Grimnar Stoneward

by Greg

The name my clan gave me is Grimnar Stoneward. As is customary, most have reduced that mouthful to just ‘Grim’. My da and the clan council find it necessary to use my name in its entirety. I am from the Forgefire clan and I loved the clan life though in many ways I did not fit. I have, since I can recall, sought to read. As a very young Dwarf of six, I had learned all my letters and would often prefer to read over hunting, mining or practicing with my weapons. Perhaps, because of this, I called upon myself the disdain my young clan mates felt towards me. As it turns out however, reading tactics of battle and war can be just as powerful as hours of swinging a hammer at boulders that will not budge.
On one unremarkable day in the month of Thanos it was raining hard; it was cold as well and for that reason many of the youth were together in our stone worked training hall. As was my want, I was reading “The Battle of the Blood Clans”, this would be my tenth reading of the book. I was content to read in peace but my fellow clan youth had been without the sport of bashing heads for far too long. That’s when boredom over took two of the Dwarven youth, and they found it to enticing to resist to poke me in ways that perhaps they should not have.

“Well Grim, what might ya be read’n? A diary of some young woman looking for a Dwarf who can no more grow a beard than swing an axe? “, several others around laughed with great gusto. Dwarves learn early on to give and take insults and I was quite skilled at both. That day however I seemed more on edge than normal and just wanted to be left alone.

“Grim! Grim!” Balin, insisted as I did my best to ignore him. “You got nothing to say?” Unable to evoke a response from me, Balin pressed on. “Grim? Has there ever been a name less deserving? The only thing Grim about you is the heartache you cause your dede and da.” No others laughed at that except Balin’s brother Tarin. Bringing ones dede and da into a verbal confrontation was never a good idea. To be fair, I did warn them.

I closed my book and gave Balin my most stern look hoping to show him that I was in no mood for his taunting. “Let me be Balin. I will forgive your words but this once. My da has been your da’s friend since their birthing and my dede helped raise you when yours became ill at your birth. For this, I give you grace, besides I find this book that I have read a dozen times to be of far more interest than anything you have to say.” With that the several other young ones that had gathered jeered, snickering at Balin and Tarin’s looks of sudden anger.

“Bah! I do not need your…your…what did you call it…GRACE! Forgive nothing! I have heard your da’s disappointment spoken in the shadows. His son who will grow to dance with fairies brings disgrace to the Stoneward family name. You are a blight to your mother too who cries when she thinks of the day you were birthed.” Balin was red-faced now; his hand made its way to his side and gripped the axe handle of his trusted blade. Too much boredom in a young Dwarf’s life can be deadly.

Tarin glanced at his brother and grinned, “Let’s teach the fairy a lesson eh Balin? Though you shan’t need your axe for that.”

Balin did not hear or did not want to hear. The axe came up, blood in his eyes. That’s the first time it ever ‘snapped’. I should I say, I ever snapped. I leapt to my feet and somehow a five pound stone had found its way into my hand. In a blink, it smashed into Balin’s face just below the nose. There was a great ‘crunch’ as bones gave way to the force of the blow. Blood showered my face and blanketed my arm.

Tarin was fast and perhaps the most skilled fighter of all the Dwarven youth. His own axe was up and swinging as I pulled my fist and the stone from the cavity that had been Balin’s face. I had learned many beginner lessons of armed combat but what I was experiencing now was new, more primal…deadly. My left arm shot out and caught the axe handle just below the head and the handle cracked loudly. I felt nothing but rage, pure and unstoppable rage. Again the stone shot forth and Tarin gasped as his throat collapsed under the strength behind the blow. What was left of the axe fell from his hands as he hopelessly gripped his throat and fell to the floor writhing back and forth.

The others stepped away. Not running, not even scared, just staring at the lifeless body of Balin and the kicking feet of the mortally wounded Tarin. Suddenly I realized where I was and what I had done. The stone fell from my hand. A throbbing began in my left arm. I did not feel any grief or sorrow for my two clan brothers, after-all they were fools and I had warned them. I was however overcome with a sense of curiosity. How had I done this thing so efficiently, so brutally, without thought armed with a simple stone and great rage. Fascinating I thought, “Is this a hidden power I did not know I had? Could I harness this power in some way? Was this the same power that elders of the clan spoke of about others who had led the clan in many great battles?”……………

It was a few days later when my da approached with the news that I would be going to Arbordan, the City of Spires. Hars Wornforge would escort me there. Hars was the oldest member of our clan and many said the wisest our clan had ever seen. Emotionless my da explained that I would continue to learn and that the city would be full of books, more books than I could ever read. There were humans, gnomes and elves there as well who might teach me far more than I could learn with the clan. He explained that within a few turns of the Tallian calendar it would be time for the Choosing and I should be there.

He never spoke of Balin or Tarin or even the rage that gave me powers beyond my understanding. This is the Dwarven way. The killings were Just in the eyes of the clan but my father’s friend, the brothers father, had certainly demanded I be sent away. My dede never came to see me as I packed my things and began the long journey with Hars. Even Dwarven women find it a sign of weakness to show emotions of sadness, mayhap that was it or perhaps she could not bring herself to look upon me and the shame she felt.

As I looked back my da stood at the elaborate entrance to our halls, arms crossed with a look of pride only partially hidden behind cold eyes and a thick beard. “Pride in what”, I thought as I picked my way through the stones of the ‘path’ that Hars insisted was a short cut to Arbordan. I had a deep sense that my real journey had just begun.

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