With Brolan’s body in tow, the dwarves ran blindly into the desert. They had no idea what direction they needed to go, they just knew they had to travel in the general direction of Away.
Short legs pounded through sandy dunes until the sounds from the camp died down. Only once the light of the camp had faded as well did the dwarves decide to stop. “Well,” Vangar asked with a huff. “Any ideas?”
There were no landmarks. No stars, or moon that wasn’t hidden by clouds containing faintly glowing tinges of red. No means to navigate the desert stretched out all around them.
Duerias pointed. “That way feels right.”
Brugan held his hand up. “Wait. Did you hear that?”
Thauris shifted in the sand and adjusted Brolan’s body which was draped over his shoulder. “Sounded like growling.”
Duerias crept toward a nearby cresting dune. “I don’t think it was growling,” he whispered before diving over the sand.
Cries of alarm, human cries. The form of a human man, dressed similarly to the guards back at the slaver camp, scrambled over the dune and crawled blindly toward the rest of the group. Duerias stalked after him, looking very much armed and dangerous.
The man crawled right into Brugan’s line of fire and caught a boot to the face for his troubles. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Blood sprayed from the guard’s mouth and he fell onto his back. “Please don’t kill me,” he cried out… in dwarven.
“You speak our tongue,” Vangar said curiously.
The human blindly looked around, trying to find the direction of the voice. “I do,” he continued in dwarven. “My name is Rashai, and I had the good fortune of being an educated man.” He squinted, trying to make out shapes in the darkness. The dwarves spread out quietly. “Truth be told, I should have been elevated far beyond my current status. Vosa is an idiot.”
“Then don’t be doing anything stupid like crying out,” Thauris said.
Rashai turned his head. “You have me outnumbered, from what I can tell. I hear at least two of you. You also have the advantage of being able to see in the darkness. I have no such advantage. I am in no position to try and stop you.”
“You’re right,” Duerias said. “So why don’t I kill you?”
Rashai raised his hands to protect his face. “To escape the camp, you must already have blood on your hands. There is nothing to be gained by taking my life!”
Thauris looked down at him. “You’ll alert them as soon as we leave.”
“As I said, I can’t see you. I have no idea which direction you went, although I – and that idiot Vosa, to his credit – know where you will most likely head to.”
Rashai tried to sit up. Brugan stomped on his chest. “Where’s that?”
“I would suspect that you’ll head home. To Wyrmstone, judging by your dialect,” Rashai said, rubbing his chest and staring up at the dark sky. “Unless they try and track you by magical means, they’ll have to wait until daylight to come after you. By then your trail will have gone cold. The logical choice would be to try and apprehend you at Wyrmstone.”
“You think they’ll head to Wyrmstone?” asked Vangar.
“It depends on the circumstances of your escape. You were not slaves, despite being treated as such, so there’s no profit in retrieving you. So unless you killed someone very important, you should be fine.”
“How important are Mind Flaying Inquisitors?” Duerias wanted to know.
“You killed Yotthl? A minion of the Sorcerer Queen Velenesca?”
Rashai propped himself up on his elbows. “The Sorcerer Queen will demand retribution. She will send her forces to Wyrmstone to retrieve you.”
Thauris lowered the corpse to the ground and watched the human. “What if we don’t go back to Wyrmstone?”
“It won’t matter. You’re in the middle of the Wasteland. I cannot tell how well armed or geared you are, but there is no getting around the fact that you are in a very hostile environment. If the creatures roaming the darkness of the sand sea do not kill you, a band of Warbound will most likely find you out. It is a bold assumption that you will even survive the journey to Wyrmstone. Still, the Sorcerer Queen will send her forces there, and will spill blood until she is satisfied that you are not there.”
“It’s not like we have much of a choice,” grumbled Brugan.
“No. You can flee to Wyrmstone and bring about the deaths of many of your kinsmen, or you can flee elsewhere and still be responsible for the death of your kinsmen.”
Rashai slowly tried to sit up again and braced for a chest stomp that never came. “There is another option. Surrender to me.”
Now the stomp came, followed by a second. “I liked the part where we talked about killing you,” Thauris told him.
Rashai’s hugged his chest and cringed in pain. “Surrender to me,” he wheezed, “and you will continue on to Sanctus Seru. For sparing my life, I will provide opportunity for you to escape once you reach the city.”
“How is that better?” asked Vangar
“The Sorcerer Queen will lock down the city, hoping to trap you inside. Her search will be limited to Sanctus Seru. Your people will be safe.”
“Why in the name of Beer would we trust you?” Thauris asked.
“Your trust will not change the events that will transpire if you flee. You have slain one of Velenesca’s Inquisitors and are obviously very powerful. There is no way I can stop you if you wish to leave.” He rolled in the sand and came up on a knee, his hand reaching for a sword that was no longer in the scabbard. He hung his head. “Definitely cannot stop you. But the choice is yours.”
+ + + + +
Here is your task – discuss in comments, email, whatever. But come to a decision: Are you going to surrender? Or are you going to run? If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.