Epilogue: "Red Earth"
To my readers,
Therewill betwo epilogue stories (I originally meant to make it alternating chapters in one fiction but after looking over my notes I figure it best to make it two separate entries) This is the one that focuses on Lloyd and Dirk. Anyone familier with my storyDES knows that Lloyd and Dirk were not as close as they were in the game and this is part the story of what drew them together.
He was a plague, a plague that tried both patience and calm, and a very picky plague at that. Dirk merely rolled his eyes as Lloyd wandered off to yet again pester someone wearing a cape. What was with the boy and capes? Every time they'd come to town for supplies the same cycle would occur. Dirk would go to the general goods store and Lloyd would pounce on the nearest person wearing a cloak. He'd give it a sharp tug and just stare at the person as they stared at him. It was almost as if the lad thought that there was something special about people wearing cloaks, as if he was looking for a certain someone who'd wear a cloak. And perhaps the most frustrating thing of it was that no matter how insistently the person who's cloak was bunched in those small hands asked, Lloyd would never tell them what he wanted.
"Strange little boy." The shop keep said cooly, pointedly ignoring the cheerful child who had attached himself to his apron strings and was giving them a tug. "Haven't you ever considered restraining him?"
"Once," Dirk shuddered, stood on his tip toes and grabbed the mess of jells, food, and toiletries that he'd just purchased. "When he took me with him on one of his pouncin's I figured I'd just let him have his way."
"Huh, he's what... four years old, a tough little guy to be dragging you along master blacksmith. Could you do something about him before I lose my pants?"
"He's three, and yes I'll do something about him Errus. Lloyd, lad enough." The picture of complete obedience Lloyd let go of the moon faced man's apron with a small smile. "What do you say when you bother someone?"
"Sorry?" Lloyd did not sound at all apologetic.
"Aye, so what do you say to Mr. Errus?"
"Your silly apron's funny!"
Errus' face went red and Lloyd giggled.
"It seems as if you have a long way to go with this one Mr. Irving." Errus' tone was cold. "A very long way by my reckon."
"He's just being a kid." Dirk opened his packs and slipped everything inside, asking Lloyd to help carry anything was a mistake, as whatever the boy would take would become unwrapped during the course of the walk home. He'd lost an apple jell like that once and Lloyd had been so thrilled to be able to turn himself red.
He'd been less thrilled when Dirk had made him take a bath, had physically held him down in the tub and scrubbed him.
"The mayor's been wanting to talk to you Dirk, and I have a feeling it's not going to be a friendly chat, you know how he is about non-humans."
"And the boy being with me's stuck in his craw huh?" Dirk stroked his long brown beard, his earth brown eyes narrowed and Errus knew what that look meant. The dwarf merely told the shop keep to have a good day then with a nod walked out with the boy serving as his shadow. His step was different, more crisp, planned, and his eyes were partially narrowed. Oh yes, Errus knew that look, he'd been selling Dirk goods for two years and he'd seen that look on the dwarfs face when he talked about Desian's...
Or when he was going to have a fight with the mayor.
"Stubborn as a mountain." The pale human muttered to himself leaning on the counter. "Mountain verses that old goat, I'm glad I put my money on the mountain, it'll get me some profit."
Errus felt sorry for the mayor, but he recalled what the man had been saying about Dirk, all the back talk and such. He stopped feeling sorry for the mayor, considered it right what was going to happen. But to know what was going to happen he was going to have to be present after all. With a grin cutting across his milk colored face the shop keep went to the door, pulled out a key and sign. He hung the sign over the door, locked that previously mentioned door, then humming a jig he started on the path that lead to the roundabout way to the mayors house. He noticed that no few other folk were doing the same, in a few minuets time the sleepy little marketplace was going to be empty as empty could get.
In a way Dirk was entertainment for the whole town, he was the only one who fought for anyone else in the town. Most people nodded, went along with what the grey beard wanted, but not Dirk. You say one word about an injustice, a wrong that the mayor was doing in Dirk's presence then you got out of the way because Dirk would move mountains, go through walls, and (rumor held in once case he actually had) kick down doors to get what was right and good done. Because of that most folk liked Dirk, certainly Errus did, and even if some gald weren't on the line he'd have gone to the upcoming spectacle anyways.
Damn shame Dirk wasn't human, he'd have made a good mayor, but if he could somehow keep the boy maybe there would be a new mayor in a few years. Something nice to look forward to, Iselia would never be the same. So humming that jig he went up the dust streets, passed the wooden buildings that housed crops and neighbors and tried not to think about how those neighbors were fast in slipping out of their houses and coming down the road right along with him.
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"Alright Lloyd, be a good lad, be quiet and don't talk less you're spoken too... I need to talk to the old goat and get some matters straightened out."
"Yes, Mr. Dirk." Lloyd smiled, and Dirk knew what that smile meant.
"I am serious Lloyd, very very serious." Dirk wagged a finger at the brown haired boy, who watched him with an air of someone trying not to laugh. "Aye, Gnome be with us..."
"And Aska and Loony and..."
Those brown eyes stared at him and the boy nodded. Dirk trusted that nod, Lloyd only nodded when he was being serious. The human pushed aside the hair that got in his eyes and when that grin came back a cold pit formed in Dirk's stomach. He was in trouble because it was that special grin. That grin that made the boy's brown un-earthy eyes sparkle, it made his little teeth gleam and made him absolutely charming and innocent looking. It was the smile of gnome when he played a prank, the smile of a cat getting into butter milk, the smile of that huge green dog of Lloyd's that was about ready to pounce. Trouble and fun, that's what that smile was.
Yet maybe the mayor needed a dose of it, might do him good, certainly it had made Dirk's life better.
"Tell you what lad." The dwarf swung an arm over the boy's shoulders. "Take back what I said, just be yourself, we'll see how it goes."
Lloyd only looked at Dirk, he did not understand all of it.
Dirk did no elaborate, only rapped on the door with a work calloused and clay hued hand and when it open he let Lloyd lose. The mayor would never know what hit him.
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"You can keep him, I wouldn't take him in, he's obviously wilder then an animal, he's yours!" The pot bellied man with glossy black hair gasped about ten minuets latter. He was literally panting from chasing Lloyd here and there, terrorfied that the boy would knock over everything of value if he strayed so much as an inch from either man's arm reach. Lloyd though was a wanderer and had covered the length and width of the luxurious house with it's multitude of times, exploring the under and overs of every piece of furniture he could. He had finally settled down and with a glass jar in hand was entertaining himself by a window.
"Look Mr. Dirk!" Lloyd had finally caught some sun light in a jar, or so he thought, the second the boy moved it the glint that Lloyd had thought was sun light disappeared. "Where'd it go?"
"Sunlight's a tricky thing to catch lad you just need some more practice."
"Oh." Lloyd frowned at the sun beam that had been eluding all of his efforts to be captured. He was completely ignorant of the mayor's disgust with him, intent on his little game. Frankly Dirk didn't see a reason to stare and sputter at such an innocent little past time. Wasn't like the boy was destroying anything. The only thing that he might be doing wrong was he was making a point to ignore the mayor's son. They'd looked at each other and they both began to ignore each other. Though both men did make a half hearted attempt to get the children to talk to each other neither would. It was, in Dirk's book, almost hate at first sight, at least in Ivan's case. The mayor's son glared at Lloyd when he wasn't pretending to ignore him, in Lloyd's case the boy just immersed himself in his games and would not respond to the acid filled glares.
"I'm thinking that even if he wanted to live with you that it wouldn't be wise, if you take my meaning." Dirk jerked his head to Ivan, the boy was ignoring the dwarf and he was staring at Lloyd as if thinking about shoving him.
"There's nothing wrong with my son." The mayor growled, moving to protect his boy from Dirk's gaze it seemed.
"I'm not saying that, what I'm saying is putting them together would be like taking a bag of cats and shaking it."
"What a quaint saying, I'd expect no less from a half man."
Dirk bristled at the words, almost said something cutting. And if there weren't children in the room he would have said a number of things. The dwarf merely gritted his teeth and swallowed his anger.
"Come along Lloyd, we best be headin' back."
"Alright Mr. Dirk."
"So," The mayor said with a touch of cruelty in his voice. "Mr. Irving isn't your father is he boy?"
"No, Papa's on a trip."
"Really." The mayor's lips curled into a smile. "What type of trip?"
Dirk blinked, taken aback by Lloyd's answer, and he wondered where the lad had gotten it. He then walked up to his charge and took the lads small hand in his. He tugged gently and the boy with a warm smile got to his feet. They both went for the door, but one step out Dirk turned around and looked at the mayor.
"Erik you ever try to hurt him like you just did, ever again, and no one in Iselia wont get one sculpture, one tool, one horse hoof from my smithy ever again."
The mayor of Iselia said nothing, only glared at Dirk with hate, and much to the dwarf's discomfort Ivan did as well.
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"Mr. Dirk," Lloyd tapped his feet against the chair and books he was perched on. "Do I hafta?"
"Yes, you do." Dirk tried to look stern but was having a hard time under those large puppy eyes. He was having a hard time thinking with both gazes on him, for two people or rather his boy and the dog, were giving him identical looks of hope.
"But I don't remember!" It was a wail.
"Yes you do, number seven my lad."
Lloyd scowled at him, form being called son or from not getting his way Dirk wasn't sure.
"Love and justice will always win... There I said it, stew?"
"Aye, very good." Dirk put a generous amount of stew in the boy's bowl.
"Whine!" A massive furry weight sidled up behind him.
"No! No stew for dogs!" Dirk crouched over the pot he had held, making it known that the creature would have to get through him to get to the food. " I left you a bowl of food, over there, now eat that!"
"Noshy, I'll give you some stew." Lloyd offered a spoonful to the silver and green giant dog. The gesture was absolutely ridiculous, it would have taken five spoonfuls in the least to give the dog a mouthful. Before Dirk could protest he was shouldered aside and the dog opened it's huge mouth. Lloyd cheerful shoved the whole spoon in Noishe's mouth. The wooden utensil went flying as the dog coughed it up.
"Opps, spicy Noshy?"
The dog shook it's head then coughed some more.
"That's what you get for eating non-dog food!" Dirk snapped, giving the dog a slight punt. "Eat your food from here on out. I'll get you a different spoon lad." Dirk stared at the slobber covered spoon and then gingerly picked it up before Lloyd could hop out of the chair and get it himself. "I'll be by in a bit, stay put."
The second his back was turned he heard a squeak and thump, again the boy was trying to fly by hopping off the kitchen table. Hearing the panicked yip and happy giggle Dirk knew it was safe enough to rummage through the drawers of his cabinet to find a spoon, he just had to put some speed into it before Lloyd ran off chasing some interesting do-dad and got himself into even more trouble.
When he turned back he saw why the dog was whining, Lloyd had rolled him over on his belly and was tickling every inch he could get his small hands on. Both sighing and smiling Dirk, spoon in one hand, advanced on the pair, and all but dragged Lloyd away from his dog and plunked him down on the chair.
"You can play some more with your dog after you eat lad." Dirk said, putting the spoon in the boy's bowl and giving him a long look. Taking the hint Lloyd sighed, looked at his dog then seeing he wasn't going to be able to play ate. The second the last drop of stew was over he muttered a few gracious words to Dirk then slipped out of the chair and went back to his wrestling match with the green and white dog. Dirk smiled, watched the two in their play then seeing it get a little too wild ordered them outside. He rushed through the dished, put the extra stew in some spare bowls and sealed them best he could, then went to the front door. He didn't join in the play, a grown dwarf just didn't play, it wasn't how things were done, but he watched the two from the door with a smile on his bearded face. He watched that bundle of energy and no longer wondered how his own pa had gotten half of his grey hairs. Aye he'd earn a fair number of them watching this young one. Despite knowing that Dirk smiled, he decided as Lloyd tackled that huge dog of his and they both rolled into a puddle and discovered just how cold it was with near identical yalps that it would be worth every hair, every stress.