A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 27: Plan

The halfling stirred and mumbled something about silver. It was afternoon and Hobble had been sleeping since Gilmir gave him the antidote. Gilmir had carried him to his bed and spent the rest of the time waiting. Sometime during the night, a fire broke out in the city. The sky turned red with flickering light, and people had been shouting about fire and witches. Apart from that, the night passed in silence. Hobble’s broken nose made wheezing noises with every breath, but other than that, he slept peacefully. Gilmir was not sure what to expect in terms of after-effects of the poison, but Hobble should be fine if he had received the cure in time. That, however, was a big if. Gilmir knew of people who ended up as drooling idiots after similar ordeals.

‘Gloves!’ Hobble said, sitting up. He looked around the small room before his hands went to his face. ‘Aouu!’ He touched his nose with his fingers as if checking to see if it was still attached. ‘Disease-ridden, foul-smelling, troll balls!’

Gilmir analysed the scene in front of him. The halfling examined his broken nose. That was good. Normal. His speech was incongruent. The words were real but had no bearing on the situation. The last sentence-like statement could be some sort of curse. He had not heard the halfling utter similar before, but if the little people swore by uttering different names for genitals like humans did, it might be swearing. Probably was. Either way, Gilmir needed more proof of Hobble’s sanity.

‘What is the last thing you remember, Hobble?’

Hobble glanced at him but did not answer. He still held his nose.

‘Last night, you went out of this room, and then what? What happened?’ Gilmir prodded.

‘I don’t remember,’ Hobble said in a nasal voice.

Amnesia. Not a good sign.

‘You don’t remember, or are you too embarrassed to talk about it? Tell me the truth, it is important.’

Hobble stared at him once more, before he lay back on his bed again. ‘My nose hurt, and my body aches all over. Leave me alone!’

‘Sure. You can deal with the mad dwarf in Room 5 by yourself.’

Hobble sat up. ‘Wait, what? What happened?’

‘You first. What did you do after leaving this room last night?’

‘Fine! We needed money. I went to Tracks’s room. He had a needle trap, I did not wear gloves.’

‘What were you going to steal?’

‘I don’t know! Something valuable. We need money, remember?’

Gilmir was reassured and worried at the same time. The halfling appeared rational, or at least it did not seem like the poison had damaged his mental capacities. However, there were other concerns.

‘Are you usually this stupid?’ It was not an insult, it was a genuine concern.

‘Piss off!’

Gilmir took a deep breath. ‘Either way, we have to meet Tracks today. To explain how we are supposed to repay him.’

‘Repay him for what?’ Hobble asked. ‘I didn’t steal anything.’

‘For saving your life.’

‘SAVING my life?!’

‘Yeah, you were dying. He had an antidote. You could say he held all the cards. I had nothing to offer. I said we would make it worth his while.’ Gilmir shrugged and spread his hands in an apologetic gesture. ‘However, I have no idea how we’re supposed to do that.’

Hobble sat back up, the emotions fading from his face and body. ‘Can’t you just get rid of him?’

This time, Gilmir stared. ‘Why do you say that?’

‘I don’t know. I thought … You seem to …’ Hobble went silent for a moment. ‘It seems to solve a lot of our problems.’

‘And add a ton of new ones. No, think of something else.’

The halfling pursed his lips and nodded slowly. The room went silent once again.

‘What’s that?’ Hobble said, looking towards the window.

Gilmir turned in his chair. Outside, small flakes of grey and white drifted passed the window. ‘There was a fire.’

‘Aha.’

‘Let me see that stone of yours,’ Gilmir said.

‘No!’ Hobble seemed surprised by his own ferocity. ‘I meant, why?’

‘Maybe we should start by selling it,’ Gilmir said studying the halfling.

Hobble produced the stone from a pouch inside his tunic. Handing it over, he said, ‘Yeah, maybe. I have been thinking the same.’

Gilmir examined the stone once more. He closed his eyes and reached out with all his senses. First, he noticed the static between his own stone and Hobbles’ black shard. This he ignored, closing in on the black stone. The energy was apparent but not very strong, clearly inferior to his purple shard. However, there was a clear energy, like a pulsating light. And something else. Something within the light. A shadow? A taint? He could not say, but it felt like somebody, or something influenced it in some way. Gilmir withdrew.

‘I know you wanted a shard for yourself, but I am not sure this is good for you. Have you felt anything? Has it helped you in some way?’

‘No, I don’t think so. But then, I haven’t had it for that long. Maybe it takes time.’

‘Maybe. However, I don’t like the feel of this one.’ Gilmir handed it over. ‘I think it is tainted somehow.’

‘Maybe it is the interaction with the other, the one you have? Didn’t you say that having two would cause trouble?’

‘No, it’s not that, it’s something else. Something to do with the dead man who carried it or the one who put it there. I don’t know, but I don’t like it. And you’ve had no training. If we can sell it—I think it would be a double blessing.’

‘Okay. I am down with that,’ Hobble said, putting the stone back in the pouch.

‘Good. I have an idea. I will start looking into finding a buyer. In the meantime, can you find an alternative way to get some money? The arena scheme or something else. It’s better if we have some alternatives.’

‘Sure,’ Hobble said, nodding.

Gilmir tilted his head, listening. ‘He is coming. Tracks is coming.’

Soon footsteps sounded from the hallway. A moment later, there was a loud knock on the door. The elf and the halfling drew a simultaneous breath and glanced at each other.

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