MERSDAY, THE SIXTH DAY OF THRIMIDGE, TA2946
The thug down the shantytown street half-turned and paused, his eye on the majestic Falcon Axe of the Dathrins. Then, despite the axe-wound to his leg and undeterred by Fjiar’s barked command to surrender, he leant on his staff and hobbled over, stooped with a grunt of pain to seize the Axe up, and made off with it around a corner.
Fjiar gave chase, roaring wordlessly and brandishing his short sword as he shot past Tóki and the cloud of stinking smoke filling the unfinished building their enemies has come from. The sound of axes could be heard, ragging down a section of wooden wall. And a voice could be heard to grunt, “You were only supposed to pull those dwarves in – not a cursed army!”
Tóki the toymaker, shaken by the fight and armed only with a fallen cudgel, made his way around the back of the mule-cart where the grey dwarf had ducked off, and found clear air round the side and rear of the structure.
“Hold! Hold!” he heard a crow-like voice squawking, some way beyond.
Tóki edged his way forward.
Fjiar ran down his quarry within moments. The man, shocked at Fjiar’s speed, had yielded immediately and Fjiar had frog-marched him back round the corner.
“You, sit on the ground and don’t move,” he ordered. “Ecthelon, if he moves, shoot him dead.”
The elf looked up from examining Marion’s wounds, and wordlessly took his bow and arrow in hand once more.
Yngwi, running up, showed none of Tóki’s caution and launched himself into the murk of the smoke. In the far corner of the space beyond he saw a rough hole hacked out of the wall, before which glared two rough-looking dwarves at guard.
“Yield, dwarves, or you will die right here, right now,” hollered the mighty minstrel.
“Aye, right,” sneered one, in an Iron Hills accent. “Come test my steel.”
“City guard! Drop those weapons!” ventured Tóki, coming up to Yngwi’s shoulder.
But Yngwi was already upon them, wielding his single axe two-handedly to beat down both axe and sword of the first dwarf and strike him hard in the chest. Reeling and winded, the dwarf could only flail his weapons ineffectually. His cohort grimly retaliated with an axe blow which Yngwi just met, but which nevertheless staggered him onto one knee.
Tóki stepped up to join his cudgel with Yngwi’s axe, and the battle was two dwarves against two dwarves – axe and sword, axe and shield against a single axe and a single cudgel, but with the better-armed pair of disreputables intent on holding their position rather than stepping forward to seize the advantage.
Yngwi abandoned caution and threw himself upon the first, winded dwarf, striking a ringing blow to the helm which left him hanging on by a thread. “Yield, mother-curser!” bellowed Yngwi, his blood running high.
Tóki struck at the other side of the second defender with an overhead murder-blow which beat his upraised shield ringingly down and away. And then a ferocious Fjiar burst in between his companions and struck upwards with his great axe, a blow up between the legs that felled Tóki’s hapless opponent in a massive welter of his own life-blood.
“Oh, stow this!” grunted the dazed dwarf left standing alone beside him, and he let his axe and sword slip to the ground in surrender.
Fjiar never even paused for breath in hurling himself onward through the breach the two dwarves of Beil’s had defended at such cost. He found himself in the back of a dyer’s workshop, all festooned with hanging bolts of cloth.
“Follow the calls of the crow!” Yngwi shouted after him, and he doffed his helm to listen as he advanced, but he met neither sight nor sound of elf-shot sorcerer or anyone else.
Tóki prodded the surrendered dwarf out into the street and into Ecthelon’s and Marion’s keeping. “You’ll be all right, won’t you Marion?” he checked, as the Beorning woman attention appeared to be elsewhere. Marion replied with a gruff nod that brooked no further question, so Tóki followed after Yngwi and Fjiar.
They hunted all through the aisles of hanging cloth and round the simmering tubs of dyestuffs to no avail. At length it was Fjiar who spotted the fresh water-splashes beside the wheel ruts in the street beyond which showed a cart to have recently been driven away by person or persons unknown.
Putting himself in his quarries’ place, Fjiar reasoned that they would be looking to get out of Dale-town before the authorities could be raised against them, and would therefore head for the nearby Mountain Gate. The three dwarves trotted double-time for the gate and set themselves up in a position of watch, but no cart presented itself. Yngwi mused that they might better have split up to quarter the streets in the hope that one of them might get a direct sighting. But it was all now by the by.
Fjiar felt the need for a drink. “Oh no!” he exclaimed, both amused and concerned. “I told that fellow to bring my tankard of stout and not spill any… I bet he’s still there waiting for his reward!”
Their quarry seemed to have eluded them, so the three dwarves headed back to where Ecthelon and Marion held the two prisoners under guard.