Chapter V: Warmth of a Forgotten Home

    Nostalgia trickles through my veins and crawls underneath my skull. The conversant, cold earth against my back ripples throughout my body. The smell of stale, underground air. The feel of rough against my arms and palms. The echoing raucous roars of drunken dwarves echoes infinitely away from me. I feel it again: home.

    Yet the second I open my eyes, I see nothing but my own mangled body. A void of breathable air, a sight of infinite nothing, and a feeling of faltering life strangle my senses. Right at my feet, I see myself in a gnarled position. My skin melts off the bones like wax. My bones crack and splinter in a strange, rhythmic manner. The splinters of my ribs spiral around in a hypnotic pattern that I do not understand.

    I stand here, with my hammers in my hands. Why am I here? Am I dead?

    “Welcome back, Dwinger,” an esoteric greeting rings in my ahead.

    From the surrounding darkness, a dwarf appears before me. His stature matches mine in every way, yet his beard is far more grey. The void peels away from my eyes, and I see the clear cosmos. The stars twinkle into existence. The warmth of a furnace licks my right side. A cool wind wraps around my weary neck. And in a single blink, I’m in an old blacksmith’s shop. Is this mine?

    “Who are ye?” I ask.

    “Me? I am ye, my lad.” He smiles, bearing all his teeth. “Ack! Not really, ye dumb dwarf.”

    “Where am I?”

    “If yer thinkin’ yer dead, lad, ye not. Ye got a lot of life left in ye.”

    “What? What’s going on? Have I been here before?”

    He nods. The strange dwarf wanders around the old blacksmith shop. The anvil, the bellows, and everything in between, it’s all here. He stops by the anvil and scrutinizes it. He rubs his hands across the otherworldly sheen of the anvil; then, he looks up at me. His eyes luminated a soft, celestial glow that glances the familiarity of my mind. Maybe I have seen this dwarf before.

    “Let’s get to it.” He grips the anvil with both hands, and my lifeless body appears on top. “Seek out the Truth.”

    “The Truth?” I instinctively look at my hammers.

    “Yeah, ye stone-headed dwarf. Ye hold them, the ability to change or reveal the Truth. And I see it in yer eyes, lad. Ye can now finally observe the Truth.”

    “What ye mean?”

    Before the dwarf can even thinking of a response, my hands begin to feel heavy and hot. The heat splinters and cracks the skin of my hands, and I see that Gorak glows with a strange aura. A nostalgia feeling, one of community and home, yet the surrounding enigma looms in the shadows, filling me with old melancholies.

    My lifeless body before me still motions with strange energies going through my bones. The flesh continues to drip away from the bones, yet the flesh refuses to fall to the ground. My dwarven innards still pulsate with life, ready and waiting to jump back into action.

    I grip Gorak with every power of my forearm. My hand blisters underneath the strength, and I prepare my shoulder for the tremendous shock. I raise my hammer.

    “Betan-hope!”

RESTORE THE FAITH

    My body shifts and phases in and out of my sight. With every shift, a different body emerges: my own, yet in good, perfect condition.

    “Perception of these realms enables ye to finally observe the Truth.” The mysterious dwarf steps between me and my body. “Infinite possibilities: death or life. Here, ye chose the possibility that ye stay alive. Ye are cheatin’ the Truth.”

    “Who are ye!?” I raise my hammers. "

    “What’s wrong? Ye will get your body back, no worries.” He steps aside. “Is that what ye really want?”

    “Yes.” I step forward. “Is it? How have I come here before?”

    “What do you want?”

    “What do I want? Is that some rhetorical-type riddle?”

    In the moment, my body goes sideways, and I’m on my back like a forlorn tortoise. I see the familiarity of everything slowly fading away. For the first time I’m here, I feel fresh air in my lungs. The beat of my heart stampedes through my body. My bristles return to their feeling, and my bonebox finally becomes clear.

     “I want to go home.”