A Back Door

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Swiftly on the big elf’s heels Salina and Kata followed, carefully putting their booted feet in the exact places that Kelly did.  The big elf’s stride, usually almost double theirs, was shortened by the massive warrior to accommodate for their smaller statures.  And so they quickly were able to adjust to the placing of their feet to make good time across the loose shingle.

It was as Longspear passed by the fifth landmark, leaving only four more before the end of the path, that she caught sight of some movement down the hill.  Pausing slightly, she narrowed her eyes to squint through the falling rain.

The movement remained vague for a long moment, letting Kelly catch up to her.  At the questioning look on his face, she pointed towards what looked like several big forms moving carefully through the rain.  Knowing that the hiss of the rain falling on the shingle all around them all but muted their voices, he spoke.

“A patrol, you think?”

Longspear shook her head.

“They never swing a patrol this deep behind the garrison.  It’s most likely miners returning to the shafts after a break,” she reassured the big elf.

Nodding in acceptance of her explanation, Kelly turned to pass the information on to Salina and Kata, who were stepping up behind them, looks of curiosity on their faces.  But it was as Salina drew to a halt behind Kelly that Kata abruptly stumbled.

The effect was instantaneous; as the Kanid princess’s boot toe dug into the shingle, the rain-soaked stuff immediately collapsed, dropping away from the path in a miniature avalanche.  And that avalanche took the surprised Kanid with it.

“No!” Salina cried out, desperately lunging for Kata’s outstretched hand.  Only to find the shingle falling apart beneath her feet as well.  Together the two fell onto the rapidly sliding gravel and swiftly tumbled out of sight into the murk.  Straight towards the indistinct shapes moving near the bottom of the hill.  It didn’t take long before there were first shouts of surprise then of anger, which rose up to an anxious Longspear and a chagrined Kelly.

“We have to go after them!” Longspear hissed tightly, making to lunge down the hill after their missing comrades.  But she didn’t even take a step before Kelly’s big hand shot out and captured her by the arm with a tight grip.

“No,” he barked.  “If we go down there, we risk getting captured just like them.  We need to press on and make it into the city before the alarm is raised.”

“But Salina ...”

“We cannot help them, Longspear.  We must stay focused on our objective.  We must stay focused on the mission!”

After what seemed like an eternity spent in furious internal debate, Longspear finally nodded.  Kelly was right.  They had to keep going or Salina and Kata both were as good as dead!  She just hoped that King Fizel was as receptive as the Directors had been.  At least she had a relatively good command of the Ryon dialect so communication wouldn’t be a problem.  It was just the way the Ryon may react to a human and an elf deep in their lands that might be an issue.

It was getting dark before the two managed to make their way to a hiding spot before one of the secondary gates into L’nad.  Like many other Fisted cites, a great and heavy wall surrounded the capital.  But the wealth of the Golden Kingdom had allowed L’nad’s builders to add often fanciful decorations to the wall, sculptures and paintings, making the vast structure somehow seem somewhat less imposing.  However, where the wall may have been more inviting, the low bulks of several fortresses guarding the various gated entries into L’nad were not.  In fact the heavy fortifications shouted ‘Go away!’ to any unlucky enough to see them.

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