A Journey Interrupted

“Father?” It was a voice he recognized, but not what he expected. Not here in Wave Echo Cave. If that was where he was. Was it?

Where am I?

Brock looked down. He held a crudely crafted flagon. He stared at it, turning it over in he hand. The dwarf noticed that his tattoos were gone, as was the legion of scars upon his body.

My sons made this mug… What were their names? They were twins. Why don’t I remember?

The air was thick with the scent of barley and hops, and the cloying aura of yeast. Brock breathed in through his nostrils as deep as his lungs would take air. He saw the casks all around him, but not his companions. Shouldn’t they be sleeping on the floor? Isn’t this where we rested?

No. No, it’s not the same. This place is cleaner and these kegs are full…

“Father?” This voice was from behind him, slightly different. Brock turned. Two young dwarves, boys on the cusp of manhood, stood to either side of a freshly tapped keg. They had golden hair, but their faces looked vaguely familiar.

They look like me, but with their mother’s colouring. But I don’t remember their names… or hers…

“We wanted you to be the first to try it.” the boy on the right said, he grinned from ear to ear.

“We followed your instructions in the brewing of it, just like you told us. We hoped to make you proud,” said the other, his face anxious.

“I was always proud of you…” Brock said, his voice catching in his throat. He crossed the distance, confused. They took the mug from his hand and filled it to the brim. The dwarf lifted it to his lips, and out of the corner of his eyes, saw the boys clasp hands in anticipation.

Eyes?Two? One should be a burnt memory. When was the last time I looked on the world with two eyes?

Brock drank deep. Half the mug was gone in one pull. To say it was the greatest ale he drank would not have been an exaggeration, and it was made even better knowing it was crafted at the hands of two loving sons.

“Damn the gods,” Brock whispered, “Moradin himself could not brew a better ale than this.” He wiped the thick froth from his mouth.

Where is the coppery taste of blood? I remember the crushing bite of spider, and the burning pain of its poison.

The boys were already on their feet, their faces lit up, running for the door. “Wait until mother hears how good it is!” they shouted as they peeled from the room.

Mother? Damn me. What’s her name?

Brock followed them into the corridor outside the brewing room. They were sprinting down towards their mother. All the dwarf could make out was the silhouette. There was so much light at the end of that long tunnel, it was too hard to make out her features. But he started to remember them, his heart aching. Hair woven gold like a gift from the gods.

“Hurry father!” cried one of the boys, “Don’t keep her waiting, she’ll scold you!”

Brock stepped forward, his heart thudding heavily in his chest.

Finally. An end to this lifetime of pain. I can be whole again…

“Da…?” it was a small voice, angelic, barely heard behind him. Brock turned, and there she was, with all the beauty of her mother, but the fiery red hair and spirit of her father. The dwarf fell to his knees, enveloping the toddler in his arms, tears flowing freely from his eyes.

“Gods above,” Brock sobbed, “I’ve waited a lifetime to hold you again, child.” He rose, holding tight to her hand, and turned to follow his sons. But the child stayed where she was, pulling him back.

“Wait,” she said and smiled, “Not yet.”

“But they’re waiting child,” he held her hand not wanting to let go, and still he clutched the flagon in the opposite hand.

“But she needs you,” his daughter said. Brock was confused. He gestured towards the light.

“Your mother is this way…”

“Not her, silly,” she laughed, he eyes alight with innocence, “The pretty lady with the bear. You remember the bear, don’t you, da?” She started to pull him the other way down the corridor.

Brock tried to resist, but the child held fast, dragging him faster and faster away from the light.

“Please…”, Brock begged, “No…” He could smell the fire. He knew it well. Dragonfire. His nostrils flared with the stench of burnt flesh, and the memory of melting skin and eternal pain.

“NO!” He screamed. He was no longer holding the flagon, but an axe, and his arms were scarred and melted and covered in tattoos again.

“They NEED you, da!” she said one last time before she pushed him down towards the dragon’s maw.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Brock screamed as the pain ripped through him again.

“Remember the bear, da….”

Ebryll. Her name was Ebryll. And she was my daughter, before the dragon ripped her from my arms…

Author: Neil

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