Authors: Thomas Rath
The king’s head popped around from the other chair
a half scowl half grin playing on his face. “That be right, lad. The only head that need be fearin’ is that of me son fer not tellin’ me the whole truth at the start.”
“Yes, well,” Helgar quickly chimed in, “let’s not be borin’ our guest with that now, Da. I’m sure young Teek here would like to be on his way home, now wouldn’t ye lad?”
“Yes, I sure would mister Helgar, sir, but I still need to finish my appeasing journey.”
Helgar’s face clouded and his voice softened. “Might I be askin’ who ye
He was a little surprised by the question but felt no harm in revealing the answer. “Why, it’s for Twee, my oldest and dearest friend. He was the oldest and greatest Waseeni to ever live. He was like a father to me.”
Helgar let out a heavy sigh of relief and smiled. “I don’t be meanin’ no disrespect to yer friend their, Teek. It was jist that I was worryin’ that it might be fer yer mother.” Helgar’s face reddened a bit taking on an almost whimsical look as he looked off at nothing. “She be a magnificent lady, she. You be seein’ that ye take good care o’ her.”
Teek was a little confused but nodded his agreement quickly. “Yes, sir, I sure will.”
The king cleared his throat loudly without the slightest attempt at subtlety. “Now, if ye be finished with yer moonin’ eyes over this boy’s mother, I suggest ye be givin’ him the gifts and let him get some more rest.”
Teek looked at the king in shock.
Helgar flashed his father a look that seemed caught in between surprise and annoyance before nodding his head and rising from his chair. He quickly maneuvered his stocky frame between the two thrones and stopped in front of Teek. Reaching back behind him, Helgar pulled
a dagger from his belt and presented it to him. “This, I believe, belongs to you.” It was the dagger his mother had given him.
Teek was awestruck. His hand moved forward to take the blade but then suddenly jerked back. He looked past Helgar to the king and then swallowed hard and returned his gaze to Helgar. “Maybe it would be better if I just left the dagger with you. It seems to have gotten me nothing but trouble lately.”
The king roared from his chair. “Nonsense, boy. Me son gave it to yer mother and she gave it to you. There be nothin’ to be fearin’ no more from the dwarfs over it. Not now,” he added with poorly concealed ire, “that we be knowin’ from where it came.”
“Right,” Helgar agreed, smiling weakly.
Startled, Teek reached over quickly and snatched the dagger from Helgar’s hand. It seemed like such a plain thing now to have caused him so much difficulty and grief. He slid it easily back through the tie around his loincloth where it had always been since the first time his mother had given it to him. It felt right there at his hip—like it belonged there.
“And,” Helgar continued, “
as a token of friendship and no ill will, we also present ye with this to put an end to yer journey and get ye back home to yer mum.”
Teek’s mouth gaped in disbelief at the size of the diamond Helgar was now holding out in front of him. “I couldn’t,” he breathed. “It’s too much. I really couldn’t accept such a gift.”
Helgar chuckled. “That be about the same thing yer mother told me when I gave her the dagger and stones to go with it. But it really be nothin’ more than a trinket. We be findin’ them all the time in our mines.”
Teek found his hand moving forward and taking the large gem. “It would indeed make a suitable gift for Twee’s appeasing journey.”
Helgar chuckled. “Yep, ye be much like yer mother.”
The king suddenly appeared next to Helgar. With his eyes entranced by the diamond, Teek had not seen him get up. He quickly bowed.
The king laughed. Not a bubbling laugh, more like stone crashing into stone, but a laugh still the same. “That
be enough o’ yer grovelin’ boy. We did ye a misdeed that I hope be mended over now?” he asked with one eyebrow raised.
Teek just nodded.
“Great!” the king bellowed. “Then ye be off now to yer bed and get some rest. Helgar will escort ye out of the city in the mornin’ and put ye back on yer way home. Now, we have important things to discuss, lad. So let yerself out the door and Mudrin will be seein’ ye back to yer room.”
It was all Teek could do not to fall all over himself with bows and thank yous as he backed up toward the door and hurried out. As promised, Mudrin was there waiting for him, a deep scowl creasing her face.
Teek removed the blindfold and blinked at the rich green grass. It was wonderful to be outside again. He wasn’t sure how long he had been a prisoner to the dwarfs, he felt uneasy about asking, but whether it had been only days or long months he felt a surge of relief to be outside once again. As promised, they had roused him from bed early that morning and ushered him down to the banquet hall for a large breakfast of bacon, eggs, cheese and bread that filled in every empty corner of his belly. There was very little ceremony to their leaving. The king appeared briefly to wish him well and spoke quick words to his son before sending them and twenty of the house guard on their way. Also along with the group was Helgar’s friend, Bardolf. Teek remembered him from his mother’s stories but was not prepared for the bone crushing bear hug Bardolf gave him. “I never met yer mother,” he’d said, “so ye get me thanks fer her savin’ me life.”
They left the city without any fanfare; in fact, the streets were all but empty. It was still too early for most of the city’s occupants to be about their day’s work. Teek only wished there was more light than the occasional street lamp and more time to explore this magnificent underground dwelling and the secrets that hid around every corner. Instead, he was rushed through the streets and turned one way or another until the last building was passed and left behind. It was there, at the very farthest edge of the town, just at the entrance to a large tunnel, that the blindfold was tied securely over his eyes. He didn’t resist. He understood their desire to keep their city’s location a secret although with the innumerable twists and turns they made to finally reach the outside, he new very well that even had he not been blindfolded, he never would have been able to retrace his steps back to Thornen Dar.
They were on the rolling foothills now at the base of the Dorian Mountains. The terrain was like a rippling wave of grass stretching out all around and dotted with groves of aspen trees that rustled peacefully in the gentle spring breeze. In the distance Teek could just make out the dark line on the horizon that he figured must be The Underwoods Forest. He turned and looked south towards his home. He had been too long away from his family and their hut in the great Teague tree. He wondered how much had changed since his absence. It would be a long road back, he would have to carve out another canoe before journey’s end, but he welcomed it. He was ready to give up a life of adventure. Twee had been right. The best adventures were the ones to be had at home.
“I set about fillin’ a pack fer ye,” Helgar suddenly boomed pushing it into Teek’s hands. “It’s filled with good things to eat and a nice warm blanket to sleep under.”
Teek smiled warmly at this new friend he had gained, albeit under less than favorable circumstances. “Thank you, Helgar.”
“And I,” Bardolf sounded, quickly approaching the two, “have somethin’ fer ye as well.” Reaching back into his pack, Bardolf pulled out an axe. It was beautiful to look at but sturdy in its make, obviously not meant to be left hanging on a wall. “I know that ye’ll be needin’ to be makin’ yerself a new canoe to get home by. I thought that this might be a wee bit of help to ye.”
Teek grabbed the axe reverently and stared at it in awe. A real dwarf axe! No one at home would believe it. It was
double bladed, each side curving around in the typical crescent shape. The shaft was made of the same fine steel as the blades and didn’t seem to be connected or welded to the head in any way. It was one piece. The grip was wrapped tightly with a leather thong and should he drop the end of the weapon to the ground it would have reached up to his waist. Its weight strained his arms but he knew that with time and practice he could wield it with some deftness and accuracy. “Thank you, Bardolf. It’s perfect!”
Bardolf laughed. “It not
be much to look at, but it cuts true and that’s what be the most important in these parts of the world.”
“Well boys,” Helgar interjected, “We can’t be sittin’ here all day exchangin’ niceties. We both
be about important business that won’t be taken care of itself.”
Helgar quickly showed Teek where he could easily slide his new axe through a loop on the back of his pack and then helped him put it on. “Where will you be going Master Helgar?” Teek asked while he maneuvered his pack into a comfortable position.
“We be headin’ fer Calandra to meet with King Dagan. We need to be addressin’ some matters that need addressin’. And, since I be me father the king’s only son, I be the one that must be doin’ the addressin’. But don’t ye be concernin’ yerself with none of what we be about. Ye jist git yerself back home to that mother of yers and keep yerself far from trouble.”
“Oh, I will do that Master Helgar. You can be certain of that.”
“Then,” Helgar said puffing his chest out a bit, “ye best
be on yer way while ye still have daylight to be seein’ by.”
“Ye take good care of yerself,” Bardolf scolded in mock seriousness. “Ye get home safe and give this to yer mother from me.”
Teek suddenly found himself in another crushing bear hug accompanied by strong back blows that rattled his head.
“All right now,” Helgar finally said coming to his rescue, “that be plenty of that. Now off with
Bardolf let Teek go to the boy’s utter relief and then turned about and followed after an already retreating Helgar. Teek waved. “Goodbye! I won’t ever forget you or your kindness. Thank you!” Helgar and Bardolf did not turn around but each threw up a hand in acknowledgement as they and the guard marched away eastward.
Teek spent most of the day walking in a south-south-easterly direction not wanting to reach the edge of the Underwoods too quickly, but knowing also that eventually he would have to brave the woods and their evil. He remembered well his mother’s story about the creatures she encountered there. He did not want to run into anything of the like if he could at all help it. He did know that he would eventually have to strike out onto the river that passed through the woods to get home but the river did afford a degree of welcomed safety. This time of year it would be swift and dangerous with the swelling from the spring runoff but even that risk was better than the woods.
He had thought of trying to bypass the woods completely by climbing over the mountains, but realized that that would take longer and he couldn’t count on always finding a lake or stream to supply him with a day or two of rations. What the dwarfs had given him would last him up to a week, if he was careful, but that was not enough to get him home. No, it had to be the river. Anyway, he needed a canoe to make the final leg of his journey home and the Underwoods
was a sure place to find a trunk to hollow out.