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Water plinked onto stone. It wept off of dozens of stalactites. The distant ring of picks gnawing round the clock at the stone in the mines formed a counterpoint to the dripping water. Shadows veiled everything down here in the forgotten bowels of the mountain. No light had been spared for the unfortunate souls incarcerated here. Except there was light softly falling through the bars of one of the cells. Light where there should be the damp pitch of the dungeon not an emerald glow that beckoned.
Nulthir couldn’t fight its summons. The light reached into the dark places in him, anchored itself and drew him forwards. Not even the reek of unwashed bodies, vomit, excrement, piss and the dust continually churned up by the mines halted him. The light had to be obeyed and the light called to him.
Nor was he the only one so summoned. Thin, bedraggled men and women in nearby cells pressed against the bars, their hands outstretched towards that beacon. He stepped into the nimbus of green light and its touch blanketed him in something akin to sunshine. The light washed through him in a cleansing tide as he stood there.
Long moments later his vision cleared and the lone occupant of the cell came into focus. A thin boy of sixteen or seventeen winters lay curled on his side on dirty straw. A cloak tangled about his too long limbs. A scar ran from the corner of his left eye down towards his chin. His eyes–oh God–his eyes were pools of green fire without iris or pupil. They stared at the cell door. No hint of intelligence swirled in those eyes only light and magic. They were two windows into a power that no one controlled.
Hands fisted around the barred window–his hands. He felt the bars’ cold, unyielding solidity bite into his palms. Shivering at the sight of that boy’s vacant stare, he shifted his gaze to the cell door. A glyph chalked on the door marked this prisoner for punishment. It was Seret the sadist’s mark.
A face overlaid itself over the entire scene. His vulpine features fuzzed out as the man’s gaze bored into him.
“This boy no longer concerns you. Be about your business, guard.”
All that remained was that vulpine face and those eyes. Fathomless black they had been for a chilling moment. From whose depths had arisen a pinpoint of white light that had expanded until it had blinded him.
Nulthir fought to hold onto the cell and that strange boy but they had already faded. Only the terrible eyes and the searing light of the man remained. It kept looping through his mind on a permanent repeat. He’d go mad if he didn’t discover what it all meant.
Maybe he had gone mad already. He wondered that as yet another dark tunnel took shape around him. He hadn’t brought a light. Darkness had become his friend and besides, the tunnels here were never completely dark. Not when the mountain contained veins of a luminous stone called lumir that was quarried by the megaton from its mines. This tunnel had once been part of a mine long, long ago. It still bore traces of lumir that sparkled like a constellation of tiny stars along its rough ceiling. They cast faint light that was more than enough for the deed he had in mind.
Bending, he felt along the uneven stone for the trap. His fingers caressed the trip wire. It spanned the width of the tunnel at ankle height. No device waited to be sprung. No, his obsession wouldn’t allow for anything other than a hands-on approach.
Working his way silently to the niche he had selected to be his hiding spot, he touched coils of rope, a net and finally his truncheon. Then he readied himself to wait. Mount Eredren only had so many tunnels. If he picked a different one every night, he’d eventually hit on the right one. Time was one of the things that Nulthir had plenty of, patience too.
MORE of Nulthir
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