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And I suppose she’s right. It’s better to do this than to sit and do nothing except wait for death. But I have my doubts that any of our people will ever see this. I think it will more likely be some stranger.

It’s odd for me to think a stranger may be reading this after I am dead. Odder still to find myself sharing my fears and doubts with a stranger, when I can’t share them with those I love. Perhaps that person will be from another seamoon. If there are other seamoons, which I doubt. Still, Alake says it’s sinful to think that the One might have made us and no one else. But we dwarves are great doubters, suspicious of anything that hasn’t been around at least as long as we have.

I doubt that our deaths will accomplish anything.

I doubt that the Masters of the Sea will keep their word. Our sacrifice will be for nothing. Our people are doomed.

There. I’ve put it down at last. I feel better for it, though I will have to make certain now that Alake never sees this journal.

My name is Grundle.

It came much easier that time. My father is Yngvar Heavybeard, Vater[7] of the Gargan. My mother is Hilda. In her youth, she was said to be the most beautiful woman in all the seamoon. Songs have been made of my beauty, but I’ve seen a portrait done on her wedding day; I’m plain, compared to her. Her side whiskers came almost to her waist and were the honey color, which is extremely rare and prized among dwarves.

My father tells the story that when my mother stepped out onto the field of contest, the other contenders took one look at her and walked off, leaving her the unchallenged winner. My mother, I am told, was extremely put out at this, for she had practiced long at the ax-throw and could hit the target five times out of six. If I had stayed on Gargan, they would have been holding the marriage contests for me, since I’m near the end of the Time of Seeking. That blot is a tear. Now I’m certain I can’t let Alake see this!

I wasn’t crying for myself, mind you. I was crying for Hartmut. He loves me very much. And I love him. But I can’t let myself think about him or the tears will wash out the ink on the page.

The person who finds this will probably be astonished to discover a dwarf writing this account. Our people have little use for such matters as reading and writing and ciphering. Writing makes the mind lazy, according to my people, who each keep the entire history of Gargan in their heads, plus the history of their individual families. Dwarves, in fact, have no written language of their own, which is why I am writing this in human. We keep excellent accounts in our heads, as well—a marvel to human and elven purveyors. I have yet to see the dwarf who couldn’t tell to the grain how much money he or she has made in a lifetime. Some old graybeards will go on for cycles!

I myself would never have learned to read and write, except that I am—or was—destined to be ruler of my people. And since I would be dealing so closely with our human and elven allies, my father and mother decided that I should be brought up among them and educated in their ways. And (I think they considered this more important!) they wanted me to educate the humans and elves in our ways.

At an early age, I was sent to Elmas—the elven seamoon[8]—along with Alake, the daughter of the chieftain of Phondra. Alake is near my age mentally, if not in terms of actual cycles. (Humans lead such pitifully short lives, they are forced to grow up rapidly.) With us was Sabia, the elven princess, who joined us in our studies.

Beautiful, gentle Sabia. I will never see her again. But the One be thanked that she escaped this cruel fate.

We three girls spent many years together, driving our teachers to distraction and learning to love each other like sisters. Indeed, we became closer than most sisters I’ve known, for there was never any rivalry or jealousy between us.

Our only disagreements stemmed from learning to put up with the others’ shortcomings. But our parents were wise in raising us together. For example, I had never much liked humans. They talk too loudly and too fast, are too aggressive, and keep bouncing from one subject to another, one place to another. They never seem to sit still or take time to think. Being around humans over a long period of time taught me to understand that their impatience and ambition and their constant need for hurry, hurry, hurry is just their way of attempting to outrace their own mortality. By contrast, I learned that the long-lived elves are not lazy dreamers, as most dwarves consider them, but people who simply take life at their leisure, without a worry or care for tomorrow, since they are certain to have almost innumerable tomorrows left to deal with it.

And Alake and Sabia were good enough to put up with my blunt honesty, a trait of my people. (I would like to think it is a good one, but it can be carried to extremes!) A dwarf will always tell the truth, no matter how little anyone else is prepared to hear it. We can also be very stubborn, and once we dig in our heels we stay put and rarely budge. An unusually stubborn human is said to have “feet like a dwarf.”

In addition, I learned how to speak and write fluent human and elven (though our poor governess was always offended by the awkward way I held my pen). I studied the histories of their seamoons and their differing versions of the history of our world, Chelestra. But what I truly learned was affection for my dear sister-friends and, through them, their races.

We used to plan what we would do to bring our people even closer together when we at last came to rule, each of us on our own seamoon.

Never to be. We none of us will live that long.

I suppose I had better tell what happened.

It all began the day I was to bless the sun-chaser. My day. My wonderful day. I could not sleep for excitement. Hurriedly I dressed myself in my best clothes—a long-sleeved blouse of plain and serviceable fabric (we have no use for frills), an overdress laced behind, and stout, thick boots. Standing before the looking glass in my bedroom in my father’s house, I began the day’s most important task: brushing and curling my hair and side whiskers. The time seemed all too short before I heard my father calling for me. I made believe I hadn’t heard him, stood looking at myself with a critical eye, wondering if I was fit to be seen in public. You mustn’t think that such attention to my appearance was all for vanity’s sake. As heir to the Gargan throne, I’m expected to both look and act the part.

I had to admit—I was pretty.

I cleared away the pots of oil, imported from the elves of Elmas, and replaced the curling tongs carefully in their stand by the grate. Sabia, who has servants falling all over her (and who has never once brushed her own long blonde hair), can’t get over the fact that I not only dress myself, but clean up afterward. We Gargan are a proud and self-sufficient people and would never dream of waiting on each other in a menial capacity. Our Vater chops his own fire wood; our Muter does her own laundry and sweeps her own floor. I curl my own hair. The only mark of distinction the royal family receives above all other Gargan is that we are expected to work twice as hard as anyone else. Today, however, our family was to have one of the rewards for services rendered to the people. The fleet of sun-chasers had been completed. My father would ask the blessing of the One upon them, and I would have the honor of nailing a lock of my hair to the bow of the flagship.



Father or king. The queen is known as Muter—mother.



One of many small, habitable landmasses created by the Sartan. Their name derives from the fact that these small moons orbit the seasun of Chelestra, albeit on the inside, not the outside.