Tordek’s Anvil, a Dwarven Outpost in the Dawnforge Mountains
In Dungeoneering Class
Falkrunn’s head lolled on her hand as she leaned her elbow on the table. She was having a hard time concentrating on Elder Adrik as he droned on about the Glories of Rock. Mining was so boring! Even the shiny stuff, gems and jewels, held no allure for her. When the Elder had brought in some samples, including the Heart of Moradin (some big ruby), her classmates were practically drooling, but Falkrunn took advantage of the chaos to sneak in a nap. Unfortunately she was expected to do her three year’s apprenticeship soon.
She sighed. Because a dwarf went through such a long adolescence, coming of age at 50 years, the Elders, in their infamous wisdom, decreed that these youngsters needed to use this time to train and apprentice in all the major Guilds: Stoneworkers , Metalworkers, and Brewers. This way, they could be assured that when they picked their Life’s Path, it would be a good match. Unfortunately, for Falkrunn, she knew what she wanted to be. Unfortunate because she wanted to be a Fighter. And her Clan did not find this a Worthy Occupation.
Falkrunn had excelled at her Combat classes and was able to best everyone but her instructor in sparring. Combat classes were mandatory for all because there were times when the militia had to be raised to protect the Outpost. But except for a few grizzled veterans who oversaw the maneuvers (her instructor was one), no one did it as their JOB. Not in Tordek’s Anvil anyway. Last week, however, a visitor had ridden through, one who had set Falkrunn’s imagination aflame. A Paladin clad in the finest armor and riding a huge warhorse! What an Exciting Life! Falkrunn had pestered the human Hero with questions until her mother caught wind of it and sent the young dwarf away.
Still tuning out the lecture, Falkrunn’s fingers began to idly draw the Paladin’s horse. If only she could ride forth on a Noble Quest. She grinned to herself. Of course she’d need a ladder.
“What are you drawing?” whispered Harbek, her neighbor. “Is that a rat?”
“It’s a horse!” she said testily. Her drawings were quite good, but considered as a first step to the artistry of Masonry, Architecture or Weaponry. Being an “Artist” was a squishy profession, best left to flower-sniffing elves.
“What is it, Falkrunn?” queried the rough voice of Elder Adrik.
Harbek glanced up, then back at Falkrunn with a jeer. “She said it was a horse.”
The class erupted into laughter. Falkrunn turned her Fighter’s glare on Harbek. He paled and fell quiet. Retribution was coming.
The Elder waved the class into silence with a sigh. He pointed a gnarled finger at a drawing on an easel. “We were trying to identify Denizens of Deep Rock. Do you know what this is?”
Falkrunn had no idea, but the snickers of her classmates were making her angry. Scowling, she lifted her chin and looked around the room, pausing to catch the eye of each of her classmates. “It is a horse,” she said firmly.
This time no one laughed.
Elder Adrik’s eyebrows traveled upward into the barren wasteland of his forehead. “Impressive,” he muttered. Clearing his throat, he waved a hand at the class. “Out! Out! That’s all for now.” He paused by Falkrunn. “Except for you.”
Falkrunn waited in miserable suspense while the classroom emptied. How badly had she screwed up? Moradin’s fist! Her mother was already upset over the Paladin thing; this would keep her haunting Falkrunn’s steps for months!
“Are you plotting to be so hopeless that you will not have to apprentice?” The Elder pulled out his pipe and began to fill it.
Falkrunn looked up, surprised. And hopeful.
Adrik laughed. “No one fails my class! I’ll ride you until you gain some proficiency.” He leisurely lit his pipe and drew in a long breath. “You know, you’ll find more in mountain roots than Mephits and Xorns. There are many perilous monsters lurking in the depths.”
“Really?” Falkrunn wasn’t sure when they had covered the Whozits and Whatchamacallits, but she was sure she would have remembered if they were dangerous. “So why don’t you talk more about that? Why does it have to be so…”
“Boring?” The Elder smiled. “This is an introduction for Miners, for those who hear the Singing of the Stone. They care about monsters only because it slows their work. If there are any major infestations, we would bring in a Fighter Guild or even the Iridescent Guard.”
“Why don’t we have something like that here?” Falkrunn grumbled. “I’d apprentice with another Clan if Mader would let me! It’s not so unusual.” Several of her peers had already accepted their Calling in Masonry and Weaponry and surpassed what this smaller Outpost could teach them so they had been sent to Guilds that would further their skill.
“Your mother is afraid you have too much of your father in you.” Adrik eyed her speculatively. “That you’ll run off to join the Iridescent Guard.”
Falkrunn stared at him. She barely remember her father, who had died when she was a babe. And she had heard only vague stories of the Guard. Tales of Glory were distractions and replaced with Tales of Hard Work and Achievement. “My father was a Brewer.”
Adrik shook his head. “Nay, he was in the Guard. Your Uncle too.”
“Terrik?” Falkrunn scoffed. “He’s a FARMER!”
“He is now.” The Elder blew out a cloud of smoke. “He had a falling out. He wasn’t thrown out; he just left.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Are you dim, lass? Your mother lost her husband to the Guard and worries that you may follow. She’s used her considerable influence on this Clan to keep this from you. I’m telling you this because I don’t agree with her. ” He pointed at Falkrunn with his pipe. “I’ve seen you fight. There is a lot of raw talent there.” He grunted. “And you’ll never make a Miner.”
Falkrunn’s head was spinning. Her father had been a Guardsman? One of the Elite? Like a Paladin?
“I know your father had different plans for you.” Adrik crossed his arms and looked at her. “He named you after Falkrunn the Fierce, the only Female Fighter in the History of the Iridescent Guard.”