Durin grabbed a basket and began wandering up and down the aisles of the store, grabbing what he needed but keeping one ear cocked to hear what his fellow dwarves were talking about.
“We bring all our best ore to ya fer selling,” one of them, with a light brown, almost blond beard, was protesting. “Ye could at least give us a break on da price of da tools.”
The owner, heavy set and unshaven, shook his head fiercely. “I’ve got expenses,” he argued in a whiny high-pitched voice better suited to a prepubescent boy than a man of his years. “A sovereign and a half is the lowest I can go, Munur.” He pronounced it moon-er.
“Ye think we do this fer fun, Burl?” Munur argued back, his deeper voice a counter-point to the man’s. “We have expenses too. A sovereign and 2 coppers. That’s the best we kin do.”
“A sovereign and 3,” Burl promptly shot back.
Munur scowled at him but the owner met his brown eyes stare for stare, until the dwarf finally sagged with a sigh. “Thief,” he muttered. “Alright, Harunn, pay ‘em.”
A dwarf with snapping black eyes and reddish beard and hair, pulled out a leather pouch and begin counting out coins on the counter.
“Welcome to the Bulging Barrel,” a younger man, obviously related to the man behind the counter said to Durin. “What can we help you with today, master dwarf?”
“Me friends and me need supplies fer our saddlebags on da road,” Durin responded absently, watching his fellow dwarves. He hefted his basket. “Food mainly.”
“Ah!” the young man exclaimed knowingly. “Right this way, sir,” he said quickly. His muddy eyes swept over Durin’s weapons and armor, used but clean and bright. He led him to a shelf stacked with cured hams, sausages, sacks of flour, beans, bags of sugar, and other sundries. “Will there be anything else, sir?”
Durin nodded. He inclined his head at the other dwarves. “I dinna know any of me people lived around here.”
The man smiled briefly. “They moved here about thirty years ago. There’s plenty of good ore in the mountains but the giants make it too dangerous for anyone but dwarves to work up there. They’re the only ones who’re any good at fighting ’em, see.” He hitched his thumbs in the straps of his work apron, obviously prepared to stand and chat for as long as Durin wanted.
Durin began filling his basket. “I’ve fought a giant or two in me time,” he added conversationally. “What kind have ye got around here?” He already knew what kind were here from the men Sodan had sent out, but he wanted to hear it first hand.
“Frost giants, but some say their leader is a Titan, a storm giant,” the young man returned conspiratorially.
“Ain’t no one seen a storm giant in t’ousands of years,” Durin snorted. His basket was almost full to overflowing as he moved down the isle picking and choosing.
“They live in the Unknown Land,” the youth answered indignantly.
“Seen ‘em wit yer own eyes have ye?” Durin challenged him.
“No, but I’ve heard . . .” he started to answer but Durin didn’t let him finish.
“Heard, have ye? And I’ve heard buffalo ‘ave three heads,” he interjected sarcastically.
The youngster flushed hotly.
Raucous laughter sounded behind them. Durin turned and saw the three dwarves, now laden with shovels, picks, sledgehammers, and crowbars chuckling at the young man’s expense. “Is he turning yer head too much, Trevor?” the third one asked, his normally hard grey eyes dancing with mischief.
Trevor flushed even more at their laughter, prompting yet more laughter. Durin joined in, then slapped the boy heartily on the back. “Buck up lad, ye’ll git used ta dwarven humor or die tryin’.”
The other dwarves roared with more laughter at what was obviously an old joke among their kind.
Trevor bobbed his head nervously and beat a hasty retreat.
The grey-eyed dwarf gradually wound down his chuckles. “I’m Grior,” he introduced himself. “These are me sons, Munur the eldest and me younger one, Harunn.” They nodded in turn.
Durin inclined his head. “I’m Durin,” he answered. “Please ta meet ya. Tis a long time since I seen any of me people.”
Dead silence fell across the three as startled looks crossed their faces. Grior’s face clouded over. “And I’m Tartak. We was polite enough ta introduce ourselves properly, can’t ye do the same?” he snapped irritably.
Durin stared at them. “Are ye daft?” he rumbled. “Durin, me father named me and Durin I’ve always been. Wot’s so bad about that?”
Munur shook his head. “The only one of our people ever named Durin died in da Chaos Wars. Ye know that as well as we! Ye know the legend; Durin the Stone Skinned, keeper of the Wolf Axe.”
Staring at the three, now angry dwarves, Durin realized someone must have seen him freeze into stony darkness when magic turned him into a statue during the Chaos Wars. They’d told someone else and the years turned the story into a legend. He set his basket down.
“I kin see we’ll have ta do this da hard way,” he grumbled. He pulled out his axe. The three of them reared back, reaching for their own weapons. “Nay!” he roared at them. “Look at it ye halfwits!” In the background Burl and Trevor were protesting feebly at the prospect of a brawl breaking out in their store.
Grior and Munur didn’t take their eyes off him, but Harunn followed his orders and shifted his gaze to it. After a moment his eyes widened. “Look at the power of it,” he half whispered in surprise. His father and brother didn’t move. “Look at it!” he insisted. “Look!”
First Munur, then Grior, cautiously took their eyes off him long enough to inspect the mighty axe. Like Harunn, their eyes widened as they detected the aura of dwarven power surrounding it.
Satisfied he had their attention, Durin ordered, “Whelp of Fenris, arise!” Smoke shot out of the axe. In the space of a heartbeat the giant black wolf was standing in the too-small isle of the store. They stumbled back in shock and fear.
“I’m Durin,” he repeated loudly, “son of Drangor the Mighty, third king of the Shokirin at Thangadrim!”