“There were dragons, when I was a boy,” the old dwarf sighed with the wind. “All over these mountains. It was sight that you’ll never see son, and the world is a whole lot sadder for it.” Arrborn hitched his bag over one shoulder tousling the hair of the toddler that clung to his leg. “Old Narnock the grey lived on this one. Had his lair just up in that cavern. No one, not no one would go in their without an invite.” Grasping the toddler by the collar of his shirt Arrborn hoisted Emun up into the nook of his arm. The child weighed heavy against his chest. “You’re barely a year and you’re already as heavy as my food sack. Ah laddie you grow too quick for this old dwarf to believe possible.”
Arrborn slipped Emun inside his jacket so that he could look out upon the majesty of the cold grey mountains whose peaks raked at the scudding clouds. Arrborn climbed the path with the agility of a much younger man. His dark skin remained as dry as the stones upon which he stepped. Far from the prying eyes of his enemy he ran freely upon the mountains where he had played and explored as a whelp. Joy filled memories came flooding back forcing a broad smile across his weathered skin. Arrborn leapt up onto the edge of Narnock’s lair safe in the knowledge that the old dragon had long since fled the nest. No dragon lived here anymore, not since the orcs came from across the seas scourging the land in search of the light bearers. But something else was in residence.
“I don’t like the feel of this place, Emun,” Arrborn muttered beneath his breath, pulling his coat tighter about his chest. “Something nasty is at home here. We’d best be leaving.”
“So soon,” a dry gravelly voice rattled from the shadows. Arrborn backed across the entrance keeping himself in the sunlight. “I’ll not harm you Arrborn. Nor the child that you carry.”
“How do you know my name wraith. Step out where I can see you,” Arrborn pulled his staff from his back pointing it toward the shadows.
“I have seen your image in the tome that I have acquired,” the creature said stepping from the shadows. It raised a huge hand to shield its eyes from the glare of the sun, its skin a grey-green, tainted by death and decay. “Long have I waited for this day.”
“Not long enough by my reckoning, orc,” Arrborn spat. “Don’t take another step, or I’ll make sure that death claims you for keeps.”
“I am in no doubt that you would make a valiant effort but you are no match for me in battle,” the orc tossed its axe aside and held out its hands. “I do not seek to fight with you.”
“Aye, that we’ll just have to see, won’t we?” Arrborn held the orc’s gaze. “This tome that you have, would it be about yay big,” Arrborn gestured with his hands.
“It would. It is there on the table,” the orc pointed toward the back of the cave.
“That explains your armour. Been raiding the old priest house I see,” Arrborn chuckled to himself. “Looks good on you. Hides that awful undead look.”
“That it does.”
“Are you a remnant from the scourge?” Arrborn sidled over to the table where he saw a familiar tome laying open at the page of his portrait. “I was young then, but still handsome.”
“Outcast of the scourge. My actions in the Delvings were not considered honourable,” the orc drew a chair from the table and sat heavily upon it. “That was all a long time ago.”
“I know of you,” Arrborn looked at the orc out of one corner of his eye, pretending to read the tome on the table.
“You must have read that a hundred times,” the orc scratched his head sighing at the thick flakes of dead skin that came away in his fingers.
“You’ll not last long at that rate. If you believe half of what’s in these pages you’ll find something to remedy that wee problem,” Arrborn closed the book patting it lovingly.
“I must be missing something,” the orc let out a rasping sigh. “Perhaps, you could show me.”
“Perhaps… it would be best if you find it yourself. When the truth is revealed it cannot be denied,” Arrborn tousled Emun’s hair. “Until that day,” he smiled. “Yakkob!” A large grey goat appeared at his side. Arrborn swung himself upon its back and they disappeared.
“Hmm,” the orc mused, rubbing his chin with the back of his hand. “Until that day,” he reached for the tome and began to read.