This is chapter 10 of my webnovel, The Elementals: Song of Spirit. If you’re on the wrong chapter, or are just starting to read, click here for the linked table of contents. And happy reading! ~ JR
Dwarves Don’t Drink Pop
Quinn eyed his food hungrily. His plate, which appeared to him more like an enormous steel shield, was heaped high with what looked to be roasted turkey legs, huge chunks of beef-like meat, roasted potatoes, cooked whole white carrot-like roots, hunks of dark bread and huge chunks of yellow and white cheese. Alongside the shield-plate was a matching goblet in style and size. More like a stemmed bowl than a cup, it was filled to the brim with a dark red drink that Quinn hoped was grape juice. As it was, he didn’t know; he hadn’t taken a taste of anything set before him. According to Illthan, he wasn’t to touch it until Hephaestus began to eat.
For the first time in his short life, Quinn wanted very badly to do something grown-up. And to do it right.
And so he sat still on Hephaestus’ right, fingers itching to grab a turkey leg, at the head of a massive wood table in the god’s dining hall. The table was flanked on both sides by enormous stone fireplaces that almost took up the whole wall from which they were carved, both burning bright. Each guest at the board had matching shield-plates and bowl-cups, filled to the brims with food and drink. Across from Quinn, to the left of the god, sat Illthan, and to Quinn’s direct right was Grimhammer. Quinn’s sisters sat at the other end of the table, almost so far away that he couldn’t see them in the cavernous underground room. Ellen, as the eldest, sat at the foot of the table and Rose, propped up on pillows, sat to Ellen’s right; Romin took the place to her left.
The rest of the table was filled with laughing, yelling dwarves, all elders, proudly bearded with the rest of their faces tattooed in red and green.
When all had been seated, Hephaestus stood, scraping his chair along the stone floor, and raised his goblet high. The room silenced instantly, all eyes on the god.
“The time has come, mi brothers!” he cried, grinning wide. “Our lad has been returned ta us by The Great Queen! And though he has been tainted by more human blood than dwarven, he be our Son of Valor still. Welcome, mi brothers, Sir Quinn, Son of Valor!”
Quinn glanced at Illthan, who nodded. Slowly, the boy stood up and looked at the god with worry, but Hephaestus only nodded with a fatherly smile. Swallowing hard, Quinn faced the crowd.
“H… hi…” He cleared his thought, and began again. “I…” He faltered, terrified of upsetting these mighty dwarves who called him their brother.
He strained to see the end of the table where Ellen and Rose sat. The toddler was waving wildly at him with a grin, but Ellen stared at her plate with a scowl.
He frowned, remembering what had happened with Mae. At the time he hadn’t been entirely sure why he had pointed her out, but it had felt like the right thing to do. And now, after Illthan had explained to him why Mae had to be imprisoned, it felt even more right.
Except that now Ellen was mad at him.
He was pretty sure Mae was, too, but she was one of the bad Fire-Born people that wanted to kidnap all the cute little dwarf babies so he didn’t care what she thought. Ellen, though, should have understood. Wasn’t she always protecting her siblings from that kind of thing? Why wasn’t she proud of him for doing the same?
Quinn sighed, looking sadly at Illthan. “I can’t,” he whispered, loud enough for half the massive table to hear.
Illthan made a sickly, smiling face. “Go ahead, Sir Quinn, jus’ as I instructed,” he said through clenched teeth.
Again, Quinn faced the crowd. Again, he saw Ellen scowling, though this time it was directly at him.
He balled his hands into fists, puffing out his chest in a way that made him feel big and important. I’m a hero, and she’s mad at me for it. I’m never good enough for her! Well, I’ll show her. I’ll show everyone! I’ll be the best dwarf ever!
Taking a deep breath and keeping his eyes on Ellen, he began his speech again, this time louder and more confident.
“Hello me brudders!”
Suddenly, a wild cheer went up among the dwarves, making Quinn jump. Hephaestus held up a hand and they were silent once more.
The boy grinned. They liked him! Encouraged, he went on, remembering the words Illthan had taught him to say. “Mi name be Sir Quinn, an’ I be here at the biddin’ o’ The Great Queen ta help save our world again from the dark forces what besiege it!”
The cheer went up once more, but this time the god joined in, along with Grimhammer and Illthan. Goblets were pounded enthusiastically on the table with a booming rattle. With a sigh of relief, Quinn sat down again.
Hephaestus stood and waved a turkey leg over his head. “Now, let us dine and drink in celebration! Our son has been returned to us!”
The cheer grew louder, but was quickly replaced by lip smacking, goblet toasting and bone crunching as they dug into their feast with vigor.
Quinn didn’t realize how hungry he was until he bit into a turkey leg. Sure enough, it tasted exactly like turkey, just as the roasted red meat tasted like beef. The white carrots tasted more like a mixture of potatoes and turnips than carrots, but the boy liked them anyway. Overall, it was a very good meal and he dug in gusto.
Chewing, the boy reached for his goblet and took a large gulp. Instantly, he coughed, spitting out the food in his mouth and almost choking. He wheezed, flicking his tongue in and out, panicked.
“Sir Quinn, what be the trouble, mi boy?” Grimhammer asked, thumping the boy on his back. “Ye choke on a bone did ye?”
With three more swallows of air, Quinn could finally speak. He pointed at his goblet with a shaky finger. “Wha… wha… what is that?”
Grimhammer looked confused. “Why, it be Addleberry Ale, Sir Quinn. Finest inna plane! Would ye rather a bit ‘o wine?”
Quinn made a face. “Eww. Wine is gross! And ale? What’s ale?” He eyed his goblet with distrust. “Is it grownup drink too?”
The old dwarf shook his head. “Grownup drink? I’m not sure’s I get ye, young Sir.”
Illthan, having heard the discourse, looked confused as well at first, but he quickly regained his composure. “Sir Quinn, in the human plane, do ye not drink?”
“We drink, but drinks like wine are only for grownups. Kids drink milk and pop and stuff,” Quinn explained. “There’s no pop here?” he asked, sadly.
“I’m sure I dunno what be this pop ye speak o’, young Sir,” Illthan replied, concerned. “I be sorely disappointed that our Son o’ Valor be uneducated even in proper drink fer a dwarf.”
“So… dwarf kids drink this stuff too?” Quinn asked, sadly.
“Aye,” Grimhammer answered. “Tis what we drink, always.”
Quinn scowled. “I can’t drink this. It’s… gross. And it hurts my throat.”
Illthan gasped, appalled. “Aye, Sir Quinn, but ye must! It be…”
Quinn, Grimhammer and Illthan turned to face Hephaestus, who glared back at the KnowMaster.
“Illthan Bogearth, ye was charged by yer Lord ta serve the Son o’ Valor as well as teach him. Did ye forget this?”
Illthan was abashed. “Nay, great Earth-Lord, I dinna. But…”
“Then you will find a way to make this… pop… for him. The lad says ‘e can’t drink ale, then ‘e can’t drink ALE!”
Without waiting for a reply from the thin dwarf, Hephaestus turned to face Quinn. “Now, then, young Sir. What be in this pop o’ yours?”
Quinn thought for a moment. “I… don’t know. Other people make it. I just know we get it at the store.”
The god stroked his beard in thought. “Well, then. Would any of yer sisters know?”
Quinn shrugged. “Ellen or Mae might. They’re pretty smart.”
The god snapped his fingers and instantly a young, unbearded dwarf came to his side.
“Fetch the elder human lass ta me,” the god ordered.
With a bow, the young servant was off immediately.
“Why are all the servants kids?” Quinn asked.
“That be how the dwarves teach ‘um,” Hephaestus replied, taking a bite from a large chunk of dark bread. He swallowed it with a swig of ale and gave a loud belch before continuing. “All dwarven lads must put in their servitude time in order ta earn the right ta become a warrior. Tis important that all dwarves understand that they serve each-other. They serve the whole.”
“Kinda like chores,” Quinn said, frowning. “I hate chores.”
The god laughed heartily and patted the boy’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, young Sir. Ye don’t have to serve. We serve ye.”
“But why?” Quinn asked, his curiosity finally at its peak. “I still don’t get it …”
At that moment the young servant returned with Ellen.
“Thank ye, Drumble,” the god said, dismissing the young dwarf. He then turned to the girl. “Now, then. I trust the fare be to yer liking young lass?”
Ellen glanced at Quinn, her scowl deepening. She took a deep breath, turned to the god, and nodded politely. “Thank you for the wonderful meal, Earth-Lord. But I’m afraid the drink …”
“Aye, that’s just what we was discussin’.” The god nodded towards Quinn. “Yer brother here says he canna drink ale?”
Ellen grinned at Quinn proudly, her anger forgotten for the moment. “Oh thank God. I was worried he’d drink it without me there to tell him no.”
It was Quinn’s turn to scowl. “I told you I can be responsible.”
“Don’t push your luck, runt,” Ellen replied, frowning again. “You’re still in pretty hot water with me.”
“I can. You always treat me like a baby.”
“Because you are still a baby,” Ellen replied. “And you proved it when you chose a bunch of dwarves over your family.”
“He says,” Hephaestus continued, breaking up the sibling argument, “that he wants pop. What be this pop of which he speaks? Do ye know what it be made of? I wish very badly ta make our Son of Valor happy here.”
Ellen sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. Before answering, she adjusted her glasses. “It’s a drink that we have on the Surface. It’s bad for you, though.” She eyed Quinn with a smirk and shook her head as if to say she knew he couldn’t be responsible after all. “Do you have milk? That will be much better.”
“Do ye want milk, young Sir?” Hephaestus asked the boy.
Quinn glanced at his sister with a sly grin before looking back at the god. “No, Earth-Lord. I’d much rather have pop, if you can make it.”
Ellen growled in her throat but said nothing.
“Ye heard the Sir,” Hephaestus said to the girl. “Do ye know what this pop be made of? I’ll send mi best brewers to makin’ it right away.”
Quinn’s smirk deepened. He would finally get his way here. Here, he was special.
Ellen shook her head. “Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you. It’s bad for him. And plus, he made me mad.”
The god grumbled, glancing down the table at Romin before returning his attention to the girl. “Would the Sorceress know?”
Ellen was about to tell him she was pretty sure Mae had no idea, when a thought struck her. “Maybe she would. Would you release her if she told you?”
Hephaestus’ eyes narrowed. “Ye walk a dangerous line, lass,” he said, his voice soft. “Yer sister’s in me dungeon fer serious crimes …”
“Crimes that have not even happened and crimes she had nothing to do with if they had,” Ellen reminded him.
The god nodded. “Aye, and crimes that her bein’ in mi dungeon will make sure never do happen,” he countered.
Ellen fumed. It took all she had to stay calm and try to reason with the Earth-Lord. “How about talking to the Fire-Lord?” she asked, trying a new tactic. “Maybe your intelligence is wrong.”
The god pounded his fist on the table with a loud boom, silencing all of the diners. His next words could easily be heard within the hall.
“Mi dwarves are brave and true, lass. I trust their words over a corrodin’ Fire-Born any day. Question their truth again and ye’ll be joinin’ yer sister!”
The hall erupted in cheers and claps, then faded into background noise as conversation began once more.
Ellen sighed, frustrated. She would obviously need a new tactic to free Mae, and certainly couldn’t help much if she was in the dungeon with her. “OK, fine. Whatever. May I go eat now?”
The god nodded at her. “Good lass.”
With a grumble, Ellen left his side without a word to Quinn.
Hephaestus turned to the boy. “We maybe kin get the information ye need outta yer sister below,” he offered.
Quinn nodded. “OK. But I wanna go too. I wanna make sure she’s OK.”
The god raised an eyebrow. “Aye?”
“Yeah,” Quinn answered. “She’s a sneaky Fire-Born, but she is my sister… even if she was always mean to me.”
Hephaestus nodded, impressed. “Ye truly be a Son o’ Valor, lad.”
Quinn beamed at the compliment.