Chapter 8

In a guest room at the palace, the dwarf lay floating in a huge bath mounded with blossom-scented bubbles, happily digesting the huge meal the Speaker had ordered prepared for him—wild turkey basted with apricot sauce, and robust Solace ale from Flint’s own saddlepack. All but one of the flasks had leaked; the rough ride certainly had not improved the last container of ale, but the beverage was drinkable, at least by Flint’s standards.

Off in the palace stable, the dwarf knew, Fleetfoot also was being treated to a fine feed. The animal, apparently still awash in warm feelings from being teleported with Flint, had initially refused to be separated from the dwarf. As Flint told his tale to Solostaran and the rest of the court—and heard Xenoth explain that other elves had spotted a rare, magic-wielding tylor west of the ravine during the past few weeks—the gray mule followed the dwarf around the Tower of the Sun, nuzzling him with a fond muzzle, resting her hairy chin on his shoulder, and aiming a deadly kick at anyone who came too close. She finally consented to leave the dwarf after he led her to the stable himself, fed her a carrot and half a peach, and introduced her to the stablehand who would wash her and give her a proper feeding.

Flint had paused in his tale only when the Speaker ordered a troop of Tower guardians out to hunt for the tylor. The search was made more difficult because the dwarf was uncertain exactly where he’d been attacked. He knew only that it was along a trail several miles from Qualinost, and the pell-mell pace through the underbrush had left him utterly confused as to where he’d encountered the oak tree.

The Speaker, worried about leaving Flint unattended so soon after such a potentially devastating attack, insisted that Flint rest for a few hours at the palace, attended by Miral, who, if need be, might be able to assist the dwarf. Flint protested, professing himself as hale as a dwarf half his years, but Solostaran proved astonishingly stubborn.

Now, as Miral lounged on a bench near the bath, Flint soaked in the bath water, holding his thick salt-and-pepper beard underwater and watching little bubbles escape through it to the surface. He wondered if he could equip his regular quarters at his shop with such a wondrous invention. Dwarves normally hated water—cold, running water, that is, inhabited with fish and frogs and worse, and deep and dangerous enough to gather the unwary dwarf to Reorx’s smithy—but this was something else entirely.

“You encountered a sla-mori,” Miral explained to Flint.

“Oh, no, I don’t believe so,” Flint rejoined distractedly. “Lord Xenoth said that lizard was a tylor. Unless tylors and sla-mori are related?” He raised his brows in question.

The mage wiped a patina of sweat from his face and pushed his carmine hood back. His pale face appeared gaunt; circles smudged the skin below his eyes. Yet he spoke patiently. “Sla-mori, in the old tongue, means ‘secret way,’ or ‘secret passage,’ ” he explained. “Myth says there are many of them in Qualinesti, but they are nearly impossible to find. The oak tree was the entrance to one, apparently.”

He had Flint’s attention now. “Where do these … these ‘sla-mori’ … lead?” the dwarf asked.

“To important places, obviously,” Miral said matter-of-factly. “After all, you ended up on the rostrum in the Tower of the Sun.” He paused, seemingly gathering his thoughts, and his normally hoarse voice sounded raspier. “Some elves even say the Graystone could be found in a sla-mori somewhere in Qualinesti. But the most famous sla-mori is said to lead into Pax Tharkas,” he said, naming the famous fortress in the mountains south of Qualinesti. “Some believe that the body of Kith-Kanan lies in the Pax Tharkas sla-mori.”

“There’s more than one sla-mori, then?” Flint asked, sinking back in the perfumed water until his hair floated and spread around his face like a corona. He gazed at the roseate ceiling high above him and sighed.

Miral waited for the dwarf to surface. “There have been tales from the oldest elves that the area around Qualinost is host to several sla-mori, their entrances well hidden and accessible only to the elf—or dwarf, I see now—graced with the proper power to open them.” The mage broke off his account. “What’s wrong?” Miral asked.

The dwarf had sat up and was gazing about the luxurious room with a worried expression.

“I’m looking for the bucket,” Flint said.

“The bucket?” Miral asked. Suddenly, the mage laughed. “No, we don’t empty the water with buckets.” He stood and walked to the foot end of the tub.

“Magic, then? You know how I feel about magic,” Flint said, worry creasing his face again. “Is this bath magical?” Such a creation would almost have to be aided by magic, he said, suddenly sad. Hill dwarves distrusted magic.

Miral just shook his head. “I forgot that you had not been here since we had these contrivances installed. They were designed by gnomes.”

“Gnomes?” the dwarf demanded incredulously. “Reorx!” Nothing gnomes made ever worked right. In fact, he was probably lucky to be alive. Ignoring the mage’s chortle,

Flint vaulted over the edge of the tub and burrowed into the thick yellow towel that a servant had left on a stone slab.

Shaking his head and smiling, the mage pushed the sleeve of his heavy woolen robe up to his elbows. He plunged his arm into the bath water, fished around a bit, and yanked. With a damp belch, the water level began falling. Miral held up a cork with a chain attached.

“The water drains into the floor,” Miral explained.

Flint looked dubious. “With all respect, that doesn’t seem very practical,” he ventured. “Hard on the building foundation. It’s not surprising, coming from gnomes, I guess. But I confess I’d expected a bit more from elves.”

Miral rolled his sleeve down again and handed the dwarf a freshly laundered white shirt. “We redesigned it. The gnomes originally had the drain—the hole this cork fits into—at the upper edge,” the robed elf said. “It took forever to drain. You had to wait for the water to evaporate.”

“But still …” the dwarf protested as he drew on his russet leggings.

“The water goes into a circular, tubelike contraption under the floors.” Miral’s hands sketched in the air.

Flint dropped to his knees and peered under the tub. “How do you fill it?” he queried.


Later, Flint retrieved Fleetfoot, now clean, curried, shiny, and—the final touch by a livery elf with a waggish sense of humor—with her mane braided and adorned with pink ribbons. Flint made her comfortable in a makeshift stall in an outbuilding near his shop and forge—a job that required two extra trips between shop and outbuilding because Fleetfoot deftly chewed through the stall’s leather latch and arrived at Flint’s shop moments after he did.

He finally barricaded the beast in the stall by wedging a log between the building door and a small apple tree. He had almost finished unpacking his ale-soaked saddlepack when a figure appeared at the doorway.

The figure was not immediately recognizable, outlined as it was in the setting sun, but the silhouette of the container the figure carried was obvious enough.

“Elvenblossom wine,” Flint commented. “Only Tanis Half-Elven could get away with bringing me that.”

Tanis smiled widely and placed the bottle on the wooden table. “I thought you could use it to start the fire in your forge,” he said. “Quicker than kindling.”

The two stood apart, Tanis with his arms folded before his muscular chest and Flint with a stubby hand draped with unpacked tunics in brown and emerald green. They smelled wonderfully of ale, from the dwarf’s point of view, but Flint supposed he would have to wash them before he’d be accepted in court.

Flint finally spoke, his voice gruff.

“I suppose now that you’re a full-grown lad, tall as an aspen and nearly strong enough to lift me with one arm, you’re too good to hang around the forge with a middle-aged grouch of a dwarf.”

The half-elf replied, “And I suppose that because you’ve traveled around the continent of Ansalon and fought off a raging tylor, you don’t want me pestering you.”

A few minutes passed in silence as the two studied each other. Then, as though each was satisfied with what he saw, they nodded greetings. Tanis settled onto a granite bench, slung one leg up on its surface, and rested a curved, muscular arm across a bent knee. His human forebear was evident in the huskiness of his frame, Flint thought.

The dwarf set to fixing up his forge after a full season of disuse and congratulated himself on the job he’d done of cleaning out the place when he’d left it five months before, at the end of autumn.

The forge, which resembled a raised fireplace, took up much of the back wall of the tiny home. A stone-and-mortar chimney rose up through the back wall like a thick tree trunk, with an opening at the back large enough to accommodate a kender—although Flint would let himself be damned to the Abyss before he’d allow one of those perpetually curious creatures near his beloved forge. The front ledge of the forge, designed for someone of elven proportions, was just above waist-height for the dwarf, an awkward height that often prompted grumbles from him.

“So,” Flint said as he placed twigs and dry bark in the depression at the back of the forge, “what have I missed in the past five months?” He looked dubiously at the container of wine, then uncorked it and tossed a liberal splash on the kindling. “Hope this doesn’t blast us to Xak Tsaroth,” he muttered, patting his pocket for his steel and flint, then realizing he’d probably dropped both in the entrance to the sla-mori. “Got a flint and steel, lad?” he asked.

Tanis fished in his pocket, drew out the desired objects, and tossed them to Flint, one after the other. Mumbling “Thanks,” the dwarf cracked the two together. With a whoosh, the kindling exploded into flame, sending the dwarf backpedaling hastily. When the conflagration dwindled to a glow, he warily placed a few pieces of coal on the kindling and waited for them to catch fire. He looked over at Tanis, ready to hear the local news.

“Lord Xenoth is still chief adviser, though Litanas has been added as Xenoth’s assistant, at Porthios’s request,” Tanis explained, watching Flint reach to a nearby pile of coal and toss a shovelful onto the blaze. “The Speaker was unhappy at hurting Lord Xenoth’s feelings—after all, Xenoth has been adviser to the Speaker of the Sun since Solostaran’s father held that post, and the Speaker would not want Xenoth to feel that he could no longer handle the duties alone. Although that certainly seems to be true.” The last words were uttered in a bitter tone.

“Grab the bellows, would you, lad, and give me a hand,” Flint said. Tanis leaped over to that instrument and directed air on the fire. Flint, meanwhile, mounded coal on each side of the blaze. “So Xenoth took it ill?” Flint inquired.

“He wasn’t happy.” The curt reply spoke volumes about how vocal the adviser had been about the change.

Flint shook his head and spared a sympathetic thought for Litanas, even though Porthios’s brown-eyed friend had never seemed particularly fond of dwarf or half-elf. Flint had long suspected that Porthios’s friends made a career of making Tanis’s life unhappy, though Porthios himself merely stayed aloof. But the dwarf rarely asked Tanis about that aspect of his life, and the half-elf never volunteered any but the most roundabout information on the subject.

Last autumn, before Flint had left for the winter, Litanas and Ulthen had appeared to be vying for wealthy Lady Selena’s hand. The elven lady adored the attention, of course, but the situation chipped away at the friendship between Litanas and Ulthen.

As Tanis worked at the bellows, Flint fed chunk after chunk of coal into the fire and wondered how the latest development would affect either elf’s suit for Lady Selena. Litanas had wealth, good bloodlines, and the position with Lord Xenoth. But Xenoth could easily destroy an assistant’s standing at court if he felt moved to do so.

Ulthen, on the other hand, boasted a fine old Qualinost family, but he—and it—were perennially broke; years ago, tight finances had forced the elf to take on the job of teaching weaponry to Gilthanas, Porthios’s younger brother.

At any rate, Flint wouldn’t want to be on the bad side of the irascible old adviser—though it seemed that the dwarf perpetually was, anyway. Lord Xenoth, whose age and tenure gave him protection of sorts for his criticism of some of the Speaker’s policies, was vocal in his condemnation of allowing any outsiders into the court.

But as Flint took his favorite wooden-handled hammer from a selection in his bench, he had another thought.

“Have you heard of the Graystone?”

From his position at the bellows, Tanis looked surprised at the turn of the conversation. “The Graystone of Gargath? Of course. Every elf child has to memorize the tale.”

“Miral mentioned it to me just today.” Flint’s voice was distracted, most of his attention on the forge. “Tell me the story as the elves know it,” Flint urged.

Tanis cast his friend a curious glance, but—careful to keep the bellows operating regularly—launched into the tale that Miral had made him learn by rote years earlier.

“Before the neutral god Reorx forged the world, the gods fought over the various races’ spirits, which at that time were still dancing among the stars.” He repositioned his hands on the wooden handles of the bellows.

Flint nodded, as if that checked out with the story the dwarves told. From a pile on a table next to the forge, he drew out a rod of iron about as long as a man’s hand and as thick as a little finger, and heated the rod in the coals.

The half-elf continued to recite. “The gods of good wanted the races to have power over the physical world. The gods of evil wanted to make the races slaves. And the gods of neutrality wanted the races to have physical power over the world plus the freedom to choose between good and evil—which was the course eventually decided upon.”

“Reorx thump you, lad, keep pumping that bellows!” the dwarf ordered. Tanis, stepping up the tempo, watched as Flint used iron tongs to retrieve the piece of metal from the coals and pound it into a rectangle with the hammer.

“Three races were born: elves, ogres, and humans—in that order, according to the elves,” Tanis said with a wouldn’t-you-know-it glance at the ceiling, his shoulder-length hair swinging as he kept pace with the bellows. “And so Reorx forged the world with the help of some human volunteers. But four thousand years before the Cataclysm, the humans angered Reorx by becoming proud of the skills Reorx had taught them and using them for their own ends. The god took back their skills but left their desire to tinker, and the gnomish race was born.”

The half-elf drew in a breath almost as great as the one the bellows was forcing across the coals. “Eventually, Reorx forged a gem to anchor neutrality to the world of Krynn. It would hold and radiate the essence of Lunitari, the red—neutral—moon. Reorx placed the Graystone on Lunitari.

Tanis broke off. “Does that match what you know?” Flint nodded, concentrating on placing the rectangle against the edge of the anvil and using the hammer to draw out a small finger at one end of the metal. Deftly, he rapped against the metal finger to make it cylindrical again. Then he turned it over and fashioned the finger into a ring at the end of the rectangle. As usual, Flint felt himself get caught up in the rhythm of the process: four raps on the metal, one on the anvil, four on metal, one on anvil.

Tanis broke in. “Why do you do that?”


“Pound the hammer on the anvil,” the half-elf said, pausing the bellows to look more closely. “It seems intentional—not as though you’ve missed the metal.”

“Keep pumping! Reorx above, lad, am I going to have to hire a gully dwarf to take your place?” Flint complained. “Of course I’m intentionally hitting the anvil. The metal of the hammer picks up heat as I tap it against this gate latch I’m making for Fleetfoot’s stall. Banging the hammer against the anvil every so often cools the hammer. See?” He demonstrated. “Now, go on.”

Tanis grinned at his friend. “The gnomes built a mechanical ladder that reached to the red moon, and they captured the Graystone, which some call the Graygem.”

Flint quickly rapped the other end of the rod into a point, and forced it perpendicular to the rod.

“But the gem escaped and floated away.” Tanis’s voice lost its recitation note and took on more enthusiasm. “The stone caused havoc on Krynn. As it passed by, it caused new animals and plants to spring up; old ones changed form.”

Flint reheated the rod, which was now recognizable as a gate latch with a loop at one end and a catch at the other.

“Finally,” Tanis said, “the gnomes split into two armies to search for the gem. They found it in the high tower of a barbarian prince named Gargath.”

Holding a pair of strong tongs at each end of the squared-off rod, the dwarf put his considerable strength into the operation and twisted the latch one full turn. The four edges of the rod swirled into a four-lined decoration at the middle of the latch. Flint thrust the latch into a half-barrel of cool water and then held it up for Tanis to see.

The half-elf raised his eyebrows, but kept pumping and talking. “The prince refused to hand over the stone, and the two groups declared war on him. When they finally penetrated the fortress, the stone’s light exploded through the area. And when the gnomes could see again, the two factions had changed.”

Flint was looking proudly at the latch. “I could sell this for a good price in Solace,” he told the half-elf.

“The curious gnomes,” Tanis said, “became kender. The ones who lusted for wealth became … uh … became …” Tanis stopped and blushed.

“Became …?” Flint prompted, still displaying the latch.

“… dwarves,” Tanis concluded, a bit shamefacedly.

“Ah,” said the dwarf. “You can stop the bellows now.”

Tanis bit his lower lip and studied the dwarf. “Is it the same story you knew?” he asked.

Flint smiled and nodded. “Same old story,” he said.

That night, Miral tossed on his pallet and drifted in and out of the same dream that had plagued him almost nightly since reports of the tylor had come in from the countryside.

He was very small, the size of a child, cowering in a crevice of an enormous cave. He knew that he was far underground, yet light from somewhere provided dim illumination.

Enough light penetrated the murk of the chamber that the tiny Miral could see the beaklike, open maw of the tylor that ranged this way and that as though seeking his scent.

“Come out,” the creature boomed. “I will not hurt you.”

Miral shuddered and pulled still farther into the opening, knowing he was dreaming and knowing, also, that he could do nothing to stop what was coming in this nightmare.

The dragonlike beast thrust one clawed foreleg into the crevice. Miral the child cringed back as far as he could go and, to his embarrassment, cried for his mother. He moved sideways and pressed his right side farther back, against the converging walls of the crevice.

Once again, as always in this dream, he felt cool air against his right arm—where there should have been nothing but dead, unmoving air. Miral knew that the worst part of the nightmare was ahead, the part that shocked him into wakefulness and the realization that he’d sleep no more.

As Miral shoved still harder against the angle of the crevice, a hand clutched his right arm.

Kindred Spirits