The sturdy oak door swung open and Star entered the dim, well-known room
beyond, some of the furniture had changed places but the smells, and the
sense of the place remained indelibly familiar. Tiera, Star's foster mother,
halfway through a small load of dishes stopped stunned with the arrival of
her adoptive daughter.
Star had been worried about how her arrival would be received, being that
she'd left a year and a half ago without saying goodbye. She hoped she
hadn't burned her bridges too badly. "Hi," she finally said with a shy
Tiera, placing the bowl absently on the counter rushed toward Star and gave
her an enveloping embrace before speaking a single word. A protracted moment
later she released her and, teary eyed gasped, "You're back, thanks be to
Grinning and fighting back tears herself, Star placed her hands on Tiera's
cheeks. "Aye, s'good to see your face again. I'm sorry for th'way I
left… I just needed to do my thing, and it woulda been dreadful to say
g'bye. I'm sorry, too, that I'm not 'ere to stay… just 'appened to be
nearby, and I 'ad to come see ye."
Tiera took a moment to consider Star's words, she was noticably deflated at
the mention that Star wasn't back to stay. Turning she cleared the rest of
the dishes from the table to make room for them to talk. "I've been praying
for your return for ages." She said at length, "I guess I had always figured
if you were coming back you would be back for good. I know you're not my
daughter by blood, but this family needs you."
Star stepped forward and lowered herself into a chair. "Why do you say
that?" she whispered, wondering what could have happened here in her
"We're barely staying afloat luv'," she lamented, "Food is getting pricier
as the outlying farms near Kamest are taken by the Ludimarites and my hands
I fear are failing me. Please think of the mother you have left, stay here
and take care of us."
Star felt her heart torn powerfully in two directions at once. "These
problems are everywhere," she finally said. "I cannae take down the
Ludimarites from down 'ere. Ever'thing I'm doing up there takes me one step
closer to getting to the root of the problem. Wars are going on all over
the world, people are being slaughtered! If your biggest problem 'ere is a
food shortage, ye should be glad."
Tiera blinked, "So that's what you've been up to then, Fighting in Mazavi
against the Ludimarites!" she exclaimed after jumping to the wrong
conclusion. "Well that's something at least, your parents would be very
Star smiled grimly. "I 'ope so," she murmured. "I keep worryin' they'd
think me foolish for followin' after them. But I'm still alive… I spose
that's sayin' something. I've a fine group of allies, and we're doin' our
best to stop all this destruction. Sometimes it seems like a drop in
th'ocean… but other times, it's as if we could save the world. This is
what I was I was meant for—I know that more than ever."
Tiera nodded, "I do wish you could come home though, we miss you terribly,
and though we're not on the battlements ourselves the war is trouble enough
Star nodded. "I can see that. Believe me, I would be quite 'appy to cozy
up here with ye, but… yunno, I just can't 'ave it on my conscience to sit
on my 'ands while others are fighting. Now where's Usha at?"
"She'll be back from the quartermaster's office in an hour, perhaps more if
they've had more issues securing the things for the ration boxes."
"Rations," Star sighed, lamenting that things had come to this. "I'll try
to bring by some food, if I can. Prices may be bad, but there's always food
to be found out in the forests if y'look 'ard enough." She reached into her
pack to pull out a small pouch heavy with gems, worth about three thousand
gold. "For now, I spose this might 'elp y'out some." She slid it across
Tiera emptied the contents of the pouch on the table and here eyes took on
an age old gleam of a dwarf around precious metals, "These must be worth a
Star grinned crookedly and shrugged. "Fortune enough to feed you and yours,
I 'ope… but really, it's a pittance. The up side to fightin' off dreadful
creatures in the dankest corners of the world is that there's always loot to
Tiera cocked her head to the side, "You're not on the front lines then
you're an adventurer."
"I spose you could say that," Star replied, feeling an unexpected burst of
pride as she sat back in her seat and crossed her arms.
"It's a dangerous life but oh you must have tales to tell!" she replied
anxious and eager at once.
She chuckled. "I'm not much of a tale-teller, but… aye, I guess it's been
Star recounted her life over the past year: The harrowing journey across the
known world to Meridian; The ongoing quest to reforge Aurawing; The Siege of
Cormuk. she was just finishing as the door swung open to admit a care-worn
younger dwarf whom she recognized almost immediately as Usha.
Leaping out of her seat, feeling suddenly like a little girl again, Star
squealed and threw herself into the arms of her dwarven sister.
Usha, quite startled, took a moment to realize her gnomish sister had
returned and very nearly raised fists to defend herself "Eh, there, what's
all this then, you've been gone a while."
"Aye, that I 'ave!" Star laughed, planting a kiss on each of Usha's cheeks.
"Thought I'd come by and make sure you weren't making too much trouble for
your poor mum there."
"Star here has been doing some very important work against the Ludimarites"
"Is that so?" asked Usha, "I've got a job as a forewoman at the
quartermaster's office myself, helps keep food on the table."
Star grinned, her eyes twinkling a little. "What a champ. Good work, love.
I've tried to chip in a little; don't mean to put you out of a job, or
anything, but…" She gestured to the small mountain of gems lying on the
Usha's eye's widened, "Moradin's Beard!" she exclaimed, before making a
sheepish expression at her mother, "Sorry ma, Star where did you get all
Now it was Star's turn to look sheepish. "Oh, a dragon 'ere, a king's
errand there… I've been busy."
"Adventuring then eh?" said Usha, "You had always talked about it, good on
you for actually getting out and doing it!"
Star smiled proudly. "Thanks, sis. I've missed ye every moment, though."
Another long talk ensued, Usha and Star swapping tales of their work both
mundane and glamorous. At length Usha brought up something rather important.
"I'm not certain I should be telling you this, but there have been some
recent orders that have me concerned. We processed requests last week for
four Tunnelbreakers, large scale munitions used to collapse tunnels and
caverns. There are four major tunnels into Mazavi right now, most of the
folks think the Tunnelbreakers are for the very same, which bodes very badly
for the war effort in Kamest. Around the office they think that defeat there
may be inevitable and they want to cut the Deepinghome off from a Ludimarite
counterattack once Kamest falls."
"Once Kamest falls!" Star repeated indignantly, standing right up from her
chair. "What kind o' talk is that?" She plopped back down into her seat
moodily. "I'm sure things seem real gloomy from them cozy offices, but
we're out there taking down wave after wave of attackers, and I dun' think
it's unreasonable to say we're not doin' so bloody bad!"
"Well dear," her mother pointed out, "From the sound of it it has been quite
some time since you were last in Mazavi"
"True enough, but we're here now, and I at least intend to make sure those
blasted Ludimarites know it!"
Usha took on an ashen palor, "I tell you this for safety's sake, please
don't go running into any breaches, you're far too important to us to lose
to some lost cause."
"Lost cause!" Star exploded, gripping the edge of the table and casting a
fierce expression toward Usha. "Lost cause? Is that what you think this
is? Is that what you think I'm fighting for? Ye gods! Someone's got to
change people's attitudes around here—this is NOT a lost cause. Things are
going to change, Usha. I don't know when, but they're going to change."
Usha looked genuinely frightened, Tiera put her hands on Star's shoulders,
"Usha means no disrespect to you or your work, so long as there is breath in
any of us the Ludimarites will have opposition, I think she's just concerned
that Kamest would be a poor place to make a stand."
Star stared down at her lap, a little ashamed. "I'm sorry for shouting,"
she mumbled. "It's just been tough going, is all… and I don't want anyone
losing 'ope. I don't know that I'll 'ave anything to do with Kamest, but
whether or not, it might be a little premature to consider burning those
bridges just yet."
Tiera nodded, "You've got plenty of fight in you girl, I wish some of us
could be so passionate."
"'Passionate' might not be entirely the right word," Star remarked with a
small grin. "But I guess you can only expect so much from a gal who spends
most of 'er time with a badger."
"Where did you acquire this badger of yours," asked Usha, "Greiger
Longwhallop swears you took one of his on the way out of town"
Star blushed and giggled behind her hands. "I'm afraid that's quite true…
although the beast has since retired. I'd be happy to return 'im except
that he's… well… over in Athalin somewhere. I found a fine breeder over
in Dallaros and made a bit of a trade… ol' Longwhallop will flip 'is lid
when 'e sees the beastie I've got now."
"Can we see?" asked Usha excitably.
"Of course, I've left 'im outside—c'mon!" Star jumped up and hurried to
the door. Both followed earnestly. Star whistled for Grim, and he came
scooting eagerly around the house to answer. "This is Grimerald," Star
Both were suitably impressed with the badger, though Star soon realized that
Grimerald's adorably ponderous intellect and witticisms would be lost on
them, as her dwarven family lacked the ability to converse with burrowing
"Well, 'e's very happy to meet you too," Star offered, and then remembered
something important that Grim had been carrying for her these last few
months. "Oh—I can't believe I almost forgot!" She looked up at Tiera with
a grin. "I met a relative of yours, a cousin I believe. He wanted me to
convey 'is greetings, and to pass something along." She dug out the book
containing the Silverglint family tree and handed it over.
Tiera poured over the tome breathlessly, "Aye, this is a treasure beyond
silver and gems, our roots, I had thought this was lost to the ages."
Star beamed at her foster mother's awe over the book. "Indeed, there are
some very ancient treasures 'ere… but some new ones as well." She pointed
out her own name, the most recent addition to the Silverglint tree.
Tiera beamed as Usha elbowed in for a look, "Aye it's very fitting, even if
you're not around much you'll always be my daughter."
With deep satisfaction, Star smiled and rested her head on her dwarven
mother's strong shoulder.
Star by Mandy, Tiera & Usha by Tim