“You are leaving then.”
Falkrunn dropped her knapsack and spun around, her hand clasping her belted dagger. The dwarf relaxed as she recognized the speaker and bent to pick up her pack.
“Moradin’s Fist, Oskar! You could get killed sneaking up on me like that.” Falkrunn impatiently pushed the loose hair that always hung in her face behind her ear. “Although with stealth like that, you’re wasted in the mines.”
“It’s Patience. Which is a necessity in the mines.” Oskar planted his feet and crossed his arms across his stocky chest. Although his height and breadth was considerable, his scant beard marked him as a dwarven youth who had not yet reached his majority. “And your lack of perception can get you killed in the profession you’ve chosen.”
Falkrunn made a rude noise. “Don’t be such an Old Mother!” She pulled a cloak from her footlocker and stuffed it in the pack. Trying to ignore her visitor, she took a few items from around her small dorm room and packed them as well. Through it all, Oskar somberly watched her. Falkrunn grew increasingly agitated. She always lost at this game: ‘Who would break the Silence first?’ Oskar was like the Rock he loved, silent, patient… Falkrunn was neither of those. She could wrestle Oskar into unconsciousness, but she could never win the Silence Game.
“WHAT?” she snapped finally. She jammed her fists onto her hips and glared at him. “What do you WANT?”
“Don’t go,” he said softly, serene as a mountain. “I don’t want you to go.”
Falkrunn scowled at him. “Don’t say another word! I swear if you go down that road I will bloody your nose!” Turning away, she slammed a water skin on top of the cot. “The last thing I need is declarations of love from you! You know I didn’t mean for you to take it that way.”
“I feel so used,” he said drily.
A short, bitter laugh escaped her. “Next time I’ll leave money on the dresser.” She gave him a shove that knocked him into the doorframe. “Quit it with the Mournful Glances! You’re a Dwarf, damn it! Not some Flighty Elf!”
Oskar rubbed his shoulder and lifted an eyebrow. “You didn’t like my poem comparing your eyes to the Flames of the Mountain?”
Falkrunn stared at him, horrified, until she realized he was joking and reluctantly cracked a smile. “I know what you want,” she said finally. “I know what my mother wants. But it’s not what I want.” She looked away. “I’m sorry, but I can’t stay here. Maybe it would be different if Eldeth would have agreed to Apprentice me to another Guild, but she’ll never do that because of my father.”
“If you go, she could strip you of your name.”
Falkrunn shrugged. That thought had weighed heavy on her. “If I stay here I will be Falkrunn the Fishwife or something equally unworthy of my Ancestor. Maybe it would be better to lose it.” She lifted her chin. “There is a chance of dishonor, but I believe that it is for a Greater Good. I seek Honor and hope to prove myself Worthy of the Iridescent Guard.”
“Unless you die before you achieve that, alone and nameless.” Oskar smiled sourly.
With a grimace, she waved that off. “You think I am rash and impulsive, but I have thought this through.” She paused and looked uncomfortable. “And I’ve heard my Name on the Wind.”
“The wind?” Oskar looked puzzled. “There’s no wind in Tordek’s Anvil—”
Angrily, Falkrunn shoved him. “Don’t be daft! It was more of a metaphor! I know there’s no wind in the tunnels!” She crossed her arms and looked defiantly at him. “I hear it in my dreams. And when I stand at the Gates and look upon the world, something calls me. You don’t have to believe me.”
“I believe you.” He sighed. “We both know your Destiny is not here.”
She gave a small nod and they stood in awkward silence until unpredictably, Oskar spoke first. “Elder Adrik gave me something to give to you.”
Falkrunn was surprised. Elder Adrik the Mining Master? She hadn’t spoken to him since she had been the only dwarf youngster to Fail his Mining Course. She had been so hamhanded at coaxing gems from their beds that she swore she had made him cry. Most of her apprenticeship under him had been spent doing menial work, like polishing lesser gems. He never even allowed her in the Lower Mines. She didn’t mind too much though; her lighter duties allowed for more time for her to train unofficially with the swordmaster.
Oskar reached out into the hallway and brought back a sheathed sword. “He didn’t want you to leave with just a dagger.”
“He knows I’m leaving?” Bemused, Falkrunn took the sword. “He’s not going to stop me?”
Oskar shook his head. “And he will try and intervene on your behalf with Elder Eldeth. He doesn’t believe she’s being rational in regards to you. Even if he can’t sway her from trying to take your Name, he thinks enough of the Elders will agree with him to stop her.” He took her hand. “Whatever happens, Falkrunn,” he said intently. “I will always remember your name.”
Falkrunn was touched. And deeply uncomfortable. “Uh, thanks.” She quickly pulled her hand from his to pick up her knapsack. “And I’ll always remember your yours, Oxcart.”
She flashed him a small smile while she shouldered her pack and headed out through the door. “Don’t bother leaving the lights on.”