Topsoil, mountain dwarf, held up the glowing slab of metal to observe it better. They frowned in joy as the near molten mithril burned away its arcane coating, leaving behind an ingot preciously strong, mercifully light. When Topsoil finished, the metal would be harder than granite and as light as pumice.

Topsoil mused pleasantly along those lines, silently wondering if the finished metal would be able to float. They plunged it into an oil bath. The mountain dwarf grunted in pleasure at the resulting symphony — then gasped in anguish as the sounds continued on far longer than expected.

Metal failure and cracking is, of course, always possible — even for a master dwarven metalsmith. But in practice, it happens so rarely that after such an occurrence the entire forge is shut down and inspected for signs of contamination.

Topsoil inspected the cooling metal but could see no defects. They popped in an eyeglass and squinted, but even with the enhanced magnification, the mithril appeared well on its way to perfection, yet the sounds continued.

Only then did the dwarf realize they was not alone and it wasn’t the ingot making the noise. Gargoyles lined the doorway, stone sentinels, perfectly still, and speaking in a metallic language.

Topsoil grunted a hello, their voice tinged with a nervousness they would never willingly show.

Later, in their records, Topsoil would write:

I have made friendly company with my new neighbors. Or, more accurately, I am their new neighbor apparently. Mithril Mushroom Forge has just opened after all, whereas the gargoyles have been in these caverns for a respectable pile of centuries.

Drawn by the vibrations my hammers caused through the rock, they came to investigate. It is musical to them, so I suppose I am something of a rock star.

At this, Topsoil laughed uproariously. Then frowned, clearing their throat, and continued writing their initial account with the stone monsters.

The years folded into decades, the decades into a century, then two. Wisps of ash white began to streak Topsoil’s lush beard and their wrinkles depend, but other physical changes were barely noticeable on their immensely strong frame.

Topsoil and the gargoyles learned each other’s language fairly quickly and found many similarities in temperament and priority — peace, solitude, rock, metals, mushroom teas.

A gargoyle scholar wrote into the very stone of a long, winding hallway, their claw marked the walls as easily as a pen to paper.

Topsoil’s appetite is as dense as granite. They eat as much as a dozen of us, a heart warming sight as their flesh is so light.

I worry they may never thicken enough, though, they are as soft as soapstone! Softer!

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