Unveiled: Camelot Unchained Newsletter #8 - City State Entertainment
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Team Tidings

-by Max Porter

March was an awfully exciting month here at the City State Entertainment™ studio. With the release of our Tech Alpha at the beginning of the month, it’s been one breathless moment after another until the reveal of our in-game footage on CohhCarnage’s stream toward the end of it. Thanks Cohh, you did an awesome job showing off our video! So incredible to see something we’ve worked on getting the stream treatment. Me, I had you up on the tv for maximum awesome! 

We couldn’t be more proud of how far we’ve come, but we’ll be even more proud of how we’ll be moving forward. As we put in improvements, tweak mechanics, art, animation, tech, content, lore, and a million other things, our Tech Alpha will continue to ramp up. If you’re along for this early part of the ride, thank you! And if you haven’t hitched on yet, thanks for taking an interest!

In the office, we’ve used the time off we had to springboard us into more intense development of all aspects of Camelot Unchained™, as well as our search for a few more key programmers. We’ve brought someone on board to work for us remotely, which is extremely exciting, and our latest Stretch Goal is already helping us in the search for others. 

Meanwhile, things have been heating up outside as spring has come upon us, filling the air with warmth as well as pollen. Inside, the heat is on as well, with lots and lots of planning for our next milestones. We’re really looking forward to sharing the next part of our game development journey with you! In that spirit, have a brand-spanking-new newsletter; please enjoy this, the eighth issue of Unveiled. 

Dragon Accident Report

The mysterious and powerfully enigmatic nature of these airborne monstrosities has led some to question their existence. We would like to assure any doubters out there that these things do exist, and their incredible danger is very real. Though they clearly have a near-supernatural knack for hiding their true natures, these beings are not to be dismissed. At great peril, we will continue to try and bring you more news and information regarding them, and will continue to welcome any scrap of testimony as to their presence or intentions. Until the next report, please heed this warning: Keep your eyes on the skies! 


What with the cool press from our Tech Alpha footage, we got quite a leap toward finishing this important stretch goal! Welcome to all you new folks, please pull up a chair and join us in discussions and in testing. If those of you with Alpha or IT access have ‘heard’ about dB joining us, well, listen close as you load up the game during a test or leaf through your spellbook for the first sounds going in the game! 
We’ve also got a cool art intern joining us from afar! Chris Schroeder has already gotten started hugging the world--by starting to create it! From his bio:

Chris is from the faraway land of Chicago. He graduated from the Art Institute in 2007 with a degree in Game Design. At first Chris was a general artist who made various characters, props, and environments. After a few years he decided to focus more on environments. When he is not conjuring up rocks and trees for CSE, Chris enjoys swimming and bike riding. His goal is to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs!


-by Jenesee Grey

Welcome to the section where we talk directly to you, the Community! Here is where I take your thoughts on the forum and attempt to give you more information on some of those unanswered questions!

Q. You've spoken briefly about the possibility of a healer vision. This implies only healers may be allowed to view a characters wounds and status effects-.

Is it likely that players from other archetypes will be able to also view characters (either allies, or enemies) wounds/bloodloss/effects in a similar manner, either for support abilities, or to further attempt to cripple a target?

If stealthers were to get in to the game, I can see them having a similar ability to be able to take advantage of a vulnerable foe, negating the necessity for typical default spike damage openers. -Nugusta 

Nugusta, to recap the idea of healer vision for those who might not know: Since we are using a unique system that includes injury to specific body parts, it can be important for a healer to be able to quickly ascertain what areas are in need of their special touch, and still be efficient about using their abilities. As you use the ability system to create the type of heals that suit your playstyle, you can select components that specifically target enemy body parts, or that target more general regions. This means you can choose to maximize your power in specific ways, instead of going for a default heal of the entire body. 

In order to make the play experience as visual as possible, it might be fun and more engaging to create a method to determine those parts to be targeted. We are calling this idea “healer vision”. It could be expressed visually in many ways, but we want to do something that will match the look of Camelot Unchained. We’ve talked internally about perhaps a brief alternate view where auras and colors/patterns could help differentiate locations, as damage could be subtle and difficult to determine in a large battle over a large distance. It is still something we are debating, but it seems like a cool idea to have a limited magical vision of the needs of your friends! 

Could this mechanic appear in other classes as you asked? Yes, it could. They would have their own versions of this ability to view necessary information, like enemy resistances, vulnerabilities, etc., which their archetype needs to know about in order to take appropriate advantage of them. However, keep in mind that nothing is free, and using this special vision would have a cost and prevent you from seeing the “regular world” for a time, possibly making you very vulnerable.

Q.  Will there be a PAT-like checklist on the road to Beta? -Aylwynn

There will be. We want you to keep abreast of our milestones in an understandable way, so we are going to put out a checklist that is similar in some ways, but ultimately very different from what we used during the P.A.T.s What will it look like? Well, stay tuned for an update from Mark that will explain it in elaborate detail (warning: puns incoming, I'm sure!) in the near future...(should be very soon, but no promises, its been a busy week here for Mark).

Q.  What will be the benefits to player housing? Will it be necessary or make gameplay more convenient to own a house? Will it be anything like Archeage's system where you basically NEED a house to do certain things in game? ? -Harming

Player housing, or as we are saying now, “building”, is one of the perks of having a primarily player-built world! On a grander scale, though, there are a lot of benefits to building structures for defense and logistics, and assaulting and defending player-made buildings is a major focus of RvR gameplay. There are many benefits to owning a house, although it is not a mandatory progression element, and you can choose to roam without one.

To go briefly into the advantages, the first one would be storage. During your travels you are going to collect and make many things; weapons you want to hang onto, materials you don’t need to use quite yet, clothing for days when you just want to wear a cloak...many things. Even if you are a very strong giant, you will need a place to put these, so that you you aren’t totally encumbered! Your house is a great place to lock these things up in an area that is more defensible (for your average pack rat). You will have other options, though (bank vaults, for one).

There are many other reasons to have a house, as well. Perhaps you want a place to craft and put your Vox Magus, or maybe you just want to help your Realm hold territory by having a base to share with friends that is defensible. Lastly, your house is an expression of you, and can be designed to reflect that aesthetically. However, there’s nothing that says you have to have one, and many folks will no doubt find them unnecessary; owning a house will not be a mandatory prerequisite to play and succeed in the game, not even for Crafters.

Q.  Any chance we can get a glimpse of in-game water within the next 6 months? -Nanulak

We are really excited to get a chance to try out Nvidia Gameworks Turf Effects and WaveWorks, to really add some beauty to the terrain and water elements. As always, we have to make sure that we maximize performance and playability first, but I think you will now start to see more focus on the “pretties” in the next few months! We are really “looking” forward to it!

Hot Topics

The hottest topics on the forums right now are group size and the visual UI. Join us on the forums on our website to bring your thoughts and ideas to the discussion table! 

Look What You Did

First of all, we want to say a big thanks to everyone who participated in the “You KEEP making us crazy!” keep-building contest. There were sooo many awesome submissions! 

In first place, we have this mighty edifice from Zephyr Angel, which will appear near the center of our Tech Alpha map!
In second place, a spectacular structure from Vick. We’ll probably find a place to use this somewhere on the map, as well!
In third place, the towering keep by Ophis. Again, this is likely to find a home on our Tech Alpha map overlooking a control point:
And finally, we’d like to throw an honorable mention to this intricate construction from Seatoncfa! Many, many thanks to everyone who submitted!
For the next contest, let’s take some inspiration from the /joke animations thread that sprung up on the forums on our website. Write us up a brief comical encounter between at least three races, with as much funny as possible! By ‘brief’ I mean 200 words or less. Give us a chuckle or three in the thread you’ll see pop up in the Fan Fiction section! 

Thank You

Massive thanks to Failboat for the truly massive amount of pizza and goodies! You got us going when the going was tough!
Thanks to Reducedtorubble for these hilarious posters. You made us laugh so hard, we almost couldn’t put them up (but we did, right next to our front door)! 

Dose of Design

-by Ben Pielstick

Constructing Ability Building

After giving a brief look at the very beginning of ability building in Camelot Unchained, I've gotten a lot of questions about how it works and where it is going in the future. Right now, the ability building system is very limited in its in-game functionality, but this is just a first pass proof-of-concept which will expand greatly in the future to provide many more features and far greater control over the exact properties of player abilities.

At present, the Ability Builder supports only Primary and Secondary components. This allows the foundation for an ability such as a magic Rune and a Shape, or a physical Weapon and a Style in order to create a working ability, but lacks any customization properties beyond that. The first and most obvious thing missing at present is the use of Modifier components. A basic explanation of these was given back in the BSC days combat presentation, but to briefly sum up, this class of components adds extra features not found in the Primary or Secondary components, and also can increase or decrease various attributes to add further customization choices such as Sizes for magic effects, and Speed for physical abilities. 

One thing to note from this description is that while all abilities share the same basic Primary, Secondary, and Modifier type components, the sub-types are different for each ability type, and combine together in different patterns as seen in the ability builder demo video. This means that making different types of abilities follows different rules for how these components go together, so players will need to learn which types of components go together in what ways in order to make their abilities do all the things they would like. Even within the bounds of these limitations there are balancing factors which, in a future iteration, will prevent players from filling every component slot on every ability they make, and potentially halt the construction of imbalanced abilities. 

The first limiting factor to take into consideration is Power. All of the positive attributes of an ability which are applied once its activation is completed contribute toward an ability's Power rating. The more Power an ability has, the more difficult it is to use, and so Power limitations are something that increase with time and practice. Another vital balancing factor is called Value, which keeps this scaling from creating too much of a gap between new players and veterans. 

Value is the difference between the Power as defined above, and the Cost of an ability, which is composed of all the other ability properties. Those are a part of performing the ability's action, such as resource cost and preparation time. Just as with Power, each property that contributes to the Cost of an ability has its own ratio, which determines how much Cost it contributes. Once all the attributes of Power and Cost are taken into consideration, the ability has to balance out below the maximum standard Value rating (currently 1000, subject to lots of change), in order to be saved as a valid usable ability. 

Fortunately, to ease this fine-tuning process somewhat, components which players have practiced with up to a master proficiency will allow a limited degree of adjustment to their properties. This will allow players to give and take a few points of different attributes here and there, in order to get as close to the Value cap as possible without going over. Keep this in mind, however: these master adjustments take place at the component level, so a component's adjustments carry over between all of the abilities it is used in. And all of those abilities must still fall within the same maximum Value limit.

If this all sounds complicated, that's because it is. The balancing act players need to perform in order to make strong abilities that fall within the Value limitations for balance is typically something designers do behind the scenes when creating abilities for typical MMORPGs. Exposing this degree of customization to players is something developers typically shy away from, and for good reason, but for Camelot Unchained we decided this was worth doing as we expect a more challenging experience to be welcomed by our core audience of veteran MMORPG players, and that the high degree of flexibility this system creates is something that will add a lot of interesting dynamic possibilities to RvR combat that can't be found in other games. As always, if you're interested in talking with us and our Backers about this system as it continues to develop, join us on the forums on our website and in our future Alpha tests, where more of these features will become available to testing as we continue to develop them.

Developer Quote

“I love programming. It’s like playing Legos with words" -Charles “Bull” Durham


-by Scott Trolan


Just a quick update from the Art team! It’s been a busy month (I feel like we just sent out the 7th newsletter yesterday). I’ve been working closely with David H. to make equipment parts available in the players’ inventory. Between the Stormrider, Mage, and Archer parts, you can make very...interesting results. :) 

Mike C. has been deeply involved in delivering building shapes and textures for the Alpha roll-out of C.U.B.E. (Camelot Unchained Building Environment). Out of 6 block shapes and 20+ materials, over 100 combinations are available for construction on Hatchery. The building results from our Internal Testers and Alpha folks have been not just amazing, but truly inspiring for what this game could be.

James K. has been making fantastic UI and tutorial walkthroughs for character creation, Ability Building, and Spellbooks. It’s fascinating to see the User Experience in this game become more streamlined and intuitive. So exciting to think about all kinds of neat people going through these and learning how to get started in the game!

Sandra and Michelle are working on very special concepts right now. I’ll let Mark fill you in on that on a future update, but lets just say...they’re faithful to a fault. ;)

Thats it for us this month. Hopefully we can catch our breath for next month, and deliver a more meaty Art-It-Up submission for MadMaxP!

Tech Central

 -by David Hancock

My fellow code warriors and myself have been busily working away over the last month, much as we have done since I began at CSE. My most noble code pursuit over the last few months has involved a close connection to the art team, due to our mutual goal. We wish to get our character system to a point where one could remove ones pants (and other unmentioned but nonetheless essential accoutrements). This required a number of essential things to happen; namely, we needed a character system in the first place, for gear and equipment to be a relevant idea. I would like to note right now that while I mentioned pants above, the following discussion is entirely on the art and asset side of things, and entirely separate from the actual pieces of gear you would equip to your character in the final game, but is the underlying system by which we translate that gear into a visible character.

To create characters that could be changed and modified, we first planned out our art requirements on how far we needed to break a character down, in order to then dress them back up in a manner that would give the art team a lot of control over how it all looked in the final product. All the while we needed to critically ensure we did not walk ourselves into any corners that could make rendering those characters very expensive. This was a long discussion, and we came out of it with well over 30 defined areas of the body that can be broken down into visually distinct pieces. With this data, I set about building a system to take all of these pieces, knit them all together, and produce a single model. Meanwhile, the art team created our first texture atlas templates and first basic nude character. We have come a long way since then, and have achieved the lofty goal of pants being an optional piece of clothing! 

A high-level view of the actual process of building one of our characters involves taking a lot of mesh data (or binary soup) provided by the art team, choosing specific bits based on priorities, and then layering determined by a higher-level system. Examples include the visual bits a pair of pants defines, or the basic nude undermodel for your character. Then we produce a single optimized model and its LODs (Level Of Detail meshes, used for rendering at a distance) for our rendering pipeline. We also take the different pieces and their respective underlayers and atlas their materials into a single texture for the different channels needed to render them that we care about, such as diffuse (the primary color you see), normals (a directional vector off the surface model that determines a number of things, but is primarily used for lighting), and specular/opacity (How shiny or transparent it should be). 

After all of that, we end up with a model we can display and animate to the player. The primary goal of all the combining, optimizing, and atlasing is to reduce the cost of rendering characters, which is critical to our goal of a system that can support not just a handful of characters, but hundreds in the same place at the same time.

State Of The Build

 -by Brian Green

After a short rest to recover from the Alpha launch, we're back in the office, continuing to work on the game. Of course, now our game is in the hands of an even greater number of enthusiastic Backers!

Obviously, there was a fair amount of bug fixing. But honestly? A lot less than I think anyone anticipated. One of the good things about having a continuous test server going is that we can find errors quickly. Sure, some fly under our radar, but even the bug that briefly derailed Alpha was fixed very soon after.

So, what now? Well, for the moment, we're back into planning mode. The engineering team got together with the designers and figured out what needs to be designed and what tasks we will have over the next several months. The major topics included "big terrain", which refers to having even bigger maps, more ability effects, more components, improved sky visuals, better delivery of visual effects, coding up items, improvements to buildings, and building destruction. There's also some back-end stuff we need to do, such as upgrading some of the libraries and code we use, and migrating our source control from Perforce to Git.

Perhaps the most exciting thing to happen currently is the addition of sound. On the Internal Test server, we already have some sounds that play when triggered by events. It's only the beginning, but the new sound engineer, dB, has already been busy!

And now, a small sampling of the patch notes:
  • Fixed many bugs, particularly the bug causing strain on the database that delayed Alpha.
  • Added a UI element to help with debugging physics.
  • Added a short intro song that starts when the client displays the loading screen.
  • Added sounds for the spellbook when turning pages and closing the book.
  • Expanded equippable items beyond just the torch. The Stormrider character can equip and unequip pants! Well, and other pieces of gear.
  • Increased titanium collected from asteroid mining by 2.5% when harvested by ships purchased from the store. (April Fools!) 
  • Different client UIs can communicate between themselves now. 
  • Added a "Swing Effect" to give better feel for melee attacks. This lets you hit other nearby targets when you swing your weapon but your selected target isn't in range. 
  • Added a "Character Creation Tour" that shows up as you create your first character.
And let's hear it for Alpha! Now we start on the next leg of our voyage.

See you later!

Backer Spotlight


This month’s spotlight is on a few of our dedicated builders in C.U.B.E., who have been heavily involved in a C.U.B.E. file exchange, collaborating on projects or encouraging others. We asked Fanglo, Mordran, and Foggye about their thoughts on building right now, and going forward! 

Why did you choose building as your preferred focus? 

Fanglo: Once building became available on the PTS I started building stuff. This was back then and still is today for the Alpha folks, one of the few things you can do as a solo player on a weird schedule. During my time in IT I've missed lots of the scheduled tests so being able to build stuff made me feel like I was still contributing.

Mordran: Weapon crafting is not in yet and since Jakeman showed me Minecraft, short after our Kickstarter, I love to build things with blocks. The thing that excites me most is the collaboration part of the building system. I think it helps in creating communities and is a nice thing to do for guilds.

Foggye: I wouldn't say that building is my focus; although, I enjoy it when I get the time to do so. Still, there's so much potential with it. Which is why I came up with the Cube File Exchange. The idea is that some builders will post a copy of their CUBE save file for other builders to use. Either to expand upon or gather ideas from. There's also been some helpful builders who built flat platforms or foundations for other players to build on.
What inspires you when you choose a design?

Fanglo: Usually I get inspired by what's going on around me. I was taking a college class on Asian civilization and during that class I built a Pagoda.

Foggye: For the things I've made, I usually just think of a general thing and try to mold it to what I envision in my head. Though, I've also generated some concepts some ideas having read much fantasy literature. I had a pretty cool idea for a Star shaped castle, but Rapax and Helvexis already knocked those out of the park.

Is collaboration hard when other people are adding to your building? Do you feel proprietary? 

Fanglo: Mordran took an aerial screenshot of his project and in paintshop circled various areas that he marked as walls and gates. I stayed away from those areas and just built inside. We give each other a lot of freedom to build wherever and whatever we want. 

Mordran: I think if you want to work on the same building you need to talk to each other more than we do now, we build on the same maps but not on the same structures yet. Perhaps it is a good idea to make some rules if you want to work on the same building, e.g. one player builds the structure the other the interior.

Foggye: I've spoke with Fanglo about his city, and his thought was to make dedicated plots for the buildings he'd like to see in his city. Mordran's method is a bit more free form. With his edited aerial map showing what he's looking to do in a general sense. Goes to show that every designer is going to have a different process. The goal here is to get builders prepared to make buildings by order and/or working closely with others. Though, unfortunately I haven't really be able to find other people interested in what they're looking to do. I even used pretty colors in my forum listing, and mentioned them in C.U.B.E. chat. Ideally, this newsletter could finally bring some interest in what they're looking to do. Hopefully so much that many more city projects start.

How do you see this working in-game?

Fanglo: For a city to feel alive buildings need to be different from each other. Nobody wants to go to a city where every structure looks almost identical. Multiple builders virtually eliminates this problem as everyone has their own unique way of building things. As we saw in the keep contest given some simple guidelines players have been able to come up with some really awesome designs. 

Mordran: This collaboration is what I am looking forward the most in this game, including to defend what you have achieved as a team :). I hope to be co-founder of a roleplay freelancer/small guilds city. I think that city will need some people who give citizens plots where they can build like they wish to do. For the walls and towers it would be nice to have a theme so that the city looks somewhat decent.

Foggye: It is my hope is that city production projects become easier with improvements made to C.U.B.E. Where imported buildings get loaded into the Exchange instead of whole files. That a planner could ask for a building from his fellow Builders with a specs, and then import them all together to create a town, city, or fortress. I'd see communally made castles or even cities replace all the current buildings in the test servers perhaps late Alpha or Beta.
I believe that projects like what Fanglo and Mordran are doing are the start of the groundwork for what players will need to do to coordinate the planning of towns, keeps, and other structures. That they can flourish at building when given limitations and fulfilling expectations.
I think it would be great to see how that evolves to the finished game itself. You can see things like teams of builders working together with an established hierarchy of planners, designers, builders, logistic experts to get the materials and even interior decorators. All ready to build to order.

What do you think? Join us on the forums on our website to talk more!

Lore Corner

-by Max Porter

Well, one of the earliest things Mark wrote for the lore of Camelot Unchained was a brief Becoming™ piece on the Dvergar, in which he explored the idea of the Veilstorms and the Age of Becoming. Those ideas would go on to fill out all of the lore for this game, and spawn many intricate tales for other races. Building upon Mark’s excellent groundwork, Loremaster Max Porter wrote the full Dvergar Becoming story. We present the first part of that epic tale to you now. Please enjoy it!  

The Becoming - Dvergar Part 1

Outside, the frost had stilled all but the rush of the wind, and deep drifts of snow had buried the meadow, leaving white mounds over the tops of the standing stones. On such a frozen winter night, even the stoic Dvergar were glad of thick walls and roaring fires.

Glancing out the window of the earthen building, the Dvergr child left his toys for a moment, watching the shadows move among the stones. The cold brushed against his nose like a memory, and the child snuffled.

“Come back over here by the fire, my boy. The warmth is good for your stone bones.” The aged one who peered at him from an oversized armchair was hoary as the frost outside, though the stone of his body was more dusky than ever.

The young Dvergr complied, climbing down from the window and tramping slowly over the packed-earth floor to the hearth where the fire blazed. “Grandfather, why are those stones outside in that shape? It looks like the ships the warriors go to battle in.”

His grandfather, or afi, raised his bushy eyebrows and leaned back in the solid chair, pulling from a stone mug for a long drink. The steam billowed around his face. “The saga of the stone ships is a long and momentous tale, my boy. Are certain you can sit in silence until it is finished?”

The young Dvergr sat by the fire, his eyes aglow with interest. “Yes, grandfather.”

“Good. Little one, have a sip; we will now tell the story of our Delving and Ascension, and how we came to Sigurd’s Realm.”


Long ago, in the time of the First Breaking of the world, there was a mining town called Sindri that had seen better days, nestled among the cold mountains. The men and women that lived there were grim, determined to eke out a life and rebuild their ramshackle town to its glory days. 

The foreman of the mine served as a kind of leader among the townsfolk, a no-nonsense man called Durnir. However, he was not their greatest expert on the mine. No, that distinction belonged to the eccentric old man known as “Old Motty”, who often took a mug of the town’s famous  mulled beer and went off by himself into the darkest nooks and crannies of the mine. They said that Old Motty had never gotten lost, not even once, though the mine was riddled with twisting tunnels and confusing caverns. 

Both men loved the mine, but they were often at odds. Durnir wanted to keep a firm organization running to get the most out of the valuable ore they dug. He tried to keep the miners focused, achieving one goal after another, slowly and surely building up their town. 

Old Motty was always searching for something, often alone, or with a few brave souls who hoped some of his expertise would rub off on them. The old miner was instrumental in keeping the main part of the mine running, but he constantly sought the next big find, a concentration of pure ore, the mythical mother lode. He always figured that if he could just find something better, the mining town would suddenly flourish once more. 

Though the storms pelted the townsfolk with rain, wind, and magic, Durnir kept them organized, and they sent team after team into their cave-riddled mine, working through the dangers that other towns would not. But their resolve would come at a terrible price.

One day as dark as dusk, when a truly terrible Veilstorm tore at the earth with its thunderous fury, the stone and mud of the mountain shuddered under the assault. A massive promontory of the mountain shifted, as though it were trembling with fear.

Deeply alarmed, Durnir called for a team to retrieve the on-duty miners before a collapse could trap them. As he watched the volunteers gather around him with brave faces, Durnir realized they were mostly the rain-spattered wives, husbands, and children of the miners that were inside. He tried to dissuade them, but it was no use; the men and women of Sindri were fiercely brave and determined. 

However, just as he entered the cave mouth at the head of the rescue team, the earth shook under the force of the storm, which had become a truly terrible Malevolence. Something screamed through the town behind him, probably the wind. Steadying the others, Durnir glanced back. 

It was not the wind. As the Malevolence smote the town with its magic, people were changing. Through the driving rain, the miners could discern the people of Sindri twisting into strange shapes and horrific visages. 

Behind, Old Motty emerged from the cave mouth, gasping with horror. Screaming rose on the wind, and the rescue team watched open mouthed and weeping as the fearful magic ran rampant through Sindri below. Durnir had to put out an arm to stop Old Motty from running headlong down the slope back to town. 

“You can’t go back!” the younger man shouted over the roar of the storm, though his spirit nearly failed him. “They’re all becoming monsters!” 

A tremendous rumble and crash made them both look up. A colossal piece of the mountain had sheared away above them, and was now sliding  with a great shriek of stone on stone down toward the cavernous entrance to the mine.

As the rescue team dove past him to escape the landslide, Old Motty shouted to his family, his friends, and his neighbors, though there was no chance they could hear, even if their humanity hadn’t already perished under the Malevolence. At the last moment, Durnir reached out and yanked the old man inside the cave, away from the deadly fall of earth and stones. Monstrous shrieks and howls were the last the miners heard out of Sindri before the cave opening was buried in the crushing boulders and mud. 

In the quiet dark, the only sound left was their own weeping. 

The miners crouched low in the dark, covering their heads and choking on the damp dust that flooded the cave mouth. The walls cracked, and chunks of the roof fell among them. As water began pouring down the walls and pooling on the floor, many cried out. Fear took hold; complete panic was not far away. Even Durnir seemed to have lost all control of the situation. 

Old Motty cleared his throat. His voice rose above the frightened people in the dark, holding their spirits up like a sturdy foundation. “We’ll be alright, everyone. Follow me.” Lighting the candle on his head, the old miner pushed through the crowd with the handle of his mattock. The light flicked and shimmered on wet faces and fearful, flashing eyes as people stepped aside unevenly, blinking at him.

Old Motty led the way down through one of the shafts to a dark part of the mine that was little used. There, by the light of his candle, he showed them where he had long ago broken through to a different part of the cave complex. “We should be able to find a good place to hole up—if you’ll pardon the pun—until this is over, yes?”

Some people laughed as the tension broke. Some shed tears for all that had just been lost, and at the terrible transformations they had witnessed. Some people noticed Old Motty didn’t say the words ‘escape,’ or ‘get back outside’.  Even now, though he was shaking with strain and sorrow, Old Motty was as comfortable within the mine as most were in their homes. For his part, Durnir lit a torch from the candle and brought up the rear. 

As the storms raged on outside, and the weight of the mountain seemed to press down on the cave mouth, they began to follow the crazy old miner, wandering through the cave complex to find shelter. Something behind them cracked again, and the mouth of the cave flooded with rain-soaked mud. They came upon a few shafts and openings to the outside, but inhuman roars and screams echoed down into the tunnels. 

Feeling trapped, one of the younger members of the group spoke up. “What of our home? My mother, my friends, and my uncle, all still out there?” 

Durnir answered him gravely. “Only be glad you’re alive. They have have been changed by the storm, but do not think on it right now. You have spoken of the loss that we all feel.” 

Old Motty shook his head sadly. There was no going back. The howling of the Abominations that had been their loved ones seemed to chase them through the twisting tunnels. There was nothing to do but follow Old Motty, who led the way with a strange certainty. The old miner was the only comfort to be had in that dark place, which was getting ever darker as their lights burned low. 

As the storm reached its highest pitch, Old Motty stumbled, looking confused for the first time. To the terror of the folk that followed him, he seemed to have lost his way. The thunder shook the earth so violently that cracks appeared in the smooth walls. The candle on his helmet guttered out, as did Durnir’s torch, and they were left in the pitch black.  

The men and women of Sindri huddled together in fear. The storm would kill them soon, if they could not find a way deeper. They did not feel protected from the Malevolence at all. They felt the tumultuous shifting of the earth, wracked by the wrath of the Pierced Veil. Praying, Old Motty hoped desperately to find some way to survive, something to give them life in this dark place. 

Gradually, as the magic of the Veil flowed through the stone around like blood through veins, and the ground hummed with energy, Old Motty felt his eyes begin to burn. At first, he thought it was from weeping at his loss; but then, in the pure darkness, he began to see. “What...fear not, friends, I can see Durnir’s warts again!” 

Durnir, for his part, smiled wryly. “Oh, my eyes must be hurting at the sight of your wrinkles, Motsognir.” 

Others felt their eyes burn, too; they saw light in the dark. They could wander on, their eyes weeping like the walls as the shifting magic changed them. They were becoming part of the earth, changed by the flow of magic through the cave walls into something else. 

With his new sight, Old Motty could see that a large crack had opened in the side of the tunnel, leading downward. He stood, dusted himself off, and led the way once more, his strange certainty returning. 

“Where are we going?” Durnir asked gruffly.  Others blinked through hot tears and wondered whether it would be worse to crawl outside or to go deeper. 

 Old Motty shrugged and grinned. “Seems to me this is the best way to go. I don’t pretend to understand it, my friends, but I feel that we are meant to go this way.”   
There was nothing to go back to but Abominations and certain death. So they walked, leaving the Malevolence behind. 

All the tunnels, twists, and turns only seemed to lead further and further down, into the deep parts of the world that even the bravest miners had never delved. The power of the storms filtered through the land all around them and slowly, painfully, they continued to transform. 

They ate the last of their food on the second day, still trekking down, trying not to think about the nagging feeling of loss, that they would never see those that they left behind. 

It was Old Motty who found sustenance: a field of mushrooms in the crevices of the deep, richly flavored and plentiful. As the storm’s water seeped through, they picked and plucked the fragrant food. Wishing only to survive as part of the earth, they ate of the earth, and walked deeper, beyond where any of them could remember the paths they had trod. 

Having long lost track of time and distance, the people of Sindri were brought to a halt when they came to a place where the tunnels narrowed, and even Old Motty paused. 

Durnir spoke up. “We should stop here, Motsognir. We can go back to those mushrooms and survive on that for a while, or…” 

Old Motty scowled back at him. “Nonsense! Are you miners for nothing? Get out your damn tools, and get to work! Or would you really rather go back, and all the way back, to the monsters and the storms above?” 

The sound of picks and shovels echoed through the ancient caves rhythmically, bouncing back and forth off the stone until it became a jumbled roar. Eventually, they broke through, down to a vast series of caverns far below the surface of the world. There in the warm dark, a vaulted cave opened like an endless tomb of the gods. It was lined on the roof with shimmering crystal. Stars, here in the deepest reaches of the world. 

Something about the great chamber made the people of Sindri feel safe. Sorrow and mourning burst free of the constraints put on them by the journey. Many broke down and wept at last, unable to hold back any longer. They had lost so much, so suddenly. The horror of the Malevolence had taken everything that made Sindri a home and changed or buried it.  

Old Motty grunted, “Come on, up and at ‘em. Let’s see where these tunnels go. There’s lots of things to see. We may yet find a better place…” He trailed off, as no one was listening. 

Durnir shook himself and stood before them all with raised hands. The keening quieted. “We have lost a great deal. We cannot ever return to the place that was our home, for storms and magic have destroyed it and changed our families and friends into...something else. But look.” He pointed at the high crystalline roof. “Here is a sky that has no sudden changes. No storms come here to wreak havoc. This is a place where we can allow ourselves, not to forget--no, never--but perhaps, to survive.” 

Old Motty kept insisting that they should go further, but the folk of Sindri-that-was refused. They called this place the Dark Fields, and settled there. 

They never forgot Sindri, where they had come from, and the loss stayed with them like a bleeding wound. On the other hand, Durnir pointed out that there was much to do. There were so many things to organize: caverns had to be hollowed, tunnels explored, fields of mushrooms farmed. A few brave souls began experimenting with different brews, trying to find a new recipe for their beloved, nourishing beer. 

Far below the ground, they discovered bizarre magical flora and fauna, things unheard-of, beautiful and strange. Eventually, many of them were tamed and husbanded by the folk that had been born in Sindri, and Old Motty called the most plentiful ones “deepsheep.” 

They built beautiful homes carved into the stone, and formed their own tribes and even kingdoms beneath the earth. They began to call it the Inner World, and the storm-torn surface the Outer World. 

Old Motty kept saying that they hadn’t fully explored everything, but they were all much too busy surviving to think about that much. He argued with Durnir at first, but over time, Old Motty retreated farther and farther into the deepest caves, and Durnir became king over the Dark Fields, capital of the Inner World. 

The people of Sindri changed their Inner World to match themselves, even as their bodies changed to match their surroundings. Other caves they had hollowed were given their own names, and became somewhat independent kingdoms called Nodes. Over each Node there ruled one of the original miners, now called the Ascended. It was they who remembered the surface, and told and retold of the torrential destruction above. 

All were comfortable and happy in their wondrous and mysterious Inner World. The Dvergar, as they began to call themselves, slowly began to miss the surface less and less. They had children who knew of clouds only by stories. 

They were content. Until the one called Thyra was born. 

Part 2 coming very soon!

Epic Castle!

We just couldn’t let you go without showing off this amazing castle, built by Sugogron in C.U.B.E.! It’s pretty amazing.
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