As the two traveled over the next few tendays, Jory taught Shamil all he
knew about giants, including their language. He also tried to teach
her how to fight. She picked up the language with ease, but the mechanics
behind fighting with a sword seemed to be beyond her. He gave up
on the sword and moved on to a gnome-sized quarterstaff, with similar results.
They went through the bow, sling, war-axe, spear, and mace. No luck.
In desperation, Jory bought Shamil a crossbow.
“Now this one’s easy. Just load it like this and point it at what you want to shoot and pull the trigger.”
“You said all those others would be easy,” In truth, Shamil could have excelled at any of them, but the thought of killing didn’t sit well with her. She took the crossbow anyway, just to please Jory. She loaded it and aimed at the tree not far from their camp. She pulled the trigger and saw the bolt fly across the clearing. It hit the tree with a distant thunk.
“That was good, hon, try it again.” Jory was nothing if not persistent. It would do no good to argue, and as a fighter, Shamil doubted if he would understand her hesitation about killing. It was bad enough that he ate meat. Well, what do you expect when he was raised by a half-elf? Shamil smirked and reloaded the crossbow, pulled the trigger, and saw the bolt fly as before. The bolt hit the tree with a similar thunk.
Jory walked over to the tree. The two bolts were less than an inch apart. Shamil could hear him quite clearly begin to laugh heartily. “By Garl, I think we’ve found it! Yes indeed!” He walked back across the clearing, the two bolts in his right hand. “I do believe we’ve found your weapon. Keep the dagger, too. They’re good for self-defense.”
Shamil made a sudden decision. “Jory.”
“I really don’t want either the dagger or the crossbow.”
“I…I don’t like the idea of killing someone. I don’t even like the idea of eating meat.”
“I know you don’t like meat, but I thought that was because that was how you were raised. I think I can understand your basic problem though.”
“Yeah. You still think that the world is a good place.” Shamil opened her mouth to speak, but Jory raised his hand and continued. “It is, for the most part, but there are people out there that are bad. Quite a lot of people who are bad. And some are truly evil. You need to know how to fight in order to protect yourself from the bad ones, and to rid the world of the evil ones. Understand?”
“Yes, I think so, but I still don’t like it.”
“I don’t like it either, but if there weren’t any evil in the world, I’d be out of a job.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Why not?” Jory asked while taking down the tent.
“I want my parents to be there, and my friends, and everybody. I don’t want to go back and say ‘Hi Mom, hi Dad. I’m back and by the way I got married.’”
“I can understand that, and I’m not saying that we couldn’t have another ceremony there, when we get back, but-”
“Jory, no. It wouldn’t be the same. We’re waiting and that’s all there is to it.” Shamil stomped her foot for emphasis.
“Okay, okay. You win. We’ll wait. Would you toss me that rope?” He caught it with his left hand; his right never strayed far from his sword.
Changing the subject, Shamil asked, “How far would you guess that we are from where Zook disappeared?”
“It’s still quite a ways. I remember that from here we went northwest for a tenday, then turned due west.”
Shamil tied the tent-roll to the back of Loogie. They both began walking, leading the dog. After a while, Shamil asked, “I know you were raised by a half-elf, but what happened to your real parents?”
Jory considered how much to tell her. “My mother was forced out of her village. She didn’t know I was coming. She met Jenessa not long after. They lived together for several months. Janessa is a retired fighter—she’s where I learned to fight. Anyway, she had a small cottage out and away from everything. Shortly after I was born, my mother got sick. She just didn’t get any better, and she died when I was about three years old. Janessa raised me. She taught me how to read and to fight and about other gnomes. Just about all I have from my mother is my name and the clan she was a part of.”
“How sad. It must have been rough, just the two of you.”
“I guess so. In ways, I think it must’ve been easier. Nobody bothered us, we were happy. I just wish I had more time to go visit Janessa than I do.”
“Where does she live? If it isn’t too much out of the way, maybe we could go visit her after we find Zook.”
“She lives to the east and south of here, near the ocean, and who knows? Maybe we will visit her before we go back to Dimble.”
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