Everything changed when Airk said those words. The Crown of Arumdina, still in his hands, started glowing brightly, the gold and platinum light its metal parts emanated shot through with streaks of diamond, emerald and ruby light. Everyone in the room, gnomes, humans and halfling, stood in shock at the Crown’s reaction. They could feel the power emanating from the Crown, power that was finally manifesting itself.
Moswen and most
of the other surviving members of Flinthold’s Regency Council had taken a large
room in Silverspire’s town hall as an impromptu council chamber. From there,
they worked to try and find food and shelter for the Flinthold refugees, while
also rallying the rest of Flinthold’s military. The rest of Flinthold’s towns
were sending as many soldiers as they could spare, but some of them remained as
guards, knowing the Scarlet Woman’s forces could strike at any time. The army
was gathering, but their morale was uncertain without the Crown of Arumdina.
Most of the
councillors were not pleased to learn Arthur hadn’t consulted them about
sending the companions to retrieve the Crown or to ask the Kutunachke for aid. The
councillors were in a foul mood when the companions returned to Silverspire two
days later accompanied by Borrinn and Pellana. The air filled with tension as the
councillors gathered in front of the long table they used to conduct their
business, while the Kutunachke ambassadors faced them in front of a bench sized
for human guests. The rest of the councillors made Arthur stand several feet away
from the other councillors, their glares making it clear what they thought of
Airk stood between the humans and the gnomes, briefly introducing the two
groups to each other. Revafour also held a small bowl in his hands, which
contained two small bundles of fabric tied up like pouches. A faint smell of
tobacco was detectable from the bundles, plants that Revafour had gathered
during the companions’ journey to the Kutunachke’s lands. Amyalla put together
the fabric pouches at Revafour’s request, before he’d filled them with the
Flintholders likely aren’t familiar with most Flan traditions,” Revafour said
to the ambassadors, “so I hope you won’t mind my making this offer on their
Moswen asked, before Revafour turned back to speak to him.
“In many Flan
nations, it’s customary to start meetings like these with a ceremony or
offering of some sort to symbolize the relationship,” Revafour said to the
councillors. “One common way is an offering of tobacco to anyone you ask to
share wisdom or knowledge, or to otherwise ask for help. That’s why I’m
offering these pouches, or ties as we call them, as part of Flinthold’s asking
for the Kutunachke’s help. The tobacco can help us all speak with good
attitudes and thoughts.”
He turned back
to the ambassadors, who exchanged glances. They stood silently for several
seconds, before they took the ties. Finally, the ambassadors sat down on the
benches and the councillors took their seats at their table, their expressions
dubious at the use of the tobacco offerings. Airk and Revafour moved off to the
side to rejoin their friends, leaving the leaders to face each other.
ambassadors were silent for some moments, waiting for the gnomes to speak
“You say your
people can help us retake our capital, do you?” Moswen said, his face lined
with the strain he was feeling. “We’d appreciate it, but we need to know the
price of your aid. We would need some of the treasure we’d win from the
invaders for rebuilding. Until we know what your aid will cost-“
interested in money,” Pellana interrupted Moswen. “If our people help yours, we
want to regain our lands.”
Several of the
councillors murmured to each other at that, wondering what to make of the
demand. Moswen’s expression showed exactly what he thought of it, as his face
turned crimson with anger. He stood up from his chair, his fists clenched as he
stared hatefully at the human ambassadors.
“So you can
drive our people from their homes? When they’re suffering enough as it is? I’ll
show you what you can do with your demand!” he said, slamming his fists on the
anything about depriving your kin of their homes?” Pellana said, shaking her
head. “All we’ve ever wanted is just to share the lands. Our help wouldn’t just
end with fighting this Scarlet Woman, whoever she is, either. We can help you feed
“And how much
are you going to charge for that?” one of the gnomish councillors asked with a
suspicious glare. “More than we can afford, no doubt!” Moswen smirked at his
fellow councillor’s words, and several more of the councillors chimed in.
“They just said
they don’t want any mo-“ Arthur said, before he was interrupted.
“Shut up, you fool!”
Moswen said. “It’s your fault we’re wasting our time with this!” he finished, as
several of the other councillors joined in shouting Arthur down.
Pellana watched the gnomes’ argument, appalled at what they were watching.
“I should have
known this was a bad idea,” Borinn said, turning to Pellana. “They’re just as
bigoted and selfish as their ancestors were!”
Pellana rose to leave, but they stopped as Airk walked up between them and the
council table. He held the Crown of Arumdina, which he hadn’t given back to the
learned anything at all from the loss of our home?” Airk said, looking in
disgust at every member of the Council in turn. “No wonder Kalrek thought he
could convince you to make him your king! You care more for your own pride and
power bases than doing right by Flinthold!”
Most of the
councillors stood up from the table. One of them pulled a dagger from his belt,
while another gestured to the guards standing nearby and watching the meeting.
A few of the
guards drew their swords and advanced on Airk, but he didn’t seem to notice
“What good has
the Crown of Arumdina done us?” he said, the gnomes approaching him freezing in
place as his voice rose. “Where are all the fabulous powers the legends say it
has? It didn’t do a gods-damned thing for Wilhelm when he put it on! Do you
think it’ll do any different for you, Moswen?”
Several of the gnomish
councillors and guards exchanged glances, murmuring to each other in some
concern. Amyalla and all the humans watching the debate stood in anxious
silence, not daring to interrupt.
“Of course I
do,” Moswen said, not impressed by Airk’s questions. “Wilhelm didn’t have the makings
of a king. Give me the Crown and-“
prove why we lost the Crown in the first place,” Airk said.
the council chamber at Airk’s words. A strange light shone in his eyes as he locked
stares with Moswen, whose own eyes flared with hatred for Airk.
remember how Flinthold was defeated by Loamhedge?” Airk asked his fellow gnomes.
“It happened just after we broke our old treaty with the Kutunachke. Maybe Garl
Glittergold and the rest of our gods are angry with us for our betrayal. Everyone
says the Crown has all this great power, but are we really worthy of it? The
Crown isn’t showing its power because we don’t deserve it!”
angrier than ever at that statement, and several of the other gnomes shared his
rage. He raised his hand to order the guards to seize Airk and the Crown, but
then Airk spoke again.
“Do we deserve
Garl Glittergold’s trust after all that’s happened?” Airk said. “Betraying the
Kutunachke? Threatening war with Garnetholme? Our part in the violence and
hatred between the allies in the Hateful Wars? Honoring our treaty with the
Kutunachke might show Garl that we’re worthy of the Crown’s power!”
changed when Airk said those words. The Crown of Arumdina, still in his hands, started
glowing brightly, the gold and platinum light its metal parts emanated shot
through with streaks of diamond, emerald and ruby light. Everyone in the room,
gnomes, humans and halfling, stood in shock at the Crown’s reaction. They could
feel the power emanating from the Crown, power that was finally manifesting
Moving as if in
a dream, Airk removed his dragon-headed helmet and put the Crown on his head in
its place. He felt as though he was in someone else’s body, watching through
their eyes, as his actions were not his own. A surge of power flowed through
his body, which shone with a bright golden glow that shone on everyone watching
him. From the looks on the other gnomes’ faces, he realized that the glow must
make him seem to almost resemble Garl Glittergold, the leader of the gnomish
gods manifesting in oerthly form.
His gaze passed
over his fellow gnomes, then to Borinn and Pellana. The ambassadors returned
his gaze expectantly, letting him know what they demanded of him.
His gaze then
shifted to his friends. The looks they gave in return were ones of relief and hope,
looks that renewed his confidence and confirmed what he felt in his heart.
honor its treaty with the Kutunachke and return the disputed lands,” Airk said,
the glow around him seeming to brighten as he did so. “This I swear by Garl
Glittergold and all my race’s deities. If we do not, may we lose the gods’
blessings, as we lack the honor of the Crown,” he said, as the glow around him
faded and returned to normal.
looked from him to his fellow gnomes. Some of them were enthralled by what they
were seeing, hardly able to believe it. Others like Moswen looked angry at the
pledge Airk was making, but they didn’t dare speak against it.
friends looked at Borrinn and Pellana.
“We intend to
hold Flinthold to that pledge,” Pellana said.