This is another transitional piece for my game. It takes place about a week after Shades of Light, but references events that occur in Dark Hunger as well as the events that occur in the yet unnamed Rimon prologue.

Language Note: This story has a lot of Old Norse terms/words as that is the base language for the dwarven language on Gae'ra. The following is the list of unique terms and words used in this piece.

brennar: a type of magical lighting that puts off neither heat nor smoke. It is used by the Viroa to light their caverns and structures.

heilangridh: healer

kitsunemimi: a race of shapeshifters who appear human except for having fox ears and tail.

svikiavir: a title given out very rarely to someone who has betrayed the Viroa or sentient life in general.

sogu: story, legend, lore. Used by the Viroa to refer to teachings given by their bards.

Varrviroa: the nondwarves. This refers to people who are not caudati, dwarven, elven, gnomish, goblin, or orcish.

varrviroani: nondwarven or "not of the People"

Viroa: the People. This refers to the dwarves as a culture.

viroani: dwarven or "of the People".

New Hone

"Papa Dwarf! Papa Dwarf! I learned something new! Remember the shadows that chased us? I learned something new from that!"

Korin made a soft sound of question. The boy sounded very eager, but the dwarf was just about to patrol the perimeter of their campsite. One could never be too careful, especially when things were shifting like they had been recently. The sudden shift in the magic around him snatched his attention back to the boy, who had summoned an inky shade.

"See, I figured if they can appear from nowhere, then I could make them appear from nowhere too-just like the skeletons that sing for me and you!"

Korin looked from the boy's eager face to the misshapen blur of the shadowy creature. He knew- -yes, he did. He had grown up with the sogu of his people and the warnings of what could be found in the darkness beyond the brennar's reach. His gold eyes measured the boy's minion, weighing weaknesses versus its strengths. Ella had fought one of these. Ella. His blood ran cold at the thought. Fylkirdrepa growled hungrily at his back, crying out for battle.

"Don't," he started, but had to stop because his mouth had run dry. He wet his lips and started again. "Don't summon these around Ella unless you must. Understand?"

"Why not?" Furor tilted his head to the side like a hound. The comparison was apt. The boy gave his creation a measuring look as if trying to see what Korin had seen. "They are like puppies, and they can make me stronger now as well." He turned his purple gaze back to the dwarf, his eyes filled with questions. "Wouldn't Ella be happy that I am stronger now? Doesn't she love me still?" Tears began to replace the questions in those large eyes.

"I'm sure she still loves you," Korin reassured immediately. It was the most likely truth, too. The girl didn't seem to have a hard bone in her body and was genuinely affectionate with the boy, treating him as if he were one of her younger siblings. The dwarf sighed. Words were not his strong suit. How to explain the strange ways that a mind can break to the child that often acted younger than his years? He had to try. For Ella, Korin had to make the boy see. "Do you remember why Ella and Abby came to the Order House?"

"No one tells me these things. I just follow my family," the boy muttered. "Heard she was in trouble, I think, but that's it." The boy now looked a bit sadder at how left out he felt. His violet eyes widened with fear. It was a look that Korin was getting used to seeing on the younger members of their little group. Only Iryna seemed to be immune to the feeling, and the gypsy had her own brand of madness. When Furor spoke, his voice trembled. "You're not going to send me away to another house now, are you?"

"No one is going to be sending anyone away." Korin reached out and gave the lad a single shake to bring him out of that thought cycle. Then he proceeded to answer his own question for the boy. "Ella got hurt, inside where no one can see. Her clan and their healers couldn't mend her. The leader of the Order House in her town sent her to the svikiavir for healing that he had mastered. Do you remember what made Ella not want to be healed by him?"

Korin was honestly concerned. The subject of the strange scythe wielder that shared a body with the boy had yet to be fully broached. He didn't really have much experience with that sort of thing either. It was strictly a varrviroani affliction. Korin had only seen it a handful of times. Each time, the afflicted was trying to kill either him or an innocent. It did not bode well for the boy's future. The glimmer of an idea teased the back of his mind. He was already going to take Ella to the heilangridh. Could he maneuver for the boy as well?

"Brother said the man hurt others like orb-lady," the boy responded as if thinking aloud. "Her pack mates…" The boy trailed off with a shudder. Then he perked up, his entire demeanor alight with enthusiasm. "I could send the puppies in to guard the graves of the broken ones—so no one will bother them!"

"He betrayed a trust that was given to him," Korin agreed. "But I think that it would be best to keep this new ability to ourselves, so as not to scare Ella."

His gaze drifted to the far off grouping that was their campfire. The kitsunemimi in question was playing some complicated game with her sister that involved slapping each other's hands. From there, he did an unconscious head count, seeking the locations of the last members of the party. Iryna was sitting at the edge of the light with her back to the fire. He could tell from her motions that she had to be sharpening one of her many daggers. Kuro was shooting lightning into the trees opposite where Korin and Furor stood. Korin noted to be careful when he approached that area. Finally, he let his gaze return to the boy before him.

"We have to protect our girls, don't we?" he asked, as he would a dwarven youngster aspiring to be a warrior.

"But this lets me protect her more. So why should I hide what makes us stronger? Brother doesn't have to hide! So why should I?"

"True strength does not need to be boasted," Korin intoned ritualistically, "and true wisdom knows patience." The familiar words were a comfort that warmed his heart. "There's a time to show strength and a time to wait. Right now, your new pet would serve no real purpose other than to scare Ella and hurt her. But if you wait until it's needed, when it may protect, then it would be alright. Understand?"

"Fine," the boy said as he seemed to crumple up the shadow before tossing it away like a crumpled bit of parchment. "Just because you asked nicely, Papa."

Korin bit back an amused chuckle, knowing it would injure the boy's already bruised pride. He couldn't stop himself from reaching out with one gruff hand to ruffle the boy's hair. The hand shifted to the boy's neck and the dwarf found himself pulling the boy in for a one-armed embrace. Sometimes, children were universal.

"So... if you're papa, who's mama?"

Yes, sometimes children were universal.


Next Story in Series: Magic Bones