“What was all that about?” Grom was clustered close to Chlora, and he was awkwardly holding a finely crafted scimitar with both of his hands wrapped firmly around its hilt.
“I’m not sure. I only heard a little bit of what was said, but the men talking to my Pap mentioned something about bandits that are-”
“Hush now, dear,” Meran insisted with irrefutable seriousness, “you hear me? Speak no more of it, or you’ll just be welcoming needless fears. Everything’s fine; your father will be back soon enough, and he’ll give us a full report. Until then, let’s sit tight and gather around the forge while it’s still warm.”
They waited . . . they waited a very long time. Through the thin insolation of their surroundings they listened to the dismal dinging and donging that poured over the rooftops of Snowberry, safely hidden away in the backroom of Hedrum’s shop. Every now and then Chlora would venture to say something to Grom, but a snippy “Sh!” from her mother was sufficient enough to end all attempts at conversation. With shared reticence and mounting anticipation, all they could do was stare at the forge and watch the embers eventually dwindle away.
Then a loud crash from inside the storefront caught Maren’s attention, and whatever daydream that was luring her into a deeper slumber vanished. She curiously craned her head, then flinched outright when another round of rowdy banging shook the walls. It sounded like someone was desperately searching for something in the shop.
“H-H-Hedrum,” Meran hazarded weakly, “is that you?” She was speaking so quietly that a mouse with a hearing aid would have trouble understanding her.
The clatter continued.
“Hedrum?” she said more audibly.
It stopped. Now, instead of noisiness, there was nothingness. Whoever it was either came into the store with a purpose in mind, found what they were looking for and have since then departed, or the dwarf maiden spooked them off before they could plunder any more. Whatever had happened, the stillness in the storefront not only loitered about in the atmosphere, it lingered there, (like some unwanted guest that was never invited to your party but decides to show up anyways, then won’t leave).
Meran glanced uncertainly over at Grom and Chlora. Her amber eyes issued silent but comprehendible commands, then they shifted back to the door. She nervously reached for the handle, preparing to investigate the source of the crashes, when suddenly it burst open from the other side, slamming heavily against the wall. They all shrieked as their focus fell upon a ghastly silhouette.