Out of the smoke, Sil-kuru emerged atop his six-legged steed. In one hand he held the reins, in the other, a long, curved blade. Fewla was tied up and laying in front of him.
"Smuggler!" Sil-kuru shouted from atop his sinuous black horse. "You have something of mine. We had a deal, and if you don't get me my heartstrings, I'll spill the faun's blood here and now!"
"Spill the blood?" a smaller, frail orc spoke up. "What a 'orrible waste o' blood. Do you know what we could do with all that-"
"Shut it, Wor-grewar," Sil-kuru snapped at him. The orcs' had already had to cross The Rift in their travels from Ekwar to Neloth's Valley - a long journey.
After continuing on to Gellring, Sil-kuru's impatience with his younger brother was obvious. Sil-kuru was known as Sil-kuru The Persistent, but Wor-grewar had no such title.
Goom liked to think of him as The Dennis of Ekwar.
Goom's heart was beating so loudly that he was afraid Sil-kuru would hear it. A burning anger was growing inside of him, and he barked back at Sil-kuru. "I haven't got your heartstrings.
Put the faun down, and we can make a deal."
"Pah!" Sil-kuru laughed, "A deal? I was promised a bundle of dragon heartstrings. What do you have that's going to fetch me the same price?"
"That's what we can talk about," said Goom. He had absolutely no plan.
"No. No deal." Sil-kuru grabbed Fewla by the ropes and held her aloft. He raised is sword.
"Wait!" Goom yelled. "Take me instead." He knew he had to do.
"Take you? My best smuggler? No, you still owe me, and this will teach you what happens when you break a deal with me."
Goom was engulfed with rage, but he tried not to let it show.
He'd nearly got his brother and Dennis killed in the Cave of Whispers, several families of dwarves were homeless because of him, Fewla had nearly been burnt to death,
and now she was about to have her throat cut right in front of him.
And for what? All for his vain quest to become a great smuggler? Because he was too proud to cut his losses and too stupid to listen to his brother's advice?
At every turn he'd put his own selfish desires before anyone else.
Even on Skrye he'd let the temptation of the heartstrings lure him into a foolish gamble that nearly got everyone killed including himself. Not any longer.
He clenched his fists so tightly that he drew blood from his palms as if he had claws.
His heart continued to pound through his chest, and blood was whooshing through his ears like bellows before a fire.
"Sil-kuru! Take me instead. The faun has no part of this," Goom growled through clenched teeth. Sil-kuru held all the cards, but Goom felt a strength rising inside of him.
"Maybe I won't slit her throat," Sil-kuru said. "Maybe a knife in the belly, so she can really feel it." He hoisted Fewla higher with his powerful arm until her stomach was even with his head.
He motioned to skewer the faun.
Goom saw his opportunity, "Like I did to The Squall of Ekwar?" The sun was behind the Shrouded Mountains now, and dark silhouettes of birds flew through the darkening clouds.
"What? What did you say?" Sil-kuru's pale eyelids narrowed over his yellow eyes.
"You didn't know? I'm the one who gutted him. I even kept the dagger," Goom said. His face was stoic, but he was still sweltering beneath his clothes. "Wasn't he an uncle of yours?"
"Liar!" Sil-kuru yelled.
"No. I killed him with his own knife, and I watched his slimy blood fill the cracks in the cold stones he died on."
The orc screamed terribly, "You'll pay for this, dwarf!" He hurled Fewla to the ground, and dismounted. With murderous eyes, he approached Goom.
His blade glowed under the twilight sky, but the sun was falling, and as he walked, the shadow of night fell over him.
Then the shadow passed, and his blade again caught the glean of twilight.
Once more, the shadow was upon them. Then gone.
Sil-kuru stopped and looked to the sky above him.
"I think your heartstrings are here," Goom said. In the sky, the dragon screamed, and flocks of birds flew away from their shivering branches.
On the ground, Goom screamed and met Sil-kuru's sword with his axe.