The Dwarven Tea Machine (First Draft?)

The machine that stood on the counter gleamed. Its shiny metallic body rose from a rounded, well-polished wooden base, curving up towards a boxy tower on one end and an alcove at the other. An array of brass plates adorned the front of the machine, marking the buttons, rounded glass light housings and an embossed slot in a font that appeared to have been delicately carved from the metal itself. In one corner, a thick black cable snaked around behind towards the wall.

“Is that made of silver?” Aoife asked, pointing at the machine, eliciting a few smiles from the other children in the room as they gathered around it. Her twin brother Ciaran gingerly reached forward to tap at the corner near him, where somebody had intricately carved some larger words and the number 418 in what looked like English. His face and body immediately slumped as he found out that it felt too hard to be silver.

“What is it, anyway?”

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The Dwarven Inqusition Comes…

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! But what about that of the Dwarven League?

The knock on the door was something that Colonel Munro had been expecting for the last five or ten minutes, after the telephone on his desk had warned him that the visitors had arrived at the inner security checkpoints. Closing the pair of dossiers and the report that lay on his desk, he looked up and barked a command to enter. His adjutant swung the door open, announcing that the visitors from the Containment Office had arrived.

“Send them in, Cole. And have somebody fetch Dr Magnusson,” Munro ordered, standing up. The lieutenant withdrew and stepped aside, revealing a pair of nuns who were both clad in dark khaki habits. The one on Munro’s right was just about four feet high, with larger eyes and a pair of sun goggles dangling around her neck – clearly a woman of the tunnels. The other one was apparently human and, with far fewer lines on her face, appeared to be younger. Neither bore any obvious sign of a particular order, but they didn’t need to.

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Fomorian Fantasies of the Future

Gráinne was bored. Outwardly, her expression didn’t change as she stared out the window, absently watching the waves in the bay, but she was still feeling peevish about being chased out of the library earlier that morning. Sure, her mother and father-in-law needed to discuss something in quiet with Aidan, but did it really have to be when she had just curled up in the armchair? And it wasn’t her shift on the wireless scanning rota, so she couldn’t even make herself useful by listening to the enciphered messages that Aidan suspected were coming from somewhere named Cruagh Island.

Her train of thought didn’t so much leap as make a sharp right-hand turn into wondering who they were meant for, and if it was possible to reach across the sea with these radio waves. Not the immediate one between Cleggan and Inishbofin, but the wider sea out towards North America. And if so, could they reach the other side of the world…and if so, could they be used to send something other than dotted bleeps and dashed creeps?

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Serpentoid Site Scouts

A pair of snakes with arms, lurking in the grass. One holds a telescope.

PDF version

“Smell that?” Kerigoo hissed, his tongue flickering as he tried to identify the unusual scent on the wind. Debraa slowly lowered her spyglass and began to taste the air in turn, her eyes roving over the human fort that sat four hundred furlongs to their south. She nodded silently; it smelt quite different to wood or peat smoke, yet somehow similar enough that it had to be something burning.

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Fomorians in their own words: Mstr D

I wasn’t born an orc, not that it’d make much difference. I didn’t become one until after some ne’er-do-well sold me to an utter scut from Connacht Trading named “Dr Burke”. I don’t know exactly how, but I ended up on an island I can’t name.

Two or three months later, I still have nightmares every other night about being exposed. I’m tied to a stretcher, and have been for maybe three days since they cut open my arms. They feed me twice a day with a tube through a mask, and dunk me in cold seawater in the morning to clean away the bodily fluids from yesterday. They put this other mask over my mouth and nose, connected to some metal canister. There’s some kind of fan circling above me, pulling the air out of the room, and they leave and seal the room. I know Shiva [Ms S] is in the next room, having them same thing done to her.

The air starts smelling dry and stale. I start trying to pull my arms and legs – anything I can move – but it does nothing. I scream, but none of them care. They just watch me from the other side of a glass window about two inches thick. Four feet, maybe an inch more, and I’d be outside the room. But I can’t move!

I don’t remember the details of how we got out. Maybe I don’t want to. What I do know is that I – that we ended up being handed over to the bulldogs by some orcs. And they were angry about it. Not handing us over, but that we’d been turned. Seems they hate the “Fomorian Brotherhood” as much as anyone in Galway would. Who’d have thought it? Certainly nobody I knew, or at least none had the guts to say so.

The only change I’ve noticed is that I have thicker muscles. That’s the only thing that is definitely down to me being, well, turned into an orc. I don’t sleep great, I jump if anything goes off behind me and my temper’s shorter than it was…but I’m told these aren’t related. I wouldn’t know. All I know is that I wouldn’t have put myself forward for it, that I’m stuck with it, and that I had absolutely no say in it.

Mstr D

This is in fact Diarmuid. In some of my other stories, I’ve portrayed him as cynical and bitter about being forcibly turned into an orc, though he doesn’t mind the extra muscles.

Fomorians in their own words: The Nurse

I was not born a Fomorian, nor did I willingly become one. I was in fact born near Headford and, at the tender age of seventeen, was snatched by those bandits known as the Fomorian Brotherhood. How they got past the vaunted Wall of Connacht has never been explained, aside from their poitín-fuelled boasts that nobody beats the Brotherhood, but the result is that I spent over two years as an apprentice nurse among them.

I had a good chance to see the Brotherhood up close, and I can confirm that there are indeed bandits among them, people for whom it was merely an excuse for raiding and throwing around their weight. I have no sympathy for these, and in truth, I got the impression that the Brotherhood’s leadership considered them to be merely useful cannon fodder. The more senior healers rarely deigned to focus on these types, leaving them to me.

Others were involved merely because it was what their family did, and many of those struck me as conflicted by it. Still others were zealots who genuinely believed that they were the first line of defence against the banshees, and that being turned into a Fomorian is a blessing. Both of these groups had little love for the League; a frequent accusation I heard is that the dwarves left them to die out there when the League pulled out of the region.

After I escaped, I wound up at a detention centre where I currently work, still as a nurse. The Fomorian children I work around are, in many ways, very similar to human children. They have different likes and dislikes. Some are possessed of choleric temperaments. Some are melancholic and withdrawn. Others are pleasant, outgoing and helpful. One point in common is that they are all possessed of denser musculature and are physically stronger than what is normal for a child of their age. Indeed, some do not even have the fangs or skin fungus that everybody knows they should have.

Would I accept a cure for ‘Fomoritis’? At this stage, I don’t know. The extra physical strength may be useful, but I find myself burning through food at a faster rate than I should and I feel the cold more than I did before. I do not consider these major disadvantages, but I cannot fathom how it is a blessing – certainly not enough to be forcibly exposed to it.

Sarah Delaney

Slight change to the format (i.e. moving the author’s note to the end), and replacing the preformatted block with regular paragraphs. As for the narrator here, I figured that somebody with medical training would be the best person to explain the physical changes (or at least be seen as such in-universe).

Fomorians in their own words: The Clerk’s Daughter

This piece is from the perspective of recurring character Maebh. She was born inside the disaster zone, and so far has shown up as the viewpoint character of Maladaptive Vigilance. As far as she’s concerned, being on the lookout for reality going out to lunch is entirely normal.

I am a Fomorian, born and raised on the surface in the Maam valley. My father was once a clerk for the labour and livestock agents – slavers and cattle traders, to be frank. He did not particularly care for it, but trading livestock has been the basis of the entire economy of that valley for generations. I do not know what prompted him to finally take us and leave, but I know that it took him a few years to fully work up the courage.

Life in the Homeland Region is apparently more difficult than elsewhere. One has to be constantly on the lookout for the “glitches” – any such place where the very fabric of reality has been torn apart. There is no rhyme or reason to where or when they occur: I once experienced gravity reversing itself while I was asleep, and what I remember most about that was that I had rolled out of bed while it was happening and didn’t fully awaken until I landed on the ceiling. 

While it was alarming at the time, all I suffered was some bruises. There are other, less pleasant effects that I would not wish on anyone. I simply do not have the words to describe the results of an “inside-out” patch – an area where the victim is turned inside-out – but I can tell you it is gruesome.

I am told that these things simply do not occur outside the homeland. Even two years after we left, I find this hard to fully accept. At night, I find myself waking up because I think I’ve smelt or heard something – anything – that could be a glitch occurring. This is apparently not considered normal; in Connemara, it is a basic survival instinct. One simply doesn't live very long without it.

The Brotherhood are mainly present in the southern and eastern parts of the homeland, particularly around Corcóg and Mam Ean. They tend to avoid the western edge (around the mouth of Killary Harbour) because of an ongoing feud with the O’Rourke clan of Letterfrack, but I don’t know the full details of that. What I do know is that most people that I knew in Maam wished they would stop drawing attention from the British military and the League – or at the very least, not draw it towards us.

Maebh Ní Bhrodaí

Side note: Maam Valley is to the east of the Maumturks. In the real world, the main livestock mart of that area is actually a bit to the south, around Maam Cross. However, since in this universe the dwarves managed to build a network of tunnels through the quarztite rocks of the Twelve Bens and the Maumturks, I’ve decided that it makes more sense for Maam Valley, particularly around what’s now Keane’s Bar, to be the surface trading hub.

I’m going to skip over how they built the tunnels, given that quartzite is a very hard rock. Let’s just say that the Firtollán stonecrafters were highly regarded.

Big Head Mode is not conducive to effective scouting

I honestly love the classic Big Head Mode cheat effect in video games. There’s just something about it that always tickles my funny bone, and I think it’s something that more games need. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would really be as harmless in real life as it is in games. And so, here’s a story where this happens from the perspective of a banshee (or an ehdis-naeb, as they call themselves).

I originally intended this series to be similar to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games in that the “anomalies” are rather grim and dangerous, but after watching too many videos from the Failrace Youtube channel where game physics does a peculiar goes wonky, I seem to be leaning towards making them more absurd…albeit possibly still dangerous.

It was just another day west of the settlement known as Claddaghduff. The daystar remained hidden behind overlapping streaks of clouds, the wind that blew off the sea was biting cold, and the waves that lapped at the shore kicked up an awful spray that made the skin raw. The natives were at best indifferent, if not outright hostile. And there was always the chance that reality would randomly decide to invert itself.

Efioa had long since turned his ears down against the older generation’s complaints about the sea in this new world. New to them, not to him. He had been born here, not that the Fomorians seemed to make any distinction, and had learned to pay attention to the sea. Among the things he had paid close attention to over the last week was the “cursed island” of Cruagh, situated about two dwarven miles out to sea. He could have sworn that he had seen a giant metal shape disappearing behind it to the west.

Lacking anything better to do, he and his bond-sisters had elected to leave Omey Island and get a better look from the west of the Aughrusbeg peninsula. And so, with the spray kicked up in his face and the wind piercing his bones, he faced out towards the spiny northern flank of the island. It might have been his imagination, but it looked as though there was a large net hanging over something. He stepped forward-

He suddenly pitched forward as his head began to feel inexplicably heavier and larger. Sprawling on the rocks that covered the coast, he blinked and shook his head muzzily. The motion felt slower than usual. Had the clouds darkened, or was his eyesight fading?

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Submarine Drop-off

In which The Kingdom Of Scandinavia somebody drops some crates of guns off the coast of Connemara by submarine, and the Dwarven Inquistion are stumped. The PDF version is available here.

“Holland boats” are a reference to John Philip Holland, often referred to as “the father of the modern submarine”. I figure that dwarves might have even more use of them than humans, so perhaps I’ll expand on it later. Since merchant submarines were a thing in the WW1-era, how about Connacht Trading have a private fleet of merchant submarines to avoid North Atlantic storms (and other dangers)?

The listening and observation posts west of Ballyconneely had long since been established as part of the quarantine network around Connemara. Approximately a company was garrisoned in a series of blockhouses around the peninsula, connected to the main forts at Ballyconeely and Roundstone by redundant telephone wires. Within ten minutes, a report of a suspicious ship would be filtered through the command station, plotted on the mapping tables and relayed out to the corvettes and destroyer boats on standby or already out on patrol.

In theory, at least. In practice, every single sighting in the last thirty years had turned out to either be one of their own ships, or phantoms due to atmospheric conditions. Only once had an unidentified ship turned out to be something unusual – a bulk carrier out of New York had got lost in a storm, and been very glad to be steered away from the orc-occupied quarantine zone.
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Black Blade Extraction

Completely unrelated to anything I’ve written so far, but I often get scenes popping into my head when listening to Two Steps From Hell. When I first heard Black Blade, the scene that popped into my head involved the following:

  • A ruined city
  • A warship on a bay
  • Jets screaming in across the bay towards the city
  • A helicopter hovering over a building just long enough to pick up somebody (or multiple somebodies)
  • The city being firebombed
  • The helicopter bursting through flames, heavily damaged by enemy fire, and landing on the warship
  • The bombers from step 3 flying back overhead

With that in mind, here’s a piece that has been sitting on my hard drive in a half-complete state for a very long time. Back when I was working on Spamocalypse about 4-6 years ago, I had the idea of portraying spammers as zombies created by a deranged cult known as the Word of Turscar, so I’ve made them the perpetrators of a city being overrun by…zombies that lurch around groaning about how to E N H A N C E your length…

Side note: “Turscar” is an old Irish word for rotting seaweed that has been repurposed as the translation for spam. For some reason, this struck me as a perfect name for a fictional deity, and that lead to the above deranged cult of spammers…

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