Fred knew it was taking too long, much too long. The armor took time
getting used to, the way was dark, and he didn't even have a map. Yet he
knew that Astra depended on him. He trudged along going forward and
turning with the tunnels, always looking for the passage upwards.
By the time Lord Fred returned to the chamber the whole scene had been transformed: there were no orcs, none living anyway; the dwarves were cleaning up; and Rift and Astra were nowhere to be seen. Fred marched up to the nearest dwarf who already had his axe raised and was eyeing the armored knight with suspicion.
"Where is Astra?!?" he demanded.
The dwarf seemed to relax a bit, chuckled and pointed to the back of the chamber. Fred began to walk forward and he could feel the eyes of the survivng dwarves upon him, not him really, but upon the Flamebane. Fred walked farther along and saw a table, and Astra laying upon it. He saw Tarin standing nearby and asked him, "What is wrong with her?"
Tarin, looking at Fred, had a surprised look upon his face. "YOU survived? And I see you have found a prize as well." Tarin eyed Fred, then the armour, then Astra's inert body, and then Fred again. "Pity that the girl didn't live to see it."
"WHAT?!!?" cried out Fred. He couldn't believe his ears. He ran to the table and inspected Astra's body; it was covered in blood and oils, the flesh was burned in places, the body was cut and bruised and deathly still. Fred was too late; his comrade was dead. He turned to the dwarf and said, "I shall take her body and return to my lands with it. There she shall have a decent burial."
"No," said the dwarf matter-of-factly. "You are in no condition to traipse about the countryside with a corpse. The lands near-about are still filled with orcs and other wild things. I shall...shall send you with a dwarven guide and guard to...the borders of the Shreken. That I will do, and give to your friend a burial worthy of a warrior. You go and leave her dead body in this place of death. Go and keep the armour as a gift of the dwarves. Go, now. Let her memory be her fame, for she died well."
Fred was still shocked by Astra's death, the offering of the dwarf even in its mocking tone seemed as nothing in comparison to the loss of his friend. He looked upon the body, so still, so deathly still.
The dwarf kept a keen eye upon the knight and the warrior. He knew that their dwarven salves would keep the body in a catatonic state for some hours yet. ~~Stupid human,~~ thought Tarin. He knew that Astra was too big a prize to just let go, she could prove very valuable to the dwarves. ~~Our medicine makes her look dead, and you just keep believing that! When she awakens she will be alone, without your aid, without your comfort.~~ Tarin's plan was a simple one: once he saw that Fred had survived it was logical to separate the knight from the warrior so that when she would awake her own isolation would hopefully give her less strength to resist the will of the dwarves. Giving Fred an escort as well would help to keep tabs on the knight. Tarin smiled at the thought of having a warrior and a knight in his 'employ' but he knew that that would prove much more difficult than having a simple serf, or a tradesman, or even a lawyer.
"Where is Rift?" asked Fred, almost as if reading the mind of the dwarf.
"Rift has gone to his home as well, to Walants."
"And the stone?"
Tarin looked at Fred with contempt then. He looked upon the glowing armour made of magic and metal and wholey for human use. "You humans have too much love of magical baubles! The stone is lost."
Fred thought of the words just spoken, if true then that would mean less problems; yet how far could he trust this dwarf?
10/4/1999 9:33:11 PM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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