CHAPTER THREE: Crossing the Rabbit's Path (3)

He dismounted from the pony, but as soon as Bornen had stepped his good foot out of the leather stirrup and into the hut, a sharp length of steel glinted in the daylight near his nose. He halted hobbling and raised his hands as a gesture of unconditional surrender.

Grom noticed a tall figure wrapped in a dark cloak silently emerge from the shadow infested corners inside, and instinctively shuffled through the doorway to intervene. The axe was effortlessly knocked out of his grasp, and a solid kick to his stomach punted him into a wall. Grom crawled quickly along the littered floor and scrambled for the axe, but a strong scaly boot beat him to it.

“Easy now,” it said in low and hushed tones, “or I’ll stick you good and dead.” The blade was pointed at Bornen again. From under the hood, off-key dwarven syllables were grunted. “Are you worshipers of the Red Star?”

Cold sweat trickled down his brow in massive beads. “N-no,” he hazarded.

“I suppose not, since you’re not wearing the robes. Are you couriers? If so then you can get lost, this is my route. My route and my package, you hear me?” The figure glanced down at Grom and studied him carefully, then it took note of the quarrel poking through Bornen’s foot. The blade relaxed slightly.

“Friends, we’re friends of the elf that lives here,” his rickety voice confessed in rapid stutters.

“And what would your names be, friend?”

He hesitated briefly. How many enemies had he made during his conquest for honor? Not very many, he figured. And he’s been retired for decades. If anyone held a grudge against him, they would have most likely taken it to the grave. Not many mortal beings witness two hundred and twenty-eight years unfurl before them; that much was true in his mind. He concluded that honesty wouldn’t hurt. “Bornen, and that’s my grandson Grom.”

“Bornen? Bornen who?”

“Uh . . . well Stonefeather, I imagine.”

A minute of stillness was required before the figure sheathed its blade. “Are you serious? You’re telling me that I’m standing in front of Bornen Stonefeather right now?”

“That’s right,” Grom proclaimed haughtily, “so if you try and hurt him you’ll be-”

     “Hurt him?” The hood was drawn back, and the hardened face of a human was presented to light. His sandy blonde hair was half-tied behind his head in resemblance to a pony’s tail, and his whiskery moustache curled up into his sideburns, giving him a somewhat unique trademark. A gentle grin stretched the corners of his mouth, which bent his chocolate colored gaze into a squint. He laughed. “I’ve no such intention. Had I known otherwise, I would’ve greeted him as one adventurer to another. In fact,” he added sheepishly, fishing around in his pockets, “I was hoping that maybe . . .” He patted at every garment desperately. “That maybe . . .” Finally he produced a slender quill, a tiny vial of ink, and a weatherworn wad of paper. “I could have your autograph?”

The End

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