There wasn’t anyone visible at the derelict pig farm when Jandle arrived, but it wouldn’t be long until the constabulary showed up. With his crossbow in his hands the kobold warily entered the gate. The two big hounds got up from their slumber and began to growl as they approached the squire. Jandle shouldered the crossbow and took careful aim. At this range he wasn’t likely to miss but he wanted to make the shot count. Squeezing the trigger, the crossbow hummed and one of the hounds let out a loud yelp before falling down on its side. The second dog barked loudly and sprang forward towards Jandle.
The squire didn’t have time to reload, so he set down the crossbow and drew his short sword. He managed to get his buckler on and held it up against the charging canine as he braced for the impact of the much larger animal. The hound hit him like a runaway wagon full of bricks and it was everything Jandle could do to keep his footing. Once again, his buckler took the brunt of the force and Jandle’s left arm all but screamed with pain. The ferocity of the attack took the kobold by surprise. This critter was going to put up more of a fight than the last dwarf did, and he had been armed with a hammer. Trying to fend the dog off, Jandle kept moving to the right in a circle waiting for the dog to back off enough that he could ready a stab for its next attack. The dog was too quick though and it took several moments of back and forth before Jandle had a good opening. Thrusting the short sword out he caught the animal right in the mouth and the blade drove straight up and into the dog’s skull. There wasn’t even a whimper as the growling ceased immediately. Pulling the blade out Jandle had to wrench the blade free from the dog’s skull. He checked on the first dog and found it dead. Jandle pulled out his bolt and reloaded his crossbow. This was shaping up to be his lucky bolt.
Trying the front door of the little house Jandle discovered that it was unlocked. Inside the door he found a pile of luggage. The dwarves must have planned on leaving this area after their attack on Hilde. That meant that the one that got away had to come back here or else abandon whatever belongings he had prepared to travel with. Jandle found this oddly encouraging. He left the front door open and with his dagger sliced open some of the bundles. All he found were clothes and miscellaneous goods. Nothing of value was evident anywhere in the house so it was Jandle’s bet that they intended to well and truly up and leave.
Jandle closed the front door from the outside and headed out. Closing the gate behind him, he jogged across the street and found a barrel to hide behind. It was very late at night and only the moon and stars provided any light out here. Jandle could hear a wagon approaching before he could see it. It was a constabulary wagon, and it pulled up in front of the wrecked farm. Constables piled off and rushed into the property, and Jandle could hear them talking as they discovered the two dead dogs in the front yard. Jandle wasn’t watching them, though. He was more concerned with who might be coming from the other direction.
As the constables moved methodically into the house itself and set up lanterns to further their investigation, Jandle noticed the approaching dwarf. He was well down the street and had seen the commotion in the farmhouse. Like a shadow he had turned and run down a side road to the south. Jandle broke from his cover and with his crossbow in his hand he started after the dwarf. There was no way that a kobold even as well-trained as Jandle was going to keep the kind of pace that a dwarf’s stamina could provide. Dwarves could run literally all night and be little more than moderately tired. But Jandle was determined to at least get close enough to get a shot in and with good aim and the will of God that might just slow the bugger down.
The dwarf jogged along the road until it began to run up the foothills south of the city. Jandle closed the distance by a fair measure when the dwarf slowed to a stroll. He had his axe up on his shoulder and seemed to be in no particular hurry anymore. He most likely thought that he was out of trouble for the time being. Jandle knew that it was only fifteen miles or less to the Romillian border as the crow flew. If he walked all night the dwarf could be in safe haven by mid-morning. Sure, it was a daunting climb up into the alps, but if he didn’t care where he came out or what high mountain pass he used to cross over by it wasn’t too much of a task at all. Jandle kept jogging until he was close enough to almost make out the sound of the dwarf’s armor clanking. Shouldering the crossbow, Jandle took careful aim and squeezed the trigger.
Another melodic twang and the bolt shot into the darkness. Jandle was rewarded with an agonized roar from the dwarf, who spun around to see who had dared to attack him. Hoping that the shot would have been more crippling than it was, Jandle muttered to himself, “Oh, crap.” He reloaded his crossbow and kept an eye on the dwarf. To the kobold’s dismay, the dwarf was charging towards him, his axe in front of him in both hands, and he looked ready to swing the little squire in two.
Jandle took aim again, and with the dwarf swiftly closing the gap between them there wasn’t the slightest room for error. This shot wasn’t likely to kill his target either if the last one was any indication, but perhaps the squire could slow his angry butt down. Jandle squeezed the trigger and the bolt flew out and hit the dwarf squarely in the left kneecap. The dwarf bellowed in pain and careened to the left as his leg ceased to function as required. He fell on to his injured knee and bellowed again, momentarily losing his grasp on the axe as he foundered in the dirt road.
Jandle began reloading the crossbow. He wasn’t in as much of a hurry this time and brought the weapon up to his shoulder. He could have gotten closer but honestly this was close enough, thank you very much. He felt the adrenaline in his body beginning to ebb as his opponent seemed to be crippled for the time being. Jandle squeezed the trigger and the string twanged with lovely notes. The bolt hit the dwarf square in the chest even though the dwarf had tried to swat it away with his gauntleted right hand. He roared anew and staggered to his feet. With both hands on the axe again, he began to make his way at a half run, half stagger towards the kobold. Jandle weighed his options and set down the crossbow. He wouldn’t have time to reload before the dwarf got to him and he couldn’t retreat and reload at the same time. He secured his long-suffering buckler and drew his short sword.
The dwarf came down on the kobold with the rage of a thousand angry hornets. The fury that the dwarf displayed was terrifying even to the battle-hardened kobold. The dwarf must have been in considerable pain as evidenced by the way he was swinging his axe almost wildly. Jandle had to dance out of the way of the dwarf’s first swing, and the second swing backwards almost caught him as he tried to counterattack. There was no way of easily getting into the dwarf’s personal space without being cleaved in two.
With uncommon fury the dwarf swung a third time at Jandle, this time catching his buckler and cutting through it like a hot knife through warm butter. The metal tore like paper and Jandle was left without any useful blocking material at all. The squire threw what was left of the buckler into the dwarf’s face and lunged at him before he could make his backswing attack. Jandle tried to drive his short sword into the brute but to no avail, the dwarf was simply too well armored and skilled to be taken off guard so easily. Only by staying right on top of the dwarf, though, was Jandle going to avoid being split in half himself.
The dwarf could tell what the kobold was aiming to accomplish and with his heavy gauntleted right hand he backhanded the squire and sent him flying into the dirt road. Recovering his axe, the dwarf did a powerful overhead swing and Jandle rolled out of the way like a skittering cockroach to avoid the smashing power of the great two-handed axe that drove into the ground like a thunderbolt. The dwarf roared again and swung the axe back over to the right to swing at the kobold. Jandle sprang further to the dwarf’s right side to try and catch the man off balance, and then lunged forward with his short sword again. This time he connected, and the blade went deep into the dwarf’s side. Again, the dwarf backhanded the kobold and sent him flying into the dirt. Jandle felt as though his skull had been nearly sundered and shook his head to try and clear the ringing.
Jandle instinctively leapt backwards and avoided the dwarf’s next overhead swing and he could hear the warrior cursing in Romillian. The dwarf turned and rushed towards Jandle as he swung his axe from the side and Jandle was able to hit the ground and roll right into the dwarf’s feet, causing the enraged fighter to trip and fall into the dirt himself. Jandle couldn’t see straight and all he heard was cursing and those confounded bells. He tried to stab the dwarf in the back but all he got for his trouble was an elbow to the jaw that almost caused him to lose consciousness.
The dwarf must have found his footing again because the next thing Jandle knew the warrior was looming over him, breathing heavily and coughing up blood. The dwarf tightened his grip on the axe and Threw it over his head to bring it down once and for all on this meddlesome reptile. Jandle still couldn’t see very well but he flung himself upwards and stabbed his short sword forward with everything he had. Betwixt the ringing in his ears and the muffled howl of pain from the dwarf Jandle could make out the unmistakable and much dreaded sound of metal on metal as his sword found its target. As horrible as that sound was it was precisely what Jandle needed to hear. The force of the attack and the dwarf’s own overhead swing threw the warrior backwards and off balance. Jandle lost his grip on his sword and the two of them clattered over, the squire on top of the warrior. Jandle lost consciousness as his head kept ringing like the bells of a church on a holy day.
Jandle came to with the sun creeping over the mountains in the east. He was laying in the middle of the dirt road, and as he lifted his head to look around, he found his vision was still blurry and he had the most amazing headache. It was as if he had been drinking nothing but Romillian vodka all night long while engaging in head-butting a stone battlement. To his right was the bleary image of a lump that was vaguely crumpled dwarf in form. To his left was nothing but foggy nothingness. His head hurt so much that Jandle just closed his eyes and crawled over to the dwarf on his hands and knees, his rat-like tail dragging in the dirt.
Feeling around as best he could, Jandle located the handle of his short sword sticking in the armor of the dwarf. The kobold tried to dislodge it but to no avail. He was too weak, his left arm had gone almost completely numb, and his legs felt like jellied fish paste. Jandle let himself collapse on the dwarf as he felt with his scaly little hands to find the man’s throat. It wasn’t easy to get his fingers in through the gaps in the dwarf’s platemail but eventually he was able to determine that the man had no pulse. The threat had been vanquished. Jandle laid there on the corpse for a while longer trying to get the strength to move again and passed out.
Awakening again, Jandle found himself completely disoriented. He was completely blind, and it felt as though there was an enormous weight on his chest. He struggled to sit up and felt hands on his shoulders gently pushing him back down.
“There, there, my little friend. Lay back down and relax. You’ve been grievously wounded and need to heal.” the voice was masculine but reassuring, and Jandle allowed himself to relax.
“Where am I? What happened?” he asked, surprised at how weak his own voice sounded.
The voice chuckled softly and replied, “You are in the hospital of the barracks at the 10th Army Headquarters. You were found next to the body of a dwarven warrior up on a road outside of town. Some farmers found you and the rural constables brought you here. Your skull had been badly fractured, and you have bandages all around the top of your head to promote the healing process. You aren’t blind, at least not permanently, but the bandages do cover your eyes. Your left arm was shattered and had to be reset. You also have some broken ribs and other minor injuries, but you will recover just fine.”
Jandle swallowed and cleared his throat. “Did they get my sword out of him? I’d like that back.”
There was laughter in response to this, and Jandle realized that there was more than just the one person nearby. The familiar voice of Sergeant Thigpen said in between laughs, “Yes, we have your sword. It wasn’t easy to get out of him, either. That was some battle by what we could tell.”
“Is Hilde safe?” Jandle asked.
Thigpen chuckled. “Yes, she is just fine. She doesn’t even know anything about this all yet. She is still at her family’s estate in Vorkelvale. The garrison at Vorkelburg assures me they will contact us when she leaves and heads this direction.”
Jandle smiled, and rubbed his bandage covered head with his right hand. “Then that’s all good. Were any of my bolts salvageable?”
More laughter from those in the room. Thigpen replied, “Yes, they are all accounted for too. Now you rest and let them take care of you. I’ll check back in the morning.”
Jandle laid there as the sergeant talked with whoever was in charge here and then he was left alone. He felt his left arm with his right hand and uttered a small incantation. The spellcraft flowed over his injured arm with a soothing warmth, and he could begin to feel the nerves in his arm being awakened. The pain was intense but that was the price of healing. Next, he placed his right hand back on his head and uttered the incantation again. It felt as though his skull was immersed in warm water and his headache began to recede rapidly.
“A few more days of this and I ought to be back up to speed.” Jandle muttered to himself. “I hope Hilde can take it from here because this is ridiculous.”