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Old 05-26-2007, 05:24 AM   #19
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
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All the others had left, and only the new “Defenders” were now in the town hall. Erling could hardly believe that he was actually one of them. Surely he had gone too far this time. But there was no question of backing up now, lest he should be despised to the end of his days and remembered only as a coward. And that was not a thought that one like Erling could bear.

But for now it seemed that there were many just as uncomfortable as him. He looked at the group with interest and curiosity. Perhaps they had stories to tell. The old dwarf at least surely had, and maybe the other stranger too. Perhaps, when they were not too busy with their “defending” job, he would ask them to share some of his experiences with him.

But what exactly would they do as “Defenders”, Erling had no idea. Maybe the others had, although, by the looks of it, many were as baffled as he, if not more. Toby Mugwort had asked them for some suggestions, but that had lead only to an awkward silence, which was thankfully broken by Grimbeorn’s question about footprints. It was a sensible question, only it did not help much as no traces of the creature had been seen. A chill went suddenly down Erling’s spine, as he understood what that fact meant. Why were there no footprints? Surely all creatures left marks behind them. All living creatures, that was. Then what…?

Kuric’s talk about trolls awoke Erling from his musings. At first he listened with the greatest attention and also with a slight-or more than slight, if he wanted to be fair- apprehension. But soon enough all this turned to annoyance as he noticed the arrogance of the old dwarf, and the way he considered himself above the others. Those of Bree were not perhaps brave warriors, few actually could boast of knowing how to wield a sword or the likes, but they were all stout and bold at need. And need was great then. Their lives were at stake.

And as for Kuric’s treatment of Toby Mugwort, Erling had to try hard to restrain himself from saying some not very soft words to the “old campaigner” as he so arrogantly called himself. Master Mugwort was one of the most respected personages in Bree, and there were few who did not speak highly of him. What was that old dwarf unfamiliar with the ways of Bree doing by bossing one of the most highly-regarded folk in town? Erling thought that he might as well tell him-if not in the not very kind words he had first wanted to say-how things stood.

“Well, master Kuric,” he began. “Meaning no disrespect to you and not doubting your bravery and good intentions, but I think you should ask us how we feel about it before calling yourself our leader. See, you may know much about war and evil creatures, but we know little of you. And it is hard, master Kuric, really hard for us to put ourselves in the hands of a stranger we have never seen before. And you too, should try learning some things about us. For one thing, for you all this is a hunt, a way of amusing yourself, but for us…well, our families are at stake, and we find this business by no means amusing.”

Perhaps he had said too much, Erling thought. Perhaps now he had earned himself an enemy, and even among those who were forced to act together with him. But what had been said could hardly be unsaid now. And he thought he had been in the right. After all, it had been about the honor of his town and its people.
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