Dwarvelf Continued - previous Chapters
Feather and Wolf pushed past him, apologising briefly for their apparent rudeness. The twins moved as one towards the bar, not acknowledging anyone, the crowd consciously and unconsciously parting as they passed, closing quickly behind them with only a few lingering glances.
'Can you see them? There, over to the left of the fireplace.' As Durog both asked and stated he placed a firm hand upon Bobmadik's shoulder to guide him towards Taesha and Aelen who he could now see sitting at a small table with two empty chairs.
The crowd in the Inn was a mix of travellers and locals, although the former most definitely outnumbers the latter. The locals sat at there tables, all dressed in simple britches and shirts. Solid leather boots, all of the same style. It was clear that they had all the same tailor and cobbler.
Taesha sat scanning the room, watching the watchers; it was apparent that Aelen was the only elf in the room and a child at that. Both Durog and Bob looked at each other realising their error; they would have been better to have bypassed the Inn, especially such a recognisable group, three adult dwarves and a child elf.
Aelen was sitting close to his mother on the bench, Bobmadik instinctively moved onto the same bench seat, squashing his son between his parents, hiding him that little bit more. Aelen unaccustomed to crowds did not complain, he simply rested a hand on his father's leg and leaned into his mother.
Durog sitting opposite them spoke first 'How'd you be laddy? Taesha?'
'We're good, we waited a long while before we ordered some food, we ordered enough for the four of us.'
'Well, that will not be enough, Lady Dwarf.' Announced Wolf as he swung a chair to the end of the table and his sister nimbly sat down onto the bench seat next to Durog.
Aelen, leaned into his mother, holding her tight. Taesha for all her surprise at the sudden intrusion did not show it, he sat calmly and put her right arm protectively around her son looking first at Durog opposite her and then her husband, both of whom did not look at ease at all.
'Taesha, meet Feather and Wolf, they helped us out on the road.' It was Bobmadik who spoke as he took one of the ale mugs offered by Feather. 'They're old Acquaintances of Durog the Drow Slayer.'
'Quiet Lad, I'd rather remain incognito as long as I can. Although I can see by the faces on the locals that this would be hard, three dwarves, two human rangers and a boy elf aren't quite understated enough for me. Let's all simply eat our food and get going again.' Durog lifting the cup of ale Wolf had given him to his mouth while scanning the room for danger.
Feather leant forward and gestured for Bob, and Durog to lean in. Wolf sat-up right, seemingly ignoring everything going on, the conversation forming in front of him, and the crowd milling about, now less attentive. Although the occasional glance revealed, the crowd was conscious of their presence.
'So I must ask Durog; what is the story to this little party? I'm surprised to see you away from Dalia and Olin.'
It was apparent to Bobmadik that Feather and durog were not mere acquaintances; if Feather knew of Dalia and Olin, it meant that she was a close confidant, someone who Durog trusted, had even supped with in the past and hosted at his homestead.
'All I will say is the young lad here is attracting a wee bit of attention these days, and his parents felt it best to go back to their brethren to learn some more, and you; what has brought you to the four ways?'
'Those goblins we encountered.'
'Goblins!' Taesha interrupted, 'Goblins?'
'Shhh quiet Taesh, I'll explain when we are away from here, and on the road, it is not for a crowded Inn.' Bobmadik whispered as he squeezed her hand for comfort.
Feather continued, 'We'd been out running the boundary and found this lot camping at the edges of our forest. No harm some would say, Goblins are creatures of the world, and as they were causing no trouble, we decided to leave them, to simply watch and make sure they moved on.
The only challenge to this, though was after three days of staying still, something unusual in itself things became even more strange. A Drow walked into their campsite unchallenged, in fact, greeted.'
'A Drow, you don't say.' It was Durog who interrupted this time. 'Dare I ask was she wearing the black of the queen's guard?'
'Yes, how is it, you know?'
'Feather, look past the Elf.' Wolf who had been leaning back in his chair looking as disengaged as possible had tipped forward into the table and nodded in the direction he had spoken. 'There, alone in the corner, is that the rogue?'
Just at that moment, the Barkeep arrived with one of the serving maids carrying a wooden platter covered with food. 'Evening my friends please enjoy. Can I get you another ale milk for the young one?'
'Yes, drinks all round please Thwayne.'
The keep realising someone knew him looked to the stranger who had spoken, giving Durog a barely perceptible nod 'As you wish sir.'
'Wolf, he is leaving, follow him, see where he is going, we will meet you on the road North. The rest of you, eat up, don't rush, let's keep our cool.' it was Feather who spoke.
Wolf stood to leave 'Bring me something to eat.'
'I will brother now go.'
'What is going on?' Taesha whispered, there was so much she did not know; things were moving awfully fast only hours ago they'd sat to lunch, Aelen got a knife, then goblins, two rangers now a rogue; Taesha was struggling to keep her calm.
'I am not sure there are too many coincidences going on here. Thwayne recognised me, yet did not bring attention to us, it tells me something's up. I'm going to go help Thwayne those drinks.'
Now with four sitting at the table, they began to eat. All discussion falling silent, leaving questions to be answered later. After each of them had eaten their share of the meal, two leather clothes were retrieved from their satchel's. Feather placing two roughly cut pieces of bread, cheese and some warm mutton into one for her brother.
Bobmadik hastily did the same for Durog, pulling the four corners of the cloth together to form a neatly tied bundle. Just as they had all finished, Durog returned without the drinks.
'OK time for us to depart we are marked. It appears your rogue friend is asking about us and paying for information, let's go, let's get out of here.'
The five of them gathered themselves and started to move through the Inn in single file; Durog leading the way followed by Taesha who held Aelen's hand, then Bobmadik immediately behind his son with Feather following last. As they moved through the room the way was clear, the patrons stepping aside to let this little party exit.
Once outside they were greeted by Thwayne holding Apples lead rope. 'I've topped up the water bottles on your horse. I've had all the windows shuttered and will personally make sure no one watches which way you go, godspeed to you and good luck.'
Durog thanked Thwayne, Bob again wondering that little more about his friend Durog who seemed to have a stature that far exceeded the dwarf he had come to know and love.
'Right then, let's go. Aelen lad, I want you to run for a bit then we'll put you on the horse.'
Taesha protested' Durog, again he is only a child, why not put him on the horse now.'
'Taesha, it is good for him, it will build his strength. We need to do this now while we have the luxury of a horse, and the boy needs to grow into a man fast. What, with all the attention he is drawing, I am sure he will not be a boy for much longer.'
Aelen for his part did not whinge of flinch at what the exchange between his mother and uncle, shoulders back and chest slightly out 'Which way, Uncle?'
'North lad, you'll run in the middle with your mother, Feather leads the way.'
Without a word said, Feather moved forward at a jog, at first running at her usual pace then dropping back a little to accommodate the speed of the party. Both Aelen and his mother ran next to each other, not talking followed by Bobmadik leading Apples at a slow trot and Durog coming up the rear.
After a few minutes Durog ran forward next to Durog, 'we'll put the boy on the horse in five minutes, he is running well.'
'Why are we going North, Dalgroth is on the Western road.'
'I know, obviously, Feather knew something was up when she sent her brother to follow the rogue, by running north, if anyone from the Inn were watching they would think we were heading towards the Targrath.'
Durog stopped to let Bobmadik and apples go forward, scanning the road behind them. Everyone continued on at the same steady pace. Aelen quietly impressing them all with his endurance at such a young age.
After several more minutes, Bobmadik called a halt to the run as he had noticed that Aelen had started to flag, to more shuffle than run at the pace he had been.
'Well done lad, time to get on the horse.'
Aelen did not protest in the slightest.
Just as they turned to resume their run, Wolf stepped up on to the road in front of them. 'Hi, di Ho travellers.'
'Well met brother.'
'The rogue headed west. I followed him for a league or so. He was on foot and in a rush, although not overly fast as he had a full pack of supplies, he got it from the stables as he was leaving.'
Why would he do that? Why west?' asked Feather.
'He is going to Dalgroth, that is the direction of Dalgroth. That is if he knew where we are going.' It was Bobmadik this time, looking towards Durog for confirmation of what he had just said.
Durog with a look of puzzlement on his face asked Wolf 'How would he know where we are going?'
'To be honest, he probably doesn't, he will probably stop somewhere up the road and wait, if we do not pass by the morning he would return to the Inn and find out if one of his Informers could tell him which way we went.'
'OK, Wolf; Feather. You're the locals, what do you propose? We need to head west. It was your suggestion that bought us North. You must have had something in mind.' It was Bobmadik who spoke now, as it had been bothering ever since Feather had told her brother to meet in the North. How was it possible that she knew they were heading west, could she be trusted.
'We are going to go west my friend, in about two leagues there is a forest path that heads west then south-west and joins back onto the western road. Past where I suspect the rogue will set up his lookout. We will have to travel through the night. By doing this, we will both be in front of the rogue, and potentially if anyone saw us leave, he will be sent on a hunt up the northern path.'
'OK let's go.' with nothing more to add to the exchange Taesha started to pull Apples forward.
Bobmadik watched as Taesha moved forward, looking towards the girl ranger he asked 'Feather, how did you know we were heading to Dalgroth? What caused you to think of running this diversion? We only met this evening, and twice you've saved us, first with the Goblin attack, and now leading us from the Inn safely. How do we know you are not leading us away for your own purposes, maybe trade with the Drow?'
'Now wait a moment little Dwarf, you accusing me and my sister of being Dodgy?' Wolf's hand going to the pommel of one of his swords.
'Wait, Brother, these are fair questions. First my friend Bobmadik, you are three Dwarves travelling with a child Elf, and from what I can see that Drow who met with them had obviously sent them after you. It's only logical you'd be seeking the safety of your own kind.
Second, to that you are travelling with Durog the Drow Slayer, it's evident as he is from the Dwarven City of Dalgroth that you would be too hence heading west.
And finally trade with a Drow, I doubt it, They are unlike their Elven brethren who share the forests with us, the rangers of the North. The Drow are dark creatures, keeping league with demons and devils of the underworld, not our crowd. It's obvious they are after the child for some perverse reason.'
'Come Bob and Taesha, I can vouch for the twins they are Falconbred, part of the longest-running and wisest ranger families in the North. They are my friends you can trust them.'