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Almost six weeks after leaving Blain, they saw in the near distance a large grouping of buildings smack in the middle of the plains. They arrived at the settlement around dusk and cautiously approached. Suddenly a group of smurf-like beings appeared, apparently from nowhere. Apart from their height (very short), round eyes and round noses, they resembled human beings and were just as diverse in appearance. They were black, white, brown, oriental and they were also armed to the teeth.

"Hey...!" exclaimed Des, "We don't want to fight you."

"Perhaps we want to fight you." replied one the larger ones who appeared to be the leader. The group roared with laughter at these comments. As the laughter subsided he stepped up to Des and poked him none too gently in the ribs with the blunt end of his spear. He asked,

"Who are you and what is the business that brings you so close to our home?" Rubbing his ribs and struggling to keep his temper, Des decided that discretion would be the better part of valour. They were heavily outnumbered by what appeared to be a warrior race. He had no idea whether they were friend or foe. His instinct told him that if these people were foe, then they would already be dead. Consequently he briefly and cautiously outlined their recent history. The change in attitude was incredible. The leader became extremely apologetic and they were bombarded with questions and cheers. It turned out that they knew of the quartet through their legends. These told of four young people travelling west in search of a golden sword. The one who appeared to be in charge ordered his people to be quiet, then introduced himself. His name was Plen and as they had suspected he was the chief. He offered the travellers bed and board for the fast approaching night. After a quick conference with the others, Des gratefully accepted the invitation.

They were led the short distance to the group of buildings. It was a very large village, almost a town. The houses were small and single-storey with round windows and doors. The streets were cobblestone and busy with trade's people and other workers riding their wagons and ponies home. Des, for once being practical, wondered, this being the middle of nowhere, where these people got their water. He was about to ask Plen, but was saved from embarrassment as he caught sight of one well, then another and more scattered around the village. Plen's house was, rather appropriately, the largest in the village and right in the centre. He invited them inside and led them through a passageway into a central common area. Like the other houses they had seen, it was circular in shape. The design of the house was such that doors in the circular wall of the common area led into other rooms at regular intervals. There were nine of these rooms. Mostly bedrooms of which there were six. There was also a bathroom, a laundry room and a kitchen. In the centre of the common area was what appeared to be a fireplace. Instead of a fire burning in it there was a white, glowing mass. It gave off heat and light , but no odour or smoke. The mass was refined from gelia, the primary source of energy for the village. Gelia was a mineral with powerful light and heat properties. It was mined from a quarry a short distance away, bought back to the village and refined for various uses.

Plen had a wife named Surea and five children. After introductions all round, they sat down on large soft cushions around the gelia and Plen did some explaining of his own.

"May I start by apologising for your reception." he began. "I hope you understand, we cannot be too careful in these dark days. So let me now give you a proper welcome to Giltrone and invite you to tarry with us a while." Before they could reply he went on. "Good, I'm glad you accept. Now, I'm sure you are wondering just who or what we are." The quartet nodded struck speechless by Plen's garrulousness.

"We are Dilfs." he continued, "We are entirely self-sufficient - have to be on account of there being no other life around for miles on end!! This also means that we have no masters but ourselves. Every sixty moons a new chief is elected. Might I add how honoured I am to be chief at this momentous time in our history. You should be around during our election campaigns. It's a lot of fun, can get a little er… heated though. Still, it allows our people to let off steam. Enough of our history, I'm sure you are very hungry. Let's eat."

The Dilfs were vegetarian and kept animals only as beasts of burden. The meal was superb and they all agreed that it was one of the best tasting meals they had ever had. They marvelled at the many different ways the vegetables had been prepared.

"Didn't know you could do that with celeriac!" whispered Diane to Des during the meal. Des gave her a "can't talk…eating" look.

After the meal, Plen related the Dilfian legend of the Golden Sword. It told of four travellers with a dark leader on a quest to find the Golden Sword. These travellers would then go on to rid the world of a great evil. Des was quite flattered by the reference to him as the leader and prepared to make an egotistic comment. However, a timely, not-so-soft nudge from Diane put paid to that. The story over, the weary travellers said their good nights and were shown their rooms and retired to bathe and sleep.

The room Des and Diane shared had a huge bed, testimony to the brilliant Dilfian craftsmen. It was made with crisp clean sheets and soft pillows. The windows had brightly coloured curtains and gelia at the end of the bed warmed and illuminated the room.

"What a lovely room!" exclaimed Diane as she sat down on the bed, "And this bed, it's so big."

"Ideal..." said Des.

"For what?" she asked teasingly, lying back on the bed. In answer Des went across and lay down next to her. Their lips met in a long, lingering passionate kiss. Diane collapsed onto Des's chest and he whispered in her ear,

"I love you Diane, and I always will. You're the best." and she smiled.

They stayed at Giltrone for a couple days and found the Dilfs fun loving creatures, full of mischief. The young ones were the worst and on the second day, they were all reduced to fits of laughter as a young Dilf came running round the corner with Kirria following closely in pursuit. It appeared that Kirria had fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book. The bag-of-dirt-above-a-door-routine. She certainly did not look like she would make the grade in a soap ad audition! She did however get her own back. She never told anybody how but just smiled mysteriously.

On the morning of the fourth day, fully stocked with Dilfian travel fare and well rested, they set off. Over the next few days much to their relief the mountains began to get nearer. This lifted their spirits and lightened their step. At around mid-day they stopped for lunch. Feils was the first to see it.

"There are many worlds other than one we inhabit. Some are like ours others are very different. Nonetheless there is one universal constant, the need for cosmic balance" - Blain Olturan, 1392SDA (Second Dark Age)

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The following comments are for "Des, Di and Eardon - Chapter 7"
by YernasiaQuorelios

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