13 June 2010

Gram, part 6

Seasons and weather are certainly unfamiliar things to most dwarves. The cold, dark familiarity of subterranean life was something they cherished but none moreso than those who had been abroad and seen the world outside. Rain and snow, wind and shine were uncomfortable nuisances unfit for any reasonable folk. Having to cope with a regular shifting of circumstance was not pleasant nor conducive to an honest day's work, nor the mastery of a craft.

Gram wanted to understand why men would want to live in such surroundings. He wanted to appreciate whatever beauty might be there to enjoy, but he could not. The few men he had met in his life made such a question sound dubious; it would be like asking a dwarf why he made something out of stone. Cross cultural understanding did not come with any ease. The notion was far from Gram's mind at the moment, however, because he was faced with precipitation and did not like it.

He was scarcely a week into his trip and had seemingly experienced all that the outside world could offer: rain, sleet, the brightness of the sun, the glibness of night, wild animals, unfriendly plants with great thorny bushes, and drastically cold water. He had taken some time to look at the few maps he could obtain (the Keepers were closed at best with that kind of information) but they were of little aid. No settlements were placed on those maps, which only confounded his plan all the more, for Gram knew that he must have something to occupy his mind and his arm. He meant to locate some kind of city or town, be it of men or dragons, he really did not care, and take up residence as a smith. Even if the work was by crude means and wholly temporary, it was far better than wandering the wilderness as a displaced foreigner for a full year.

The only beneficial information he gained, and it was mildly beneficial, was that apparently Fogeye was far to the north. The rest of the world was of little import to most dwarves and so it may as well have been some kind of dreamscape or imaginary place; it was to Gram and he knew or cared for little of it. But he did have a direction, and that was south. Hopefully that way would at least get him out of this wretched weather. In the meanwhile, he was footsore and irritated and looking for a place to rest.

What he found was pleasant and peaceful vale on the southernmost slopes of a hill as he finally came out of the foothills of Fogeye. His way would take him alongside the small range of which his home was part and then, if the maps could be trusted, into smoother land of sparse woods and streams. At the ridge of that hill was when the sleet stopped. As the clouds slowly made their way southwards the valley appeared before him as paradisical vision and, for a moment, he glimpsed into what Man saw in the world outside. Green had never before been so appealing, save in the luster of jade or emerald.

Finally reaching the bottom of the slope brought him to a grove of trees enclosing a small tuft of grass drying in the sunlight. This, he thought, was a worthy place to lay one's head. And so he did. Time away from nagging coworkers and ignorant neighbors, time away from the drudgery of daily life, had been liberating for his thoughts. He found that there was much more on his mind than the little annoyances of his relations, but the nagging worry of the dark dwarves that had interfered at the Clapping Hand still resonated there in his brain.

Unproductive, he thought. I must put them out of my mind and take things as they come if I am to survive this year away.

He set his things down, unrolled his sleeping mat, and lazed in the sunlight of the grove. It was not a fair bed of dwarf-make, but it would do, he thought, for the day.

Gram furthered his thoughts on life at home. Had he ever been truly happy there? Had he ever truly allowed himself to be happy? His suspicion was that he had only allowed himself to be a dwarf: that was his duty and, as such, it must be done. Moreover, he was crafting dwarf, a Forger, and that duty was not to be taken lightly. Or was it? For all the joy and pleasure he found in finely crafted things he never let the enjoyment linger. No, he thought, one must not be too caught up in one's own work. That way lay a dangerous, rocky ground of pride and arrogance. But had he been right in his thinking?

He let his gaze drift upwards into that great blue beyond the trees and watched some strange clouds roll by.

The Homes would be as they always had been, but would Gram?

He shook it off. Naught but a week out from under the mountain and he was thinking risky thoughts. Open air may have opened his mind, but he did not care for it. Not yet, at least.

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