Aloranna stood and stabbed her shovel into the ground. She glanced out across the freshly plowed fields and wiped the sweat from her brow. There would be no wheat planted for a while there. The villagers were finishing up the last of the stake traps while her people finished their work on the palisades. Give us another few days and we’ll have the walls in place and the trenches dug, she thought. There was still a lot of work to do. Towers needed to be built and moats needed to be filled with spikes. Get that done and the marauders might think twice about attacking the village. She gave the fields another quick glance and stopped.
At the tree line she saw something move. In a moment the something became a man hurriedly running toward the village. Aloranna grimaced and glanced back toward the palisades.
“Eyes on the field!” She called out.
A stout looking dwarf glanced up, then a pair of her Elven Long-bowmen looked up. A few seconds later the alarm was raising and her people were on the walls, bows in hand and ready for action. She turned back toward the approaching runner, deserting the shovel and picking up her long sword.
“Are you sure you want to be doing that there, lass?” Called out the dwarf.
She glanced back at him and smirked, “Why wouldn’t I want to do this, Salaius?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe because the last time Ye went off on yer own you ended up captured and hanging in a crow’s cage?” He stroked his long braided white beard, “Maybe?”
Aloranna grinned and nodded to him, “Good point, but I think I’ll go anyway.”
“Suit yer self, lass,” He sighed and hefted his huge bi-penis battle axe and disappeared from view.
She rolled her eyes and continued walking nonchalant toward the oncoming runner. A few minutes later the burly Salaius was at her side, whistling off key. They walked along like that for several moments, closing the distance between themselves and the runner. Aloranna noted the placement of the white washed stones used to mark the limits of her archers and stopped there, laying her hand atop the pummel of her sword and watching the runner draw ever closer. Salaius checked his axe, scrapping his thumb appreciatively across the blades.
“Well, he’s not stopping, lass.”
“No, he’s not,” She remarked.
“What do you want to do?”
“I guess we’ll see how much of a fight is left in him by the time he reaches us.” Her eyes narrowed as she got a better look at the runner. She caught the glint of something metallic, then saw the heraldic crest on his surcoat. “Damn it!” She turned and waved her arms at the men on the battlements, “Send water and a horse!”
Salaius scowled, eyeing her peculiarly, “You want to let me in on the secret?”
Aloranna turned and shielded her eyes to make sure she was seeing what she thought she saw. The runner was slowing, his breathing heavy. The surcoat and the heraldry were clear.
“That’s one of Duke Hanar’s men,” She said. “Go get Haran and assemble a squad. If this runner has a message from Aislynn, we might need to move quickly.”
Salaius nodded and gruffed to himself as he trotted back toward the wall. A moment later a rider bearing his long bow and a water skin galloped out of unfinished gate, headed toward her. Aloranna trotted out toward the man as he stopped and bent over, resting his hands on his knees as he drew in long deep breaths. She reached him about the same time as the rider. The man looked up, his elvish ears protruding from his long golden hair.
“My lady Aloranna, I presume,” the man gasped. “Please forgive my rudeness, but it’s been a long run.”
“Worry not, good sir, I’m not offended,” She reached up for the skin of water and pulled the cork, offering it to him. The man nodded his thanks and took a long drink. She waited long enough for him to catch his breath and asked, “What news do you have?”
“Your friends, Aislynn I believe is the girl that was their leader, are going into the fortress a day’s hard ride north of here. They are going to approach by the water there. One of their number, a gnome of some ill repute among them fell off the cliff and was swimming for a cave entrance. They meant to go after him and spy what they could find within the cavern.”
“Yes, my lady, it’s an ancient keep that once protected the northern approach long before the sundering stands there with waterfalls passing through its walls. It now stands nearly two hundred spans above the lake below and is nigh unapproachable save by a narrow pass that follows up through the mountains to the east and is clear in view of their guards.”
“Black stone, crumbling parapets, and looks like some giant kicked it over?” She asked.
Well, the stone is black, and many of the towers were crumbling, but someone looks as though they’ve set to putting it back together," the runner answered and took another sip.
Aloranna cursed and started running back toward the village. She yelled back over her shoulder at the surprised runner and her own rider, “Get this man a fresh horse and provisions, then send him on his way.” She dashed toward the gate, “Salaius, get your butt back here. We’ve got a big problem!”
The rider and the runner exchanged a curious look. The runner grimaced and shook his head, “Is she always like that?”
The rider shrugged, “Only when she’s in a hurry.”
Salaius and Haran came around the corner of the unfinished gate the same time Aloranna came dashing through the opening. She caught both of them by the shoulders and pulled them along, looking for the first shady spot she could find.
“Damn,” She growled.
“What gives?” Salaius bellowed.
“Hang on a minute, I’m going to spill me pint!” Haran howled.
Aloranna found what she was looking for and dragged the struggling dwarves toward a dark shadow of a building.
“No time!” She snapped.
“No time for what?” Haran finally managed to get loose of her grip.
“Hey guys, what’s going on?” A tall, muscular young man asked.
“Come on Ed!” Aloranna continued moving. She spun around, grabbed Haran by the beard and started to pull.
“Hey now, that’s me beard, damn it!”
“No time!” Aloranna repeated. “Got your Axe?”
“Yeah, I got my ax! but let go of the beard!” Haran shouted.
Aloranna let go of Haran’s arm and caught a hold of his arm and pulled him toward the shadow. “Got your sword, Ed?”
Ed smirked and trotted after them, “Yes ma’am.”
“You’re not going to zip me somewhere unpleasant are you?” Haran complained.
“What the hell is going on?” Salaius roared.
Aloranna paused long enough to say, “They’re in the tunnels beneath Fell Guard.”
Salaius’s eyes widened, “BLOODY SHITE WOMAN, WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY THAT FIRST?!?!?”
Aloranna grabbed him by the arm and yanked him into the shadow. The last thing anyone heard as the four of them vanished into thin air was, “NO TIME!!!”