The task Glion had set him for their final session was simple, the logic puzzle nothing more than an exercise in focus. Gandogar had grinned slyly when it had been set; after months of being pushed to do better by his great-great-great uncle, the task - which he had initially had to concentrate on entirely to complete - was easy, and a testament to how much the dwarf’s command over earth, fire and stone had expanded.
Rockfist had made him strive to do better, the put downs encouraging him to try harder, but never as much as the small smiles he had occasionally seen pulling at the corners of his mouth, lighting up the stony eyes slightly. Gandogar had thought himself a competent Tashiri after completing his Test, but only after being introduced to his new Hetat after the attack on the Hive had he realised how much he still had to learn, and how little mastery he truly had over the Furies of Earth and Fire. The past five months had helped him to gain new skills, under the tutelage of his uncle; the teaching was more natural than any he had had before - there was a connection between the dwarves, no doubt from their shared Clan history.
What he had preferred, above even the extension of his skills over Flame and Earth, were the times he had spent with Glion outside of the training. The stories he had heard entranced him; the history of Clan Tri-Kazelim and the legends of some of the most important members of his ancestry since it’s founding, including the true history of Duzurak Forge-Hammer, one of Gandogar’s teachers in the forges of Dwarrowhelm before he was taken by the Tashiri. What Glion didn't mention was how he came to be put on such a pedestal by his own clan, how he became the epitome of the dwarven warrior amongst those of Tri-Kazelim, and Gandogar felt it prudent not to ask - he had heard and memorised the stories as a child anyway, and if Glion didn’t want to talk about it, Gandogar decided it was not his place to bring it up. He had spent so little of his life with those of his own bloodline that the time spent with the Hetat was invaluable to him, and he didn't want to risk cutting that short by asking incautious questions.
He thought back to the times he had sat with the others of his Qalm in the evening, eating the fine foods and drinking the quality ales the Tashiri were served, taking in the air of companionship which had developed, especially since the attack and subsequent destruction of the Vicery Hive, and how he had barely managed to snatch five minutes at a time with Nesrin at these meals, and had found much more guidance in the form of Glion and sought to divine purpose from the stories, told with a mug of ale in one hand and a pipe filled with some of the finest Tobac that Gandogar had smoked in the other.
He shook his head - the thoughts of the Hive dredged up memories of Djinn and the sacrifice he had made. A permanent dull ache between two of his ribs started to worsen, and he thought of the wound he had taken, causing him to grind his teeth and imagine the toll he could have taken on the insectoids if he had the control he now did, as he had done so many times in the last five months, directly before he would plough his concentration into focus tasks learnt from Glion. 'The bastards would regret it now,'
he vowed silently.
Gandogar dragged his attention back to the task he had been set; manipulating the pieces of the earth puzzle with ease, but determined to force memories of the Hive away for a time, and it was with slight relief that he allowed Glion to stop him and take up his attention.
"Well lad, our time has come to an end. I have enjoyed working with you and it is a relief that the blood of our Clan has remained strong.”
When he then pressed a ring into Gandogar’s calloused hand, he could do nothing but nod slightly. “Remember where you come from lad. Go now, your Qalm will have need of you soon.”
The younger dwarven Tashiri heard the sigh, and felt genuine affection for the Hetat, and felt privileged to have worked under him. With a grim smile, and as he was all but forced from Glion’s quarters, he gruffly replied, “The blood's strong, for it was borne by the strongest.”
Grumbling to himself quietly, Gandogar wandered through the halls of the Tashiri until he arrived at his own room, leaning heavily on the door and sighing. He would miss the tuition of his ancestor, and the teachings of his Clan. 'Tri-Kazelim must be something to see,'
he thought, suddenly exhausted and decidedly missing his homeland.
Slowly pushing open the sturdy door, he opened his rough hand and looked at the ring he had been given, astonished to see his Clan emblem - a black mountain set behind a crossed axe and hammer - on the ancient, intricately carved iron band which still managed to look functional. Pride swelled in his breast, slightly dampening the homesickness he had felt, and Gandogar smiled grimly, shaking his head as he placed the ring on his right hand, after hesitating for a second. 'Am I really worthy?'
As the others entered the dorms, a sense of anticipation, anxiety and something else distracted the dwarven Tashiri, and he nodded to them, an easy, amiable smile on his face, despite feeling slightly disturbed. ‘It was just the calm before the storm,’
he realised, before thinking he should have used an analogy more suited to the furies he controlled, and then something else came into his mind, something not of Gandogar’s consciousness.
“Assemble my warriors. We must make haste to our next assignment. I expect you armed and equipped for a journey in ten minutes. Meet on Landing 9. I will explain there.”
The feeling of anxiety now resided deeply inside Gandogar’s stomach, and it felt like a stone had settled there. ‘And I shall draw strength from that,’
he decided, shaking his head and setting about readying himself. Two minutes after Nesrin's message had entered his mind, he had drawn from the stout iron-bound, oaken chest at the foot of his bed his chain-mail shirt and the leather jerkin he wore over it and donned them, the armour feeling like a second skin to the dwarf, and then put on the heavy belt which held his straight, short-bladed knife. The final thing he drew from the chest was his broad-bladed, double-headed axe, grasping it firmly between his hands with a grim look on his face. The weapon's haft was made of weathered oak, and bound with strips of leather, the blade inlaid with runes of such intricacy that, even though it was only mundane light playing over them, they mesmerically drew the eye.
He strode from the room, axe still held in both hands, and took the most direct route to Landing 9 whilst he drew Furies of Earth and Fire to him, readying himself for what would come.