Chapter 3
Flint Settles In

A.C. 288, Late Summer

The weeks following his journey to Qualinost were busy ones for Flint. This day, as on almost every other, the smith headed for the Tower of the Sun, waiting only a few moments with the guard in the chilly corridor outside the Speaker’s chamber before the elven lord bade him enter.

Even now, after months in Qualinesti, the spare grandeur of the Speaker’s chambers spoke directly to Flint’s soul. Hill dwarves, like elves, felt deeply their link with the natural world. Light flooded through the great clear walls—extravagant glass walls—that made the tree-dotted land outside the private chambers seem like an extension of the room. In recent weeks, pears and peaches had hung ever heavier on the branches; apples blushed red. Solostaran’s quarters were nearly bare of decoration. White marble walls with veins of gray showed stark against window ledges of pinkish purple quartz. Torches, rendered unnecessary in the light that flooded the room during the day, lay cold and black in iron wall sconces. A marble-topped desk stood along one side of the room; behind it, in a heavy oaken chair placed to give the occupant a clear view of door and outdoors, waited the Speaker. Solostaran’s forest-green cloak formed the brightest spot of color in the chamber, and his innate sense of authority commanded the viewer’s attention.

“Master Fireforge!” the Speaker greeted, rising to his feet, green eyes twinkling over hawklike features. “Come in. As usual, you are a welcome diversion from affairs of state.” He gestured toward a silver bowl filled with candied nuts, dried apricots, apple slices, cherries, and other fruit, no doubt grown on the very trees outside the chamber. “Help yourself, my friend.” Flint declined the treat and fumbled with sheaves of parchment, trying to avoid sending any tumbling to the white and black marble-tiled floor. Finally, he scrunched them together, disregarding the wrinkles in the paper, and tipped them onto the Speaker’s desk. As usual, Solostaran exclaimed over the charcoal drawings, selecting a few designs from the many that pleased him.

The Speaker seemed distracted today, although his conversation was as sociable as ever. “As I have said often, you are a gifted artisan, Master Fireforge,” he commented.

The two spent minutes discussing the design of new wall sconces for the Speaker’s quarters, and whether Solostaran would prefer them with a standard black finish or polished to a metallic shine. The Speaker selected a combination of both. Suddenly, a knock resounded from the door to the chambers. It was Tanis. He moved to the table with little of the grace that elves were known for.

“You wished to see me, sir?” the half-elf asked Solostaran. Tanis’s features had the look, his limbs the awkwardness, of a youth just shy of manhood. He appeared doubly poised between two worlds—elf and human, child and adult. He’ll be shaving soon, the dwarf thought. Yet more evidence of Tanis’s human blood. The dwarf winced at the hazing the half-elf could expect from some of the smooth-faced elves. Tanis stood before the Speaker’s desk, sparing a nod for Flint, who, despite his earlier refusal of refreshments, was nibbling a slice of dried apple and did not speak.

“It’s time for you to begin advanced training in the longbow, Tanis,” Solostaran said. “I have selected a teacher.” Tanis looked in pleased surprise at Flint. “Master Fireforge?” the half-elf asked tentatively.

Flint swallowed the fruit and shook his head. “Not me, lad. The longbow’s not my weapon, although I’d be glad to demonstrate the fine points of the battle-axe.” And an excellent job the half-elf would make of it, too, with those growing human muscles, Flint said to himself.

“The battle-axe is not an elven weapon,” Solostaran gently corrected Flint. “No, Tanis, Lord Tyresian has agreed to take up your training.”

“But Tyresian …” The half-elf’s voice trailed off, and the dissatisfied cast clamped down over his countenance again.

“… is one of the most experienced bowmen in court,” the Speaker concluded. “He’s Porthios’s closest friend and heir to one of the highest families in Qualinost. He could be a valuable ally for you, Tanthalas, if you impress him as a student.”

Apparently forgotten in the exchange, Flint squinted at Tanis and plucked a sugared pear from the silver bowl. Tanis and Tyresian would never be allies, the dwarf thought, recalling the elf lord from Flint’s first day at court. A member of the cadre of four or five well-born elves who stuck to Porthios, the Speaker’s heir, like flies to honey, Tyresian had a knack for charming the aristocracy. But rare was the common elf who could meet Tyresian’s high social standards. Considered handsome by courtiers, Tyresian had sharp blue eyes and—odd among elves—hair no more than an inch long, cut with precision. Not surprisingly, a hill dwarf, however skilled, did not quite measure up in Tyresian’s eyes, and Flint guessed that a half-elf would fall even lower. The dwarf wondered how much of Porthios’s ill-concealed condescension toward his father’s ward was born of Tyresian’s opinions.

Tanis dared one last protest. “But, Speaker, my studies with Master Miral take most of the day—”

An irritated Solostaran cut him off. “That’s enough, Tanthalas. Miral has taught you much of science and mathematics and history, but he is a mage. He cannot demonstrate the arts of weaponry. Tyresian expects you to meet him in the courtyard north of the palace at midafternoon. If you wish to speak with him before then, you can find him in Porthios’s quarters.”

Tanis opened his mouth, then seemed to think better of it. With a curt “Yes, sir,” he walked with stiff back across the marble tiles and out the door.

Solostaran continued gazing at the door a few seconds after it banged shut. It wasn’t until Flint began rolling up the drawings that the Speaker’s attention returned to his audience with the dwarf. “Can I offer you anything?” Solostaran said again, with a vague wave toward the now half-empty silver bowl. “Some wine? Dried fruit?”

Flint declined, commenting that he’d eaten before he arrived at the Speaker’s chambers. Solostaran suddenly grinned—why, Flint couldn’t see—but the smile soon faded. Flint tucked the rolled parchments under his burly arm and was preparing to leave when the Speaker’s voice halted him.

“Do you ever have cause to wish you could rewrite history, Master Fireforge?” The words were wistful.

Flint paused, staring with alert blue-gray eyes into the Speaker’s green ones, and thought, He has no elves he can call friends. Since taking up the Speaker’s mantle in the tumultuous years after the Cataclysm had changed the face of Krynn, Solostaran had been the focus of one rumor of deposition after another. He held his post through the force of his personality, through the truth that few elves could trace their bloodlines back several millennia to Kith-Kanan, and through the innate elven horror of drawing the blood of their elven kin. Still, Solostaran had to be aware of the occasional murmurs of unhappiness among courtiers, Flint thought. Some believed Qualinesti should be opened to wider trade with the rest of Ansalon. Others felt that all but pure elves should be deported over the border into Abanasinia.

The hill dwarf cast about for an answer to the Speaker’s query. He drew in a breath of air tinged with the scent of fruit, and said, “Certainly I would change history if I could. My grandfather’s family lost many numbers because of the Cataclysm.”

Three centuries before, the Cataclysm occurred because the old gods retaliated against the pride of the era’s most influential religious leader, the Kingpriest of Istar. When the Cataclysm rained destruction upon Krynn, the mountain dwarves retreated into Thorbardin, the great underground kingdom, and sealed the gates; as a result, their hill dwarf cousins, trapped outside, suffered the brunt of the gods’ punishment.

The Speaker’s eyebrows rose, and, confoundedly, in the face of Solostaran’s sympathy, Flint found himself unable to go on. “They died because the mountain dwarves locked the gates …?” the Speaker asked, and Flint nodded, unwilling to say more.

Solostaran stood and walked slowly to the clear wall. The gold circlet on his forehead glittered. The room was silent except for the breathing of the two figures. “I would give almost anything,” Solostaran said, “to have Tanis be my true nephew, to have my brother Kethrenan back among us with his wife, Elansa. To see my brother Arelas one more time.”

Miral, the Speaker’s mage, had told Flint the story of Kethrenan Kanan and Elansa and the birth of Tanis. But he had not mentioned the existence of another brother. The Speaker seemed to wish to speak, and Flint knew no one but himself that he would trust with the Speaker’s secrets. Taking a handful of glazed almonds, the dwarf chewed one and prompted, “Arelas …?”

The Speaker turned. “My youngest brother.” At the rising of Flint’s furry brows, he went on, “I barely knew him. He left Qualinost as a little boy. And he died before he could return.”

“Why did he leave?” Flint asked.

“He was … ill. We could not cure him here.”

The ensuing silence stretched into minutes, and Flint cast about for a response. “It is a sad thing when a child dies,” he said.

Solostaran looked up suddenly, a look of surprise creasing his features. “Arelas was a man when he died. He was returning to Qualinost, but he never got here.” The Speaker stepped back toward Flint, seemingly trying to control his emotions. “Had he lived another week, he would have found safety here. But the roads were dangerous, even more so than today.” The Speaker sat heavily.

Flint found himself unsure what to say. After a short time, the Speaker asked the dwarf to leave him.

Almost mindless of the parchment drawings, Flint walked somberly back to the small shop the Speaker had given him, a squat building southeast of the Tower. Here, in the last few months, he had wrought many things: necklaces of jade woven with near-fluid chains of silver, rings of braided gold as fine as strands of hair, bracelets of burnished copper and emerald.

The workshop stood at the end of a small lane in a grove of pear trees. Climbing roses entwined about its wooden doorway. Flint, remembering his mother’s fondness for morning glories, had planted the flower at the feet of the roses, and the pink, blue, and white blossoms now intertwined with the white, pink, and yellow roses.

The dwelling had been awarded to Flint for as long as he wished it, but how long that might be, the dwarf was unsure. Certainly he would stay until the end of spring, he had told himself at first; after all, what was the use of journeying so far if he only went dashing back home right off? Still, thoughts of his warm house far away in Solace—and of a foamy tankard of ale—often ran through his mind. Elven ale had proved to be a pathetic imitation of the real thing, as far as the dwarf was concerned, although it was head and foam above elvenblossom wine.

Busy as he was, what with near-daily appointments with the Speaker and more commissions for his work than he could shake his hammer at, it was hardly surprising that the last day of spring had slipped by quite unnoticed and the warm, golden days of summer stretched out before the dwarf.

Often the window of his shop could be seen glowing as red as Lunitari, late into the night, and it was not uncommon that the first elf to wake in Qualinost the next day did so to the ringing of hammer on anvil. Many marveled at the dwarf’s diligence, and just as many hoped the Speaker would make them the lucky recipients of a gift of one of Master Fireforge’s creations.

On this afternoon, he stomped back to the heat of the forge, hefted his iron hammer, and once again used blazing fire and the blows of his hammer to transform a lifeless lump of metal into a thing of beauty. He spent several hours at his task, losing all sense of time in his absorption with the metalwork.

At last Flint sighed, wiped the soot from his hands and brow with a handkerchief, and ladled a drink of water from the oaken barrel that stood by the door to his shop. As he stepped outside into the afternoon sunshine, a smile touched his face, easing the lines that crisscrossed his forehead. The path leading to his front door passed through a stand of aspen trees. Their pale, slender trunks swayed gently in the breeze, as if they were faintly bowing toward the dwarf, and their leaves rustled, flickering green and silver and then green again. His hand moved slowly to his chest, as if it might ease a heart aching with the beauty all around. And part of him still hurt with the Speaker’s sadness.

But then Flint noticed a few traces of gold high in the trees, and he felt, deep inside, that same restlessness that had plagued him all his life. There was a coolness to the mornings now, sharper than the gentle coolness of the summer nights, and there was a heaviness to the gold of the late afternoon sun. And now the trees.

All of it spoke of autumn and carried his thoughts to Solace and the houses tucked high among the vallenwood trees. The leaves of the giant trees would just be showing the first touches of variegated colors about their fluted edges, he supposed, and he sighed again. Autumn was a time for traveling. He should be going home, where he belonged.

With a start, Flint found himself wondering if Solace really were where he belonged. He had settled there years ago more out of weariness at wandering than anything else, in those days after he had left his impoverished village to find his fortune in the world. And how was living among elves any different for a simple dwarf from Hillhome than living among humans? In either case, he was the odd one; he couldn’t see that it made much difference. Besides, he thought, breathing the cool air deeply, there was a peace here he’d never felt anywhere else.

Flint shrugged and stepped back inside his shop, and soon the ring of his hammer drifted on the air.

Flint looked up from his work several hours later and saw that the clock—the one he’d made from oak, with counterweights fashioned from two pieces of granite—showed the time nearing the supper hour. His thoughts, however, were not on food or on the silver rose he was fashioning at the request of Lady Selena, a member of Porthios’s crowd who’d overcome her distaste of dwarves shortly after she’d realized that “fashions by Flint” were the new style among courtiers.

“It’s time!” he exclaimed, put his hammer down, and banked the coals on the forge’s furnace. Every few weeks he followed the same ritual. He splashed his face and arms in a basin, washing away the sweat and smoke of the forge. He grabbed a sack and, opening a hutch built into the stone walls, began filling the bag with curious objects. Each was made of wood, and Flint lovingly smoothed an edge here, polished a curve there. Suddenly, a figure, a shadow in the window, crossed his peripheral vision, and he straightened and waited. Another commission? His heart sank. He knew the elven children had been watching for him for days, watching for the dwarf who appeared on the streets every other week or so, presenting hand-whittled toys to every youngster in sight. He hoped no one would delay him now.

Flint thought he heard a scuffling outside and stomped to the doorway to check. But he heard and saw no one.

“Fireforge, you’re growing old. Now you’re imagining things,” he complained as he went back to loading the sack.

He felt a warmth deep inside as he touched each of the wooden toys. Metal was good to shape; it gave one a sense of power as the cold substance submitted to the hammer and took on shape by the force of the forger’s will. But wood was different, he thought, stroking a wooden whistle. One did not force wood into a shape or design, the dwarf said to himself; one found the shape that lay within it. There was no time Flint knew greater peace than when he sat with a carving knife in one hand and a piece of wood in the other, wondering what treasure lay hidden within its heart.

“It’s like folks are, my mother used to say,” he explained to his shop at large, which was as familiar to him by now as a close friend. “Some folks are like this metal, she’d say,” and he displayed a metal flower brooch to the deserted room. “They can be forced into line. They’ll adapt. Other folks are like this wood,” and he held up a tiny squirrel, carved from softwood. “If you force them, they’ll break. You have to work slowly, carefully, to see what’s within.”

“The key, my mother said,” he intoned gravely to a stone bench near the door, “is to know which is which.”

Flint paused as though waiting. It occurred to him that a fellow who made speeches to his furniture probably had few friends. With the exception of the Speaker and Miral and the city’s children, most elves were reservedly polite with him. But there was no one to slap on the back and treat to an ale at a tavern, no one to swap stories with, no one he’d particularly trust to protect his back on the open road.

“Perhaps it is time to go home to Solace,” he said softly, a look of sadness crossing his face.

Just at that moment, a thump resounded from right outside the door, followed by a quickly stifled “Oh!” He paused only a heartbeat in his movements and tiptoed to the open portal. Suddenly, he leaped through the doorway, booming, “Reorx’s thunder! To the battle!” and laying about him with the carved squirrel as though it were a battle-axe. With a flurry of dust and a shriek of “Tanis, help!” a wispy figure topped with ash-blond curls sped away between the pear trees and the aspens. Her turquoise playsuit mirrored the deepening sky of twilight.

“Lauralanthalasa!” Flint called, laughing. “Laurana!” But the Speaker’s daughter had disappeared.

The elf girl had called to Tanis, but Flint saw no evidence of the half-elf. Presumably, from Laurana’s call, Tanis’s afternoon archery lesson with Tyresian had been concluded.

Smiling, Flint went back into his shop. He was grinning still when he emerged, tossed the bag over his shoulder and bounded out the door of the shop. In the center of Qualinost, at the foot of the rise crowned by the aspen groves of the Hall of the Sky, stood an open square. It was a sunny place, bounded on one side by a row of trees that seemed to have grown especially for climbing and, on the other side, by a small brook spilling into a series of moss-lined pools. Between the two was plenty of space for running, shouting, and playing all sorts of noisy games. The square was a perfect place for children.

The sun had begun to dip into the horizon when Flint’s footsteps brought him to the square. Dozens of elven children, dressed in cotton outfits gathered at neck and wrist and ankle, halted their games as the stocky dwarf stepped across the footbridge and into the clearing. The children stared at him, none daring to break the silence. Flint glowered, his bushy eyebrows drawn down almost over his steely eyes, and then he snorted, as if they were hardly anything to bother with. He marched through the square, his back turned to all their wondering eyes.

Finally, an elf girl dressed in turquoise dashed forward to tug at the dwarf’s sleeve. Flint whirled, his eyes flashing like flint on steel. Oh ho! Flint thought, keeping his expression dour, so it’s Laurana, is it? “You!” he exclaimed. The other children turned pale, but Laurana held her ground. He continued, “Were you spying on me?”

Laurana tilted her head, and one pointed ear tip poked out of her profusion of curls. “Well, of course,” she said.

“What do you want?” he snarled. “I haven’t got all day. Some folks have to work, you know, instead of playing all the time. I’ve got to take a very important order to the Tower, and it’s nearly sundown.”

The elf girl chewed on a pink lower lip. “The Tower’s the other way,” she said at last, green eyes sparkling.

Tremendous self-possession, Flint thought, for a youngling; must be the royal blood. Or else it was the figure of Tanis lounging in the background that gave Laurana courage.

“Well?” he demanded again. “What do you want of me?”

“More toys!”

Flint looked amazed. “Toys? Who has toys?”

She started to giggle and pulled on his sleeve. “In the sack. You’ve got toys in the sack, Master Fireforge. Admit it. You do, now.”

He growled, “Not possible.” But the cries of the children—“Yes.” “Toys!” “Last time, I got a carved minotaur.” “I want a wooden sword.”—drowned out his reply. They swirled around him like a multicolored maelstrom. “Oh, all right,” he muttered loudly. “I’ll take a look, but the sack’s probably full of coal. Just what you deserve.” He peered inside, hiding the contents from the children, who crept closer.

About twenty feet away, Tanis sighed loudly and selected a new pear tree to lean against. His face held the bored look of the adolescent—although he did remain at the scene.

“Bent nails,” Flint said, rummaging in the sack. “That’s what I’ve got in here. And rusted curry combs and worn-out horseshoes and a month-old loaf of quith-pa. That’s all.”

The children waited for Laurana to take the lead. “You always say that,” she pointed out.

“All right,” he sighed. “Here’s an idea. You put your arm inside the sack and pull something out.”

She nodded. “Fine.” She placed one hand near the opening. “Just watch out for the baby sea dragon,” the dwarf said. “It bites.”

She snatched back her slender hand and glared at Flint. “Want me to do it?” Flint finally offered.

Laurana nodded again.

He pulled something from deep in the corner of his sack, a gleeful grin on his face. She gasped, clapping her hands, and suddenly she wasn’t the Speaker’s royal daughter, but an ordinary elven girl. Frowning still, he laid the object in her hand.

It was a flute, no longer than the span of the elf girl’s hand, but perfect in every respect, carved of a bit of vallenwood that Flint had brought all the way from Solace. But he knew its tone would be sweeter than any other wood, and this was proved true as Laurana raised the flute to her lips. The tones that bubbled forth were as clear as the water in the brook.

“Oh, thank you!” Laurana exclaimed, and ran over to Tanis, who stooped to examine her treasure. Laurana’s brother, the elf boy called Gilthanas, and the other elven children pressed about Flint, begging him to please look and see if there was anything in his sack for them, too.

“Now, stop shoving,” Flint said testily, “or I’m liable to leave at any second, you know.” But somehow, despite the dwarf’s grumbling, when the bag was empty every child in the square held a new, perfect toy. There were tiny musical instruments, like Laurana’s flute, and small puppets that could be made to dance on the palm of the hand, and miniature carts pulled by painted horses, and wooden disks that rolled up and down on the end of a string tied to a finger.

All of the toys were made of wood, each carved lovingly by the light of the fire. Flint would work for weeks in his spare moments, filling up the cabinet, and then, when he’d made enough, he would find some excuse to pass through the square. Not that he’d ever admit it was anything other than chance that sent him when he just happened to have toys in his sack. He would merely scowl.

As he folded up the empty bag, Flint searched the gathering of children with his eyes. The dwarf saw Tanis, now sitting on the edge of the square, apart from the others near one of the pools. He sat cross-legged, staring silently into the water, where Flint could see the faint shadows of fish drifting by. In the midst of all this elven loveliness, there was something about Tanis, with his human qualities, that seemed decidedly familiar to Flint. The elves were a good people, but once in a while he found his thoughts turning to the times he had spent with folk a bit less distant. At any rate, he had come to the square like this four or five times now, and always Tanis had hung back from the other children when the dwarf was giving out the wooden toys. Tanis was growing old for youngsters’ fripperies, but still … He wasn’t all grown up yet. Not that Tanis hadn’t seemed interested. Nearly every time the dwarf had arrived at the area to pass out toys, Flint had looked up to see the youth’s not-quite-elven eyes upon him, as if he were studying the dwarf. Flint would motion for the boy to come forward, but he never would. He would just keep watching with that thoughtful gaze of his, and then, when the dwarf would look for him again, he would be gone.

But this time would be different. Flint thrust a hand in his pocket, making sure the one last toy he’d been saving—a wooden pea-shooter—was still there.

The rest of the children had dissipated, gone home to suppers of venison with fruit sauce, basted fish, or quith-pa with roasted fowl. The only figure in sight was Tanis. The Speaker’s ward sat by the pool, arms clasped about his knees, resting his chin on them, watching Flint with his hazel eyes. He wore a loose white shirt and tan deerskin breeches, clothing reminiscent of that of the Que-Shu plainsmen, quite unlike the flowing tunics and robes that full elves preferred. He stood, unfolding his husky frame without the sense of grace that the other elves carried. Tanis brushed back a wing of reddish brown hair.

“Tanthalas,” Flint said, nodding.

The half-elf echoed Flint’s nod. “Master Fireforge.”

They stood, both seemingly waiting for the other to make the first move.

Finally, Flint gestured at the pond. “Watching the fish?” he asked. Brilliant start, he thought.

Tanis nodded.


The half-elf looked surprised, then thoughtful. His answer, when it finally came, was delivered in a nearly inaudible tone. “They remind me of someone.” The half-elf didn’t meet his gaze. Flint nodded. “Who?”

Tanis looked up sullenly. “Everybody here.”

“The elves?”

The half-elf signaled assent.

“Why?” Flint pressed again.

Tanis kicked a clod of moss. “They’re satisfied with what they’ve got. They never change. They never leave here except to die.”

“And you’re different?” Flint asked.

Tanis drew his lips into a straight line. “Someday I’m leaving here.”

Flint waited for the half-elf to say something else, but Tanis seemed to consider his part of the conversation over. All right, Flint thought; I’ll give it a try. At least he’s not slipping away into the shadows, for once. “How was today’s archery lesson?” the dwarf asked.

“All right.” The boy’s voice was a monotone, and his eyes were focused on the pool again. Children chattered and screamed delightedly in the distance. “Tyresian and Porthios and their friends were all there,” he added.

It sounded appalling, given the way Porthios’s friends felt about the half-elf. Flint wondered what he could say to cheer up the Speaker’s ward. “It’s suppertime,” he said, thinking, Sparkling conversation, Master Fireforge. What was there about this lad that rendered him conversationally inept?

Tanis smiled thinly and nodded his agreement. Yes, indeed, it was suppertime. The half-elf moved three paces to lean against another pear tree.

Flint tried again. “Care to join me for”—What did one offer elven children? Although Tanis’s thirty years would make him a young man in human years, a thirty-year-old elf was years away from being considered grown up—“some supper?”

“With elvenblossom wine, perhaps?” the half-elf asked. Flint wondered if the Speaker’s ward were laughing at him. The dwarf had become able to sip the perfumey drink without gagging—for state occasions, for example, when sharing the elven wine was part of court decorum. “Ah, Reorx’s beard,” Flint muttered, and he shuddered.

Tanis examined Flint, a half-smile still playing on his lips. “You dislike that wine,” the half-elf finally said.

“No. I loathe it.”

“Why do you drink it, then?” Tanis asked.

Flint surveyed the half-elf; he seemed sincerely curious. “As a stranger, I’m trying to fit in here.”

Off in the distance, a child’s shrill laugh accompanied the shriek of a wooden whistle. At least one parent was going to be less than thrilled with Flint this evening. Tanis sneered. “Are you trying to be ‘one of the elves’?” he asked, almost contemptuously.

Flint debated. “Well …” he said, “when in Qualinost, do as the Qualinesti do. My mother used to say that, or something very similar.” He caught a whiff of baking venison, and his stomach growled, but he maintained his stance. Oh, how he wanted his supper. Oh, how he wished he’d never started this conversation. The half-elf kept sneering, but his eyes seemed to beg for reassurance, and the dwarf suddenly thought that maybe the sneer was directed, not at him, but at Porthios and Tyresian and the others. “Don’t try, Master Fireforge,” Tanis said.

“What?” Flint asked.

Tanis pulled a half-ripe pear from the tree, dropped it to the moss, and ground it under the heel of his oiled leather moccasin. “Don’t try. They’ll never accept you. They don’t accept anyone who’s not just like them.” He kicked the fruit off to one side and stalked off without another word. Soon his figure was lost in the trees.

Flint walked slowly back into his shop, closed the door, and put the empty sack in the hutch. Somehow he wasn’t in the mood for supper anymore.

Kindred Spirits