A Dwarf Reborn
Taryn Shaleskin seemed a typical dwarf, despite his dusky skin he diligently studied about masonry and how to combine natural rock formations with solid dwarven craftsmanship. He had already been caught picking the lock to the pantry several times, but when his teachers discovered him attempting to disable the traps in the catacombs beneath the school, that was the last straw. Taryn’s parents were called, and when they arrived to pick up the young dwarf, scolded him profusely.
“What kinda life were ye lookin fer? Ye better get started straight away on clanhold repair, bes’ be staying outta the kitchen, too” his mother growled, the promise of endless chores could be read in her stern gaze. Taryn despaired, a life of nothing but simple work around his families here and there was not something he was looking forward to. On his second evening home, he managed to slip out, opening the locks and using his knowledge of crystallography to disable the guardstones. Free at last, he wandered not caring where his booted feet took him. He paid his way making some simple house repairs in the nearby Olaran village, the humans were amazed to see a young dwarf away from the clanhold.
Somehow, his wandering took him past the border and into blasphemous land of Kal A Nor. Sleeping under the stars was new to Taryn so he had covered himself completely with his blanket. Shortly before dawn, a border patrol was moving through the area and stumbled over Taryn, embarrassing a guard who actually fell over the prostrate dwarf.
“Damned heathen scum!” shouted the captain of the guard, starting to draw his sword. The disheveled guard who had tripped over Taryn turned and kicked him in the head with his steel shod boot. Thinking him a spy as well as an affront to Ceynara, their twisted goddess, they bound him roughly and brought him to a nearby guardhouse for interrogation.
Taryn awoke on the floor of a cold, stone cell. One leg shackled to the wall, he brushed bits of dirt and dried blood from his face. Suddenly the stout wooden door opened and a guard pulled him from the floor while another removed his shackle. Soon he was strapped to a table, being screamed at and spit upon. They felt he was a spy, but it did not help that they hated anything “less than human.” Across the room lay another dwarf, this one had been beaten and seemed like he was not long for this world.
“We captured your friend a few days ago,” one of his interrogators croaked “trying to spy upon us! He was found stalking one of our patrols!”
“Perhaps we should show you what’s in store, maybe you will be more cooperative than him.” The man moved to the other dwarf and grinned, the poor dwarf groaned and then spit into the interrogator’s face. The man’s face twisted in rage, as he backhanded the prone dwarf.
At that moment Taryn heard shouting from outside the room. The clamor of metal striking metal caused Taryn’s torturer to turn as the door burst open, revealing a brutish ogre. Before the brute cross the distance, the interrogator drew a dagger and plunged it into the beaten dwarf’s breast. A cry of rage broke the ogre’s lips as he broke the man’s neck. From behind the ogre came a tall graying man, wearing a long gray cloak, ragged leather armor, and a grim expression.
He cradled the dead dwarf’s head, then turned to the ogre “Shakalla. Bring a stretcher, we must get our fallen brother away from this wretched pit. Give him a proper burial.”
Shakalla stalked out of the room mumbling about having something in her eye. Taryn lay there in shock, wondering what would happen next. The man in the gray cloak turned to Taryn “Did you know our brother here? “ Taryn could only shake his head. “Grog had a huge heart, which is how he came to my attention.”
The man came over and removed the straps that had restrained Taryn. “Grog was a great dwarf, no one can replace him. Get out of here, go back to wherever you’ve come from.” He then turned and left the room, brushing past Shakalla and another man.
As the ogre and human carefully Grog on the stretcher, Taryn felt a fraction of their loss. Here was this dwarf, defiant to the end. If he could somehow prove his worth, to be at least half as great as Grog had been, then he could someday go home with his head held high. As they quickly marched off, he decided to follow them. These, oh what did he hear one of them say, these gray rangers!