The hunting party of dwarves went out again to try to build up food reserves; they went to the southeast of the fort looking for antelope and aurochs. After three weeks, travelling downstream along the river to its confluence with another river, then up that river to the north and away from it to the west, they had fought a few drax, avoided fights with a sabertooth and two prides of lions, and stood off some wolves, but hadn't seen a single ungulate. Towards the end, Barzak was hoping some wolves would attack so they could experiment with wolf meat.
Finally, as they were again approaching the area of their fortress, they found a large herd of antelope. Using their by now standard tactics, Barzak brought down one antelope with his bow and sent the herd stampeding toward the rest of the party, where Gror brought down another.
The party set up to spend five days processing the antelope into jerky, which they made instead of salt meat because they expected to eat it all within a month. On the second day, a small herd of antelope started grazing nearby, and Barzak brought down another antelope - which would extend their processing time to a total of eight days. Then, on the third day, a jabberwock approached the party.
The dwarves formed a shield wall with Mara behind and Gror as a reserve. The jabberwock snapped at Barik, and its bite nearly crushed him unconscious, but its teeth, fortunately, didn't penetrate his armor. All the dwarves aimed their axes at the jabberwock's head, and all the axes sunk deep, some more than once. The jabberwock fell.
The dwarves moved their camp a few yards away from the pooling yellow blood of the jabberwock and continued their business, ignoring a curious rhinoceros that investigated the next day. When done making rations from the antelope, they returned to the fort.
In the absence of the hunting party, the fort had been visited by natives twice in the span of ten days. The first time, Crystal had arranged to trade six daggers for 120 pounds of rations; the second time, the natives came with 240 pounds, but the dwarves only traded for 100 pounds, as that was the most they were sure they could use, even starting to eat at full rations. When combined with the rations the hunting party had made, there was more than enough to go around for the next month, past the hunting party's return on 16240218.
The next day, the dwarves' cache run party - the hunting party with Gumnad substituted for Gundorm because of his better carrying capacity - set out for the cache in the mountains to retrieve the hardware for the door for the dwarves' fort. On their way to the cache, they avoided a rhino and Barzak chopped a snake into small segments; the trip was otherwise uneventful.
Some of the barrels in the cache had been knocked over or moved, but none had been opened. The dwarves took the door hardware and a variety of other goods and began the return trip.
The return trip was also uneventful until the group came within a few days of the fort. When crossing the plains between the arms of the mountains north of the fort, they were attacked by drax; one drax buried its beak in Barzak's chest as Barzak's axe cut it in two. Barik stepped in front of the stream of birds to protect Barzak, and after the battle ended, Mara helped Barzak heal as the party rested for the remainder of the day.
Three days later, as the party approached the fort along the foothills, Barzak saw a jabberwock overtaking them. The dwarves tried to hide in the grass, but Gror did a particularly poor job of it, and the jabberwock approached. It halted a few yards off and cast a fireball into the midst of the dwarves; Barzak ordered a charge to avoid further damage. The jabberwock bit at Gror, but its teeth did not penetrate his armor, and the dwarves rained axe blows on it, causing it to spurt yellow blood. The jabberwock withdrew, and Gror resolved to learn how better to hide. Barik, remembering his own encounter with jabberwock teeth from the previous month, practiced his shield parries. The group made it back to the Fort the next day.
At the fort, natives had appeared the afternoon after the dwarves had left, and Crystal bartered for a hundred pounds of supplementary rations for a month. Over the rest of the month, they had withdrawn into the fort a few times to avoid confrontations with drax, dragonflies, and a rhino. Rogar and Stonehead had completed the archery galleries defending the doorway, extended the hall behind the gate rooms for ten yards, and began work on a dormitory, by the time the cache party returned on 16240322.
Having spent a month retrieving the fortress door hardware from the cache in the mountains, the dwarves were running low on food, so their hunting group - Barzak, Barik, Farin, Gror, Gundorm, and Mara - set out on 16240323 with salt and barrels in search of food. After about a week, they found a herd of aurochs; Barzak, as usual, went around to the far side of the herd to bring one down or injure it while driving the herd toward the rest of the party. He tried to get closer to the herd than usual, as he had been working on his approach technique. Unfortunately, he pushed it a little too far, and the herd became aware of him and kept its distance.
After several more failed approaches over the next couple of hours, Barzak finally stopped at a greater distance and got a shot off at one of the smaller aurochs - then another as they stampeded away, towards the main group of dwarves. As they galloped past the other dwarves, Gror got a shot off, luckily at the same aurochs, bringing it down. The dwarves then spent a week salting aurochs meat, during which time they were disturbed only by a few drax who decided the potential meal was not worth the risk.
The dwarves then travelled back toward their fort. As they neared it a few days later, Barzak found the trail of another herd of aurochs. As they followed it north away from the mountains, they spotted circling birds off to the east. They watched as the birds attacked their prey, and were rewarded by a stampede of antelope in their own direction. Bows out, Barzak and Gror each brought down an antelope.
About half way through the week of processing the antelope, a grey creature larger than any they had seen approached the camp. Barzak recognized it as an elephant.
Barzak and Gror broke out their bows to try to drive the elephant away, but succeeded only in angering it into charging. Gundorm took the brunt of the charge, as the elephant plunged a tusk into his chest. As he fell back, the elephant flailed at Farin with its trunk and sideswiped him with a tusk. Meanwhile, Barzak and Gror broke out their axes and joined the fray. The elephant finally took heed of the dozen bloody axe wounds it had taken, and charged away over Barik, who dived out of the way.
As Gundorm was being treated by Mara, Barzak noticed nine humanoids about fifty yards off who had been watching the battle. They formed up at a shout from one of their number, which Mara recognized as being in the native tongue, and five of them began shooting at Barzak.
"Show them what a real bow is like," Barzak told Gror, as the natives' arrows bounced off his armor. Gror drew his bow, and with one shot, felled the best of the native archers. Before the natives could react, Barzak ordered, "charge!" The remaining natives fled in panic before the charging dwarves. The dwarves examined the body, and noted that it did not carry one of the steel knives that they had been using for trade goods.
The dwarves finished salting the antelope meat, and returned to the fort. No natives had visited the fort to trade during the month, but Kasov had learned a bit of climbing from Stonehead, and Rogar had finished the first of two barracks rooms by the time the hunting party arrived on 1624.04.22.