Keri looked contemptuously at Gerek. She had never seen the likes as him before, a half-human and half-dwarf, she doubted anyone else had before. It was a mistake to escort the Dwaran, as she called him for there was not name for a creature such as he, through her lands.
Since they had begun their travels together three weeks ago, he had not shut-up. His constant whining and bickering began to irritate her. She despised him.
Gerek was horrible to look upon. A little taller than a lad, he had great big, hairy hands and feet, a crooked nose and a patchy beard, his teeth were crooked with yellow and brown coloring, his breath smelt sour and stank with gouk — a thick leaf weed for chewing — he wore a cap to cover his balding head, he wore travel pants, shirt and tunic. To make matters worse, he barely washed himself, and as a result, the filth and stench was too much for anyone to bear. The most infuriating aspect, was his mannerisms: Gerek sniveled as they marched, and he rambled on, and on, about annoying trivia. Gerek allude self-importance.
For Keri this was the final insult. What has become of the world, when creatures such as this are deemed of such importance? Actions and deeds speak louder than words. She shook her head disapprovingly.
Keri was Chief of her people. She had medium length, black hair; an oval face with a small, dainty nose, brown eyes, and a wide mouth with thick lips. For the most part, her people considered her a commanding leader. True, her expectations of others where high and she could be hot tempered at times; she, on the other hand, considered herself to be fair ruler. One who listened to her people before making a decision. She regretted her current decision to guide Gerek and his men through The Toirmait, or The Dark Lands as it was known by outsiders, she began to regret her decision. The lands were her’s, and that of her people; these were sacred lands. The Shaemis kept its secrets.
The Dark Lands, Gerek now knew why people oft referred to this territory thusly, the land was barren — Nothing grew in these parts. Charred trees and shrubs were all that remained, and they scattered sparsely across the great expanse in a patchy form. The sky was with dark and grey with stratus clouds. Gerek and his men struggled under its gloom. Gerek knew of the dangers within the boundaries of The Dark Lands: Bogs of poisonous gases and water, quicksand and sinkholes, Gorgens and Snarecaps beasts of man-eating flesh. These snares scattered the countryside, and made the trek to Kirell all the more dangerous. This was unmapped territory. Gerek relied on Keri’s lead to guide their way safely through the dangers, and for this, he paid her well.
Keri gazed at Gerek and his men, “Hurry up you — slugs. It is almost night and we must be there before sunset.”
You cannot believe what fate awaits us if we delay much longer. You have already cost a great price — the loss of half your men. If you do not hurry, we will all surely die.
Gerek shivered, and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He looked to his left, then to his right and next to the rear.
He chuckled to himself, You dunce, why are you being so foolish?
Still he could not shake the feeling they were being watched.
Gerek promised the men a share of the great treasure to secure their services. Thieves and scoundrels the lot of them. He cared not whether they survived this quest or not. He only cared about the acquisition of The Cau.
The company marched cautiously onward. Every once in a while, Keri backtracked and she took a different route — she did not elaborate — she only mumbled, and moved onward.
By sunset, Gerek spied a structure in the distance. Kirell, the Temple of Kael: The Destroyer, they had arrived. Gerek shoved his way forward and he raced to the entrance of shrine.
Keri lit four torches and distributed them to Gerek, two hirelings, and herself. Gerek and Keri took the lead while the other two covered the back. Down and down and down they went. The wall and stairway were damp and grimy. They slowed their pace lest they fall off the side to their death. Once at the bottom, Gerek ordered his men to stay.
Gerek and Keri weaved through the corridors until the reach the inner-most chamber.
The statue of Kael held The Cau within his palm of its hand. Gerek rushed over to seize it.
“Wait you fool,” hissed Keri.
Gerek snarled, “You only wish the prize for yourself.”
Gerek seized the stone from Kael likeness. The stone flared to life. He cringed in pain; the fire began to burn within the palm of his hand. Gerek realized his mistake too late. Try as he might, he could not shake the stone loose. The fire continued to burn, and burn. Gerek shrieked with pain. The fire intensified until it consumed Gerek. He wailed a final time.
The stone dropped to the floor, and Gerek was no more.
Keri grinned smugly.
—Robert Confiant 09 October 2016