Chapter Eight: The Battle of Dwarfenberg

        The Road bends southward at Dwarf Mountain’s edge, ascending gradually, then turns north, continuing its gradual ascent along the steeply rising western slope.  It’s dug into the slope, the right-hand side a twenty-foot high cliff of broken rock.  The Road leads to a level area, “the Porch”, a semicircular expanse projecting toward the west.  The slope above continues rising steeply to the top of Dwarfenberg, another mile up.  The slope beneath the Porch is just as steep for a half-mile down – then, past that point, the declination’s somewhat less severe.  This portion of the slope below the Porch thus bulges westward like a rounded prow.  The Porch’s level surface – rust-hued rock with bluish veins – is semicircular, as I’ve already told you, with its width from east to west about a thousand yards, its length two thousand yards from north to south.  The massive Gate of Dwarfenberg is set within the slope on which the Porch abuts, positioned at the halfway-point, and so the Porch spreads westward from this central point in all directions – northwest, west, southwest –  with that same thousand-yard-long radius.  Thus when the Road has led you to the Porch you walk along the steeply rising slope (it rises to your right) to reach the Gate – unless you want to take some extra time and angle to the west across the Porch in order to approach it from the front to see it from a distance.  Otherwise it won’t be visible; it’s vertical but set within the angle of the slope, which means that on each side of it are walls of rock where the approach to it was cut, so if you’re walking northward to the Gate the short way, straight along the mountainside, it’s out of view until you reach the gap and take a right.  The Gate’s before you then, about a hundred feet away from you.  (Does all of this make sense?  I hope it does, but if it doesn’t, please consult the map of Dwarfenberg.  It’s right before the one depicting the entire Realm.  The maps are at the end, of course – I’m saying this in case you haven’t noticed them there yet.)
        The Gate is fifty feet in height and width; above it, there’s another fifty feet of vertically-cut rock – I mean above the entrance; thus, above the Gate as well when lowered, standing level with the Porch.  The Gate is raised up vertically along this fifty feet of rocky wall exposed above the entrance, on enormous chains that pass through pulleys fastened to the rock and into holes drilled through the mountainside.  It’s three feet thick – cast metallurgium.  When closed, it’s fastened to the floor and walls by giant bolts that all are driven home or freed at once by some ingenious spring or mechanism I don’t understand.  The Entrance Corridor beyond the Gate is fifty feet in height and width as well throughout the hundred yards of its extent.   It leads you to the Upper Market Hall, about the size of Washington Square Park.
        In Chapter Six, first paragraph, you read that all the citizens of Dwarfenberg – not just the men; the kids and women too – assemble on the Porch one day a week to chant “the Hymn of Holy Awesomeness”.  It seems worth mentioning this fact again in case you don’t recall what I said there, so that you understand how a large a role the Porch plays in the scheme of Dwarfish life.  The slope of Dwarfenberg above the Gate ascends at roughly forty-five degrees; that’s very hard to climb if you’re a Dwarf, but narrow stairways wind up to the top.  Along this upper slope are terraces containing garden-patches and small groves of fruit-trees, and some playgrounds for the kids, who run about there while their parents walk more solemnly along these terraces and bless the world that they look down upon and up upon as well – for, over them, the brilliant sky with its enormous clouds like tranquil grazing monsters seems to swell out from a central point of nothingness positioned somewhere over Dwarfenberg.  (They walk out to these upper terraces through smaller doorways in the mountainside.)
        The Valiant Remnant stands upon the Porch before Dwarf Mountain’s Entrance as the light of April’s eighteenth day begins to fade, its leaders grouped together up in front – the Princess and the Duke, and Asmuran, with Miyu next to him, the Wizard’s arm behind her and his hand upon her hip, Humberto standing on the other side of Asmuran, a half-step further back.  The Japanese kids stand off to the side, the Megas, pilotless, in back of them.  The younger pilots feel as Miyu does – all seven girls are drained and weirded out; this last decoupling was difficult.  The Megagirls had wanted to remain in their fused state as hybrid girl-machines, as Megagirls, and Asmuran’s request that they decouple their internal halves, each Megagirl dividing into girl and Mega, wasn’t eagerly received; they’d been resistant, even petulant, complaining that it wasn’t fair of him to ask them to annihilate themselves through this division, even if the break would only be a temporary gap between their periods of unified awareness as tremendous entities endowed not only with gigantic size, huge tools, and awesome strength, but also with a Japanese girl’s keen intelligence.
        The Gate’s still raised.  At nightfall it will slide down into place; Dwarf Mountain will be closed to normal traffic coming through the Porch.  The three High Judges and their aides come out to greet the refugees, and right away Duke Timonar makes an impassioned speech: “High Judges, we respectfully request the kind assistance of your decent folk.  You see before you here upon the Porch uncowed survivors of a battle fought against an enemy that calls itself “the Host of Horror” – and the name befits the Horrors it inflicts and shall inflict upon the Realm and everything we love.  We fought this enemy for two straight days –  first outside Elfpark, then, as we fell back, exhausted and outnumbered, in its trees and under them, in our own neighborhoods, and, finally, toward the end of that first day, while most of Elfpark’s population fled up to the Highlands, seeking safety there, we fell back through the gates of Disengar, the Wizard’s compound at our city’s heart, intending to hold out behind its wall until an army came from Dwarfenberg to save our city from the Horrid Host.  Our hopes were based on Fladnag’s mission here – he’d said that he would ask you Dwarfs for help and thought that you would grant it – was he right?  You’re nodding – good.  Oh well, there wasn’t time.  The second day we fought upon the wall of Disengar, repelling Gobbin-swarms who threw their lives away attacking us and in the process wore away our strength.  Then they moved Trolls up, bearing heavy rams to smash the gates down, and we had no choice; we fled before the sun rose.  So, we come to you here at the far end of the Realm, requesting refuge for a while, yes, but, more importantly, we ask and urge that you assist us militarily, for if you do so you will save yourselves as well as us.  Our city’s occupied by all the Horrid spawn of Sinister, and Dwarfenberg will also fall to them if you Dwarfs don’t respond proactively with all your might to their Horrific thrust across the Realm, the final goal of which is doubtlessly this mountain where you’ve lived industriously for millennia.  A Grand Alliance of the Dwarfs and Elves and Disengarians will certainly suffice to drive them back to Sinister, but not unless we nip this in the bud, and strike before their strength has so increased that you will not be able to prevent the Horrid Host from taking Dwarfenberg.  Consider, then: shall we not put aside our differences, which, after all, are small, compared to the enormous yawning gulf between the Host of Horror and ourselves – your people, and the Wizard’s, and my own collected here together on one side, the side of Joy, and, on the other side, the side of Horror, that Horrific Host comprised of Sinister’s monstrosities?  The Host is flying now across this gulf; it’s looming over us as we converse.  So, let us fight together, side by side, against this alien monstrosity.  We’ll really be a Grand Alliance then, not just in name, but in objective fact, and, years from now, the story of this war will be retold in tones of wonderment as men speak of how Dwarfs and Elves forgot their relatively trivial complaints against each other and Allied themselves with one another to defeat a foe that Horrified them both; the war they waged against this foe (these men will say of us) was truly Grand, and we (they will conclude) owe everything that we now have to them, and there’s no limit to the gratitude we feel and should feel towards those men of yore, those Dwarfs and Elves and Disengarians who struggled side by side so long ago against the Horrid Host of Sinister.”
        Judge Rothin says, “The Wizard Fladnag came to speak with us about a week ago about this Horrid Host from Sinister that he assumed you were confronting then outside of Elfpark, holding them at bay.  Now, speaking as your representative, he told us that you were prepared to grant possession of Mount Sinister to us – that is, support our ancient claim to it – if we came to your aid.  We liked the deal that he was offering on your behalf, so we agreed to it, and told the man that we would send divisions to your aid at ten-day intervals, and in this way build up an army powerful enough to drive the Horrid Host back home again, where we’d destroy it, making Sinister our property in perpetuity.  This covenant remains in full effect.  Our first division of ten thousand men would have departed on the twenty-fourth, but that assumed that you’d be holding out at Elfpark, fending off the enemy.  Since Elfpark has in fact been occupied, it seems to me that we’d be well-advised to leave with more divisions later on.  Of course, you Elves and Disengarians will certainly accompany us then, and I guess it would not be incorrect to call this an ‘Alliance’, ‘Grand’ or not.”
        “The Host might get here in the next few days,” says Timonar.  “They may have followed us, in which case we’ll be fighting very soon at this location.  If we beat them then, the Grand Alliance can depart at once and drive them all the way to Sinister!”
        “It seems unlikely they’d arrive so soon,” Judge Imlig says, “considering the fact that they’ve just paid a very heavy price at Elfpark, if the story you have told of your big battle there is accurate.  I think they’ll be recovering for weeks.”
        “But we can’t wait for weeks!” says Kalia.  “They’re in our city, soiling the earth from which our Trees derive their nourishment!”
        “You’re tired and confused,” Judge Rothin says.  “We’ll talk about this subject later on.  Right now, let’s focus on your presence here.  We want to make your stay as comfortable as possible for you, to minimize whatever frictions might perhaps arise between our peoples.  I believe it’s best that you Elves camp up on the mountaintop.  I’ll send some social workers up with you to make sure everyone gets settled in with minimal uncertainty and stress.”
        “And what about us Disengarians?” the Rainbow Wizard asks, and tilts his head to either side to indicate the scope of this denomination, smiling.
        Judge Imlig says, “You Disengarians can stay inside of Dwarfenberg with us.  We’ll set aside some dormitory-space for all your Mexicans, and special suites for you and your ingenious Japanese – your colleague Fladnag says they’re very smart, and we appreciate intelligence.  We’ll let you use our shops and factories for any needed upgrades and repairs to those big Mellalurgic humanoids you’ve brought with you – you call them ‘Megas’, right? –and to those fascinating metal suits that I see some of your nice Mexicans are wearing, such as this fine gentleman, whose name is … ah, ‘Humberto’ – well, I’m pleased to meet you, sir; I take it you’re the boss of all the Mexicans at Disengar?  Yes, well, we’ll let your people have the use of our facilities for all your stuff, but, Asmuran, I hope that you won’t mind if, in exchange for this, you let my folks examine your inventions, since perhaps the principles embodied in these things might be adapted in a useful way within Dwarf Mountain, in its factories or transport-systems or the mines below, and maybe even militarily in ways that haven’t yet occurred to you.  Don’t worry; you’ll be in the labs with us while we’re examining your handiwork; we won’t do anything behind your back, and any explanations you can give will be appreciated, I am sure.”
        The Megas walk unpiloted in through the Gate and down the Entrance Corridor.  There’s ample room – the ceiling’s fifteen feet above the tallest Mega’s metal head; it’s twice the height of Rainbow’s followers.  The Elves are led along a narrow path that zigzags upward to the mountaintop, where there’s a flat plateau just large enough for them to camp on fairly comfortably.  Small gnarled trees and shaggy clumps of grass make it a not-unpleasant sort of place, and then, of course, the view’s spectacular.  Across the darkened Realm, the silhouette of Sinister stands out against the pinks and oranges left by the setting sun.  The sun has dropped from view; the colors glow and deepen as they merge into the night.  Dwarf Mountain’s social workers, laboring throughout the night, bring up large canvas tents, prefabricated outhouse-sheds and stoves, and water-tanks, along with large canteens of fish-and-fungus stew to feed the Elves, who grumble quietly among themselves about the ugliness of all of this compared to life at Elfpark, but still thank their hosts politely – most of them, at least; some make sarcastic comments, and are told, “Too bad; we’re doing what we can for you.”
        When morning comes, and Elves go to the rim of Dwarfenberg’s flat summit and gaze out across the Realm, now lit up by the sun, they’re able to discern the slender pin of Thoranc poking up between the spread of dark green swelling forests to the north, and, to the south, the paler, brown-green swamps.  On both sides of the tower runs the thread that is the Road, a gleaming filament; its asphalt coat contains small particles of some reflective substance that’s lit up by morning sunlight, so it’s visible to westward-gazing Elves at Dwarfenberg.  Halfway along the Road from Disengar to Dwarfenberg, this shining thread’s obscured, and this obscurity creeps constantly toward Dwarfenberg – Lord Gothrom’s Horrid Host, which camped last night in the vicinity of now-befouled, ruined Boodletown.
        That afternoon, down in the Council Room, the chiefs are at the table: Asmuran is at the center, on one side of it, with Miyu and Humberto to his right, the Duke and Princess sitting on the left.  Across from him is Rothin; Imlig sits to Rothin’s left, and Nurdi to his right, across from Timonar.  Judge Rothin speaks: “Good Morning, Gentlemen.  First, I must thank the Duke and Princess for the prompt report they’ve sent down to us of this Host’s advance toward Dwarfenberg, which we would not have seen until tomorrow, at the earliest – our Dwarfish eyes are not as keen as yours.  I’ve called you here so that we can begin to figure out how we’ll receive the Host when it arrives, and get ourselves prepared.  Judge Imlig, would you care to summarize our options, making clear their pros and cons?”
        Judge Imlig clears his throat.  “Well, I believe the option that allows to us to build up our strength while staying relatively safe is this: we close the Gate and upper doors, including those that open to the top, where our nice Elven guests are staying now, and hunker down inside of Dwarfenberg.  The Elves can join us if that’s what they want, or they can flee before the Host gets here.  That’s Option A.  The pro is, no one dies; the con is that we’ll live in misery for weeks, and never look up at the sky.  Now, Option B requires many deaths throughout the coming weeks, but, I believe far fewer deaths than C and D entail.  We only go up to the mountaintop – we fortify the summit, holding it against the Host – the Gobbins, I believe, will constantly attack us from all sides; the Urgs and Trolls will have to use the trails and any other routes that they can find, since they’re less nimble than the Gobbins are.  The pros are that the top’s defensible and that this option lets our wives and kids and all of us go out and see the sky.  Oh, yes, the summit’s quite defensible; its rim’s a mile and a half around, so we can man it fairly easily.  Ten thousand Regulars will be in place to greet the Horrid Host when it arrives, equipped with battle-gloves and trolling spears, in armored shirts, with helmets on their heads.  They’ll be enough to keep the summit clear, especially if you Elves stick around and lend a hand by zipping back and forth, and getting quickly to the danger-points where your assistance will be gratefully accepted; we’ll rely upon your speed.  We’ll give your power-suited Mexicans some weaponry especially designed and custom-made for them, Humberto.  Wow, I really love those suits; they function more like augmentations of your own physiques than complicated instruments you wield externally but happen to be worn instead of handled in the normal way.  They’re giving me ideas ….  Asmuran, your Megas would be very useful too up there, of course, if we can figure out a way to get them to the mountaintop.”
        “The Megas wouldn’t be,” says Asmuran, but when they’re piloted by Miyu and the other girls, then we’ve got Megagirls, which would be very useful anywhere.”
        “That’s what I meant, of course,” Judge Imlig says; “if you insist, I will be scrupulous in my employment of the proper terms – they’re ‘Megas’ only when unpiloted, and ‘Megagirls’ when girls are fused with them; I’ve got it.  Okay, moving right along … the problem would be getting them up there, but problems can be solved if one thinks long and hard enough and has the right supplies available.  Or should the Megagirls remain down in the Entrance Corridor in case the enemy contrives some way of smashing down the Gate?  No, it’s too thick; I don’t think that’s a serious concern.  In any case, let’s move on to the cons: We do lose guys if we pursue this course, and, furthermore, we’ll let the Horrid Host shit on our Porch and upper terraces, defiling our home’s exterior, and think about how impotent we’ll feel if we let this go on for weeks – our wives will look at us and wonder if we’re men.  So, on to Option C.  We fortify the mountain at the level of the Porch, preventing them from getting onto it or climbing up to reach the terraces.  The Megagirls, backed up by Regulars, can block the Road off fairly easily.  If we do this, we save our dignity, but it will be extremely difficult to man a line that long; we’ll have to use Irregulars we arm with iron bars and hammers and whatever tools we find that might be suitable, and they will die in shocking numbers as the days go by.  Moreover, with a line that long I’m sure that Gobbins would break through from time to time so that our wives and kids would be at risk out on the terraces in any case.  Two devastating cons, so let’s go on to Option D: we let them fill the Porch and block the Road behind them, hem them in and slaughter them all in a single day.  The pros are obvious.  The con is that we lose a lot more lives with Option D that if we went with Options A or B.”
        “We Elves accept the possibility of death in battle,” says Duke Timonar, “if that’s what needed for a swift return to Elfpark, and the cleansing of its Trees.”
        “That’s very admirable,” Rothin says,  “and yet perhaps not staggeringly so, considering that you will be reborn within a hundred years, remembering your present lives, as though you’d never died – or so I’ve heard – which isn’t true for Dwarfs; when Dwarfs die, life is over; Dwarfish death is real and serious, unlike your own.”
        “That isn’t fair,” says Princess Kalia.  “We don’t like dying.  It feels horrible.  You’re right that we know we’ll be born again, and that of course relieves some of the stress of risking death, but it still bothers us a lot to think that we might have to die.  Moreover, don’t you Dwarfs yourselves believe that you’ll come back to life in some new form, not here, but in another universe that’s more enjoyable than this one is?  So how is facing death more difficult for you than for us Elves?  It’s just the same.”
        “It’s not so easy to believe in things you’ve never seen occur,” Judge Nurdi says; “I don’t think any of us ever feels completely, absolutely confident, although we try to, since we know we should.”
        “Hey, Princess,” says Humberto, “here’s a thought that kind of bothers me.  Suppose your Trees are all obliterated by the Host – destroyed, and pulled up by the roots, and burnt.  In that case, how would you guys be reborn?”
        “You’re right, that is a problem,” she replies.  “If our souls can’t fly to their family Trees and hibernate among their lower roots because these family Trees have been destroyed, then how can we expect to live again?  Well, fortunately, Trees have souls as well, and these will hover, circling around, until they find a place to plant themselves in close proximity to where they were before the Trees that they had been were killed; then they will grow, becoming Trees again, and we can hibernate inside of them.  In that case, our rebirth would be delayed, and we would lose more of our memories, but we’d still be ourselves when we emerged to live another life.  I’m hoping, though, that we’ll retake our city soon enough that this scenario won’t come to pass.  Destroying Elfpark’s Trees would be a task so huge and onerous that I believe the Mastermind of Horror probably would need at least ten years to get it done, but let’s make sure he doesn’t even start.  Those Trees may not be so intelligent, but they can suffer; we don’t want them to.”
        “I take it, then,” says Imlig, “that the Duke and Princess are endorsing Option D.  Now, Rothin, you’re inclined to go with A or B, correct?  Which one do you prefer?”
        “The second one,” says Rothin; “we defend the summit while producing weaponry.  To hide inside the mountain for a month – that would be a humiliating thing, much more so than what Option B entails, as well as miserable and perhaps unlawful, since we couldn’t bless the Realm while bottled up inside of Dwarfenberg.  But Option D wastes precious Dwarfish lives.  Let’s not be hasty.  Let’s not rush ahead until all fifty thousand of our men have been equipped for battle, and we’ve got some really devastating war-machines; then we can smash the Host with much less cost in Dwarfish lives.  Until then, let them try to take the summit; we can beat them back indefinitely, and our wives and kids can even come out to enjoy the sun from time to time, protected by the ring of Dwarfish Regulars around the edge.  You say our wives would look askance at us and think that we’re unmanly, doing this instead of wiping out the Horrid Host in one big battle right when they arrive, but I think they’re intelligent enough to see that prudence is required now, instead of arrogant ferocity.”
        “Well, Wizard,” Imlig says, “I’d like to know your preference also.  Option B or D?  Defend the summit or wipe out the Host in one big battle right when they arrive despite the fact that we’d lose lots of lives?”
        “Of course, I’ll like to get my people back to Disengar; our work there’s interesting, and we’re annoyed that it’s been put on hold by this invasion.  So, I would prefer that we destroy the enemy at once.”
        “That’s right,” Humberto says.  “Let’s take them out.”
        Duke Timonar says, “Well, that’s four of us who want to totally destroy the Host instead of merely blocking off the Porch, so even if the other Judges here agree with you, Judge Rothin, we would have a clear majority of four to three.”
        “Excuse me,” Miyu says; “I’m here as well.  Does my opinion matter?  Maybe not, but I will offer it in any case:
        I’m with my boyfriend –” (Miyu elbows him) “so Option D has five votes, not just four.”
        Judge Rothin says, “It doesn’t work like that.  We won’t submit to your majority if we decide that you are in the wrong.  Judge Imlig is soliciting your views; the three of us are going to decide.”
        “But that’s outrageous!” Kalia objects.
        “Not really,” says the Wizard.  “After all, we’re here at Dwarfenberg, depending on their hospitality and, in my case, their expertise as well.  Presumably, right now as we engage in this debate some very competent Dwarf-engineers are tending to our Megas in the labs where we deposited them yesterday.”
        “We also will be making sheathes of darts for all your Elves; we’re not neglecting you,” Judge Imlig says to Princess Kalia.  “They’ll be a yard in length, and very thin.  When hurled at rushing Gobbins at a range of twenty feet, these darts will penetrate three inches, maybe four – enough to kill.  An outer wall of death, before you use your javelins as thrusting-spears – that’s how you use them, right? – against those who get through.”
        “That’s nice of you, I guess,” says Kalia.
        “I wouldn’t recommend that you deploy these darts against the Urgs, though,” Imlig adds.  “Their hide is tougher than a Gobbin’s skin, and they wear breastplates, and are helmeted, so you would have to hit them in the face or arm or thigh, and even if you did you wouldn’t do much damage, since your darts would not be penetrating very far, unless, perhaps, you hit them in the eye, which would be difficult to do.”
        “Our skin is fairly leathery as well,” says Rothin, holding up his massive arm to demonstrate, “and we wear armor too, just like the Urgs; in fact it almost seems as though the Urgs are merely mockeries or clumsy imitations of us Dwarfs.”
        “So, what’s your point, Judge Rothin?” asks the Duke.
        “Oh, I’m just thinking hypothetically – you know that in the past you’ve started wars against us, and if you’re armed with these darts you might get big ideas.  Keep in mind that Imlig’s darts would not take out a Dwarf.”
        “We don’t remember any of these wars,” says Kalia, “so, tell me, what’s the point of bringing them up now?  Yeesh – let it go.”
        “We don’t just let things go,” Judge Rothin says.  “We write them down in books, and study them.  That’s how we know about how tough the skin of Gobbins is, compared to that of Urgs – the Wizard visited them long ago, and when he lived with us we questioned him about what he had learned from travelling around the Realm observing everything, and we wrote down his answers in the Book of Records.  We have copies down below, in six of our eleven libraries.”
        “We’re wandering a bit,” Judge Imlig says.  “Judge Nurdi, what do you think we should do?  Stay safe inside the mountain for a month, or fortify the summit, giving them the rest of Dwarfenberg’s exterior, or trap them on the Porch and wipe them out, in which case we would lose a lot of lives?”
        “The Thirty-Seventh Law, pertaining to the sanctity of Dwarfish property, in its third clause, referring to a realm that’s held in common – public property – states, ‘Enemies shall not set hands or feet upon that which belongs to all of you – no pebble, no, nor any grain of dirt belonging to your nation shall be held or trodden on by any enemy.’  It’s clear to me, then, that we can’t allow the Host to stay for any length of time upon our mountain; we must kill them all immediately, if it’s possible for us to do so.  Trap them on the Porch and kill them all!”  Judge Nurdi nods his head emphatically as he speaks these last words, a trail of spittle starting to descend from his loose lower lip.  He shakes his fist, then wipes the spit off, smiles, and sits back.
        Judge Imlig smiles also.  “I’ll admit that even as I laid the options out I was already very much inclined  to massacre them all upon the Porch as soon as they arrive, although the Law that you’ve just cited wasn’t in my mind.  The only reasonable options here are B and D, and I just can’t accept the thought of this disgusting Horrid Host depositing its shit upon my home, and how I know my wife would look at me if I told her that they’d be doing this for weeks, and there was nothing we could do.”
        “All right,” says Rothin, “Option D it is; but it’s Judge’s Nurdi’s legal argument and not your passion that impresses me.  We’ll trap them on the Porch, if possible, as soon as they arrive, and kill them all.”
        “I’m glad to hear this,” says Duke Timonar.
        “Yes, I’m relieved as well,” says Asmuran.
        “Then we are all agreed,” Judge Imlig says.  “We’ll let them reach the Porch, and trap them there.  But how?  Let’s see.  Well, this might do the trick.  We pick a storage-room beneath the Road outside the Porch but very close to it, then tunnel outward to the mountainside and make an opening, from which our men can climb up to the Road and block it off.  A thousand of our well-armed Regulars should be sufficient; we can call these guys ‘the Blocking-Regiment’.  Above the Porch we’ll fabricate some sort of battlement to keep the Gobbin-mob from climbing up and getting to our upper terraces and lesser entrances.  It will be manned by our less-well-equipped Irregulars.  I want you Elves spread out below the Porch, along the slope, where your agility will help you to maneuver with more ease and speed than would be possible for us.  Your job will be to take out anyone who tries descending, either to escape, or to attempt some sort of flank-attack – most likely Gobbins, since the Trolls and Urgs will not be able to negotiate that slope with very much proficiency, considering how steep and rough it is.  I’m pretty sure the Trolls will be in front, up near the Gate.  They’ll try to smash it down with rams or something – they would not succeed if they continued smashing for a month, but no doubt they’ll be trying this at first, so I don’t think you Elves will have to deal with any Trolls.  The Urgs you’re capable of killing, and the Gobbins, certainly.  The Wizard’s Megagirls, together with Humberto’s power-suited Mexicans, will spearhead the attack upon the Porch, positioned in the center, opposite the Trolls, if my suspicion is correct.  On either side of them we will deploy the rest of our ten thousand Regulars, half to the right of them, half to the left.  We can anticipate a constant flow of Gobbins getting through the Megagirls – they’ll scamper through the gaps between their feet – so we will have to back our center up with several thousand more Irregulars in fairly dense formation, like a plug.  Behind these, spreading out across the Porch behind our forward lines, Irregulars are going to be waiting, just in case the enemy breaks through at any point.  They’ll also fetch our dead and wounded men, and bring the latter to our hospital.  The arms and armor of a Regular who can no longer fight will be transferred to an Irregular, who will move up to join the forward lines of Regulars so that our numbers there are not reduced as we move outward toward the Porch’s edge.  We’ll keep our outer flanks against the slope that rises from the Porch; thus we will form a sort of “C” that constantly expands across the Porch until the Horrid Host has been destroyed.  I’ve worked the numbers out – the Porch’s radius, a thousand yards, makes its periphery three thousand yards in length.  Assign a man to every yard and our formation will be three lines deep when we get to the Porch’s outer edge.”
        “You’ve really taken charge, Judge, haven’t you?” says Timonar.  “I mean, your plan’s not bad, although it’s kind of grating that we Elves will be below the action, not above, and are entrusted with the mopping-up when it’s all over, not the major work of wiping out the Host upon the Porch, but I guess that’s a reasonable choice – except that it would be, you know, polite, if you would put it to us as a choice, and not as an instruction or command – or are you our Commander?  If you are, then that’s the way it is – what can we do?”
        “I’m sorry if my tone offends you, Duke; that wasn’t my intention.  If you think the plan that I’ve proposed to you makes sense, then I’d be grateful if it gets endorsed by you and everyone assembled here.  I don’t claim any title; you might say that I’m the “Military Counselor-In-Chief” of this alliance, if you want.”
        “The Grand Alliance’s M.C.I.C.!” says Asmuran.  “I like it.  So you are.  Judge Imlig, I must say, I love your plan.  Of course, it’s gratifying that you’ve placed my people in the center of it all.”
        “I’m glad you’re pleased,” says Imlig.  “By the way, my analysts inform me your machines are vulnerable in at least one way – their sensors and communications-gear  can be torn from their heads, where it’s attached, by Gobbins who get close enough to climb their bodies, and the probability is very high that many will get through and, of these, several Gobbins will succeed in reaching that equipment, which, of course, would render them inoperable, so we’d recommend that mini-fortresses be bolted into place around their waists, manned by Humberto’s armored Mexicans.”
        “Ah, good idea,” Asmuran replies.
        “Humberto?” asks Judge Imlig.  “You approve?”
        “Muy buen,” Humberto says.  “I only hope the little fuckers try to get up there, or we’ll be wasting time.  You think you guys can make us really kick-ass weaponry?”
        “Yes, certainly.  I think you’ll want to use a heavy rod of Metallurgium about five feet in length, one end of which is going to be thick, the other sharp, so you can either bash or stab with it.”
        “A club-spear,” says Humberto.  “Very good.”
        “Well, I believe our business here is done,” Judge Rothin says.  “It’s time for those of us who happen to be Dwarfs to say the prayers that are required from us when the sun gets past the two-thirds mark of its descent.  If you have questions or need anything, inform a member of Judge Imlig’s staff, and if he wishes to communicate with any of you, he will send someone to fetch you, or he’ll go to you himself.  Good day, and may the Holy Awesome One be with you and not be annoyed at you.”

        The Host of Horror’s slowly climbing toward Dwarf Mountain’s Porch on April twenty-third, late in the day.  By nightfall, they’ll arrive.  As you no doubt recall, the Horror-Lord left all the Managers and Technicals behind at Disengar, for Gothrom is convinced that he is capable of conquering the Realm all by himself, without the Mastermind’s assistance, or the help of Nausor’s clones, whom he correctly sees as little more than sub-personae that extend themselves from Nausor like an octopus’s arms.  (The only Molemen he has brought with him are those few necessary to direct and tend the baggage-train of Centipedes, on which the Urgs depend, since he has come to Dwarfenberg to conquer, not to build.)  Deprived of Troll- and Gobbin-Managers, Lord Gothrom’s had to personally herd the Horrid Host’s subhuman elements the whole way here.  He had to round them up at Elfpark, get them all onto the Road, and start them moving eastward.  Ever since, he’s been continually urging them along, and keeping them from wandering away into the woods on either side.  The Urgs, who are intelligent enough to keep the thought of Dwarfenberg in mind and disciplined enough to motivate themselves to keep progressing toward this goal on his behalf, don’t need to hear his voice to be reminded that they’re serving him or that this is the service he wants now, but, certainly, the Trolls and Gobbins need continual direction; they must hear his roaring, hissing, all-commanding voice, which he alone is able to project, now that those Troll- and Gobbin-Managers with their voice-simulating megaphones aren’t with him.  He’s been dashing back and forth, conveyed by his fast Spyder, galloping along beside the mob and blasting them with constant orders: “Get back on the Road!”, “Let’s keep it moving!”, “Leave that guy alone!”, “No biting!” (or, when speaking to the Trolls, “Don’t punch each other’s faces!”, “Help that guy get up again; don’t stomp him!”, “Hurry up!”.)  At times, when things were getting out of hand and it was necessary to respond with extra speed, the Horror-Lord would leap right from his Spyder’s back onto their heads, and he’d dash weightlessly on top of them more rapidly than he could be conveyed on Spyderback, his Spyder galloping along the grassy margin of the Road beside the Host, attempting to keep up as much as possible but falling back despite its own speed as he rushed ahead and dealt with riots and meandering, distracted Trolls.  The traffic-jam resolved, the trouble dealt with, Gothrom would return and seat himself upon his Spyder’s back again, for it appears to him to be more dignified to ride as if enthroned upon his Spyder than to walk or run upon his own two jointless shadow-legs, although it wouldn’t weary him at all to walk or run; his body has no mass, so he moves effortlessly, but prefers to be conveyed, thereby exhibiting his dominance in yet another way.  (To be precise, Lord Gothrom rides above, not quite “upon” his mount; the shadow-stuff composing Gothrom doesn’t touch its back.  It doesn’t bear his weight, for, as I’ve said, he’s weightless, even though he’d like to think that it’s compelled to labor under him.  Well, it in fact endures the psychic strain of moving where he wishes it to move, and in a certain sense it’s moving him along above it, since the Horror-Lord wills that his motion automatically accompany the motion of the beast as it trots under him; its motion then occasions his, and in this way he “rides” although he really hovers over it and glides along above it as it runs.)
        Not only did Lord Gothrom have to rush around at Elfpark, rounding them all up when this advance to Dwarfenberg began he had to round the Trolls and Gobbins up each morning when the march was to resume and get them moving after they had spent the night encamped on both sides of the Road.  He had to supervise their ravaging of Boodletown, where extra vigilance had been required to prevent the mob from dissipating through the woods beyond.  Each night, all night, in fact, he had patrolled the Host’s encampment, keeping everyone contained within a tight perimeter.  You’d think this labor would have angered him; it sounds like such exhausting, tedious and unrewarding toil.  One would think that he’d resent it, and consider it beneath him.  No, in fact the Horror-Lord enjoyed it, since he so intensely felt his dominance as he commanded them to get back over here, move over there, and so forth, as an elementary-school phys-ed instructor might experience a gratifying sense of dominance while ordering the children to go here and there, stretch, jump, run, walk, and stand in line.
        Now, as the Host ascends the narrow Road along the mountain’s westward-facing flank, the hundred thousand Gobbins up in front are less inclined to stray.  The mob is packed between the drop-off on side of them and, on the other side, the upward slope that rises just as steeply overhead.  While it would not be very difficult for them to scramble up or down the slope, it would be somewhat effortful for them to move in these directions.  Gobbins take the path of least resistance when their rage or hunger isn’t motivating them toward visible, close targets – things to eat or kill, or both; then, with a sudden burst of energy, they’ll hurtle toward those goals.  There’s nothing of that sort to lure them now to either side, so they are disinclined to make the effort.  Still, they would begin attacking one another, and remain in place, not moving forward as a group, if Gothrom weren’t hiss-roaring from the rear, repeatedly, “Keep going, Gobbins!  Move!”  The fact that just behind the Gobbins come four hundred Trolls who’d crush them underfoot, is not sufficient to impel the mob, for this is only worrisome to those in back, to whom the danger’s obvious; the rest of them don’t care at all about the safety of the ones back in the rear, who might be trodden on, so that the force exerted by these Gobbins in the rear combined with the inertia of the ones in front would only cause the trampling and suffocation of the middle ones if they weren’t all moved forward by his roars. 
        The Lord of Horror stands on Spyder-back at his full ten-foot height, or rather floats erect above its seven-foot high back, so he can very easily observe the mob beyond the fifteen-foot-tall Trolls, especially since it’s diagonally above him on the upward-slanting Road.  When he sees Gobbins now and then diverge from their trajectory and start to climb or clamber down, he hiss-roars out, “Hey you, back on the Road!” and they at once comply.  The Trolls would find it very difficult to heave their giant bodies up or down the slope, and they’re urged forward by the same encouragement that moves the Gobbins on.  The Trolls are carrying the heavy rams that were to have been used against the gates of Disengar.  The Urgish General, on whom the Horror-Lord must now rely for tactical suggestions, had proposed that these be brought along, to be employed against the massive Gate of Dwarfenberg, and they had been conveyed upon the backs of Centipedes until the Host arrived below the Mountain; then they were transferred to those who would be wielding them above, the groaning Trolls now lurching underneath their burdens, clomping forward wearily.  Diagonally behind the Horror-Lord strides Uggalug, the Urgish General, behind whom trudge the eighty regiments of Urgs, a thousand in each regiment, in even ranks, all breathing heavily, and then, behind these, come the Centipedes with mounds of meat upon their flattened backs and various supplies the Urgs might need. 
        The Lord of Horror sometimes turns his head and aims his pair of bright magenta eyes down toward the panting Urgish General to offer such remarks as “They will die!” and “I will utterly destroy them all!” and “I am going to annihilate those pitiful, pathetic little Dwarfs!” and Uggulug salutes and nods and says, “That’s true”, “Correct”, and “Absolutely right.”  The battle-plan that Uggalug’s devised is not as clever as a plan devised by Snarl would have been, but it makes sense, and when your troops are Gobbins, Trolls, and Urgs, it’s best to keep it simple anyway.  Lord Gothrom, emanated from the will of Nausor, and therefore remembering what Nausor can recall of Dwarfenberg, was able to describe the Porch and Gate to Uggalug, who therefore recommends that all the Trolls be sent in toward the Gate to gather there and pound it with their rams, while all the Gobbins mass behind the Trolls and fill the Porch on either side of them, and Uggalug’s own Urgs deploy themselves in several lines behind the Gobbin-mob.  Behind the Urgs, along the Porch’s edge, the Centipedes, with all of their supplies, will be positioned, lined up nose to tail.

        The Host of Horror’s slow approach is watched by many Elves upon the mountaintop, among them Timonar and Kalia, who sit upon a cliff-edge, side by side.
        “Hey, let me see your titty, Kalia,” says Timonar, adjusting his beret.
        “Hmm, I think not,” says Princess Kalia, with tilted head, half-smiling at him.
        He sidles over absent-mindedly and, whistling an idle little tune, undoes the highest button of her blouse.
        “What’s gotten into you, Duke Timonar?” she asks with mild interest as his hand moves underneath the blouse and cups her breast.
        “Just making sure that you’re okay in there.  Yes, everything is satisfactory.  Oh, wait – what’s this?”  He runs his fingertip around her nipple, and along its length.
        “I hope it’s nothing serious,” she says.
        “No, I don’t think it’s cause for much concern, but it may need attention now and then.”

        A hundred thousand Gobbins mob the Porch.  Lord Gothrom hiss-roars at them to leave room along the right-hand side, below the slope, to let the Trolls move forward with their rams and gather near the Gate, but his commands aren’t easily obeyed – the mob’s so dense that it’s not able to compact itself sufficiently for all of those who walk along the mountainside to move themselves out of the path of trampling Trollish feet, and several hundred Gobbins are destroyed.  (Perhaps you’re wondering why Gobbin-swarms don’t furiously overrun the Trolls, exacting vengeance for the clumsiness that’s killed so many of their relatives, especially now that they’re unrestrained by Managers, and Gothrom wouldn’t mind; the answer is that Gobbins are devoid of any sympathy for their own kind; the only rage that they collectively feel and express is that directed by the Horror-Lord toward those opposing him.)  The Urgs move into place along the rim – they march around the mob’s periphery, and prod the Gobbins inward toward the slope with lowered pikes, advancing just enough to make some room behind them for the train of baggage-hauling giant Centipedes, who form a sort of natural barricade along the Porch’s curving outer edge.  Lord Gothrom’s roaring hiss erupts: “Now rest!  Tomorrow morning we’ll bash down the Gate and enter Dwarfenberg and kill them all.  You Trolls in front – we can’t get meat to you across this mob of Gobbins; go ahead and eat as many Gobbins as you want.  You Gobbins, you can eat each other too.  Tomorrow, you’ll have Dwarf-flesh to consume.”  (The Centipedes have hauled their loads of meat up to the Trolls and Gobbins at the end of each day’s march before this, but tonight an operation of this sort would cause complete confusion.  Uggalug’s too dim to solve this problem in another way; in his defense, though, I would like to say that I don’t what know else could have been done.)  When morning comes, the Gobbins are reduced to ninety thousand, and the Trolls begin to pound the Gate – they take turns with the rams.
        Behind the Gate, within the Corridor, the Megagirls stand ready – in the lead is Asmuran’s big rainbow-colored one, the other solid-colored smaller ones in pairs lined up behind it, and each pair of Megagirls is linked; their hands are clasped, much as a group of children led along a street upon an outing is arranged in pairs of “buddies” whose small hands are joined to demonstrate their cheerful buddy-hood, but these hands are enormous, and the mood is not exactly cheerful.  “Yikes,” says Green, and Orange answers, “Yes, I’m freaking out.”  Around the waist of every Megagirl a fenced-in platform like a battlement has been attached, and armored Mexicans man these small fortresses – six Mexicans are with the rainbow-colored Megagirl (Humberto is among these six, of course), and four guard every smaller Megagirl.  The rainbow-colored Megagirl’s in front, not in the rear behind the other six as she was when they fought last time around, because the Wizard feels a bit ashamed at having put the kids in danger then before he was exposed to it himself.  Of course, he hadn’t counted on the skill of Troll-manipulating Managers who quickly had the seven Megagirls surrounded and assaulted on all sides by several hundred fifteen-foot-tall mounds of angry Troll-flesh.  Still, the Wizard thinks that he was negligent; he should have had worst-case scenarios like this in mind before he had his team charge blithely out.  (He’s glad that Imlig’s more or less in charge of tactical decision-making now.)  So, this time, Asmuran and Miyu will absorb the shock of threats that aren’t foreseen,  and give the kids a chance to figure out some adequate response, or get away.
        The Gate is thundering as ram-ends smash against the yard-thick metallurgium.  Judge Imlig, who is standing further back, shouts through a bullhorn to the Gate-crew: “Now!”  The bolts are simultaneously pulled out of their holes by that ingenious spring or mechanism mentioned earlier.  The chains shriek as the winches start to turn; the giant slab begins its slow ascent.  Outside, a thousand yards southwest of here, the Blocking Regiment is scrambling up from the opening that’s been dug out below the Road near where it meets the Porch; they climb by grasping pegs fixed to the rock above the opening two days ago.  They move into position on the Road, athwart it, blocking off the Host’s escape.  In front of them, the Road comes to an end between the butt-end of a Centipede and Dwarfenberg’s ascending upper slope – a narrow passageway, beyond which stand the Urgish pikemen, still oblivious to what’s transpiring in back of them.  At last one turns and notices the Dwarfs assembling, and he alerts his friends; the nearby Urgs now turn themselves around to face the steadily increasing throng of enemies behind them on the Road.
        About two hundred Urgs are now aligned in rows and columns by an officer and, charging through the passageway, attack the much-less-numerous array of Dwarfs still gathering below them on the Road.  These Dwarfs, initially hard-pressed, still hold their ground, and more Dwarfs constantly arrive to join them, pouring from the opening below the Road and climbing up the slope.  Throughout the battle, intermittently the Urgs will charge here, and be driven back.  The Urgish bodies pile in a mound, and now and then a Dwarf is killed as well, or seriously hurt, and is conveyed or led away, or staggers off himself to where the medics labor over cots erected in a tent upon the Road behind the fighting, where the water is, and snacks for hungry fighters – all of this hauled up on ropes out of the exit-hole below the Road, from which they had emerged.
        Back at the Gate, before it’s halfway up the Trolls begin to blunder their way in.  The rainbow-colored Megagirl’s huge saw decapitates three Trolls with its first swing; the hammer slams down on two other heads and smashes them to pulp.  As these five die, more Trolls are lurching forward on the sides, evading Rainbow’s hammer-blows and saw, but these are met and dealt with by the pair of smaller, solid-colored Megagirls in back of Rainbow, while the next two pairs wait poised for action, cheering on their friends.  The Gate is fully raised; the opening is full of Trolls, their heavy arms outstretched, short-fingered meaty hands in front of them, prepared to clutch and rend or smack and punch, thick lips pulled back, exposing yellow tusks, advancing ponderously, snarling and roaring deeply, while in back of them, beyond the Gate, the Horror-Lord hiss-roars (a thinner, higher-pitched, more ghastly sound, completely different from the Trollish roar, although I find myself obliged to use the same verb, “roar”, for both) “Kill those machines!”  The Horror-Lord is bouncing on the heads and shoulders of the Trolls beyond the Gate as he blasts out his loud encouragement: “Destroy those gadgets!  Wreck them!  Topple them!”  He thinks that he could kill them by himself, that he could capture Dwarfenberg alone, without the help of Gobbins, Trolls, and Urgs, but he enjoys the sense of being served by thousands who will sacrifice their lives to glorify him, and this sense is fueled by what he sees: they actually die right now in front of him; they demonstrate commitment to his cause, as chainsaw-blades slice through their flesh and hammers pound their skulls.
        The Rainbow Wizard says, “Okay, advance,” to Miyu, by his side, and she relays his order, speaking in the rumbling voice of her machine: “Let’s go, girls; follow me!”  (It would have been more accurate to say that Asmuran spoke to the Megagirl in which he’s riding, since she’s one with it, so that it also doesn’t make much sense to call it “her” machine, since this suggests that it’s distinct from her.)  She takes a step and then another, and they follow her.  So, step by step, the Megagirls advance through their soft enemies, converting them to bloody heaps – the Trolls don’t have the room to get around behind the Megagirls and grab their legs.  Imagine seven knights in Sixteenth Century armor, wielding swords against a mob of kindergarteners inside the narrow hallway of a school – that’s more or less the way the fighting goes.  “Trolls, stand your ground!” hiss-roars the Horror-Lord, and they comply, and die, as he retreats with backward gliding leaps from head to head before the onslaught of the Megagirls.  It isn’t that he fears them in the least; it’s just that he’d prefer to see as much self-sacrifice as possible before he gets involved himself.  It’s fun for him to watch his people being massacred on his behalf, but on the other hand becoming somewhat irritating too, since it would be more fun than this to watch his people massacre the Joyous Ones.
        Emerging from the Entrance Corridor (Troll-corpses heaped behind them) they push on against the Trolls outside, until they stand in U-formation, three to either side, the big one at the center, holding there as all the Trolls continue rushing them.  The giant corpses in the Corridor are hauled away by tractors – brought to shafts along a sidewall of the Market Hall and toppled down to lower garbage-pits where they will be dissolved in Bioslime.  As Trollish corpses pile up outside, the tractors venture forth to haul these in, disposing of them likewise – dangerous work for their brave crews, who have to scramble out to hook the corpses as the Megagirls saw through and hammer down the living Trolls who keep attacking; necessary, though, this hauling-off of corpses; otherwise the Entrance would be blocked by fallen Trolls.
        Irregulars emerge from upper doors and take up their positions on the Ledge, which was completed only yesterday – constructed from two thousand metal rods projecting from the rock, supporting sheets of Metallurgium on which to stand, their outer halves bent upward in a fence of separate rods through which the Dwarfs can punch at anybody trying to climb up.  This Ledge, projecting out a thousand yards in each direction from the Entranceway, is even with the upper corners – thus its floor is fifty feet above the Porch; the Ledge is interrupted where the Gate slides up and down (it’s up right now, of course), so maybe it would be more accurate  to speak of “Ledges”, but they label it as though it’s one continuous extent that stretches south to north (or north to south) above the Porch’s waist along the slope.  The Elves are moving down along the slopes north of the Porch, then turning to the left and spreading out beneath it, to await those who might be attempting to escape the massacre that will ensue above.
        The Megagirls move forward through the Trolls.  On either flank, the spaces opening between the Megagirls and mountainside are quickly filled by Dwarfish Regulars.  The “C” begins expanding.  Now the mob of Gobbins is beginning to push in among the Trolls and to their left and right.  The Gobbins who get past the Megagirls are beaten down by Dwarfish Regulars as these trot out beneath the risen Gate to move into position on the flanks.  With half the Trolls already dead, the rest begin to spread out all along the line, among the Gobbins, who attack the Dwarfs with raking claws and snapping jaws, a wave that breaks against the rocky Dwarfish shore; the metal battle-gloves smash Gobbin-heads, and Dwarfish fingers close around the throats of Gobbins, throttle them, and break their necks.  The Horror-Lord keeps running here and there across the Gobbin-mob, upon their heads, and howling, “Attack the Joyous Ones!  Destroy them!  Kill them!  That way!  Go!  Attack!”  (The Gobbins understand him when he gives his enemy this label, “Joyous Ones”; they hate the scent of Joy and anyone who emanates it, but they’d normally be likelier to shrink away from those effusing it, yet now, urged by the Lord of Horror, they respond aggressively.)  He points them toward their goal, refocusing their rage against the proper enemy when they begin to fight among themselves.  Whenever he’s at one end of the Porch the Gobbins weaken at the other end, attacking less ferociously; they fight unevenly, with less consistency of mindless rage, than they’d exhibited at Elfpark, where attending Managers had always kept them set on murdering the enemies of that great Lord whose voice they heard projected at them constantly from several different points not far away.  Still, here at Dwarfenberg, upon the Porch, Lord Gothrom’s voice is loud enough to blast entirely across the battlefield so that’s audible, although it’s faint, at one end when he’s at the other end; they’re always motivated to attack, but less intensely when he’s further off.
        The Dwarfish shore advances through the waves of frenzied Gobbins crashing down on it, while here and there a Troll-Leviathan (I’m trying to extend the metaphor) goes flopping backward with a bloody splash as trolling spears plunge deep into his gut.  The Megagirls are mainly occupied with sawing down and hammering the Trolls, who are still mainly concentrated there in front of them, but with their metal feet they stomp the Gobbins and they sweep them down, while Gobbins getting past the Megagirls are dealt with by the still-emerging Dwarfs; the Regulars have not yet all come out, and these deal with those Gobbins who succeed in getting through the line of Megagirls before they veer off to the right or left to take up their positions on the flanks of the continuously growing “C”.  The Gobbins who get past the Megagirls don’t think of turning to the right or left to get behind the forward Dwarfish lines and strike them from the rear – they only see the enemy that’s right in front of them, the Dwarfs still coming out beneath the Gate, and, full of rage, charge forward and attack and, as they do, are easily destroyed.  The scrawny Gobbin-corpses pile up before the Grand Alliance’s great “C”; the Dwarfs climb over them as they advance.  The tractor-crews scoop twenty at a time and bring them in to dump them down the chutes, the tractors weaving their way carefully around those coming from the Corridor to take their places on the front-line’s flanks.
        Beyond the forward lines, the Gobbin-mob is surging up the mountainside as well; they’re beaten down by the Irregulars who occupy the Ledge above the Porch.  Within an hour, all the Regulars are out upon the Porch, and they’ve advanced a quarter of the way out to the edge – the Trolls have all been killed; the trolling spears are jabbing forward horizontally and spitting Gobbins well back in the mob like shish-kebobs; it’s hard to pull them out, there’s so much Gobbin-meat impaled on them.  Irregulars are starting to pour out beneath the Gate, and spread across the Porch behind the forward lines, to back them up. 
        The Urgs beyond the Gobbins stand and wait – there’s nothing they can do against the Dwarfs (except for that contingent on the Road) until the intervening mass of small enraged sub-humans has been worn away.  Lord Gothrom, as he travels back and forth above the mob, sees that the General is beckoning him; Uggulug surveys the battle from a Centipede’s high back.  He goes to Uggulug: “Yes, General?”  His Spyder’s standing by the Centipede, a little nervous, and he strokes its back: “Don’t worry, kid; I’ll ride you later on.”
        “The Gobbins will all die,” says Uggalug, “but in the process, they’ll kill many Dwarfs, and make our job a little easier when we move into action later on.  The thing that has me kind of worried, though, is those enormous metal humanoids – do you think maybe you can handle them?”  (The Urgish General is unaware that Gothrom’s shadow-body can’t affect or be affected in the slightest way by any other bodies in the world, except the body of the one who wields the Sword of Joy, which happens to be lost somewhere among the roots of Elfpark’s Trees.)
        “Of course I can,” says Gothrom; “I’m the Lord of Horror; I can handle anything.”  (For he refuses to admit the same, although the Mastermind, as we have seen, attempted to convince him of this fact.)
        “That’s good,” says Uggalug.  “Then we’ll just wait.”
        Well, I don’t want you to bore you – I’ll just say that by the time the sun has reached the point from which it will begin its slow descent (that is, by noon), the Gobbins are reduced to several thousand, and the Urgish pikes are lowering among them as the Urgs get ready to receive the Dwarfs’ assault.
        The Horror-Lord, rejoining Uggalug once more, says, “I’ll advance ahead of them,” and mounts his Spyder, moving out in front to face the rainbow-colored Megagirl.  He raises his right arm; it stretches out into the Whip, a dense, dark-purple tube of fluid shadow, snaking lazily and spiraling in coils overhead.  He looks up toward the Wizard’s Megagirl and hisses, “Now I will destroy you all!”  His Whip sweeps laterally through the air and strikes the fortress built around its waist, manned by Humberto and four Mexicans in power-suits.  (They’re missing one, who’s now receiving treatment in a medical facility inside of Dwarfenberg.  He toppled from his perch when he leaned down to stab a climbing Gobbin and was seized by several others, and was badly hurt when he collided with the ground below, but he was picked up by the Megagirl he’d been protecting, and deposited behind the front, where Dwarf-Irregulars ran up to help him, carrying him in.)  The Whip just passes through the Mexicans; it doesn’t injure them, but makes them feel that something slimy, cold, and Horrible has slithered through them like a vile worm.  Its passage through the Megagirl’s thick waist is registered upon the instruments up in the cockpit where the Wizard sits with Miyu (in her headset, open-mouthed, saliva in the corners of her mouth, completely coupled with the Megagirl) as momentary static.  Miyu quails for just an instant.  Then her foot kicks out, and, as it does, the Megagirl’s huge foot connects with Gothrom’s Spyder, kicking it a hundred feet, but Gothrom stays in place, as though he’s seated on stool of air.  It takes a second for him to become aware of what’s occurred; then he extends his legs until he’s hovering erect, and vertically descends until his feet are only half an inch about the ground.  As he descends, he turns his upper half and sees the Spyder crumpled lifelessly upon its side with splayed out broken legs, and then turns back to face the Megagirl.  His murky eggplant-purple countenance bends upward toward his huge antagonist, and from that face, or facial area, his bright magenta eyes pulse like twin beams that momentarily grow more intense.  “You killed my baby, you monstrosity!” he hiss-roars, outraged, and his Whip-arm snakes out swiftly, passing through the metal head and through the Wizard’s brain-cone, but above the Wizard’s girlfriend; as it makes its way on this trajectory, the Megagirl cuts through Lord Gothrom with its buzzing saw, to no effect.  The Megagirl roars, “Yuck!” which is what Miyu’s shrieking in its head, and Asmuran shouts, “Ew, that’s really gross!” while Gothrom, Lord of Horror, unaware that he has been bisected, hisses, “There!  You can’t escape my Horrifying Whip!  I’ll Whip you down, metallic monster, just as I Whipped down that Elf-Prince on the Road.  He thought he was impressive – so do you, but now you’ll join him in oblivion.  That’s what nonentities like you deserve, but I deserve to rule the universe because I’m awesome.  I’m the Horror-Lord!”
        On both sides of this duel the Dwarfs rush past: they crash into the Urgs.  Beyond the Urgs, the Centipedes lined up along the rim are jittering their legs uneasily, their Moleman-drivers doing what they can to keep them in position; they don’t want the arthropods stampeding down the slope or through the Urgish lines, disrupting them and trampling the pikemen from behind. 
        The Wizard says to Miyu, “I don’t think this fellow’s capable of hurting us, although his Whip-strokes are uncomfortable, so let’s move on to fill the gap ahead; the enemy might take advantage of that opening if we don’t plug it up, and, anyway, it isn’t fair of us to let our Dwarfish friends do all the work.”
        She says – that is, the Megagirl replies – “Yes, but the Dwarf-Irregulars back there might panic if we let him get around behind us and he swings that Whip at them.”
        “So use your vocal power; turn your head and tell them that this Horrid character can’t really hurt them, even though his Whip’s unpleasant.  They would realize this themselves without our help, I think, in any case.”
        “Then how did he kill Prince Aletheon?”
        “Good question.  I don’t know; I could come up with several theories if I had the time, but now he seems to be innocuous.  Those Urgs ahead of us aren’t harmless, though; I’d rather focus on destroying them, instead of wasting time here fighting with a shadow, even if it’s frightening to look at and it has a scary voice and likes to call itself ‘the Horror-Lord’.”
        “Okay, you’re right.”  So, Rainbow, swiveling, blares out this information, then moves on ahead, right through the angry Horror-Lord, who rushes back around in front of her to keep the combat going, unaware that he’s incapable of harming her.  As Rainbow starts to move ahead again to fill the gap that bothers Asmuran, the few remaining Gobbins in the space between her and the Urgs charge in and climb her legs, while Gothrom’s Whip swings overhead; Humberto’s men, although discomfited by its proximity and, now and then, its passage through their bodies, which still feels Horrendous – although less so every time, as they become accustomed to it – kill the Gobbins as they reach the little fort at Rainbow’s waist, and hurl their bodies down.  The Megagirl rejoins the Dwarfs, engaged in pounding their way forward through the Urgs.  Lord Gothrom’s hovering an inch above his pikemen, as if walking on their heads, as he continues his imagined duel with Rainbow, who keeps up the vain pretense; far better to keep Gothrom occupied than have him roaming wildly about the Porch, disturbing Dwarf-Irregulars (who, now that all the Gobbins have been killed, are focusing on heaping corpses up, to make the tractor-crews’ job easier.)  As Rainbow fights Lord Gothrom, or pretends to fight him, her great metal feet kick through the Urgs who seem to be supporting him, so that he obviously floats mid-air.  She doesn’t move ahead as rapidly as possible – and this is also true of all the other Megagirls spread out  around the Porch’s half-perimeter – instead, she tries keeps herself in line with those on either side of her, the Dwarfs, who can’t advance as quickly as she can.  Humberto and his men would like to be deposited, so that they can assault the Urgs down on the ground, since at this point they’re useless on their platform – and this goes for all the power-suited Mexicans who ride the Megagirls, not only those who ride at Rainbow’s waist – but there’s no time; the Megagirls are using their huge saws and hammers constantly, and so their hands are unavailable for lowering their riders and protectors.  Anyway, although it would be nice to give the men a chance to demonstrate their awesomeness against the Urgs again at Dwarfenberg (just as they’d demonstrated it before at Elfpark), they’re not really needed now.
        The Dwarfs press forward, punching down the Urgs, who, far from helpless, face-pike quite a few of their assailants.  As the Urgish lines begin disintegrating, Centipedes start panicking behind them.  Pikemen turn and kill the animals to save themselves from this new threat.  The Centipedes collapse; Urgs start to clamber over their dead hulks, and in between them, rushing down the slope, where agile Elves have been awaiting them.  The fleeing Urgs are speared and hewn apart.  They’ve thrown their pikes away; they must employ their short broad swords to knock aside the Elves’ much longer wooden swords and javelins, and any Urg who stabs or hacks an Elf is almost instantaneously speared or stabbed or hacked to death by this Elf’s spouse.  The Elves, as always, move about in pairs, as husband-wife teams, rushing here and there along the slope exterminating Urgs.  The Moleman-drivers trying to descend the slope among the Urgish warriors are easily dispatched; they don’t resist their Elven killers – they’re not naturally inclined toward self-defense; it’s not their thing.
        But Uggalug, the Urgish general, the biggest, toughest, strongest Urg by far, has got the Princess in a wrestling hold about a hundred yards below the rim.  He’s on his back, and she’s on top of him, but turned chest-upwards.  Uggalug’s thick legs have locked around her thighs, and his strong arms are wrapped around her neck and her right arm.  She’s forced into an arch; her back will break unless Duke Timonar arrives in time to save her; he’d been momentarily distracted, looking elsewhere, shouting out instructions and encouragement to Elves engaged in close pursuits and skirmishes a little further down the slope from them, and at that moment Kalia dashed off to catch the General as he ran by; her weapons only grazed him as he lunged and tackled her.  Let her predicament instruct you, ladies – don’t impulsively rush off alone like Princess Kalia; without a man beside you, you’re not safe.  Her boyfriend, scrambling along the slope to rescue her, yells, “Hold on, Kalia, I’m coming!  Let her go, you sack of shit!”
        “Stay where you are and I won’t break her back!” the Urgish leader snarls, giving her a sudden jerk to emphasize his point.
        “You lie!” says Timonar, and hurls a dart which penetrates the General’s right eye and several inches of his brain as well.  His limbs relax, and she rolls off of him.
        The Duke says, “Come on, Honey, on your feet!  Here, take your sword and javelin and darts.  Let’s go and see what’s happening up there.”  They scramble to the rim and slip between two Centipedes.  Right there in front of them Lord Gothrom floats mid-air, still battling the Megagirl – or so it seems to them, and he at least believes that he’s engaged in desperate combat with his awesome foe; he hasn’t yet been able to deduce the obvious conclusion from the fact that neither he nor she has suffered harm despite the mighty blows that they’ve exchanged.  Humberto and his men wave down at them and shrug with upturned hands to indicate that this is bullshit, but the Elves below don’t understand the gesture; they believe they’re being told that Rainbow can’t defeat the Horror-Lord and needs a little help.
        “Let’s take him out!” shouts Princess Kalia; they throw their darts at Gothrom from behind.  Six darts pass through Lord Gothrom’s abdomen before he even notices they’re there.
        Lord Gothrom turns around.  “Ah, foolish Elves, you think that you can best the Horror-Lord?  Then think again.  My Whip will clear your minds of this delusion just before you die!”  The long extension of his shadow-arm whips sideways, passing through the two of them.
        “Yuck!  That’s disgusting!” Kalia shrieks out.
        “I feel like puking,” Timonar observes.
        They charge Lord Gothrom with their javelins raised high, and thrust them forward through his neck, or what would be the neck of anyone about Lord Gothrom’s height who had a neck.
        “I don’t think we can hurt him,” says the Duke, as they step back a moment, while the Whip ascends above their heads and hovers there.
        “I’m pretty sure you’re right,” says Kalia, “but on the other hand it looks as though he also can’t do any harm to us except disgust us, which is bearable.”
        The Whip comes slashing through them; as it does they stand there casually, as people do who chat upon a sidewalk where they’ve met while doing errands on Fifth Avenue (the one in Brooklyn, not the famous one).
        “I hate that feeling,” Kalia remarks.
        “Yes, it’s not pleasant,” Timonar agrees.
        The rainbow-colored Megagirl steps down upon Lord Gothrom’s head, which passes through the metal foot, as does the rest of him.  “Hi, guys,” says Rainbow to the pair of Elves.  “This moron’s sort of incorporeal, so he can’t hurt us and we can’t hurt him.”
        “Hey, asshole, knock it off,” the Princess says to Gothrom.  “Can’t you see that it’s no use?  You’re just annoying us.  Get out of here!”  And they ignore him; turning, they ascend a Centipede’s dead bulk and, standing there, look down the slope to see what’s happening.  The few remaining Urgs are being stabbed and javelined by groups of cheerful Elves in various locations.  “I don’t think they need our help,” says Princess Kalia, “so let’s just stay up here and watch the fun.”
        “No, let’s make out,” he says, and pulls her in.  They kiss, their hands around each other’s heads.
        The Princess pulls her mouth away from his.  “That stupid fucker keeps on Whipping us.  I wish he’d stop, but if it turns him on, whatever, since I’m getting used to it.” 
        “Mm-hmm,” says Timonar.  The kiss resumes.
        Lord Gothrom howls, “Aargh!  The Mastermind betrayed me!  He has made me impotent!  Well, I know I’m at least not powerless where he’s concerned!  He’ll pay a price for this!  A heavy price!  Humiliation!  Shame!  He’ll grovel on his knees before me now, and maybe I will never let him rise!”  He sweeps off down the slope, descending it with his long shadow-body angling out rectilinearly from its slant, like someone skating on a level floor.
        “That wraps it up, I guess,” says Asmuran, in Rainbow’s head.  “Let’s round up all the girls and tell them that it’s time for us to go back into Dwarfenberg and have a drink.  Well, you and I can have a drink, at least; I mean a real one.  They’ll have ginger ale.”
        “We Megagirls don’t drink, as you well know,” says Rainbow (Miyu’s mouth moves as her speech becomes the Megagirl’s), “but I’ll round up the others, as you wish, and lead them back, and we’ll decouple if you want us to, although I’d rather not split into two components, each of them inferior to me as I am now.  I’d much prefer remaining as I am, if you don’t mind.”
        “I’m sorry, Rainbow, but I can’t permit a constant fusion like this; I don’t think it’s healthy,” Asmuran replies, disturbed.
        And so the Horrid Host is totally wiped out except for Gothrom, gliding back to Disengar along the Road, enraged.  Two thousand Dwarfs have also lost their lives, five hundred of these well-armed Regulars.  The fighting that occurred along the Ledge as Gobbins surged up from the Porch below was constant and intense, and many Dwarfs were seized by many Gobbin-hands at once, while others piled on their heads and backs and bore them down; they toppled to the Porch where they were torn apart and ended up as hunks of flesh inside of Gobbin-guts.  (I hope the Dwarfs are right when they assert that they’ll enjoy a pleasant Afterlife!)  Six thousand Dwarfs are lying on the cots that have been set up in the hospital and on the playing-floors of several gyms.  A hundred Elves were killed along the slope below the Porch while struggling with Urgs attempting to escape the slaughter there.  Two power-suited Mexicans are dead and five are lying in the hospital.
        The Japanese boys are completely fine.  The girls are physically okay, and yet it seems they’re starting to experience disturbing neurological effects from their connection with the Megagirls in battle for the second time this month, when stress and high anxiety appear to merge them almost inextricably with their robotic, conscious vehicles, so that it sickens them to cut the link and they are not inclined to disconnect – and this is true of Miyu too, of course.
        Throughout the rest of April twenty-fourth the Porch is cleared of corpses, fighters rest and are examined in the hospital, and many people wander in a daze.  On April twenty-fifth, the leaders meet.
        Judge Rothin says, “I’ve summoned you all here in order to discuss what will occur within the coming days.  Judge Imlig, please acquaint us with the timeline you’ve worked out.”
        “With several thousand of our workers hurt or tending to the injured, our machines cannot turn out new war-materials as quickly as before, so it will take about two weeks until we can set forth with two divisions well-equipped to fight.  At that point, I believe we’ll also have four battle-tractors ready, armed with drills – a main drill at the front, and several more along the sides, which swivel back and forth, and can extend ten feet, and then retract.”
        “Two weeks!” shouts Princess Kalia.  “Come on!  There’s no way you can make us wait that long.  We’ve taken out most of the Horrid Host; there’s no way that the portion which remains with Nausor back at Elfpark can withstand the Grand Alliance now.  We’ll drive them out with what we’ve got, and then you guys can go ahead and occupy Mount Sinister if you would like.  I know that was the deal; we won’t go back on what we promised you.”
        “We’ll take Mount Sinister in any case,” says Rothin, “even if you change your minds, and if you feel impatient, go ahead and try to take back Elfpark by yourselves.”
        “We might just do that!” Kalia replies; “the Valiant Remnant doesn’t need you Dwarfs, right Asmuran?  We’re okay on our own!”
        “Um, no, we aren’t,” says Asmuran.  “My dear, you don’t know Nausor.  He’s a brilliant man; he’s even more intelligent than me – than I, I mean – and we can all be sure that he has something clever up his sleeve.  I’m far from confident that we’d succeed if we went there alone, without the Dwarfs.  But, listen, Imlig – I’m a bit concerned.  You see this empty seat beside my own?  My girlfriend isn’t well.  She’s telling me that she can’t stand not being coupled with her Mega; separation from the thing makes her feel sick.  I want to get back there and run some tests requiring the use of systems that are built into the walls of Disengar.  I think she’s getting worse, so time is of the essence, Imlig.  Please.”
        “One possibility,” the Judge replies, “would be to cut our unit-size in half and leave with three divisions, or brigades, each one of which would be five thousand strong – ‘brigades’ would be a better word for them – a battle-tractor might then be assigned to each brigade, so we would leave with three instead of four.  In that case, we could leave in ten days’ time, instead of in two weeks.  May fifth would be our new departure-date.”
        “Let’s not be too accommodating, Judge,” says Rothin.  “We must think about the needs of our own people.  Dwarfish life comes first.”
        “You’re so unlikeable!” screams Kalia.
        “Sssh, simmer down now, Honey,” says the Duke and pats her hand.  “Shall we go take a walk?”
        “Unlikeability is not a crime,” says Rothin, “but gross negligence may be, and I would rather not incur that guilt.”
        “And what about the guilt that you’ll incur,” screams Kalia, “by letting Elfpark rot beneath the filth of Horror for a day beyond what’s necessary, Rothin, hunh?  You think this Holy Awesome One of yours will like it if you let those Trees of ours keep getting sicker, like the Wizard’s girls?”
        “Ah!” says Judge Nurdi.  “She has just invoked the Law of Honoring our Holy Work, which tells us –”  (“I remember,” Rothin says.)  “Alright, then; if you do remember it, then surely you’ll agree that if the plan that Imlig recommends is plausible, then it’s our obligation to proceed as he suggests.”  He pounds his wrinkled fist upon the tabletop to emphasize the final word, and then blinks sleepily and wipes his nostrils with a handkerchief.
        Judge Rothin breathes out heavily and says, “My colleague’s legal prowess once again astounds and silences me. Well, that’s that.  Judge Imlig, you’ll be leaving in ten days as you propose.  This meeting is adjourned.”

        The noisy factories of Dwarfenberg churn out new battle-gloves and trolling spears and armored shirts and helmets for the Dwarfs, and for the Elves more darts, replacing those that were bent out of shape below the Porch – their javelins and swords are all okay, since instruments made out of Elven wood regain their former shape within a day and never snap – they’re very flexible when this is needed, rigid otherwise, due to the ‘virtue’ (what the hell is that?) that permeates the cell-walls of the wood of which they’re made, from Elfpark’s conscious Trees, which yield their substance voluntarily when Elves require any implements.  The damaged power-suits are carefully repaired in workshops where Dwarf-engineers take notes and mutter comments, arguing in undertones that muffle what they say, and when they’re asked about it, they respond, “We’re working out some hypotheticals … some entertaining possibilities … some different angles … figuring stuff out ….”  Humberto finds replacements for the men who, dead or injured, can no longer serve in his elite contingent.  Megas get attended to; they have their gears aligned, their wiring fine-tuned.  “Thanks, guys!” they boom down at the Dwarfish experts and the boys who fuss around them on the scaffolding that makes their work a little easier.  The girls insist on coupling with them for fourteen hours daily, practicing complex maneuvers with the Dwarfs and Elves upon the Porch.  The evening of May fourth is celebrated with the throaty roar of battle-tractors in the Corridor – the three emerge and grind across the Porch and circle there, each crewed by twenty Dwarfs who work the drills enthusiastically as all the gathered warriors applaud.
        The Duke says to the Princess, “Kalia, I’d like to give your ass a little squeeze but it would not be quite appropriate to do so here, in front of this huge crowd, so let’s go back up to the mountaintop and find ourselves a cave along the rim where I can take your clothes off and attend to several of your naked body-parts.”
        “Well, let me think that over, Timonar,” says Kalia; “I’ll give you my reply when I’ve deliberated carefully for an extremely lengthy period of time.  Be quiet while I concentrate.  Okay, I’m done considering.  Let’s go.”

        May fifth.  Departure time.  The Megagirls go first, Humberto’s armored Mexicans upon the platforms built around their waists, and, after them, the other Mexicans, who have no need to push their wagons now; small tractors from the mines pull these along.  Next come the Duke and Princess, hand-in-hand; about eight thousand Elves walk after them – a swirling, chatty, giggling multitude of super-model-looking characters who carry weapon-like accessories, or rather weapons that one might mistake for Elven-weapon-like accessories.  Now come the three brigades of Dwarfs, each one behind its battle-tractor.  Imlig sits atop the battle-tractor in the lead, beside the man commanding that brigade; atop the other battle-tractors sit the other two commanders, who converse with members of the battle-tractor-crews.  Then come the baggage-wagons, hauled along by tractors several times the size of those that haul the wagons of the Mexicans.
        Since Dwarfs are every bit as slow as Urgs, they all anticipate a ten-day hike along the Road; they’re going to arrive at Elfpark on the fourteenth day of May at evening-time, as, further to the west, at Fuzzyville, the stage is also set for battle.  But, before we get to that, let’s see what happens to the Horror-Lord when he returns to Disengar, enraged.Type your paragraph here.