I found myself walking through the forest’s trees. For generations, my family and I have lived in these mountains. Since before the War my ancestors had been buried in these stones. However, since the War things have been changing slowly. My parents and friends talk about these changes as if we should remember them. Yet, for my friends and I it was all before our time. All we see is ruins and relics. It was one of these reasons I liked to walk outside. There may be more and more interaction but not many dwarves would follow me out for some solitude outside. The cold helped as well.
I looked down below me. There was someone who would follow me out, my mother’s cat. Before my parents died and were buried in stone like all other’s my mother had this cat. Togira was by now an old cat. His former black coat and large stature seemed to have been washed in grey knots. Togira’s one misformed paw seemed to be even less steady than what my mother had said when I was a child. Still, he was a loyal cat. He never left my mother’s side nor mine.
I pat his matted fur. When I got back I would have to brush him again. The fleeing big boy would be hard to catch. Somehow, he knew his way around the entire mountain.
“I know you don’t really hate the water.”
We were on our way to a secret little spot I had found about ten miles down. In a heavily wooded area there was a little hot spring. The sulfur water was heated by one of the old underground thermal tunnels made long ago. The already naturally warmer water heated further into a nice misty spring. A secluded paradise to rest my bones and mind in.
“Come on, Togira.”
I reached behind one of the larger boulders. I had carved a basic floating crate for him to rest on above the water. Last time, I had even managed to finish some sort of bedding. Quite an achievement for someone like me with zero craftsmanship skills.
“That’s it. There’s no need to play coy.”
Toriga slowly made his way into the crate. When he was fully in I gently placed it on top of the heated water. It was shaky the first few seconds but then it steadied itself. Now it was my turn. My clothes slipping off quite quickly.
“This is bliss.”
The second I entered the water I could feel my bones heating up. Dwarves had very thick bones. Considering I was only part dwarf it was like someone was making my body a too tiny container for such bones. There was an almost consistent pressure within me. That’s what made this place so special.
I sunk down to my neck and turned to look at Toriga. He was smiling the best was a cat could.
“Stop with that attitude. Making fun of your owner isn’t very smart you know.”
He turned his head on me. Toriga was such a troublemaker. I wonder if he was the same with my mother. Did he make fun of her as much as he made fun of me? My eyes closed as I found myself drifting off.
My eyes opened slowly. The sky was much darker than it was when we had arrived. I could hear the sound of large footsteps and deep laughs. Dwarves? Male Dwarves? What where they doing way out here.
“Yes, I know.”
What did the cat think he could do by reminding me what I already saw? I quietly moved the box to the other side of the spring and onto the land. Toriga wasted no time jumping out of it and into a collection of rocks and brush.
“You run easily.”
My attention turning back to the sound of footsteps. They were definitely going to find this spring. I looked around the spring for what I could possibly do. A silly and desperate thought appearing in my head. I had never actually checked out the spring. Sometimes, places like these had more you can find when searching underwater.
“You can do this.”
I really hated being underwater but it seems like if I didn’t want to be seen by random men. Even worse men I know. Taking a deep breath, I dived into the deep end of the spring. It really hurt in the beginning. My eyes burning with the heat and sulfur. Still, I had to look around.
“Do you smell that?”
“Smells like sulfur.”
“Sulfur? Around here?”
I could even hear them underwater. My hands rummaging around the rock walls and stones to see if there was anything. My breath beginning to run out. I was never very good at staying underwater. Come on. The old thermal tunnel ran under the spring. There had to be somewhere loose. I was still a dwarf. Finding something should be possible.
There it was! As my air almost ran out in my body I felt a crumbling pile of rocks. As I dug into it I noticed a hole had been opened up and water was streaming down. It was time to continue taking chances. My body squeezed through the whole and I found myself in a much large heated lake. Finally, after swimming up I found air again.
“What is this place?”
I looked around where I was. This lake was just a large heated sulfur filled area in a closed cavern. A part of the cavern was dry and lead upwards. Maybe to the old paths in the old tunnels. My eyes turning to a rock platform that was in the middle. There was something shinning just out of sight. Maybe some lost treasure from before the War got stuck down here. If I found it my family could become much more important than they were now.
I made my way over to the rock platform and pulled myself up. What I found was a large pearly white, close to silver, colored rock. It was nesting in a hole in the rock. It was beautiful. However, I had no idea what it was. I should know what this was.
I reached out and pulled the stone out of the hole. It was extremely heavy. Even heavier than it looked. Once I got the stone on my lap I decided to take a break. Odds are whoever those men were they would not find this place on their first try. If I wait for them to leave I should be able to go out the way I came and grab my clothes.
“It really is a pretty stone. I bet the elders will know what it is for.”
My hands running themselves over the stone. It was so smooth. I’ve never known a natural stone to be this smooth. Maybe it was already crafted? Perhaps, it was some old form or decoration or object for aid in worship of the gods.
“You’re certainly beautiful enough…”
Really, it was such a beautiful stone. I had heard legends of people entranced by pieces of the ground before. This could be proof of something that would entice the unguarded in. Now that it was out of the hole you could see it was indeed some form of silver. However, it was not like a metal silver… more like what silver is in a gem. The stone while not translucent gave off the feeling of seeing through color. When the light hit it it was not just this silver color that shown, but the occasional opal color.
“I wonder what you are.”
I found myself growing tired again so I closed my eyes. Odds are I’d be fine.
Once again I found myself suddenly woken up today. The stone I was holding was shaking and sounds of rocks falling and water splashing echoed in this cavern. I sat up quickly.
“Is this place coming down!”
No, it wasn’t. I quickly looked down at the stone… It’s not a stone! It is an egg! Something was starting to hatch from it. I let go of it quickly and scooted to the edge of the rock platform.
“I wonder what hatches from these things.”
I watched as the sturdy stone seemed to completely crack away. A tiny silverish creature snorting its way out. It turned to look at me. Its eyes were similar to the light that shone off it- more opal than silver.
“You don’t want to eat me right?”
The lizard looked at me confused.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
It just looked even more confused. Was my cat even smarter than I thought? He understood these things. I pointed to myself and then to it.
“We are friends.”
Yea, I need to get it to understand that I am not hostile. It slowly started to walk towards me.
“Friends, remember. No eat friends.”
My voice cracked as it got near me. Its head got close to me. It really did still seem curious.
The lizard bit my foot and it really hurt. Why was my foot suddenly searing with pain. My legs curling up into me as I formed a ball.
The lizard scuttled towards me and licked my face so I would look at it again. It did seem worried about me. I sat up and sighed to myself.
“I suppose I can’t get mad at one nip when you don’t know I’m safe yet.”
The lizard seemed oddly pleased.
“Listen…. ummm… What do I call you?”
It didn’t seem to have an answer. Do the parents name their children for this species? Do they have individual names?
“Would you like a name?”
It nodded its head in happiness.
I felt utterly stumped. Do I give it a Dwarvish name? Is it appropriate to have that sort of name? Could it anger the gods or this lizard’s original family? I slumped in frustration.
“I’m sorry. I’m not very good at names….”
The lizard seemed frustrated and started to paw the ground. Maybe considering it had four legs I shouldn’t be calling it lizard anymore. It also had tiny wings. How did I not notice the wings earlier?
“Are you sure you want me to name you?”
It bumped his head against my leg. I guess that was his way of saying hurry it up already?
“Uh… Mordred? I’ve always liked that name.”
The lizard thought about it for a moment. At least I think it was thinking about it. I waited for it to tell me if it was okay or not. It’s not like I really was in a rush. Finally, it nodded its head.
“Alright, so Mordred I need to leave this cave. Do you want to stay here?”
Mordred shook its head no.
“Alright, so that means we have to swim. Can you swim?”
Mordred seemed confused so I slid back into the water. I reached my hands out. The lizard seemed hesitant but walked into my grasp.
“Okay, on the count of three we have to go under and swim through a hole. I have you so just stay calm.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit when it nodded its head in understanding. Mordred probably didn’t understand much but it was very cute. Taking a deep breath, I dived back under the water. Knowing where I was going made this an easier, but still uncomfortable, swim. My head popping back up in the original spring.
I had never been here this late at night. There was no way I could of known the night sky would be so beautiful. The warm water keeping me warm from the cool air.
“Pretty isn’t it?”
Mordred nodded its head. It really seemed to like the sky.
We both turned out heads to see Toriga sitting by the edge licking his paw.
“I should of known you’d be waiting for me with that judgmental attitude.”
I swam to the shore of the spring and put Mordred down on the ground. It grumbled at Toriga. The two seemed to be very alert of each other.
“Where are my clothes.”
I stumbled around in the dark trying to find my clothes. Now that I was out of the water I was getting cold very quickly. Home was still a ten mile run back. Now carrying a lizard as well as a cat. Toriga jumped on them to show me where they were.
I slipped on the clothes and hurriedly put Toriga in my bag I was carrying.
“You won’t fit in with him will you?”
Mordred was just too big to fit in a small bag with my already large cat. I bent down and picked it up. Mordred crawled underneath my shirt so his head was sticking out from the top.
“Alright, I suppose it’s warmer like that.”
Mordred seemed pleased at my consent. I quickly started to run home. The faster I got back to Tarnag the faster I could be warm in bed.
[ Image via Paolini.net ]