The dwarf stood motionless, still gazing down at his palms as he had throughout Judicis' explanation and my question. He suddenly glanced around urgently, scurrying about the small study as though looking for something. “A mirror. Do ye have a mirror?” I frowned at the desperation in his tone, realizing the poor fellow hadn’t seen his own visage in ages. If he had, it’d been warped and deformed. Judicis conjured a full-length mirror and left it suspended in the air just an arm’s length from the man. We watched as the dwarf’s eyebrows rose in a mix of anguish and relief. Tears began to stream down his face, quickly lost in his fiery beard. His rough hands cautiously reached for his face, feeling the unfamiliar that had become so lost. He must have felt like he’d come face to face with a long dead memory.
Judicis and I sat patiently, letting the man take a moment to process whatever he’d been going through. After all, we had forced upon him an experience that he had not asked for, nor could have been ready for in any capacity. Quiet minutes passed, the two of us sipping tea while the dwarf continued staring into the mirror. Finally he moved away from his reflection, somber steps guiding him to the remaining armchair. He sat down, his feet too short to reach the ground, and I offered him a cup of tea. He nodded, adding a polite smile before sitting back and taking a sip of the hot liquid.
“I don’t know who ye are, or where I am. Maybe I’m dead. No matter. If ye want to hear me story, I’ll tell ya what I remember o’ that day, so very long ago.” He paused, his gaze lifted to the darkness above. For the first time, in as long as I’ve had Judicis, I witnessed that darkness change. Like a massive projection of the dwarf’s memory, the narration took form like a moving picture displayed above. “The war above raged on. More’n two centuries and Raiaera and Corone still fought o’er the isles. But our work continued. This workshop had become a haven for some o’ the best mechanics and engineers we’d seen in ages.
“We’d designed and built loadin’ systems for cannons used on ships, mechanical clocks for citizens all over, sewin’ machines for our tradesfolk. Our work had been revolutionizin’ life for not just dwarves, but could change life for all Althanas. And it all happened here, tucked under an isle o’ Lornius. And we’d been workin’ on somethin’ amazin’! Somethin’ that could change it all!
“That is . . . before the accident.” His tone changed as he spoke, and the images above shifted abruptly from hopeful and proud to tragic and dark. “It all happened so fast, and I still couldn’t tell ya’ what it was that went wrong. We had e’ry safety in place we could. We all knew the work came first, and took it seriously I tell ya! But somehow, the generator blew.” A flash above showed the brief moment when the dwarf had been struck by an orange and black wave of magic, rushing through him with incredible speed. “Soon as I felt that wave, it all changed. I felt like my insides had been burnt and crushed. I felt dizzy and sick, falling to the ground. My body shook, and I nearly choked to death on me own retchin’. Then I blacked out.” As though right on cue, the images vanished, and we turned to face one another.
“I couldn’t tell ya’ how long I was out. When I woke, e’rythin’ was dark. My body . . .” he paused, looking down at his hands again. “My body looked like it did when ya found me.”
“So you don’t know what caused the explosion, or the strange effects on your body?” I prompted.
“Nay,” he shook his head. “When I woke and started to move around, e’ryone was dead. Their bodies had been cooked up, turned black like mine, but worse. Not sure why I lived, tell ya the truth.” His gaze fell again, a brief pause before adding, “I wish I hadn’t. Shoulda died with me kin.”
“Forgive me, but I just realized we didn’t actually introduce ourselves,” I said apologetically. “My name is Artemis Eburi, and this is the sentient being known as Judicis.” I offered my hand to the man in greeting, which he grasped firmly in a rough hand.
“Oi,” he added suspiciously as he rotated my hand, “How’d ye get me ring?”