Image description. Gaernurmer, the
Thrumgolz earth-guide, with the typically stubby, sturdy
shovel the dwarves call the "chingu". Illustration drawn by
Gaernurmer was a Thrumgolz earth-guide and
tunneler, distinguished, one might even say famed, on both accounts. As an
earth-guide he had an unerring sense of direction: Wherever in the depths
he found himself, he always knew which way was "up" and which one was
"down", no matter what twisted, tangled, labyrinthine tunnels he was
traveling; if one wanted to get back to the home cavern, you only had to
ask him, and he’d point out the swiftest way, the same with detecting the
nearest open space – and on top of that he was one of the few naturals who
could "sniff out" veins worth mining, simply through his infallible
intuition. Earth-guiding is a crucial skill for dwarves, and the fact that
even the Helcrahn Duke had personally requested his valued services on
occasions, certainly contributed to Gaernurmer’s ever growing popularity.
But not only that: He was also a tunneler, a miner specializing in digging
tunnels with his "chingu" as the dwarves call it – a stubby, sturdy tool,
which is shovel, chisel and pick at the same time –, and he tunneled with
it like nobody else could. The dwarf had the strength and the agility to
work with his chingu like three other professional diggers combined, aye,
his upper arm was as thick and stout as an elephant's foot! It was a sight
to behold when you saw him arriving at a cave-in and single-handedly
rescue a fellow-dwarf all by himself and get that rubble out of the way in
a jiffy as if there was nothing to it. Yes, the mighty Gaernurmer was
quite something! Gaernurmer "Strongarm" the others called him – after the
even more famous Brok –, or Gaernurmer the "Wallbreaker" and at other
times the "Tunneldevil". He was a dwarf who knew what he wanted, and when
he thought he needed to speak up he spoke up indeed, and because he was
Gaernurmer everybody listened – the chieftain, the elders, the miners,
even the denirim, who handled all the holy affairs, sometimes asked for
his advice. Oh, and did we mention already that the dwarven maidens had
quite a thing for him as well? There, we've said it. But with everything
we've heard about Gaernurmer by now it should come as no surprise that
trimming their beards according to the latest fashion became a favorite
Thrumgolz pastime for anyone female under the age of a century.
Gaernurmer, as the celebrity he was, was never alone. Always was he seen
in the company of other dwarves, who followed him around, went wherever he
went, did whatever he did, dressed, ate and talked the way he did, for
maybe they hoped that someday they might miraculously become just like
him. There was Drorm for example, and Khardrum, and Mournoum and
Thurgatrem, and Goldruph of course, who made up his primary entourage.
Rarely would you chance upon Gaernurmer without seeing any of them.
Gaernurmer liked them, sure, he liked them to be around whenever he
required assistance for any job two hands couldn't deal with alone, but –
truth be told – he was too much of a dwarf himself to actually ask them
for advice. He didn't really need them. Well, he needed someone to
help him alright, but not necessarily them. It just happened that
these fellows were always around, and if you had asked him what friendship
was to him he would have said: To have someone around whenever you need
them. Well, that's one way of putting it. However, one could easily get
the impression that he ordered the ones closest to him around, while
Drorm, Khardrum, Mournoum, Thurgatrem and Goldruph didn't seem to notice
any of that at all, quite to the contrary: They gladly did whatever their
master demanded, and even more so, they tried anticipating his every wish,
and that was their strange relationship.
Now there were also those who had befriended Gaernurmer’s friends, for
they thought that if they'd be friends with Gaernurmer’s friends, chances
were that they'd be closer to the noted dwarf himself. Among them were
Khalmid, Tharming, Zhorgan and Mhort, and Maldren and Khild. And then
there were others who thought along the same line and wanted to first
become friends of the friends of Gaernurmer's friends, so that he may be
sort of "friendly" to them as well. There was Zhogg and Throth, and Proth
and Ghorz and Hurghom and Zhorugan and Loumolff and Whart, and, well, you
get the idea. Isn't it odd how friendship – or whatever people like to
call a "friendship" – sometimes works?
Well, and then there was Little Mook. Little Mook, as the name already
says, was little, well, let's say short, or small, even for a dwarf, and
he wasn't particularly liked by the others. That was because he was also
thin and a bit dim and weak and awkward to be around with. But regardless
of his shortcomings, whatever Gaernurmer did, or one of his friends, or a
friend of a friend, or anyone associated with a friend of a friend of the
dwarf himself, Little Mook wanted to do as well. From time to time he
popped up in midst of Gaernurmer's admirers, set to have a chat with them,
or he just tagged along wherever they went, followed the workers into the
tunnels where they toiled and tried to make himself useful. Now nobody
really listened to Mook’s queer ideas and uninformed ramblings, but as
long as he was capable of holding a shovel or a pickaxe and did no serious
harm with it, the "Mook spook" – as he had been labeled by now – was,
let’s say, endured. So it came that Little Mook spent his time mostly in
the same tunnel as Gaernurmer's friends, or friends of friends, which was
the one next to Gaernurmer's shaft. Though usually he found himself at the
far end of it, if it could be helped by the others. There was always work
that needed to be done “over there”, or so he was told.
And then tragedy struck.
You see, we humans have a saying that goes like this: "If the Twelve
find fault in your ways, the time will come when they'll let you know,"
and thus the Gods give you opportunity to correct whatever you’ve done
wrong. To which the dwarven equivalent – inspired by a pickaxe probing a
stone – is: "Trum-Baroll knocks once, and He knocks twice, don't give
him reason to come a-knocking trice." And thus fate knocked on
Gaernurmer's door, and it happened like this:
The earth-guide and his chingu were busy in an already mined shaft,
finishing off a still rather roughly hewn side wall, when his blade struck
something in the earth: Lo and behold, there erupted a sudden magical
charge from the crack and out shot bilious green dust as if from an opened
valve. Never before had the dwarf seen anything like it, or any of the
dwarves that stood nearby for that matter. Before he could even react,
Gaernurmer was shrouded in what appeared to be a poisonous, sparkling
substance. The dust swirled so agitatedly around him, that one was tempted
to say it had a life on its on, for it grabbed and shook the dwarf and
threw him to the ground. Then, after a while the strange dust settled in
the shaft like a kind of fog, leisurely wafting from one end to the other,
not moving any further into the adjacent tunnel system though. While
everyone else had fled in panic, Gaernurmer now was lying in midst of the
shaft, the magic dust engulfing his body, chingu at his side – and he
didn’t move anymore.
Now there was big commotion among the dwarves. Feverish discussions broke
out on what had happened and – even more importantly – what to do, now
that their hero lay there before them, felled like a tree as if ready to
return to the earth. For that’s what the dwarves believe: that when their
time on Caelereth is over, their ‘forgespark’ leaves them and they turn to
stone and thus are about to meet their Creator again in the great
underground realm of Toll Disporbaroll. – However, the dwarves’ great idol
might have departed on the journey that very hour, but he was not dead
“Where am I?” The revered earth-guide finally
managed to utter his first words. It was three and a half days after the
incident, and while Gaernurmer remembered hitting the wall with his chingu
and the sparkling dust spilling out from the crack, everything else after
that was a hazy, indistinct blur.
“You’re safe, Gaernurmer,” Goldruph assured him. He was a
broad-shouldered, particularly stocky fellow with a braided blond beard
and counted himself among the earth-guide’s closest friends. “You’re safe,
for you’re in the healer’s cavern. Been here for quite some time
“What happened, Goldruph?” Gaernurmer’s dry mouth produced. His voice
sounded hoarse and flat, so that the earth-guide had to help himself to a
glass of water from the nightstand.
“You’ve hit an AkotUozil,” Goldruph answered while he motioned towards the
door, so that more of his friends could enter and hear the great dwarf
finally speak again.
“An... AkotUozil?” The great dwarf was still weak and so was his
mind that gave him difficulties understanding. He waved at the other
entering dwarves though. “What.. – How... Is it... –” he mumbled
“It’s a magical residue the mountain had in himself,” another dwarf
explained, who had stepped in to see the master, by the name of Khardrum.
“Trum-Baroll must have picked you to discover it,” he added, for there is
a strong belief among the Thrumgolz mountain dwellers that everything
happens for a reason, even the bad things – maybe especially the bad
things. Furthermore dwarves also have a natural distrust of all things
magical and overly spiritual, for they like it solid and real instead, and
thus what had happened to the earth-guide clearly posed a challenge to be
interpret in a positive light.
“Ah... I see... An AkotUozil!” Gaernurmer muttered under his breath,
slowly regaining his wit. A whole array of thoughts chased through his
mind. “Indeed, the Forgelord must have wanted to tell me something, If I
only knew what…”
“Quite certainly,” a third miner named Drorm chipped in. He wore a long
beard beneath a round, upturned nose. “It was the Forgelord’s will. But
don’t put strain on yourself right now considering it, rather take your
time to recuperate, Gaernurmer!”
“What happened then? I... I... only remember dropping to the ground...“
“Well, we got you out. You should have figured that out by now,” Goldruph
chuckled cheerfully, the braids of his blond beard jiggling gaily. “The
dust, the magical essence, the green mist that filled the shaft: it was
very ancient, for it must have been full of evil spirits, the mage-elder
found out. It was... bad, really bad. It would have killed you for sure if
you had lain there for some more.”
“But if that is so, then the mist was dangerous for you too!” the
earth-guide pointed out raising a brow.
“You’re right,” Drorm nodded. “Nevertheless, we did it. Goldruph,
Khardrum, Mournoum, Thurgatrem and me, and the whole lot. But that’s just
what friends do, Gaernurmer!”
“So how did you manage to get me out?” Gaernurmer wanted to know.
“Tried it with a pole with a noose attached to its end first, but we
couldn’t reach you. Got ourselves a rope then, and as it was one of us had
to enter the shaft, no way around it,” Drorm told the ailing earth-guide.
“You see, the mist didn’t reach from wall to wall, rather it kept wafting
in the center of the tunnel. So there was still space for someone to go
in. We tied you up and pulled you out.”
Though he kept quiet about the lively discussions that had preceded the
rescue effort for some precious time while the struck dwarf was still
lying there, motionless, on the brink of death. Until Little Mook had
grabbed the rope, carefully had felt his way along the tunnel wall,
advancing step by step, and on arrival at the body had tied the dwarf’s
legs together tightly, so that the others could pull him out.
“Who went into the tunnel?” the earth-guide inquired.
“That’s not important,” Drorm replied. “As long as we got you out, right?”
“Hmmm... I guess I am in your debt then,” Gaernurmer said, convinced that
Drorm didn’t answer out of pure modesty, because he had stepped into the
tunnel himself, risking his own life. Something had changed in the
earth-guide on how he looked at his ‘friends’. Suddenly he was glad to
have them. “Thank you,” he added sincerely.
“Don’t mention it.” Drorm smiled the smile of a rescuer.
“And since then I’ve been sleeping, you say?”
“Well yes, Gaernurmer,” a small red-haired dwarf by the name of
Thurgatrem, who stood at the other end of the bed, answered. “Though you
wouldn’t have wakened if it hadn’t been for the potion that actually saved
you. You must know, you had already turned stiff like a log when the
healer arrived to look at you. Bad magic dust, he said, almost the moment
he saw you, very bad! Had to mix a special potion, lest you’d be likely to
enter Toll Disporbaroll in a couple of hours. Had to have some rare
ingredients as well to concoct that remedy of his! Very rare ones, didn’t
have them around either, and the herbs had to be fresh ones too!”
“A potion?” The earth-guide stroked his beard thoughtfully. “So how did
you get hold of these ingredients so quickly then?”
“From aboveground, up in the Fores,” Thurgatrem went on. “Way, way up. Got
them ourselves. Yellow thistlethorn was the thing...”
“You ventured out there in those unsafe lands rarely a dwarf has ever
trodden on?” For it is true that dwarves are very reluctant to see the
light of day.
“Sure did! Goldruph, Khardrum, Thurgatrem, Drorm and me,” the last of the
five dwarves standing next to the sickbed said, whose name was Mournoum.
“Snow, ice, chilly winds and all, wild beasts everywhere... But the
Thrumgolz clan is strong and proud, as you well know, my friend, and we
overcame the hazards of the forbidding mountain in spite of all the
adversities and got you that thistlethorn you so badly needed!”
Though Mournoum failed to mention some details there as well. Escpecially
that they had ascended for a bit when they had come across a pack of wargs
at a nearby ridge. Or so they had thought. Even the possibility that there
might be such beasts roaming the mountainside had driven the whole
dwarven lot to seek refuge in a cavern, where they had stayed for a whole
hour quivering with fear. Except for Little Mook, who had plodded on all
alone intrepidly – maybe because he hadn’t been listening, or the others
hadn’t paid enough attention to even notice him. Luckily the wargs had
been only in the anxious dwarves’ minds, and so Little Mook had climbed up
the mountain all by himself and finally up a steep ledge – from which he
eventually had returned safe and sound with the thistlethorn in hands.
“And once again I have to thank you all,” Gaernurmer said.
“Don’t mention it.” Mournoum smiled the smile of a hero.
“And I guess I have to thank the healer too, for brewing me that
concoction in the first place. Toll Disporbaroll sure is worth the
journey, but as I’ll be taking it anyway at some point, there’s no need to
The other dwarves in the room nodded in agreement. “Trum-Baroll was with
you this time,” Goldruph assured him. “What better proof than to see the
potion work like a charm!”
“Indeed!” the red-haired Thurgatrem said. “After all, the healer himself
wasn’t too sure whether it might work at all – but as it was the only
chance to save you, there was little we could do. But with Trum-Baroll and
a bunch of friends, everything’s possible, I guess.”
Though the dwarves forgot to mention one more thing: that when they had
returned from their excursion to get the thistlethorn, the healer had
noticed Little Mook’s facial features turning more and more pallid and
waxen. Clearly, the dwarf must have breathed in some of the noxious dust
as well! ‘How convenient that the potion can now be tested on another
subject first!’ the dwarves had thought. And so it had happened that
Little Mook first had drunk the potion before it was given to the grand
“I’m very grateful to all of you,” Gaernurmer thanked his friends again.
Then he bid them farewell for now to get some more sleep, as he was still
shaky and needed a lot of rest. And so he slept through the whole
afternoon and then most of the night.
Came morn, the healer arrived to check on him. Everything was progressing
to his satisfaction, he said, and even the prospects of getting the
patient back to mining within a fortnight or so were remarkably good. If
he felt strong enough, he might even try to get up already, the healer
suggested, and that of course improved the earth-guide’s mood quite a bit.
“But excuse me now, Gaernurmer, I need to look at that other patient now,”
the healer said. “The other one who breathed the dust like you did, and
because he’s so much smaller and weaker than you are, I’m not that sure
whether he’ll make it.”
“Which other one?” Gaernurmer inquired, because it was news to him.
The healer adjusted his spectacles and looked up from his notes. “Well,
that little guy who went in after you to tie you up, didn’t they tell you?
The one who climbed all the way up the Fores to get you some thistlethorn.
Though little did we know that he had dust in himself all along! So he was
the first to test your potion, and I’m glad we did, for I noticed a couple
of things that weren’t quite right with it. I’ve fixed all of that when I
brewed it anew for you of course, and I’m glad that I did. However, as far
as the little one is concerned, it’s up to Trum-Baroll to decide one way
Gaernurmer suddenly felt invigorated and got up: “May I see him?”
And so it came that the famous Gaernurmer met Little Mook. For the very
first time, actually. Because, to be totally honest, Gaernurmer didn’t
remember having seen the other dwarf before at all. Not at work in the
mine, nor elsewhere. Little Mook had always been one of many, and as the
earth-guide was surrounded by many, one single dwarf among all the other
dwarves easily went unnoticed. Even as he saw Little Mook lying in his
sickbed, he looked nondescript to him: His face was plain and he was so
small that even a dwarven bed appeared way too large for him. He was
almost like a hobbit who had wandered into a dwarven infirmary and seemed
out of place here.
“Hello there,” the famous earth-guide simply said to Little Mook, for he
didn’t even know his name.
“Hello Gaernurmer,“ Little Mook replied, for he of course did.
“I’ve heard you got into quite a bit of trouble, all because of me,”
Gaernurmer probed. He still wasn’t sure what to believe.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean to,” Little Mook replied, his voice as
hoarse as the other dwarf’s. “Too bad that the dratted dust also got into
my own lungs. Didn’t know it would, didn’t tell it to. But I’m so glad
you’re all well now!” The little dwarf smiled with tears in his eyes.
“After all, you’re my friend, and I wouldn’t have wanted to lose you.”
The earth-guide looked at him quizzically, still wondering how someone he
hadn’t even properly noticed until then would call him a friend. “Speaking
about friends,” he then began, trying to clear something up. “I guess I’ve
got quite a few, haven’t I?”
“I suppose so... After all you’re Gaernurmer, the Strongarmed, the
Tunneldevil and Wallbreaker! What a strange question!” Little Mook
exclaimed excitedly and laughed out loud, well as excitedly as he could
exclaim and laugh with the hoarse voice of his.
“Why is it then that it was you who went into the shaft to tie me
up? That it was you who got the thistlethorn for me? That it was you who
drank that potion first, thus helping the healer to find the right dose to
apply for me? And that it is you who now lies here in front of me,
fighting for his life? Why is it that it is always you and not one,
not a single one of my many other friends, did any of this what you did?
Sure there must be enough friends!”
“But Gaernurmer!” Little Mook shook his head. “That’s easy. Don’t you
know? That’s because you have so many friends.”
“I don’t understand...” Gaernurmer said, puzzlement written all over his
“Well, you see, you have so many friends, and so do the others. You
wouldn’t want to lose a friend, now would you? And so it is with all the
others. There’s Drorm and Khardrum and Mournoum and Thurgatrem and
Goldruph. And then there are their friends, like Khalmid and Tharming and
Zhorgan and Mhort. And Maldren and Khild. And these have friends as well,
like Zhogg and Throth, and Proth and Ghorz and Hurghom and Zhorugan and
Loumolff and Whart and...”
“I know, I know,” Gaernurmer said impatiently, for he didn’t quite see his
point. “We’ve all got our friends. But you still haven’t answered my
question. Why did you do it?”
“Because...” Little Mook breathed weakly. “Because you, Gaernurmer, you’re
my only friend.”
So that’s our story on how Trum-Baroll came
a-knocking on Gaernurmer’s door, just like that dwarven proverb tells us.
For indeed there was something the Forgelord wanted him to know, and
Trum-Baroll knocked once when Gaernurmer was felled, and he knocked twice
when Little Mook got sick, but he didn’t need to knock trice, for the
conceited earth-guide had learned his lesson.
Gaernurmer would recover soon thereafter, and eventually Little Mook
pulled through too. Though the earth-guide sat many an hour on the little
one’s bedside listening to Mook’s visions about Toll Disporbaroll, the
dwarves’ final resting place, the realm he might see sooner than the
others. Secretly however Gaernurmer prayed to the Rock-Father to spare
Little Mook’s life, and the way things turned out, he must have been
From then on you would see the famed, strong-armed, alluring earth-guide
always in the rather unlikely company of a skinny, unsightly, a somewhat
queer and naive little dwarf, who was a bit dim and weak and awkward to be
around with. The only thing Gaernurmer regretted was that the Forgelord
himself had to open his eyes to make him see true friendship. But there he
was now with Little Mook, with whom he had something in common he had
never thought of before, and that was that he didn’t have many friends.
Maybe he just had one, his only friend.