You can find Chapter 1 Here
‘What are we going to do now Bob?’
‘I don’t know Hun, I don’t know.’
He had finally stopped at the edge of the forest; they’d been traveling for several hours since the skirmish at the campsite. Bobmadik stood scanning the field in front of him, still in shadow although the pre-dawn sky above was starting to lighten.
As he had thought when they set out, there really was nothing to return to at the farm. He could still see the ashen remnants of what had been their home, tendrils of smoke rising from the ruin. ‘Taesha, I think we need to return to Dalgroth.’
‘Why? They were very clear. Aelen is not welcome there.’
‘I know, we have to find out why?’ He looked at Taesha, Aelen asleep on her back. She was beautiful to him. They’d been on the run for hours and she had done her fair share of carrying Aelen on her back.
Over several hours they had fallen into an unspoken rhythm, knowing each other so well that they were able to stop and pass the sleeping child between them without a word or sound uttered. It was the stoic nature of the mountain dwarves that propelled them forward; stamina shared equally between the two, male and female; the difference negligible.
‘Look Tash; my father’
‘Your FATHER! He did nothing Bob, NOTHING!’
‘No Tash, you’re wrong, he let us leave. He did not have to, he could have bowed to the council's wishes and taken Aelen from us to discard him in the forest somewhere; to fend for himself. He let us go, he did the best he could under the circumstances.’
‘I know, I know. Sorry. Still, we can’t go back there, they will take Aelen. They will punish you for disobeying the council; your father won’t have any choice but to banish you for disobeying the will of the council’
‘Tash, you might be right, we have to do something though. Right now I think we need to get going again.’ Lifting Aelen from his mother's back Bob turned and started walking through the forest, keeping the field to his right.
‘Where are we going?’
‘We need to get to the other side, out to the road. We can head east to Durog’s farm, he will help us.’
‘Why are you going that way?’
Bob stopped, turning to look back at Taesha who had not moved from where they had been talking. ‘Tash, we can’t go across the field, we have to go around. Anything; anyone could be watching for our return’
‘But they’re behind us, you killed three of them, there’s only four left, they will be scared to follow you. Surely we can run down to the cabin and see if there is anything we can salvage anything. We have nothing; we need something. My jewelry box, we can sell the jewels for coin, we need coin.’
‘Tash, Hun’ Bob walked back towards his wife, he realised this was the first time they had stopped since he had pulled the two of them from creature’s camp. ‘Tash. We can’t. Those creatures. I’ve seen them before.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘They are Kobolds, that was a Warband and they were here for a reason. Their kind never wanders far from their lairs unless they have a good reason. Also, they tend to eat or sell their captives. That lot did not look like they were getting ready to eat you two.’
‘Kobolds! What? Where have you seen them before’
‘Tash please, we don’t have time, we need to keep moving, they will be reluctant to follow-us beyond the woods, if they follow us at all. Please we need to go and we can’t risk being caught out there, in the open.’ Taking Taesha’s hand he pulled her forward, he held her hand as long as he could before the absence of a trail mean he needed to use it to stabilize himself; he hated letting her hand go. He knew she was hurting, sad that their idyllic little home and their valley life was now gone.
They walked in silence, the valley, and their smoldering home constantly on their right. Aelen woke, hugged his father and climbed up onto his shoulders. He didn’t speak. This was not unusual; he had rarely spoken in the time he had been with his adopted parents. Perched on his father’s shoulders Aelen looked around gesturing to his mother who waved back.
After an hour they reached the opposite side of the field from where they had stood and talked. Taking Aelen from his shoulders and putting him on the ground Bob knelt ‘Aelen, I need to go away for a few minutes, please look after your mother for me.’
Aelen nodded stepped to his mother and simply slipped his hand inside of hers. ‘I will be back in a few minutes, please be safe.’ Bob turned, not waiting for either of them to say anything and he stepped away into the brush, stopping only briefly after a few meters to turn and look back, they were gone; hidden from site. Safe, he hoped.
After several minutes he found what he was looking for, not that he was really looking, he knew exactly where to find the small cairn of boulders. As he approached, it caused him to realise how much they had lost. It felt like only yesterday that he had built this cairn, yet looking at it now, the small boulders moss covered, the shrubs and small trees grown around it as if it had been here for years.
Years. It was a little over three years since they had arrived in the valley. Aelen was one when they first came here, now he was a sage four-year-old who always looked wiser than his years. Three years; such a short period of time.
Bobmadik knelt in front of the cairn and lifted the first melon-sized rock away, then a second, a third, finally spotting what he had been looking for. Reaching in his fingers closed around soft leather, tugging firmly he pulled a package free from the remaining stones.
Laying the leather wrap on the ground he pulled on the drawstring and opened the package, rolling it out as he would a cloth for a picnic. There in front of him as he expected was everything he needed right now.
A gold chain with his family seal on it; his two battle axes, a hard leather belt and harness with loops for his axes, a scabbard containing a dagger, and a pouch with some coin in it.
Standing Bobmadik slung the harness over his shoulder and fastened the belt around his waist. Taking a moment to adjust the belt to his waist, he checked that the dagger was placed in the middle of his back, pulling it free and sliding it back into the scabbard remembering the ease with which he had done this in the past.
Once he was happy with the fit he bent and picked up the two axes; one in each hand. It had been a long time since he had last held the weapons. Yet he could not help but marvel how indistinguishable they were from each other. It was only the feel, the balance that told him one from the other.
Each ax had a two-foot long metal shaft wrapped in leather for the grip. One side of the ax head had a curved and thin edge for slashing, the flip side a weighted spike for piercing armor. The pommel of each engraved with the Dwarven ruins BD
His fingers wrapping around the grip of each ax, becoming an extension of his body, a familiarity washing over him that he had not felt for a long time. He paused only momentarily to contemplate what was in front of him. To wonder what had compelled him to reach into his past to equip himself and protect his small family into the future.
In one fluid motion, he spun both axes in unison in his hands sliding the handles into the locket and chape made for them on the harness. Bending again he picked up the leather cloth and strap. Turning walking back the way he had come, toward his family.
A few minutes later he walked back into the space that he had left Taesha and Aelen. He stopped and scanned the forest around him, he could not see them at all, could not hear them. Speaking firmly, not loudly out of a fear of being heard a fear that someone or something was following them.
A moment later they stepped from the forest right in front of him; he was amazed at how well they had hidden. ‘Come on, we have to go. We should be able to make it to Durog’s farm before nightfall.’
‘Where did you get those from?’
‘I stowed them here when we first came’
‘I’ve never seen them. How is it that I’ve never seen them? How do you know about kobolds? How did you kill three of them without waking the rest?’
‘Your questions have to wait, we need to go.’
‘I feel like I don’t know you.’
‘Taesha, I will answer all your questions; I am still the same dwarf you married’
Bobmadik pulled a patch of red cloth from his waist belt. Squatting he gestured towards Aelen with the cloth ‘Here son, I found this yesterday and only just now remembered it.’ Aelen hugged his father, then slipped his hand into his mothers and pulled her forward, towards Durog’s farm.