It was a very old tradition, dating back to the days of the Syrisian Empire. Sammel heaved his rucksack over his shoulder and plodded to Max's house. Max was not his best friend's given name, for he was a dwarf. His real name was Grimaeks. The two had known each other most of both of their lives. True, dwarves were long-lived folk, and Max had been almost eight when Sammel was born. However, at this point in their lives, with Sammel finally coming of age, they were as similar in age and temperament as they would ever be.
Growing up on the Windy Isles had been a trial for poor Max, isolated from his own people and living among humans and even elves, which grated on his nerves endlessly. He was not overtly 'friendly, ' as such, being a dwarf. And it had taken years for them to forge their friendship. But one thing dwarves know how to do is forge things well, and their friendship was ironclad. Max's parents had protested his taking to the 'wandering' as the Windy Islanders called it, saying it was not their way. Max had said to that: "If ye were so concerned for 'our' ways, then mayhaps ye should'na raised my arse amongst the humans, eh?" They had protested further, but Max laid it down, that he was going to do this thing, and they were not to try to prevent it.
So, as Sammel stood outside the forgehouse and waited for Max to appear, he was very agitated and eager to begin. As the tradition went, they were to leave their homes and make their way for two years, and to see what became of them. If the family approved of what they had done and how they had managed, they were accepted back in as full adults of the family. Or, they could opt to tell the youth to return to his wanderings until he was ready. Or, as a last option, they could disown them, though this was exceedingly rare for anyone except the most inept of people.
Max came out of the house, looking angry. But then again, he always looked a bit miffed about something. He smiled upon seeing Sammel standing under the elm, though, leaning against the tree and flipping a large copper coin in his hand. "You got your ten?" Max asked.
"Of course. You?" Sammel replied. Pocketing his tenth-mark coin.
Max chuffed at that and patted his coin purse. "Naturally." He said. He hefted his own knapsack onto his shoulder and cinched his belt up a bit. He came up to Sammel's chest in height, and was just as broad, if not slightly more so. His short legs made keeping up with the youth difficult on short walks, but on long treks, as they planned now, his superior endurance made up for the human's longer gait.
They grinned at one another and started walking north. They had planned this leg of their journey months ago, and did not need to speak of it yet. The island they dwelt upon, Keronglee, was long and somewhat narrow, but the long direction had a lot of room in it from Sindport, where they were now, almost a hundred miles, according to the maps at the city hall.
They planned to go first to Iplestowne, and there find some light work for a few days and save up money, then move north more, working their way up the island until they reached the large city of Rendis. Rendis was where they hoped to have enough money to book passage, or better yet, working passage to another island, to be determined later.
The walk to Iplestowne was two and a half days, and they had memorized the path to there on the map. Neither had been farther out from their home than the outlying hamlets of Harrowfield and Morgan's Cross, but they were confident. There was a road after all, and the road was well-traveled.
A few younger children came to the road as they walked, and waved goodbye to the pair. Generally wishing them luck, though a few, mostly those that Max had bested in tussles, just glowered at them.
As they left town, Max said. "Well, we are of age now, and we seek our fortunes."
Sammel nodded. "It is so, my friend." He said, looking down at his lifelong companion. "You and I are going to come home rich."
Max mumbled something, but said nothing out loud. "We can hope so, for then perhaps my parents' wroth will be lessened."
Sammel had only met Max's parents a few times in their long years of association, and mainly only his father, working in the forges. His mother was elusive, staying inside their closed home, where the low ceilings and dark rooms kept most people at bay without actually telling them not to come in. He had met her once, and she looked so much like his father that he hardly could have told them apart.
They had only approved of their friendship due to the fact that there were no other dwarves within any reasonable distance of Sindport.
As they walked, they slowed to a manageable pace, and plodded along. They planned to march through the day and stop at a known camping site some fifteen miles up the road.
After the march of the day, they came, finally to that spot. A clearing in the stately elms and oaks of the wood, with a large mortared fire pit and small slabs of paved stone for tents to be erected upon. There was supposed to be a small lake nearby, as well. Travelers in the tavern had said so on many occasions. After they had made camp, Sammel said. "I'm feeling sticky and grimy with the day's walk, my friend, lets go jump in the lake."
Max regarded him with glaring eyes. "I think not, friend. Dwarves do not relish large bodies of water."
Sammel had never noticed that before. He had been so happy when spending time with Max that he never realized they had never frolicked in the ocean or streams together. "Why is that, Max?"
"We float poorly, and lack the height to keep our head above many more waters than humans." He said, glancing at the glinting lake east of the camping area with wary eyes.
"Well, then you can sit and glower while I bathe." Said Sammel, grinning.
Max's face showed discomfort at going so close to the lake but slowly nodded. "Allright." He said.
They wandered to the lake and Sammel slipped off his shirt and carefully hung it on a bush, then kicked off his low boots and placed them under the shirt. Finally he unbuckled his belt and dropped his trousers off. He was a young lad, not nearly to his full growth of body, but he was reasonably well built, with broad shoulders and very tight muscles covering his frame. He turned to Max. "Are you sure you wont..." He stopped at seeing the dwarf turn away quickly. "What's the matter, Max? Have you never seen a human naked?"
Max shook his head. "No, I haven't, and did'na wanna start now." He said.
Sammel chuckled. "Well, you can be all grimy and sweaty all you want, but I'm having a bath." He then ran and splashed into the lake. He swam about for a while, and declared it 'perfect.'
Max finally turned about and sat upon the bank of the little lake.
The lad turned to face his friend. "Max? What is the matter now? You look like you want to come in." Max tried to remove the longing look in his eyes as he looked at the blue, very cool-looking water.
"I wish I could, but my fear overrides that desire." Max said quietly. Sammel knew that even the admission of fear was a indicator of how much Max truly liked him, for a dwarf would never admit that to any one save their closest comrades.
"Come on. I swim well, I won't let you drown." Sammel said. "I can even pull your weight in water."
The dwarf shook his head and glowered. Sammel walked up out of the deeper water until he was just barely to his waist in it. "Look, we've but one tent, and I'll not have you smelling it up tonight because you won't bathe." Max was staring at him, and looked upset again. Then Sammel realized Max was staring intently at his penis, bobbing and floating on the surface of the water. "You've NEVER seen a human naked before?" He asked.
Max broke his concentration and looked up at Sammel's eyes. "No. I apologize, as I said, neve."
Sammel laughed. "Well, if we're going to spend the next two years together, I'm sure you'll see my willie a hell of a lot of times, so no need staring at it." He said. "Now get into the water."
Max stood up. "You must turn around." He said. "Dwarves aren't so comfortable being seen unclothed as humans."
Sammel said. "Whatever you wish, just so you bathe." He turned about and faced the far side of the lake. A few moments later he heard a quiet splash as Max entered the water.
A moment later, Max said. "Okay, I'm in the water, happy?" He had waded until only his head and sparse beard rose above the surface.
Sammel turned about and gaped. It is a little known fact that dwarves and humans have slightly different ranges of sight. In the area of blue-green, the color of lakewater, dwarves are near blinded, and cannot penetrate it with their vision. However, humans, having a bit more of a aquatic tendency can see through several feet of blue-green water. He looked at Max and said. "Oh by the One."
Max looked very concerned for a moment, then settled his face back into a glower. "What?" he demanded.
Sammel turned away and swam a small distance away. Then said "You've got tits!"
The dwarf panicked and ran from the water, splashing to the surface and grabbing his clothes. As he turned to pick up his trousers, Sammel realized that there was no 'he' to Max, either.
Sammel looked after his friend, then it hit him square in the head. Max's mom looked just like his dad. Dwarven women looked just like the men. He swam to the bank and quickly dressed, still dripping water, and ran to the campsite. Max was there, dressed in wet clothes as well, stuffing her gear into her rucksack.
"Max, what are you doing?" Sammel asked.
Max looked at him with angry eyes. "Packing my stuff, what's it look like to ya?"
The lad sat down on a tree stump and looked at her. "Don't." He said, quietly. "You can't walk home tonight."
The dwarf regarded him a moment then said. "What the hell makes you think I'm goin home?"
Sammel sighed. "Because that's what I would do." He said. "But it won't do you any good, I'm still your best friend, you know, and I'll go home too."
Max stopped stuffing the gear into the sack. "You can't." She said. "It'll ruin your wandering." Her face grew very concerned. "Your family will be shamed."
Shrugging, Sammel stood up. "Oh well." He said. He looked at the dwarven girl that he never knew was a girl. "Max, why did you never tell me?"
The dwarf gave him a quick glance. "Would it have served to make a difference?" Then she turned away. "I've heard you talk all about girls, Sammel. I know what you like in them, remember?" She looked at him again. "And I know what you don't like in them." Then she looked at herself. "I'm pretty close to opposite of what you think of as a good girl."
Sammel regarded her. "I guess I should have known." He said. "Your beard has always been spotty, at best." He grinned slightly.
Max turned toward him a little. "Well, yeah, we girls don't grow them in good till we're in our thirties." She stroked her wispy whiskers thoughtfully. "But some boys have the same problem, you know!" She said, her eyes flashing with dwarven pride.
"I don't doubt it." The lad said, wisely avoiding any further ire. "I still wish you had told me."
"So you could treat me differently?" She said, eyeing him dubiously. "Hell, I liked you as a best friend. Had you known I was a girl, you'da been all 'Let me do that, it's man's work.' and shit."
Sammel laughed. "Bullshit." He said. "You've been able to kick my butt since day one, as you've proven many times."
She smiled. "I suppose that's true." She said, considering. "But you boys all act so funny around girls. I didn't want that."
"It might have helped." Said Sammel. "I wouldn't have picked on you to make you kiss Theresa last year."
Max's face twisted a bit at that. "Don't remind me. My only kiss of my miserable life, and it was another girl."
Sammel chuckled. "If it makes you feel any better, she said she liked it a lot, repeatedly." He said. "She was willing to take you to the loft, from what I hear."
Max laughed at that, too. "That'd been a hell of a deal, huh?" She said.
"I suppose so." Said Sammel. "She thought you were just shy."
Max grunted, sitting on another nearby stump. "Just shy a cockstem and a pair of eggs." She said, then chuckled at herself.
Sammel said. "Like I said, it's no good going home tonight, in any case, it'll be dark soon."
Max regarded the sky. "I see well enough at night." She said.
"That's not the point, it's dangerous at night." He retorted. "There's bad stuff out there, even here on the Isles. The rangers patrol places like here, but not out in the wilds."
Finally, Max relented. "You're right." She said. "But what are we to do?"
"Get our camp ready and go to bed in a while." Sammel said.
Max looked at their gear. "We've only got the one tent, though." He said, eyeing their only shelter.
The lad looked at it. "I can sleep outsi..." He started to say.
"The bloody hell you will!" Max yelled. "I'll be damned if I'll let you pull that macho shit on me!" She had stood up and balled both her hands into tight fists. "Don't make me pummel you for it."
Sammel regarded her a moment. "I guess you're right about treating you different, huh?" He admitted.
"No shit." Max said, chuckling. "We can share the tent, It's not like your attracted to me or anything."
The lad looked at Max a long moment, then said. "Or vice-versa?"
Max just looked back at him for a second, then started to erect the tent. Sammel helped her soon after, and they had it built in just a few minutes. A half hour later, they were laying in the small tent.
"Max?" Sammel asked in the darkened tent.
Max sighed. "What?" She said.
"You aren't attracted to me, are you?" He asked.
Max sighed again, and seemed to shift in the darkness. "Would it matter, Sammel?" She finally said.
"Yes." Sammel answered. "You've always been my best friend. It would make a difference to know you feel something toward me like that."
Max chuckled. "It'd scare the piss out of ya, if that's what you mean." She said.
"No, it would not." Sammel said, defensively.
Max paused for a few seconds. "Sammel, you're a cute boy, okay? But you're hardly a dwarf, are ya? I mean, you're a bit skinny, yer way too damn tall, and you can't even grow a half-arsed moustache." Then she finally added. "And yer cockstem is too thin."
Sammel said. "My what?" He sounded offended.
"I said yer cockstem is too thin, looked like a damn fishin pole." She grunted into the darkness.
The youth sat up in the tent. "Molly in Hobb's Mill didn't say it was 'too thin'." He said, sounding offended. "And she got a good handful of it."
Chuckling, Max said. "Her hand ain't where it goes, now is it?"
Sammel laughed. "I suppose not." He said. "But still, it's not all that thin, it wasn't hard when you saw it."
"Not bloody likely I'll see it that way, either." She said, her eyes flashing in the dimness of the tent.
"I wouldn't swear on that." The lad said. "I thought about them tits of yours and got that way a while ago."
She faced him. "You bloody what?" She asked.
"I got stiff thinking about your boobs." Sammel said. "They were quite nice ones."
"For a dwarf." She said. "You mean they were nice for a dwarf."
Sammel laid back down. "No, they were nicer than Molly's for sure." He said.
"Were they then?" She asked, and Sammel could see her smile a little. "Well, that's something to know." Then she paused a second. "Nicer how?" She finally asked.
The lad thought, casting his mind back a few months. "Well, not that I saw them long, mind you." He said. "But yours seemed bigger, and rounder, and... well... really to stand up there." He stopped a moment. "And they had really pointy nipples."
The dwarf grunted. "Aye, I've always liked those." She said, grinning into the night
The youth chuckled. "There, I've done it again." He said.
"You've done what?" Max asked.
"Erm. Gone and made myself stiff again thinking about your tits." The boy replied.
Max looked at him again. "Bullshit." She said. "You're making that shit up to make me feel better, not that I don't appre..." She stopped when Sammel grabbed her wrist in the darkness and put her hand on his stiff manhood.
"That feel like bullshit?" He asked her. Max tried feebly to pull her hand away, but she did not try very hard, in actuality. She liked the feel of hard cock in her hand, even through trousers. After the one weak attempt to pull away, she wrapped her thick fingers around it.
Max said, rather breathily. "I suppose it doesn't." She said. She squeezed a little with that hand and Sammel groaned.
"Okay, Max, unless you plan on doing something with that, I'd advise letting it go." Sammel said, his voice rather strained, too. "Does it feel too thin to you now?" He asked, grinning.
She squeezed it again. "No, it feels about right." She said, then let it go, though she really did not want to. As her hand left it, she felt something moist on the cloth, where the head had been.
Sammel sounded somewhat forlorn when he said. "I'm going to go for a bit of a walk. I'll be right back." He got up and crawled out of the tent. Max peered out as the lad went about twenty paces into the dark wood, not that it bothered Max's eyes at all. He pulled his organ from his pants and started stroking it. Max watched a moment, then laid back down, tears welling in her eyes.
A few minutes later the lad came back in and sounded a lot more normal. "Nature calling." He muttered.
"Yeah." Max replied. "Nature called ya to yank yer willie." He voice had a trace of hurt in it.
"What are you upset about?" He asked. "You said you weren't interested in me. I figured it would be nice of me to go outside and not just lay beside you pulling on my stem."
She looked at him. "I had the damn thing in my hand." She said. "If you had said something, I could have done it for ya, then we would have both had a better night, huh?"
"Y... you really wanted to?" Sammel asked.
She sighed. "Yes." She replied. "I really wanted to. Damn, man, you think dwarves are carven of stone?" She asked. "You put my hand on your cockstem and didn't expect it to bother me in the least? Hell, it was the first one of them I've ever held."