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A white dwarf

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It took me a while to realize what he meant to do with the wicked axe.

"...Wait! We had a deal!" I hastily backed away from him, positioning the desk between us.

"A deal which you're not fulfilling. You promised to get me in, yet here I am, on the wrong side of this door, and you just said your help stops here." He shifted his weight, as if to step toward me.

I squeaked in horror, to my eternal shame. "No! Just... just give me a moment, I'll look more carefully, alright?"

He shrugged. "If you insist. Don't take too long, though, this place is starting to bore me."

I scanned the room furiously, and decided to start my search at the desk. There were some papers stacked on it, with one in particular left as if it had been read just before my master's departure. I picked it up, desperate for any clues.

It was a letter from some man called Darbon, speaking of new merchandise being saved for a long-term honoured client, clearly my master, and an urging to come have a look before "she" would be accessible to other customers. The man sounded like a slave trader; I got the impression of the general location where they might be, and put the letter back down be to search the desk more carefully.

A drawer caught my attention; it seemed smaller than it should be. I pulled it out to grope at the space under it, and found a hidden compartment. My surprised gasp did not go unnoticed, and the dwarf came to look what I found.

The lid was stuck, and when I pulled at it with the futile strength I could muster from my less-broken arm, something snapped and a splinter scratched me. I pulled my hand out of the desk in surprise, and showed the blooded finger to the dwarf.

"There's something in there, alright. Strange, I don't think I was pulling hard enough to break anyth-" I suddenly lost feeling of my hand in mid-sentence. "Shit, it was a tr- I can't feel my – it's spreading!" My intonation went up an octave as the realization slammed into me like a brick on ice.

The dwarf seemed impassive at my panic about being poisoned, probably lethally. "Hmm. Trapped secret compartment. This place might have something interesting yet."

I tried to empathetically attract his attention to more serious matters. "I'm going to die, you heartless asshole!"

But to my consternation, he was too deeply occupied with calculating the riskiness of smashing the desk to get to the secret compartment without further contact with any poisoned needles. My mortal concerns got waved off. "Not in the next ten seconds, if you can still talk. Sit down and keep still, I'll have to think if your scrawny ass is still worth saving."

"If I'm worth – you cheap bastard!" My further valuations of his character were interrupted by urgent new signals coming from my muscles. "Arrrgh! My whole arm's on fire!"

The dwarf was still rummaging through the desk to look for more traps. "Should cut down on the yapping, it'll just spread fas- on fire, you say?" He came over to examine my finger again, then grinned broadly. "You're in luck, kid, this poison I know. Here," he produced a small vial from his pack, opened it and offered it to me. "Drink this."

I did not need to be told twice; I snagged the vial with my teeth and chugged it down. The liquid tasted like fresh dragon vomit, but I did not let it climb back up. Discarding the bottle, I slumped to lie on my back and sighed in exhausted relief.

Moments later, the smug dwarf prodded my arm and declared he had been right. I was too worn out by yet another near-death experience to even roll my eyes at him.

He provided further commentary as he went back to work on the secret compartment. "I've prepared for magical poisons, and a number of rare venoms, but turns out the old coot's too cheap for such fanciness." He pulled the contents out easily, now that it was deemed reasonable safe to move around. It was a wooden box, a bit under a cubit long and wide, and half a cubit deep. "Can't blame him, really, since he's got the guard setup to match."

I suspected he was referring to me, but concentrated on the wonderful feeling of normality slowly spreading to my arm. Well, normality aside from the bandaged flesh wounds, but that was nothing compared to being left completely without any functional forelimbs. My shattered and useless right arm decided to remind me of its miserable existence as I was revelling in the restoration of the left one. "You wouldn't have any more of that magic sprig that makes me forget my right arm too?"

"What, your head is clearing already? That won't do at all." He gave me a new sprig with an ambiguous leer. I was entirely too happy to see the familiar herb to spend time thinking whether he was serious or not.

He took out a knife to pry open the lid of the box, and it gave way with a crack. Then he sniggered, a very disturbing sound. "What? What's in there?"

"Our gracious host failed to inform us of his drug habit." He held up a small vial of a milky white liquid. "I'll definitely find a buyer for these. And," he produced a black, thick tome from the box, "I do believe a market is in place for this as well. And these." Five rings in his hand were humming with magical power. I recalled seeing at least two of them in my master's hand on separate occasions. "But bah, no key. I guess I'll have to get it from the man himself. You said you had some clue where he is?"

I tensed at the question, unsure whether this would open up further depths of betrayal on my part. In the end, I decided he would find the letter easily enough himself. "Uh. He's somewhere around the Isle of Cyprum, judging by the letter on the desk." But he would also be coming back soon, I feared, after figuring out that something was not right with the estate. In either case, it would be best to be as far from here as possible by then.

He glanced at the letter and nodded. "Cyprum it is."