“Do you know what this is, little one?” Aldem said, holding up a small bell made of stone.
The young dwarf girl looked up from her knees, reaching out for the smooth, featureless bell. She looked so much like her Uncle. Aldem handed her the bell, resting it gingerly in her palm.
“I saw you ringing it, at the procession, with the other Talhund,” she said, brushing the tears away from her eyes with the back of her hand, “for Uncle Berham. I thought it was broken, it did not make a sound.” She pinched the yoke with her fingers and attempted to ring it, but as the clapper made contact with the lip, no sound was made, not even a dull clink.
“It is the Duma Rith” Aldem said, crouching down to the girl’s level, “The Bell of Silence. Priests of the Silent Keeper always keep one, it is said that only the dead can hear its ring. The righteous dwarf will follow the sound to Dumathoin, who will keep them protected in the afterlife. The wicked will shun the sound or be driven mad.”
The girl raised the bell and looked up into the underside, shaking it again and inspecting it with great curiosity.
“There is another reason why they call it the Duma Rith.” Aldem continued, “Besides being the protector of the dwarven dead, do you know what other domains Dumathoin presides over?”
The girl remained silent for a few moments, attempting to remember her schooling.
“Secrets.” She said, sniffling.
“Clever girl,” Aldem smiled, patting the girl gingerly on the head, his emerald eyes twinkling. The girl let out a small giggle. “The Keeper of Secrets Under the Mountain. He knows every mineral vein that runs through the earth and every ancient secret never spoken throughout our great history. He knows the dirty secrets of every Deep Lord, and he knows when a priest sneaks one too many pot pies into his stomach.” He patted his tummy and winked. The girl stifled a small giggle.
“He keeps all under the tight protection of silence, so much so it is said that he does not speak, not even to the other Morndinsamman.”
“He doesn’t tell anyone?”
“Not a soul.” Aldem said, although he decided it best not to explain further.
“Will he keep my secrets safe?” The girl whispered, barely audible.
“Of course. Even the secrets of a young girl are guarded with the utmost vigilance,” Aldem replied. He wrapped his calloused hands over the girls’ and moved the bell closer to her. “Place this bell close to your lips and mouth the words to it. Dumathoin will listen, and he will keep your secret safe. He will share some of your burden.”
The girl did as she was told, closing her eyes and pressing her lips against the cold stone bell. Aldem stood up, and stepped back, giving her a comfortable amount of space. Aldem watched as the girl’s eyes widened in wonder as she felt the stone bell gently vibrate. She looked up to Aldem, and he smiled, giving her a wink.
“Thank you, Priest Dorik.” She said, standing up and offering the stone bell back. Aldem took it and placed it back in his belt pouch.
“Do you feel better now, little one?”
She nodded, slowly at first, then with more confidence.
“Good, now run along. A child should be at play.” He gave her a quick pat on the back and she ran off.
Aldem watched as she went, and then his eyes fell to the back of his hand. Wrapped underneath his cloth wraps was a stone medallion, carved with the symbol of his deity, resting against his bare skin and emanating a comforting warmth. He lightly traced his fingers over the wraps, feeling the edges of the carved mountain and embedded gem. Many thought that the Duma Rith was the holy symbol of the Silent Keeper, but in truth, it was just one tool of many. While the bell the was the people’s connection to the Protector of the Dead, the medallion served as his own personal conduit to Dumathoin. The bell was his voice, the medallion was his heart and mind. The God of Secrets was not without his own. Aldem placed his hand on his belt pouch, giving it two small pats, as he walked away. He would have to perform Berham’s last rites soon. He hoped he remembered the words.