A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 12: Fox

Gilmir was worried. Not about dying. He had been dying for months, and had grown accustomed to the ongoing experience. What worried him was how the bald little man seemed to know so much about him. Of course, not everything was true. Then he would have been sure. Sure, the old man recognised him from somewhere, at some time. They had met before. Did he discern all that from his observations? His reasoning was sound. The logic was valid.

However, how could he have discerned that Gilmir used to carry two swords? He glanced down to his ragged trousers. Examined the fabric in his hands. Was the linen more worn out where the swords had been hanging? Had the dangling scabbards rubbed the cloth at specific points? At his now-lost greaves, sure, but he did not see much of a mark on the trousers. He lifted his hands to study them. Swordsmen often had larger muscles between the thumb and index finger. Nevertheless, the same could be said about everyone using heavy tools. Both of Gilmir’s hands showed traces of these telltale muscles, but like every other muscle in his body, they had shrunk to shadows of what was.

If Saendar deduced who he was, Gilmir was in danger. Could his life be in any more peril? Probably not, but death was hardly the worst of fates. Going back to that hellhole, for instance. It did not matter at this point. He had enough on his plate. Somehow, he had to live through the next day. He had to get to the meeting place and steal the stone. Moreover, if he was to have any hope of doing any of these things, he needed help. He had no one to trust, but at least he knew of someone who had helped him before. The halfling was still the logical choice. He did not know how to find him, however. Gilmir shook his head and emptied the bottle of wine. This Saendar was right about the sour wine.

Gilmir lay his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.

Thump. Something hit his foot. Thump. Again. In his dream, he kept bumping his foot into the next step of the stairs up the Blessed Tower. He tried lifting it extra high for the next step. Thump. It did not help.

‘You finally dead?’

Gilmir opened his eyes. Fox stood in front of him, kicking at his foot. At least he looked like Fox. Something was different, though. The small figure stood leaning on a staff. The left foot was bent at the ankle, looking deformed.

‘What happened to your foot?’

‘It has always been like this. Have you lost your mind also?’ The halfling glanced around before he changed the topic. ‘I heard rumours that some elf beggar was asking around for Fox the halfling. What do you want?’

‘Believe it or not, I need your help,’ Gilmir said, and got up to a sitting position. He must have fallen over while sleeping. Brushing at his arm, he tried to remove some mud from his shirt.

‘Yeah, that’s hard to believe! I remember setting some kind of record for saving the life of an elf the most times in less than an hour.’

‘You are a remarkable halfling.’

‘Your praise is heart-warming,’ Fox said without enthusiasm while he put both hands to his chest.

‘Listen,’ said Gilmir, ‘I really need your help once again. I will make it worth your while. I am not sure how at this time, but I’ll find a way.’

Fox stared down at him for a long while. Gilmir did not know what more he should say.

‘For some reason, I believe you,’ Fox responded at last. ‘I’ve never seen someone as weak as you were in the sewer, survive. You don’t seem to be completely out of the woods yet, but why shouldn’t I save your life for the fourth time? At some point you’ll have to start paying me back, one would think.’

‘Out of the woods? You sound like one of these stupid shack-dwellers.’

‘Okay, you insolent tree-hugger of a stick elf, the first rule if you want someone to help you: do not insult them!’

’The first rule?’

‘Yeah, I’m sure there will be more coming before this—whatever it is—is over.’

Gilmir sighed. ‘I am sorry. You did not deserve that. I am so damned tired of being helpless. I’ll try hard to abide by the rule.’

Rules.’

‘Sure, rules.’

‘There you go!’ Fox held out his hand. ‘I think the first thing we need to do is to get you some food. And afterwards, you can tell me how I can help you.’

Gilmir took the outstretched hand. The halfling was surprisingly strong and dragged him to his feet. ‘How did you know I needed help for something more than food?’

‘Just a feeling. By the way, I go by the name Hobble around here,’ the halfling previously known as Fox said, and started limping down the street.

‘I can see why,’ Gilmir said, ‘I am called Gilmir most places.’ He did not bother with another lie.

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