Haggard the Hairless
In a small and almost forgotten dwarf city deep within the blue mountains on a rather secluded little place lived a dwarf with a huge problem. Yes, his problem was indeed serious and strange. When he was born his mother wrapped him in an old sheepshide and all the other dwarfwomen came to admire him and they all thought that he was an unusually pretty baby, with nice hair in all the right places. " You will be proud of him" they uttered and everything was perfect, for about two months. You see, dwarfs are hairy, extremely hairy. They have hair on spots other races can't even imagine and they are very proud of their hairgrowth. Even the women have beards and for a dwarf there is barely anything more masculine than really coarse and wiry and thick beard growth. The womens beards are just as big as the mens but it is softer and more shiny in its texture and both genders starts growing this pride of theirs when they reach the not so mature age of two months. Haggard did not, all of his hair suddenly and completely fell of.
You can't imagine his mothers despair, not only an utter lack of beard but of all sorts of hair He had eyebrows and eyelashes, that's all. All dwarfs are supposed to have a beard, even those who become bald with old age, and those aren't many, so poor Haggard was as easily spotted amongst his kin as a black dragon in a herd of white sheep. She tried every thinkable and unthinkable cure and finally she became so confused and filled with sorrow she tried to hide the boy from her kin. She feared the others cause many were quite superstitious and they could perhaps believe that her child was cursed in some way and then demand her to leave the place with her faulty offspring. The other children would of course tease him as he grew older, they gave him nick names like" eggskull" "rockhead" and not to forget"Cheesescalp".
Poor Haggard grew up to become a rather melancolic and at times confused young dwarf. Physically there was nothing wrong with him, absolutely not. He was as strong and tough as anyone and he was rather talented in many ways but nobody saw that. All they could see was his very obvious lack of something very essential to their people. Where the other men would walk with their heads high and their beards and long hair nicely braided and oiled Haggard would sneak around with his head low and hidden within a deep hood. He was depressed, yeah he was desperate.
Dwarfs do naturally also reach puberty and it did not make the problem less to say the least. He was desperately longing to join the other juveniles in their playing and flirting, but nooo! The girls would laugh at him and act like they had seen something rather disgusting and the boys would tease him without mercy. One could perhaps expect Haggard to be angry and fight back but he was a very peaceful soul, he tried to solve the problem with other means than violence. He tried to make himself a fake beard from a goats hide and pretended like he did not hear the respectless words the others uttered. The fake beard was itching and it shed and smelled like an randy old billygoat, and when some girl tried to pull at it, a real turn on for any male dwarf, the whole thing would come off. Everybody would laugh at him and he became even more desperate than before. He started to compensate in other ways, a not unheard of phenomenon among men who feel that something is lacking.
First he decided to show himself as a brave and fearless warrior. He volunteered for the most dangerous and suicidal missions against orcs and other dangerous creatures and he fought fiercly and good. He killed orcs like a skilled veteran but it did not change anything. Did he hear anybody call him Haggard orckiller? No, he remained Haggard the hairless!
Then he turned to objects of status and class. Nothing does more for a dwarfs social status than a nice axe and he worked like a madman in the mines and earned enough gold to buy himself not only one but three exquisite axes of the absolutely best type. Did the others look at the wonderful craftmanship and forget his hairless appearance? No, they just shook their heads in disbelief and whispered that hairless Haggard had more than one screw loose somewhere within his bald head.
Knowledge, that should be the key to earning the respect of the others. He studied like a fanatic and became a true master within important fields such as geology,mining and engineering, but still nobody would call him wise or smart. They still called him the hairless one and he hated it. He sat down to think, long and hard and when a dwarf does just that you can bet it takes some time before he is finished. It had to be something he could do to erase this cursed nickname. He turned to sports!
Dwarfs have few sports since they aren't exactly buildt to be athletic the way humans and others regard the term, but the few sports they have are therefore even more popular. He tried both armwrestling and ordinary wrestling, pulling and throwing heavy objects and he sometimes won too. He soon became an incredibly strong and well shaped young dwarf over whom the girls usually would be drooling but he was still the baldy nobody wanted. Having hair was a too important part of the dwarf race culture.
Believe it or not, but poetry is actually rather popular among dwarfs, someone good with words be it poems or jokes or just tales can expect to be both revered and admired. Haggard tried, he made rhymes and jokes that made the others laugh for hours but he never became Haggard the bard or Haggard the funny guy. He heard " My, Hairless Haggard can be really funny when he's putting all he's got into it, dont ya think?`"
All he ever wanted and desired was that one, just one dwarf would call him something else, anything else. It did not matter what as long as it didn't mention his cursed missing hair!
His hairless head grew within his mind until it became an obsession and he started isolating himself from the rest of the community. His mother shed her tears of despair but was unable to help in any way and some of the other women began to make up stories about her behind her back for it was just natural to assume that she had done something bad sometime to deserve a kid like that. Haggard soon found out about this and it hurt him very much for he loved his mother deeply.
He kept wandering aimlessly around the city and he no longer saw the beauty of the mountain and the great work his people had done did not see that he in some ways was accepted in spite of his apparent lack of hair. All he knew was that he was different and he did not know why. He often cursed the gods for his destiny and he became grumpy and bitter, someone nobody wanted to speak to unless they had to. He stopped working and he never did anything except feeling sorry for himself and misunderstood and hated. He often wished that he never had been born at all and it got so bad he started wondering if it hadn't been better if he had finished this miserable life on his own. The only thing that stopped him was the thought of his mother, and the only way of committing suicide he knew of was jumping off one of the many bridges spanning the great gorges deep within the mountain. If he did that, who knew what ghoulish unameable creatures would gnaw the meat of his bones?And also, they would forever remember him as the coward hairless Haggard.
One day when he was wandering around the caves and rooms of the mountain he stumbled upon an old library and there he found a book of ancient magic and spells. Within this book there was a recipe for an oinment that would cause improved hairgrowth and suddenly poor Haggard was overwhealmed by an intense hope and longing. The recipe was written in elvish, a language he did not exactly know very well, or to say the truth, he only knew a few words and those were the kind you never use when you are making a polite and cultural conversation, but he managed to translate most of it with the help of some other books and a bit of common sense and imagination. Then he had to get the ingredients and that proved to be a bit tricky, and quite a challenge for where in a dwarfcity can you expect to find things like eyes of newts, balls of a ram pluss milk from a black cow?
Haggard was in fact desperate enough to leave the mountain and head down to the closest human village down in the valleys. Few humans lived there and most of them were farmers but he had heard that there was a man there who could be called a sort of a doctor and he should at least have some of the things required.
The poor man was more than a little flabbergasted when Haggard woke him up in the middle of the night and demanded to buy these weird things, and the list he was given made the man quite convinced that this strange creature served dark forces, but Haggard did get the few items the confused and terrified doctor had stored. He did not have the eyes of a newt but he had frogseyes and the difference between those two species aren't really that big is it?
The balls of a ram was also hard to find but the smiths cat had been nutered the day before and he still had the sad remains of the cats manhood somewhere in his garbage. There were no black cows in the valley but the neighbour had a black goat and milk is milk right? He got most of the herbs on the list but the doctor did not have mandrake and sneezeroot. Finally he had everything stuffed into a bag and now he had to wait for the moon to be full, the ingredients had to be mixed in moonlight.
Poor Haggard had never been more impatient in his whole life, he kept walking around the room until he almost wore the floor down and time had never passed soo slowly, he kept counting hours and days and kept praying that he hadn't made too many mistakes when he was translating from the book. The fullmoon finally came and he borrowed one of his mother's best kettles and hurried to a remote room in the top of the village and started to mix and cook the ingredients.
He soon had his doubts cause was this really supposed to smell this bad? It smelled worse than a dragon's womit and the finished result had an ugly greygreen colour that would have made a whitch turn right around in the doorway. Haggard was brave, nobody could deny that. He smeared that horrible goo all over his body and went to bed with a trembling hope within his tormented heart.
When he woke up early next morning he had a weird sensation all over his body, he was itching like there were a million little bugs crawling all over him and yes, he had hair! Lots of it, actually a whole lot of it. There was just one drawback and it was significant, it was green and the colour was so sharp and unatural it almost hurt your eyes if you looked at it. It was a very light green too and it was almost fluorescent. The hair grew fast, like a forest of bamboo fertilized with steroids, more than a meter a day. Already the day after he looked like a grotesquelly overgrown stack of hay and he could not leave the room. There were hair growing on every square inch of his skin, even on his eyelids and in his nose and his mother almost fainted when she saw her son turned into something that by that time looked most like a giant living bush of some kind. She grabbed a hold of her self, she had gotten used to extreme things happening around her son and so she found a couple of scissors, the kind they used when they were shearing the sheep. This was later known as the big hairy harvest and no matter how fast she cut the hair down it grew too fast for her to keep up with it. The room soon became almost filled with fluorescent green hair and poor Haggard was close to being suffocated by this unstoppable could not eat or drink and the hair smelled too, rather like a bag of shrimps that has been left in the sun a little too long.
He was close to asking him mother to take the scissors and cut his damned head of when the hair suddenly stopped growing and then it just fell off, every single one, things were back to normal. He stood there smooth like a babys bottom from head to toes and from the hair his mother would make ten big warm blankets, a couple of cloaks and enough socks to keep the feet of a big family warm through the winter. Haggard gave up, he stayed away from the others even more than before and he started to leave the mountain quite often. Sometimes he would even go down to the village and sneak into the pub and get drunk on ale and mead. Very few noticed that the short visitor was a dwarf cause he hid his head in the cloak as usuall and the pub was very dark, most people thought he was just a kid or something, besides, the world was crawling with weird creatures.
Then one night a stranger came by, the man was on a journey and he wore a grey cloak, a grey pointy hat and he carried a huge walking stick. With sharp eyes in his bearded face he sat down and ordered a few pints which he tossed back with a remarkable speed. Haggard sensed a troubled mind like his own and he walked over to the stranger cause he was getting curious. The stranger greeted Haggard in a friendly manner but he tried to keep a distance until he saw what Haggard was, Haggard took his hood off and revealed the misery. The stranger appeared rather shocked by the young dwarfs appearance, but there was compassion within the sharp gaxe.
Usually he would never tell any stranger about his problem but something about this old man made Haggard trust him. He told everything about his life so far and they soon became more friendly and open towards eachother. The stranger told Haggard he was a wizard by the name of Gandalf and that he had a problem too, there was some stubborn little fella who had to be part of some quest or journey, and there was a mountain, a treasure and a dragon involved but the wizard could not tell more about it, just that he had to find a way to make this person join the mission, it was some very important powers involved. Haggard felt a small hope when he learned that this newfound friend of his was a wizard, perhaps he could help him with this problem of his? Could he perhaps do some magic that would give Haggard the one thing he wanted in this world? Hair and beard? The wizard looked at Haggard with piercing eyes, than he slapped him across his hairless head, rather hard. He said he could not do any such thing and that of a special and important reason.
" Everybody has a role to play in this world, and they are created to fill that role!" he said in a strict tone." Even the smallest of us has a path to go and we can not leave that path because that will change everything, disturbe destiny itself and that my friend can be very dangerous in deed"
He blew his nose and ordered another beer. " You Haggard has a important role to play in this game of life and your hairlessness is a part of it. It is a gift, not a curse. You have just not seen it yet. "
His speach had become rather slurred by now but Haggard understood most of it, though it did little to comfort him. The wizard lay his arm fatherly around Haggard and nodded his head like a friendly old grandfather. " Not even the wisest among us can predict how it will all end and... hmm, why did i just get a feeling of deja vu? Nevermind, waiter, more beer here! " He drank some more and soon he was singing along on a rather naughty song about a farmer who comes home one night and finds his wife in bed with a hobbit and two sheep.
The day after Haggard had the worst hangover of all times and he stayed in bed and considered the words of the wizard. He decided to follow his advice and stop feeling sorry for himself, maybe it was true, that there really was a reason behind his hairless head. He just had to accept it and so he did. It took a few months and then he realized that yes, it felt much better that way and his mother was very grateful in deed. She had feared a new scene like the one in the storage room and she had suffered from tendinitis for several weeks after all the cutting.
Then Haggard fell in love with a lovely little dwarf maiden named Ginera, her eyes were hazelbrown and her hair and beard as soft and shiny as satin. She was interested too but Haggard was a nobody, just hairless Haggard and that was not enough for her father, he did not let them meet and tried to introduce his daughter to more suitable young men. Haggard had some terrible days and he feared that everything would return to the old misery, but then suddenly something happened that would change his life forever.
Very few know this but dwarfs fear fire, it seems like a contradiction since dwarfs are such superb smiths, but that's because they are very good at making their forges very safe. Every forge is connected with a series of valves and pipes that bring fresh air into them without causing sparks and open flame and at the same time it creates intense heat, all of this is controlled by an elaborate system of levers and wheels. When the forges are cold they are cleaned through the same pipes and they say that there has been sitings of black seagulls and doves close to the mountain. Those birds have of course been flying to close to one of the openings just when the cleaning started.
The reason why dwarfes fear fire so much is naturally all the hair, hair burns really well and having hair and beard singed is a nightmare to any dwarf. It attacks the ego, the self esteem and masulinity or vanity. One also has to add that dwarfs hate water, they are terrified of it. To a dwarf taking a bath is un-thinkable, it is more likely that a pig starts laying eggs of pure mithril than a dwarf taking a dip volunteerely. This is much because their anatomy is uncompatible with swiming, they are short and stocky and they sink like they are made of lead instead of flesh and bone. Some old tales tell of evil captains who used dwarfs as anchors somewhere back in the forgotten ages. Since they don't like to wash themselves much of their meals are left in their beard and this makes if very fat and greasy, which adds to its flammability. Actually dwarfs and water are like cats and water, somebody did some research on the topic and found out that throwing a dwarf into a bathtub is like trying to press two powerful magnets against eachother, pluss versus pluss. There has been suggested that this could be used somehow, perhaps it could solve the energy crisis by letting dwarves tied to waterwheels drive generators. It usually takes the dwarf only a tenth of a second to get out of the water and he is likely to get out of the tub just as dry as he was when he went in. There is an expression which is called " throwing a dwarf on the fire"
In other worlds and settings the word used would be " gasoline" but the effect is much the same. Dwarfs burn and they burn well too, that's why dwarfs and dragons very rarely can coexist in a sivilized manner. The grease and the food leave a great lot of smell too, and it is seen as a symbol of wealth and status to stink of old food. It shows that you can afford to eat whatever you like. Poor Haggard was of course cut of from also this symbol of belonging to the group.
Anyway, the situation was as follows, one of the smiths apprentices had managed to hang a bag filled with heavy steel bars on the wrong lever. He had left it on the one lever which controlled the whole valve and pipe system and thereby opened all the valves completely. The result was that all the forges got too much air fed to them and the sparks flew while the flames roared toward the ceeling. The room with all the forges was evacuated and fast, no dwarf would want to risk their very pride in the inferno which was raging in there and their whole production of weapons and jewelry was in jeopardy. Everybody stood there and spun their beards with their fingers and did not know what to do. Somebody had to go in there and turn the lever but who? Nobody dared! Normally there would be some flames and sparks, it was inevitable but they would protect themselves with leather hoods and aprons, but this was soo much worse than anything they had ever encountered. If the fire wasn't put out the very forges were in danger, the rocks they were build of would crack and then everything would have to be rebuild, that would take too much time and there is few things a dwarf fears more than having to redo something.
Haggard heard the racket and came to investigate. When he saw the fire and the smoke and the despair on the faces of the smiths it was as if he was given a revelation. Yes, suddenly it was as if the old wizard was standing in front of him waving his finger at him. " What did i tell you young lad? "
Haggard suddenly realized why he was born without hair, why he seemingly had been cursed like this. It was in deed a meaning behind it all and now he was praising the gods he once had cursed. He had a role to play, as a firefighter! Calmly he passed the group of terrified dwarves and started running toward the other end of the room. Now he reaped the results of all the hard training, he ran really fast for a dwarf and he did not care about the flames and the sparks cause on him there was nothing to which they could attach themselves. It was very hot but he was fast and he got hold of the lever and got it back to the right position. The flames didn't get enough air and quickly died down to a normal level and the room was safe once more. A gang of flabbergasted dwarves and an extatic Haggard was all that was left to tell of the drama and the nearby disaster. Suddenly Haggard had gotten his pride and selfrespect back and it was with raised head he turned to receive the gratitude of the other dwarves.
That became the turningpoint, from that day on there was nobody who saw it as weird that Haggard was a baldy, in fact they realized what a treasure they had in him and the king made a special uniform for him to wear, with a flame made from real mithril on the chest and back. He became the fire chief of the whole mountain and had gotten a great responsibility but he loved his job and nobody called him Hairless Haggard anymore. He now became Haggard the brave and he overcame his shyness and the problems he had faced before. Yes, even his girlfriends father turned around and blessed him and on a beautiful day Haggard got married to the lovely young lady who later told him she found his bald head " extremely sexy" Haggard got a long and happy life, he and his happy wife got seven children in all, two girls and five boys and of them three were hairless like their father. They became firefighers like their famous father and was the start of a long line of dwarfs who amongst other things became famous as excellent dragonslayers. When Haggard passed away after a long life he was honoured with a statue, in the heart of the dwarfcity he stood cast in bronze with his hairless chin lifted and his hairless head shining proudly and in his hands he held a torch that was forever burning as a reminder of the one dwarf who didn't fear the fire.