(Meanwhile our readers are taken to a bird’s eye view of the calm, little village of Snowberry. In the horizon, the sun already sank in the sky and now the black ceiling of nighttime is dressed in a blanket of sparkling starlight. Chimneys billow stacks of smoke which ascend and fade into transparency. Rooftops are adorned with crowns of white snow, and a peaceful stillness fills the avenues and winding roads. Down below, there is a building with a large a sign – no not that one, a much bigger sign with more lettering. Here we are, arriving at a place known as ‘Hedrum’s Steel Swords and Imported Weapons of the Far North.’ In the yard, a decorative anvil coated in thick icicles greets our eyes. Just beyond it, providing light and a bit of warmth from the cool breezes of the night, is a window all aglow. Two figures huddle close to some obscured source of heat, perhaps near the fading fires of a forge, and their voices can be heard . . .)
“No, no, like this – it’s pronounced with a wide mouth. Howl. See? Howl, hoooowl.”
Grom tried to mimick Chlora’s guidance. “Hewl. Heyewl, Huuuwl.” He gave up. “Oh, what’s the point? I don’t see many humans trying to learn our language. Why do we have to study theirs?”
“Because,” his tutor replied thoughtfully, “the language is used in many countries of the Realm. It’s a good skill to have, you know.”
“Yes, and so is swordplay,” Hedrum chimed in as he entered the backroom, “but she’s right Grom, knowing their language has its uses. You may not realize it, living as far from the village as you do, but over the years I’ve seen more and more humans setting up shop here in Snowberry, and even more of them traveling along the trade routes.” Scouring around for a minute, he added, “Have you seen my tongs laying anywhere, Chlora?”
“Over there, Pap.” She pointed to a shelf he passed over two or three times before.
“Ah! there they are. Thank you.” He hurriedly quit the backroom, casting one last suspicious look at the two, (obviously opposite sexed and relatively unwatched), dwarven adolescents.
“Hedrum!” His wife caught him attempting to abscond from the backroom and return to the storefront on tiptoe, thanks to a squeaking floorboard. She grabbed his arm and gently guided him over to his grindstone, then whispered sweetly, “Let them be.”
“What would you have a father do, Maren? I’m just keeping an eye on them. Would you rather I tend to my work?”
“I’d rather you tend to my forge tonight,” she replied playfully.
That unique, one-of-a-kind twinkle gleamed in her ambercolored eyes. Her dark mahogany hair was a sea of curling waves. Hedrum felt the sudden rush of vivacity that blasted him back to the years of his youth. The lovers embraced one another affectionately, readied a kiss and then-
A raucous rapping rocked the front door.
They exchanged glances of disappointment. “Someone visiting at such an hour?” he asked bitterly.