Chapter 20: Understanding
‘I’ll deduct one from my debt to you for that one.’ Gilmir nodded towards the stone Hobble held in his open palm. ‘Now, put it away. You don’t flaunt those around.’
‘So, you only owe me for five of the six times I saved your life?’ Hobble responded, and put away the stone.
‘Six now, right?’
‘Mhm. One for getting you out of the cell.’ Hobble held his thumb up. ‘One for dragging you out of the sewer you were drowning in, and one for coming back and telling you not to go for the swim. That makes three.’ Hobble showed two more fingers. ‘Then we have the food, the wine, the bed. I’ll be gracious and count one for all that. The stone counts for one, and then we have that abomination, which clearly came for you and not me.’ The halfling held up six short fingers, wiggling them in front of Gilmir.
Gilmir sighed and shook his head. They continued in silence for a moment, before Gilmir spoke.
‘About the living dead. You did a decent job. But I don’t understand this. You struck him three dozen times, and I told you to strike harder. To no avail. But then, the two girls came and told you the same. And behold! You all but disassembled the monstrosity in three strikes. All you needed was a girl cheering you on?’
Hobble gazed to his staff, which he still used as support for his left foot—once again deformed. ‘There was more than that.’
‘What do you mean?’ Gilmir asked, needing to confirm his suspicions.
‘It was just like the wind gathered in the staff. Making it lighter, easier to swing, but still harder, and more substantial. All came from the girl. I could feel it.’ Hobble glanced up, meeting Gilmir’s eyes. The halfling looked terrified.
‘Some mighty elemental magic, for a little girl,’ Gilmir said, ‘and that was before she had the shard.’
‘The stone helps with that sort of thing? Can you do that?’
‘Yes and no. The stone intensifies magical powers,’ Gilmir said, before he changed the subject. ‘How does the staff feel now?’
Hobble hefted the staff in his hand. ‘It still feels light and … different. It feels different.’
‘Is it silver oak?’
‘Some kind of oak I think, yes. Why?’
‘Silver oak has the capacity to store magic. Quite possibly, the staff is now imbued with wind magic.’
Hobble lifted the staff and studied it intently. ‘Forever?’
‘Impossible to say. It may last a day, a week, a month or even years. I am not completely sure the girl knew what she was doing.’
They walked in silence as they came to the miners’ quarter. The name was a remnant from the time the city had been a mining town. Now it was a shabby part of the old town, although with sturdy brick houses and not the rickety wooden buildings of the newer parts of the city.
‘Here, I almost forgot,’ Gilmir held out the knife he had borrowed at the end of the fight with the living dead.
‘Nah, you keep it. You’ll need a weapon. Besides, you seem to know how to handle a knife.’
Gilmir had to smile at the remark. ‘Thank you.’
The sign for The Pick and the Axe came into view. The inn they had stayed in last night.
‘Now, listen,’ Hobble said, ‘I have the coin for a few nights with food, wine and a roof over our head. But you’ll need to pay off your share until the day you’ve made it worth my while. Capeesh?’
Gilmir nodded as they walked through the door of the inn. Knowing all too well that the situation was much more dire than lacking money for food and a room.