Ogil Valley, Usaneri Mountains, Raurugia…
“Keep an eye out, the Lord Magus’ servant girl is missing!”, Lafitte yelled.
“What?” said Jeneyeru, stopping in confusion. “She is not missing. She’s just over–”
“Over here!”, Lotye shouted exasperated…, “Pfft .. Here! I could need some help!”
“–there.” The wizard pointed towards a shaking patch of briar from which a furious tweeting of vile invective arose.
Thimble anticipated his employer’s orders. The Phooka darted into the bushes and morphed into the form of an owl just as the Brownie morphed himself into a mouse and wriggled free of Lotye’s grasp. Thimble’s owl talons proved a more mouse-compatible grip than Lotye’s eorman hand.
“Got you!,” he declared, and he popped up from the bushes with the Brownie warrior struggle in the tightening grip of still bird-like fingers. “Hi, there, you little rotters!” he shouted into the surrounding forest. “We have your people now, so if you want to see them again in one piece, you’d better let us pass, or ‘pon my word, you’ll be picking this one’s bones out of an owl pellet! So say I on behalf of my master!”
An angry racket erupted through the trees and undergrowth, but after a threatening minute or two, it died down as the Brownie forces retreated, though they did not go far.
“Well done, Thimble, Lotye,” said Jeneyeru, extending a hand to help Lotye to her feet as Thimble yanked off his neck cloth with which to tie up his prisoner. Jeneyeru called back to the rest of the expedition. “Captain Lafitte, come along now. We must waste no more time. Let us reach a more defensible position and then see what we’ve caught and what we shall do with him. Hurry”
The wizard led the way down the mountain, not so much because he knew the way as that he was eager to get out of the narrow passage where large beings such as elves and eormen were at a disadvantage against the tiny masters of these woods.
Meanwhile, on the slopes below, something was coming up to meet them — the dragon with the torn wing, the second of the two whose territorial battle had interrupted the flight of La Danse Calinda a mere few hours ago. Its rival lay a tangle of broken trees, turned to stone by the magic of the magic lock Lotye and Peino had shot it with, but this one was very much alive and awake, and quickly recovering from the shock of Ionas Farseer’s lightning-enchanted throwing dagger. Now it was hungry for food to replenish its energies and fiery gasses, and the noise of the Brownie battle vibrating through the forest drew its curiosity. Huffing and steaming, the rain hissing over its hot, blackish scales, the dragon made its way up through the trees towards the sounds of struggle.
— — —
Battle of Train No. 47, Outside the Village of Teur, Raurugia…
The captive was putting up a good fight, no doubt about it, but the Brownies of Raurugia were not to be put off by a little rolling and some heavy sighs. They were certainly not going to give up on catching what they took to be a Swartsalf, one of the elves of darkness, all of whom, in the imagination of the leader of this particular band of Brownies, were very rich and worth a hefty ransom.
So while Y’lanna Sparti worked herself into an upright position, to try to gain control of her situation, her attackers also regrouped. It was probably unavoidable that, by hiding as she had been told to, Y’lanna had cut herself off from much of what was happening around her in this strange and dangerous world.
She could not know that her guardian and guide, Ruili Windwolf Ereonis, was at that moment ordering a hastily organized team of archers (hunters who had been passengers on the train and a few gang-pressed bandits) to loose a cycle of arrow barrages against the conjured wyverns to drive them away from the fleeing people. Nor could she know that Ruili, facing these brutal and overpowering beasts, was about to make a fateful decision. Nor that there was no way he would know what was about to befall her at the hands of opportunistic criminals.
The Brownies had played this game before and did what they always did when a captive became unruly. They took to the trees above Y’lanna and from there dropped a fresh net of cobwebs over her. The barely visible threads immediately began to twist and tighten around her still more, adding strength to the mangled net she was already tangled in, until their grip was in danger of becoming quite uncomfortable.
With a shout, the small warriors descended upon her before she could even react to this latest attack. With her limbs firmly contained, they applied their plan and began to haul her bodily away, into the bushes to a small cavern down which they would vanish from sight with their prize.
— — —
On a River in the Ogil Valley, Raurugia…
Peino Starhand’s eyes fluttered open to see the bright sun shining above him. His body was being rocked with the familiar and comforting feeling of water under him, but it was the smell of a river and deep forests that greeted him, not the salt scent of the ocean. He tried to sit up, but several things stopped him.
First was the sharp pain of his rib cage, the fractured ribs now inflamed and stiffening.
After that jab of agony, he became aware that he could not move his arms or legs because they were bound.
And finally, there were the Brownies who appeared standing over his head on the edge of the coracle boat, pointing small but very sharp spears at him.
“Hoy, you,” one of them snarled, “you’ve nowhere to go and no way to get there, so be still, hear?”
“I’m injured,” Peino said, hoping for a little diplomacy.
“Aye, we saw that much,” said the Brownie. “So you’ll not be causing us trouble then, eh? Just so, you’ll be grateful it was we, rather than a bear, that found you.”
Peino’s mind was beginning to clear, and memory returning with it. He had stopped to rest, the pain and swelling of his injuries making it impossible to keep marching. He must have passed out at some point, and these Brownies had wrapped him up in some cursed net or whatever it was and somehow hauled him onto one of the small hide boats fishermen often use – though how, or whether, they were steering it, he could not guess.
“Where are you taking me?”
They laughed. “Wait and see,” their leader said.