I pulled my boots on and slipped past the tattered blanket that hung as my hut’s door. The sky was grey with the coming dawn and in a few minutes the rest of the camp would be waking up. I hurried to the hut next to mine and pulled back the deer hide in the doorway.
It was too dark to see anything, but after spending my first week in the small hut, I knew in which corner the fishing spear leaned, where on the floor a sack with personal belonging lay, and I knew exactly where Ethan slept.
I crouched to the dirt floor and reached my hand out in the dark.
“Ethan.” I shook him gently.
My hand fell away as he bolted up. “What? What’s going on?”
“Shh,” I hissed. That’s all I needed was someone in the neighboring huts to wake up. “Nothing is going on. I just need to ask you about something.”
“Dalan? What are you doing?” His voice carried wisps of sleep.
“I wanted to ask you something.”
“Couldn’t it wait until morning?” He yawned. “I thought that soldiers were in our camp or some animal.”
I suddenly felt stupid for barging in and waking him up because of a dream. Even when I was a little kid I didn’t wake my father up because of a bad dream.
“Is something wrong?” Ethan asked when I didn’t say anything.
“I just wanted to ask you about something,” I said, realizing I was repeating myself. “You know a few days ago when I wanted to sell that pocket knife?”
“Are you having regrets? Wishing you didn’t sell it?”
“I didn’t sell it,” I blurted.
There was a pause then Ethan said, “That’s none of my business. You don’t have to tell me what you do with your personal items.”
“It wasn’t a pocket knife. It isn’t even mine.” My hand went to the stone under my shirt. “I found something.”
Ethan said nothing, and I wished there was some light so I could see his face. I wondered if he was thinking of the pledge.
“I was going to sell it, but the man wouldn’t even make an offer. He acted…scared of it. He told me to get out of his shop.”
“What was it?” Ethan sounded concerned, not angry.
“And you said you found it?”
Ethan thought I stole it. What are the chances of finding jewelry out here?
“I found it in a cave about a mile from here,” I said, even though he probably wouldn’t believe me. “But it’s not normal. I think I know why that guy didn’t want anything to do with it.”
I took in a breath as if about to plunge into a lake. “I think it’s cursed.”
“Why do you think that?” I was surprised that Ethan’s voice wasn’t condescending or skeptical, and I was suddenly glad that I hadn’t decided to tell Faiza. She would have snorted and called me a half-wit for believing in such things as curses.
“Ever since I found it, I’ve been having these dreams. The same dream every night.”
“What are they about?”
“It always starts with the dwarf.” I couldn’t believe I was actually going to tell him this. He would probably tell Faiza to kick me out of camp. Either for not telling them about the gemstone, or for being a complete lunatic.
“Dwarf?” His voice peeked with interest. “You’re sure it was a dwarf?”
“He’s short and he tells me to come to Hashna. What else could he be?”
“The dwarf talks to you,” Ethan says more to himself than to me.
“He says the stone isn’t mine—“
“The gemstone in the necklace. He tells me to give it to him and then says that it is dangerous. That someone—I don’t know who—wants it.”
“The dwarf wants you to give the gemstone to him, but says that someone else wants it,” Ethan said, thinking out loud. “And he says it’s dangerous because of this other person?”
“I think so. He said, ‘Danger will come. He wants it.’”
“So it’s a warning, not a threat.”
“You don’t think it’s cursed?”
“I don’t know if it’s cursed or not, but it’s definitely not something you should keep. Not if a dwarf is warning you about it.”
“Then what am I supposed to do about it? The dream told me to take it to Hashna.”
“Then that’s what you should do.” He said it so matter-of-factly. Like it was the most natural things to set off on a journey just because some short guy in a dream told you to.
“Can’t I just put it back where it came from? Or toss it in a river or something?”
“If the dwarf said Hashna, then you should take it to Hashna. I don’t know who’s after it, or why it was here, but if a dwarf took the trouble to contact you, I wouldn’t ignore it.”
So I would go to Hashna, deliver the gemstone, and come back. There’s just one problem. What was I going to tell Fazia?