“…You’ve never forgiven yourself for any of this, have you?” she said.
“Because I don’t deserve to be forgiven,” Airk said with a scowl. “Forgiving myself would dishonor the memories of Laessar and my other brothers.”
When the new
year’s festival of Needfest ended and the month of Fireseek began the new year
of 577 CY, the companions left the Menowood and returned to Naerie to find
passage on a ship. Count Fedorik’s influence got them passage on the Merman’s
Envy, and now they were bound for Gryrax, one of the Principality of Ulek’s
main ports. Although the Flanaess was still in the depths of winter, the Azure
Sea was far enough south that it was safe to sail year-round.
Luna shook her
head and shuddered briefly as she looked away from the window of the cabin room
she and Seline shared. Most people would have been enchanted by the sight of
the sun-flecked Azure Sea, visible through the window, but it just made Luna
uncomfortable. She disliked traveling by ship, and indeed disliked water in
general. She hated getting caught in the rain or otherwise getting wet unless
she had to.
The rocking of
the ship and the presence of nothing but water all around her weren’t the only
things disturbing Luna. She wanted to see how Airk was getting on, particularly
once they finally reached Flinthold. Like most gnomes, Airk didn’t like
traveling by water any more than Luna did, and he spent most of his time
sitting in his cabin. He seemed in better spirits after the companions’ visit
to the Menowood, but Luna wasn’t convinced.
Airk looked up
when Luna entered the cabin he shared with Weimar. He didn’t seem very pleased
to see her, and she flinched at the haunted look in his eyes. She could tell he
wasn’t sleeping well, and it wasn’t due to any seasickness. As she sat down,
she wondered how she could get him to open up.
“I take it you
don’t like staring at the sea any more than I do?” she said.
“No, I don’t,”
Airk said, shaking his head. “I loved the Menowood’s beauty, though.”
“I’ve heard the
same things said about the Lortmil Mountains,” Luna said, happy that Airk
opened up a little. “I only saw them briefly with Seline, Weimar and Ma’non’go.”
delight, Airk smiled broadly as he started to discuss his homeland.
bit as beautiful as you heard. The underground can be just as stunning-the
colors of the stone formations, the light emanating from the minerals, the
fungi and the fire beetles…You remember Copper Crossing? Well, that was just
the beginning,” he said, referring to the gnomish city the companions visited
in the search for Kalrek Burunne.
looking forward to seeing your home again?” Luna asked.
fell, and he hesitated for several seconds before speaking.
entirely sure,” he said. “I’ve longed to see Flinthold’s peaks, trees and
valleys again. It’s just…I don’t know how my kinfolk will receive me,
especially after what I did to Laessar,” he finished, as his shoulders slumped.
“Why did you
leave Flinthold after the Hateful Wars?” Luna asked, taking his hands in hers. “Didn’t
the Steelheart dwarves invade?”
“I helped fight
against that invasion,” Airk said, “and I didn’t leave until my family was
provided for. I had to leave when the guilt became too much, though.”
asked in confusion.
“I didn’t see
Kalrek’s treachery until it was too late, and Garl knows how many of my
brothers in arms perished because of my stupidity. Their blood’s on my hands as
much as it is Kalrek’s. I couldn’t rightly call Flinthold my home after that. I’m
returning to bring the Crown home to fulfill the promise I made to Laessar’s
family, but I’m not staying after that,” Airk said, putting his hand on his
temple to deal with the piercing headache he suddenly felt.
treachery and the Steelheart attack weren’t your fault,” Luna said.
“Yes they were,”
Airk said without hesitation.
Luna sat in
silence for several long moments as she took Airk’s words in.
forgiven yourself for any of this, have you?” she said.
don’t deserve to be forgiven,” Airk said with a scowl. “Forgiving myself would
dishonor the memories of Laessar and my other brothers.”
Luna tried to
think of something, anything, she could say to that. She knew that Airk was
wrong, but she didn’t know what she could say to change his mind.
All she could
think to do was resolve to pray to Pelor for guidance.