The dwarf smith master stared at me like I was crazy, one of his wild black brows twitching with irritation. "I told ye ta get lost n' never come back Secret Dovante." The dark mutter made me laugh slightly, but Jorsim glowered at me. "Specially with a blade like tha Akso Sapsa with ya Secret." So the dwarf master and I had a bad past.

"Please Jorsim, war is coming fast and Enigma and I need to be able to use our magic!" I glowered back at the moody dwarf. He huffed and crossed his powerful arms over his stocky chest, beady black eyes studying my movements. I sighed, throwing my hands up in frustration. Enigma giggled, she had thought that no other being could match me in stubbornness. She had never met Jorsim before today.

"Who gave tha sword to ya Secret?" He eyed the sheath at my hip with unease, his brows furrowed. "That thing was forged in a time of darkness by one of the darkest smiths ta eva live." I grunted as he held out his hand, like I would put my blade in his hand. "Give tha thing ta me Secret, I want ta see it."

I scowled at him and jerked the blade from its red sheath, handing it to him hilt first. The dwarf flinched as the dark blade touched his skin, his eyes scanning it's length.

"Tis a masterfully crafted weapon, but too much blood has been shed by its wielders n' too much blood went inta makin it." He shuttered and handed the sword back to me. "Don't let my men see tat thing here, bad memories follow tat blade like ghosts."

I grimaced, sheathing the blade and turning back to Jorsim. "Will you please break these shackles for us Jorsim, you own me for saving your son last time I wandered here." He grimaced right back at me for using the favor to get my way. The dwarf crossed his arms and glanced out over the mountains. War stirred in the distance, you could sense it like a dark cloud on the horizon. His lips pressed together in distaste.

"Ya never come back girl, ya bring bad luck after ya every time ya wander here." He grabbed Enigma's wrist, making my friend squeak in alarm. I frowned at Jorsim's back, he was a hard person to deal with. "Ya go ta Urmumin, see about getting yerself some new weapons, these are human shit." He sneered at the knives she wore like they had personally insulted him.

He turned back to face me, grabbing the golden shackle around my wrist and dragging it close to his face. It snapped with powerful magic as the dwarf touched it. I winced as the energy burnt me. He made a face. "Ye'll have bad scarin from tis Secret, nothin ta be done about it." He didn't sound very remorseful. "Nekus, come help yer papa."

I smiled at the younger dwarf that hurried in. It had been a good five years since I had last seen him. He glanced at me, his dark hair falling into bright brown eyes, and gave me a huge smile. "Secret! It's been much too long." His father glowered at his back, muttering something about it not being long enough.

"How have you been Nek? Staying out of trouble?" The much shorter man slapped my shoulder, grinning up at me, he was a lot more welcoming then his father.

"Course, ya havn't been around ta save my ass." He kept grinning, until he caught sight of the blade I had set down on the work bench behind me. "Pa?" His eyes were wide, scared even. I made a face, it looked like my new sword had a dark history within this race.

"Tha girl brought tha cursed thing with her." He turned back to me, eyes hard. "It shoulda never been brought here." I winced as he grabbed the cuff around my wrist again and jerked me over to the anvil. "Like I warned Secret, scars." I gritted my teeth against the pain as the two dwarves set in, the wards around the cuff burning my skin. I had a feeling Jorsim didn't regret one second of my pain.

Hours later the cuff fell away from my wrist, and magic surged through me like a feral, wild animal. Enigma had come back sometime during the process. Her silver eyes widened as Jorsim grabbed her cuff next. "Yer up girly, hope yer as strong as miss stoic over there." I glared at him and rubbed the raw bruns around my wrist. I had a feeling he had drawn that out to make them worse.

Nekus sent me a sympathetic smile. "I'm sure mum wants ta see ya while yer here Secret." I nodded as I turned again, belting my sword around my waist again. It had been years since I had seen Babolyn, another one of mum's older friends.

Enigma sent me a panicked look. "Are you leaving me along?" Her silver eyes were wide with fear. I glanced back at her over my shoulder, grinning widely. Jorsim scowled at the other witch's obvious fear.

"I lived Enigma, and I'm sure Jorsim likes you more then he does me. Ask Nekus for some pain potion." She looked relieved as the younger dwarf brought her the pain killer, her silver eyes loosing some of their distress. I shook my head and walked up the rocky path to Jorsim's small stone cottage. Babolyn almost dropped the cast iron pot she was pulling off the fire when she saw me.

"Secret Dovante, look at cha, all grown up and pretty." I laughed at her as she wrapped her arms around my waist. "Get yer arse in here girl and set down, damn, look at cha!" She grabbed my chin, jerking my head from side to side. "Hmph, to skinny, just like yer mama. Bless her heart, I miss that old wolf." She slammed a bowl of venison stew down in front of me on the table. "What brings ya round these parts Secret?"

"The elves put a cuff on me while I was in their...custody. It blocked my magic, I came here to ask Jorsim to remove it for me." I rubbed my burnt wrist again, wincing as Babolyn grabbed the injured limb and studied the burn.

"Hmph, my damnable husband wasn't ta careful with yer pretty skin there Secret. Let me see if I got any salve for tat." She bustled around the cramped cottage, opening cupboard and cursing under her breath.

"Nekus is all grown up." I took a bite of Bab's stew, almost sighing in bliss. The dwarf woman glanced at me over her shoulder, laughing. Her bright blue eyes crinkled, showing her age.
'Tha same can be said for you Secret." She jerked my wrist out again, smearing something that smelled of mint over my skin. "Ya were just a girl tha last time ya came ta see us." She shook her head, wrapping white bandages around the red skin. "Ya children grow up so fast, ya make an old dwarf feel ancient." I made a face at her.

"You aren't that old Bab, besides, you and mum were the same age." I took another bite of stew, Bab was an amazing cook. "Is his little crush still around, Thassalin?"

Bab looked regretful, her blue eyes soft. "Nah lass, as soon as she saw his disability she headed for better men. Poor Nek, no woman wants him with his injury." I sighed, if I had been five minutes earlier in saving the young dwarf he wouldn't bear the injury.

"I'm sorry Bab..."

"It wasn't yer fault child, ya saved his life, we couldn't save his leg." She shook her head. "I'm fearin that he's gonna insist on goin with ya and tha silver witch when ya go back ta tha war. He can't fight with his disability, and he's m' baby." I nodded once. I knew Nek, and I knew he would insist that he could help us fight. The war, I wanted to make sure it never made it this far. I wanted to stomp it out before it really began. Enigma and I had to ensure that our world was kept safe.

"So are ya two wolves now?" Bab put a chunk of hearty bread in front of me too, I smiled at her. The dwarf woman truly knew how to spoil a girl. I dipped it into the steaming stew, enjoying the first hot meal I had had since we left the elves.

"No, Enigma and I aren't really allied to any group. I don't want this war to happen. I know it has to to bring around an era of peace, but I don't want it to happen Bab." I sighed and let my head drop onto the table, groaning.

"So much like yer mama, bless her heart, she knew that she had ta die, but she didn't want ta leave ya Secret. She's watch over ya now, always with you." Bab pulled a berry pie out of the oven, setting it on the stove. "Yer friend and ya gonna be around log enough ta have a piece of pie?"

I grinned at Bab. "I wouldn't miss your pie for the world Bab. And don't worry about Nek, I'll let him know that he's more useful here forging weapons with his father. I won't let you loose a child Bab." The dwarf woman sent me a grateful look. Her brown hair was going gray around the temples, reminding me that she was indeed getting up there in age.

"Thank ya girl, he is my world, I couldn't stand ta loose m' angel." Enigma walked in, rubbing her burnt wrist, which was much better then mine. She sniffed the air, perking up as she caught sight of food. Bab glanced at her. "N' who is this Secret?"

"Bab, this is my best friend and half sister, Enigma Lyght. Enigma, this is Babolyn, an old friend of my mother and the best damn cook that you will ever meet." Bab swatted me with a towel, blushing.

"Stop making me blush like a school girl Secret, ya have had better, don't lie." She herded Enigma down into a chair with the same ferocity that she had me. Plopping a bowl down in front of her as well, muttering under her breath about skinny girls and us not taking proper care of ourselves.

Enigma yelped in shock as Bab grabbed her wrist and smeared the burn cream over the wound, wrapping it as well. "I see m' husband was a lot easier on ya then he was on Secret." She rolled her eyes, just in time for Jorsim to see as he walked through the door. He scowled when he saw me sitting at the table, but blanched when Bab came at him like the furies of hell.

"Ya tryin ta scare Secret off with yer treatment Jor?" He ducked away from the blow she sent at his head, glaring at me. I grinned at him from my seat at his table, waving slightly with my bandaged limb. His scowl darkened.

"Not like it would work with ya here to coddle her." He winced as Bab caught him in the side of the head with a hard cuff. I snickered into the palm of my hand. As much as Jor disliked me, he couldn't chase me away with Bab here to protect me. Nekus plopped down into the chair next to me, yelping as I slapped his hand as he tried to take my food.

"Yer burn doin alright?" I couldn't help but glance down at his stiff right leg, knowing that it was crafted from hard oak wood with a delicate metal hinge in the knee. He caught my eyes and moved the leg further under the table. He didn't want me to blame myself for his injury.

"Yeah, it's fine Nek, how are you?" Of course he caught the hidden meaning in my words. I wanted to know how his leg was, if the scar still pained him. He scowled down into his own bowl that his mother had put in front of me.

"Wasn't yer fault Secret, ya saved my life." He sounded just like his mother, I was sure that Jorsim was the only one in the family who blamed me, besides myself. Enigma glanced between us, with a furrowed brow, this was a part of my life she had missed out on.

"I could have done better." I sighed and ran a hand through my tangled hair.

"Hush up Secret, are ya two stayin overnight?" Bab had bustled back over after scolding Jorsim, putting pieces of pie down in front of all of us. "It's getting a bit late fer travel, ya should stay."

"How could I refuse that offer Bab?" She grinned at me while her husband scowled at me behind her back. I made a face at him, Jorsim could be as bitter as he wanted, Bab made up for it all. Enigma and I were herded upstairs as the sun set behind the mountains, Bab at our heels like a mother hen keeping track of her chicks.

"Both of ya get some sleep, ya look like ya have been on death's doorstep." I blinked in shock as the door slammed in our face, shutting us in their little guest room. Enigma looked as shocked as I felt.

"She's...intense."

"That's Bab for you." I shook my head and fell into the big bed, yawning. "But she's right, I could use some sleep.

Review or loose it. I need to know what you think, anything and everything. This is my work, it means the world to me and I need feed back on it. I'm getting seriously pissed off.