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Universe of G-Minor - Ghibbore Title

Chapter 24

They managed to get themselves organized by the time the sun went down. Mindful this was the last night they’d all be together they endeavored to make it a pleasant evening. Durin’s carefully hoarded food supplies were lavishly expended to create a veritable feast. They had roast turkey, honeyed ham, sweet meat pies, a steamy vegetable stew and a gigantic loaf of fresh bread made with the last of their yeast starter and a bag of flour. A lump of frozen butter was set near to the fire to thaw and a dozen yams, each enclosed in egg-shaped metal containers, were tossed into the fire to cook. After Ralt ruefully admitted to a ready hand in the kitchen, he proceeded to mysteriously produce a half dozen, delicate pastry confections for dessert. All of it was washed down with pot after pot of black tea laced with brandy.

Storm settled back against a log with a loud belch. He patted his distended belly with sleepy satisfaction. “I think that’s about the best meal I’ve had in ages.” He yawned hugely, ignoring the fact it was probably going to be the last good meal he would get for some time. He felt too lazy to even wonder when Lorelei snuggled up against his shoulder.

Durin and Ralt lit their pipes with twigs from the fire. They leaned back against a makeshift backrest built from scraps of lumber salvaged from the wagon. “Aye,” the dwarf rumbled, puffing contentedly. “It reminds me of the feasts we once had in me father’s court.”

Ralt gave Storm an ah-ha look. “Who was your father?” he asked mildly. “I’ve never heard you talk about him before.” Thomas sat up with a look of interest.

Durin hesitated then shrugged. “It makes no difference anymore I guess. He was Drangor, third King of Thangadrim; once called The Mighty by me people, the Shokirin.”

“Thangadrim?” Storm spluttered in disbelief.

Memories flooded over him from his boyhood days in the Bear Clan. The tribal elders had enthralled the Clan with tales from the ancient days when Great Powers stalked the land. Chief, and most favorite of those tales was the legend of Thangadrim. Hidden somewhere in the vast, icy reaches of the Rampart Mountains to the far north, it was a titanic, underground fortress used by the gods when they visited the mortal realms. Destroyed in the world shaking fury of the Chaos Wars at the end of the First Age, it was said Thangadrim’s most potent weapons survived its fall and waited quietly under the mountains for someone to find them.

“That’s just a myth!”

“Nay, lad. It’s not. Thangadrim was a real as this pipe.” He puffed furiously.

Ralt shook his head in confusion. “But, I don’t understand. Thangadrim was supposed to have been destroyed during the Chaos Wars. That was thousands of years ago. Dwarves don’t live that long. No one does.”


“Ya ain’t making no sense then,” Thomas objected. “How could you be reminded of something that happened centuries before you were born?”

Durin stared at the fire. “The Chaos Wars were so named ‘cause all of nature was turned upside down; water ran uphill, people aged backward one day then forwards the next, a simple cantrip could blast a mountain to ruins while the most powerful spells in the world fizzled without hurting so much as a flea. Trees grew into the ground and the moon became the sun. The Northern Wastes melted in the space of a single day, turning the Akhu Plains and the Biqah Prairie into vast, inland seas. The mountains belched fire and smoke, covering the sky. And all the while, the gods battled the great wizards of old, shaking the very earth with the fury of their blows. And of course, they fought each other as always.”

He shook his head, staring into the distance at things visible only to him. “It was a terrible time . . . terrible.” His pipe went out unnoticed. “I was young,” he continued in a monotone. “Unwed and foolish. Against all good sense, I was standing on the Great Balcony watching the battle as it raged overhead. I never knew what it was that hit me that day; misfired spell, nature run amuck or a backlash from the Chaos Wars overhead. Suddenly I found myself paralyzed, unable to move. My body, my clothes, even the axe I held in me hands, slowly became harder and harder until a great darkness fell over me and I knew no more.” He lapsed into silence.

“What happened to you after that?” Ralt prompted gently.

The dwarf shrugged absently. “Who can say? I know nothing of what transpired during the centuries I slept. Sodan said he purchased me from a passing caravan, thinking I was a statue. He has . . . had . . . a habit of talking to statues and paintings when he was trying to make up his mind about something.” Ralt and Thomas nodded in unison. Sodan’s quirks were well known. “Perhaps his voice, directed at me, penetrated my stony prison. I remember his voice, distant in the darkness, disappearing for a time then returning, always closer, until one day I awoke.”

“Is that when you swore your loyalty to him?” Storm asked, fascinated by the thought his companion might actually have walked the fabled halls of Thangadrim.

“Aye.” Durin noticed his pipe had grown cold. He knocked the ashes out of it and put it away without looking up. “I was grateful he woke me all those years ago, but . . . now he’s gone, I’ve no notion what to do next. As far as I know, I’m the last of the Shokirin, the First Ones. I’ve no idea if any of our kin survived or where to find their descendants if they did.” His drawn face suddenly showed every day of his many years. “I don’t know what to do after we retrieve Krista’s soul. I’ve no family, nowhere to go, nowhere to call home.”

I know the feeling, Storm thought darkly. He felt a sudden kinship with the dwarf across from him, a sole survivor mourning a lost people. “I don’t have a home either, but wherever my fire is, you’ll always be welcome at it,” he offered.

“Thanks, lad.” He craned his head up to look at the stars peering through the rifts in the clouds overhead. He stood up, brushing himself off. “It’s late. We should be getting some sleep. We’ve a long road ahead of us in the morning.” So saying, he tramped off through the snow to the strengthened lean-to.

There was a long silence after he left. Each of them sat staring into the fire, listening to the snapping and crackling of the logs, immersed in their own thoughts. One log, burned through in the middle, finally broke, sending up a shower of sparks into the cold, night air. It roused them from their somber mood.

“I think he’s right,” Thomas said, standing up. “Time for bed.”

Ralt stood up with him. “You know, except for Lorelei, we’ll all like Durin. We don’t have any homes or anywhere to go when this is finished.”

Storm felt Lorelei stir against his shoulder. “I have somewhere to go, but no home,” she said quietly.

He turned his head to look at her. “What do you mean?”

“My father was betrayed and murdered; my tribe banished me, made me an outcast. He thought something might happen to him and if it did he wanted me to find you and bring you to his grave. He said you were the only one who could properly avenge his death,” she replied bitterly. The three men exchanged a surprised look. “So you’re wrong,” she told Ralt. “All of us are like Durin.”

He gave her a little formal bow. “I stand corrected,” he said with a sad look. “Good night, Lorelei. Good night, Storm.” He turned away, taking Thomas with him.

There seemed to be an unspoken rule, Storm mused, not to comment on Lorelei’s insistence on staying close to him. Although she had only joined them three days ago she had virtually laid claim to him already. Without any discussion, a partial tent had been set up for the two of them, away from the lean-to where the three men slept. When he crawled in to go to sleep, she came with him. Although he would like to think it was because she wanted him for himself alone, her loyalty to her father’s memory cast doubt on her motives.

Laying there in the dark, listening to the soft crackle of the fire with her head on his shoulder, he found his thoughts drifting away from Lorelei’s possible intentions to wondering about his own future. If he was truly a Ghibbore, which seemed to be the case, what did it mean for him? It certainly meant he could attack enchanted creatures without need of a mystical weapon like Durin’s axe. During the fight with the demon, he’d attacked and wounded it with ordinary steel while Thomas’ sword had bounced off the monster like it was no more than a stick.

Fine then, he could fight enchanted monsters. Good for him. But did he want to learn magic like Ralt? The wizard seemed to think he could pick it up quicker and easier than most people but did he really want to?

He frowned at the shadows dancing on the inner sides of the tent. That was the real problem; what did he want? He’d never thought about the future before. His whole life on Earth he’d been a drifter, never really planned on anything. His career in the Marines had been more happenstance than desire. The furniture business when he retired had been Lydia’s idea and after her death, he’d dropped it like a hot potato to run around the world like an old hippie. Since coming to Gaia he’d been doing more or less the same thing; content to live a life of glorious combat, accepting his swift promotion through the ranks of the caravans as his due. He would have expected such a rise from anyone who had his natural abilities. It was the way of things. His short stay in Vaneer, fighting beside the T’thalian military had only reinforced his view of himself; they’d offered to make him an officer, a Captain, with four hundred men under his command. He knew he would have been good at it, but every fiber of his being rebelled at getting sucked into a second career in the military. Once was enough. Besides, T’thalia and Carrzulm re-fought their endless war every few years anyway. It was a never-ending struggle that went on and on and on. He shook his head. It was no life for him.

It was only after he’d left T’thalia he’d begun to wonder about the course his life was taking. The offer from Sodan had come so quickly he’d been able to ignore the doubts surfacing in his mind. Now, facing the prospect of being a Ghibbore, a natural-born wizard, opened up possibilities he’d never considered.

Once he’d rescued Krista’s soul and avenged Crowsotarri, then what? Where did he want to go from there? What did he want to do with his life, this new life, this second chance he’d been given? He looked askance at Lorelei lying against him. He’d loved Lydia but it had been, what?, over forty, forty-five years since she’d died. He didn’t think she’d mind if he remarried, and Lorelei was the kind of woman he could very easily fall in love with. He didn’t know if she’d wait around while he learned magic but she’d definitely go on the road seeking fame and fortune with him if he asked; sell-swords and adventurers, such people were called.

Hmm, now there was an idea, he mused. In this world, sell-swords were, well, not common, but certainly well known. With Ralt and Durin along, maybe Thomas too, they could become a force for good in the world, choose their battles, right some wrongs. It reminded him of an old TV show called Paladin, about a gunslinger who roamed the Old West from town to town, shooting up the bad guys. Why not do something like that?

As he drifted off to sleep with that question bouncing around in his mind, he found himself wishing, for the first time in years, he could talk to his father.

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