The ropes loosened but did not come off. I heard the Dvergr leader give some commands and hazarded a look back. His followers scattered and started to dismantle the camp. I realized I didn’t see any bandit men around. I closed my eyes and couldn’t feel any either. Had they run off? Where was Torgood? I continued to rub my rope against the tree in the hope that I’d get enough slack to twist around and get at the knots.
A group of Dvergr approached, carrying a large but flat boulder between them. It must have been enormously heavy. One missed his footing and the entire group almost dropped the rock on him – which would have been ugly.
A man’s cry made me flinch and tug at my ropes more.
The group placed the boulder close to the pool of water and all but one ran off. The one remaining dusted the boulder with a rag and placed handfuls of dirt on it in a deliberate manner while chanting. His black clothing looked more elaborate than the other’s and reminded me of the elders’ ceremonial funeral robes.
The group returned, carrying a man – the same man who had been arguing with the female Dvergr over the lamp. They lay him on his back across the rock. The chanting Dvergr made a downward motion. The man screamed as the rock surged up around the his arms and legs.
“Don’t worry about that,” I muttered to myself as I put more effort into getting my ropes untied.
Someone whistled shrilly and the Dvergr, more than I’d thought were around, gathered in a semicircle around the rock. The Dvergr leader passed through them, now wearing some sort of pointed hat, and holding Tiria’s lamp up high.
Without much formality, the leader handed the lamp to the robed Dvergr, who offered him a long wicked looking dagger, which the leader then plunged into the man’s stomach. Reaching in to that cavity, he pulled out the man’s heart. I had to look away and swallow bile a few times.
The chanting grew louder and I looked back. The robed creature threw the heart into the pool and the water was sucked up as if by a towel. Soon, no water remained and the trees, including the one I was tied to, started to shrivel and dry out. The grasses turned yellow. A breeze came up, blowing dust into my eyes.
They moved the body, whomever he had been, and placed the lamp on the rock. It burned brightly despite being the middle of the day. The chanting grew even louder and the leader positioned himself at the head of the rock. He pointed at me and said something in his language. The only word that seemed familiar was ‘nordling.’ The others laughed and some also pointed at me. The robed one stroked its gory knife and grinned.
The leader laughed and slammed his hand down on the lamp, as if to squish it into the rock.
The rock rippled but the lamp remained, undisturbed.
The leader gestured and two Dvergr came and untied me. They held my arms and dragged me forward.
“No, no, no…”
The robed one came forward, spat in my face, and pricked me in the throat with the tip of his dagger. A trickle of blood ran down my chest. He let it run along the blade for a moment, looking so pleased I expected him to lick it. He took the blade to the lamp and smeared my blood on it.
The chanting began again. The breeze increased to a steady wind, blowing dead leaves at me that stuck to my wet neck.
The leader repeated his gesture of smashing the lamp into the rock. The rock rippled and the lamp shook, sparks flying everywhere and the now violent wind took them into the trees. Fires started all around as the lamp sank into the rock.
A moment of silence had everyone watching the rock. Then leader gave a strangled cry and a small fire elemental crawled from the rock and blazed up into his face.
At the same time, the Dvergr who held my right arm jerked back and fell, followed almost instantly by the one on the left. A hand pulled me by the shoulder behind the tree.