shlof /shlahf/(n) Dw. Useless garbage. This unusual dwarven word denotes material that has no use. As dwarves are well known for recycling just about everything, this is reasonably rare. This word can also be used as a very potent insult, meaning the person or thing it is used to describe is utterly and undeniably useless. To a dwarf, that is the height of insult.
As many of you reading this journal may be aware, I, Elyoril Elurrian, have made it the purpose of my long life to learn as much about the world around me as I could. This morning, as I was examining my library, I realized that, among the many books I’ve collected and the equally large number of journals I’ve written on any given subject, I have nothing on the race of creatures known to many as dwarves. I suspect that this general lack of knowledge and understanding may be a part of the reason why elves and dwarves don’t get along. In the interest of rectifying that situation, I hope to make contact with dwarves in their home environment and learn as much as a year among them will teach me.
Day 1. Today, I was admitted to the presence of the High King of the Dwarven Kingdoms. I believe it may be just by virtue of my age and my experiences adventuring with dwarves in my younger days that enabled me to talk my way in to see him. I explained that I felt the animosity between the race of Elves and that of Dwarves might be lessened if we understood each other better. Though the king, whose name was Orngrim Stoneneck, was suspicious of me, given my race and the level of my curiosity, he nonetheless agreed that having elves understand dwarves to a greater degree might be good for all concerned. I believe he may be considering sending an envoy back with me when my survey is complete to learn all he can about the race of elves in return. I have been provided with a small stone chamber. The bed, which is a low stone shelf with a feather mattress atop it, is surprisingly comfortable. Now, if I can just get past the little problem I seem to be having with claustrophobia. I’m not used to sleeping closed in like this.
Day 2. King Orngrim has assigned me a guide, Belegol Rockdigger by name, ostensibly to prevent me from becoming lost, though I suspect he also wishes to be certain I stayed well out of mischief. We spent the better part of today on a very brief general tour of the city, which the dwarves call Khazuthrum or “Thunderhall.” I’ve never spent so much time underground. It’s disconcerting to look up and not see the sky, as I would at home. Not wishing Belegol to think me a coward, I kept this to myself. Aside from that, it is plain that the dwarves, or “Khazad” in their own tongue, love organization. The city has none of the haphazard feel of some human settlements I’ve visited. Everything is in the most efficient and easily accessible location, from the great Palace of the High King all the way down to the mine shafts and craft halls. Belegol tells me that all dwarf settlements are organized this way. “Saves confusion,” was what he told me. Apparently only the mines themselves aren’t so well planned. “The Lord of Stone loves his children,” Belegol told me solemnly when I asked him about this obvious dichotomy. “Because he loves us, he hides his treasures from us, forcing us to search for them. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.” I never imagined I would hear such wisdom from the mouth of a dwarf. Will wonders never cease.
Day 3. Belegol was taking me to visit the foundary today when we passed an amazing piece of artwork made all of tiny bits and pieces of materials glued to a wall. I asked my guide about it. He told me it was called a “shlof” painting. This was a word I’d never heard before. He said it was with good reason, since the word basically meant “useless garbage.” Dwarves seem to abhor waste, which, according to Belegol, is why the use of this word to describe a dwarf is the ultimate in insults. In any case, apparently the dwarves have a place which they call “rukgevinnat” or “place of retrieval,” where they bring all their scraps. Most things, like bits of metal or wood shavings, can be and are reused in other projects, but some, like tiny pieces of cloth or odd-shaped bone fragments, cannot be reused. These are “shlof.” As I understand it, in other settlements these are buried about once a month. Here, however, the local “rukgevinnuli” or “retrieval master” prefers to use it to beautify the otherwise drab and dingy corridors. Once again, I find myself surprised. I knew the dwarves were artists, but my assumption was that they confined their artistry to treasures and craftsmanship. Belegol and I eventually did go to the foundary where I learned that the dwarves use a special kind of coal to smelt the ore they call “malgrum” that is known by elves as “mithril.” Belegol refused to tell me where they found the ore or the coal, but I’m given to understand that the coal burns exceptionally hot, since the ore must be purified before it can be worked.
Day 4. Belegol had to excuse himself today in the middle of our tour. Apparently, his clan got called in to retrieve a rather large deposit of raw mithril ore. Belegol told me mithril is rarer than gold and, unlike that ore, doesn’t come in veins. So, when the ore is discovered, they often call out entire clans to remove it all. He chose to leave me at the rukgevinnat, since I had expressed an interest in the shlof mural we passed yesterday. The current rukgevinnuli is a dwarf by the name of Thorek Orcshovel. He has a pair of apprentices that help him to sort the scrap they receive into large bins. Their names are Barik Pitblade and Hadrin Wolfspike. The rukgevinnat is a very large complex of carved rooms. Each piece of reusable scrap goes into a metal bin. There were a few dwarves here rooting through some of the bins. Thorek said that this is common and what the rukgevinnat is for. There was also, however, a wooden barrel at the far end of the complex. I was told that this was for “shlof.” The barrel wasn’t very full at all. I guess the dwarves can usually find a use for most bits of scrap brought here. When I asked Thorek about his mural, he said he puts up a new one every month. He says he believes that it’s a horrible sin against the earth to bury schlof in it. Instead, he uses a peculiar kind of cement, he calls, “klebstoff” to stick the bits to the stone. He showed me his plans for the mural he means to put up next. It’s a very involved piece of work depicting the creation of the dwarven race. I told him I would like to see it when it’s finished. He seemed pleased by that.
Allow me to apologize for the length of time it took me to finish this story and get it up. My children went back to school and I had to rearrange my routine so that I could get my housekeeping done. Then, to top it all off, I had to go and get sick. Anyway, I had a free moment and I decided I would use it to put up a new story. I hope you enjoy it. Some of the “dwarven language” words I used came from the Dwarven Language glossary on StormNexus. Some are either direct or modified translations of words in German, which I thought was the language that seemed most likely to be a close approximation. Dwarven names mostly came from the dwarf name generator at namesmade.com.