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 6: The Assassin's Credo
Entreri and John crouched behind an outcropping and looked down into the mountain pass. The remains of the landslide still lay where John had left them, and though it had snowed a little, the tracks of eleven people are not so easily covered.
"She led you in there?" Entreri could not believe it. Growing up as he did, the old assassin was cautious to a fault. He had tried to tone that done since he had entered this relatively peaceful land, but even he would not go down that pass, even if they were just goblins.
"You said there were giants on the ridge throwing stones at you," Entreri said. "Which side were they on?"
John pointed to the ridge across from cave opening. "Up there, why?"
"If your tracks are still visible, theirs should be too. And unless they dug their way through that avalanche and then recovered it, I'm guessing there is another way in."
John nodded at the sound observation. Why hadn't Elliorn thought this way? She was the ranger and this man had grown up in a dessert. John had thought Entreri incredibly cocky and had stayed quiet during the 18-hour trip up to this spot, but he was slowly relaxing. Maybe Entreri was as good as he thought. Even knowing what John did about what they were going to face, he felt more confident now than he had three days ago.
They moved quietly and quickly. Entreri was wearing a cream colored cloak over his winter coat that was reversible to black. He had picked it up before they had left town. His normal black look worked well in a dark alley, but in the snow-covered wilderness, it stuck out like sore thumb. Entreri had to caution himself to move slowly. He could run quite easily over the uneven terrain, but John could not. The limp aside, the captain was still wearing the armor that had saved his life during the avalanche. The attire did not promote dexterity.
The tracks were right where they were supposed to be. They led off in the direction they were already going and from the terrain, Entreri guessed they hooked around to the left and back toward the pass below. If the pass did flow with water in the spring, it had probably carved out more than one opening into the hollow mountain.
John started after the tracks, but Entreri held him back. "What is it?"
Entreri responded by pointing to a distant peak. "Over there."
John strained his eyes, desperately wanting to see what this sharp-eyed assassin had picked out. "I can't see anything," he huffed in frustration.
"Neither can I," Entreri said, surprising John.
"If I was going to ambush us, that is where I'd be hiding. It looks like these tracks loop around and pass right beneath that peak. It is probably where the other entrance is."
"But you are just guessing, right?"
"If you can see your enemies when they aren't there, you will always see them when they are there." As Entreri said it, he imagined himself as Pasha Basadoni instructing a young, but very talented thief. John was not young or a thief, and the similarity ended with the words, but it still brought back fond memories.
"Is that part of the assassin's credo?" John asked sarcastically.
"It's rule number one," Entreri replied.
"And what is rule number two?"
"If you are with a dangerous assassin in a life or death situation, never make fun of his credo." Entreri looked seriously at John. "Let's go."
"We go backwards. We can cross the pass one of two ways. We can follow these tracks and cross it up ahead where they are waiting for us, or we can backtrack and loop around behind them."
"But you don't even know if they are there. How do you know we've been spotted?"
"You followed the ranger into a trap because she did not see it coming. I too do not see anything, but I am not going to repeat her mistake by walking blindly forward. If we loop around and find nothing, then we will have wasted an hour, but we will be alive."
John shrugged and set out after Entreri. "There won't be anyone there," he muttered to himself. He was wrong.
An hour later, John and Entreri were looking down at the backsides of two stone giants. They were waiting in a depression that looked like a castle battlement, totally oblivious to the men behind them. They had been told that the intruders would be coming from south, and that was the only place they looked. Entreri appreciated their location. Despite the giants' size, they were totally invisible from every direction but above.
John and Entreri had come from the northeast and slowly skirted to the north so they were directly behind the two giants. "Now what?"
Now we kill them, Entreri thought. How would John not know that? Entreri looked at John and understood. The man had not slept in over 48 hours. They had eaten very little during their trip over here and John was beat.
The captain was a fighter, but he was not in a condition to go up against giants right now. Entreri thought of taking care of them himself, but he had a better idea. He reached into his cloak and pulled out his jeweled dagger. "I am going to kill the one on the right, and while-"
"Just like that," John interrupted. "You are just going to kill him."
"Yes," Entreri did not elaborate. "When I do, the one on the left will be mad and try to crush me. While I have him distracted, stab him in the thigh with this." Entreri handed John his dagger.
The captain looked at the small weapon. "I have my own blade, and something that small won-"
"Please trust me," Entreri said. John took the dagger. "Stab him with it and then hold on."
Entreri pulled Cicle, his frost blade, out of its sheath and prepared to attack. He paused and turned to John. "Oh, and remember, these creatures killed your men."
A fire went on in John's eyes, and he glared back at the assassin. "I don't need motivation," he nearly growled.
At least, not anymore, Entreri thought to himself. Entreri turned back to the giants, crept up onto the edge of their parapet, and leaped. Cicle was held tightly in both hands, and he plunged it into the back of one of the giants. The cry was deafening. The stone giant leaped into the air and threw Entreri off his back, but the sword stayed put. The pain of the stab was nothing compared to the intense chill that swept through him as the frost blade soaked up his body heat.
The huge creature bent around in an assortment of positions, trying to get his clumsy arms to reach the buried hilt, but Entreri had placed it well. While the doomed giant clawed hopelessly at his back, the other one moved to crush Entreri who was just rolling to his feet. The giant heaved a huge stone above his head and hurled it at the tiny assassin. Entreri knew not to dodge until after the rock had been thrown because stone giants were well known for making last minute adjustments. The rock exploded into powder right at Entreri's heels.
John knew his part. He was still confused as to what Entreri had done. The wound in the first giant's back definitely hurt the creature, but he doubted a weapon that small would kill it. Regardless, he jumped down to the level of the giants and charged the second one from behind. The jeweled dagger sunk easily into the giant's leg. In a jolt of power, energy rushed into him, and the comment Entreri had made about holding on made perfect sense.
The giant howled in rage, again exhibiting more pain than a weapon of the dagger's size should be able to inflict on a creature this big. The giant kicked back with his leg and John went flying. His back hit hard against the stone wall that enclosed this battlement, but he popped right back up. He tossed the dagger aside and drew his sword. His weariness was gone, and he felt as strong as ever. His bum leg even felt fine.
The giant no longer held a stone, but it was mad enough to not need one. It was going to crush this human with its hands. John stepped up and swung and the crouching giant, keeping the huge arms at bay. The giant saw the sword, and pulled back in time, thinking to attack between swings. John did not let him. As his sword swung through the vacated area, he turned completely around, inviting a charge, and completed the 360 by chopping at the giant's forward leg.
The giant was not ready to dodge that, and his leg was sheared in two, right above the knee. John had already expected the hit and was sidestepping as the giant fell forward, howling in pain. John swung again, taking the creature's head before it had even hit the ground. He grunted with satisfaction and looked to see how Entreri was doing with his kill.
The assassin was dancing about the giant whose stumbling attempts to kick Entreri were laughable. The behemoth looked drunk, as his movements became more and more lethargic. Entreri taunted him all the while, which made the giant even more determined and his efforts look even more pathetic. Finally the giant fell to the ground, too weak to stand anymore. John watched as the giant's skin became suddenly pale and his movements stopped. Finally a large crackling sound came from the dying giant, and all was quiet.
Entreri climbed on top of his kill and removed his weapon. It slid free with the sound of metal scraping against stone. He quickly sheathed the dangerous weapon. Entreri looked over at John's kill and smiled. "Nice job."
"Is he . . ." John asked, looking at Entreri's work.
"Frozen?" Entreri replied. "Yes, he is." John had heard about what Entreri had done to Reillon, Quinton's mage, but he had thought Ellen was just exaggerating. Entreri walked over to pick up his dagger where John had dropped it and stowed it in his vest again. "If you can't take the cold," he said, "you shouldn't be playing in the snow."
"Is that another one of your assassin rules?" John asked.
Entreri walked over to the edge of the rocky alcove where the giants had been waiting for them. "No," he replied, not dignifying the question with a full response. "Here is the back door."
The two men slowly and carefully climbed down the sides of the cliff and looked at the cave. It was much bigger than the one Elliorn had found. This one was over twenty feet tall. They both walked slowly into the opening. Entreri did not like it. The two giants should not have been easy kills, but they had caught them off guard. Even if they had avoided the ambush in the more traditional way, Entreri still thought this entry was a bit unguarded.
He motioned for John to stay back as he quietly crept forward. He suddenly stopped. A sense of dread and terror flooded through him. Something was wrong. He tried to take a step backward, but his balance suddenly failed him and he fell. NO!!! his mind screamed out to him. He pushed himself up to his knees and vaguely heard John calling out to him. He could not understand the words, and when he turned to look, he saw John topple down beside him. Entreri's mind tried one more time to straighten things out, but he collapsed and remained still.
The two men lay motionless on the snowy cave floor as a very large shadow covered them. Kron came in from the outside. He had found two of his valuable stone giants killed up above, and was not happy. One of them was frozen solid and the other was in three pieces. He smiled as he saw the two killers lying motionless within the cave entrance. The snow had covered up the ward on the stone floor very efficiently and these two had walked right over it. They might have been clever, but Kron was still in control. Plus, if Elliorn did not want to be his emissary, he was sure one of these two would do.
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