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    The Silver Wolf-The Honor Of The Crown: Long Paths And Longer Memories
    Posted on Sat, February 27, 2021 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "“We thank you for helping us deal with the giants,” Borrinn said, “and you’re welcome to half the treasure as payment. We also wish you safe travel on the rest of your journey…and I also wish more Flintholders knew more of their own history.”

    Chapter Seven

    Long Trails And Longer Memories

    Airk took a long swig of ale, savoring its warmth as he finished his meal. He and his friends were staying at the Dragon’s Luck Inn And Alehouse, in the dwarf city of Ignean. They’d reached Rubydepths without any trouble, and from there it was an eight day journey along the Low Road to Flinthold. The companions made good time, and after four days they’d reached Ignean, halfway between Rubydepths and Flinthold.

    Airk wasn’t sure what disturbed him more, having to stay in a dwarven city or hearing his friends compare it to the gnome city of Copper Crossing in the Kron Hills. Like Copper Crossing, Ignean was constructed partly above and party below ground. That was where the similarities ended as far as Airk was concerned, though. He considered Copper Crossing to be far better designed. Copper Crossing’s buildings were also much more pleasing to his eye than Ignean’s ugly buildings, which Airk thought resembled nothing so much as large stacks of cinderblocks.

    Shaking his head in disgust at his friends’ comparison, Airk went back up to the bar to get a new mug of ale. He ran into Revafour getting some water, and they sat back down together at Airk’s table.

    “Have you decided what we’ll do when we reach Flinthold?” Revafour asked him after they’d toasted and had a drink.

    “I’m afraid not,” Airk said with a frown. “We might have to spend longer in Flinthold than I expected, at least until they figure out who’s best suited to be king. If you don’t want to-“

    “Not another word,” Revafour said, waving away Airk’s suggestion before he could say it. “We’re seeing this through to the end, and we’re not leaving Flinthold without you unless you want to stay there. We’ve been through this, remember?”

    “I know, and it means more than I can say,” Airk said, clasping Revafour’s hand. “It’s just…fear, guilt, I don’t know…”

    “I don’t know either, but I do know it’s natural to be feeling the way you are…” Revafour said, before he trailed off. His eyes widened as he looked past Airk, and Airk turned to see what he was looking at.

    A group of five Flan men walked into the Dragon’s Luck, dressed for traveling and carrying various weapons. Revafour raised his mug in greeting, and they returned the gesture. One of the men came over to Revafour and Airk’s table, asking if he and his friends could join them. Revafour eagerly agreed, as did Airk, and soon the five Flan were all seated with them, each with a meal of mutton and vegetable stew before him.

    “What brings you to Ignean?” Revafour asked, once he and Airk had introduced themselves. “I take it you’re traders?” Independent Flan groups often visited other human and non-human communities for trade, offering things like foodstuffs and furs in exchange for goods like metal weapons and oil. They also often used the treasure they won from humanoids and other monsters for trade, though they had little use for it otherwise.

    “If only it were that,” the leader of the Flan group, who introduced himself as Borrinn Tall Pine, said. “We came to Ignean for help dealing with a pack of fire giants raiding our homes. When we saw you, we hoped you might know who we could talk to. Unless you’re travelers yourselves?”

    Revafour looked at Airk, who just nodded with a half-smile, knowing what Revafour was about to say.

    “We are travelers,” Revafour said with a smile, “but we’re also the people you probably want to talk to.”

    The rest of the companions readily agreed to help the Flan people, who belonged to the Kutunachke nation, battle the fire giants. The companions departed with the Kutunachke warriors the next morning and linked up with another group of Kutunachke before they started tracking the giants. Fortunately, the giants weren’t difficult to find, as they made no effort to conceal their trail. They also moved at a leisurely pace compared to the humans, gnome and halfling, so that the companions and the Kutunachke were able to get ahead of them and prepare an ambush.

    Weimar felt a sense of eager anticipation as he walked alongside Revafour. He was dressed for combat, wearing a leather jerkin and hanging a bronzewood shield with a boar’s head in profile from his pack. His trusty battleaxe was strapped to his back, as was a quiver full of arrows, and several daggers hung from his belt. He carried a finely crafted longbow, as did Revafour. The rest of the companions were walking with them, seeming like an ordinary group of travelers who would be easy prey for a giant attack.

    When the fire giants came into view of the companions, their expressions clearly showed they thought the companions would be easy pickings. There were six of them, their bright orange-red hair and gleaming steel armor contrasting oddly with their dark skin. They each had a sword hanging from their belt or strapped to their back, but the companions were more concerned about the boulders they carried in their hands.

    Howling eagerly, the giants tossed their boulders at the companions, who cried out in alarm and scattered as the rocks crashed down around them. They managed to avoid being hit, but they seemed in disarray and unable to regroup to fight as the giants drew their swords and charged towards the companions.

    That was when the Kutunachke struck. They’d called the Lortmils home for countless centuries, and were experts at moving stealthily through the mountains. They seemed to appear as if from nowhere on either side of the giants, releasing a flurry of arrows that caught them off guard. The giants cried out in anger and turned to attack the Kutunachke, but Airk and Ma’non’go charged forward to attack them while Revafour, Weimar and Amyalla added their own missiles to the flurry.

    As they did, Seline moved into position. She wore an opal-decorated ring that allowed its wearer to become invisible at will, so that the distracted giants didn’t notice her. She pulled a piece of quartz out of her robe pocket as she quietly chanted a spell. The quartz in her hand crumbled to dust as her spell took effect, conjuring a large wall of ice over the scrambling giants. It landed on the giants with a sickening crunch, causing them to scream from the impact before it broke into smaller pieces that scattered on the ground around them.

    One of the giants fell to one knee, dazed from where the ice wall had struck him in the head. He was seeing double as Ma’non’go approached him, and the Olman warrior easily dodged his half-hearted slash. He plunged his trident into the giant’s gut, and as the giant reached down to try and stop the bleeding, Ma’non’go found a gap in the armor guarding his neck and ripped his throat open. The giant collapsed, overwhelmed by his mortal injury.

    Another giant fought Airk in a fierce melee, a look of frustration on his face as Airk skilfully dodged his every blow. Gnomish warriors received special training in battling giants, and Airk was no exception. He blocked or dodged every one of the giant’s attacks, and for every blow the giant missed with he landed a successful blow with his military pick. Soon, the giant’s arms and legs were crisscrossed with bloody scars. As the giant grew more and more desperate to kill Airk, he lowered his guard against other attacks. Finally, the giant took an arrow in the eye from one of the Kutunachke warriors and fell dead.

    Several of the other Kutunachke warriors scrambled to avoid a third giant’s sword as the monster closed into melee with them. One of the warriors couldn’t dodge in time, and the giant’s sword caught him a vicious blow, covering the front of his torso in blood. As the warrior collapsed, the giant raised his sword to strike again, but he suddenly turned as Weimar chopped into his leg from behind. Weimar carried his axe and shield now, and he pressed in on the giant from the left as several of the Kutunachke warriors pressed him from the right.

    As the giant stepped back to adjust his stance, Luna came up and knelt down next to the mortally wounded Kutunachke warrior. Placing her hand on his shoulder, she chanted a healing spell, causing the man’s wound to close. While his breathing was shallow and his face was pale, he wasn’t going to die.

    Satisfied that the man would be alright, Luna stood up, clutching a mace in her hand. It was a mace she’d bought in Thrunch, not the one she normally wielded in combat. She concentrated on it as she cast another spell, causing the mace to fade into nothing. Another mace soon appeared in the air as Luna’s second spell took effect, glowing a bright gold in color.

    With her free hand, Luna gestured at the giant Weimar and the other warriors were battling. At Luna’s command, the golden mace streaked at the giant and slammed him in the temple, making him fall to his hands and knees. He had almost nothing left after Seline’s ice wall and the damage the Kutunachke, Weimar and Luna inflicted on him, and Weimar struck the fatal blow when he chopped into the giant’s face.

    One of the giants saw Seline appear when she conjured the ice wall, and he advanced on her, murder in his eyes. Ma’non’go ran to intercept him, but Seline was faster. The cat fur and glass rod she held in her hand burned up as she cast her next spell. Her hand glowed with electricity, and she hurled it forward in a powerful bolt that struck the giant dead on the spot. The bolt continued past the dying giant to strike another giant in the back.

    That giant had engaged Revafour and torn a nasty gash along his hip and arm, but he was forced to let up his attack when Seline’s bolt struck him. Revafour didn’t waste his opportunity, severing one of the giant’s legs at the knee with a vicious slash of his sword, and then plunging his blade into the monster’s throat when he collapsed. Smiling despite his own vicious wound, he ran to help the Kutunachke warriors fight the last giant, which was soon as dead as its comrades.

    To Luna’s relief, Revafour and Weimar were her only friends injured in the fight. None of the Kutunachke warriors were killed, although some of them were seriously hurt. She shared her healing magic with them as well as her fellow companions, and soon they had all recovered from the exertions of the fight.

    The companions and the Kutunachke were fortunate not to have suffered any casualties. Their missiles and Seline’s ice wall seriously injured the giants before they closed to melee. Their size allowed many of the Kutunachke to keep shooting arrows at them, helping their kin and the companions kill the giants more quickly.

    We got lucky, Ma’non’go signed to Airk as they searched through the pouches hanging from the belt of one of the giants. In all the times I fought them in Hepmonaland, fire giants tend to cause more casualties than we suffered here. Was it the same for you too?

    “Aye,” Airk said as he tossed aside the pouch he was holding, which contained nothing but a large wedge of stinking, moldy cheese. “I lost a lot of comrades to these bastards…and that’s with our advantages against them. Poor Finn was literally cut in two.”

    Finn? Ma’non’go asked.

    “My brother, a fellow soldier,” Airk said, a faraway look in his eyes. For a moment, Ma’non’go feared Airk was about to fall into melancholy or rage. He was surprisingly calm, and Ma’non’go realized Airk was more recalling the memory of someone whose death he’d come to terms with, but who he loved very much.

    Ma’non’go could sympathize. He suspected his brother M’acutli and his sister Xoral’qa were both dead, arrested when his false friends framed his family for treason. He’d only escaped because he was out on patrol when his family was taken. Unable to return home, he’d been left to wander the wilds of Hepmonaland until Lord Roas Del Cranden found him and took him back to the Great Kingdom of Aerdy.

    Ma’non’go was about to say something else when Airk exclaimed in surprise. As Ma’non’go ran up to him, he saw Airk pulling the giant’s earring out of his ear.

    Is that… Ma’non’go said, blinking in surprise.

    “Oh, it’s a ruby, alright,” Airk said, rolling the large earring around in his hands. “And it’s cut just the same as the ones from those other monsters we fought before we reached Rubydepths.”

    I wonder if- Ma’non’go said, before he and Airk turned to face several of the Kutunachke warriors coming towards them. The warriors had unpleasant scowls on their faces, which struck both companions as strange given their victory over the giants.

    “That’s a fine stone if I ever saw one,” one of the Kutunachke said, gesturing at the ruby earring Airk held. “Maybe now the Flintholders are ready to pay for everything they took from us?”

    “…Took from you?” Airk asked, as he exchanged incredulous looks with Ma’non’go. “What in the Nine Hells are you talking about?”

    “I might have known,” another of the Kutunachke said, waving Airk away in disgust. “He’s as ignorant as the rest of them. Typical.”

    “Typical?” Airk said, his face flaring with rage. “Come over here and say that!”

    “Maybe I w-“ the Kutunachke man said, before another voice interrupted him.

    “What’s going on here?” Borrinn asked, running up from one direction as Revafour came up from another.

    “Damned if I know,” Airk said. “Apparently we Flintholders are all too ‘ignorant’ to know anything.”

    “At least now you’re catching on,” the Kutunachke man who’d insulted him said. He opened his mouth to speak again before Borrinn cut him off.

    “That’s enough, Danyen,” Borrinn said. “They helped us deal with the giants. Go gather up our share of the treasure. I’ll settle this.”

    “You do that,” Danyen said, never taking his stare away from Airk as his comrades led him away.

    “What’s this all about?” Revafour asked, unhappy at the sudden tension in the air.

    “Did your friend ever tell you about Flinthold’s war against Adamanhall?” Borrinn asked.

    “No,” Revafour said, as he and Ma’non’go looked at Airk. “What war was that?”

    “It happened shortly after the king of Loamhedge stole the Crown of Arumdina,” Airk said. The gnomish kingdom of Loamhedge was Flinthold’s oldest rival in ancient times, and stole the Crown of Arumdina to try and undermine them. “We faced an invasion from the dwarves of Adamanhall, and we were fortunate to win. That was the start of Flinthold’s bad luck.”

    “And worse luck for the Kutunachke,” Borrinn said, frowning as he folded his arms. “You really don’t know, do you?”

    “Know what?” Airk said, confusion replacing his anger. Ma’non’go and Revafour exchanged glances, equally as confused.

    “Know how the Kutunachke helped Flinthold against the Adamanians,” Borrinn said. “Both our peoples were weakened by the conflict. If anything, we suffered more, especially when Flinthold expanded its borders into our lands. They were our sacred home, and we’ve never forgotten the loss.”

    “I never knew about that!” Airk said, dismay crossing his face as Revafour scowled.

    “I suppose it’s not surprising that the Flintholders forgot the agreements our people made with them,” Borrinn said, “not when the Oeridian and Suel humans have been just as bad. But we remember.”

    “Those kinds of agreements are a sacred trust to Flan,” Revafour said, as Airk turned to look at him. “The Duchy of Tenh wouldn’t exist without the wampums that symbolized its creation. Breaking them is a betrayal.”

    Airk stood in silence for a long while.

    “I…don’t know what to say,” he finally said.

    “We thank you for helping us deal with the giants,” Borrinn said, “and you’re welcome to half the treasure as payment. We also wish you safe travel on the rest of your journey…and I also wish more Flintholders knew more of their own history.”

    The words stayed with Airk as he and the rest of the companions returned to Ignean to resume their journey.

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