Torgood put his hand over my mouth to silence my yelp of surprise. He gestured for me to follow and we crouched/ran away from the burning Dvergr leader. I heard a shout and knew we were pursued.
We ran to where the animals had been tied. They were gone. The female Dvergr and another jumped from behind a tree and attacked.
Torgood tangled with the female and I dodged the other. The whoosh of the spike-tipped club near my face made me dodge the other way. I had no weapon so I tossed dirt at him, hoping to blind him. The wind picked it up and obligingly blew it into his face.
Torgood somehow had disarmed the female. She circled with him, holding a knife. He didn’t appear to have any weapons. She stabbed at him, and he ducked and darted in and out, fast like a rattlesnake striking. She stepped back with a yelp and held her hand to her throat. Blood welled out from between her fingers.
Torgood turned and blocked the club descending toward my head. He darted in, and that Dvergr’s throat became bloody as well.
The club wielder scattered the blood on the ground and made a strangled cry before falling over. More Dvergr rose up and headed toward us.
I paused, shocked. They came from blood on the ground.
“Storm God’s nads.” We ran.
More Dvergr appeared before us.
We spun about and ran back the way we’d come.
“It’s no good,” Torgood panted, glancing behind. “We’ll have to climb.”
Climb what? I wanted to ask, for the trees had all started to blaze. He lead off to the right and across some rocks that abruptly ended in a gorge.
I looked back and didn’t see any Dvergr but did see the growing fire, fueled by the now larger fire elemental. It spotted me and spread, with the flames, toward me. The smoke obscured it for a moment, but I knew. It wanted me.
I had a moment of dizziness, poised on the edge of the gorge that Torgood had already started to climb down, and I suddenly I was another the wildfire, wind whipping around me as I moved through it to get to my burning house. Jeslynn was at the front of the house, screaming. Som yelled from behind me, something about being crazy. Jeslynn had a rag wrapped around her face and her skirt on was on fire.
“I can’t get to him.” Tears leaked from her eyes. “Don’t let him die, Gestin.”
I pushed her behind me and entered the inferno.
The intense heat took all of my breath away. I heard a cry and headed toward the stairs.
“Gestin, come on!” Torgood’s call brought me back to the moment just as a crossbow bolt winged past my head and into the gorge.
I ducked and scrambled over the edge.
My whole body shaking, Torgood caught me as I fell the last few feet to the bottom of the gorge. He stood me upright, looked at me intently to see if I could stand on my own, and then jogged off to the north. I stumbled after on shaking legs. I didn’t see any Dvergr climbing down and no rocks tumbled down on our heads. Maybe we’d escaped.
The roar of the fire elemental from above me made me flinch and run faster.
The gorge widened out in a few moments and Torgood started up a narrow animal trail on the other side.
Once at the top, we moved south-ish. I struggled to keep up. The smoke from the growing fire made it hard to see.
After a moment, Torgood made us pause in a bramble bush.
“Did you see the blood and the Dvergr…”
He nodded but held up a hand for my silence.
He whistled like a nighthawk and a nighthawk answered.
A man rode up a on a mule, leading the horse.
Torgood stepped out and greeted him.
“This is Smat,” he said as way of introduction as he climbed up on the horse and held a hand down for me to climb up. “Pitro didn’t make it.”
Smat cursed. I got on the horse behind Torgood and hung on. We moved off at a lope.
We came at last to a road. I could see the smoke rising behind us and almost hear the crackling of the fire as it spread through the grass.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
Smat and Torgood had a silent argument through looks and gestures. Torgood shook his head no. The man looked unhappy but nodded, and turned us off the road and into the grass.
We moved at a good pace and I felt lucky to be alive and on the horse instead of the mule, who, well, acted mulish about the approaching fire.
Torgood stopped the horse after a while later and turned in the saddle toward me. Smat continued on.
“You have to promise to not reveal this location.”
“Sure, whatever, I promise,” I said, but looked over at the fire line, clearly visible to the north. “Not that it matters, because wherever we’re going will be burning soon.”
Torgood looked grim and asked the horse to trot.
We came over a small hill, made a sharp left, and moved through a wall of bushes, and into a camp of sorts.
Men, and only men, greeted us with silent waves and smiles. Smat helped me off the horse and then lead me to a stump. He gestured for me to sit, which I did.
He rejoined the group around Torgood, which seemed to be discussing something – all through some sort of sign language. Based on the abrupt gestures I saw, the meeting turned into another argument.
After another few minutes of arguing, the group broke up and each person went his separate way.
Torgood brought me a water skin and a held out a leather satchel.
“Here’s the map, some paper, and the vase. I’m sorry I didn’t get the lamp.”
I took the bag and shook my head.
“I have so many questions, I don’t even know where to start.”
As I said that a man’s yell made everyone jump.
“Those will just have to wait,” Torgood said and pulled me to my feet. The fire had moved much faster than anticipated.