A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 6: Door

Someone was talking. As for who, when and where, Gilmir could not say. He was not awake. Nor dead. Too much pain for that. Something inside urged him to wake up. His old instincts refused to let go. Refused to let him die. The voices came again. Muffled. As if they originated from behind a wall. Or, a heavy door. A door? There was not supposed to be a door here. He forced his eyes open. In the dark, a weak, green light radiated from the walls of a tunnel. The sewer. The prison. Someone spoke behind him. The wall at his back trembled. He closed his eyes again. Why should he care? His heart thumped. Hard. Once more, his body tried telling him something. In an extraordinary exertion of force, he shuffled into the corner of the corridor. Away from the moving wall.

The door swung out, hiding the person opening it from sight. Light flooded into the tunnel. Gilmir squinted. When the door closed, he would be in full view. He shut his eyes, willing the shadows to engulf him. A hollow thump sounded. Flickering torchlight.

‘Hey, what’s this?’ a gruff voice asked.

Gilmir quickly considered his options. There were none. He was utterly at the mercy of the two human brutes. How far he had fallen. He opened his mouth to speak but shut it as soon as his eyes fell upon the two men.

‘What do you mean?’ replied the other man. A short, bald fellow. The torchlight reflected from his smooth pate. Candle, Gilmir decided to name him, following the thoughtless human tradition of this rat-infested corner of the world. That is, the custom to name something after its defining trait. The city above, for instance, was called Shacktown. The mountain range to the east with the jagged peaks was called Jaw Mountains. It made you wonder how many rivers were called Waterflow?

His instincts told him to focus. He shifted his gaze to the other man. The one dressed and built like a street thug. Dirt made his tanned skin darker. Crooked teeth behind thin lips made Gilmir think about a shark. Shark, then.

‘Look at the wall, Dick,’ Shark said, gesturing with his free hand. ‘The fungus.’

Dick? Perfect. Gilmir thought, too tired to smile.

‘What about it?’ Dick said.

‘It’s dead. The fungus covering the door is dark. Almost black. Dead.’

‘So what?’

‘It’s just strange,’ Shark said. ‘Look at the shape, it’s almost—’

‘I don’t care about the fungus, let’s finish this.’

Shark shrugged. The two men started down the corridor, leaving mud stains on the floor.

‘So, how are we to come by fifty silver?’ Dick asked.

‘We’ll borrow it. From Voan.’

‘Voan?’ Dick stopped and turned to Shark. ‘Do you really mean to loan the money from Voan, to buy the stone, and sell it to Voan?’

‘Yes. And then pay him back. Brilliant, eh?’

‘I don’t know … will he even loan you that much?’

‘He is desperate for such a stone. That’s well known. Besides, he knows we won’t get far in a day. He will take the risk. No one is stupid enough to cheat Voan.’

The men continued down the corridor.

‘I’m not sure. Something tells me this is a bad idea.’

‘Relax, Dick. At this time tomorrow it will all be over.’

Gilmir stared after the men. He ought to follow.

Time passed, and he did not move. Closing his eyes, he thought about what the men had said. His head hurt. Apparently, they had made contact with someone willing to sell a stone. A valuable stone that Voan wanted. They probably came directly from the meeting. On their way to speak to Voan? Did they work for him? Perhaps in some capacity. Tomorrow they would meet this stone seller again and, hopefully, they would take the same path.

If the stone was what Gilmir thought, he needed it.

And a thief. He also needed a thief.

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