Some part of Goom flew away with the dragon, and he might have felt sad if it weren't for the fire that he could still feel deep within him.
After the dragon departed, the dwarves, Dennis and Fewla began to make the long walk back to the Gellring Foothills.
There was a somber air about the group, and no one was ready to discuss the astonishing events that had transpired - no one except Dennis.
"What even happened back there?" he asked. "How did you stop the Ulimni? Where did they go anyway? Why didn't that dragon bite you in half like a dwarf-nugget? Guys?"
"Dennis, please just stop talking for now," Murt said. "I think a warm meal and several mugs of ale are in order."
"Yeah, I'm all for the ale," Dennis said, "but I just can't make any sense of this.
One minutes I'm dangling there within an inch of my life, then all of a sudden, I'm riding on a dragon like some sort of Elvish prince from a story book.
Then I'm looking into Goom's dead eyes while he's strumming that lute like an evil minstrel. I didn't even know that you played the lute, Goom!"
Goom remained silent as he had been since leaving the meadow, and Dennis's bewilderment wasn't going to shake him out of his internal musings.
He was more than a little confused the whole ordeal himself. More importantly, he was confused about what it all meant for his life moving forward.
Something inside of him had changed after the dragon, the lute, his dream, and his visions of Fairyland and the Great Oak of Kuurlok.
He didn't know how he'd return to his life as a smuggler - the only life he'd ever known - and without smuggling, who was he?
He was having an internal crisis typically reserved for a Shakespearean soliloquy...
He was having an internal crisis typically reserved for a Shakespearean soliloquy... ...or an art school graduate.
Although their adventure had seemingly come to an end, there was still the small matter of Sil-kuru the Persistent to deal with.
They were days behind their scheduled delivery, and Sil-kuru had certainly begun his pursuit of the empty-handed smugglers.
Murt was right that they all needed a hearty meal and a few strong drinks.
They were still far from Gellring, and with Sil-kuru hunting them down, they figured that it would be better to find something off the map. They knew just the place.
Gilda's wasn't much of a tavern. It was actually just the old dwarf's modest cottage, but to those who knew Gilda it was a welcome reprieve and home to the strongest mead in Fairyland.
Old Gilda loved mead more than she loved anyone, and that was why she chose a life of solitude. She only got along with a few people, and none of them had ever seen her sober.
Although Murt and Goom were kin, they weren't among her favorites, but she did adore Dennis, and Dennis adored the attention.
Goom, Murt, Dennis, and Fewla left the main road and followed a thin, overgrown trail leading to Gilda's doorstep.
"My boy!" Gilda smiled at Dennis with open arms. She pulled wispy man down into a strong embrace.
"Let me get your mug!" She gave Fewla a sidelong look, but she was too happy to see Dennis to give the faun a second thought.
They sat down at a wobbly wooden table stained with several decades of spilled drinks.
Gilda turned to Dennis to fill her in on their latest misadventures, but he was less adept at storytelling than he was at solving riddles, and Goom and Murt had to fill in the narrative.
Even with their help, it was a difficult tale to tell, and they had to gloss over all sorts of details that they didn't understand themselves.
Gilda had let her attention lapse only a few minutes into the story, and when they finished, she just blinked at them with content confusion.
She turned to Dennis and asked him a load of unrelated questions and gave him a hard time for not visiting recently. They sat together while Murt, Goom, and Fewla played a game of Unicorn Joust.
Fewla was a natural even though she'd never played, and Goom and Murt found themselves drinking heavily as she won round after round.
Goom didn't know what Gilda and Dennis were talking about, but his ears perked up when he heard his name.
"Oh, I knew his father," said the old dwarf, "and Goom is nothing like Drimmik." Goom continued his game, but his attention was on the conversation.
"He was the greatest thief in the land, and he might have been a better drinker than he was a thief. But when you've been around as long as me, you learn to read people - it's in their eyes.
Drimmik's eyes were always darting around. He blinked a lot as liars will, but the corners of his eyes betrayed his weariness.
He was cunning and shrewd, but his eyes couldn't hide the toll that a lifetime of smuggling had wrought. His eyes always looked like that except..." she trailed off without finishing her thought.
He was cunning and shrewd, but his eyes couldn't hide the toll that a lifetime of smuggling had wrought. His eyes always looked like that except..." she trailed off without finishing her thought. "Except what?" Goom asked. He was no longer hiding his interest in the story.
"Except when he talked about you," she replied to Goom, "and you," she added nodding in Murt's direction. "His eyes were wide and honest when he spoke of his boys."
"What did he say about us?" Murt asked.
"Oh, you were little. There wasn't much to be said. He talked about how strong you both were and the bits of he and your mother that you'd each inherited. He talked about how smart you were.
But when he talked about going home, his eyes went back to normal - normal for Drimmik. He was always leaving more than he was returning."
"You said I was nothing like him," Goom said. "What did you mean by that?"
"You said I was nothing like him," Goom said. "What did you mean by that?" "Did I say that?" Gilda asked. "It's true. Drimmik said that you both had your mother's eyes. He bragged about it.
"You said I was nothing like him," Goom said. "What did you mean by that?" "Did I say that?" Gilda asked. "It's true. Drimmik said that you both had your mother's eyes. He bragged about it. I don't know about that - I never met your mother - but you haven't got his eyes."
"What about my eyes?" Dennis asked drunkenly. He was anxious to retake Gilda's attention. She laughed a throaty laugh and turned her gaze back on the jealous man.
She told him he had beautiful eyes, and Dennis giggled like a little girl.
Goom, Murt, and Fewla went back to their game, but it took several more drinks before Goom could get Gilda's story out of his mind.