Once the enchantment had been removed, the dark elves turned out to be an affable people, quick to talk about the weather, life under the earth, and working the rich veins of metal and precious stone that mother earth provided. Thrud hated being underground and cried a lot, so Tiren often had to focus on her. Vinnu never got over being frightened, just to look at the goblins, so Gunder had his hands full as well. Kined, Vilder and Pinn, by contrast, were all ears, especially when the goblins talked about the bronze. By the time they reached the other side of the mountains, they had a good idea of how to work and blend the metals to produce the high-grade composite.
They came to a big cave that first night, one that had been worked and expanded over the years. Bricklebrains felt right at home in the cave, but he felt wary about the company. Riah did not mind the company so much, since her people had not had a run-in with goblins in a long time, but she said she felt likely to suffocate in the caves if she did not soon get out into the fresh air. Wlvn stayed non-committal about the whole thing and would have been content to sit back through the whole journey if there had not been that argument in the night.
“What are they on about?” Bricklebrains asked. The goblins camped a bit apart from the travelers so as not to interfere with their night sleep. Goblins were creatures of the night and apt to be up at all hours.
“Seeing who gets what part to eat once we fall asleep.” Vinnu could not help it. The words just popped out of her mouth. Everyone ignored her except Gunder who held her.
“Wondering which way to go?” Pinn suggested.
“How they find their way in this underground maze is beyond me,” Vilder agreed.
“The nose.” Bricklebrains tapped his nose like a person might tap the side of their head. “Can’t you just smell them? I smell trolls, come to think of it.”
“I can’t smell anything,” Riah admitted. “I can’t hardly breathe down here. It is so stuffy.”
“Stuffy is not the word I would use,” Thrud said. “It smells like a grave if you ask me.”
“Hush,” Tiren said softly, and turned Thrud’s head back into his shoulder.
Kined got ready to add his thoughts when a goblin stood and said, “Lord,” loud and clear. Wlvn sighed. He hoped he could stay out of it.
Two goblins came over with Goldenstone. Wlvn named them as Batwings and Dross. Goldenstone did the talking. “We got an argument brewing and wonder if you could help us settle things.”
“I heard,” Wlvn said.
“Well, you see Lord. It’s about all the hardware you are carrying. Dross here says it was made by the gods what with you being counted among them and all, but Batwings insists it is elf made. He says his family proudly made some of it back in the ancient years.”
“Let’s see.” Wlvn pulled out his sword. It gleamed in the firelight, though how the goblins managed a fire underground that did not smoke them all to death was a magic beyond any the humans could imagine. He handed the sword to Goldenstone to examine, and Vinnu shrieked softly.
“Are you mad?”
Wlvn just smiled as Goldenstone turned the blade to the ground in order to examine the area around the handle. “The runes here are kinda small,” he said.
“Unauthorized,” Wlvn told him. “No permission from Aesgard to use runes.”
Goldenstone did not look up but nodded. “More than likely. It says property of the Kairos, but we know that.” Goldenstone turned it over and then turned it over again. “Sorry Batwings, I don’t see your family mark. But then I don’t see any mark.”
“Check the handle,” Wlvn suggested.
“Naw, they always mark the metal,” Dross insisted.
“Not when they are using unauthorized runes,” Wlvn countered.
“Good point,” Dross conceded, and they checked the handle and Batwings fairly shouted.
“Aha! There it is. My family mark, just like on Thor’s hammer. This sword was strictly elf made. No god ever touched it.” Batwings puffed out his chest. “My family is the best in the business. The gods themselves come to us for what they need.”
“Let me see that.” Dross made a grab for the sword.
“Hey!” Batwings had one hand already on the handle while Goldenstone still held it. They began to tussle for it, and someone yelled.
Vinnu buried her face in Gunder’s chest. She did not want to watch. Kined, quite to the contrary, had to keep himself from laughing. He started adjusting to the idea of having at least some second-hand responsibility for all of these spirits of the earth. Riah caught Kined’s feelings and stifled her own laugh.
Wlvn just sighed again and snapped his finger, and with a word the sword vanished from the hands of the goblins and reappeared properly sheathed across his back.
“Hey!” All three goblins shouted and swatted at the air with empty hands for a moment before they stopped.
“I told you it was elf made,” Batwings smirked.
Dross turned red in the face. “Your family got no finesse. We make everything worth having, like the amulet of peace and prosperity. That was one of ours.” Dross raised a fist. Batwings responded by raising both of his fists. Goldenstone backed up to get out of the way. Wlvn spoke up.
“Gentlemen, we have guests. Please behave yourselves. I have heard this argument before and it is pointless, but at least you could wait until we are finished with this little journey.”
Batwings and Dross both lowered their fists slowly, but they snarled at each other before they smiled for Wlvn. “Of course, Lord. As you say. We can always settle matters later. Journey first.” And they backed away with a few bows before they rejoined the group of goblins on the other side of the cave where, truth be told, some looked disappointed that there would not be a brawl.
“So, your weapons are elf made?” Vilder had to ask, and Wlvn responded by pulling out his long knife. He handed it over with a word.
“Bronze. The dark elves discerned the secret ages ago, but we humans are just discovering it.” They all examined the weapon before they opted for sleep, not to say that Vinnu, Thrud or Riah got much sleep. Bricklebrains also felt inclined to stay up most of the night, since he had little trust of goblins.
After two days, they saw sight of the setting sun through a cave entrance and Thrud dropped the reins of her horse and made a run for it. She collapsed just outside the entrance and breathed like she had been holding her breath the whole time she was underground. Riah also took deep breaths, but it was because the stink underground finally got to her, or so she said.
Wlvn made Kined stand beside him when he said good-bye to Goldenstone and the other goblins, and then they all started out together, still walking their horses over the rough, rock-strewn upper mountain path.
They arrive in the village where Faya grew up and find great-grandchildren there. Faya is prompted to search for Fritt, but the Jaccar and a powerful witch arrive. Until Monday, Happy Reading