A Dwarf Came Calling
Today, I met a dwarf for the first time. How queer it seems to see those words in my own handwriting! Yet there he was, a visitor to our little troop. The first sentient creature other than the gnomes that I have encountered thus far, excluding the single orc and the goblins, and I hardly had time to converse with those foul creatures, nor should I have wished to.
The gnomish savannah is not extensive, perhaps 80 miles to a side, yet it is sparsely populated, and our slow movement around it had not so far yielded any meetings with other denizens of Atarashia. So, it was something of a surprise when we heard a whistle from the sentry that indicated a guest approaching from the east.
When I pictured a dwarf, I imagined someone half my size, and yet he was barely a foot shorter than me. At five foot seven inches, I am taller than average for a lady. I was to learn later that our guest, Kegnar, was tall for a dwarf. Even so, the dwarven folk are not so short as one might think; although they are wider of the shoulder and chest than most humans, and heavily built with it. This venerable fellow wore a miner’s helmet and had a pickaxe on his back and a smaller hammer at his side. He had a long white beard and was dressed in sturdy leather garments. There was a jolly look to his face, and a twinkle in his eye. Another thing I learnt later was that most dwarves are less friendly and more taciturn than Kegnar, yet for all that, they are a good-hearted people.
Keshjit rose to greet the dwarf with a happy smile upon her face. “Well met, master Kegnar! How fares the Felekhuzd?” Felekhuzd, she explained later, is both the family name of this dwarf, and also the name of the mountains where his folk live. “Not as well as we should like, yet not as badly as we might!” was his reply. “What brings you to our lands?” “Other than your pleasant company?” I thought I saw Keshjit blush a little, but I may have been mistaken. “Just my usual wanderlust, much though it distresses my kinfolk.”
He turned to face me. “And who is your guest, who wears such strange garments?” “This is Victoria Johnson, a human from a far-off land.” “From the Jing Empire, in the east?” “Further still, I think…” I rose to offer him my hand, and he took it and kissed it in a most old-fashioned yet gentlemanly manner. “Then welcome, dear lady, to Atarashia. I hope you find us a friendly bunch?” “If you are an example of your kind, then I should say I am lucky to earn the acquaintance of the dwarven people. Yet I fear not all the men of Atarashia are as chivalrous as you.” Keshjit invited Kegnar to sit and eat with his, whilst we elaborated on the manner of my arrival, and the subsequent encounter with the orc, and the goblin attack. Kegnar scowled a deep, angry frown at the mention of goblins. “Perhaps it is time my people ventured north again, to keep the goblins in their place.” He said no more on that subject, yet I could tell he was concerned.
Kegnar stayed just one night with us, sharing tales of his travels with the gnomes, and they with him. Keshjit produced a barrel of ale, which pleased Kegnar no end, and I must confess that I felt somewhat light-headed as the evening wore on. Wondering how late it was, I pulled out my pocket watch to check the time. The gnomes had been fascinated by it, when I first produced it in their presence, having never seen such a small clock before. However, Kegnar seemed even more taken with the watch, and observed with great interest as I consulted it.
“Madam, that is a most unusual timepiece,” he said, smiling warmly at me. “Might I take a look at it and see its workings? Clockwork is something of a speciality amongst my people.”
I was a little reluctant to part with my watch, it being a gift from my father, and most precious to me, but I could hardly refuse such a polite request, so I unhooked the watch from its chain and passed it to Kegnar. He turned it over almost reverently in his hands, eventually opening the back to reveal the movement within. He returned it to me, seemingly very impressed.
“There are clock-makers amongst my clan who would pay you most handsomely for such a piece. Our clocks are the finest and most accurate in Atarashia, but all are much larger than this.”
“I could not part with this watch, it is very dear to me.” He seemed a little crestfallen, so I added, “But perhaps we might arrange a loan, for the furtherment of horology?” He stood up and took off his miner’s helmet and bowed to me, in a most courteous way.
“You are as wise as you are fair, madam. It would benefit all my people to meet a human such as you, I think!”
It was my turn to blush a little, at such extravagant praise.
In the morning Kegnar took his leave and continued west to his mountain home. I was sad to see him go but was glad to have made the acquaintance of such a fine fellow. I watched him until he disappeared over the horizon, then took out my watch again. As I noted the time, I also read the inscription on the inside of the watch’s cover: “To my dearest Victoria. Time is a gift, use it wisely. From your loving father, Arthur.”