Wednesday, November 8, 2023

His Father's Axe

Lithos Foundingstone did his best to raise the heavy axe above his head, but his arms were shaking with its weight and the weapon wobbled dangerously. He shifted his feet, suddenly acutely aware that if he missed the log he was trying to split he could lose a foot. He was only twenty-seven, after all, not even halfway to the first mark of dwarven adulthood, and the two-handed axe was longer than he was tall.

The axe wavered, and he started to swing it down...

The axe stopped in mid-descent, and Lithos looked up to see his mother's hand wrapped around the haft, just under the upper mount of the blade. 

"Lithos," his mother said, and he felt his determination shrink."What are you thinking? Gutripper is no fit tool for chopping wood. How did you even get it down?"

Lithos considered the easy scrabble up the shelves behind the heavy wooden bar, and then the struggle to pull Gutripper from its mounting hooks and master its weight on the way back down. He'd been lucky the axe had landed with one side down; otherwise the enchanted blade or the back-spike would have gouged the stone floor of the inn. "It wasn't easy," he admitted, sullenly. 

"Lithos..." His mother sighed, then pulled the axe from his grip, holding it easily in one hand. Gutripper was a bearded axe, a Bardiche, with a blade that swept down along the upper half of its haft, and was mounted at both top and bottom. It was a heavy blade made for powerful, two-handed use. 

"I was trying to help!" he protested. 

"You have better ways to help than chopping wood." Tara Foundingstone laid the axe aside and sat down, putting her head slightly below her son's. "What brought you to this?" 

Lithos looked away, stubborn, and swallowed. His mother just waited. Finally he said, "A dwarf should be able to swing an axe."

His mother shook her head. "I never did."

"You're a cleric," Lithos protested. "You had a hammer!" It was no secret; the hammer was hung on the same wall behind the bar, just above the axe. It just wasn't any good for chopping wood, because... well... hammer... so he'd left it up there. "And I should be able to help out."

His mother frowned. "You do help out. Why are you suddenly concerned about swinging axes and chopping wood?"

Lithos felt himself close up. He wasn't going to tell her; he wasn't going to admit anything. This was his problem, and he was going to deal with it himself. 

His mother studied him for a long moment. At last she asked, "The kids at the school?" 

Okay, so maybe he was going to tell her. "They said I'm feycurst, not fit to be a dwarf. They said I was useless, and couldn't even help out around the inn."

"Mavis Deepriver," his mother muttered darkly, "and that troublemaking son of hers..." She shook her head and smoothed her expression. "I'll be having a word with that whole family," she added. "Honestly, just because they resent having to pay full price for... well, that's a matter for later. Lithos, you are not cursed. You are quick and you are clever, where most dwarves tend to tough and stubborn, but that is not a lack of merit on your part." She studied him for a long moment. "You're young for it still, but I think it's time to arrange for your apprenticeship."

"I don't want an apprenticeship," Lithos answered angrily, then caught himself. Did he?

His mother raised her eyebrows. "Are you certain? Your uncle Windborne is eager to teach you."

...Oh. Uncle Windborne was an elf, and a wizard. And an apprenticeship... most dwarves weren't offered apprenticeships until they were fifty years old, at least. Delver Deepriver would still make fun of him, of course, for studying under an elf... but Delver would also know that Lithos had been taken into a trade before he was even being considered for one.

"Is all well over here?" asked a deep, bluff voice. 

Lithos turned to see his father approaching, and felt himself blush. Gutripper was -- or had been -- his father's chosen weapon on the battlefield in the days before he was born, when his father still wore armor. 

"Mostly well," said his mother, and lifted up the axe. "Be a dear and put this back where it belongs. I'll explain later." 

Marduk Foundingstone showed them a puzzled frown for long moment; then he shrugged and took the axe. "I'll be inside," he said easily, and walked away. 

Lithos knew his parents were famous adventurers. He knew that was why Delver hated him and tried to tear him down: because nobody in the Deepriver clan could stand the idea that anybody might have more status than they did. But people, and not just dwarves, came to the Porphyry Bowl because they knew about his parents -- and many of them took an interest in their children. 

"Your aunt Velithra offered to teach you, too," his mother said after a moment. "It would be a very different curriculum, unusual for a dwarf, but we agree that you could do that too."

Velithra was the one who juggled daggers to amuse the children when she came to visit. She was a human, but graceful as an elf and full of tricks that she was happy to share with her nephews and nieces. Lithos thought she was nice, but maybe a little too busy for him to be completely comfortable with. Uncle Windborne was calm, imperturbable, and moved through the world as if he knew he had all the time in it. Of the two...

"I could..." Lithos swallowed. "I could learn to be a wizard."

His mother smiled. "Then I'll arrange it. And we'll see what Mavis Deepriver and her thoroughly spoiled son have to say when they learn of it." She leaned forward, looking serious. "Don't tell them anything until you have to. The longer you've been learning before they discover it, the better."

Lithos nodded, intent and serious. "I won't say a word."

So there's an opening. Tara Foundingstone was a cleric, and her husband Marduk Foundingstone was a classic dwarven fighter. They retired and bought an inn, and their children are growing up in the shadow of their exploits. They have adventuring companions, also retired, who are considered family: the elvish wizard Windborne Flyleaf and the human rogue Velithra, and possibly others. They have... three dwarven children of their own, and an adopted halfling child? We'll have to work out the birth order and the interpersonal relationships, but this is one way the new party can be tied together (even if this story is set well before the campaign starts). Honestly, I really like the idea of playing with the "children of famous adventurers" character concept. Not all the new characters have to be part of the same family -- the group could be something more like The Them from Good Omens, with Delver Deepriver and his friends forming a rival gang  -- but it's here if y'all want it.

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