Thursday, December 5, 2019

Dwarves of Athas Part Five: Settlements 5 (Foul Puddle)

Far to the north of the Tyr Region is a dwarven fortress that I have never had the opportunity to visit. I have heard stories from other traders about the dwarves there. They have constructed a fortress that protects them, and their oasis, from raiders. I have asked a human trader from Draj, Chimalli, to tell me about this particular group of dwarves.

The dwarves of Foul Puddle aren't a particularly friendly lot. And why should they be? They've endured quite a bit to hold onto their oasis. They've been building that fortress for the past two hundred years, they have to fight off a nearby elven raiding tribe constantly, all while drinking water from an oasis that smells like rotten erdlu eggs.

I travel back and forth between the village of Silt Side and Foul Puddle. I'll never grow rich with this route, but it keeps me far from the templars of Draj. I'm one of the few outsiders who have contact with the dwarves and I'd like to think they trust me. They have let me into their fortress and allowed me to gather water from their oasis. As I said before, the water smells disgusting, but a thirsty man cannot be too picky. I've discovered that if you let the water sit for awhile, the smell fades. If you're really thirsty, just hold your nose. My crew and I have never gotten sick from the water.
Besides the oasis, I have no idea why this particular group of dwarves decided to call Foul Puddle home. There's about two-hundred of them here, with about a quarter of those being children. The dwarves mine the nearby rocky badlands, which are about twelve miles from the settlement. The mine produces trace amounts of zinc and flint, which is used and traded for food and other necessities. About thirty dwarves set out on a random day of the week. They mine what they can and then return a day or two later, carrying the treasure on their backs. Twenty of the dwarves are miners and ten are guards. They only mine once or twice a week to protect themselves from the raiders that live nearby.
Speaking of raiders, let's not forget them. The elves of a nearby village attack Foul Puddle at least once every couple of months. The elves have no real hope of capturing the dwarven fortress, but their hit and run tactics are bothersome and costly enough that the dwarves will eventually buy them off to make them go away. The raiders claim the dwarves are paying them tribute, but in one raid where I was trapped inside the fortress, the dwarves saw it as an annoyance more than a real threat.

Here I interrupted and asked Chimalli what made the fortress so formidable for the raiders.

What makes the fortress so formidable? Well, its mud-brick walls are twenty feet high and three to five feet thick. They have domed roofs covering most of the fortress and they are made of the same clay as the bricks. The dwarves aren't well trained in combat, but the elven raiders give them plenty of practice. The dwarves also have a decent array of weapons, with plenty of flint tipped arrows and spears. Barlimar, the leader of the settlement carries a brass tipped spear and is the most feared fighter of them all. The dwarves are also fighting to protect their home and families, which fuels their will to fight to the end. I, personally, would rather face a mean klarr, than a dwarf defending his family.
Speaking of Barlimar, he's a burly dwarf who started out as a miner and then became a guard. He was selected by the council of elders to lead the fortification until his death. The council consists of five of the eldest dwarves and advises the leader on a daily basis. From what I can tell, Barlimar is well liked by the residents of Foul Puddle and sees to it that everyone is treated fairly.
Foul Puddle rarely gets visitors, so there's no inn or tavern. When I come into the fortress, my men and I sleep in one of the public areas near the oasis. The oasis is small enough to fit inside the walls. The stench is horrible, but it is safe. We are guarded around the clock, as the dwarves are a paranoid bunch. We don't mind though, it's better than sleeping outside.
The dwarves from the various households come out and trade on an individual basis. Interestingly, the miners actually own what they mine and pay the guards from their find. The other dwarves produce goods to trade with each other. The only thing that the leaders of the fortress own completely is the oasis. They trade water for goods and services required to keep the fortress in operation. It's an interesting system not seen by any of the city-states. None of the dwarves of Foul Puddle will ever get rich and luxuries are non-existent.
Some of the dwarves are masters at creating earthenware pots and lamps. The lamps are almost all for trade since Foul Puddle does not have a reliable source of oil. I trade these finely crafted ceramic goods for a tidy profit, as there is a demand for them in Silt Side and Eldaarich. I wear one of their ceramic beaded necklaces to show that I am a friend of the village. The workmanship is quite impressive, wouldn't you say?

I confirmed that the necklace was impressive and then asked about any festivals or celebrations the settlement might have.

Nothing that I've ever seen, or heard of. The folk work hard just surviving out there, so I doubt they have much time for festivals. They do have a frenzy and, somewhat, of a celebration whenever I come to the fortress. They are excited to hear news from the outside world and see what goods I've brought them. I almost always tell the truth, but sometimes I exaggerate to make things more exciting. After all, like the Tablelands, nothing much changes around here.

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