“Without the help of Garnetholme, we wouldn’t even have a Flinthold,” Airk said, returning Osian’s glare. “Or did you forget how they helped us survive our war with the Steelhearts?”
“That was then,” Osian said, waving his hand dismissively. “This is now.”
There was a family
gathering at the house of Osian Venbelwar that night. Osian was the oldest son
and patriarch of the family, who’d achieved a prominent position in Flinthold
society through his record of military service both during and after the
Hateful Wars. He carried himself with the quiet but determined manner of a man
who’d seen his share of horrors but did not allow them to overwhelm him. His
hard eyes and stoic demeanor made many people think twice before crossing him,
and he was rarely known to smile except to his lovely wife Diamande.
attended with his wife Jhannisse and their three younglings, as did Airk’s eldest
sister Ruby, accompanied both by the child she carried within her and the
husband Lorian Landsonne who’d impregnated her. Airk had no spouse, and so he
brought his friends as guests instead.
Not all of the Venbelwar
siblings were there, of course. Tarnek had died during the Hateful Wars, his ribs
crushed by an ogre’s hammer. He joined his other brothers Finn and Nordick,
who’d perished before the Wars at the hands of fire giants and an auromvorax. Pearlinn
was still alive, having moved to Verbobonc with her husband, as was Britanne, now
living in the city of Livingstone in the far western Lortmils. Every one of the
family who was in Flinthold was otherwise present, eating supper with most of
Airk’s human friends. Amyalla, Seline and Jhannisse played with her and Gilduros’s
children in the other room, keeping the little ones entertained with everything
from elaborate stories to songs to sleight of hand tricks.
Diamande was an
exceptional hostess, serving an elaborate meal and ensuring all her guests were
comfortably seated, whatever their race. She carried herself with a warm and
easy manner, and all of her in-laws saw the relief and gratitude in Osian’s
eyes whenever he looked at her.
Despite her best efforts, the tension at the
table was palpable. Flintholders were deeply divided on how to approach the current
conflict with Garnetholme. They argued over the right course to take, and their
arguments were louder than ever with the Crown of Arumdina’s return. Osian was
a noted supporter of war with Garnetholme, and he wasn’t amused by Airk’s
outburst in Flinthold’s council chambers.
don’t know why you’d be questioning the Regent’s desire, Airk,” he said, the
fierce look in his eyes and slender, beaklike nose making his glare look
decidedly hawklike. “With the Crown’s blessings, he could lead us to the glory
Flinthold’s been sorely lacking for too long.”
“Without the help
of Garnetholme, we wouldn’t even have a Flinthold,” Airk said, returning
Osian’s glare. “Or did you forget how they helped us survive our war with the
then,” Osian said, waving his hand dismissively. “This is now.”
forgotten how the Garnetholders were our brothers during the Hateful Wars?
Brothers to you, me, Gilduros and Tarnek?” Airk said with an appalled
brothers like you were with Kalrek?” Osian said, an ugly sneer on his face.
Airk stood up
from his chair, his eyes burning with rage. Fortunately, Ma’non’go was sitting
next to him and grabbed his shoulder. He forced Airk to sit back down, although
he had to make a visible effort to do so.
Airk was by far
the angriest of his siblings at Osian’s comment, but Gilduros and Ruby both
clearly showed their disgust at their older brother. They scowled at him, as did
Lorian and even Diamande, and their scowls deepened when they saw Airk close
his eyes and take a few deep breaths. Airk’s human friends were just as
appalled. The only thing keeping them silent was their being Osian’s guests.
Osian wasn’t at
all bothered by their anger. He simply maintained his sneer, and looked at
everyone else at the table in turn, raising his eyebrow expectantly.
“That crossed a
line, Osian,” Gilduros finally said. “You know as well as we do that Airk made
Osian shook his
head and sighed.
Airk,” he said after a few moments. “I’d rather not send more of our young men
to suffer the way we did during the Hateful Wars,” he continued, a look of
bitter regret crossing his face, “but this is Flinthold’s best hope of prospering
again. How can we back down and look weak? You know as well as I do that our
race respects decisiveness.”
Osian and Airk
both noticed Ruby glancing down at the child she carried within her. Her
lighter platinum blonde hair, small nose and small build made her look frail,
but her frame was as solid as the mountains the gnomes called home. She’d had
to see to Tarnek’s burial when he perished in the Hateful Wars, as their mother
was inconsolable. Her brothers could imagine what she was thinking, and what she
might have to endure in the future.
“So our old
alliance with Garnetholme doesn’t count for anything?” Airk said.
history, and that’s all it is-history,” Osian said, shaking his head again. “You’ve
done Flinthold a great service by returning the Crown and punishing Kalrek, but
you need to realize the here and now is what matters.”
glanced at the rest of the human companions, seated in specially made chairs to
ensure their comfort at a gnomish dinner table. They seemed uncertain what to
make of Airk’s and Osian’s arguments, and were probably more worried about
Airk’s own well-being. They likely didn’t feel it was their place to speak
about the gnomes’ internal issues, either.
have felt the same way, but he thought back to the Kutunachke men the
companions encountered in Ignean.
He did well to
keep a scowl off his face.