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Three nights ago I began to dream again. I'm not sure why. I have several theories as to why, and I'm not going to go into them. The why of it is not relevant. The very fact that my dreams have re-emerged is what is relevant.

I've always been a believer in dreams being the gateway between the conscious and subconscious mind. In other words, I believe that Freud was onto something. It's strange the way that dreams tie into reality. During childhood, dreams were a normal part of life and shrugged off as being meaningless or coincidental. As I entered my teenage years, there were occasional dreams that held more significance, and they led me to question just how coincidental they really were. The first significant dream that I remember involved a guy at my high school that I had a huge crush on. I was 16 years old and he was a year older, but I knew him because we both worked part-time at the twin-cinema movie theatre, the only theatre in town. We were work friends and I couldn't tell if he felt the same way as I did about him. I tortured myself every day, trying to figure it out.

One night I had a dream about him. He was holding hands with a dark-haired girl and they were walking down the stairs of the high school while I passed them on my way upstairs. When I awoke, I knew that we would only ever be just friends and he would find someone else. Sure enough two weeks later, I found out he was seeing someone else. She had dark hair. It didn't hurt too much because at least I saw it coming. Coincidence? I don't know. The scientist in me believes that it was simply my brains way of putting together all the puzzle pieces of daily life, processing all relevant information, and presenting the conclusion in a way that my daytime awareness can understand. It's like having a therapist inside my head, except it has a duct-taped mouth and can only talk to me through images, feelings, body language, and occasional words or phrases that are always jumbled and confusing like poetry that needs to be reread many times to make an interpretation that may not even be right. That was not the last premonition that I had, if it can even be called that. Many more followed, all the way into my early twenties. For example, during a period of anxiety and stress in my life, I had a dream that evoked feelings of calm, telling me that everything would be okay. Upon awakening, the feeling of calm stayed with me. In the end, everything was okay. It was comforting to have this internal mechanism that helped to maintain emotional balance.

Several years ago the dreams stopped completely, and I'm not sure why. But like I was saying, my dreams have returned. It feels like the voice of truth is back. The first night, I dreamed about a childhood moment of my mother being very hard on me, too hard on me I think. The emotions were vivid and I awoke with a clear memory of how much I hate it when anyone gets on my back about things; it happens to be something that my SO has been accusing me of doing to him. Talk about a wake up call; he's much happier since I've had that revelation. The second night, I dreamed that I was back at the medical laboratory where I did my work placement. In the dream, I was on the verge of being hired. I want to work there badly and I hear they are hiring, so this dream is a sign to me that I need to re-apply, because I will be hired eventually if I keep trying. Last night I dreamed that I was tricked into destroying a creature that should have been saved, but then I was told that it was "just the outside husk." The inner layer of the creature was locked safely in a hidden room, and this was the real creature. The core was preserved. This means something. I don't know what, but it means something.

I look outside the my apartment window and see that the sky is a shade of whitish-grey. It looks like rain is coming. In the distance, the outlines of tall buildings downtown seem darker grey, the edges blending into the surrounding fog. There is an apartment building across from us, perpendicular in relation to our balcony so that only the sides of balconies are visible. There are bikes and plants and patio furniture and items wrapped up in blue plastic for storage. There is a piece of clear, weathered plastic tied to one of the metal railings, blowing in the wind. It has been there ever since we moved here last November and I want nothing more than to snip it off with a pair of scissors. Evergreen trees line the front space of the building, a carpet of rust coloured pine needles surrounding the base of the trunks. A light green leafy tree is wedged between them and bits of it are turning orange and red. A cool breeze wafts through the window and into the room, raising bumps on bare arms and filling lungs with the same freshness your mouth gets from chewing spearmint gum. It's the sort of weather that calls for pants, closed-toe shoes, and some sort of jacket or sweater but nothing too heavy because it's not cold enough to snow yet. There's a Rubbermaid bucket full of hats and mitts and scarves that will need to be unpacked soon, but for now a long, thick red-purple-orange-brown chunky hand knitted scarf is the perfect thing to wear outside. Today would be a great day to go for a walk and pick up some apple cider or hot chocolate to drink slowly. It's too chilly for iced cappuccinos or lemonade, and I'm not going to miss them. The season is changing and nothing can stop it. Sometimes, change is just what we need.

1st Granite, 1053: I seem to be alive and back underground. I still don't remember what happened after the goblins rushed me, but I'm told I became the leader of the fortress before collapsing with a concussion. My colleagues get cagey when I press them on the details. For the time being, I'll have to accept distractions from my bookkeeping to make sure we don't all die. Kizor Bekomfath, ruler of the Dwarven outpost Copperstrapped.

My first act was to make clear what would happen to anyone who suggests that I set foot in the overbright again.

2nd Granite: I've gone through my predecessors' journals. Sauth's account of the deep mineshaft dug last year was fascinating. He had the miners survey the earth several times deeper than the current Copperstrapped. Not only did they strike silver and platinum, but cassiterite, galena, magma-proof quartzite, and several kinds of opals. By this rate, we'll all be rich before we dig deep enough to awaken an ancient anything.

Speaking of, I knew of the cavern at the end of their shaft, but not of its fifteen-meter drops or underground lake! The shores support fungiwood and tunnel tube, good lumber; it could be a pleasantly deep alternative to the surface some day. It also hosts giant cave spiders and whatever it is that giant cave spiders eat, so the cavern has been sealed off. Any attempts to explore it will need a failsafe system. I have ordered the excavation of a tunnel to the river's bed and the construction of assorted mechanisms. Once these are installed, the flick of a lever will operate a system of floodgates and divert the river into the mineshaft. I wish we had the resources for a properly destructive solution, but this one may do. Unless there are killer cave carps in the lake. I should add a pressure plate system halfway down in case of killer cave carps.

Scouts report that the goblins have been stranded beyond the river that's beyond the moats that are beyond the wall that's at the mouth of the unclimbable canyon that's been fashioned out of the hillside around our entrance. Six swords and a crossbow menaced forty dwarves. It'd be ridiculous if our numbers didn't consist of seven founders and a mass of unskilled dregs, the kind that migrate to unproven outposts. The fittest were formed into a militia. When the goblins came and Copperstrapped went into lockdown, half the population was still left to mill about, unable to find work. I have solved this problem by opening our doors, and ordering them to haul all loose rocks outside for inspection and cataloguing.

6th Granite: I'm worried about our stocks of booze. Twenty barrels' worth may have suited the first seven of us, but right now it's not even a barrel per dwarf. Our mushroom farms are modest, and the goblin mess has left our aboveground bushes drooping with withered prickle berries and strawberries. Ale and rum are running low, so we may be forced to subsist mainly on wines.

This sort of thing can kill a fortress. I lost a great-uncle to sobriety: he'd stumble along the corridors, shaking and ranting horribly slurred things, until water-fueled rage drove him to attack a hammerdwarf. Not here. I have ordered the construction of a farming hall under a sizable pool on the hill, and a stairway to run from it to the still and the grand hall. My calculations show that once we breach the pool, the water will rush to the hall, muddy the floor, and evaporate. We'll then wall off the hole and the pool will start to refill for the next time we need to irrigate. It's a foolproof plan.

11th Granite: The bottom of the deepest shaft trembles as something moves in the cavern. A rhythmical thwop-thwop-thwop comes through the walls, sounding like multiple pairs of wings were beating against scales.

Work on the tunnel to the river is proceeding apace. Good times.

20th Granite: OldMiner installed the floodgates today. In doing so, he locked himself and a junior miner into the tunnel. The gates are closed, and their mechanisms would break if they were operated by hand. You'd think that he would've noticed he was on the wrong side after installing the first gate of a row, but apparently he'd gotten too far into it. I can understand that.

1st Slate: I've finished the appraisal of our trade goods! The last free wall of my office is now filled with equations. I'll have to smooth them all again.

I'm not too proud to admit that my job would be easier with paper, the namby-bamby stuff that it is. We only brought enough for leaders' journals and the occasional letter, not for things that don't need plausible deniability.

It'd be great if the wastrels of this fort could study paper-making, but that's impossible. There may be elves in the region. Tradition is clear: until we know for sure, trees must only be felled for essential purposes. I won't be known as the administrator who met elves and couldn't chop down enough trees to piss off the gits.

In other news, OldMiner and the not-so-old miner are still trapped. Shouldn't someone be working on that?

4th Slate: Well, OldMiner and that other dwarf are free. I ended up constructing the floodgate control mechanisms myself after Aerobe barged into my office and revealed some things about herself and OldMiner. She rushed off to install them, and now the two are back together again. This is not a bad feeling, but I can't dwell on it. There are figures to add up.

The floodgate control lever was installed in a new chamber off the side of the great hall. I'm hoping to expand it with another level that collapses the chamber entrance, stocks of food and booze, and a pick-axe.

7th Slate: The farming hall is finished. It's always a pleasure to watch Hapax work. She doesn't really mine: she just strolls forward, and what her pick-axe does to the stone in front of her is both scary and exhilarating. The timing couldn't have been better: yet another group of migrants has arrived. They've managed to arrive on top of the hill, with no way around and no way down on this side. I've sent Hapax to fashion stairs into the hillside, and one of our less accomplished miners to undermine the pool.

8th Slate: There's been a miscommunication. The young dwarf mined under the pool instead, causing a significant lack of flooding. He's been instructed to dig out a way up from the tunnel and sent back.

9th Slate: The young dwarf dug a ramp to the tunnel's ceiling. He's been instructed to smash rock upwards until things start getting wet and sent back.

10th Slate: The goblins! They found a way to the hilltop and they've swarmed down the stairs! I saw one twisting a sword in Clockmaker's throat - they made him jump before he died.

We have no armor, so few axes. The forges are cold! I've had to conscript the migrants and send them to wrestle the goblins. They're falling almost like elves!

Oh God God God SAVE US

14th Slate: We found Aerobe's head.

We'd run out of fuel for the forges. The militia hadn't been drilling properly. I knew these things. I saw the figures, added them up, and did nothing about them.

So many are dead now. If we couldn't have led them into the cage traps my predecessors installed, we might all have been killed. As it is, I think we only got one of them because it rebounded off a dwarf as it stabbed her and fell into the river. A new arrival finished off the last two. Now he's just flopping there on the floor, three of his limbs cut open and his intestines spilling out. He's vomited 29 times so far. 30. 31. I don't know his name. 32. 33. A part of me admires the miracles of dwarven physiology.

We're safe. If sorrow and rage don't make us tear each other apart - and in these cramped halls, they may - we can go on. But what sort of self-respecting dwarf would ever again migrate to a fortress like this? What kind of merchants would assume that they'll get their money's worth in Copperstrapped? 41. 42. The chief medical dwarf won't be seeing our new hero, or anyone else in this world. 43.





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