Vaenn looked contemptuously at Gerek.
It was a mistake to escort the Dwaran. Such a loathsome creature.
Vaenn called it a Dwaran, for there was no name for a creature such as he; after this venture, she hoped she never would see another like it again. The half-human and half-dwarf mix made for a creature that, in her opinion, was an abomination. A little taller than a lad, his hands and feet were too big for his body. In fact, everything about him seemed wrong he had a crooked nose, a patchy beard, his crooked teeth were yellow and brown, his breath was sour with the rank odor of gouk, a thick leaf weed for chewing. He wore a cap to cover his balding head, he wore travel pants, shirt and tunic. His looks were not the only aspect which Vaenn abhorred, to make matters worse, he barely washed himself the resulting stench too much for Vaenn to bear. The most annoying thing for Vaenn were none of these. No, she could tolerate his appearance, she had seen many strange creatures in her many travels; no, it was Gerek’s constant bickering and droning on and on. Since Vaenn agreed to escorted Gerek through the Dark Lands three weeks ago, he had not shut up. His constant squabbling began to irritate her. She despised him. For Vaenn, this was the final insult.
What has become of the world, when creatures such as these are deemed of such importance? In her experience, it was one’s actions and deeds that determined whether one was a great leader, or not.
Vaenn shook her head disapprovingly.
Vaenn’s rough exterior was a result of her being a woman in a man’s world. The cutthroat existence that was customary of the roamers. Her black hair grew mid-way down her back which she often wore up tucking her tresses under her hat; she had an oval face with a small, dainty nose, brown eyes, and a wide mouth with thick lips. She was medium built, lean and muscular, she was stronger than she appeared earning her place as leader of her tribe.
Vaenn was Chief of her people. For the most part, her people considered her a respectable leader. Her expectations of others where high; though no higher than those she placed on herself. She could be quick to temper, especially when irritated; she knew to keep her anger in check. She was not one who acted out of anger. Her people considered her a fair and just leader. One who listened to her people and contemplated her next move before making any decisions before.
Vaenn regretted her decision to guide Gerek and his men through Toirmait, or “The Dark Lands,” as it was known by outsiders. The lands were hers; to her and her people, these were sacred lands. The Shaemis kept its secrets.
“The Dark Lands”, Gerek now knew why people oft referred to this territory by that name. Gerek was tired of seeing the charred trees and shrubs which scattered patchily throughout the countryside. The sky was with dark and grey with stratus clouds. Gerek and his men struggled under its gloom. Gerek knew of other more terrifying dangers which dwelled within the boundaries of The Dark Lands: Bogs of poisonous gases and water, quicksand and sinkholes, Gorgens and Snarecaps, and other man-eating beasts. These traps lay hidden making their trek to Kirell even more dangerous. As unmapped territory, Gerek relied on Vaenn’s lead to guide their way safely through the dangers, and for this, he paid her well.
Vaenn gazed at Gerek and his men, “Hurry up you slugs. It is almost night; we must be there before sunset.”
You cannot believe what fate awaits us if we delay much longer. If you believe you have paid a great price with the loss of half your men, if you do not hurry, we will all surely die.
Gerek shivered, the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He looked to his left, then to his right, and finally turned 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.
Gerek cared not whether they survived this quest or not. He only cared only to acquire The Cau.
The company marched cautiously onward. Occasionally, Vaenn backtracked before continuing in a different direction; she rarely explained herself to the others mumbling to herself before moving 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 as he raced toward the entrance of shrine.
Vaenn lit four torches distributing them to Gerek, two hirelings, and herself. Gerek and Vaenn took the lead, while the other two men covered their rear. Down and down, and down they went. The walls in the 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 Vaenn weaved through the corridors until the reach the inner-most chamber.
There ahead stood a statue of two figures, the first figure; the shorter of the two was struggling to reach and grasp the object in the taller figure’s hand.
Vaenn witnessed the exhibit.
It is as if they were imprisoned for all eternity. What a terrible way to go.
Gerek rushed over to seize the orb.
“Wait you fool,” hissed Vaenn.
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 before being incinerated in its flames.
The stone dropped to the floor, and Gerek was no more.
Vaenn grinned smugly.