Five dwarfs marched down the broad underground corridor. As they took each step, their steel-toed boots came down in the inhumanly perfect rhythm that was a mark of their kind. For they had all been carved from the same mountain stone, albeit breathed to life by different parents.
The broad corridor came to an end, splitting into two branches. "Let's pause here," said the tallest. His name was Grakby, he wore the finest armor and carried the best weapons. Unlike his dark-haired dwarf brethren his hair was red. That meant he was of a higher clan, and hence the leader.
"Excellent choice, brave leader," the littlest dwarf said in an earnest voice. Since he was dark haired he would never rise to become a group leader. But in his little heart he hoped to one day be made assistant leader. "Shall I prepare your meal?"
"No, little one," Grakby replied. "Our mission is not to take a picnic, but to investigate a sound of tapping."
"Aye, Grakby." The little dwarf's voice was too deep to snivel, but he tried. "That's not noble steel against stone, rather it is stone on stone. That sort of savage stone corruption can only mean one thing: kobolds!"
Grakby sniffed the air. He could feel the kobolds nearby, and knew that battle was upon them. He was not worried, he had fought side-by-side with these four dwarfs for decades. They hadn't been breathed to life by the same parents, but they might have well been siblings. After all these years he knew them like the four fingers of his own hand. He could never forget a brave deeds they had done or even the smallest detail. Simply put, he knew them.
"Alright, whatsyername with the axe, you with the crossbow, dwarf with big sword, and little one, listen up," Grakby said. "We're going to split up and go down both little passages."
"I've told you a thousand times my name is Kraggle," said the dwarf with a sword as tall as he was. "Named after the rock crag outside the Dwarf King's favorite gate."
"I'm talking now and I don't forget names," Grakby said. "I was saying dwarf with big sword and little one go down the right corridor. You with the crossbow come with me. And whatsyername with the axe stay here and guard our exit."
The four dwarfs sighed yet moved to obey. For such was the lot of a dwarf.
The tunnels they dwarfs followed were rough hewn, twist and narrow. At times even the dwarfs had to hunch over to make their way through a low spot. Finally both tunnels emptied into the same large cave. In the middle of the cave, half encased by the stone floor, was a large white gem the size of a rock chicken's egg.
"We're rich," the littlest one said. "Of course Grakby will get the largest share because he's the leader, but we're still rich."
"Alright lads," Grakby said. "Let's get our picks out and free the gem."
The dwarfs didn't need to be told twice. They put down their weapons and took out their stone cutting tools. They chipped away at the stone floor with inhuman speed and precision, never once marring the lovely white gem.
"Hey!" said the dwarf left behind to guard their rear. "Kobolds are coming from the way we came. Scores of them!"
"Whatsyername with the axe, didn't I tell you to guard our rear?" Grakby demanded.
"I did guard the rear. Now you know lots of kobolds are coming," the other dwarf retorted. "And I've told you a thousand times my name is Rok."
"Enough with the chatter," Grakby roared. "Form line and ready for battle!"
The other dwarfs, still working to free the gem stopped their task. They lovingly put their stone cutting tools away, then picked up their weapons.
"If I kill the most, will you promote me to assistant leader?" the littlest dwarf pleaded. In both tiny hands he clutched a weaponized miner's pick.
"If we survive, you will be made assistant leader," Grakby said.
"Thank you so much, Great Grakby," the littlest dwarf said. "I shall not disappoint!"
"Suck up," the other dwarfs muttered.
Then the kobolds poured like water out of the two small tunnels leading into the cave. They were the same height as the dwarfs, but not as broad. Their faces a mix of dwarf and rat. They wore no clothes or armor, but were covered with matted, filthy fur. Most were armed with bits of debris and salvaged weapons, some even carried rocks. Like a wave they surged over the dwarfs.
The fighting was ferocious. The dwarfs showed no mercy, using force of strength to bludgeon down the kobolds with brutal efficiency. While the primitive weapons of the kobolds could not penetrate dwarf armor, the strikes bruised. After twenty minutes the few surviving kobolds fled, leaving behind the shattered corpses of their kin.
Grakby checked on his loyal followers. Those four brave dwarfs he would remember for all time. Dwarf with big sword had dent in his helmet, whatshisname with the axe had a cut on his hand, him with the crossbow had switched to a mace, and little one was jumping up and down.
"What is it, little one?" Grakby said.
"I killed the most!" the littlest one said with glee. "Snorri is going to be made assistant leader!"
"Don't be stupid, Snorri's not going to be made assistant leader, you are." Grakby said to the littlest one. "Besides, who's Snorri?"
The face of the littlest dwarf crumpled. Tears began to flow down his cheeks and soaked his beard. A sob escaped his lips.
"What's wrong with that little dwarf?" Grakby asked in a puzzled voice.
The three other dwarfs sighed in disgust. Then they looked at Grakby and shouted in unison, "He's Snorri!"