Dennis and Fewla watched him go, but Murt was already walking in the opposite direction.
Now that he was traveling alone and in the open, with neither the Forest of Wrin nor the Cave of Whispers to conceal his movement,
Now that he was traveling alone and in the open, with neither the Forest of Wrin nor the Cave of Whispers to conceal his movement, Goom was a sitting duck which is generally regarded as the most vulnerable type of duck. On a farm outside of Kuurlok, he snuck into a barn under the cover of darkness and stole a sturdy horse.
If he was going to be a sitting duck, at least he'd sit atop a moving target.
Goom adjusted the saddle for his stubby legs, and he rode off toward Neloth's Valley and the promise of Sil-kuru's business. He rode through the night toward Lake Belvira.
His horse's hooves chewed into the dirt and kicked up rocks that clattered in their wake.
Beneath the waxing crescent moon, night animals rustled through the underbrush, glowing eyes appeared then disappeared across the trail before him. Wolves.
He smacked a hefty hand into his steed's rump to force its canter to a gallop. A howl cut through the silence of the night, and soon the pack was upon them.
They bit at the horse's ankles, and Goom struggled to control the beast.
He had grabbed a rusted warhammer from the Vaerkuna's lair, and now he unslung it from his back where it crisscrossed the heartstring lute. He looked down to his right. Then his left.
A powerful wolf, clad in gray, approached with bared teeth. Goom swung his hammer with the drunken disregard of a troll on its name day, but he only caught a wisp of gray hair.
Now, from the right, a night-black juvenile, slim from waning prey, jumped at Goom and latched onto his arm in which held the hammer.
Goom cried out, but he jarred the wolf loose by digging a hand into the beast's throat.
He transferred the warhammer into his left hand and readied himself for another swing, but when he turned to look, he saw that the pack had stopped as if they'd hit an invisible barrier.
He transferred the warhammer into his left hand and readied himself for another swing, but when he turned to look, he saw that the pack had stopped as if they'd hit an invisible barrier. He'd crossed into new territory - for better or for worse.
He rode through the night, and in the morning, he moved off of the trail and tied up his stolen horse. He rested in the growing light of the morning and supped on wild mushrooms and thistle root.
He couldn't rest long, for soon came the sounds of approaching riders. This guy really couldn't catch a break. He snuck off behind a large tree and peered back toward the road.
He hoped that the riders would pass by him, unnoticed. Who was he kidding? As the riders approached, he saw that his situation was even more dire than expected.
They were elven riders and their purple tunics indicated that they were wardens of the land. This explained the wolves' hesitation to pursue him.
He'd had many run-ins with elven wardens in the past, and they were sure to see him for what he was: a thief, a smuggler, and a litany of other pejorative names besides.
If they caught sight of him, they'd be sure to assume the horse was stolen. If they saw the heartstrings for what they were, he might not make it out of the encounter alive.
One of the elves caught sight of the stolen horse, and he called to his companion slow his steed. The elves dismounted and made their way off the trail into the woods.
Their fine leather boots crunched fallen leaves with each step. The first of the two pulled out his crystal walkie-talkie and brushed golden the braid away from his slim face.
"Yeah, uh, dispatch we're about fifty meters off of Datheera's Way in between The Selidium's Grove and Lake Belvira. We've got an abandoned horse. Looks to be a Breton - maybe six or seven years. Saddled."
The second elf grabbed the reins of Goom's stolen mare and placed his forehead against that of the horse. His eyes shot open, and he quickly stepped away and drew his sword.
"Dispatch, yeah, it's a stolen horse, and he's telling us that the culprit is still here."
Keeping the tree between himself and the elves, Goom slowly backed away into the wood. When he thought he was far enough, he turned to run, noisily kicking up leaves behind him.
Keeping the tree between himself and the elves, Goom slowly backed away into the wood. When he thought he was far enough, he turned to run, noisily kicking up leaves behind him. He dropped his hammer at the base of the tree, so he wouldn't be slowed by its weight.
The elven wardens ran back to their mounts and pursued Goom into the thickets and underbrush. He had a good head start, but he was only capable of about .1 horsepower.
The horses were encumbered by the hidden roots and snagging branches, but they still made steady progress toward the fleeing dwarf.
The horses were encumbered by the hidden roots and snagging branches, but they still made steady progress toward the fleeing dwarf. Goom slipped and skidded between the trees.
He could see a clearing ahead of him, but as he got closer and closer, he realized that this clearing was actually the edge of a severe slope that dropped down to a wide river below.
He had no choice but to make his way down the precipice. Grabbing at loose roots and exposed rocks, the dwarf scrambled across the slopes unforgiving face.
His bandaged right forearm burned with the effort of his grip, and new blood started to soak through where old blood had dried.
He had made it only part way down when the elves appeared at the top of the cliff. They dismounted and took their bows from their backs.
Goom pressed himself against the earth, but the elves' aim was true, and he was being hit by blunted arrows.
They didn't shoot to kill, but they expected that their barrage would get him to surrender.
Goom had already been hit up and down his left side - twice in the ribs and thrice in his hip and leg - when one arrow found its way to his injured right forearm.
He screamed as the pain swirled through his head and he lost grip of the root he'd been holding. He knew that he'd fall, so he kicked off from the wall and looked to the river below.
He tumbled through the air with the all grace that dwarves are known for which is to say none at all.
He splashed into the river below, and he felt the rocky river bed come up to meet him with a force that nearly stole his consciousness.
His dense body composition kept him from the surface, and he fought the burning in his lungs as he tried to make it down river and beyond the fantastic range of the elven wardens.
He came up for air, and the last few arrows swished into the river behind him.
Up above, the elves were making their way along the cliff's edge, but they came to a point that stopped them from continuing.
Goom struggled to keep his head above water as he was carried in the swift current.