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My father yelled again. Swiftly, I left my room, hurried out into the hall.

“Where is the lass?” I heard my father demand of my mother. “The seasun will have passed us by. We’ll be frozen solid by the time she’s ready.”

“This is her big day,” said my mother soothingly. “You want her to look well. All her suitors will be there.”

“Bah!” Father grumbled. “She’s far too young to be thinking of such things.”

“Perhaps. But what catches the eye now catches the head later,” said my mother, quoting a dwarven proverb.[9]

“Hunh!” My father snorted.

But, when he caught sight of me, his stomach puffed out with pride, and he said nothing more about my being late.

Father, I miss you so! Oh, how hard it is! How hard.

We left our house that is more like a cave bored straight into the mountain. All our homes and businesses are built inside the mountain, unlike human and elven structures that are built on the mountain slopes. It took me a long time to get used to living in the Elmas coral castle that seemed, in my mind, to cling precariously to the rock. I had dreams about its tumbling down the mountainside, carrying me with it!

The morning was beautiful. The rays of the seasun shimmered up through the waves[10]. The sparse clouds that floated over the warren caught the sun’s glow. My family joined the throngs of dwarves walking down the steeply sloping path to the shore of the Goodsea. Our neighbors called out to my father, more than a few coming up to slap him on his broad stomach—a typical dwarven form of greeting—and invite him to join them in the tavern after the ceremony. My father slapped stomachs in return, and we continued down the mountainside. When on land, the Gargan travel everywhere on their own two feet. Carts are meant to haul potatoes, not people. And although we dwarves have grown accustomed to the sight of elves riding around in carriages and humans using beasts to bear their burdens, most Gargans consider such laziness to be a symbol of the weakness inherent in the other two races.

The only vehicle we dwarves use are our famous submersibles—ships designed to sail the Goodsea. Such ships—the dwarves’ pride—were developed out of necessity since we have an unfortunate tendency to sink like stones in the water. The dwarf has not been born who can swim.

We Gargans are such clever shipbuilders that the Phondrans and the Elmas, who once built ships of their own, ceased to do so and came to rely solely on our craft. Now, with the help of financing from the humans and elves, we had constructed our masterpiece—a fleet of sun-chasers, enough submersibles to carry the populations of three seamoons.

“It’s been generations since we have been called on to build the sun-chasers,” stated my father. We had paused a moment to look proudly down from the steeply slanting roadway to the harbor at sea level, far below. “And never a fleet this big, designed to carry so many. This is a historic occasion, one that will be long remembered.”

“And such an honor for Grundle,” said my mother, smiling at me. I returned my mother’s smile, but said nothing. We dwarves are not noted for our sense of humor, but I am considered serious-minded and sober even for a dwarf and my thoughts today were concentrated on my duties. I have an extremely practical nature, not a shred of sentimentality or romance (as Sabia used to comment sadly).

“I wish your friends were here to see you today,” my mother added. “We invited them, but, of course, they are extremely busy among their own people, preparing for the Sun Chase.”

“Yes, Mother,” I agreed. “It would have been nice if they could have come.” I would not alter dwarven life-style for the trapping of the seasun, but I could not help envying the respect accorded Alake by the Phondrans or the love and reverence shown Sabia by the Elmas. Among my people I am, most of the time, just another dwarf maiden. I comforted myself with the knowledge that I would be able to tell my friends all about it and (I must be honest) with the knowledge that neither would have a lock of her hair on the bow of a sun-chaser!

We reached the harbor, where the gigantic submersibles floated at anchor. Now that I was near them, I was overawed by the immensity of the ships, the amount of work that had gone into creating them.

The sun-chasers had been built to resemble black whales, their prows smooth and made of the drywood of Phondra, so-called because it is covered with a type of natural resin that protects it from water damage. Windows studded the hull, shining like jewels in the seasun. And the size! I couldn’t believe it!

Each sun-chaser, and there were ten of them, was nearly eight stadion[11] in length. I marveled at the size, but then, I reminded myself, they have to carry the populations of three realms.

The sea breeze rose. I smoothed my whiskers, my mother patted my hair into place. The crowd of dwarves gathered at the wharf made way good-naturedly for us. The Gargans, though excited, were orderly and disciplined, none of the boisterous shoving and pushing that one would have seen in a similar gathering of humans.

We walked among them, nodding to left and right. The dwarven men put their hands to their forelocks, a sign of formal respect, suitable to the solemnity of the occasion. The women curtsied and prodded their offspring, who were staring open-mouthed at the great submersibles and who could not be made to turn their attention from these wonders to such an everyday sight as their king.

I walked beside my mother, the proper place for an unmarried young dwarf maid. I looked straight ahead, endeavoring to keep my eyes modestly lowered, my mind on what I was supposed to do. But I had difficulty preventing my glance from straying to the two long rows of leather-armored, clean-shaven young men standing at attention at the end of the wharf.

All dwarven males, at the Time of Seeking, are expected to serve in the military. The best had been chosen to act as honor guard for the Vater and his family this day. It was one of the these young men who, more than likely, would win the privilege of being my husband. It wasn’t really proper for me to have favorites, but I knew Hartmut would be able to easily defeat all comers. He caught me looking at him and gave me a smile that made me go all warm inside. He is so good-looking! His russet hair is long and thick, his side whiskers are auburn, and his beard, when he is allowed to grow it after his marriage, will most certainly match. He has already attained the rank of fourclan master, a high honor for an unmarried dwarf.[12]

The soldiers, at a word from their marshall, brought their arms—axes, the favored weapon—up in salute, whirled them around, and thudded the axheads on the ground.

I noted that Hartmut handled his ax with far greater dexterity than any other dwarf in his clan. This boded well for the future since ax-throwing, chopping, and ducking determine the winner of the marriage contest.

My mother caught hold of my sleeve, gave it a sharp tug.

“Stop staring at that young man!” she whispered. “What will he think of you?” I obediently shifted my gaze to my father’s broad back, but I was very much aware of passing close to Hartmut, who stood at the wharf’s edge. And I heard him thump the head of the ax on the ground again, just for me. A small ceremonial platform had been erected for us at the bow of the flagship, lifting us above the crowd. We climbed up onto the platform. My father stepped forward. The audience, though it had never been making much noise, quieted immediately.

“My family,"[13] began my father, clasping his hands over his broad stomach, “many and many Times have passed since our people have been forced to make the Sun Chase. Not even the eldest among us"—a respectful nod to an elderly dwarf, whose beard was yellow with age and who stood in the place of honor at the very forefront of the crowd—“can remember back to the time our people chased the seasun and landed on Gargan.”



Dwarves make several stages of progression through life, beginning with the Time of Weaning, proceeding through the Time of Seeking, and advancing into the Time of Sense. Dwarves are not permitted to marry until they reach the Time of Sense, when it is considered that the hot blood of the Seeking time has cooled into the common sense of adulthood. This is equivalent in human terms to about fifty years of age. After the Time of Sense, at approximately the age of two hundred, dwarves pass into the Time of Wisdom.



The seasun’s position relative to the seamoons makes it appear, to those standing on these particular moons, as if the sun is in the water beneath them. Light shines from the water, therefore, not the sky. The sky itself often appears a turquoise color that comes from mosses growing on the surface of the air-caverns of the seamoon.



Dwarven standard of measure: 1 stadion = 620 dwarf feet. The stadion is also a dwarven footrace that commemorates the combined Times of the reign of the first two kings. Whether the race was named after the standard or vice versa is not known.



Dwarven military service is organized around family clans whose young men serve together as a unit. Units, known as regos, are organized under the clan master. Hartmut commands a rego consisting of four clans, thus his title. Above him are the rego master, the marshall, the clan master, and, finally, the Vater.



The dwarves on Chelestra believe that they are all descendants of the only two dwarves to have survived the Sundering and that they are, therefore, all related to each other. While the legend is highly suspect, it does help explain the solid unity of the dwarfs, who have a strong regard for family. In this sense, the royal family are viewed more as parent figures than as monarches.