Chapter Eight

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"Nightfall watch!" The cry came from above their heads. They had just made it across the drawbridge when the great creaky chain winch began hoisting the bridge and lowering the portcullis. "No more cross bridge dealings. No more wayfarers, travelers, players, peddlers, vagrants, nomads or soldiers of fortune. No more wandering this night!"

The edict was given and the thick oak doors inside the walls were slammed shut and a sturdy beam thrown in place. A keyed padlock the size of a man's head was locked with an oversized black metal key. Meruself studied the barrier with an apprehensive consideration. Hopefully they didn't find it necessary to flee. The only way over the wall would be to fly; and unless Meruself or Wolf sprouted wings that would be impossible.

Unease prickled along Meruself's spine. She bent down and picked up Wolf who was so tiny now that Meruself could easily hold the little body in one hand.

Meruself stifled a laugh. "You are so tiny now you're a pup. Be careful or you'll disappear in a teeny puff of fur."

Wolf made a sound that was somewhere in the vicinity of a growl, mewl and a squeak. The big bad wolf had become the sweetest puppy ever and was so small Meruself wondered if she would fit in a teacup.

"Oh my Norns, you are so cute I can barely stand it," Meruself said, unable to suppress the laughter that was bubbling up inside her. "No one will ever suspect how dangerous you are."

"The ruse is necessary. I'm glad you think it's funny." Wolf's tone was curt but Meruself could sense the underlying mirth.

"State your business!" A gruff voice demanded from the darkness just before a hastily lit torch was thrust in front of her face. Meruself stepped backwards quickly, wanting to save her eyebrows, lashes and her miniature direwolf's fur. The now Little Wolf let out a tiny growl.

"I have business with Helga and Bjorgen at the Apothecary," Meruself answered in a firm voice.

"What business?" The sentry asked, not caring if it was intrusive and not really any of his concern.

"Business of the Apothecary kind," Meruself said, intentionally vague. The man's face went a dangerous shade of purple.

"I do not like your smart mouth, girl. Perhaps a visit to our hospitable dungeons will make it less smart," the burly man threatened. He stood to his full height but he was still a head shorter than her and this seemed to make him even more irate. Meruself knew that this was a mean bully who was always able to frighten those at his mercy into submission. Men like him ruined this world. He stepped closer to her and touched her cloak, rubbing the finely woven material between rough and dirty fingers. "And perhaps I will come visit you in those dungeons and we shall see how smart you are once I leave you."

"Perhaps you shall visit me. And when you leave me there will be less of you. So how smart are you, miscreant? Time to use your smart mouth," Meruself said in a venomous soft whisper, her dagger pressing against the bulky protrusion of his soft belly.

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