Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3
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“Indeed,” said Jakrom. “It was awesome. I know now, how one might go mad in that place.” He shuddered. “Now, to get you out of this place?”
“Walk that way,” Perin suggested, pointing down-slope. “It may be that this crevasse opens up on the mountainside farther down.”
Jakrom followed the crack, and it was indeed as Perin guessed. He returned, and supported Perin until they again reached the trees. There, Jakrom found a stream and built a travois for Perin after hunting some game for them both. Jakrom stopped once, to retrieve his cached gold. When they again reached the river, they built a raft and floated downstream, using the broken pickaxe and a pole to push them away from rocks. They slept at mining camps, trading their wondrous story for food and drink along the way. Finally, they reached the last town (now the first town) and Jakrom took Perin to the local Healer.
“It will be some time before he is fit to travel further,” the Healer told them.
“I have gold a-plenty,” said Jakrom. “Enough for us both to stay here, as long as needed.” The prospectors had made good on their promise, and left Jakrom more gold in town. He was now a rich man, as he reckoned things.
“You should go,” said Perin. “You have a wife to claim at home. I will perhaps see you again some day, and I will tell my folk of how you brought hope to the Edge of the World, where I had lost my own hope.” There were more words, but Jakrom finally assented. He did pay the taverner to see that Perin lacked for nothing, however, until he was able to make his own way.
Jakrom returned home, nearly two years after he left, and he came home to find much had changed—not the least thing, himself. Feeling unsure of why he did so, he found Larbam’s house.
Larbam wept when he realized who it was at his door. “Come in!” he cried. “I feared I’d sent you to your death. I rejoice to see you alive, yet I grieve that I cannot keep my end of the bargain.”
“So I heard,” said Jakrom. “But tell me anyway.”
“A year passed after you departed, and young men of good families presented themselves. I allowed them to marry Arah and Rakah. Since then, my own fortunes have suffered, and now I am nearly a poor man myself. If you would hate me for one, and mock me for the other, I would understand.”
Jakrom shook his head. “I will do neither. I came to show you that for which you asked, though,” and showed Larbam the fragment of the Great Nothing.
“It’s beautiful,” Larbam breathed, after a long while. He lifted his eyes away, with some difficulty, and met Jakrom’s. “Will you sell it? There are only a few who could afford a fair price!”
“I don’t know,” said Jakrom. “I have thought I would, and I have thought I would not. However it is, I brought home a great deal of gold as well. That in itself is more wealth than I need.” He withdrew a small pouch. “I heard that you had fallen upon hard times. Take this. Consider it a loan, if you wish. Your fortunes will improve, then you can pay it back.”
Larbam wept again. “My fortunes have already improved,” he said, “for you bear me no ill will after all that has happened. You have helped me, now let me help you. You will be invited to travel in the circles of the wealthy, as you possess something that no other man has. I can advise you.”
Jakrom found Larbam’s advice sound, for Larbam himself had once traveled in the circles of the wealthy. Jakrom bought a modest house, and hid the Fragment there with his family curse. Larbam taught him how to act at ease among the high-born, and how not to let his words trap him in a ruinous course of action. Jakrom did not sell the Fragment, but put a small piece in a ring. Soon after, he gave a similar ring to his bride, the sorceress Trenah. Their children were strong, healthy, and had sorcerous talent of their own. Over time, Larbam’s fortunes did indeed improve, and he paid Jakrom twice what was lent. Both men prospered, and grew influential in their city.
“And that’s the end?” Sarna glowered at Galbron from across the room, holding their full wineglasses. “A fair adventure, to be sure, but not deserving of being served your wine!”
“Not quite,” Galbron assured her. “There is yet a little more.”