"Oh shit," Dennis said.
Goom turned his back on his brother and walked toward the town of Kuurlok.
It was a short distance from the mouth of the cave, but the gap between he and his brother opened like a metaphorical ravine.
It was dusk now, and few of the townspeople were on the cobblestone streets. The last few children with their dirty faces and torn clothing ran down the lane.
They were called home by the warm, rich aroma of Gopher Bean Stew. They'd need a belly full of hot beans to warm their bones against the intruding autumn wind.
Goom's footsteps were accompanied by the clacking of closing shutters. A darkness was approaching from the East. A storm was brewing.
He walked straight through the streets and made his way to the town square where the Great Oak of Kuurlok loomed mightily as if it were a sentry, protecting his people.
The oak was ablaze with the colors of fall, and each gust shook hundreds of leaves from its towering branches.
Goom fell to a knee at the base of the tree. He took out a small dagger and cut a shallow gash into his hand.
He squeezed his fist and let a trickle of blood fall to the dirt at the base of the Great Oak.
"I had no idea how much Goom liked trees," Dennis said with a tone that didn't fit the severity of the situation.
"It's not the tree," Murt said with a tone that was perfectly in tune with the situation. "This is where our father died."
Fewla grimaced and turned to Dennis who was red with embarrassment.
"I'm sorry, I had no idea," said Dennis.
"It's okay. How could you know?"
Murt continued, "We were still children when it happened, and I remember our mother telling us that he'd been caught in the middle of an orkish raid,
and that he was just staying the night in Kuurlok as he made the journey home to see us. We found out the truth much later.
"He had been killed by orcs, but not as an innocent man caught in a raid.
He'd stolen a cask of Elven Quicksilver from the Kingdom of Thincorium, and he met his buyers here at the foot of the Great Oak.
He handed over the cask to an orc called Hingorum-Ur - The Squall of Ekwar. They'd done business before, but there was no love between them.
Our father had lost friends at the hands of the orc, and the orc had lost friends by my father's hand as well.
"Everything was going fine, until an elf stepped out from behind the shadow of the imposing orc.
The Squall of Ekwar handed the cask over to the elf who removed its cork and poured a single drop into his slender hand. He examined it carefully before he tasted it.
Immediately he knew that it had been tampered with. My father had cut the quicksilver with wolves' blood. He pulled out his dagger, but it was too late.
The Squall of Ekwar's blade was already between his ribs.
"It should have been a cautionary tale for my brother and I,
but we were young men - we still had yet to grow our first beards - and we took this event as an invitation into the world of thieves.
We both felt as if we needed to pick up the torch that had fallen from our father's hand at Kuurlok. Goom's passion ran deeper than my own. He tracked down the orc.
He was no longer The Squall of Ekwar - his green complexion had grown pale and his formidable body had softened in the years since my father's murder.
"Goom posed as a beggar outside the entrance to a tavern that Hingorum-Ur was known to frequent. He saw the orc approaching. He groveled and crawled on his knees at the feet of the orc.
He reached his hands up and begged, but he was struck down by a heavy backhand. At that, Goom removed the hood of his tattered robes and stared up at the orc who had killed our father.
'Do you know who I am?' he asked. The orc laughed, but as he looked into my brother's eyes - my father's eyes - a look of recognition shot across his face.
He reached for the blade at his hip, but it wasn't there. Goom had picked it off the orc, and like a flash of lightening it was between the ribs of Hingorum-Ur."
Murt finished the somber tale. He, Dennis, and Fewla stood waiting behind Goom.
Goom wiped his face, and stood. He turned to Murt. "Will you not loose blood for the memory of your own father?"
Rather than fight it, Murt walked over to his brother. He cut into his hand and let his blood drip upon the earth.
"We'd better keep moving," Goom said. "If we travel north to Lake Belvira, we can follow The Rift into Neloth's Valley." He stood to walk.
"Goom, wait," Murt grabbed him by the shoulder. "I think it's time to turn back. We've already lost half the heartstrings, and we're a full day behind."
"We're not turning back."
"Goom! Do you think it's chance that we ended up here? That we just happen to leave The Cave of Whispers and arrive at our father's grave? It's an omen. Look to the sky. Feel the cutting wind."
"We're not turning back," Goom repeated.
"Well I am."
Goom inhaled a sharp breath through flared nostrils. "Fine, go. Come on Dennis."
"I think we should turn back too," Dennis said sheepishly.
Goom shot a questioning glance at Fewla. "I'm sorrey Goom," she said.
Goom looked back at his brother. "Fine! That's a bigger bag of loot for myself," said Goom. "I'll be fine without your incredible powers anyway," he added with sarcasm.
There was anger in his eyes, but he was breathing heavily through his nose to hold back the pain deep in his chest. He turned and continued North past the Great Oak of Kuurlok.
Dennis and Fewla watched him go, but Murt was already walking in the opposite direction.