces, is that dwarves doing that or trolls?” Almarin tells him that dwarves use their hammers to take care of any rocks that need further breaking up. The trolls are part of the mining process.

On the other side of the refinery, Hepalonia gets totally distracted by her own introductory remarks. She greets one of the workers and introduces herself. “Like most elves, I don’t know anything about refining. But I did recently find some bog iron, which I gave to Daven there.” This leads to a long discussion of different sources of iron and the relative difficulty of extracting the metal from them. Burtil, the refiner, is of the opinion that bog iron would be a pain to work with because the dwarves would have to leave their tunnels and cart it all back down, and even then, there would be little return per volume. For comparison, he shows Heppa the amount of ore it currently takes to produce a single iron ingot and then goes back to work.

Always curious, Hepalonia looks through the cart of rubble. Her hands come away stained with soot. She shows it to Port, who has been silently sticking by her side, and he nods agreement at her identification of the black smudges. “I didn’t think iron burned…” Heppa muses aloud. “What would they be burning? Isn’t it just dirt and rock under there?” Port shrugs.

When Heppa meets back up with her cousin, he is explaining something to Daven. “It’s called fire-cracking, or fracking for short. You light a fire underground and this causes the iron not to totally melt, but rather to weaken, which cracks the rocks so that large chunks fall out.”

Hepalonia realizes she never got around to asking about things pertaining to the contaminated water. Fortunately her cousin was more on-task. “I think something is being burnt during the mining process,” she agrees. 

Tric suggests that maybe they just need to let Knutan know that the roof might spring a leak. He asks Daven and Port, but they have not heard about anyone complaining about leaks yet. Since there is still some time left before dinner, they decide to visit the mine to see what other support they can uncover for their argument.