“So there we are deep deep in the heart of the orcan kingdom me and Bear scouting ahead of the raiding party when who comes flying by us on the road but the very same wagon load of women who we were trying to rescue.”
Bear joined in now “With at least half the orcan army chasing them about a league behind.”
“Well my old friend,” Galpo said laughing. “Maybe not half the Orcan army, but at least a quarter of it.”
“Okay, you are right, but what this Rock Hugger does next is either the bravest or stupidest thing I have ever seen. He runs out of the woods and down into the middle of the road pulls out his bow and knocks an arrow, well I am not about to let this Gem Polisher out do me, so I join him and knock an arrow to.”
Galpo took over the narration at this point. “Well as soon as the Orcs get into range, I start letting’m fly. Of course so does Black Bear but as the Orcs keep getting closer and closer I can see he is not hitting a thing.”
“What,” bellows Bear. “You are the one that couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat!”
Galpo looked over at him. “Well that’s the way I remember it.” And he crossed his arms definetly. The Rangers could tell by the dwarf’s tone he was trying to infuriate the bearded man, they also knew their teammate could barely hit the target half the time, let alone an orc running at full speed.
“Well then gem polisher you have spent too much time underground, you got mushrooms growing in that thick skull of yours.”
A voice came from across the fire, to Scob it sounded like Sam the second youth they had captured. “So what happened next?”
Galpo smiled at Black Bear and then slapped him on the back. “You finish telling it.”
“Right.” Bear looks around the fire to make sure his men are all still listening. “Well we are about out of arrows, and the Orcs are only about twenty yards away. When they first line stops dead in their tracks. Thier comrades behind them come plowing into them as does the group behind them. In a few seconds the road in front of us is a couple hundred Orcs falling all over themselves trying to stop. Well I let my last arrows go, and so does Galpo, I think he might have even hit a few at this point. I am about to go for my blades when a human voice from behind us says in the loudest most commanding voice I have ever heard says ‘Get Down!’ ”
Galpo adds. “Dorit.”
The Rangers all nodded their heads agreeing that it was a voice to be obeyed instantly.
Bear didn’t miss a beat. “Well I kissed the Mother and so did Galpo, and as soon as I did I heard one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard, almost as sweet as the sound of gold hitting my palm.”
Scob had to admit no matter what the man did for a living Bear could turn phrase as well as any storyteller he had heard. And as a Ranger and growing up on the Plains he had heard a more than most men heard in three lifetimes.
“The sound of a hundred Elvin bows followed by a hundred Elvin arrows hitting a hundred Orcs.”
“Followed closely by another hundred arrows finding another hundred targets.” Galpo added.
“Where did the Elves come from?” An excited young voice asked.
“You know that is the first thing I asked to.” Bear said. “I mean our raiding party only had thirty-two men and one dwarf. But now the Orcs were retreating and Elves rushed past us and were still firing while retrieving their arrows. We got up and Dorit was yelling at us to come on. We start running down the road where the wagon had gone. As we ran Dorit told us of meeting the Elves, a little while before and the Elves with either that hearing of theirs or some other method knew the wagon had broken from the Orcs. So Dorit had the raiding party get ready to escort the wagon. Meanwhile he and the Elves came to take care of the Orcs and met us where we stood.”
Bear paused here mostly to catch his breath and take a swig of water, and as the Rangers knew from hearing the story from their friend this was the end of the story.
“Did you get the women back home?” A young voice asked.
“Well we got them back to the camp, but you see they never really left home, they lived in their wagon.”
“You mean they were gypsies?”
“Not exactly, you see we were pretty far north in that fishing camp, and let’s just say the entertained the men.” Galpo said smiling.
Most of the young men laughed immediately. The rest a few seconds later after one of the laughing ones said ‘whores’.
Galpo turned to Bear. “If I recall correctly you got pretty friendly with the leading lady of the wagon.”
Bear just nodded and took a sip from his canteen, and to Scob it looked as though the man was a little nervous.
“If rumor was correct I thought I heard you married her a couple of months later.” Galpo said in an off hand manner.
Silence reigned around the campfire.
“I did.” Bear said nervously.
“So where is the little lady at now Bear, still on the coast, or did you two build that big house you two talked about?”
“Now then Galpo, we both know their was nothing the least bit little about Annie.”
Galpo laughed. “Well that is true, her appetite could easily match a dwarf’s.”
A lot of whistles of appreciation and a few sub dued ‘wows’ as well.
“So what happened with you and Annie?” Galpo asked in a teasing voice.
“She threw me out of the house.” Bear said sheepishly.
“Why?” Galpo asked still teasing.
The big man glared and then smiled. “I kept sampling the goods that had time on their hands.”
The crowd around the campfire roared in laughter.
“Hey Scob wake up.”
Scob rolled over and looked up to see Telban standing over him with a steaming cup.
Scob smiled at his friend sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Anyone try and leave the party last night?”
Telban laughed. “No all the guests are still here. Of course if their story is true then why would they run?”
“They wouldn’t, but we also have their boots, weapons and horses.”
“To true, but even though Bear is a good storyteller, I find it hard to believe he could make up a tale this strange.” Telban said plainly, taking the empty cup from Scob who had drained it.
“To true we have only to wait the day out and see if a member of the Order of Ro shows up.” Scob said as he started to pack his sleeping roll. Scob was about to ask what was for breakfast when he saw Galpo with a large pan near the fire, he was about to moan when they both spotted Encoraan come around the bend in the pass from deeper within Elvin territory.
“Good morning brother Elf what have you seen on this fine but chilly morn?”
As the elf crossed the space between them Scob noticed an even more pronounced lightness of step. Elves were light on their feet anyways but since being with this one for the past three years he had begun to pick up on certain Elvin suldties. “I know it is not the promise of a dwarf’s cooking.”
“I heard that.” Galpo said menacingly.
“About a mile down the trail is a place to look down on the mountain, and you get glimpses of the path as it winds down the mountains.”
“And?” Scob prodded.
“I saw two riders, both wearing the robes of the Order of Ro, but the one was riding the horse my father had given my sister last year when she was last home.”
“Your twin sister?” Telban asked.
“Yes the same.”
Scob nodded and smiled to see his friend so happy. Scob couldn’t begin to imagine how Encoraan felt because he was an orphan and grew up among the plains people on the great grasslands known as Pepperdun.
“Breakfast is ready.” Galpo stated loudly.
At this point, Encoraan relented in the treatment of the prisoners since it looked like their story told last night was true, he had the team return their boots to them but their weapons were held.
Breakfast was provided by the now in doubt, horse thieves, due to their pack horses being present and the Ranger’s still being a least an hours walk down the trail where Scob had left them.
“How long till they arrive?” Galpo asked as he served the food to Encoraan.
“An hour maybe two.”
The meal passed silently when it was finished Bear who had spoken little all morning approached the Rangers. “Since we are now waiting for the buyers of the ponies can I suggest that my men wait on the other side of the pass as were my instruction from the lady.”
The team looked to Encoraan who looked at Bear then his men. “Fine your men wait on the other side of the pass, under guard of course. You and I will wait here with the ponies until the lady who sent you on this errand produces the bill of sale.”
After a few minutes the camp was packed up and the Rangers mounted their prisoner’s horses. Leaving Encoraan and Bear they made their way back over the pass and rode, while their prisoners walked, to where the Rangers had therthed thier horses.
After watering the horses at a nearby spring the Rangers and their loosely held prisoners sat down to wait. The two groups sat apart the Rangers with only half an eye an ear on their prisoners.
“Hey Gem Polisher.”
Scob and Telban’s heads popped up immediately and saw that is was the biggest man of the bunch that had called out.
Galpo did not look up from his whittling he had been doing. “Young man, it is Master Galpo, and if you did not know my name then Master Dwarf would do just as well. Now then since you now know the proper way to talk to a dwarf what is it you want?”
Scob and Telban both knew the tone in Galpo’s voice was playful but the both knew the dwarf’s temper could be easily ignited.
The youth nodded and smiled a smug weasely smile. “What I wanted to ask you gold hugger, is that a beard or a rat’s nest hanging from your face?”
Telban said quietly to Scob in Elvin. “I think the lad is looking for a fight.”
“I prefer to think of it as a lesson in manners.” Galpo said replying in Elvin. “Besides Bear warned me this one likes to try things like this.”
“Did you hear me jewel kisser or are you so dense as to have to ask your friends if that was an insult or not?”
Galpo stood at this point after throwing his knife into the ground so it stuck near Scob. “Well it seems you need a lesson in manners young man.” Galpo said dropping his battle-axe into Scob’s waiting outreached hand.
The fight was over before it really began. Galpo not only was much stronger than the young man, but thanks to years of training he was quicker and more agile to.
At the end of it Galpo was down on one knee with the other foot on the man’s throaght and he had the young man’s hand and arm twisted in such a way as to cause a great deal of pain if twisted any further. “Lesson one.” The dwarf began. “The using of terms such as Gem Polisher and Gold Hugger, well those are nasty terms and should not be used by in polite company.” Galpo paused and looked at the other men in the area who nodded their heads. “An exception to this rule occurred last night when Bear used some of those terms. Well he and I have faced the enemy together and he and I hold each other in high regard and respect each other as warriors. Much can be overlooked when a Trial of Fire is shared.
“Do you comprehend young man? And Galpo’s foot moved slightly to let some air into the man so he could speak.
“Yes Master Dwarf.”
“Do we need Lesson number 2?”
“No Master Dwarf.”
Galpo let his foot entirely off the man’s throat now. And with a quick flip of his wrist released the man and then lifted him up with a quick jerk so he was now towering over the Dwarf.
“You can call me Ranger Galpo that is also acceptable.”
The only reply from the man was a nod as he rubbed his arm.
The day passed pleasantly after that. The sun was warm, the Rangers and their charges staked out comfortable places and dozed while waiting. After a while they heard the steady hoof beats of a single walking horse coming down the mountain from the pass. By the time the rider came into view the Rangers were mounted and ready to move out.
“Bear I take it all went well with the meeting?”
“Right as rain. The lady gave me the original bill of sale and your comrade gave me a letter to take to the closest Deputy to reassure him.” Bear said handing piece of paper over to Telban.
He read it as it was written in the Halflings language. “All seems to be in order.” Telban said handing it back to Bear. “Okay, I guess that settles it, you and your men can go. Sorry for the misunderstanding.” He said extending his hand toward the big man.
“No harm done and it added some excitement.” Bear said shaking each of the Ranger’s hands in turn, ending with Galpo. “Well you old dirt digger, I’ll see you down the road.” Bear said grasping the dwarf’s hands with both of his own. The dwarf wrapped both hands around the big man’s hands and said. “May all your tunnels run straight and true.”
The big man nodded and with a simple nod to his men they left at a trot.
The Rangers watched them go for a few minutes then turned their own horses back towards the mountain pass. Arriving back at the previous campsite they found Encoraan sitting down talking to a member of the Order of Ro.
Scob and the others dismounted and tied their horses nearby. By the time this was done Encoraan and the lady had rose and were walking towards them. “Mistress Kdriw may I present my team mates Scob, Galpo and Telban.
Scob’s first impression of her was her eyes, they the most beautiful color of blue.
He caught site of the other Healer and surprised himself when he asked without consciously thinking about it. “Rel is that you?”