For the Love of Ale

Dawn broke and the brothers were already up following the direction they knew the goblin raiders were heading. When the sun shone enough, a thin line of smoke rose above a nearby hill. 

“That’s them,” growled Smalls. 

“Indeed,” his brother agreed. 

“We don’t stop until we reach them,” Smalls declared. 

“Agreed,” Biggs affirmed. 

There were no more words shared between the pair for several hours. Short though they may be, Dwarves are capable of covering significant ground when they set their minds to it; biting bits of food while they marched and drinking water without slowing, they didn’t deviate from their goal. The tracks of the goblins confirmed they were indeed on the right path. 

By midday the brothers reached the goblin’s camp from the night prior. Each dwarf knew they were a half day ahead by the time the sun rose and no more than that by then. 

Biggs pointed out the obvious, “We can reach them by nightfall.”

“Aye,” Smalls agreed. 

“An attack at night is risky. They will see better than we,” Biggs cautioned. 

“Aye. But we are fighting for vengeance and they just to survive. We’ll scatter them without a doubt, brother. Besides, they won’t imagine any are following them.”

“They may be within distance of their clan. What if they reach it before we overtake them?” 

“Then we kill the entire clan I suppose,” Smalls warned. 

Biggs shrugged his shoulders. It was not possible that a pair of dwarves, even two as talented at killing goblins as they, could kill an entire goblin clan. What his brother was really saying was that they had better catch up with the raiding party before they reached their home. 

No more than a few minutes after finding the goblin’s prior campsite, the brothers continued on, this time at a bit of a trot. As they bounded forward their equipment clanged badly. It was exhausting work as the chain armor was already heavy not to mention their weapons. Normally they would not travel armored as they were but they could not count on time to don their chain shirts and arm themselves before an encounter with the goblins so they had to compromise and deal with the extra drain on their energy and the soreness in their muscles. Their skin was tough enough but their resolve was tougher still, so the extra inconvenience was hardly noticeable. 

The pair came over a hill and a wide but not especially long valley stretched before them. They could see the goblin party making their way across. On the far side was what was clearly a goblin clan. There were no trees nearby as they had likely been cut to supply the goblins with wood and there were some small fires burning by an apparent entrance to a cave in the hill on the far side. 

“Oh for the love of ale, they are almost home,” Biggs cursed. 

“We can’t let them reach it,” Smalls resolved. 

Biggs looked at his brother. He saw the fire in Smalls’ eyes. Biggs nodded, “What’s the plan then?” 

“Doesn’t seem like there are many options.” Smalls searched for an answer. He pointed to his right, “See that tree line there?” 

“Aye.” 

“Probably a creek or something there as well right?”

“Right.” 

“Well we are just going to have to run to catch up with them. If we’re lucky, there is a creekbed at least and we can run on that. The trees should conceal our movement long enough to close the distance and if we are really lucky perhaps there is actual water flowing that might help muffle the sound we are going to make. What do you think?” 

“It’s our only chance, brother.”

“Right, let’s get to it then!” Smalls cheered as he began sprinting down the hill and towards the tree line. 

Biggs huffed in dismay but then dutifully sprinted after his brother and his clanging assortment of axes which rose and fell like feathers of a deadly bird. 

They made it to the tree line and indeed there was a creek bed and it was in fact mostly dry which made it a decent place to run. Their muscles began to burn but not more than the hatred in their hearts for goblins and their desire for more vengeance. 

Every hour or so the dwarves would looked past the trees to see if they were gaining on the goblins and in fact they were making very good progress. When they began their sprint towards their targets they were approximately two hours behind them. Their speed meant they were moving twice as fast and still appeared to have time to reach the party before they were within range of their home. The dwarves did not want to rouse the entire clan of goblins; at least not that day. 

Nearly four hours in to their run and the dwarves were close enough to consider engaging the group of goblins and also significantly winded. Smalls stopped running much to Biggs’ delight. 

“We can’t fight them this tired,” Biggs gasped. 

“I know. We will rest a minute,” Smalls panted. 

Each of them drank water and sat down resting their burning legs. They could hear the goblins squealing and cackling nearby. They sounded like they had no fears or concerns in the world. The brothers were going to change that. 

In only a few minutes the brother’s breath slowed and the feeling in their feet returned. They didn’t want to wait too long before engaging the party. Every minute that passed they discovered a new pain in their bodies. They looked to one another and knew it was time. Biggs stood and drew his long bow from his back and strung it. Smalls pulled a pair of throwing axes. 

“How many were there?” Biggs asked. 

“I counted nine.” 

“We should be able to get that down to four or five before engaging hand to hand. Want me to fire from the tree line while you charge?” 

“Aye, I don’t want any to run for the hill. If they get there we will have a whole mountain of them on us. We need to slay them quickly before they think they are routed and before they can run. If we can do this quickly enough, the rest won’t hear us or at least won’t think it was an attack.”

“And when they are dead?” Biggs wondered. 

“I say we drag them to this tree line. They might have stolen some things we can return to the town. Or who knows with goblins. They are always carrying bizarre trinkets. “

“Ha!” Biggs chuckled, “That’s so true. Ok, I like it. I’ll begin firing my bow from the tree line. Looks like they are only fifty yards or so from it. If I’m lucky I can drop a couple of them before you even get there. When you’re about to engage them I’ll follow up. Save some for me?”

“Don’t count on it brother,” Smalls smiled. Then they each hopped to their feet and made their way down the creek bed to close the last remaining distance between them and their goal. They were merely jogging this time, trying to limit the amount of noise they created but also needed to move faster than the goblins

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