Up through the Unguard Tunnels; past the Molten Doors of Azzail; into the ruins of the temple of Nomolos and back out again; across the Desert of the Jeshuman; and finally down the slopes of the Seventh King's Mountain. All this and I'd left the Dwarven capitol and its kingdom, entered the Human lands, and I still had miles to go before I could rest.
It had taken me the better part of two months to cover the terrain, my left hip throbbed from where Thoragrim had marked me, and each night when I laid down to sleep it was swollen and the mark burned red. The mark is my curse, but I do not regret it for the power it has given me.
The adamantine on my left arm had continued to fold and articulate as I'd walked, now resembling a nigh-organic gauntlet covering my arm from elbow to finger-tip. It feels like a second skin, it warms in the light of the sun like metal, but makes almost no sound as I tap my fingers against my thumb. This was one of many gifts Thoragrim had given me, proof that I'd done the right thing.
The temperate lands of Miiska are a pleasant change, the Dwarven lands are so torturous that we took to living beneath them. Only the Gnomes are fool-enough to live top-side. Chewing on my last ration I tossed away my worn out sandals and took in the damp soil, the tall grass blending between my toes. The terrain was full of high-sloped hills. From the top of one you could see for miles, but like a dune-filled desert there is still so much hidden behind the hills and in the tall grass.
I didn't notice the winding road until I'd nearly begun crossing it, and as I placed my metal hand against the road I could feel vibrations coming from the west. Out of food, low on water, and honestly doubtful of my ability to hunt with only a hammer, I wait at the road side and hope that I'm not waiting on a group of bandits to come past.
About ten minutes of waiting rewards me, as a caravan of seven carts comes around the hill and comes to a stop about twenty feet before passing me. A Halfling pops up from the drivers seat and calls out, "Amicha no stewar?"
"What?" I call back in the Dwarven tongue.
"Neee, Alenor!" He waves both hands as if pushing air towards me. "Vash, vash." He then turns to the carts behind him and shouts in a flat yet shrill voice, "Alenor! Broksen Alenor!" He turns back to me and holds up one finger, I guess he means to wait.
In retrospect, learning the halfling language would have been a great idea, but who could've taught me? If this caravan had found its way into our tunnels my father would have ordered them killed on sight.
Another Halfling comes running down the road along the side of the wagons, iron beads sway from his over-grown side burns. A Dwarven axe hangs from his belt, crafted smaller than it would normally be to fit his hands, and he calls out in Dwarven, "So you don't speak Halfling. Lucky for you I speak the Dwarven tongue."
"Indeed I am lucky. That's a fine axe you have there."
"Thanks! What are you doing out here all alone?" He smiled friendly, but his hand rested readily on his axe.
"I am but a humble pilgrim. I've run out of food, I'm low on water. I'd offer my services in exchange for your aid." I opened my hands outward in a sign of peace.
He looked me up and down. "What skills do you have? I know Dwarves are a warrior people, but we have trained soldiers and you have no armor besides that fancy glove of yours."
"I am a skilled healer, and I'm not a stranger to hard labor. I can do many things, though cooking may not be my strong suit compared to your skilled hands."
We both had a laugh at that.
"Let me check with the caravan elders, if they say we can take on a healer then we'll add you to our ranks until we reach the next town."
"And what is the next town?"
"Edton; it's another eight days from here, but the road is full of bandits and I think there'll be ample use for you as a healer, warrior, or moving heavy bodies out of the road."
"Well then, let me know what your elders say, but one more question: What does Alenor mean?"
He turned to walk back along the wagons, "It's our word for your people, but it roughly translates to 'a hairy talking boulder'." And with that he vanished behind the first wagon.
I doubt they'd turn me away, but I don't know how much I like being called a hairy rock.