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A Journey for the Homebound; Flawed Short Story [DNR]
Topic Started: Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:40 pm (245 Views)
Ruth Stonebeard
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The forge was much cooler than it usually was. The work-day was ending, and the last of the heat was being used to warm the place after having cooked its mistress’ supper. Ruth Stonebeard was just scraping out the last vestiges of her stew, a hearty dish of meat and potatoes and carrots and plenty of spices in a thick white chowder, when Rorik came in. He was the first of her brothers to be born and the second-born child of her parents, Ranx and Darfia Stonebeard.

”How much do ye love me?” Rorik asked without preamble.

Ruth’s eyes, as brown as the chocolate handed out to children during the Harvest Festival, rose to Rorik’s own sienna-coloured ones with immediate suspicion. Rorik usually only asked how much Ruth loved him when he had a new scheme in mind that somehow involved her, usually without her knowing about it until it was too late. This time, he was holding up his hands as though to ward off her infamous temper.

”Not enough,” she grumbled loud enough for him to hear before going back to what was left of her supper.

“Rilban’s ill,” he said.

She said nothing, but she could already feel her brother’s metaphorical noose being slipped around her neck. If Rilban was ill, that meant that he couldn’t make his annual trade run to Kellen - a journey that usually took three months, give or take, as he stopped at every town and village along the way. The path was anything but straight, which meant that he could pick up as much as he needed or wanted in the time it took him to travel to the so-called “Crossroads of the Clans”. That included news, stories, and songs, not just goods.

“Need someone ta take the cart down,” he continued.

“Forget it,” Ruth replied, standing.

”Look, someone’s gotta do it.”

“I’m not a merchant.”

“No, but ye’re good with people.”

“Hog warts!” she snapped at him, calling out his sweet-talking lie for what it was. “Only reason I get people in my forge is ‘cause ye put ‘em there!”

Her brother, unfortunately, had her right where he wanted her. He beamed.

”Well, see? Ye owe me!”

She immediately plopped the bowl onto his head like a helm and stalked off toward the stone cabinets. Rorik, of course, pursued her and dropped the bowl into the basin.

”Oh, come on,” he said, trying to convince her. ”Ye’ve never left these caves! Ye need to experience the world at least once in yer life! This is a perfect opportunity!”

She rounded on him in response to his “opportunity” for her, brandishing the spoon that was still in her hand like a sword.

“I ain’t good with people, an’ I ain’t even a fighter, so what makes ye think I’d be good on a three-month journey outta this place?!” she demanded to know.

“Yer diary said ye’d always wanted ta---“

He never got the last few words of his sentence out. With a cry of rage, Ruth launched herself at him and began hitting every place that she could with the spoon. He covered his head, backpedaling and realizing he’d made a terrible mistake mentioning that he’d read her diary, and finally knocked the spoon out of her hand after he’d been backed up against a wall. She then proceeded to drag him to the floor and pummel him everywhere that she could.

“NEVER - GO - INTA - MY - ROOM - AN’ - TOUCH MY - STUFF - YOU - " she shouted at him between breaths.

Her string of insults was unintelligible at best after that, and it was loud enough that Daka and Dorka popped their heads in to see what was going on. The twins were Rilban Broadken’s daughters and loved watching when Ruth flew into a rage. It didn’t happen all the time, but when it did, people took note. They were both grinning like idiots by the time Ruth backed off, breathing heavily. She was still sitting on her brother, though, straddling him; he knew it wouldn’t be long before she caught her breath, and then he’d be in trouble again, so he rolled her off of him quickly. She wasn’t going to take that lying down, however. Instead, she grabbed him and started wrestling. The pair rolled about the room, knocking into walls and the side of the forge until Rorik finally managed to get free. Ruth jumped up, threw him out into her living quarters, and then pursued him. The two wrestled their way around the room, knocking into her dining table and upending her chair; they even toppled her couch before the hearth, which merrily blazed as though to express its excitement at the show. The twins didn’t dare make their way into the forge to go watch the fight in the living quarters, so they instead went back to their own domicile to gossip while the sibling brawl continued.

The pair ended up in front of the hearth again before Ruth was finally shoved off, exhausted. The pair lay there, Ruth too tired to continue her tirade but wanting wholeheartedly to do so and Rorik wanting to be anywhere but in his sister’s domicile at the moment. When he could finally speak again, he did so carefully and quietly, not wanting to incite another outburst from his sister.

“Wasn’t actually me who read it,” he told her with a sidelong glance.

Ruth sat up and glared at him something awful, silently demanding an explanation. He hastily stuttered out a response that had something to do with Aja Vinetooth and gossip. He finished with the fact that he’d gotten it back for her, and he told her that it was safely under her pillow. She immediately went into the curtained alcove where she slept and fetched it. Then she turned around after flipping through it to make sure all the pages were there with everything that was in them where it should be and waved the book threateningly at him.

“The fact that ye heard any o’ this means yer lucky ta be alive, ya sap-suckin’ cretin!” she shouted at him.

”B-b-but I brought it back for you!” he stammered, getting up again. ”W-while she was gone…I went and fetched it for you!”

To that, she simply grumbled unhappily as she slowly thumbed through her diary once more. Rorik uprighted the couch silently and set it back into position before going over to the chair. He cleared his throat as he righted it as well, and then he cleared his throat again.

”Er…Ruth…?” he hesitantly began again.

“What?” she asked without looking up.

“So…nobody but Rilban can make the journey…and I know you’re not a fighter, but you do have that cuirass…”

She looked up at last, glaring now but not fuming the way she had been.

“An’ a pocket club, aye, but I’m no fighter!”

”N-no, but you’ve had training…”

“Basic training, an’ ‘at’s all!”

“But training nonetheless,” Rorik hurried on. ”You know how to swing it and how to thrust it. You also know the difference between a phalanx and a maniple, and you know as much about making arms and armour as any dwarf man I know! More, with regard to some, considering you’re actually a smith!”

She grumbled again, snapping book bound in soft purple suede shut. The dye to get the book’s cover to its current dark-violet hue had been expensive, she knew, and had been a gift from her brother on her birthday last year; but she’d had the diary for more than a decade now. It was a rather large, thick, and heavy book but not nearly as large, thick, or heavy as some of those that she’d made. She’d grown up making books to earn some coin, learning the forge as a trade only because she was first-born; had she been second-born or later, she would have been relegated to cook. As it was, she was a better cook than any of the men in her family and just as good a smith - like her brother had just told her - as the average dwarf man. The compliment was a peace offering meant to stroke what little ego she actually had, she knew, but she took it regardless.

”AND you speak Common fluently,” he continued. ”I can’t even READ it, let alone speak it! Otherwise, I might just go myself.”

That was a lie as well. He’d only have gone if he was pushed into it, which he would have been had he not come to her instead. It was true that she had always wanted to see Striberg, but she’d never had much of a reason - or the necessary preparations - to do so. She was also curious about Taras, but that was SO much further away. If nothing else, this was the perfect opportunity to go see them both. She could certainly come back by a roundabout way, assuming she could find some good maps and maybe a guide, in order to do so.

And it was true that she was the only one in her family who could both read and speak Common fluently. Rilban could, but he knew several languages by heart because a merchant needed to be able to communicate with a great many people. She even recognized Elvish script, although she had no idea what any of it meant.

”Look, I’ll even help you stuff his things into a pack I got just for you…”

Ruth glared at Rorik again. A merchant’s wares couldn’t all fit in a bag. But Rorik left for a moment and then came back with something that made her eyes widen a little. It was a Bag of Never-Ending Space…perfect for any traveler on the road. Oh, he was really going all-out on this, wasn’t he? She scowled deeply, but she was starting to want to go - and to want that pack.

”Ruddy…stinking…dirty…” was all that could be made out as she swore under her breath while pondering the journey.

Her brother, of course, beamed again.

”So you’ll do it, then?” he asked.

Well, if nothing else, she’d get to see the world.

”When do I have ta leave?”
Edited by Ruth Stonebeard, Sat Mar 24, 2018 1:22 am.
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