by Tom Dowd[edit | edit source]
They sit for a few minutes in uneasy silence. Around them the lives of those who’d chosen to visit the park this day unfold, all but oblivious to the two on the bench. Any other reaction would be a shock to both as neither appears to the unschooled as they actually are. Today they appear as two of the homeless, an ork and a dwarf, which is almost as far from the truth as one can get and still retain a degree of sanity.
The ork, aged and dark skinned, finally turns his head slightly and regards the other through what seems to be the misty gray of partial cataracts. The dwarf, light skinned and long unshaven, does not move from staring at the stagnant pond they face.
“So,” the ork finally says, his tone low and careful, “did you kill him?”
The dwarf shifts his gaze to meet the other’s. He shakes his head. “No. Did you?”
“No.” The dark ork sighs.
The other nods. “I could not convince myself one way or the other as to your guilt.”
The dwarf raises a bushy eyebrow. “As usual, I do not follow your drift.”
The other nods again. “Exactly so.” he replies. “I meant that there were times where I had to consciously think about whether or not I had killed him myself or arranged to have it done. I hadn’t, but could have, and perhaps should have, hence my confusion.”
“Many believe you had a hand in it.”
“Of course they do. Let them.” The ork says. “It is a dark and terrible thing I have done.” he adds, chuckling.
There is a long silence between them.
“Blood and tears,” the ork says finally, “the list is disquietingly short.”
The other nods. “The years slip behind us like a soft breeze, carrying away friend and foe alike, leaving us only the rumor of their passing.”
The ork snorts, looks away and stares at the pond. “You’re in a better place to know; anyone else show up?”
Shaking his head, the dwarf says: “No. Of course, we always hear rumors. None have proven true.”
“I sometimes get odd sensations that there are others out there, but this is the first Awakening I’ve seen. It could be normal.” the ork tells him.
The ork tilts his head slightly. “Really? Any clue?”
“No. He could have been speaking of the resurrected Alamais, but somehow I doubt it.”
The ork nods again.
“I’d have thought it more likely that many of the others who’d survived would have talked to you before any of the Courts,” the dwarf says.
The ork shrugs. “Maybe.”
“So you are saying that you do not know of any others that I do not.”
The ork turns his head and raises an eyebrow slightly. “How the frag can I say that? But, since we are being up front I will say that to the best of my knowledge I do not know of anyone else that you don’t also know about.”
Looking away, the dwarf nods and then falls silent for a moment.
“So, since we are here,” the dwarf finally asks, keeping his tone as neutral as he can, “how is my daughter?”
The appearance of the dark skinned ork shifts without warning, slipping into a smear of color and shape as his eyes widen slightly in surprise. He turns his head very slowly as he regains his composure. “Excuse me?”
A slight grin appears barely visible beneath the other’s matted white hair. “Of course I knew, you twit. I am not as completely self absorbed as you like to believe.”
“No, I suppose you couldn’t be...”
“How is she? I presume you are training her? Is she a quick study?” There is a surprising eagerness in his eyes.
“Yes, yes she is. I wasn’t sure at first, but she catches on quickly.” the other tells him. “She has an intriguing perspective that at times is a gross hindrance but at other times is damn practical.”
“Good.” There is another long pause. “Does she know?”
“Know what?” the ork asks as innocently as he can.
“You know exactly what I mean you caustic goat!”
This time the ork smiles. “No. She doesn’t.”
“Good? Good? Not too long ago you’d have tried to force me to eat bone worms for less!”
“True, but she needs to find her own way.” the dwarf says. “Though she is of me, she is not me. Keeping her close by would only force her to be something she is not.”
“Yea,” the ork says, “Glasgian really is a shit, isn’t he?”
“I said nothing of the kind.” the dwarf retorts. “But yes, he is a proof of my point.”
The ork nods again. “Still, I have to say I’m surprised that you’re not more pissed off at me. I wasn’t sure if your asking for this face to face was about daughter or dragon.”
“Which concerned you more?”
“Daughter.” The ork tells him after a moment. “You were never particularly fond of the dragon.”
“I never had any quarrel with the dragon. It was the motion of his mouth I thought we could all do without.”
“I’m with you there.”
“As for my daughter,” the dwarf says slowly, “you and I have not seen eye to eye in quite some time. Nor do I suspect we will truly ever.”
“We agree about the dragon.”
“Point. And if you’ll let me continue, though we do not agree, and though I have and will continue to describe you as an irrational, inconsiderate, unaccomodating, argumentative, slacker—”
“—Be quiet. It was the only word I could think of— who conveniently hides behind an all-too-literal mask, I, unlike many, have a long memory.”
The ork looks away again.
“I have no concerns for the well-being of my daughter under your tutelage or care.” the dwarf finishes, and then lets the moment hang. “Getting back to the dragon: Have you found Excalibur yet?” he continues.
Snorting, the ork turns back toward him. “You know better than I that there ain’t no such thing.”
“Literally, no. But as the years pass such literalness becomes less and less relevant. And we both know what he truly meant.”
The ork nods again. “The armor still fits.”
This time the dwarf chuckles. “I’m shocked.” he says, and then stands. “I have to go. There is a Council meeting tonight I cannot miss.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll deal you in whenever you get there.”
The dwarf snorts and turns to begin walking away.
“But you know,” the ork says, and the other pauses to listen, “we didn’t decide who did kill the dragon.”
The dwarf nods. “No, we didn’t,” he says. “And if you can remember how, I would suggest you pray that it was someone, or something, we know.” He turns, steps, and begins to fade away as if engulfed by fog. “Because if it is not...” And he is gone.
The ork sits on the bench as the overcast light slowly fades from the park. Every once in a while he drinks from the amber bottle wrapped in brown paper he keeps in his coat pocket. Its taste is bitter.
Everyone ignores him. He knows it will not last.
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Page last updated: June 17, 1997