Sitting alone in the cartography tent, Garthort slipped his left hand into his pocket to confirm that the object was still there. His fingers found it. He hadn’t imagined it or worse, lost it.
“Pre-battle jitters, eh?”
“Gah!” said Garthort as he jumped. Turning, he saw Bork, the Goblin sorcerer. Quickly taking his hand out of his pocket, he smoothed his robes and tried to appear calm.
“What can I do for you,” Garthort asked with forced casualness.
“Jest checkin’ in on yah,” replied the Goblin.
Bork shrugged and said, “Dat’s as maybe. Still, ya seem a bit outta sorts.”
“I assure you, I am fine,” sniffed Garthort.
“Bub’s yer nuncle den.”
Garthort nodded as if he understood.
“Oy wanna show ya sumting,” said the Goblin as he opened the tent flap. Garthort followed him outside.
“Quite a sight, innit?” asked Bork as he gestured to the assembled forces.
The army before them was a mix of many different species, each united for this battle. Feasts had sprung up in the camp and songs were being sung.
“Sorta comfortin’. Seein’ all des different folk workin’ tahgetter fer a common cause.”
“It’s comforting until you think about how many are going to die,” murmured Garthort.
“Yer a tankard half empty sorta bloke, aintcha?”
Bork eyeballed his former master and asked, “Ever been in a battle before?”
“Of course, many times!”
“Do you doubt me?”
“At da risk o’ bein’ rude, ya seem loik yer afeared. No offense.”
“Been in a lot o’ battles den?”
“Loads!” said Garthort.
“Any one Oye moight o’ heard of?”
“The Battle of the Distant Hills. War for the Secret Sauce. The Pebble Offensive,” he lied.
“Huh? Never ‘erd o’ dose.”
“They are somewhat obscure, I’m not surprised.”
They stood there for a beat.
“Yah never been in a proper battle, ‘ave yah?”
Garthort was about to protest but his shoulders sagged and he whispered, “No.”
“No shame in dat.”
“’Ave a seat,” said Bork who gestured to unoccupied camp chairs.
They sat and the Goblin took out a flask with two small cups and poured out a dark amber liquid.
“What is that?” asked Garthort who had a hard time imagining that this wasn’t a poisoning.
“Foin Dwarven whiskey. Ta victory, eh!”
Pushing down his natural suspicion, Garthort raised his cup and drank. It was excellent.
“So, wot’s da problem den?”
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to die. Please don’t say ‘everybody dies’. Not helpful.”
“Fair ‘nuff. Wot makes you tink yer gonna die tomorrow?”
Garthort pointed to the distant green and purple glow on the horizon.
“Roint. I get dat. I loik ta tink we gotta chance at winnin’ dis ting.”
“Yer one of da boffins wot planned dis,” stated Bork.
“Yet, yer confidence ain’t wot it should be.”
“It’s not so much that I don’t the plan won’t work. It’s more that I don’t think I’ll survive it.”
“Any particular reason fer dat?”
He tugged at the collar around his neck that prevented his use of magic.
“Roight. Oy’m a bit surprised dey didn’t take dat off.”
“Why are you being so kind to me?”
“Oy guess ‘cause we’re all on the sharp edge o’ tings. No point in not bein’ kiond.”
“I did a lot of terrible things.”
“Oy’m well acquainted wit yer history.”
“Weirdly, that makes me feel a little better.”
“Not dat weird.”
“I suppose not. But if I die tomorrow, I’m not sure I’ve done enough. The afterlife is harsh for those who, well acted like I have.”
Oy’m no Cleric, but da way Oy figger it, ya dun lotsa good. Iffin’ we win da day, part o’ dat is cuz o’ you.”
“Thank you for saying that.”
“Jest da truth, as Oy sees it. ‘Member, not a Cleric.”
Garthort laughed and Bork joined in.
“’Course, it’s not loik yer on da front loins, issit? Ya should be safe as houses.”
“Iffin’ Oy moight give ya a bit more unsolicited advoice, mebbe jest ask Dansey ta take off dat collar.”
“I think if they were going to take it off, they would’ve already done it.”
“Roight. It’s not loik dey’re preoccupied wit anyting else.”
“Never know till ya ask. Oy gotta lot o’ preparations ta take care of. See ya on da udder side.”
And with that, Bork left. Garthort sat and thought. As he did, his left hand went into his pocket. The object one of Darvinia’s lackeys had slipped him was still there, cold and metallic. The note that came with it, ‘You’ll know when to use this, -D’ had evaporated as soon as he read it.
He pondered if he wanted permission or forgiveness.