And here’s part 10 – go to Part 1 for the start of the story.
Drew slapped the dwarf on the shoulder. “Just move. We can sort this out later. We need to tidy up. Misunderstanding wasn’t it?”
The dwarf glared at him. He held a beer towel to his head trying to staunch the blood from a nasty looking head wound. His fellows has already exited the bar-room and were milling around in the courtyard—halflings rushed around with trays of ale cups to keep them distracted. But there were a few stubborn remainers, who simply didn’t know when to call a fight over.
“We were the aggrieved party,” muttered the dwarf. “Things need to be put right.”
Drew shrugged. “Get some air, have a pint and we’ll all talk in a minute or two once we’ve had a chance to clear up inside. We were all attacked—by those dog things and their naturist human friends.” Drew shook his head. A weird sight that had been. He shuddered to think what was going on upstairs—that’s where the intruders had gone, leaving a trail of carnage after themselves. Something to do with that nobleman and his retinue—had to be. But he’d not dared go up to see what had happened. Perhaps best to see what came out first?
The dwarf shrugged and limped out into to the courtyard. “We dwarves bear a grudge a long time—don’t you forget that—we’ll have our reckoning.”
Drew sighed. He knew that only too well. With the tourist appeal of the Orkranian mountains only stuttering into life, he was reliant on the surly custom of the dwarf miners. But every interaction with them seemed to lead to some argument or other. And Gundrun, their de facto leader, was the worst.
He looked round at the tap-room. It was a mess. There’d been fights in here before—mostly to do with dwarves. But never before had every item of furniture been smashed or shattered—some of it could be repaired, but most of it was only good for firewood. There would be a reckoning all right. And he knew just who was going to pay. He glanced out of the door at the crowd of bruised and battered dwarf miners. They had gold after all didn’t they. He waited a moment watching. Egbert and Lily both returned with their empty trays. Good. It was safe.
Drew slammed the door of the inn shut. Remarkably it had survived too much damage. It was a fine strong door. Reinforced with iron. Drew didn’t mind that it drew the attention of the dwarves.
“Hey! What’s going on?” shouted the stubborn one with a beer towel wrapped around his head.
Drew smiled and shrugged. “Drink your beer,” he shouted through the window. Most of them were, grumbling together in small groups—comparing bruises and cuts and stories of the fight. Most of them ignored the fact that a lot of the fighting had been dwarf on dwarf. Why let the truth get in the way of a good boast after all.
Drew beckoned Lily over. “Get more ale ready—should keep them calm a bit longer.”
“Yes, Drew,” she said. “I’ll get some barrels out of the cellar. But do you have the key?”
Drew glanced at the stairs. He’d left the key upstairs that morning. He didn’t fancy going up there at the moment, until he knew what was coming down. “Let’s see how it goes—we have some bottles of spirits and wine in the bar—they can have that—might knock them all out quicker!”
“Why are they drawing their weapons again?” quailed Lily. She pointed at the courtyard through the window. Drew looked. The dwarves were grasping axe and hammer handles and drawing swords in readiness for something. Two of them had climbed onto the narrow wooden walkway above the gate. They were moving in a weird way, Drew noticed as they looked over the wall, almost as if they were dancing. And then one of them stopped suddenly and fell backwards into the yard with a thud—an arrow was embedded in his shoulder. They had been trying to dodge arrows. But who? How?
Drew hesitated. Should he open the inn door and find out what was going on out there. Was it a ruse. The other dwarf on the walkway above the gate was crouched down—and peering over the wall—he was shouting at the other dwarves in the yard. To his disbelief, Drew saw that the dwarves were opening the gate—was that really such a good idea—let in whoever was shooting at you, so they could shoot at you some more?
In poured a group of dwarven miners—many holding shields to protect their heads and backs as they scurried inside—the shields were prickled with black-feathered arrows. They all rushed in and the gates were shut hurriedly again. Drew stood on a broken table to get a better view and could see that there were others outside the gate—not dwarves but armed humanoids with green skin and large teeth—orcs! And goblins Drew noticed—riding wolves—they were the ones shooting the arrows. He grabbed his blunderbuss and the bag of shot and powder, and rushed for the door.
Gundrun was standing before him when he came out into the courtyard. He wiped some black blood off his axe head as he looked up at Drew.
“What the hell are you doing now, Gundrun—your lot have caused enough damage to my establishment and now you bring a horde of goblins and orcs to finish the job?”
Gundrun spat an answer. “How dare you—we’ll save your runty hide for you and you should be grateful—or should we open the gate again and let the greenskin scum in—tell them you’ve invited them to a high tea of roast halfing?”
A black-fletched arrow thudded into the door frame above Drew’s head. The heat of his blood ran suddenly cold. He shook his head. He hated to do this, but he’d best make peace with the cantankerous old dwarf.
“No. No, of course not. It’s just been a hard day. Come, let’s talk. How many are out there? Where did they come from? You’ve stirred up a right hornet’s nest.”
“Us?” Gundrun huffed. “They came out of the trees—from the mountain. No idea what they want. Not supposed to be any orcs much in this hills anymore—they all went to ground. But I fancy this is different—must be the start of a full invasion, by my reckoning.”
Drew shook his head. “And we’re in the way. What can we do?”
Gundrun looked at the walls of the courtyard—they were high—over ten foot and built of solid wood logs, but there was no walkway or battlement that they could guard. “Not much we can do, but wait for them to try to get over the wall and then hack ‘em down as they come. That tower over the gate is too dangerous—there’s no cover, although it’s good for seeing what’s going on. We have some crossbows and you must have some short bows? Never known a clan of Halfling to be without half a dozen bows at least. We can put some of my lads and some of your keen-eyed youngsters upstairs to fire back at the gobboes.
Drew cast an apprehensive look at the first floor windows of the inn. “I’m not sure about that. There’s been some trouble up there.”
“Trouble?” asked Gundrun.
“Same trouble that caused the bar-room brawl—well some of it went upstairs—those dogs, naked men and women—something to do with one of my guests I think. I heard some fighting going on up there. Not sure if it’s safe.”
“Hmm, and I thought it was because you’d refused some of my hard-workings boys a drink. We need to go and take a look up there though—we need to see what’s going on.”
There was a shatter of glass in the window above the inn’s main door. A second later the figure of the aristocrat fell through, a bright, shining sword falling to the ground under him. He was clutching at the window sill. Drew and Gundrun heard shouting and the man let go and dropped to the floor only a few feet below. He stumbled away looking about him in a dazed way. He saw the sword and picked it up hurriedly. There was the barking of a dog and growling and then another man tumbled out of the window and crashed to the ground. Drew recognized him as one of the aristocrat’s men. He clutched a sword and was bleeding from a wound in his leg.
There was a roar from the gate—and Drew turned to see two vicious looking orcs clamber over the top and jump to the ground inside the inn’s courtyard. Each wielded a wicked curved sword in one hand and a dagger in the other.
“For Durin!” came the war-cry of the dwarf miners and a line of axe and hammer armed dwarves charged at the orcs. More were coming over the wall and the bolts of crossbows flew to knock them back.
There was a screech in the sky above, and Drew looked up. A huge winged beast circled above them. There was a rider on its back. He grabbed Gundrun’s arm. “They’re coming at us from all sides.”
“Get your lads upstairs now!”
“But what’s still up there?”
As they spoke, the large Doberman and a naked man burst out of the tavern door. The dog looked around the courtyard and stood pawing the ground and growling when it spotted the aristocrat and his man.
“I’m guessing it might be safe now,” said Gundrun. “Harald, Oglin, gather any of the boys with crossbows and get upstairs—make more arrowslits in the walls if you have to.”
“My walls!” exclaimed Drew. “No, you’re right,” he said as Gundrun’s brows beetled, “Tolly, Lily and Sam, get your boys and go with the dwarves upstairs—shoot anything with a greenskin!”