A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 29: Foul

‘It used to be easier killing rats,’ Tracks said, pulling out a chair on the other side of the table from where Gilmir sat. The dwarf did not look at Hobble who still sat on the bed, legs crossed, back to the wall. ‘What deal you have for me, elf?’

‘I haven’t been in this city for long, but it strikes me as the sort of place where one would need all the friends one could get.’

‘You better have something else, tall one. I have little use for friends, and less of thieving, rat friends.’

Gilmir held up a hand. ‘I understand. Let us trade,’ he said, well aware that dwarves were not fast to make friends, but appreciated a proper trade arrangement. ‘We have a shard from the starfall. You can get it for a decent price. An excellent price.’

‘Let’s see it.’

Hobble gave Gilmir a glance but handed over the dark stone. The dwarf accepted, lifted it to the light from the window and peered at it. His mouth started to move, but Gilmir could not discern any words. Tracks folded his rough hands over the stone, and his eyes seemed to unfocus, before they rolled up into his head, so that only white showed. Gilmir glanced at Hobble, but the halfling only shrugged. For long moments, they sat like that.

‘Nah, I don’t want this.’ Tracks opened his eyes, and handed the shard to Gilmir.

‘Why?’ Gilmir asked.

‘That stone … it’s not a good stone.’

‘What is wrong with it?’

‘It is foul.’

Gilmir studied the dwarf hoping for an explanation. After a few moments, the dwarf spoke.

‘Where did you find it?’

Gilmir considered the question. He did not trust the volatile dwarf. However, nor did he see how revealing information about the stone would be a problem. Besides, giving some insights on the shard could help them get in Tracks’s good grace. ‘It was inside a walking corpse.’

‘Necromancy!’ Tracks spat on the floor.

The room went silent again. Gilmir glanced at Hobble, unsure how to proceed. The dwarf spoke first.

‘I hope you have something else for me, elf.’

Gilmir spread his hands. ‘Not at the moment, master dwarf. We need to sell that shard first.’

Tracks grunted. ‘Do you even know where to start?’

‘We know some of Voan’s men are looking for one.’

‘Voan? THE Voan?’

‘I didn’t realise there was more than one,’ Gilmir said.

‘Voan is a dangerous man. You know he is one of the councilmen?’

‘Councilmen?’ Hobble said.

Still looking at Gilmir, Tracks said, ‘Shacktown is run by five councilmen. Voan is one of them. The council calls all the shots round here, and the five are considered the most dangerous people in this most dangerous of towns.’

‘I thought the baron ruled the city?’ Hobble said.

‘He is a puppet,’ Tracks said.

‘Do you know him? Voan, I mean?’ Gilmir said.

‘I’ve traded with him before, but I don’t any more.’

‘Why?’

‘I don’t trust him. And want nothing to do with him.’

‘I see.’

‘So, you keep me out of it. Understand?’ This time the dwarf looked at both of them.

Gilmir nodded.

Pushing back the chair, the dwarf got to his feet. He turned towards the door, but stopped halfway, staring at Hobble. ‘I’ll let you live, for now, rat. But you better prove yourself useful in the coming days. I have not forgotten nor forgiven.’

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