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and we shall return to the earth
Golems were a myth, and old tale, a testament to a dwarf’s pride in his ancestry. Soldiers, crafted from mud and clay and stone. Just like the dwarves.
They were tales that Bruin had grown up on, like every other child in the Northern Hills. Sometimes, when he was alone, he’d slip out the door and run to his Place, and spend hours perfecting his little clay man. When he was finished, he’d act as if to breathe life into it, just like the old stories said that Archelaos, the god-king, had done with his golems. And the he would giggle at the ridiculousness of it and scamper back home, dirty and mud-covered, just in time for dinner.
Once, though- it worked. Bruin closed his eyes and took a deep breath, exhaling onto the little clay man. He sat there for a moment, eyes closed, as something stirred in his hand. The boy’s eyes snapped open to find the figure struggling to its thick feet, face smooth and featureless. Bruin near well screamed at the surprise, almost dropping his creation, and then scrambled up and ran home, clutching the golem tenderly.
He showed it to his mother, his face alight with awe and fascination. “Mami!” he cried, tugging on her skirt with a dirty, impatient hand while she cooked. “Look, Mami! I made a golem, just like in your stories.”
She turned to face her son, expression fond. Lorina was not a striking woman; her face was too thin and her cheeks gaunt, her hair falling in a plain, gray-streaked mousy brown around her face. But her eyes were expressive, and captivated those who knew her. She set aside the vegetables she had been cooking with and kneeled to see what her son wanted to show her.
However, when he opened his hands to reveal the stumbling figure, Lorina’s fondness turned to fear, and she snatched the golem out of her son’s hands and crushed it underfoot. Bruin wailed, struggling against his mother’s arms as she herded him towards one of the old cots shoved against the wall.
“Quiet,” she shushed, almost desperately, catching Bruin’s face between her bony hands. He peered up at her resentfully, his cheeks blotchy red and brown eyes copiously wet. “Quiet, love. It’s alright, I’m sorry…”
It took some time, but she eventually silenced him, cradling the young boy against her as his hiccupping sobs receded. Once she was satisfied, she bent so she could look him in the eye again. “Never tell anyone,” she told him quietly, firmly, her hands clutching at his shoulders. Bruin nodded jerkily. “It would be very dangerous for anyone to know about your golems. Bad men would come and take you away, take me away, take your sister away, and we’d never see each other or home ever again.”
It was, perhaps, too firm of a warning for one as young as Bruin, but the boy stared at her with wide eyes that were rapidly filling with tears again. “Okay, Mami,” he whispered hoarsely, burying his face in his mother’s neck as her arms wound around him. “I promise.”
Bruin didn’t understand his mother’s fear that day, and neither did he comprehend the weight of that promise.