Martan Gzzwykk—also known as Martan Unpronounceable—twelfth of his name; Master Forger of the Great Copper Veins of the Southern Arm of Dragonback Ridge; husband of Martag the Great-Bosomed; father of Martag, Slayer of Wyrms; Belcher, Bellower, Broken-Toothed, stood overlooking his forge with a broad grin.

Standing above the many dwarves of his employ, he was powerful. Not in his burly arms, roped over and again with muscle. Not in his protruding canines, broken, jagged, ready to rip and tear. Not even in his chest, wide about as a barrel or his legs, solid each as tree trunks. But in the way his very presence inspired each and all to strain to the utmost. Martan had only to enter the room for the dwarves to feel his presence and double, treble their efforts.

That was true might.

"Greetings Martan, twelfth of your name; Master Forger; husband, father, Belcher. Warvhan, crowned with Ore, smile upon you this day."

"And upon you, Lhargugg, third of your name; Overseer; wife, sister, Unclean of Ear and Nail. Yesterday I passed word that a great salamander be sent in my name to the Festivals. It was done?"

"Yes, Master. My mother, Khargagg, tenth of her name, throttled a mighty one hiding in the recesses behind Crucible Eight. It fed many and many a dwarf at last night's ceremony."

"Good."

"Will you walk the forge today, Master?"

"No. Other matters require my attention."

It was strange for the Master Forger to be absent a day from his business. "Is your wife, Martag the Great-Bosomed, well?"

"She is. But she requires my presence at a Welcome Feast for our daughter; Martag, eighteenth of her name."

"The Slayer of Wyrms," Lhargugg nodded sagely. Martan's daughter was legend among the dwarves of the Great Copper Veins. "She returns from her fostering?"

"Yes. With my wife's cousin Martag, sixteenth of her name, Master Jeweler to the Six Brayghuls and," he grumbled quickly, "Ambassador to the Eastern Reach."

"Elflands," Lhargugg spat. "Better her than me. Your daughter wishes to craft with jewels?"

He had rather dip his arm in a vat of liquid copper than admit otherwise, though word would sprout like mushrooms throughout the Ridge soon enough. Martan gave an ambiguous nod. Lhargugg did not question it.

"Fine work it is, jewel-craft. A little soft for me, too quiet."

"Were you quiet as a jeweler you would be useless to me!" Martan roared, broken teeth catching against his thick, spittle-slick lips. "What good is silence in a forge?"

The dwarves below raised a great cry; a cry to shake the very roots of the mountain. A wild clanking of mallets, picks, and hammers thundered against his ears, and he and Lhargugg yelled lustily to the noise, finer far than any music by Man or Elf.

His Overseer laughed, crooked teeth glittering with braided copper wire. "Take your ease today, Master. Welcome the Wyrm Slayer. Our orders are underway; all that remains is hammering on that fine wire Laibach the Gnome hired Darnok-Day last."

"Those odd creatures," Martan shrugged as if to dislodge a hot coal, "What finer wire can be made than our Triple-Fine? They will ask us to forge thinner than a hair next time, mark my words."

"Their coin is good."

"True. And a coin taken from them holds twice its worth with me. Well," he bellowed, "I leave you beasts in gentler hands than mine...but that means nothing! Should any of you slack an instant, Lhargugg, Overseer; Unclean of Ear and Nail, will flay you alive!"


"Husband. You are late."

"Martag, Precious as Gems, our daughter has not yet arrived."

"You stink of the forge."

"It will be our daughter's forge one day. She will not be pleased if it is filled with layabouts that produce nothing."

Martag sighed, those great breasts of hers straining at the narrow leather thongs that constrained them. Had Martan a spare hour—a spare quarter-hour, even—he should have taken great pleasure in unbinding them and—

It would be very difficult, he realized, having Martag—their daughter—back in the home-cave.

Well, a father must make sacrifices. It would be some comfort if Martag—his wife—felt them too.

"I have not seen you in such leathers since the Feast of Stones," he murmured, sliding calloused hands around her stocky waist. A tug at the strings that secured her tunic, and now the fire of their hearth-hall was not the only rosy light flushing her cheeks. He nuzzled her neck, snuffling like a mole through the silky down of her beard. Such a hard dwarf, his wife, yet how soft! He could never tire of her endless contradictions.

"Martag will be home any moment, Husband. Honey-Tongue."

"The criers will give us plenty of time. Sadly not enough time to put my honey-tongue to good use."

She laughed. "You horny toad. Was that the door?"

"You dream, Wife. Or perhaps you are too preoccupied with thoughts of our daughter to spare one for me?"

"I have spared you many thoughts these past four seasons. Are you so greedy that you regret sharing them now with Martag?"

"Hmm," her lips were so wide, so broad! He would regret not being able to taste them whenever he wished.

"Enough," she pushed him away at last, "the criers have come."

Three great crashes sounded upon their door, rattling the stone slabs in their gleaming copper mountings.

"Come!" Martag bid.

"Martag, seventeenth of her name; Master Purser of the Sixth Dwarf Foot. Martan, twelfth of his name; Master Forger of the Great Copper Veins. At your door stands Martag, eighteenth of her name—"

"Oh, for Craggle's sake, would you stop?" a pair of thick, russet-haired arms bowled the three criers out of the way, and Martag—their daughter—tossed her heavy bag on the hearth-rug.

"Hey, Mom. Hi, Dad. It's good to be home."