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The Meeting
by Dennis Fletcher
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From the moment he walked through the gates of the city, Hanston knew something was different. He had come in search of the famous dwarves that he remembered from his farming village as a child. These magical little creatures who could fix and mend anything at all.

He looked at the timber buildings, built one right next to the other, and wondered what people saw in living in a city. How could these people live within the confines of the walls? The crowds alone made him more cautious than ever and he wondered if everyone here lived with the anxiousness he was feeling right now.

It was late and he was hungry, so he looked for a tavern, hopefully one with a room. He could see the shops up and down the main street and he wondered why they all looked so similar yet so different. All of the store fronts seemed to look like they had the same builder; the only significant difference was each buildings height and name on the sign. Even the churches looked like the rest of the buildings, usually with only a sign to distinguish them. He wondered if what he saw in the city was what city folk saw when they entered a forest, all the trees looking the same, their only difference being their height.

He finally spotted what looked to be a tavern and hurried himself into it. As he entered, though, the stench of unclean men assaulted his nostrils. He considered leaving, but he forced himself to go to a table at the far end, near a window that was open. He took his seat and waiting for the waitress to get there, slowly becoming used to the stench. He scanned the crowd, noticing that a variety of races and classes of people were here, enjoying each others company or making what looked like secret deals. Some were just sitting there, eating and drinking while others were sitting at smaller tables alone, like him, usually just eating. As his eyes came to a table at the opposite side from him, he noticed a character that was as out of place as a human under water. He wondered why he would be in a place like this.

Seeing an elf was abnormal, since there weren’t many left, but seeing one dressed as stately as this one, like a royal prince, sitting in a stinking tavern just seemed impossible. At the elf’s side was a gem encrusted longsword. He could only see the hilt and the scabbard and realized that this sword must have been a very special sword for this elf to carry it. He also noticed the elf looked very sad, almost depressed, another thing not usual with an elf. He wondered who this strange character was and why he would be here, of all places.

After an hour or so, he inquired about a room and was given one on the first floor. He paid for his food and drink and went to his room. He noticed the elf, still sitting at his table, watching him as he left. He had to find those dwarves tomorrow to get his own sword fixed, so he quickly settled in for the night and gave the elf no more thought as he slid into a comfortable sleep.

The morning brought a new urgency to finding the dwarves. His sword was useless in its broken and twisted state. He quickly ate morning feast and left the tavern. He had asked the inn keeper if he knew where this place was. He told him how to get there and Hanston took off. As he went he realized that each street seemed to look like the last. The building’s all seemed to look alike, except for the signs and a few decorations here and there. As he turned on the street the shop was on, he noticed this section looked very different from the rest of the city.

As he got closer to the shop the dwarves were to be in, he notice that each of the shops were colorful, almost gaudy, and magical items were used as common place to adorn and light up the street. This definitely was not like the rest of the city. Every building front looked quite different from the one next to it yet each was identified very easy. The shop he was going into was called the armory, and had crossed swords over the door that lit things up like twenty torches.

He entered the shop to find a small waiting room, quite empty. He had the hope that this may not take long after all, so he went to the counter and rang the bell on top. It made no noise and he wondered if it rang at all. He read the little sign and saw that it instructed a person to ring the bell only once, then sit and wait, so he did just that. Within a few minutes, dwarf came out and asked him what he was there for, so he handed him over his sword and explained his need. The dwarf looked at it and told him to sit and wait; it would be quite a while.

Hanston knew it was almost his turn. He had been waiting in this shop for several hours and had watched at least one other elf, two dwarves and a half-ogre get their equipment back. He had seen weapons and tools come out of the backroom that made him jealous and that made him repulse in disgust at how they may be used. He wasn’t sure how things worked back there, but he knew they were working as fast as they could.

He could hear the noises in the back and thought back to his youth, when the dwarves of his village would come and work their magic on the tools each farmer brought them. He remembered how they would bring in broken plows and sickles and how they would receive the same piece back, looking brand new and working better than ever. Sometimes the farmer would trade one broken tool for something better. It was always better for the farmers, but what he was just finding out was that it was also very expensive. That was probably why his family never traded their tools.

He looked at the elf in the corner, the only other person there. He looked like royalty, dressed in his silk shirt and well made purple trousers. His hair was pulled back at the top, into a ponytail while the lower half reached the middle of his back. His long sword was broken in half when he came in, shortly after Hanston. He looked as if he were in tears when he handed it to the short dwarf, but the little man had taken it with what looked like high regard for the elf. He placed it carefully upon the cart that he pushed and assured the stately elf that everything would be fine.

That had been hours ago, and Hanston had seen others with smaller items come in and out. He and the elf where the only two to have spent this much time in the lobby and they hadn’t even exchanged a hello. He had wondered where the elf had been and how he had broken such a magnificent sword. This was the same elf he had seen the night before. He remembered seeing the sword at his side, grand in stature, and grandiose in looks. He wondered then who this might be and why he was there, just as he did now.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the dwarf that first took care of Hanston came out from the back. He was carrying Hanston’s package carefully and handed it to him with a slight bow. Hanston unwrapped the package to find that it was the elf’s sword. This had to be a mistake, he thought. He looked at the rune covered blade and could feel the power. The hilt, decorated with gems from around the world seemed to balance it out perfectly. He couldn’t believe it. He looked at the elf, or where the elf had been, and wondered. He looked at the dwarf with confusion and the dwarf looked up and smiled. He went to pull out the pouch he carried his gold in, but the dwarf just turned and walked away.

He left the shop and made his way to the town gates. He spent the time contemplating what had just happened. He decided that he would spend this evening outside of the city, at a small tavern he had seen about a quarter of a day travel, as it smelled better. He thought of the elf again, hoping he may one day meet with him again. He realized that he would always wonder.

As he traveled, an elf, grand in stature followed him, invisible to anyone, and watched his every move. Where his jewel encrusted sword had once been, Hanstons old sword replaced it. The elf prayed silently that God would watch over this man, as the swords would link them throughout this mans life. He also wondered why this man was so special in God’s eyes. He didn’t seem like very much, somewhat young and inexperienced was what the elf had decided. He knew God had a plan and he almost couldn’t wait to find out what it was.

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