"So tell me again, you had forty-four men in that camp and there were, two of them?" Merdock's fiery brown eyes flashed with red as he stared down at the tattered and beaten man that stood before him, his armour battered and his chain mail slashed in places.
"Yes sir" the man stuttered, eyes fixed on the ground "but they took us by surprise and it wasn't just anyone who jumped us it was the other-worrier and that Rider." Merdock's eyed widened as he held his hand to stop the man from continuing.
"Are you sure it was Rider? I thought he was dead. That rider owes me for what he did." He shivered as if a ghost had just passed though his body.
"But my lord six years is a long time," the man interrupted, but suddenly wised he hadn't said anything. Merdock rose from his throne of bones and dragon hide where he had been sitting, slouched against the imposing backboard of the elaborate throne, topped with a skull pierced by a rusty dagger, and slithered up to the man until he was but a whisper away.
"Yes you're right of course, why should I be holding a grudge? I mean what did I need a battalion of dragons at my command for anyway and I don't like dragons anyway, vicious, bloodthirsty, murdering beasts, so why would I need any at all." He drew a silver dagger from his belt and held it in-between his face and the soldier's. "You see this" he said with a sense of impatiens in his voice, "silver like this can only be worked by sea elves, it's beautiful isn't it. It was a gift from an old friend and then he betrayed me and I killed him with it; I liked the irony at the time. So you tell me how I'm supposed to replace an entire battalion of dragons, now I have this up rising on my hands."
"Well," the quivering man began, suddenly Merdock reached out and hugged the man and as he did he placed the elven dagger through his chest and whispered into his ear, "I do not forgive incompetence." As he swiped the blade from his body; it instantly cleansed itself before he placed it back on his belt and returned to his throne, placing himself almost exactly where he had been before.
Two nearby guards hurried to remove the body, as they moved out of the throne room and out of sight, Madelia entered the room followed by an ill looking Grungen, tripping at her heels.
"Your pet as requested my Lord" Madelia said coldly, hardly acknowledging the creature beside her.
"Thank you apprentice" her eyes narrowed at his last word but her expression changed as soon as Merdock turned to thank her. "So Grungen is it? Where are your friends going next my pet?" He asked in an almost kind voice.
"Grungen doesn't know Grungen has been here master." was Grungen's squeaky answer, then Merdock's tone changed and it became more forceful and spiteful.
"But I think you do and I think that if you don't tell me now I will have to think of some other way to find out"
"Grungen does not know and would never say anyways."
"Is that so?" Grungen clenched his eyes tightly shut and curled himself up into a ball on the floor as if he were awaiting some kind of punishment, but Merdock merely patted him on the back with a sly grin on his face and said "well we will have to find a way to refresh your memory; Madelia would you now go and take this thing to the lower chambers?" Madelia was insulted: fetching and carrying was servants' work, so she beckoned to the nearest servant to her side and ordered it to take Grungen down to the lower chambers instead.
After consuming most of the camps food and drink, Killga, Ringmore and Ebah went to find them some suitable beds for what was left of the bitter night.
"So, it seems you are becoming very skilled with your sword, I would almost say you were a natural with it" Elera placed another log onto the glowing fire that occasionally spat a small fountain of sparks into the darkening scene.
"I guess so but only with Ringmore's help" she glanced over in the direction they had walked off in, "otherwise I would be home already or... well lets not think about the or!" she laughed half heartedly.
"Hay, have you noticed" Elera asked with a strange look on her face; her nose was wrinkled up and her eyes were half shut, "that if you squint really hard at the cooler, glowing parts of the fire, in the embers, they look like diamonds and rubies in a mine deep underground, shimmering in a flickering candle light."
They soon turned in for the night, and it didn't take long for the pair of them to fall asleep in two cosy crimson red hammocks inside one of the largest tents within the now ghost like camp. The hammocks were covered in thick carpet-like sheets decorated with dark intricate patterns, horrific depictions of battle scenes and Merdock's crooked crest of the rusty dagger embedded within a skull. Haylie had piled several of these blankets on top of herself to keep warm. Elera had conjured up two floating orbs of fire that paced back and forth beneath their suspended beds to warm their backs and feet.
In the morning the sun shone through the patterned fabric tent and sent the embroidered pictures dancing across the girls' faces and over the floor. Haylie was startled awake by a great crash of metal from outside. She quietly tiptoed out of the tent so as not to wake Elera, who amazingly, hadn't seemed to have heard the commotion outside, grabbing her new leather and moratoph skin boots; a moratoph is a small blind furry creature that lives high in the tree tops creating burrows down the centre of the branches to make its home. The boots were supposed to be warm but light and they were. The lazy sun was blinding for a few seconds but as Haylie began to wake up from her pleasant slumber, her pistachio green eyes lazily adjusted to the smoky light. Ringmore was already up and by the look on his face it didn't appear he had had any sleep at all, Haylie was surprised, Ringmore had done a lot of fighting the day before and had seemed very tired.
"Didn't you get a wink of sleep last night?"
"No came Ringmore's very drowsy reply, "I've been busy."
"Doing what may I ask?"
"Just stuff, mind your own business" Ringmore clearly wasn't a morning person, and turned toward the small ashen flames of last night's fire: Ringmore must have kept it going during the night because almost all the firewood had disappeared. A shadow passed silently over the sun swept ground, Dracon had begun scouting the surrounding area for survivors from the camp crawling back to their master like a baby to its mother. Haylie glanced around the once bustling, noisy camp; her eyes fell upon a silhouette on a dew studded hill glinting in the sunlight. She scaled the steep slope to find...
"Ebah, why are you up here all alone, so quiet?" Haylie knew what was troubling her little spiky green friend, but felt it was right to have announced herself rather than give the poor thing a heart attack.
"Mesa miss Grungen, mesa scared for hissa being well and not hurt." The scared and exasperated stare on his face explained his emotions better than any amount of description, however well spoken.
"I know you are worried about Grungen, but Elera is trying as hard as she can using all her resources to try and locate Grungen, but remember Parantsel is huge and it's highly unlikely that Merdock's soldiers have found him, your kind are so small and very, very good at hiding."
"Yes, yousa is wrighten, they can't have finds him and Elera will finds him and alls will be goodd" Ebah snivelled through dry tears and a running nose. Haylie, leaning slightly to reach, laid her hand on Ebah's shoulder and together they tottered back down the hill towards their temporary homestead, just in time for breakfast, a hearty eggs and beacon.