Trik bore the handstone in his cloak as they returned to their horses in the canyon. The sun was behind the canyon rim, and the canyon air was cool. Ebon mounted his white stallion, and Fenn his black stallion. Trik placed the handstone in his saddlebag before mounting his own horse.
“All this time,” said Fenn, looking at Trik, “you had us fooled. You are not a thief, but a prince.”
“I was a prince,” said Trik, “once long ago.”
“I must know the tale,” said Fenn.
“It would be a long tale,” said Trik, turning away. His eyes narrowed on the passage before them. Some men were riding horses between the canyon walls.
“Who are they?” asked Fenn.
Trik’s eyes narrowed on the rider at the front of the group. “Brudolf,” he growled.
Ebon reached for his sword.
Brudolf and eight of his men rode toward them. The other riders halted before the three companions, but Brudolf rode forward to meet them.
“Well, well,” said Brudolf, “look who it is.”
“We are leaving,” said Fenn.
“No, you are not,” said Brudolf. “I want what you have got there,” he said. “I know that you did not come all this way for nothing. You have taken something.”
“We will not give you the handstone,” said Fenn. “We have won it fairly. It belongs to us.”
“If it is in this land,” said Brudolf, “then it belongs to me.”
“You will not have it,” said Fenn.
Ebon drew his sword.
“No,” said Trik, looking at Fenn. “Let him have it.”
Fenn glared at Trik. “I have not come all this way for nothing,” he said to Trik.
“Trust me,” whispered Trik. He stepped down from his horse. He took the handstone from his saddlebag and unwrapped it.
“Give it to me,” said Brudolf.
Trik walked up to Brudolf, his eyes narrowing on the bandit leader, and tossed the stone to him. Brudolf caught it in his right hand.
Brudolf’s eyes narrowed on the stone. “Marvelous,” he gasped. He raised up his hand to show the stone to the other riders. But as he held the stone, a strange green light emanated from it. Brudolf’s eyes widened, and he cried out. The light was now consuming his hand, and it was a burning green flame. The flame consumed first his hand and then his arm. He fell from his horse, and yet the flame continued to engulf him, until at last, Brudolf was no more but a skeleton, and only the green handstone remained upon a pile of bones.
More than one of Brudolf’s bandits cried out. “Dark magic,” they shrieked, and they turned away and fled.
Trik stepped down from his horse, and walked up to the handstone. He picked it up.
“Are you not afraid?” asked Fenn, as Trik wrapped the handstone in a cloth.
Trik took the reins of Brudolf’s horse. “Not of death,” he said, “only boredom.”