By David Pontier
When Goblins Attack is the property of the author, David Pontier and is used with permission by Candlekeep. Email David with any comments and feedback on When Goblins Attack and visit his website at: http://www.geocities.com/piqsid/stories.html.
Chapter 1: The Discovery
Darren Hargers shivered as the blast of cold air hit him. He watched the door swing closed behind the stranger and breathed a sigh of relief when it clicked shut, sealing off the outside air. He enjoyed getting customers to his tavern, he just wished there was another way to enter without letting so much cold air in.
With the momentary chill past, Darren focused on the stranger. His cloak was pulled tight around him, as would be expected in this weather, leaving his face totally obscured. Instead of making his way to the bar, he made a straight line to one of the two fireplaces that stood on opposite ends of the dinning room.
Darren was the only one working tonight, for most people stayed in when the wind got like this. There was not much snow falling, and the accumulation this night would amount to only a few inches. While a few inches might shut down some of the towns a few miles away, up in the Great Range, the towns tended to be a bit more rugged, and some would not even notice that snow had fallen at all. But the wind, well, that was a different story.
The bartender watched his new visitor limp slowly over to the fire and crouch slowly before it. The limp was not bad, but his perceptive eyes picked it out easily. It was probably just stiffness from the cold. Darren walked out from behind the bar and approached the stranger. "Excuse me sir, can I get you something?"
The cloaked head spun around, and Darren gasped as he looked into the cowl. It was a woman. "Something hot to drink will be fine," she replied.
"I have some hot cider," he replied. She nodded her head, and he was off. What was a woman doing out in this weather? Within moments he was back with her drink. She thanked him. "Are you hurt, miss? I noticed you have a limp."
Elliorn, the ranger, looked hard at the bartender, letting the hefty man know she did not appreciate having her privacy violated. Still, she answered the question. "It is an old wound," she replied, the same answer she had given to the countless others who had asked the same question.
How old was it now? Time over the past months was hard to fathom for her. Her normal routine had been shattered almost a year ago when a violent killer had come to Karrenstoch, the town around which she had conducted most of her business. The killer's name was Artemis Entreri. She had been sent in pursuit and had caught up with him easily. They had fought, and he had won. To keep her from following him, he had given her a vicious wound in her upper thigh. She had not been able to ride for two whole months. During that time, as she waited for the wound to heal and the pain to subside, she thought of nothing but Artemis.
Finally she could take it no longer and set out after him. The doctors who had treated the wound recommended another month of rest, but she did not care. As it turned out, the doctors were right. The wound had never fully healed. She had not allowed it. There were times when the pain was too much, forcing her to rest for a few days, but she never gave it a chance to fully heal. Her emotional wounds needed tending as well, and the only cure she knew for them was to catch and kill Artemis Entreri.
There were times at the end of a hard day's ride that her pants and saddle would be soaked in blood. There were times when she could not even walk. Instead of reminding her that she needed rest, it only reminded her of the man who had done this to her.
The bartender waited for a few seconds as he saw the vacant look in the woman's eyes, and then turned to leave. "Darren," Elliorn said, keeping him in place. The bartender was startled she knew his name. Elliorn knew many things. "There are two horses in your stable, each with half a buck strapped to their backs. Who owns those horses?"
Darren had not been outside, but he knew of only two hunters in the tavern at the moment. They were loyal customers, and though it looked like this strange woman's business with them might not be to their benefit, as he looked at her hard face, he knew where his loyalties lay. "They probably belong to Dexton and Coren McClure," he said, turning to look at the other end of the room and pointing. "They are sitting over there."
"Thank you," she said and placed her drink down on a table. She rose slowly and walked over to the two men's table, trying as best she could to disguise her limp. The wound did not like the cold very much.
The two brothers saw her coming right away, for the tavern was not very full. Beside themselves, there were only four other patrons and the woman. They were hard men, like most in these mountains were. They knew few women, and those they did know, they paid to see. This was not such a woman. She might have been attractive once, and she easily could be again, but she exuded such a strong feeling of animosity, that instead of staring, the average man looked away.
Men liked their women soft and supple, but this woman seemed to be chiseled from stone. She was cold inside, both men could see that, and just looking into her eyes made them think someone else had opened the door to the outside.
"Are you the ones that killed the buck?" she asked when she drew close enough for conversation.
"Yes we did," Dexton replied. "It is a fine animal."
"Yes it was," Elliorn replied, stressing the past-tense verb.
The two men picked up on her concern. "We plan nothing but respect for the animal, miss," Coren said quickly. "We need the meat to finish our winter store. We live five miles up the slope to the west. We don't get back to town often during the winter."
"And the hide?" she asked.
"We use it too," Dexton said. He did not know why he was so quick to please this woman. He had noticed her limp, and though she looked tall under her heavy cloak, he could tell from her shallow cheeks that she was not big.
"The way you have the animal dissected, it does not look like a conservative process to preserve the meat, and the pelt is now cut in two."
"We've done this before," Coren continued their defense. "We know it is not the right way, but it is the only way to get the deer up to our cabin. One horse could not carry one of us and a full buck."
Elliorn looked at the brothers sternly. Though she now had a singular purpose in life, she still had the instincts of a ranger, and she could not ignore her duty. "Next time bring a third horse." With that she turned and walked back to her spot by the fire.
Both men sat in silence for a while. "Who was that?" Dexton asked.
"I don't know," Coren said, throwing back the last of his ale. "But I'll be damned if we're gonna spend money to buy and keep a third horse just a to haul a dead buck a few times a year. Let's go."
Dexton finished his drink and followed his brother out of the tavern. The two men had grown up together in this town, and had been inseparable most of the time. When the town failed to produce a wife for either of them, they decided they preferred the rugged wilderness life to a domesticated existence anyway. They moved away from town, built their cabin, and had been there ever since.
The two horses had appreciated the rest they were given and looked eager to continue when their riders picked them up. Dexton looked at the animal they had killed in the lower hills of the great range. It was a shame they had to cut it in half like this, but Coren was right, it was just a dead buck. Why had that woman cared do much?
They mounted and set off. There was not much snow on the ground yet, and the wind bunched most of it into easily avoidable drifts. There was also a rocky shelf that bordered their climb up the western slope, blocking the wind for most of the trip. Still, it took the horses more than an hour to pick their way over the five miles of rocky ground to their cabin. The men did not mind the slow travel. They were just happy to get home before nightfall.
During the late fall and early winter, the sky was always overcast and heavy, making it nearly impossible to tell where the sun really was. The sky just throbbed with an evenly spread gray that could suddenly turn to night without warning.
The two men dismounted and walked their horses to their outdoor meat cellar. They would keep the animal frozen in here until morning when they would thaw it, skin it, and prepare the meat for storage. As they approached the entrance, Coren paused. In the light snow that had fallen, he could clearly see footprints. "Someone has been here," he said, dropping the reins of his horse and putting his hand on his sword. "And recently." The snow had only started to fall and had not been on the ground two hours before.
"Who?" Dexton asked, walking up to stand beside his brother. There were tracks. Lots of them. They were experienced hunters and knew there were at least five, maybe six pairs. And they were small, like children's feet.
Both men followed the tracks with their eyes as the prints went down the stairs and disappeared at the door to the cellar. Coren drew his sword slowly and crept down the stairs too, noticing that the cellar door was slightly ajar. He carefully pushed it open and froze.
Inside their meat cellar, slowly taking down the four carcasses that had made up the McClure boys' winter store, were five creatures neither of the men had ever seen before. They were short, the tallest peaking at no more than four feet. They had very little clothing, considering the weather, and their skin was gray and lumpy. There appeared to be no hair anywhere on their bodies, and their bald heads were shallow and sickening. Neither Coren nor Dexton had ever seen a goblin before.
Two of the goblins were holding lanterns, and they were all looking toward the open door. The two groups stared at each other for a few seconds, totally unprepared for this meeting. The strange creatures reacted first, picking up their spears and charging the door with hoots and hollers.
Coren panicked. He was no novice with a sword, and the creatures looked crude enough, but there were five of them. He backed up without looking, forgetting about the steps behind him. His right heel slipped on a snow-covered step and he fell back. Before he could even try to regain his footing, the goblins were on him, treating his body like a pincushion.
Dexton had been halfway down the steps when he saw the goblins and scrambled back up, preparing to defend his high ground. The crunch of snow from behind him spun him about, and his sword easily blocked two poorly thrusted spears. There were three more creatures behind him and they hesitated, seeing the skill with which he had defeated their first attack. Dexton gained a bit of confidence and stepped forward, hacking down on the nearest goblin.
His blade cut through the crude spear and continued to take off one of the goblin's ears. It screamed in pain, falling away from the deadly human. Dexton smiled and moved toward the remaining two. He suddenly felt a searing pain in his side. He had forgotten about the five goblins coming from the cellar! He spun around as another spear cut into the side of his leg. He batted two other weapons away before they could pierce his stomach but took a hit in the back of his thigh.
Dexton spun around a few more times, trying to keep away the swarm of creatures that surrounded him, but their constant attacks, wore him down. The last one he remembered was a vicious jab in his side. He dropped his sword and swooned to the ground. The goblins finished him quickly.
The goblin troupe leader looked at the two dead humans and frowned. His master had told him to remain hidden and secretive. They would have to move the bodies in case anyone came looking for them. It was bad enough they had to haul all the meat back to their cave, but now they had to do more work. The horses had been spooked, but were not standing too far away. There was more meat strapped to the horses. The goblin smiled. His master would be pleased.
* * *
"I still don't understand why we can't ride."
Elliorn tried to ignore the complaint, but Steven's constant griping was beginning to wear thin. She had not wanted him to come along. She preferred to work alone, but the mayor of the small town of Hillcrest had insisted Steven Jakes go along.
Dexton and Coren had not been back to town like they had promised. They had been tardy three days before people started to murmur. Their trips to town before winter hit were very routine, and the amount of supplies they usually purchased made many store clerks look forward to their visits. They were overdue more than a week now, and Elliorn had heard about it.
Her first thought in this matter was the same thought she always had: Artemis. The Great Range was the last area Elliorn had had gathered evidence of Artemis's passage. She had assumed he had continued south to Garrilport, but in her brief time in that city, she could find no evidence of his presence. She had been drawn to the city because of a rash of violent murders, but the mayor had assured her that they had been the result of a band of thieves. The killers had been caught and executed. It was not Artemis.
She had then thought that he had skipped the town entirely, but she had hit every small village and settlement beyond Garrilport and no one had heard of her vicious killer. Therefore she had returned to the Great Range. The mountains were full of rough towns and rugged settlements where a ruthless man like Artemis could blend right in. With winter coming on, he probably needed a place to hold up. If he had picked the McClure's cabin, that would explain the two men's tardiness.
She had gone to the mayor and offered her help. The mayor had laughed at first, but she then explained who she was, and he had agreed. No one wanted to make the trip up the slope with the chances of a storm hitting at any time. Volunteers were always welcome, but the mayor had wondered what might happen to a lone woman knocking on the door of Dexton and Coren's home. He had sent Steven as representative of the town, but he was there mostly for Elliorn's protection.
"I mean, this trip would go a lot faster if we rode instead of walked. With the potential for storms up here, we should rea-"
"The horses need to have sure footing in the snow," Elliorn finally responded. There was about 9 inches of snow lying on the ground now. In places where the wind had swirled, it topped a foot and a half easily. "They can not see where their hooves are going and if they should stumble or slip, we need to be ready to steady them."
"If we can't ride, then why bring them at all?" It was a dumb question only asked out of frustration. Each horse was loaded down with safety supplies just in case something did happen or if Dexton and Coren were alive but hurt.
Elliorn did not answer the question, instead she continued to check the sky and the trail ahead. She was a ranger and a very well trained one at that. The people who lived in these mountains were born and raised here. Still, the frequent winter storms that kicked up at this elevation usually caught them off guard. Elliorn wold not be caught off guard.
With peaks rising up all around, the view of the sky was blocked in almost every direction. Therefore a storm cell only a few miles away might be completely blocked from view until it was right above you. Elliorn knew there were other ways to spot these distant storms. The snow and ice on the visible peaks reflected the color of the sky behind them, letting an observant person know if dark clouds were beyond the horizon. Not all birds flew to warmer climates for the winter, and they had a perfect view of the entire sky. What they did often dictated what kind of weather was forthcoming.
"Is that it up ahead?" Elliorn asked suddenly, squinting into the distance.
"Is what what?"
Elliorn pointed at the distant brown shape that she assumed to be the cabin. Steven squinted into the bright, snowy landscape but just shook his head. "I don't see anything."
"No," Elliorn huffed under her breath as she picked up the pace, "of course you do not." Elliorn's wound had not bothering her much on this trip. Walking was easier on it than riding, plus with the down time in the town, it had taken time to heal. As she quickened her step, she could feel it twinge. Instead of slowing down, she let the pain fuel her, reminding her that Artemis might lie at the end of this expedition. And if he did not, the quicker she handled this task, the sooner she could get back on the trail hunting him.
It was another five minutes before Steven saw that cabin. "Yes, that is theirs. It looks awful quiet."
Elliorn had to agree. There was no smoke coming from the chimney. The cabin was set up on a small clearing. The slope they were climbing leveled off for several dozen yards, and then continued up at a far rockier and much steeper slope. To the west was a rolling descent that could give a sled rider a nice, long ride before they plummeted into a rocky ravine almost a mile down the slope. To the east was the rocky ledge that offered the travelers protection from the wind, but at the level of the cabin, the ledge broke away into a sparse grove of trees.
The set up was nice. The wind came from the northeast most of the time, and with the trees and mountain in that direction, they had a very effective wind break. Also, with the open area to the west, they saw extended sunlight toward the end of the day. It was a nice set up, but it was also a dead one. No one had been here in many days. There were no tracks between the woodshed and the house. A thick layer of snow lay on everything, and the last snow had come three days ago.
Elliorn saw a bright orange pole sticking out of the snow, a common indication that something important lay beneath that was meant to be easily found in poor visibility or heavy snowfall. She moved toward it, already guessing what it might be.
"Don't you want to check the house first?" Steven asked when he saw his companion moving in the opposite direction.
"They are not home," she said.
"Still . . ." but he did not have a good reason to check anything first.
Elliorn did not have a reason either, but she had instincts, and she was taught to follow those above all else. The stairwell down to the meat cellar was almost completely filled in with snow. Elliorn only recognized it as such because she had guessed what the orange pole might be marking. With her staff, she confirmed her guess, prodding deep into the snow to gauge the depth of the stairway.
"Watch your step," Elliorn said when Steven approached. "There is a stairwell hidden here."
It had not snowed that much, but the constant breeze that existed on the side of the mountain had swirled the snow within this hole until it was full. From the pack on her horse, Elliorn retrieved a large shovel. She began digging. The snow was very soft and easy to move. She was scraping against the stone steps within a few minutes. She worked her way down the hole and then stopped.
"What is it?" Steven asked crouching on the edge of the drop-off. Elliorn did not toss her latest shovelfull of snow, but showed it to Steven. "Red snow?"
"Blood," she said.
"This is their meat cellar, right?" Steven asked. "Maybe this is animal blood."
"Maybe," Elliorn said as she continued. She did not for a moment believe that it was. Any animal they brought in here was long ago frozen, and from the amount of red snow and ice she was finding, this blood had hit these steps fresh.
Several minutes later she had cleared enough to find the door. It swung in and she tried to peer into the darkness. Her eyes were good, but after staring at the bright snow for the last two hours, she could see nothing. A lantern hung just inside the door. She produced a match and lit it.
"What do you see?" Steven asked eagerly, moving carefully down the partially cleared steps.
"Nothing," Elliorn replied, hoisting the lantern high and moving into the large room. It was completely empty. All that remained were metal loops bolted into the ceiling. She bent down in the middle of the room and looked closely at floor, hoping for some distinguishing tracks, but it was just a jumbled mess on the frozen dirt floor.
"Wow," Steven said as he entered the room behind Elliorn. "I thought they said they had enough meat to last all winter."
"They did," she agreed, rising from the floor. Hesitantly, she sniffed at the air. A deep frown crossed her face.
"What is? What do you smell?"
"Hopefully nothing," Elliorn said and turned back to go outside.
Steven was growing frustrated with his cryptic companion. He had not really wanted to go up into the mountains with her. He much preferred reclining in front of his fire and telling his oldest son to chop more wood, but there was a small part of him that looked forward to see how this ranger would handle the situation. He had seen one or two other rangers come through their town over the years, and stories followed them. They could track anything and survive any climate. He had hoped to learn a few things on this trip, but now he just felt lucky if he got a two-word answer from her.
Elliorn paused in the doorway, looking back into the room, and then surveying the bloody steps in front of her. She climbed them slowly, and then picked up her shovel. Steven followed her out of the cellar and watched as she started to clear the area in front of the steps.
"What are you doing?"
Elliorn did not respond but kept working, clearing a wide spot on the ground. She found more blood. Looking back at the frozen stain on the steps, she noticed clearly that there was no blood between these two stains. She kept looking. A minute later she found it. It was an ear. It was not a human ear. She cursed - in Elvish.
"Dexton and Coren were killed," she said aloud as she stood. "One here and one there on the steps. It was probably when they returned from town two weeks ago. Whatever killed them took their meat and left."
"What killed them? An animal?"
Elliorn turned to look at Steven. "I don't know of an animal that would kill and then move the bodies." Steven looked around, noticing for the first time that there were no bodies. "At least none that are not in hibernation. And unless wolves have figured out how to start fires, they will have no use for frozen meat. These were not animals that attacked them." She looked back at the goblin ear in her hand and added to herself, "At least, not in the strictest sense." She pocketed the ear and looked around. But why would they hide the bodies?
The ranger's eyes swept the landscape and stopped as she looked to the west. A hundred yards away, right in the middle of a wide clearing down the slope was a drift that had no business being there. "Come with me," she said.
Fifteen minutes later they were looking at the frozen bodies of the McClure brothers. The multiple spear wounds were obvious even to Steven. No animal had killed them. To Elliorn, the wounds told a much bigger story. Coren's wounds were all in front of him. He had probably been the unlucky one who had died on the steps. He had opened the door and been rushed.
Dexton had as many wounds in front as in back. If he had any sense, he would have stood his ground at the top of the steps, knowing that the goblins could only approach him two at a time up the narrow stairway. So if he had been attacked from behind, that would imply that the goblins had placed lookouts to make sure the ones gathering the meat were not ambushed. That kind of planning and strategy went against everything she knew about goblins. Maybe this second group was busy looting the house and just got lucky creeping up on Dexton. Still, why would they move the bodies? The ear told her that it had been goblins, but everything else pointed toward something more intelligent.
"We need to follow them," she said suddenly.
"Who? Follow who? Do you know who did this? Was it someone in town?"
Elliorn looked hard at him. Was he ready for the truth? Was he ready to hear that there was a band of goblins living in the mountains? Did he want to know that the band had gotten so big that they had to resort to robbing civilized settlements, risking announcing their existence? Did he want to know that they were probably taking orders from orcs or ogres or even giants? He was not ready for that.
"We have plenty of daylight left," she said. "I just want to find out where they went. It will not take too long."
"You want to track them?" Steven was beside himself. "But you said this happened two weeks ago, and it's snowed almost a foot since then. We can't track them."
Elliorn smiled. Steven was startled. He had not thought her face capable of a smile. It had indeed been a while, but she was back doing what she had been trained for. Even though the prospect of a band of evil creatures living in the mountains was not a good one, she was finally thinking about something other than Artemis. "Trust me, you might learn something. And," she walked over to her horse and swung up into the saddle, "we will ride."
Steven shrugged his shoulders and followed suit. She could not really track the goblins this long after the fact, but she did not really need to. With nothing to the west and the town to the south, the only path that made sense was the pass to the northeast between the trees and the northern climb.
They followed the pass for two hours, keeping the pace slow as Elliorn scouted the rocky inclines to their left. The trees on their right had long faded away, and the descent down the eastern slope of the mountain was getting steeper and steeper. Finally, Elliorn decided the ledge was too narrow and the drop off to the right too dangerous to continue on horseback.
They dismounted and Elliorn took her bow from the saddle. With a few quiet words to her horse, to make sure it did not run off, the pair continued on. Even though the ledge they now walked was getting narrower by the minute, Elliorn had her eyes trained on the cliffs above them. A brief motion in the rocks caught her attention, and she stopped short.
"What is-" but a motion of the ranger's hand shut him up.
The climb to their left was not vertical but neither was it easy. Elliorn made sure all her equipment and weapons were secure and began to ascend. "Follow only if you are able," she said.
The snow made it tricky, but there was no ice underneath, and if Steven kept his weight forward, it was like walking up a steep staircase - a steep staircase with no railing and a very long fall down if he should slip, but he tried not to think about that. After thirty feet, the climb leveled off a bit into another much narrower ledge than before.
Elliorn surveyed their potential path before continuing, placing each step with care and making sure there were hand holds so her partner could follow. This is why she liked to work alone. Steven was no novice to the outdoors, but this was not his place either.
They had climbed close to one hundred feet above were they had left their horses when Elliorn suddenly stopped. Steven did not blurt out a question this time and followed the ranger's gaze. Up ahead almost a hundred yards at their level but on a different series of peaks was a goblin. Steven had never seen one before and at first thought it was a large child or a small bear that had forgotten to sleep through the winter, but its movements were very strange. The way it gangly moved over the uneven terrain spoke of something very foreign to his experience with animals.
Trying to get a better view of it, Steven stood and climbed up a nearby boulder. Before Elliorn could stop him, the goblin suddenly stopped. It had caught the motion out of the corner of its eye and turned around to look. Steven could now see the creature's face, and he froze. Half of him was scared by what he saw, and the other half was ashamed that he had given away their location.
The goblin did not contemplate the situation and bolted. In a practiced motion, Elliorn unhooked her bow from over her shoulder and quickly knocked an arrow. She drew back, followed the goblin for a couple seconds to gauge its speed and distance, and fired.
Steven had not thought the shot possible when he saw her start for her bow, but the arrow smashed right into the center of the goblin's back hurling it forward and dropping it out of view. Elliorn quickly stored her weapon and started after the dead creature. Steven wanted to apologize for his carelessness but decided more noise from him would not be good right now.
It took them longer than it should to cover the distance to the fallen scout because Elliorn paused frequently to make sure there were no other creatures about. When they finally did stand over the dead goblin, Steven got his first good look at it. He finally spoke. "What is it?"
"It is a goblin," she said. She pulled out the ear from her pocket and handed it to Steven. "I found it back where Dexton was killed."
Steven examined the object for a few seconds, realized what it was, and quickly dropped it in disgust. "What do they want?"
"To kill," she said simply.
"To kill what?"
Steven could tell she was back in short answer mode and did not push it. Elliorn examined the body at her feet. There was a short sword strapped to the creature's side. It was not a high quality weapon, but it was far better than the weapons that had killed Dexton and Coren. Goblins could make spears, and slings. Anything beyond that was usually out of their ability, though not unheard of. Still, this one had probably been stolen. The fact that a scout had been carrying it meant they had plenty to go around.
This meant that the attack on the cabin was not their first such raid. They were growing restless. It was only a matter of time before their need for food and supplies grew beyond what the scattered cabins in these mountains could provide. They would probably hold up until spring, but when the thaw came, they would come pouring out of these mountains like the melting snow, flooding and consuming each town they came to.
"How many are there?" Steven asked after a while of silence.
"Too many," she replied. "Anywhere from ten to two hundred. Maybe more."
She pulled her arrow from the body and cleaned it with snow before returning it to her quiver. "When this one does not return to the lair, they will send a minor search party for him and assume he tripped and fell off a cliff somewhere. But if they find him here with an hole through his chest . . ." she did not need to finish for Steven to understand.
The goblin was not large, but the ease with which Elliorn picked it up and heaved it down the eastern side of the mountain impressed him. He watched the goblin bounce hard off a sharp rock and clear the pass they had been walking originally. It would not stop falling for a while and would create a mini avalanche to bury itself. No one would find it.
"Let us get back to town before dark," Elliorn said, pausing to pick up the ear Steven had dropped. She also kicked up some snow to cover the goblin's blood.
"That's it?" Steven complained. "We aren't going to hunt down the cave to try and find out how many there are? What kind of report can you give?"
"I know too much already," Elliorn replied.
"What, from the goblin? We don't know anything. You just said you don't know how many there are. Did you pick up some secret ranger clue off that dead creature?"
"Not from the goblin," she said and pointed down toward a snowy pass fifty yards away and above the level of their original ledge. "From those."
Steven saw the shadows in the snow and thought they looked like drifts. "More bodies," he asked.
"They are not drifts. They are tracks."
"Tracks? Did someone drag something through the pass."
Elliorn shook her head. "Footprints."
"Footprints?" Steven almost shouted. "They must be three feet across."
Elliorn did respond verbally but looked plainly at him, waiting for his next obvious question. He understood the look and swallowed hard, not asking anything else, for he feared the answer. Carefully the pair made their way down the mountain and back to their horses. The ride back to town was a quiet one.
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