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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
“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?”
friends looked at each other. They’d expected Gilduros to ask Airk if he was here
to visit or to return home permanently.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Wilhelm spoke, suddenly drawing the attention of everyone else in the room as
“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
“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
“A fine thing
to say for someone who abandoned Flinthold,” Moswen said with a sneer.
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.
isn’t your fault,” Luna started.
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?”
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
“…I see them in
my dreams, every night. And they ask me how I could let Kalrek do what he did.”"