No Way Out

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Gloom enveloped Boron as his eyes fell upon the entrance to the mine. Working there was the curse of being a lowly Dwarf, each generation banished to a life of servitude, digging up precious metals and gems to make the grossly rich Dwarven lords even richer. He dragged his feet, feeling the weight of the pickaxe over his shoulder and the steel helmet on his head, forcing his main of bushy yellow hair over his ears, muffling the sounds around him. He found himself wishing, as he often did, that he could see any other part of the world of Aêvum beyond this mine.

His mind wandered away with the tales that he heard occasionally in the tavern after work. Tales of the other great races, the Natiōns, the Mau, the Canís, and the Lunís. He'd heard there were even more peoples and creatures in the world, but he knew little of what they were like, and he longed to find out. The Dwarves, who called themselves the Althyda, were not fond of the other folk in Aêvum.

There had been many wars since the Stórr Bifask, The Great Migration, a time of upheaval that had happened around 11,500 years ago. The Althyda had had the most number of brutal wars with the Natiōns, or the HarFúinn as they called them, basically meaning The Tall and Rotten. They were beautiful to see, tall and slender with satin skin and pointed ears, but they treated all others like lowly vermin. Their slave ships would sometimes dock in the town of Thromr, and they were always insulting when they addressed anyone they came in contact with.

The Mau, or the Köttr as they were called here, was another race that had been at odds with the Althyda, but not nearly to the same degree as the HarFúinn. They were a proud race of six-foot-tall cats. They walked on two legs, had nine lives that allowed them to live nearly a thousand years, and they were wicked in a fight. He had never met one, but he had seen a Köttr once when he had been at the docks as a ship had prepared to set sail.

Those that he had not seen were the Canís and the Lunís. The Canís, a race of people that looked much like jackals, known here as the Hundr, had been forced into servitude by the HarFúinn following the Stórr Bifask. Their homeland had become an uninhabitable desert, and as they fled to find a new home, the HarFúinn had begun to capture them and sell them into slavery. This was but another reason to dislike the HarFúinn. Boron had often felt sympathy for the Hundr when he heard of their woes, reflecting on his own forced servitude in this hellish place of rock and stone by the sea.

The Lunís, known here as the Ulfr, were a race of shapeshifters that traveled Aêvum as traders, but their homeland of Lunam was far to the south, on the other side of Aêvum from Wotan, the home of the Althyda. This distance and the dangerous seas between them prevented much trade between the Althyda and the Ulfr. They were said to be a fascinating people, able to shift at will from the form of a person to the form of a great wolf and were rumored to be the keepers of the ancient magic of the moons.

As he approached the tunnel, his thoughts returned to his surroundings. The opening of the mine was in a crevice of dark granite, jagged and menacing in the long shadows of the morning. He paused and turned to look behind him at the mountainside before he had to leave the fresh, crisp daylight behind. Between the towering walls of the crevice, he could just make out the tips of evergreen trees and the lush valley that sat protected at the base of the mountains, a shining river winding through it, the waters glittering in the first light of the day. He took a deep breath of the mountain air, wanting to smell the freshness of the forest, but the musty stench from the mine permeated the surrounding breeze. Boron's weariness of this place and all that it represented filled his mind again, causing him to struggle against the despair rising in his chest.

Just then, he spotted Freyja, and his spirits lifted, happy to know that she was on his crew today. Seeing her was the best part of working here, though he wished he had the courage to talk to her more often. Her grey eyes, kind yet sharp, locked with his, and she smiled at him as they fell into step together. Her brown hair was braided tightly against her head, winding to the nape of her neck where the remainder of it fell down her back in a forest of bushy curls.

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