We'd terrorized the village for three years without anyone letting on that I was different, other than my size that is, so I thought nothing of it when one night, I woke up Lagge's hand over my mouth; he had climbed in through my window.
"Sshh," he whispered. "Come on, we want you to meet someone."
I was confused, but I dressed hurriedly and followed him back out my window. Brom and Carm were waiting just outside the yard, and when we joined them, we all took off across country. As soon as we were safely out of hearing, I asked, "Who are we going to see?"
Lagge only shook his head and led on.
We didn't follow any road or path I knew. After three years in the company of my friends, I thought I knew the area pretty well, but I
d never been this far from the village, Not in this direction anyway. I suppose that was another difference between them and us. They almost never went very far from home; there was no call to.
A few hours later, we came to a small, sharp valley at the foot of a granite cliff By the light of the moons, I could make out that this was only the first of many steps that told of the mountain range beyond. My friends obviously knew where they were going, but in the predawn darkness, it took me a few minutes, and the covering of another hundred yards, for me to stop the entrance to a cave hidden in the brush at the foot of the cliff.
I groped my way in with my friends until I stumbled over a litter of stones in the middle of the floor.
Lagge pushed me down to sit on the floor. "Sit down," he said. "We'll light a fire."
I could hear them scrabbling around near by. "Can you see in here?" I asked as soon as one of them came back.
"Yeah," said Carm's voice. "Not well though. We'll have a fire going in a minute."
I waited, and a few moments later, a small campfire was burning in the middle of a circle of stones, pushing back the darkness. As the glow lit up my friends' faces, the first thing I noticed was that their eyes were hugely dilated; they really could see better in the dark. I seemed to remember my mother saying something on the subject, but it made their faces look strange to me.
They had barely settled down around the fire when they jumped up again, looking off into the darkness behind me. I jumped up too, but I didn't get the opportunity to turn around before hands were gripping me. My arms were pinioned behind me by one huge fist and a big beefy hand was across my mouth. I felt as though a straight jacket couldn't have held me as tightly as these hands from out of the darkness did. It was the first time since I came here that I actually felt small.
I struggled, but I could scarcely move. As I tried to kick, I watched my friends, pleading for their help with my eyes, since I couldn't utter a sound. They weren't interfering, but they looked frightened just the same. Perhaps they were just stunned, because they did eventually move forward, but it was too late. Their hands had barely begun to reach for the ones holding me when they were shouldered aside and there was this horrendous burning stab of ice sliding into my heart.
In utter stunned confusion, I gasped for the power to breathe. Before I could manage my first breath, an orb suddenly appeared, suspended behind my three friends, in the center of the large chamber that was now revealed in its soft blue light.
It didn't hold my attention for long. My friends backed away in astonishment as I looked down in search of the cause of the cold fire in my chest. Revealed in the light from the glowing stone, was a strange crystal hilt protruding from just below my sternum. It too glowed blue and it shot a beam of blue light directly to that glowing stone. With that light, went my soul. I just had time to notice all this before the ice spreading through my veins obscured my vision completely.
I felt myself sag, and distantly, I felt the hands lifting me. They lay me out somewhere close I think. Before I faded completely, I thought I heard someone ask, "You don't think it was a mistake asking the boys to bring him here, do you?" I don't know who said that or what the answer was. I didn't know anything else at all for a while.