A group of more than a hundred dwarves approached nervously. They were about the same height as me, yet their shoulder width was more than double mine.
“A-ahm, ‘cuse me…hello, I’m Dolan…”
“…and I’m Luke, the chief of this village. A pleasure to meet you.”
He had a beard and rough-looking features…but for some reason, he spoke very softly.
His appearance and his speech definitely didn’t match.
I thought he might just be an exception, but I quickly confirmed that wasn’t the case.
The other dwarves, all of them, were acting all nervous and were even fidgety. They weren’t at all like the hearty dwarves I’ve heard of.
“We used to live in the mountains over there…”
“Isn’t that place full of monsters though?”
“It is, but we have our own cavern…”
This cavern was apparently at the foot of the mountains.
It had only one entrance, and its inner structure was very suitable for their defenses.
They said they stayed in the cavern almost all of the time, so I wondered where they got their food.
Apparently, their staple food was a special kind of potato that they grew inside of the cave.
“We also eat the insects and the bats inside the cave…From time to time, beasts and monsters would also wonder inside, giving us meat.”
…that didn’t really sound like a great way of life to me.
Much like the elves, the dwarves have also interacted with humans in past, but have stopped doing so.
Do they live in this remote place because they were persecuted as well?
“No, in the dwarves’ case, it’s their divine punishment. Back then, they used the powerful weapons they made to expand their empire. But that attempt to conquer the world incurred heaven’s wrath, leading to the collapse of their empire. They were separated from one another, living only in small groups. …of course, this happened before I was alive, so this is all based on the story handed down from generation to generation. I mean, it’s been more than a thousand years since it happened.”
A thousand years…
Having only lived a decade, I couldn’t even imagine what it was like back then.
Even so, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly Philia-san meant by divine punishment.
“I myself don’t know the details, but that made my ancestors settle in that cavern. We’ve been living there until recently…”
“I see. You’ve been living in a gloomy cave until your personality’s gotten gloomy as well. Not that I’m complaining that you’re quiet, of course. By all means, dwarves should continue living in dark, gloomy caves.”
Maybe it was because they were dwarves, but Philia-san was being a bit harsher than usual.
There might be some truth to dwarves and elves not getting along.
“But then, why have you come to this wasteland?”
Dolan-san told me that a few days ago, a ferocious monster appeared in their cavern.
The entrance to the cavern was sealed off that time and there wasn’t any indication of it being forced open, yet the monster still appeared and rampaged within.
“…i-it’s a monster that could be said to be both like a giant snake and hornworm…”
A few dwarves were eaten by that monster. After getting full, it retreated.
However, because it appeared seemingly out of nowhere again, the dwarves had little choice but to abandon the cavern they called home for generations and flee to the wasteland.
While telling us of their story, Dolan-san’s face was ghastly pale.
“And that’s when we saw this place…we have nowhere to go, no food…if at all possible, please consider granting us with food…”
Dolan-san timidly requested like that.
“Giving you food won’t be problem. We’ll also provide you with a place to live in.”
“R-really…? We’re of a different race, yet you’re showing us so much kindness…ha? I don’t suppose the compensation you expect from us is labor to the point of death, can it?”
…what an extremely pessimistic dwarf…