Chapter 19
The Medallion

A.C. 308, Early Summer

Weeks went by without any further word on the controversy over Lord Xenoth’s death. A quiet funeral was held for the longtime adviser two days after his death. Truth to tell, few people in the court missed the irascible adviser, and more than one elf silently breathed a sigh of relief at not having to cross verbal swords with him anymore.

Xenoth’s funeral did not prevent the general population from conducting spontaneous festivals to celebrate the slaying of the tylor. The beast had done much to inhibit the trade that increasingly formed a basis of the Qualinesti economy. The beast’s horned head was displayed for a time at the southwestern guard tower, and long lines of elves, many with excited children in tow, formed to view the trophy.

Tanis found himself the focus of admiring glances by the common elves in the Grand Market, and suspicious ones by the courtiers in the Tower and palace. Both situations made him uncomfortable. In addition, Laurana was avoiding him and treating him with elaborate coolness on those instances when they could not evade each other. As a result, he spent more time than ever in Flint’s shop, watching the dwarf prepare sketches for Porthios’s Kentommen medallion.

“The Speaker filled Lord Xenoth’s position yesterday,” Tanis observed one morning as he watched the dwarf’s hands fly over the parchment with a piece of charcoal.

“With …?” prompted the dwarf.

“Litanas, of course.”

“I imagine that has sealed Litanas’s suit with Lady Selena,” Flint remarked.

Tanis nodded. “Ulthen is walking around like a lost soul, sighing and gazing at Selena like …” He cast about for an appropriate simile. Suddenly, a clatter of mule hooves interrupted his reverie, and Fleetfoot appeared in the open doorway to the shop, limpid brown eyes alight with affection. “… like a lovelorn mule.”

Flinging down his charcoal with a soft curse, Flint intercepted the creature just as she placed a hoof inside the sill. Berating the animal, he led her back to the shed.

When Flint’s grumbling had receded, Tanis rose and moved to the table. More than a dozen sketches, showing different views of the medal, lay on the wooden surface. Flint was working with various combinations of elven symbols—aspen leaves, of course, and other woodland elements. He’d even roughed in a caricature of Porthios that suggested both stubbornness and strength but emphasized too much the permanent glower on the elf lord’s face; Flint had drawn a big “X” through the sketch. Tanis decided that a medallion showing intertwined aspen, oak, and ivy leaves was his favorite.

Flint stomped back into the shop and slammed the door, inadvertently cutting off the welcome breeze that had eased the midsummer heat. He’d doffed his usual tunic in the heat, and wore only a lightweight pair of parchment-colored breeches and a loose shirt, the color of a robin’s egg, gathered in the front and back and left untucked.

“That blankety mule,” the dwarf groused. “I’ve made four different latches for her stall, and she’s outsmarted every one.”

“She adores you, Flint. Love conquers all, you know,” Tanis commented, hiding a smile.

“My mother used to say, ‘Love and a penny will get you a crusty bun with cheese at the Saturday market,’ ” Flint remarked, his concentration back on the drawing.

Tanis was opening his mouth to comment on Flint’s sketches when he snapped it shut again. He gazed at the dwarf in befuddlement. “So?” he finally asked.

“So?” the dwarf echoed, raising one bushy brow.

“So what does that mean?” the half-elf demanded.

“Reorx only knows,” Flint said, seating himself at the table and taking up the charcoal again. “It was just something my mother said.”


Flint twirled the drawings around so Tanis could see them. “Which do you prefer?”

Tanis pointed to the intertwined leaves. “That one, but it’s too plain.”

The dwarf pondered the sketch. “That’s what I thought. The problem is, I can’t figure whether to do the medallion in metal or wood.”

Tanis looked questioningly at the dwarf.

“It seems,” Flint explained, “as though wood would be a good medium—to show the elves’ connection to nature. But a carved wooden medal will look like one of those birch disks the children use for play coins.” Flint turned the sketches back toward himself. “Not exactly an image to celebrate the coming of age of the Speaker’s heir.”

“How about steel?” Tanis asked.

Flint thought, his voice far away, musing. “There’s that. It’s a precious metal, but everything comes across cold and heartless in steel. Take your mother’s pendant.” Tanis touched the hilt of the sword he still insisted on carrying everywhere with him. “It’s beautiful, but it’s … distant somehow. Beautiful—and full of meaning for you, her son—but it’s not warm.”

As the half-elf watched, the dwarf rested his forehead on his hands. “I don’t have that much time left,” he complained. “The Kentommen is coming up in two weeks, and I’ve yet to take my sketches to the Speaker for approval.”

When Tanis didn’t say anything, the dwarf rubbed his eyes one last time, rose, and crossed the dwelling to an oak sideboard that held a huge trencher of raspberries. There he used a wooden scoop to fill two pottery bowls with berries.

“Another gift from Eld Ailea?” Tanis asked ingenuously. “Like that shirt you’re decked out in today?”

Flint glanced suspiciously at Tanis. “Exactly what is that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, nothing.” Tanis held up his hands in mock-surrender.

The dwarf pointed the scoop at the half-elf. “Ailea has become a good friend. And I might add that you yourself have spent a fair amount of time with her in the past few weeks, lad.”

Tanis plucked a berry from one bowl and ate it. “Do you want me to get some cream to pour over these?” Flint cooled his provisions, including milk and cream, by sealing them in ceramic jugs and lowering the containers into a spring in his back yard.

The dwarf spooned a generous portion of raspberries into his mouth, closed his eyes, and chewed slowly, murmuring, “Wonderful, just the way they are.” Then his blue-gray eyes flew open, and he glared at the half-elf. “And anyway, I pay Ailea with toys. These are not gifts.” He lifted the bowl and took it back to the table to examine his drawings.

Tanis decided it was time for a change of subject. “If you can’t decide between wood and steel, why not mix them?” His voice was muffled with berries.

Flint nodded, not paying much attention. Then he turned to Tanis. “What was that you said?” he demanded.

“Why not mix …”

But Flint had already pulled out another sheet of parchment and was sketching away furiously. He mumbled to himself, but Tanis couldn’t catch the words. The half-elf sighed. It was just as well; with the day’s stultifying heat, Tanis was ready for a nap anyway. Five minutes later, the half-elf was curled up on Flint’s cot, sound asleep.

The dwarf worked on.

It was early afternoon when Flint finally raised his head from the page. “Look at these, lad. I need your opinion.” He looked over at Tanis, but the half-elf barely stirred. “Well!” Flint gazed again at his design, then rolled the sheet into a cylinder, leaving the others on the table, and departed, closing the door quietly.

Thirty minutes later, Flint had unrolled the paper on the Speaker’s marble-topped table in the Tower. Solostaran leaned over to examine the dwarf’s suggestion.

“I’ve decided to mix gold, silver, steel, antler, red coral, and malachite,” the dwarf said excitedly. “And aspen wood.”

The sketch showed a medallion about the size of a child’s fist. The medal depicted a woodland scene, with an aspen in the foreground and a path leading back through spruce trees to a hill. Above the hill were two moons. “I’ll make the medal by sandwiching a back plate of steel with a fore plate of gold. Into the gold fore plate I’ll cut out the figures—the trees, the moons, the path.”

Solostaran nodded. It was a clever plan. “What of the coral and malachite?” he asked. “Where do they fit in?”

“I’ll inlay the piece,” Flint explained. “Once I’ve sandwiched the two plates together, I’ll fill in the outline of the trees—green malachite for the leaves and branches and brown antler for the trunk. The path will be of antler and steel. One moon, Lunitari, will be of red coral. The other, Solinari, will be formed of silver.”

But the Speaker looked dubious. “It’s beautiful, but it’s so elaborate. Are you sure you can fashion this in two weeks?”

Flint winked, and dipped a handful of dried figs and glazed almonds from the silver bowl on the desk. The bowl always seemed to be full whenever the dwarf arrived, but Flint never paused to consider the significance of that; he merely congratulated himself on his good fortune in having a friend whose taste in snacks mirrored his own. “The hard part is the thinking,” the dwarf said. “The rest comes easily.

“Is the design all right?” Flint waited confidently, knowing the Speaker would be pleased but wanting to hear him say it.

“It’s perfect,” Solostaran said.

A smile split the dwarf’s face. “Good. Then I’ll get working right away.” He reached for his drawing.

Solostaran’s voice stopped him. “Master Fireforge. Flint.”

The dwarf looked at his friend.

“What are people saying in the aftermath of Lord Xenoth’s death?” the Speaker asked quietly.

Flint’s hand remained suspended above the parchment. Then he slowly rolled up the sketch. “Well, you know I don’t have much business with many of the courtiers now.” Especially since he’d taken Tanis’s side after the tylor hunt, he might have added.

“What are the common folk saying, then?”

Flint tied a string around the rolled paper and exhaled slowly. “Lord Xenoth wasn’t much liked by many people, especially those he considered … lower-class,” he said carefully. “But many elves also approved of his views about keeping Qualinesti apart from the rest of Krynn.” He decided to plunge on ahead. “Those same elves don’t approve of my being here, and they’re not overly fond of allowing half-elves to live in the city, either.”

“There are fanatics on every issue,” Solostaran murmured. “The question is, how prevalent are they?”

“That I don’t know, sir.”

Solostaran smiled wanly. “Call me ‘Speaker,’ ” he said. “Remember when I told you that, the day you arrived in Qualinost?”

“Remember?” The dwarf hooted. “How could I forget? How many folks get lessons in court decorum from the Speaker of the Sun himself?”

Solostaran didn’t speak, and eventually his smile and Flint’s grin faded. “Many of the courtiers are not pleased, Flint. They say … they say I am protecting Tanthalas because he is my ward. They say I should banish him.”

Banish Tanis? “That’s absurd,” Flint said. “He didn’t kill Xenoth. Didn’t Miral explain how the burst of magic might have diverted the second arrow?”

“Flint,” Solostaran said, “I have talked to a number of magic-users in the past weeks, and they all agree. Circumstances such as those Miral painted are extremely unlikely. His explanation would call for the tylor’s powerful magic to ‘ricochet’ off a weak mage like Miral and somehow force one small arrow off course to land in an elf’s chest. They say it’s not impossible, but not probable, either. For one thing, such an occurrence most likely would have killed any but a powerful mage.

“For the past weeks, I’ve been going from expert to expert, hoping to find one who will say, ‘Yes, that’s probably what happened.’ ”

Solostaran pushed his leather chair away from the massive table and turned to face the huge windows. “It can’t be done, Flint. No one who understands magic will say that.” Despite the blazing heat outside, the marble and quartz building stayed cool inside. Flint shivered.

“What will you do, Speaker?”

“What can I do?” Solostaran demanded, his angry movements rustling his robe of state. “I am left with a situation in which the closest eyewitness—and someone I trust absolutely—says that the most obvious explanation—that Tanis aimed badly—simply is not true. The other explanations that would exonerate my ward are deemed virtually impossible by elves who should know.

“That leaves me with one conclusion. What happened to Xenoth could not have happened. Yet it obviously did.” The Speaker paced before the window wall. “My courtiers feel I should ‘do something,’ but the result they want appears morally indefensible to me. I cannot banish Tanthalas solely because some hidebound members of court resent his presence and have found a way to get rid of him. And yet …” He returned to his chair, where he slumped backward. “Somehow I always get back to ‘and yet …’ ”

Flint cast about for a reply, but none was forthcoming. All he could promise to do was to think on the subject, and to keep his ears open to gauge elven opinion on the matter.

When Flint emerged from the Tower of the Sun moments later, prepared to walk slowly down the blue and white tiled streets to his shop, a familiar figure was waiting on the steps of the Tower. A small crowd of admiring children had gathered around Fleetfoot, who lifted her graying muzzle and brayed enthusiastically as Flint drew near. A ragged length of rope hung from the collar that Flint had fashioned for her—his latest attempt to clip her wings.

“You doorknob of a mule!” the dwarf huffed. “Only a kender could be a bigger pest.” He grabbed the chewed length of rope and hauled the infatuated animal along the street.

Kindred Spirits