Bin pocketed the stone, and looked up.
Goldmight burst into the room. His eyes were alight, and grin wide when he saw the ogre was unharmed.
“Bin!” Goldmight crashed into the boy. He tussled Bin’s hair, and laughed. “You did it! You cracked the seal!”
Bin nodded. “Is everyone ok?”
“Everyone’s fine.” Goldmight passed him by, and looked around. “Archiwrecks are dead, or about to be. That’s not too important. No, no…it’s this!”
“Suffrn’s hoard.” Goldmight looked Bin over. “Did you meet it? The Living Lightning?”
“Living Lightning?” Bin asked. “Do you mean Suffrn?”
“Suffrn? Of course! He transferred his own consciousness, brilliant!” Goldmight floated down to the magic circle. He ran his hands over the runes, muttering the language out. “Maddening, and isolated to be sure. But Suffrn was always crazy.
“But where is it?”
“Suffrn?” Bin asked. “He went away.”
“Not Suffrn, you dimwit.” Goldmight looked around the room, and the rocks. His voice rose. His eyes were sharp, hungry. “That stupid little ghost is long past. His hoard, you fool. Where is his hoard!”
Bin took a step back. This wasn’t the Goldmight who had patted him on the head and wished him well. This one was…all too familiar. It reminded him of too many at the Circle, or back home. Someone wanted something from him, that was why they showed interest.
He did what he always had before. Kept quiet, and looked down.
“Where? Where!” Goldmight flew up to Bin’s face, the fairy’s face red with rage. “Suffrn’s secrets of a bygone age. This is the only place they could be, and their last secret is held by a dumb halfman!”
“You never liked me,” Bin said. He almost cried, and realized how much work he had missed.
“Liked you?” Goldmight slapped Bin’s face so hard, the boy fell to the ground. “You fool, this is about the power of a great mage. The finest light magic is here in this spot. What is like compared to that?
“Tell me where the hoard is!” Goldmight screamed.
Bin lashed out without thinking. Flames shot out of his hands, engulfing the fairy. But they were gone as quickly as he conjured them.
“You wretch,” Goldmight hissed. “I’ve been practicing with light for ten of your lifetimes. Your fire and lightning is nothing compared to my power.”
Swords of light appeared in each of Goldmight’s hands. Curved, and ready to strike. Bin stood and took up his stance, ready to fight. He might lose, but if the others were all right, maybe someone would help.
“Last chance to tell me, Bin,” Goldmight said. “Before I carve the secret out of your head.”
A blast of dark magic lanced through Goldmight. The fairy dropped, silent.
Bin rushed to the fairy. A wound through his chest started to bleed. Golden light spilled out. Goldmight stared up in rage and confusion, gasping, trying to understand what had happened.
“Nutrose? You… we could have done it,” he whispered. Then, so soft, Bin didn’t know if he just imagined it. “Together…”
Nutrose watched his cousin die, and laid a hand on Bin’s shoulder.
“I am so sorry,” he whispered. “Goldmight was about to hurt you. I just, I didn’t know what to do.”
“I’m sorry.” Bin said. “It’s my fault.”
“No!” Nutrose lifted Bin’s head up. “No, you were a good friend. And Goldmight was too, til the end. He just… this meant a lot to an old mentor of his. The closer he came… He was too involved.”
“More than Ona?” Bin asked.
Nutrose smiled. “Ona…did you find his kin?”
“Suffrn says hello. And thanks to his family.”
“Good,” Nutrose said. “Good.”
“Bin?” Hilt’s voice called out. “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay, Lady Hilt!” He called out.
“Then you are in big trouble!”
Bin winced. Nutrose laughed. “Go and tell them everything.”
Bin nodded, and ran off.
Nutrose watched Bin disappear down the corridor. He looked at his cousin, and tutted. He passed Goldmight by, into the small cavern of stone. There, in the center of the room, was a stalagmite. The fairy shuddered, and looked around.
Iron. There was a lot of iron for a lightning dwarf. Damn Ona and his promises.
He pulled at the top of the rock formation. The rock shuddered, and slid off. A single ring, smooth stone, filled Nutrose’s hand. He slipped it into his bag.
“You always were stupid,” Nutrose muttered. He gathered up Goldmight, put on his best sadness, and went to greet the rest of the Leaves.
copyright 2018 Jack Holder