I reached the well and found my elemental friend dodging and darting about, trying to escape a group of Dvergr. Intent on capturing it, they didn’t see me at first, but when they did, the leader – the same one who had tried to trap the elemental in stone and who Torgood had met in Scrubplains – yelled and the small men raced toward me. I called the wind to blow them back, but nothing happened. They swarmed the horse, which let out shrill whinny. One of the Dvergr tried to climb up it’s tail but it bucked and wheeled, knocking the small man off. More caught at the reins and its legs. Strong hands pulled me down and the horse fled.
They pulled me up to leader, who stood on the edge of the well, triumphantly holding the quivering fire elemental in a carved stone cage contraption.
“Ah, you think you escaped me, eh Nordling? I have your elemental. What will you do now?”
The elemental spat sparks, but I had nothing.
“What do you want?”
He laughed; a short, guttural sound – it made me cringe. He said something in his language and the others ground their teeth loudly – their version of snickering I guess.
“I will take your elemental and it will fuel the furnace that makes our swords – the swords that will cut down your kind.” He stepped toward me, shaking the elemental in its cage. “I will take your blood and perform the gragluff.” He was close enough now that his spittle sprayed my face. “Dvergr will be supreme.”
He turned from me and stepped on to the edge of the well, saying “Bring him.” He dropped in, but there was no splash.
I struggled with all my might, dragging my feet, yelling, kicking. To no avail. I tried to use my voice but one of the Dvergr backhanded me, splitting my lip. He chuckled and licked the blood off.
Just as they were about to take me over the edge of the well, a horn sounded and a strange popping sound caused the Dvergr on my right to fall.
I wrenched free from the hands holding me and turned in time to see Sentinel Vytar shoot an explosive projectile from an ornate crossbow at me. The Dvergr at my side fell with a cry. I ducked and scuttled out of the way and the Dvergr dove into the well.
A moment later all was silent.
I peaked out from the edge of the building I hid behind and spotted the sentinel prodding a dead, hopefully dead, Dvergr with his boot.
“Are you well, my lord?” he asked as I stepped out.
“Mostly,” I answered, trying to calm my pounding heart.
“Good. Come, we must go.”
I had no argument with that so I followed him through the burned out town to the north gate. There I spotted my horse, tied next to a horse-type thing.
“What’s that?”
“A horchine. It’s part horse, part machine. Very fast and reliable. The Grand Council has equipped all of its sentinels with them.”
My horse didn’t seem to mind it’s mechanical counterpart, so I tried not to scare us both when Sentinel Vytar climbed upon it and it started to move with a strange metallic whir.
“How does it work?” I asked as we rode through the burned forest.
“Mech-magic, of course, my lord.”
His tone made me say, “Oh, of course. Why do you call me that?”
He raised an eyebrow in inquiry.
“I’m not your lord.”
“Obviously you are one of the mech-magic wielders, and thus above me in station. I apologize for not realizing it sooner. I should not have put you into the jail. I am so sorry.”
I closed my mouth, which had dropped open in surprise.
Was mech-magic more accepted than magic-magic? Was there a difference? Did I really know any magic to begin with? And if I did, how did that mesh with the simple hospitlar from Oakvale?
“I’m not, so please don’t call me that.”
He shrugged, “What shall I call you, then?”
My partially healed body hurt and I worried about my fire elemental friend in the hands of those filthy stone men.
“Gestin will do for now.”