“Take off your shoes,” Attilla wasn’t used to asking anyone to do anything; so he didn’t. Penn noticed a small bench behind the door, and he sat to take off his boots. Above the bench was a large mirror. Penn had only seen one other mirror in his life. A merchant had been trying to sell it at the fair in Oliveloft. The gnome had seen his reflection almost every day, however, in wash basins and standing water pools in Brentwood. Still, he couldn’t help but be fascinated once again at the sight of himself, and the clarity of the mirror.
Penn first noticed that his hair was looking horrible. He always, ever since he was a kid, had to have his hair combed and looking sharp. After he had removed his shoes Attilla went on into the den area to start the fire, while his friend fixed his hair. Penn pulled a comb made of wood and abalone out of his pack and started working on his hair, which he wore combed over one eye these days. The comb had been a gift from his mom during the Festival of Serynade many years ago. Penn always carried it with him as a good luck charm.
After fixing his brown hair, Penn took a look into his own face. He noticed dark circles under his eyes. Two hard days travelling, with a night spent out in the wilderness had taken its toll. He raised his chin and noticed dirt lines on his neck. He needed a wash badly, and wondered how nasty he must smell.
Attilla must have been watching him and understood what Penn must be thinking, for he called from the other room, “I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Most of the people here are animals anyway.” He made himself laugh, but Penn wasn’t sure that it was appropriate for him to share in the humor. So he just walked out of the foyer area and into the den, where the fire was just starting to warm up the larger room.
Attilla’s den area was beautiful. On one wall he had shelves upon shelves of books. Bindings of all different colors and sizes stood like little soldiers overlooking two comfortable chairs. Penn could smell the old parchment, which reminded him of the school house in Brentwood. Just glancing at some of the titles, Penn had already read several of the books. As much as Penn loved books, he couldn’t take his eyes off of what was on the other wall.
Weapons of every kind hung on Attilla’s wall. Penn felt like he could have been in a dwarven weapon smith’s shop. Swords of every length and breadth, maces, axes, and some weapons Penn had never even seen all stared back at him. His eye’s immediately focused on a small hand axe with a turtle shell pommel. Penn forced himself to measure each weapon’s own designs, but he always found his eyes going back to that axe. Attilla got himself washed up, changed his clothes and started making some hot tea while his friend looked around the house.
“Did you want to wash up?” Attilla asked. Penn turned to his friend and nodded. “There is a basin out back with fresh water in it. It may be a little cold, but it’s better than nothing.”
‘Yeah, my neck is all gunked up, and my feet need a good scrub.” Penn said.
“Well go handle that. Nothing in here is going anywhere before you get back, I promise,” Attilla teased.
“Jokes,” Penn laughed. “Make me some tea. I am your guest.” Penn walked past the fireplace, where again the masonry was superb. There was no jealousy in Penn as he walked through the kitchen area and out the back door. He was proud of the life Attilla had carved for himself here in Shadowmire. Life had been hard enough on the poor therian gnome. When the people of Brentwood learned of Attilla’s disease, they simply did not understand it. At first adults, who should know better, would try to bait him into his transformations so they could watch. His classmates would call him names and throw rocks and sticks at him. Attilla’s parents treated him harshly, and he distanced himself from them as much as he could.
The only real haven for Attilla was at the Darvel home. He stayed over there a lot of the time, and was always treated kindly. Penn would read through books on the nights Attilla had to go home, searching for some kind of way to make his friend better. Things never got better for Attilla in Brentwood. In fact, things got remarkably worse as he got older.