Their mode of travel was strange and none of them ever got a straight answer about how it moved or what was powering it. One thing they all agreed on was that it was fast. Moving quicker than a galloping horse day and night they covered more ground than Callindra ever thought possible.
In just a few days they had traveled from the cool northern foothills deep into the mountains. Once the ground outside was covered with snow, they slowed and stopped. In the distance they could see the far-off cone of a volcano, a thin wisp of smoke rising from its summit. The flat plain of a glacier separated them from the ashmount, and Callindra immediately recognized the place.
“That’s it. That is where we are going.” She said with certainty. “That is Beliach’s forge, or at least where it used to be.”
“The old blighter is still there, I’m sure of it.” Horace said, blowing air through his moustaches. “Last I talked with him, he said he couldn’t ever get a better setup than that.”
Callindra stopped and stared at him. “You’ve been there?” She asked, her eyes intent.
“No, just the last time I talked with him that’s what he said.” Horace said, “I sometimes chat with him. Smith to smith so to speak, well to be honest, more like master smith to apprentice smith. His ideas about metallurgy and composition are, for lack of another word, visionary.”
They all stopped and looked at him and Horace trailed off. “Ah, well. That’s not really the point is it?”
It was just after sunset when Durrak led Tuk up the road to his house. The trading had gone even better than expected and he has surprises carefully chosen for each of his family members. As he came around the last bend he saw something that made his heart catch in his throat. The front door was kicked in, the stable was on fire and strange horses were standing in the courtyard as though they were used to this kind of thing.
He dropped the pony’s reins and ran to the house, grabbing a piece of firewood from the pile as he ran. A human with a smile splitting his face sauntered out holding a bag of something. That smile was obliterated by a single swing of Durrak’s makeshift club. Others followed and his memory faded in a red haze of rage. When he finally came to his senses again he was sitting among the ashes of a burned out house, crying and holding the remains of his family in his arms.
It was someone calling his name that brought him out of his dazed state. Someone who could not be ignored. Someone who could not be denied.
“Durrak, son of Storgar the Wyrmslayer. I have need of you yet.” Moradin’s voice demanded attention and respect. “You will not end here, although a part of you has died. I have work that needs doing.”
“Why did you let them take my family?” Durrak said, tears still streaming down his face, “My beautiful babies. Why?”
“It was not my intention. Your youngest called me here; I regret I was too late to save them.” Tears coursed down the God’s face, “If only they had summoned me earlier.”
“If only you had paid more attention to your people.” Durrak said, “You may have work for me but I will not do it. From here I will find my own path. From here I will forge my own future.” He stood and walked away on feet much steadier than his mind was.
Moradin smiled a sad smile and watched him go. “You will be tempered in the fires of suffering. You shall become stronger, even as Mithril becomes stronger in the fires of the earth. If there was another way I would use it, but this is the only thing that will stoke the forge hot enough.”
They set off toward the flat plain of ice, carefully making their way down the side of a treacherous hill covered in loose shale. As they approached the bottom of the hill a monstrous creature erupted from a cave that had been half covered by snow in a huge cloud of steam. Dozens of legs propelled it forward, and its torso was raised revealing a mouth with insectoid mandibles. Before any of them could do more than blink it leaped forward and swallowed Callindra with a single gulp.