Koro's greatest regret was that he tried to find a better life.

The dwarf had spent so many years certain that if he could just find some way to the island nation of Perechain, the last place his people could call home then maybe, just maybe he might be freed from the shackles of working for some greasy elves in some stony city. But that dream was impossible for any dwarf who had ancestors foolish enough to stay on the continent, and he finally knew why no-one who tried to reach the island came back.

Because as Koro ran from the slim channel that separated him from a life of freedom, he felt the ground underneath him stammer as the steely weight of a Golem crushed it underfoot.

Koro shot his small, dark eyes back at the heaving, clanking beast behind him. He had never seen one up close before, and when the beasts were painted eating criminals they were all different, but they all had three things in common: they constantly were shrouded in clouds and clouds of steam, they had great iron limbs that stretched even beyond the barrier of mist, and they were very, very big. And now, looking back at this rolling mist with arms that crushed ancient trees like thin and young twigs, Koro finally understood why the elves worshipped these things in those locked-up cities of theirs.

When Koro's legs buckled under the weight of his own fear fell while the Golem kept rolling towards him, he saw a metallic arm reaching out to him from behind the fog. He turned to it, closed his eyes, and began to pray to the metal god for mercy. As the arm approached him, he went from praying silently to praying out loud to screaming terrified pleas to be spared. He hadn't even believed that they were real before, but the elves seemed fine in their cities as long as they prayed to the Golems, so they must have mercy, right?

But when a scalding, metal hand grabbed him, and he felt his own flesh burn away as he was dragged deeper and deeper into the fog, he knew that the mercy of the Golem had run dry. Completely desperate, he summoned what little magic he had left, and in his hand manifested a blade that glowed green with overwhelming heat, but as he swung it against the massive hand only a single, silent ember floated lightly from the iron finger. No miracle could change the fact that magic could not affect any machine. The last thing the dwarf saw was the hollow steel of the jaw of a deity, and the void that lay inside it.

Haerin's eyes were locked in shock on the yellowed out page of the book he had found behind five locked doors in his own home. The young elf knew it was trouble from the moment he laid eyes on it (after all, only a halfling book would be bound by hand rather than by magic), but the ink-black words in the tome were far more troublesome than he thought it could possibly be. This was the story of a dwarf, travelling from the slums of an elven city to the shores of Khalas, almost tasting the free dwarven land of Perechain, only to be consumed by a Golem. The Golem wasn't merciful to the young fool, but seemed void of emotion, completely different to the powerful sentinels of justice that destroyed those who committed sins against The Emperor. It wasn't just a tale of a dwarf committing treason and trying to escape his home, it was a tale of heresy. Just touching this meant he was practically already in the belly of a vindictive god. Even worse, he found himself enjoying, no, needing these heretic's ravings. It explained so much, so much of the fate of his siblings, so much about how he constantly was suffocating on the narrow road he was forced upon, so much about... what freedom really was. It didn't belong to the Empire, or even the dwarves really, but it was rather completely and utterly dead. He'd only known of the book's existence for perhaps two or three hours, but it felt like it had already become a part of him that he simply couldn't afford to lose.

Haerin finally tore his eyes away from the dark manuscript. It was too dangerous to leave it in his house, but he couldn't bring himself to destroy something that seemed more valuable than his own wretched soul. Trying to ditch it somewhere far away wouldn't work either, he'd had old friends leaving such dark tales in the furthest wastelands of the Southern Wilds and still being fed to the Golems. There was only a single final solution, and no matter how foolhardy and futile it might be, it was the only microscopic chance at survival he had.

He resolved to run far, far away from the Empire, not to the mad, elven south, but to the north, to Perechain.


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