The Hardest Thing to Keep...

Ragnar awoke with a start, momentarily unfamiliar with his surroundings. He was quickly becoming more famifliar with this room, though, considering he’d awoken in it thrice now. The ceiling was in fact becoming quite familiar, as he had now counted each small crack in the stones above. Diniella had every sort of potion or salve that could help ease his pain...but unfortunately, she seemed to have absolutely nothing to help with the itching as his ribs and leg mended. The gash in his leg was the worst. If he had not swore an oath to Diniella not to touch, he would likely have already torn or gnawed the offending limb from his body to stop the itch.

She was a good teacher. Diniella had taught him several words and phrases, and combined with his knowledge of a sister language (or more likely a bastard child of it)  , Ragnar was quickly gaining confidence. He could hold a very basic conversation now, at least, without resorting to gestures and charades.  He was embarrassed to learn from Diniella’s  laughter how badly he’d flubbed his thank you to Vamir. So it was that when Vamir returned to visit, smiling in welcome, Ragnar repeated his erstwhile message of thanks, and this time got it right.

“Many thanks to you, Vamir, and may your feet dance freely.” 

“May your song guide them.” Said Vamir, with surprise in his voice.  “You speak our language then? I have so many did you come to be here? Where did you come from? Are there others with you? How did you get separated?” The greeting was an old was seldom used anymore, as it had been a long time since dance had dominated the arts his people valued. But the delivery of the phrase was nearly perfect.

Ragnar smiled, and shook his head mildly confused, and swung his legs off the bed. He did not attempt to stand though (once again due to Diniella and her pesky tendency to extract promises...he should have played dumb and not told her he was beginning to understand). “Speak only a little. I learn. Diniella teach, know some from before.”

“You know some from before? How? We have never seen your kind before...surely there would be some record?”

“Too fast, Vamir, too fast.” Said Ragnar, concentrating. “Not know your language. Not same. Close. Another...people...uh...village?”

“There are others who speak our language? Or something close to it? Where?”

“Don’t know how say where...Up. Up somewhere.”

“You come from above? Above ground? Another Kaer?”

“Yes. Another Kaer.  Throal...Big Hill. Rock...very high.”


“Yes, Throal Mountain. Not know what your people call it.”

Vamir’s heart leapt in his chest. There was another city out there. A mountain, with people within. Much like this place in fact.  “Please...I must you live underground, like us?”

“Yes. People live under Mountain. Very big place.”

Vamir’s heart sank. Another Kaer, but still closed, under the earth. But they had sent envoys, so their Barrier might be intact. A trade route might be established. This was still momentous. Then Ragnar spoke again.

“Not all under Mountain. Humans, Elves, Ork, T’skrang, Troll... Many alive on surface. Scourge is over. No...not over, quite. Evil hide in dark places. Dark, underground, maybe deep forest. Dead Kaers. Bad places. This place worst I see.” Ragnar blinked, realizing what he had said. “No...not mean like it. It have lots evil outside, is what mean.”

“No worries, Ragnar, I understood. Do you mean it though? People can live above the earth? In the sun?” Vamir’s breath had been held throughout Ragnar’s description, lacking in depth though it was. Many alive on the surface. Never had he heard anything as joyous. He wanted to rush to the council and crow that he had been right, that there was hope for them all!

“Bad place few. Good place...” Ragnar thought a moment furrowing his brow, trying to find the right words. “Good place...more each day. All peoples, growing.”

This was the moment Ragnar had lived for. He was an Envoy, first and foremost, and he had been charged with finding the old Kaers, and telling of the end of the Horrors. He was following in the footsteps of the Dawntreader, and the first Throalic envoys, entreating the Namegiving Races to come out of hiding. Some had not dared believe, back then. They had thought it a trick of the Horrors. Some of these kept their doors closed still, despite repeated visits. Ragnar had cut his teeth on many such fruitless visits, attempting to convince the unconvinceable. Ragnar had finally managed to work his way out of that thankless, endless job to join the Swath-Cutters, so named for the blades with which they cut through the jungles and forests of Barsaive. Ragnar had been forced to train as a warrior to be considered, and though his diplomatic skills were supposed to be his primary asset, he had refused to let himself be the weakest link within his Charter. Nothing he had faced had prepared him for this voyage. To see his friends ripped apart, or drug off into the night, to seek refuge in a cave, only to find that it led to worse things. To find that that  the cave seemed nearly endless, miles and miles of darkened territory lit only by the occasional patch of lichens or worms, or by his companions torches, till one by one they snuffed out. But hearing the glowing enthusiasm of Vamir, Ragnar could not help but think that perhaps his companions had not died in vain, that perhaps there was a reason he had survived after all.  He could be the one to bring a forgotten people to the light of the sun, to watch as they took their first breath of free moving air. He took Vamir’s hand, and gripped it tight. “Danger out there, yes. But beyond, is everything.  Safe for all, life for all. I swear it by Passions above.”

Vamir nearly had to wipe a tear away, and for once it had not been brought by sorrow. But a Vorst did not cry. He was going to do whatever it took to get his people from this place of darkness to the world above. But he’d do it with strength of will, and of blade. The Horrors outside the gates would soon need to find something to pray to, for he and his kin would send them screaming to the Void. The siege would end. The siege would finally, at long last, end.

“Please, Ragnar, you must remain here, and you must not show yourself past this room. Trust only Diniella and myself. Your presence...the very fact of what you are...will be a great shock to my people after so long. They may not believe it.  I have difficulty believing it, even though I so desperately want to. Do you understand?”

“I stay here? Not talk to people? Don’t like it.  I think better to myself to everyone. Tell everyone right away.”

“You remember Volgra? The man with me when I first came in? The best soldier I’ve ever known. Loyal to me, to the city. He wanted to kill you from the moment he saw you. I think he has lost hope, that he sees you as a trick.  I have ordered him to keep silent, and I think he will.  But if a council member has the same ideas, and manages to spread lies before a council meeting, I could very easily walk into a political ambush...”

Ragnar did not understand the last few sentences entirely, but did know the word ambush, and from the context, guessed the rest. “People afraid, do silly things. If trust you, then listen to me when I talk?”

“Exactly. Short time, you stay here. Tomorrow afternoon, if all goes well.” Vamir said, nodding. He took a deep breath. He’d have to take great care. The hardest thing to keep to oneself in such a closed society was a secret.

He took his vessel’s hand from the wall, and the soft steady murmur that issued from the dead lips ceased. He hissed angrily. Had anyone been near enough to listen, they would likely have died of fright, hearing the sound from dead lips, seeing dead hands move, and eyes just recently closed now alight with a pale sickly yellow glow. So the young pup was planning an escape. He and his companions had just begun to feed. This city had been worked on for decades, and now a damn dwarf had managed to get through his lines. He’d have to pop a few skulls over this. How was it he had not heard of this miserable being’s arrival? His outside minions were too cowardly, too sloppy. Perhaps they had not told him for fear of his wrath. Well...they would soon learn that NOT telling him was far worse. He had to move quickly, and he had to hide his involvement in the proceedings. Who was it that the damned councillor had mentioned hated the dwarf by sight? Volgra...ah...that one would do nicely...

With a deep breath, he pulled back his essence, and looked about the alleyway outside the hospital. He gathered his robes up off the dirt, and stepped over the body of the unfortunate nurse whose blood had fuelled his spell. He’d left a little surprise within this corpse, one that would soon create an appropriate distraction, and if he was lucky, might kill those that needed killing.  Now, to find the soldier...his plans hinged upon fuelling his hatred.

The End

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