Chapter 32 - Dwarves and Dragons
Silvast shook her head, the dwarf at her side trying to walk ahead even after already sending them down a few wrong turns.
“Aye, Silvast. It’ll be this one for sure!” Rhuthain said excitedly, picking up his pace until he was almost charging at the darkened entry to the room to their left.
Raising her brows she didn’t even move to follow, instead continuing along the passage. A few long moments later she heard his approach, a half run with surprisingly light steps for a dwarf.
“You could have stopped me! You knew, didn’t you?”
“Would you have listened?”
“Aye, I would have. Maybe.” he said as he matched her pace, “Another storeroom, smelled of sand. We are getting closer, that one at least had a faint whiff of steel.”
“Did it really?”
Rhuthain glared at her, “You keep at that game, lizard.”
She smiled, “Hmmm… ‘Lizard’. Keep calling me that and I won’t fish you out of trouble the next time you land yourself in it.”
“You will, can’t help yourself. You just love me too much.” he said, “But I’m already taken, Fireley…”
“Oh, the fish?”
“I never, how could…”
“Should I find a distasteful animal to call you then? There are a few I know of that would fit the description, but I would be insulting their breed to associate the two.”
Rhuthain bristled, “Don’t you dare bring my…”
“Well, I would think you would feel like I am complimenting you if I used such a pet name, you might consider it a step up.”
He stared up at her with a grimace on his face.
“Don’t like the taste, do you? You should know better after all these years. I mean, calling my sister a ‘cat’, or myself a ‘dragon’ is one thing.” she glanced at him, letting him see her smile, “Understood, little man?”
Rhuthain’s jaw clenched, “Aye, dragon.”
“Good.” Silvast almost purred, “This way.”
He followed closely behind, his eyes on her back while she walked ahead in the low light being cast from the sconces. He gave the next empty doorway they passed a glance without stopping. Rhuthain frowned, the surety in Silvast’s steps unnerving in their own way.
“Is Kit always all over her brother like that, or is that a new thing?” he asked, breaking the silence, “I’m meaning that I have seen them, but not proper-like since then, when she went sideways.”
Silvast considered his question for a moment in silence, only the soft sounds of their footfall in the stone passage.
“New? Since then you mean?”
“Aye, since then.”
“Thain, they were almost fourteen.” Silvast said while shaking her head, her long silver hair snaking across her back in a heavy braid.
“What is it now, fourteen-fifteen years?” he said, rubbing the stubble on his jaw.
“Gods, Thain.” she breathed out.
“Look Silvast, it’s not my concern is it? Sometimes none of us see each other for hundreds of years. These kids drop into the forest out of nowhere and Antrandis took them in. An you lot are like one big family anyways.”
Silvast looked down to him, chuckling, “We are, are we not?”
He frowned slightly, “Aye, but it’s just the way she acts round him. All familiar like. Bumping against him and giving him these looks like she wants to, you know.” he said with a symbolic nod, “Aye, that rubbing herself on him, it’s indecent Sil.”
Silvast shook her head and sighed, “When she came of age… Damn it Thain, I can’t believe I have to explain this to you.” she said in frustration.
She rolled her eyes, “As she grew…Gods…Matured, her body developed, things started changing.”
“Aye, course they change, girly bits and all. I’m not a fool Sil, spit it out.” he said.
She glared at him, “It caught us off-guard. She was always possessive of him, it just got worse. She suddenly started treating him like he was her possession, a toy. It’s worse the closer it gets to the full moon.”
He glanced across at her as they walked, rubbing his chin in thought, “Changes? Treating him like that? But, the rubbing? It’s just…He’s her brother. Twin brother.” he said with visible distaste on his face.
“She is scenting, Thain.”
His steps faltered, “Scenting? You mean, like a?”
“Yes, like a wolf.”
“Gods…” he whispered.
“She’s marking her territory, he is her feeding ground. It’s not him she’s after, it’s his blood.” Silvast said, glancing at the dwarf, “Just don’t start your usual antics with the verbal prodding around her, last thing we need is her attempting to tear you to pieces in the middle of camp.”
Rhuthain scoffed, “What? A wolf tear me to pieces?”
“Those tales you hear of the two, the ones whispered in taverns about the order. The last time she lost control in a fight it was a massacre, it took Rhy and myself to restrain her. She is not just a wolf anymore.”
He swallowed hard, hearing the seriousness in Silvast’s voice, “Never thought I’d see a dragon pale at the thought of a massacre. Then why you bring her out here for?”
“We have our reasons.”
He grimaced, “Don’t like the sound of that, like it’s got something to do with Aisling.”
Rhuthain dropped into a silent walk, barely noticing that Silvast was checking another room they passed as he involuntarily shivered.
“Once we are finished here we will travel to Dekkarsmann, as much as I still can’t trust her, she has not given up on finding a cure.” she said, returning to his side.
“Aye. The Dark Empress, who would have thought she’s on our side now after the twins arrived. I been hearing strange talk coming from Dekkarsmann too.”
“What have you been hearing?”
Rhuthain glanced at her, “The dark bitch herself is more powerful than ever. An she’s brokered a deal with some real shady characters that she surrounds herself with that act like her fingers. Most of the bastards that walk the streets there now fear her wrath.”
“Groumangand?” she asked.
“Aye, Sil. Some say she’s after his head. He surfaced you know, an she tore half the city apart with her own hands chasing him down.” he said before mimicking an explosion, “He red portalled himself out of there. But every contact that he had has been ratted out.”
“How did you hear about all this?” Silvast said, her eyes on him in mild surprise.
“An order came to me it did, a few years back. Asking me to craft it, paying well in assured trade routes for me kin. Finger extensions, like claws and heavily enchanted. So, I decided to deliver it myself, figuring it was an invitation for a talk of truce with the dwarven clans. You know, from one of the Hithren to another.”
He pursed his lips, “She’s got these minders you see, they’re always in the shadows. When I met with her I could never quite get a look at them.” he shivered, “They were slippery-like, like my eyes couldn’t catch them. Gave me chills.”
Silvast looked at him, “When was this?”
“I just got back to Mortegarrd, ‘fore I headed out here to meet you. So, maybe four-five weeks ago. She’s different to before, well, different to when I saw her last.”
He glanced at Silvast thoughtfully, “She was shifty, like you were dealing with a thief or something. Now, she’s filled the boots she’s always spruiked about. ‘Dark Empress’ is what she is now, in form and figure. I never thought Telios would be the type to allow...What?”
“Telios passed eighteen years ago, Thain.”
He stared at her, his eyes wide in confusion, “What are you saying, the god of truth and lies passed? Then, who? Which of the three, not Aisling?” he stopped walking, “Well, maybe Aisling. The way she was so secretive an all.”
“You talk too much, dwarf.”
“She is all types of strange, Sil. All types. I’m just glad she hasn’t got her own down here.”
Silvast smiled quietly, “Toth, is Xiana’s benefactor.”
Rhuthain’s face blanched, “The absent god?” he whispered, watching Silvast’s nod.
He stood in the passage as Silvast continued to walk, “Then that makes her… Gods… Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“You never asked, Thain. But I am more concerned that your own Mistress of the Heavens didn’t tell you of Telios’s fall.”
Rhuthain glanced at her, a dour look on his face, “Maybe she did not believe it was of importance.” he said with sadness in his expression.
Silvast patted his shoulder, “Has she withdrawn? Lost interest in this world of mortals?”
He nodded slightly, “That would be a polite way of putting it.”
She smiled in sympathy as they continued, the passage ending in a round chamber with a partially open door. Eyeing it, she gestured to Rhuthain.
“Is this the one?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
Silvast shrugged and let him lead the way in, her eyes quickly adapting to the shift to a softer light that bled away at the edges of the room. Immediately she could see the similarities to the forge she had inherited from her father, the furnace, smelting pots and racks of tools. She ignored Rhuthain’s reverent silence as he stood close to the silent furnace, his eyes closed as he took in the feel of the chamber. Moving around the large room, she let her eyes wander, everything was as it should be. It was clean, but unlike the rest of the structure the tools and implements remained where they had been left.
“Thain, could you take that cover off the anvil?”
“Aye, just wanting to soak in the history of the art of another craftsperson.”
She shook her head and turned, her eyes falling on another oiled leather cover, cracked by age and the dry air. Walking over to the workbench, she stopped and pulled the cover back. A twisted lump of half-melted and twisted metals sat in an unceremonious heap. She stared at the mess, one of her eyelids twitching slightly as she noticed the purposefully ruined blades and armour.
Holding her hand out over them, her eyes started to glow with white light as she concentrated, tapping into her power. To her sight, wisps of faint light streamed off the wreckage, the remnants of enchantments now rendered useless. A deep frown brought her brows together in concern. Turning quickly she looked at the still veiled anvil, Rhuthain’s hands reaching for the cover.
“Stop! Don’t uncover it.”
Rhuthain stopped, his hand hovering just above it, “Something to be concerned about, Sil?”
She nodded and approached, looking at it carefully as Rhuthain checked the workbench and its twisted evidence.
“Is that?” he said before letting out a low whistle, “I’ll be betting that is almost everything she…”
“There is more in the furnace.” said Silvast as she looked at the covered anvil suspiciously.
Rhuthain quickly stepped past and peered in, “By the… These are all weapons.” he said in surprise as he looked back to Silvast, “She destroyed them.”
She nodded slowly, “Thain, I think we need to leave.”
“What did you just say?”
“How angry would you have to be to destroy your best works?”
“Well, I wouldn’t.”
“Neither would I, but she did, Thain.” Silvast said quietly, slowly laying her hand on the covered anvil, her eyes flaring, “And this is not her anvil. Tongs.”
He quickly went to the rack and selected a pair before returning, handing them to her. Taking a step back, he called on his strength, his dark brown eyes growing more intense as he watched Silvast carefully lifting the cover and slowly exposing the silver anvil.
“Wait, is that what I think it is?” he said as he peered around Silvast.
She nodded, her eyes sharpening, dropping the cover and letting the tongs clatter to the floor. The dished hollow on the top of the anvil gleamed wetly with blood. A spike fashioned from the copper’s own claw had been driven into the middle, the blood rippling where it met the silver and bone. Silvast held out an arm, blocking Rhuthain from getting any closer.
“Sil, that blood?”
“I know, it is like it was just drawn.” she said, scrutinising the trap.
“But its, its still fresh. This was all set before the world fell. Before you were even born.”
She glared at him, “You had to bring my age into it.”
“Aye, you’re even older than me.”
Silvast shook her head.
“So, Sil, what does it do?”
Silvast carefully changed her angle, “She was going to bury him if he returned here. Ruptured enchantments of her greatest pieces, an dish of her blood and bone and the Jade’s own power in this room. She was going to drop the entire complex on him. This room, Thain, just like Father, she made it to contain her power so it wouldn’t affect the rest of the Sanctum when she was at the forge. It would have entombed him and there would be nothing he could do to escape. The only thing stopping it is that shard I brought and Antrandis.”
“Yes. The moment he invoked the grace of Toth to augment that shard, he began protecting the sanctum.” she said.
She watched the ripples carefully while she slowly reached out her hand. Almost touching it, the gentle ripples started to grow turbulent as the blood starting to thrash in the hollow of the anvil. Grimacing as a slight vibration rumbled through the stone, she pulled away and met Rhuthain’s eyes with a concerned glance.
Her lips twisted into a reckless smile as he stared at the trap, “Got any ideas, dwarf lord?”