The black-glass-feeling men and two other men helped me off of the mule, sat me down and tied me, from what I could feel, to a tree with flaking bark – probably a Sycapress tree. If it were a Sycapress tree, then we were near to enough water to support it. I tried to determine my location based on the memory of the map, but I hadn’t studied it long enough to remember what was south of Scrubplains. We were supposed to be headed east to the trader’s highway and then north along that road to an actual city. Had I seen a city before? I couldn’t define an actual memory of one, but I had the impression of more people, more noise, and more smells. At this point, I really didn’t want to see one. I yearned for the tavern, my books, and even Jeslynn’s temperamental company.
The men and the black-glass men moved off, unconcerned about watching me, I guess. I felt for Torgood, but he seemed to have moved out of my range.
Being alone, I experimented with my bonds. The rope tying my arms behind me and about the tree seemed to be well tied – or at least, I couldn’t move it much. The blindfold, however, moved when I moved my head – so after much turning I managed to drop it down around my nose and chin, and finally to my neck.
The bandit camp, within my limited view, consisted of a stand of Sycapress tress, a small pocket of water between them, and a tie for the riding animals, one of which looked like an actual horse with a long mane and long brown tail. I marveled at it for a moment and wondered where they’d stolen it from. The rest of the camp seemed to be behind my tree. Clever for them to tie me out here, I supposed, so I couldn’t see what they were doing.
Curse words, shouts, and the clang of swords made me try to stand up. I certainly didn’t want to die tied to a tree. I didn’t want to die at all. Why had Torgood gotten us, if he had, into this mess? Surely he knew, if he really wanted the magical items, he could have just asked. If he needed money, he could have just asked. If there was anything I had that he needed – but maybe he needed something I didn’t have? It made my head hurt and by this time, I was definitely tired of that feeling.
I managed to stand up and my ropes slackened enough that I could twist around to look behind me.
The Dvergr man from the shack in Scrubplains, surrounded by several of his fellows – maybe five, had come between a bandit man and Dvergr woman, who had twin short swords drawn. The man had my lamp in his hand and waved it about, yelling at the woman. The woman spat at him. The man from the shack made a strong downward gesture with his arm that made the dust jump up in a circle about ten feet from him.
I froze along with everyone else.
The man from the shack said something to the Dvergr woman in a guttural language and she stepped back and sheathed her weapons. He said something to the man, who handed the lamp to the nearest Dvergr and moved away quickly.
The Dvergr bowed to the man from the shack and offered up the lamp from his knees. The man examined it and then looked directly at me. A shock of panic went through me. He curled his dark lip in an unfriendly smile.
I ducked back behind my tree and tried to get the ropes off.