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It was a strange group gathered around the fire that night. It's not so common to see elves, halflings, humans, and dwarves all keeping company like that. But although it was uncommon to most, it was common for them.

The air was one of anticipation, even the talkative Halfling was quiet.

Then the female dwarf, Dorfina, began to speak.

"My story isn't so different from anyone else's, I'm sure. But you said you wanted to hear it. Begged, in fact. Several times." A wry look was cast at the smallest in the group, who surprisingly remained silent. Perhaps she was learning that too many interruptions would keep the story from being told.

"I was born in the Gemender family, deep in the mountains. Firstborn to the family, in fact. But a baby girl is not the same as a baby boy." Here she sighed.

"You see, girls do not inherit the same as the boys do. My family fortune would go to my husband on our marriage day. Nothing I said to my father could dissaude him from this tradition. And of course, marriages are traditionally arranged, as was mine. From the day of my birth, I was promised to the son of an old family friend. Never mind that he was already on in years while I was yet a baby."

The dwarf shrugged, spreading her hands in a gesture of futility. "While I was growing up, I was very curious. I wanted to know all about everything. Now, this isn't a normal trait of dwarves, but my father dismissed it, and let me have my way. On most things. I learned about the mines, and different gems that were harvested there. I learned about weapons, and how to use them. I learned a lot of things. I guess even then, I knew I wasn't going to depend on a husband to take care of me." She smiled a sort of half-smile, one the group had come to recognize. It was a warning, really, that the dwarf was up to something.

"So the wedding day draws near. Plans are being made. Of course, my plans had nothing to do with their plans. I had no problems slipping out of the house, and down the mountain. I was finally on my own. Of course, I left everything behind but the clothes on my back, some armour, and a battleaxe taken from the armoury."

Dorfina made as if to end the story there, moving to throw more wood on the fire. Sitting down though, she continued the story, almost as though she were glad to be finally telling it. "I ran into a few creatures on my journey, a journey to nowhere, anywhere." She shrugged again, and her red pigtails gleamed in the glow from the fire. "I have to admit my battle tactics were not the same as they are today." She grinned ruefully, shaking her head. "So I decided to seek out some training. I found the Black Mountain dwarves, known for their fierce fighting on the battlefield. They were reluctant to train me at first, but I convinced them that I was as willing to learn as any of their young men, and better than them, too."

Here you could almost see a glow of pride on her face. Everyone knew that Dorfina was a fierce warrior in battle, rushing into the fray and taking no prisoners. She didn't normally brag about her conquests, just taking care of business in her brutal way.

"After learning everything I could from them, I took my leave and headed out into the world again. There were other things to learn, and I wanted to be on my way."

Usually a taciturn person, Dorfina was holding her audience captive. She didn't even seem to notice that they were all listening attentively, it was almost as if she were speaking to herself. "I boarded a ship and sailed the seas, looking for that distant horizon. Again, this isn't something that is normal for a dwarf. Although we are good swimmers, we rarely sail. I expected to get seasick, but I didn't. Instead, I pitched in and helped the crew. I learned a lot about sailing, but when we reached port, I disembarked with the rest of the passengers. I was not after a life on the sea." She grimaced distastefully at the thought. "The storms were wild out there, and the pirates are a constant threat. No, I preferred to do my battling on the firm sturdy ground, where I can plant my feet steadily and swing my axe freely."

She reached for a bottle, and took a deep drink of water, then went on with her story.

"This town was much bigger than any I'd been in before. So many different kinds of people. Humans, dwarves, elves." She made a face as she said "elves", that those in the group dismissed. They knew she didn't mean them.

"I joined a group of dwarves and humans for a few jobs, but they were not disciplined at all in their tactics. Everything was pretty much chaos, with no real leadership. Leadership is important." She said emphatically. This was something she brought up all the time, so no comment was made to distract her from her tale. "So after a few months with them, I took my leave again. It was better to be on my own than try to depend on those who only looked out for themselves." "So that was how I found myself in trouble. It was winter, the snow was deep. These legs aren't made for slogging through snow." She glanced down at her offending appendages briefly. "I made camp in a cave one night. Tired, wet, hungry. It wasn't the best camp I'd been in. Yes, I know dwarves are supposed to live in caves." She glanced at the halfling, answering her question before she could speak it. "But our caves are not damp, dark holes like this. We build beautiful homes, so that you wouldn't ever know you were in a cave."

"Exhausted from forcing my way through the snow, I slept too soundly that night. I was ambushed by a pack of Kobolds." She frowned at the memory. "If I had been half rested, and not weak with hunger, I probably could've forced them back. But as it was..." She trailed off, shrugging again.

"I'm not real clear on the events that followed that night. Up until I heard the music. I had been wandering in the wood all night, getting weaker with each passing hour. The music though, it seemed to call to me." She shook her head, grinning. "It wasn't dwarf music, not something I was used to at all. I'm not sure why the music affected me like it did. But I followed it, drawn by the bewitching tune. Of course, the rest of the story, most of you know. I found an Elf. An Elf!!" She threw up her hands, looking skyward as if to ask "Why?"

"So that's how I came here. And of course, now I'm one of the Elereth clan. It's a name I bear more proudly than that of Gemender, my own name. And here, I'm not treated like a second-rate person, not worthy of recieving what is rightfully mine."

There was no more story forthcoming after that, not even with entreaties. The dwarf had told her story, and that was that.