Ah! It’s you again.  Well, you’re right on time.  Help me get these barrels in the cart lad; it’s delivery day!  We’ll be heading down to Westgate.  The boys in in the 58th Defender regiment are lookin’ for this stout.   And they do get ornery when the beer is tardy!

There now, that’s the last of it. Hop up front here, if ye ain’t got no other place to be.  I could use the company.

I think we go….right here.  Yes, it’s all coming back now; it’s been too much time in the brewery!  I remember my first homecoming to these mountains and the caves beneath them.  Back then I would get lost for days down here!  I lived most of my life on the surface, you know.  Ah yes! You DO know….I had forgotten you had an interest in how I came to be a brewer, and how I came here, to Blackforge Mountain, the Dwarven homeland.

That human kingdom in Caernagon; it never was home really, but it was all I ever knew.  And being in the service of the wizard Sotur Li did not exactly warm the heart!

I knew exactly why I was there; I was without much beard then, but far from stupid!  Sotur Li wanted me in the castle to insure my father’s cooperation in translating and using that manual.

He gave me things to do, but mostly they were nonsensical.  You see, the old magus was obsessed with time.  He had filled the castle with timepieces, clocks from all over Urthgardt.  He wanted them set at different intervals but synchronized mathematically.  Nobody really knew what he was trying to accomplish as he wouldn’t give much in the way of information, but since he was in charge the staff of the castle attempted to follow his wishes.  Including me.

He wanted to be feared but he was more tolerated than anything else.  He was a magus, but in those days, strange things were happening with magic.  Stories were told all over about the way things used to be; how magic was used by magi, priests, the military, scholars, druids, even engineers!  It was another tool and one that was readily available.  But as I was growing up, things weren’t really that way.  Perhaps in the old days a magus like Sotur Li would leave people trembling in their boots, but in those days? Meh.  You could practically hear rolling of the eyes whenever he gave an order.  The guards, the kitchen staff, housekeeping, the serving wenches, they all called him “King Sotur Li” as a jest.

Me, I tried to keep my head down and do what I was told to make it easier on my father.

But there was a fellow there who made things easier sometimes.  His name was Pampelloni, and he was the court musician.  And sometimes the court jester as well!  He was a holdover from the reign of King Jakob, and was always a favorite at court.  They said he had been trained in an Elvish Bardic College, which was a very rare honor for someone who was not an elf.  Word has it he knew every song there was from all the peoples of Urthgardt.  Before he made his home in Caernagon and was asked to stay by Jakob, he would travel the roads as a wandering minstrel, bringing news and new songs between the towns and cities.

It was the bard who first introduced me to the art of brewing.  We had not crossed paths very much, as I really didn’t have any place in the feasts in the great hall, or when Sotur Li would hold court and Pampelloni would perform.  In fact, I’m not quite sure how he knew of my existence, but one day the door to my tiny workshop crashed open, and a pot-bellied, slightly pointy-eared man with long hair and sparkling blue eyes exclaimed “HI!” Then he shoved a mug of something frothy in my face. “You, Dwarf!  Try this….I need an opinion.”

“Er, hello,” I replied, taking the mug automatically and sniffing.  “What is it, exactly?”

Pampelloni laughed and said, “It’s beer, of course!!! You…ARE a dwarf, aren’t you?”

I was a bit sensitive at the time of my heritage, not having grown up with other dwarves.  So I drew myself up to all 4 feet and shot back, “Well of course I’m a dwarf!  My father just wasn’t much of a drinker, that’s all.  Contrary to popular belief, we don’t just sit around and drink beer all day.”

“True.  Most of you just work your arses off and drink all day in the process.  Hmmm.” The bard said.  “Well, I was expecting a a more seasoned beer expert when I heard there was a dwarf working in the palace.  But the chance to give a dwarf his first beer cannot be passed up! Drink up my friend, and tell me what you think!”

And with that first swallow, my destiny had begun.  The ale was brassy in color, with a thick, frothy head.  There was a crisp, bitter, yet fruity taste up front, not unlike a grapefruit or tangerine.  After that the bite of many tiny bubbles splashed over my tongue, each one breaking and amping up the sensitivity of my palate.  I couldn’t stop myself from draining the entire mug.  “Govnu’s beard!” I cried.  “Is there more of this?”

With a hearty laugh Pampelloni clapped me on the back and said, “Oh yes, my friend, there is much more where that came from.  Come down to my apartments and I will show you how this delicious brew is made.”

And thus began my life as a brewer.  The bard showed me all his contraptions associated with brewing.  Many of them were crude and cobbled together with bits of wire and metal: cookpots and cauldrons, vials and beakers no doubt “borrowed” from some apothecary or alchemist.  The engineer part of my brain began to work immediately on how to improve upon his system.  Perhaps some sort of metal piping could be fashioned in a smithy; mayhap a steam-powered bellows of some sort to move the hot water  into the grains.  Also, there would need to be some sort of system to more efficiently move the water through the grains, washing out all the sugars to provide a sacrifice for the beer spirits. Oh! and then surely there was a better way to move the “wort” as he called it, into a kettle for boiling; perhaps the bellows could also work for that! The possibilities were endless!  I knew then that I must first learn more of this nectar of the gods known as Beer.

“Does it all taste like this?” I asked the bard as I drained another mug.

“Oh no, my diminutive friend!” I cocked an eyebrow, as the half-elf was only a few inches taller than me. “There are more different styles of beer than can be counted on one hand!  But I am no true expert; I only dabble in this when I am not working on my music.”  He snapped his fingers suddenly, his eyes lighting up.  ”I know who you should talk to!  We must go see old Bloodbearden, the  Dwarven Sergeant-at-arms of the Caernagon Royal Guard.”

“Another dwarf?” I exclaimed.  ”I thought I was the only one in the palace!”

But I thought wrong.  I was to learn much from old Bloodbearden…including knowledge that would save my life many times over.  But that is a tale for another day my boy!  We have arrived at Westgate. Let’s get these lads something to wet their throats;  defending our homeland is thirsty work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Young Apprentice

Govnu’s beard!  You shouldn’t sneak up on a dwarf that way.  It’s a good way to get a mash paddle upside the head!

Greetings, though.  Your timing is actually excellent; I was just doughing in the mash, so I will be able to rest a bit and chat.

Hmm? Oh, that’s when we begin cooking the grains to make food for the beer spirits.  What’s that? Why are you laughing?  You’re damned right there are beer spirits!  Here, put this on, I will show you.  It’s a monoscope; the leather strap goes over your head; and the brass eye piece goes over the right…that’s it. Now turn the copper bit to focus and look at this slide.  See the little buggers?  We always knew there were beer spirits, but with these marvelous contraptions we can now SEE them.

But you didn’t come here to look at beer spirits did you?  You came for a tale, I warrant.  Yes, I did say I would tell you of how beer would save Urthgardt from certain doom!

Have a seat, lad.  I shall just light my pipe, and decide where to begin.

My father, Mikkus, was a clockmaker in the city of  Caernagon, the capital of the Kingdom of Men. I was but a stripling then! Barely enough hair covered my chin to even cast a shadow.  I was Father’s apprentice, and had my own workbench in a corner , where I helped with minor repairs and some smelting and casting of parts.  My mother was named Kettil, and came from a family of brewers; it is from her that I take my surname now.  She ran an inn with her clan in Blackforge Mountain, but like all dwarves, she trained with and served some time in our militia.  She was slain in the Orc Wars when I was very small, so I remember very little of her now, only that Father was very proud of her and missed her terribly.  He took me and left the Mountain, I imagine to escape the memories of her at every turn.  We set up shop in Caernagon and he did his best to raise me and teach me to be a proper dwarf, and a good engineer.  And I did my best to be interested in it.

The human king was still Artholas then, but he was a boy as well at the time.  The old king, his father, was Jakob, and the queen mother,  Alanna, was distraught when he passed of a sudden one night, some said through…questionable circumstances.  Human lineage works in a strange way, or at least it did at the time; I’ve been out of touch with human politics for many years.  A Queen of Men was not allowed to rule over Men alone, so she would be the regent of the boy King and advise him.  When he came of an age, he would rule his own kingdom.  Why, here in Blackforge, a Dwarven queen would simply carry on with…er…queening. Ahem.

Yes, well, the Queen did not do much advising, for there was a magus by the name of  Sotur Li who became the boy’s primary councilor.  He managed to worm his way into the Queen’s affections, and some say even her bed.  The hold he had over her was complete.

Old King Jakob was much loved by his people.  There were many years of peace, prosperity, and freedom under his reign.  The Lords and Ladies under his rule were able to manage their holdings as they saw fit.  When there were disputes with the King, ultimately the nobility accepted his final word because they recognized his wisdom for what it was, and they loved him for it.

Old Sotur Li had no use for love.  He preferred to rule by fear.

What he did need, though, was my father’s skills.  One day, a month into his role as Royal Advisor, the magus blew into my father’s shop, his normally fine silk robes smudged with soot and partially hanging in tatters.  In his arms he carried an enormous book nearly a handswidth thick, bound and locked with bits of iron, copper, and bronze.  The cover was covered with runes of a sort.  I could not make much out from where I sat.

“I need this book opened, Clockmaker,” the magus demanded.   ”The safety of our Kingdom depends on it!”   I got down from my chair and wandered over to get a better look.   The locking mechanism was all gears and teeth and copper, so I could see why Li had brought it to us.

“Where did it come from?” My father asked, slipping a headpiece on with a magnifying lens.  “The work is very fine.”

“There is no need for you to know that,” the Regent smiled, beginning to smooth out his singed robes.  “It is a matter of His Majesty’s security.”

My father laughed and winked.  “Well, His Majesty’s gold is certainly as good as any other! Let’s see what we have here…”

Sotur Li did not seem amused.

I watched him as my father examined the locking mechanism.  I was naturally curious about such a high-ranking official in the King’s court.  He wandered casually about the shop, with a shuffling kind of  walk on the balls of his feet.  He was humming tunelessly.  There was something about those eyes that made you want to not meet them.  It was an…emptiness, almost.  He was tall, with pale hair and paler blue eyes that glittered like chips of ice, but showed little emotion.  He seemed to be especially interested in the assorted clocks in different states of repair about the workspace.

With a SNAP and an “Aha!” my father sat back in his chair and removed the magnifier from his face.  “There you are, Regent!  Quite a puzzle it was, too.” Upon releasing the hidden catch, the bronze and silver teeth holding the tome closed had retracted into the binding.  Mikkus leaned forward to open the book, but the transformation of its cover was not complete.  With a series of whirs and clicks, the lock assembled itself into a two-foot high clockwork golem with arms and legs.  Our jaws hung open as jets of steam appeared from various joints as it began to walk with a clumsy gait across the table towards my father.

The end of its arms then sprouted wicked blades that began to spin as it advanced toward Mikkus.  He backed away with a shout, hands grabbing for some sort of weapon to defend himself from the tiny enemy.   I picked up a smith’s hammer and lunged at the thing, swinging down with all my might.  Gears and springs and other bits  flew across the room as the golem met its timely end.

“What manner of sorcery is this, magus?” My father snarled, picking himself up from the floor.   He took the hammer from me and advanced on the wizard.  ”I make clocks, not weapons.  How dare you bring this…devilry into my place of business?”

Li ignored him, poring over the newly opened book, muttering to himself.  ”These runes…this all looks Dwarven.  That witch!  What am I supposed to…” He stopped cold and looked up at the red-faced dwarf stalking towards him. “Do not threaten me, little one.  You know not the forces with which you meddle. It seems I have further need of you.”

My father spat at his feet.  ”I’ll have no more of this, magus.  Leave the way you came in.”

Sotur Li drew himself up with his nose in the air, almost on tiptoe.  ”Have you forgotten my station, dwarf?  When His Majesty’s Regent has need of you, you WILL make it happen.  As the only dwarf AND engineer in this city, you must translate this manual for me, for the security of His Majesty.  And you will help me use what it contains in defense of our homeland.”

“I’ll do no such bloody-”

“AND to…repay your expertise and workmanship, I will give your son the position of my personal clocksmith  in the Palace itself.  He will report to me directly, so fear not; his safety is assured, as your work here may become somewhat….hazardous for a young dwarf.”

My father’s face had passed through red and purple and was becoming downright blue. His beard waggled as he struggled to form some protest.

“I thought you might come around to my way of thinking. Boy! You are with me.  I will send men to gather your things.”

And so it was that I moved into the palace.  I was old enough to know that there was no choice.  I was determined to make my father proud, though, and make the best of it.  Without the friends that I would make there, I most likely would not have survived.

Ah! But that is a tale for another night it seems.  The grains have finished cooking, and I will need to transfer the wort into the kettle for boiling.

Farewell! Until next time…

Brann Kegbelly

 

 

 

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A Brewer’s Beginning

My name is Brann Kegbelly, and I am a Dwarf.  And by this, I don’t mean a shortened, misshapen version of a Man.  We are quite our own people, thank you very much! Harrumph. Yes, well, getting on with it then.  Our males wear our long beards proudly, some woven in braids, some wild and woolly and free, some tied neatly with leather straps.  A Dwarf’s beard is a symbol of honor, and may only be shorn when that honor is lost.  But such things are rarely spoken of.  Our females are of a height with us, mayhap slightly shorter, but broad and strong themselves.   They must be, to work along side us as they do sometimes; and to bear and raise our children if they choose.

Our people, are, by and large, craftsmen.  Ow! And women; thank you for the reminder, dear.  Most of us in our crafts are drawn to working with things of the earth: stone, metals, gemstones.  There are countless Dwarven blacksmiths, engineers, masons, architects, miners, jewelers; all good talented dwarfs who live for their work.   For a Dwarf, the most important task is the one we are doing right this instant!

There is none of this Elfish business of laying about in some shady wood singing songs and spouting poetry, not in these mountains!  No, when our work must be finished, when we can no longer swing a hammer or lift an axe, then we go home to our families, and share meat, bread, and stories and play with our children, much like you do in your world, I would imagine.  But then the next day, we will be back to it, earning our living with hard work and pride in our craft.

There is one other thing that Dwarves share a love for.  And since you are here reading this, perhaps you do, as well.

Beer.

For us it is lifeblood! It is another form of nourishment; our workers draw strength from it.  Our priests of Govnu bless it and we share it in communion in our temples.  Our warriors draw courage from it, and when they march in the fields during wartime, sometimes it is the only food they have.  This is why our brews are so thick, and dark, and heavy.  It not only quenches our thirst, but often feeds us.

I, myself, have a special bond for this nectar of the gods.  For I have the good fortune to be able to make it.  I shall allow a few moments for your awe-struck envy to subside.

Right, then, moving on.

Strangely enough, brewers among our people did not always share the same respect and honor as our smiths, masons, and miners.  Some viewed us as merely a step above servants.  Except among the warrior class.  Among fighting dwarves, a brewer could always find defenders, friends, and allies.  These Dwarves knew our value, as our craft occasionally was the only thing keeping them alive.

There would come a time, however, when all Dwarves, and indeed the other peoples of Urthgardt as well, learned to honor our brewers, and their own as well.  I would like to think I had some small part in that.

Attend further, and you shall hear of how beer saved the lands of Urthgardt.

Until next time,

Brann Kegbelly
Brewmaster
The Hoppy Dwarf Brewing Company

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