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    The Silver Wolf-The Honor Of The Crown: Homecoming
    Posted on Wed, March 03, 2021 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "His friends were surprised at the strong family resemblance between the two gnomes. They were also surprised at how somber the interaction between them was. Much like dwarves, gnomes could often be more open and warm with their kin than with other races. Airk’s friends couldn’t sense that between him and Gilduros. Everything between the two brothers just seemed…solemn.

    Chapter Eight


    There were four major passes through the Lortmil Mountains. One of them was the Druid’s Defile connecting Celene and the County of Ulek. Two more were the Ulek Pass and the Celene Pass, which both connected Celene with the Duchy of Ulek. In their journey through the Lortmils, the companions went over or through those passes.

    The Lortmils’ fourth pass was the Road of Tears, which connected the Duchy with the religious land of Veluna that bordered the Lortmils to the north. The Road of Tears was named partly to remember the loss of those brave souls who perished during the Hateful Wars. As Airk told his friends, some said the Road also gave its name to lament the ways so many humans, dwarves and gnomes betrayed each other in the conflict.

    Flinthold’s capital city, which gave its name to the entire kingdom, was on the southern side of the Road. It was mostly built underground, and could be accessed from the surface through a set of massive double doors built into the side of a mountain next to the pass. It also had two smaller sets of doors that allowed access from the underground roads, and the companions approached one of those sets.

    As he led his friends forward, Airk felt all the old emotions well up within him again. He felt his shame at failing to anticipate Kalrek’s treachery and killing Laessar, his concern about who would wear the Crown of Arumdina and become Flinthold’s first king in centuries, and his determination to see the Crown of Arumdina returned. He’d pledged an oath to Laessar’s son Trendin Bradon to return the Crown as penance for what he did to Laessar, which led the companions to travel to the Great Kingdom.

    Those weren’t Airk’s only emotions, though. He felt an eagerness to return to the home he hadn’t seen in decades, and an uncertainty about how his fellow gnomes would receive him. He felt like one of the tightly wound springs gnomish engineers used in some of their technology, the tension in him straining for release.

    The companions were last in a line of several caravans and traveling groups seeking access to Flinthold. The guards and customs officials at the gate were diligent as they interrogated each group of visitors. It was nearly two hours before the companions finally reached the gate, and most of them were testy and uncomfortable at the wait.

    One of the guard captains, an officious-looking gnome with brown eyes and a thick blonde moustache, seemed almost amused at the companions’ impatience. His expression showed that he was used to that kind of annoyance from potential visitors to Flinthold, and he didn’t keep it from doing his job. He kept one hand on a large axe hanging from his belt as he walked up to the companions, eyeing them critically.

    “So, what brings such an unusual group like yourselves to Flinthold?” the guard captain asked, his moustache twitching under his long, beaky nose. “Adventurers, I take it?” he said, raising an eyebrow as he scowled at them.

    “Brothers, more like,” Airk said as he stepped forward. “Or have you forgotten your kin?” he said, holding out his hand.

    The guard captain blinked in surprise for several seconds, before he looked more closely at Airk. Finally, his cold demeanor vanished as he recognized Airk, replaced with a calm expression. He took Airk’s outstretched hand, and they nodded to one another solemnly.

    “Who are-“ Luna said, before Airk interrupted her.

    “This is my brother Gilduros Venbelwar,” Airk said in introduction as Gilduros bowed.

    His friends were surprised at the strong family resemblance between the two gnomes. They were also surprised at how somber the interaction between them was. Much like dwarves, gnomes could often be more open and warm with their kin than with other races. Airk’s friends couldn’t sense that between him and Gilduros. Everything between the two brothers just seemed…solemn.

    “Tell me,” Gilduros said to Airk, “why are you here?”

    Again, Airk’s friends looked at each other. They’d expected Gilduros to ask Airk if he was here to visit or to return home permanently.

    “Because I’ve traveled and fought long and hard to bring our kingdom’s heritage home,” Airk said. Reaching into his pack, he pulled out the Crown of Arumdina and presented it to Gilduros and the rest of the gnomish guards and officials.

    All of the gnomes stared at Airk in stunned silence. They looked at each other and then back at the Crown again, unable to believe what they saw. They’d all heard legends of the Crown as children, and many of them dismissed the stories as just that. Now, they saw the stories come to life, and almost didn’t believe what they saw.

    Finally, Gilduros spoke.

    “I…we…we must inform the Regency Council at once!” he said, seeming as though he’d just come out of a trance.

    In a matter of hours, Flinthold’s ruling council had gathered and ordered the companions to bring the Crown before them. Word spread quickly among the gnomes of Flinthold about the Crown’s return, and soon many of them thronged the streets leading to the stately manor where Flinthold’s ruling council met. Several of the younger gnomes cheered at the return of the Crown, while others retold the legends about it. Most of the gnomes simply stared in awe at the Crown as Gilduros’s commanding officer carried it towards the manor, accompanied by the companions and several high-ranking officials.

    The companions looked around in awe as they walked into the chambers where the ruling council met. A large, rounded table took point of pride in the chamber, with a large thronelike chair for the High Regent and four chairs to each side for the rest of the council. The table was carved with Flinthold’s coat of arms, which was also displayed on the wall behind the Regent’s throne. Banners flanked the coat of arms on the wall, while bas-reliefs of important moments in Flinthold’s history decorated the chamber’s other walls. The room and much of the furniture were decorated in a tasteful combination of green and gold colors, with edgings of silver.

    Several rows of benches for spectators to sit on faced the council table. A few of these benches were sized for guests of taller races such as humans and elves, and Airk’s human friends made good use of them. The rest of the benches were occupied by several of Flinthold’s most prominent citizens. Airk sat down on one next to Gilduros, while Amyalla joined him on his other side. She held his arm to reassure him, as she’d seen how anxious he was.

    Finally, High Regent Wilhelm called the meeting to order, and Gilduros’s commander formally presented the Crown of Arumdina to the Council. Once again, the gnomes sat in awed silence for several minutes. They stared at the Crown, scarcely able to believe that the legend was made real in front of them.

    Finally, Wilhelm spoke, suddenly drawing the attention of everyone else in the room as he did.

    “This is truly an auspicious day,” he said, rising from this throne. “To think that one of our own sons has brought our ancient birthright home. No doubt he took tremendous risks and faced horrible dangers on his quest. The tale will be well worth telling, but we have other pressing matters at hand. I would be honored to wear the Crown as Flinthold’s first king, and so I will accept the throne if my fellow councillors-“

    “Are you quite mad?” Moswen interrupted Wilhelm as he stood up. “How can you call yourself a king with your pigheaded approach to dealing with Garnetholme? Not to mention our trade issues with-“

    “Better to be pigheaded than spineless!” Wilhelm shot back, staring daggers at Moswen. “If we listened to you, we’d let Ruvell and everyone else walk all over us!”

    “I agree with Moswen,” one of the other councillors said. “He’d probably better suited to wear the Crown-“

    That led to further shouting among the councillors and arguments breaking out among several of the gnomish spectators.

    Airk stared at the proceedings in disbelief. Everything he’d felt as the companions approached Flinthold’s gates was gone, replaced only with a sense of disgust. Finally, he stood up, approaching the council table as several of the councillors turned to look at him.

    “How can you all be acting like this?” he said, scowling at the council. “Is this what we fought the Hateful Wars for?”

    Several of the councillors and spectators ceased their arguments as they turned to look at Airk.

    “A fine thing to say for someone who abandoned Flinthold,” Moswen said with a sneer.

    Airk’s face turned red with anger, and the chamber guards quickly stepped between him and the council table. He seemed about to explode with rage, but Revafour realized the danger and quickly ran up. Grabbing Airk by the arm, he pulled his friend out of the council chambers as the rest of the companions followed. They gathered in a side hallway, as the voices of the councillors and spectators arguing back in the chamber filled their ears.

    At first Airk still seemed consumed with anger, his face flushing red. That red anger quickly faded, and soon his face became pale as he felt a sense of despair.

    “Airk, this isn’t your fault,” Luna started.

    “I thought there’d be debate over who would become king, but nothing like this,” Airk said, seeming not to hear her. “Past councils didn’t act so stupidly.”

    “And I take it they weren’t as stubborn,” Weimar said, glancing back towards the council chambers. “How would Kalrek have been able to convince them to make him king?”

    “Easily,” Airk said, waving his hand. “He’d have impressed some of them, bribed or threatened others, and had any holdouts assassinated. If anyone accused him of treason, he’d just accuse them right back of slander and turn everyone against them. He always had a flair for charming people and promoting himself. How do you think he became so prominent in Flinthold before the Wars?”

    “What do you want to do?” Amyalla asked in concern. “Are you going to stay?”

    “I don’t know,” Airk said, “but I know I can’t leave, not until this is resolved. Until I do, my oath to Laessar and Trendin isn’t fulfilled. And the brothers I lost to Kalrek’s treachery…I…”

    “…I see them in my dreams, every night. And they ask me how I could let Kalrek do what he did.”

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