Chapter 38 - Taunt
The slow clap resounded from the marble railing above. A deep rasping chuckle echoing throughout the pit of the Sanctuary. It stood atop the railing, its form large and hulking as it remained cloaked in the shadow of the pillar.
A deep, rumbling voice reached down to them, unconcerned and without fear, “I have seen enough, young one. You are a fierce fighter, a brawler, but not yet a warrior.”
Rhyker slowly slipped his hand to his waist, the movement obscured by Kitaraiya’s position, stopping as a gentle tutting sound reached them.
“I will save you the time, boy. Hand away from those daggers at your back, you have already proven you are deadly at a distance.”
Rhyker’s eyes narrowed and he stepped out from behind Kitaraiya as another relaxed chuckle could be heard, the ominous shadow leaning against the pillar.
“I am genuinely surprised, I believed those of your blood no longer existed. Yet, two examples stand before me, proving me wrong.” another thoughtful pause hung in the air, “But then, I never really took much notice.” it continued.
Kitaraiya’s eyes narrowed further, attempting to see through the darkness it concealed itself with, “Who are you?!”
Another deep and rich rumble swept through the chamber, “Hmmm...‘Who’ does not matter to you at this moment, the ‘what’ would have greater value. Without knowing the what, the who is irrelevant.”
The shadow moved slightly, a faint flash of silvery blue breaking through, “But, then again, the ‘what’ in this day and age would not be of much value either. The same as you presenting to others your breed. You would only be seen as some type of obscure mage or arcanist.”
Rhyker glared, “You speak too much.” he said, shifting his position, catching Kitaraiya’s eye and giving her the slightest of signals, “We prefer that we are an unknown quantity.”
Another quiet chuckle rung out, the deep rumbles so low that they were felt rather than heard.
“Most times I speak not at all. This is the first time in many years I have ventured outside of…” the shadow stopped as Kitaraiya dipped, scooping a handful of sand and throwing it high in an arc.
Rhyker’s arm pumped explosively, loosing two daggers that shot unerringly to their target, their path augmented by his thread. Both daggers pierced the wall of sand and buried themselves into the shadow. As he readied to throw another, Rhyker’s eyes widened as he saw the clear flash of the two daggers being brandished.
Barely able to keep track of the glimmer off the blades, Rhyker followed their movement as they came fast in return, snatching them from the air. His look shifted to confusion in the instant before he grimaced and growled in agony.
“You missed your catch, boy.” said the shadow dispassionately as Rhyker dropped to his knees, a blade embedded in each thigh with blood quickly saturating the cloth of his trousers.
Kitaraiya quickly looked from her brother to the shadow, “Bastard. That was cheap.”
“So was the sand.” it quickly retorted without missing a beat, “Why are you here?”
She glared, “Why did you ambush us?”
“Ambushing? Defending. I am only protecting what was once my home from those who desire its secrets.”
Kitaraiya stared at the shadow far above them, quickly stepping over to her brother. Glancing at him as he pulled one dagger free and cauterised the wound closed with gritted teeth.
“Less than two months ago, I discovered that Dagnatheln had been claimed. By that insufferable degenerate, the Host. His servants, the valkyrie stand watch over that Sanctum of the dragons that were. A number of those winged amazons are within the halls, it is a concern considering who they serve and how close it is to our borders. I then travelled to Imaldren and Rensleth, to find their ruins being watched over by more of their kind. The mighty Scarosant had come back to life, that power obvious even from looking at the mountain from afar.”
The shadow shifted slightly, before walking deftly along the rail, changing its position.
“I returned with this knowledge and she sent me to check on Escorath. To defend it if necessary and to keep its secrets safe. For weeks I have watched from the foothills, waiting. Then a few days ago, look who should make themselves seen. A strange troop of elves and a dwarf, in the desolate wastes, no less.”
“Then why don’t you kill us?” she snarled.
“I will, once I have the knowledge I am searching for. And you shall provide some entertainment value, I have not had the pleasure of conversing with outsiders in a very long time.”
A sharp white-blue stab of light showed for a brief second as it settled at a lean on the opposing pillar.
“Now... There is an injured elf in the passage, ah, the dwarf. Where are the other two, the male and female?”
Rhuthain stepped out, his eyes piercing and his brows angled.
“Aye, bastard, I’d be that dwarf. I’ve been listening to your drawn out waffle. You answer me questions, I’ll answer yours. What of these humans that fight for you?” he said as he made his way out to the twins, shaking his head at Kitaraiya as she turned her back and gestured her will to attack.
“Someone with authority and experience, finally. The humans are expendable. If it is a concern, they were a group of bandits scavenging the sands and picking at the bones of the dead, easily manipulated and controlled. Nothing more than refuse, filth.”
Rhuthain nodded grudgingly, glancing at the few closest, still staring into the nether blissfully, “Aye, I can agree with that sentiment. I can even agree with firing back the boy’s daggers. Alright, a gesture for a gesture, tell your men to leave and I’ll hear you out.”
A quiet chuckle filtered down to him. A soft thud and a clatter of a dropped weapon drew Rhuthain’s attention, then another as another body slid lifelessly to the floor. Rhuthain’s eyes hardened when he saw the look of bliss on their faces go blank in the moment before their limbs grew limp and they crumpled, nothing more than puppets with cut strings. He noticed the wild look on Kitaraiya’s face, her readiness to take the opportunity and shook his head, stopping her.
A smile cracked his face, showing his white teeth, “Aye, I like your style. I wouldn’t mind going like that when it happens, if it happens.”
The shadow spoke, “Does it not concern you that I killed all those that remained?”
The dwarf chuckled, “Not a bit, can’t let refuse like that back into the wilds, could spread a tale or two. If anything, you did our job for us.”
“Do not think th…”
Rhuthain put a stubby finger up and gestured, stopping him, “You just said that this place here was once your home? Then, you served the mistress of this hall.”
The deep voice rumbled down to him, “Once, long ago, I served the late mistress.”
“Yes, dwarf, the copper.”
Rhuthain’s eyes widened, “You hearing this, you two? This fool thinks his mistress is dead. I suppose you think the dragons passed with the fall?”
“There is no need to think, they did.”
“Aye, you better explain that to me friend here. She would be a mite pissed that you think she’s a fossil.” Rhuthain said, gesturing over his shoulder with his thumb.
“There are no dragons left in this world, your trickery…” the shadow said, its voice growing sharper.
Rhuthain chuckled darkly, giving the shadow a dismissive wave, “Gods, what rock have you been sleeping under for over thirty millennia? But, a deal is a deal. We both know you have a captive audience an you are enjoying the moment. A little palaver before you off us an seal this place back up again an go back to who knows where after protecting the secrets this place holds. Not that the secrets really matter, since all the dragons are dead an all. Including your ex-mistress, right?”
An uncomfortable silence strung out, the chill in the air warming and the sounds of ice cracking echoed through the hall.
“You speak remarkably well for a dwarf.” rumbled the voice.
“I would think so after surviving near to thirty thousand years. Should have me wits about me after that long; though, me axe speaks better.” said Rhuthain, giving a quick wink to Kitaraiya.
“Are you offering a little entertainment?” it asked threateningly.
Rhuthain abruptly laughed, “Aye, I’m finding this demonstration plenty entertaining. I am offering you lay down that mighty fine looking sword you’re bearing an speak plain rather than bendy-like. Two things you have proven, you think you have the upper hand an you are remarkably daft on what is happening in the world. Entertain yourself some more, show yourself so we can settle this.” he said with a challenge in his tone.
Laughter rumbled in the silence, “Upper hand? You are all my captives.”
Rhuthain sighed tiredly, “Aye, really feeling like a captive I am. Got me axe, got an almost fresh feeling dragon at me back, got me own monster who is just itching to rearrange your features for messing with her food. An on top of all that there is a friend who I am sure is on the way since you just killed her captive, her one an only reason for not following us down here. An just to throw a little shade your way, the one you should really be worried about can’t even be bothered showing himself. An he’s been watching from that pillar over there…” he said, pointing at a distant pillar and squinting slightly, “Actually, maybe he left. Aye, he left.”
“There are no dragons left, dwarf.”
Rhuthain chuckled, “You hear that Sil? You don’t exist, neither does your Ma an Pa. You want to come out here or you still need a little more time?” he said, keeping his eyes on the tiers above.
He smiled as he heard Silvast’s quiet laugh, “No, no, I’ll watch, I haven’t seen you fired up like this for quite some time, I’ll let you have your fun.”
“Aye, thought so. Been itching for something decent for a while now.” he smirked, glancing back at the shadow, watching it pacing on the railing.
“You are testing my patience, dwarf.” it replied aggressively.
“Oh? What did I just hear? Testing your patience am I? You hear that kids? We are testing his patience. Getting under his fur, hasn’t worked out that those shadows he is hiding in don’t mean squat to me. He looks a bit like that magical beastie you froze Kit, just prettier, so much prettier, bigger too.” Rhuthain smiled with a twinkle in his eye, “Actually, you know, I just have the urge to pet the beastie, give him a good rub behind the ears and tell him he’s a good boy.”
Both Rhyker and Kitaraiya stared at him in disbelief.
“What? He’s perched up there trying to be mysterious an all, speaking just to hear the sound of his own voice when it would have been much more efficient to defeat us, capture an such, the normal things, torture, pull a few fingernails. Truth be told, I think he’s a pussy, if you get me meaning.”
“I’ll shut your mouth for you, dwarf.” said the shadow angrily.
“That’s dwarf lord to you, beastie.”
“I do not care for dwarves, elves or any of the like. I escaped the shackle of Azzar Kah'Sharn and won the right to live free in the mortal world. Apart from my own kind, I only recognise power and strength above my own, anything less is nothing but fodder.” spat the shadow, bright slits of blue-white shining.
“Aye, the true words of a fool.” Rhuthain shot back with a smile as he tested the blade of his axe and kept his eyes on the shadow.
“Fool?!” it roared in return, shaking the chamber.
“Aye, a short fool I am, but not short on temper.” Rhuthain said under his breath, nodding to Kitaraiya as she helped her brother stand and take cover behind a pillar.
“Yes, a fool you are, of the furry kind, can’t see further than his own whiskers I’d say. In the books I read, you lot were noble and worshipped once upon a time, all I’m seeing here is an alley-cat dressed in finery.” Rhuthain said with a devious grin, “An I’ll bet me left, no, me right nut, that your power is stymied down here just as much as ours is, the products of the gods an all notwithstanding. That’s why you are up there, tail tucked tight an preaching.”
“There are no gods, we are forsaken.” it roared.
“Aye, come on beastie.” Rhuthain said, watching intently as it launched itself from the railing and over the pit.