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         Copyright © Randy Bowers. All rights reserved.


Adventures of Xavier: Part IV - "The Dwarves"

In the morning, Gamiliel returns with a light breakfast for his brother as well as a fine, if not battered, breastplate to replace the one that he gave up the night before. The elder brother tells Xavier that Severwind and he haven't had the time to discuss the means of communication or transportation that had been spoken of previously. After a private farewell and the agreement that Xavier will return in one week's time, the Wayward Priest blinks to the site where he left the rangers on loan from Garben.
    Upon arrival, Xavier surveys the work that has been completed in his absence. The barracks and stores have been finished and now, the rangers have set about conducting patrols of the surrounding countryside. Arrimar and Kinnowyer have been out since dawn on a patrol. They are expected back later in the day.
    After a short debriefing, Xavier learns that there have been distant sightings of giants on the horizons. Also, a camp has been spotted a ways to the south and no one can tell who (or what) is in it. Xavier suggests that it may be a camp of giants due to the size of the cookfires. He tells the rangers to take all that can be carried of the stores and scatter into the forest. They are to meet at dawn ten miles to the north. "Take no unnecessary actions. I will return here at dawn and will have someone meet me here to guide me to the rest of you." Everyone nods in acceptance.
    Xavier starts off through the light undergrowth towards the mysterious camp. After about five hours of hiking through the terrain, he finds himself near enough to the campsite to hear what is being said. The shroud of night had fallen and affords him a bit of protection from scouts' eyes. The roar of the enormous fires also helps mask the noise of his plate-and-mail armor. The forms around the tents and fires are larger than men or even orcs. He creeps closer, dragging himself on his belly, to get a better vantage of what's going on. When he finally gets near enough to see better, he isn't happy with the results. In front of him, in the camp, are seven trolls and what would appear to be hobgoblins; the latter in greater numbers. A total of about thirty creatures in all.
    "...the elves have caught on to our camp," a goblin-like creature mumbles over a leg...a leg...of deer.
    "Yes, but they don't seem to think that we have been spying on them as well. Hehe, foolish," another creature laughs in his gutteral tongue.
    It's times like these that I am glad that I have invested so wisely in my little magical bobbles. What would I ever do without a trinket that lets me understand and speak any given language. Luck.
    "We'll have to discuss it with the giant as to what he wants us to do `bout the elves. It's been such a long time since I had any good meat. That last camp of elves we came into was good."
    "Yeah, but the little ones were too tender. I like something that gives a good fight before I kill it. It's more sporting, you know," the eating goblinoid says wiping a greasy hand across his mouth.
    They'll die a thousand deaths for everyone of the innocents that they have killed or...ate. I swear it.
    Xavier fights down the urge to rush in and kill these two...these two...whatever. He can't think of a suitable name for them and crawls away from the camp. Finding a good pile of leaves, he buries himself beneath them and waits in a half-sleep until dawn. At first light, he teleports to the redoubt where his ranger is to meet him.
    Out of the forest comes a lone elf with the signs of fatigue and fear on his face. Xavier motions for silence as they travel through the trees. It seems like hours go by until they finally meet up with the rest of the party. Kinnowyer and Arrimar meet him with a sigh. "Glad to see you made it back in one piece, Xavier," Arrimar gives him a light slap on the back.
    "Was there that much doubt that I would make it back," Xavier chuckles a bit with a half-serious tone.
    "I'm glad to see that my source of fabulous stories is in one piece. I couldn't really bring myself to worry for you, though," Kinnowyer smiles and laughs as she can't hold in the mirth of her own jest.
    I'm glad to see you still alive, my lady. If anything had happened to you...
    Quickly, Xavier relates the story of what he heard the night before to the rest of the group. A few of the younger lads empty their stomachs at the thought of elves being eaten. The rest just seem to be more afraid and a little more angry. Anger is a good thing to have when fear is the only alterative, Xavier thinks to himself.
    "I want two of the best runners to head into the druid's charge and ask his advice and help in the matter. The rest of you, I want to bundle the stores and let's start hot-footing it to the east. I have friends there that might help," Xavier lies. He knows of the stone giants that live to the east, but as to whether or not they'll help, he can't say.
    As the group travels, they can hear the sounds of pursuit not long after. Some of the less experienced suggest that they all stand and fight, but are soon told in no uncertain terms the error of their ways. Hours pass and finally, the runners that Xavier sent off return, gasping for breath. "The Druid says that he can't help us, but that we are headed in the right direction. Help should be in the mountain," between breaths.
    Xavier breathes a quick sigh of relief that his instincts had been right about the choice to head east. His luck might have changed for the better.
    Five days go by with little time to sleep or rest before they begin the assent into the mountains. Few of the rangers have given voice to any complaints they might have. Kinnowyer keeps mentioning how exciting it all is and how it will make such a great story. Arrimar looks more and more grave as he wonders when the trolls will descend on them. They have traveled for half of the day when they hear the sounds of combat coming from up the pass they are in.
    "Arrimar, you keep the rest of the group gathered back here. Follow, but at a cautious walk. Weapons at the ready and don't forget to use the bows."
    Xavier runs forward to get a better look of what his party is about to run into. As he peers over the crest of a hill, he sees three dwarves facing off against a towering giant. Thinking of his group, the young prince decides to help the stunty little dwarves in order to, possibly, garner a bit of favor from the tenacious little men.
    "For the glory of the Rebirth," Xavier shouts as he rushes into battle with his gleaming silver sword drawn. After a moment of thought he adds, "I'm on your side, dwarves!"
    The battle is joined as Xavier hacks and hews at the monstrous man in front of him. To his left, the hammer of the mighty giant slams down on one of the dwarves smashing him into the rocky ground. His companions' vigor is renewed with the anger and sorrow of the murder, and Xavier finds that his is restored as well. His sword raises and slices cleanly through the hamstring of the giant. As the towering figure falls, he lands a heavy blow to Xavier's chest knocking the prince back a bit.
    Before Xavier can regain his balance, the other two warriors fall on the giant like wolves on fresh meat. Slicing and hacking away at the huge figure. When they have sated themselves--and been thoroughly coated in blood--one asks, "Who be you and what do you want with us, eh?"
    "I saw you in need and thought that I would offer my assistance," Xavier says as he wipes his blade clean with a kerchief at his belt.
    "Why would we need help? There was only one of 'em left and he was close. You elves worry too much." The ruddy-complexioned dwarf chuckles elbowing his partner playfully in the ribs.
    "I am Xavier La-Kithsoon, prince of the ruined nation of Elestinlor."
    "They call me Zurick Ironburs. Why aren't you with the rest of your people?"
    "I left my troupe behind so that no one else would be hurt," Xavier's tone is one lick less than condescending.
    "No the other group. There's nearly 200 of your kind within the walls of our citadel. You here to lead 'em out or something?"
    Xavier suppresses shock, "I wasn't even aware that there was a group of my people here. My troupe merely was retreating from a group of trolls. I would speak with this gathering you have, if I may?"
    "Ah, if it helps get 'em outta my hair, I am all for it." The squat warrior leads Xavier through the rugged terrain of the mountains and slowly begins to ascend deeper into the rocky environ. For nearly an hour they climb the loose stones of the area and finally, Xavier huffing and panting, round a bend to see a massive, sheer wall of stone looming above them.
    "Ah, 'tis good to be home," Zurick smiles and stalks up to the cliff face, striking it a savage blow with his mighty hammer. From above, Xavier can hear calls down to him and his diminutive companion as to who wishes to enter. Zurick answers and the seamless wall of stone splits down the center to show a huge gate. "Impressive, eh? We dwarves always was better at working the stone than you elvsies ever was," Ironspur flashes a grin that seems to be missing a few teeth and stumps through the gate.
    Xavier is stunned by the massive amounts of tents and other items of rugged living scattered around the enormous courtyard of the citadel. When he realizes that it is his people that are living in such squalor, he fights back tears of remorse at having left them for so long unattended. I'll make it up to you all. You'll all live like kings and queens and I shall redeem myself in the eyes of my ancestors for what the brothers La-Kithsoon have ignored...
    "Well, here are the rest of your elvsies, Xavier. I hope that you can make something of them and get them to leave my home. For their own good, of course," Zurick smiles weakly and attempts to cover his near-open rudeness.
    "I will get my people out of here as soon as it is possible without the loss of too many lives. I would hate to inconvenience you," Xavier manages sweetly, remembering that many poisons are sweet before they kill.
    "I can understand. After all, it's not everyday that an entire nation turns tail and runs."
    Xavier suppresses all the pent-up rage that has been screaming to be let out, but only barely. "I would feel a good deal better if you refrained from calling cowards those who had to face the Black Scourge head-on instead of hiding in the rocks."
    "We did not hide, we survived. Bah, 'tis of no matter to me what you elvsies run from," throwing up his hands, Zurick stalks off into the depths of the city.
    Taking a moment to collect himself, Xavier re-surveys the camp before him. As he enters into the tent-village, he learns of a council that has been set up to help guide the refugees. After asking directions from a few haggard-looking subjects, Xavier finds himself at the outside of a circle of impoverished looking children who listen to an even more haggard looking elder. His white hair is in a shambles and the alabaster wisps of hair that could be called his eyebrows droop to his cheeks.
    The Wayward Priest listens through to the end of his story about the history of Elestinlor and motions for him to talk. The old man picks his way deftly across the stones and plants himself in front of Xavier. "What can I do for you, my boy? I do so hope that you enjoyed the lesson today. Funny, I haven't seen you around before. Did you just get in from outside?" The man seems full of questions and speaks with a oppressed tone that may have once been proud.
    "You are one of the council members here correct?" Yutherion nods. "I would speak with you in private if I may," Xavier reminds himself that he must remain humble and not demand too much from these people as yet.
    "Let's take a walk, my boy," Yutherion looks over to see what the response from Xavier is, if any, to being referred to as such. Not seeing any reaction, the man half-shrugs and continues walking. "Now, what is your name, or are you going to keep an old man guessing?"
    "I am Xavier La-Kithsoon and I am here to deliver you all from living within these walls of the dwarves," with all the puffed up honor and majesty he can muster in tattered clothes and bandages.
    "Oh, and I am the great King Gamiliel, but seriously, who are you?"
    "I am who I say I am and no other. I am here to help and need your assistance in doing so. I need the help of the entire council you have here."
    Yutherion looks Xavier up and down, weighing him, and says, "I would know Lord Gamiliel if I saw him. I met him once. His brother, if that's who you are, was always off on diplomatic expeditions and never around to be met."
    "So, if I can bring Gamiliel to you, you will then believe what I have just told you? How does three days' time sound?"
    "If you can do as you say, we will see when it happens. If you can bring Lord Gamiliel, boy, and he says who you are and you who he is, then we will talk of more serious matters," an air of nobility surrounds Yutherion for a moment and then disappears.
    "Would you believe if you saw this?" Xavier holds out his signet ring to be inspected and grins inwardly thinking that this must be proof.
    "Possibly real, possibly a good facsimile. We'll see in a few days' time. I have other matters to attend to before this wondrous meeting of our vanished nobility," so saying, Yutherion walks off...with Xavier's signet ring!
    Xavier runs to catch the spry, old man and says, "Hey, you seem to have forgotten that you carry my signet," holding out a hand to retrieve the ring.
    "So I do." He tosses the ring into the air and leaves as Xavier scrambles to catch it.
    "That seems to have gone well," a mocking yet beautiful voice says from behind the young prince. He turns to see before the visage of the lady Kinnowyer smiling mischievously up at him.
    "You like to travel don't you? Yes? Good. Let's have us a trip shall we?" Xavier looks down at her and flashes a boyish grin.
    "I do, but we must let Arrimar know and how will we get...oh, I remember." The bard's eyes flash with recollection and joy.
    "Let's get going then. You're about to meet my brother." Xavier and Kinnowyer spend a bit of time finding Arrimar and the group of rangers and let the grizzled old ranger know when they will return. "Keep the men clean, well cut and under control. They shall be an honor guard." Arrimar nods and Bids them safe journey.
    The two young elves teleport to the Grip of Stone, somewhere outside of the forests of Greentree. The night has fallen and Xavier realizes that it has been a long day for him and that there will probably be many more ahead of him. The two adventurers roll out their bedrolls and tell stories of adventure to one another until they fall asleep, quite near one another.