Ezmyr brandished a large wooden ladle and stirred the stew for good measure, but the liquid eroded it as quickly as dunking a toothpick in a vat of acid, and all that remained of the ladle was its curved handle. He let it go, and it suffered the same sizzling fate. “The blood comes next,” he remarked grimly. With his high cheek bones, slender jawline, and sunken expression, Ezmyr seemed more skeletal than elven in the lighting.
His brow knitted inward as he asked nervously, “. . . Will it hurt?”
“The pain will be temporary, but is it not worth some sacrifice?”
Bornen frowned and mentally retreated into the recesses of his mind. “It’s about time I know for myself,” he thought, “and see the truth of Grom’s future.” At length one of his gloves was removed and a wrinkly hand, trembling with the weight of two hundred and twenty-eight years of experience, presented itself willingly.
“Hold still.” The hermit withdrew a slim, needlelike implement that was previously retrieved from a cobwebbed cabinet resting in one of the hut’s far corners. (Bornen curiously caught a small gander inside the cupboard before it was closed, but he regretted he had done so).
The prick of the, what he distinctly reclassified as a ‘weapon’ now, roused sensations in Bornen that simulated responsiveness to torture. Unfortunately it failed to draw a single drop his of blood.
“No good,” Ezmyr remarked drearily. “Let me try that again . . . hold still I said.”
The poor dwarf lost count of how many times his hand was unmercifully jabbed, but when it was all over he gained a greater respect for pincushions. Finally the elf struck a vein hardy enough to produce droplets of blood. A scarlet line trickled down his sweat speckled palm and descended into the froth. Then a hideous cackle that seemed to be coming from every direction at once echoed throughout the hut, and the color of the mixture instantly changed to a ghastly glowing green.
Bornen recoiled his arm and tenderly nursed the soreness that throbbed in his hand. “Anything else?” he hazarded.
“No – not from you at least.” Ezmyr crossed the room, mindfully set aside the implement, and groped around a disorderly tabletop. He mumbled, “Where did I . . . ah, here it is,” then returned to the cauldron; carrying in his grasp, held upside down, was the skull of some ancient being. (Bornen tried to guess what kind of creature it was from, but the dimensions of the skull made it difficult to deduce any conclusion other than that it was most probably a hideous goblinoid. This was an accurate guess, in fact, because the skull belonged to a vile menace once known as Gryot Thromn, the literal translation being ‘Meat Face’).