As we neared the battle, I quickly surveyed the nearby surroundings… it appeared to be the dwarven contingent we were following… the cage was smashed and engulfed in flames… dwarven bodies were strewn about and there were three survivors still battling a large wood troll… but no sign of Wargie, and the flaming cart eliminated any scent of our missing warg.
Silentknife and Sylwith dismounted before we got near the forest’s edge, rushing into the fray. Creami stayed with the horses, keeping an eye on the battle. The remaining dwarves saw the horses and turned to flee… big mistake for two of them as the wood troll smashed into them with a mighty swing of his trunk-of-an-arm and sent them flying through the air before crashing violently into a tree… their limp bodies remaining still as they fell to the ground. I quickly check the two bodies… they were dead as their heads lay in positions conducive to broken necks. The remaining dwarf had avoided the swing of the troll and ran off into the trees, with Silentknife giving chase, going stealth. Chucaro and the huntress focused on the wood troll, so I took off after the dwarf, as well.
As I closed on the dwarf, I could see him looking back as he changed direction, trying to lose his pursuers… I was getting ready to pounce him when his forward motion was suddenly stopped as if he had hit an invisible wall… well, more like an invisible wall hitting the dwarf as Silentknife re-appeared, standing over the unconscious dwarf, vigorously rubbing his shoulder. “Those little bastards can be painful at times,” he grimaced.
The burglar quickly disarmed the dwarf and searched him for whatever helpful items he could find… “And relieve the dwarf of any trinkets or coin, I would guess,”I thought to myself. After removing what armor he could, we dragged the limp body back to where we left the others. Chucaro and Sylwith met up with us and helped us bring the dwarf back.
As we got closer to the battlefield, the fire from the cart seemed much more intense… it didn’t take long to see the reason why as the lower torso of the wood troll hadn’t been consumed by the flames yet. Creami saw us and waved us over to where she made camp and tied the horses down. The dwarf was dumped to the ground and Creami gave him a quick check, verifying what we knew… he was alive and out cold.
“Well now, what to do with this one?” Silentknife mused out loud.
“We are losing time finding where they took Wargie.. we need information and this dwarf will tell us what we need to know,” I answered.
“You seem rather sure of yourself, Deathwulf,” he said, giving me a critical look.
“This isn’t going to be pretty… but I’ve ‘extracted’ information from the enemy numerous times, and while the methods may seem barbaric to others, they get results,” I explained. “You will want to avoid watching what I do and may want to consider covering your ears… the dwarf will probably scream… a lot…”
Creami’s face blanched at the thought and she would have toppled to the ground had Sylwith not caught her in time. They both walked away and towards the horses as Sylwith shot me a questioning glance. The burglar stared at me, rubbing his chin. “Ok, Deathwulf, you’ve got my curiosity peaked… what do you want me to do?”
I took a quick look around a found a tree that would work perfectly. “Tie him to the tree with his arms around the tree and his hands pointing up… make sure he cannot easily clench his hands into a fist… that won’t hamper what I am going to do, it’ll just make it more painful for him.”
“Hmm… why does it seem like this dwarf, should he survive, will no longer be able to count to ten without taking his boots off?” the burglar asked with a sly laugh. “I’ve had to use such tactics, myself at times… but like you said, it is barbaric, but extremely effective…”
“It’s a bit more than that,” I explained, “as I don’t remove an entire digit at once… there are two joints on each digit and it gives more opprotunity to find their pain threshold. Even the most battle-hardened veteran cannot tolerate losing very many digits.”
Silentknife’s arched an eyebrow at this, “I’ve never thought about it that way… this will be interesting to watch, indeed!”
After he tied the dwarf’s hands around the tree, I asked him to find some water to wake the dwarf up. “There is a lake nearby,” the burglar informed us as he found a dwarven helmet. “This should do nicely… I’ll be right back,” he said as he sped off through the trees.
Chucaro came up to me, “That burglar scares me at times… he seemed to almost enjoy listening about how you extract information.”
“I’m not surprised by anything that this group we have been with does anymore… in a way, they are no different than we are… we’re simply fighting for what we believe in, as are they… it is the beliefs that differ. Somehow, I feel a bit relieved that we are working together… it would be much harder for us if we were fighting against them, as well.”
Chucaro nodded in agreement as the burglar came back with the water. I stood behind the dwarf in stealth as Chucaro stood near the dwarf. She nodded to Silentknife and he doused the dwarf with the water. The dwarf sputtered and coughed as he regained his senses. He briefly tried to break from his bonds, but when he realized he was secure, he stopped fighting and glared at Chucaro and the burg.
“Since you are the only survivor of your squad, we have some questions you can answer for us,” Chucaro began, “How many others were in your squad and what happened to the warg that was in the cage?”
“Hrmph,” the dwarf said simply and settled in for a long process.
“Fine, we’ll do this the hard way, then,” Chucaro said, nodding to me.
The dwarf went rigid when he felt my hot breath on his hands… I slowly positioned my teeth above the first finger join and quickly bit down, instantly separating the top portion of a finger. The dwarf showed much tolerance as a slight muffle escaped his lips, but nothing more. I spit the fingertip out and waited for Chucaro to continue.
“I won’t repeat my question… answer me!” she demanded.
The dwarf lifted his head, breathing heavily… a look of pure hatred in his eyes. He flashed an evil smile, but held his ground and said nothing. A simple nod, and I removed the second section of his finger. Again, a brief grunt, but no other sound… though he was breathing much heavier now…
As Chucaro leaned in to ask yet again, the dwarf lifted his head and spat at her, catching her muzzle. This time, he screamed as I clamped down on another finger with the back of my jaws, not only tearing the entire finger from his hand, but shattering bones in the process. Chucaro wiped the spittle from her face and carefully placed her paw against the dwarf’s cheek, her claw near the corner of his eye.
“We have a lot of time and many, many finger joints left, dwarf,” she said in a deathly quiet voice as her claw broke skin and she slowly dragged her paw down his cheek to his jaw… a trail of blood dripping from his face. He clamped his mouth tightly and lowered his head. I moved stealthily to the front to see what progress we would make.
The dwarf went still momentarily, then his body started to convulse violently… his head shot up and his eyes were bugged out, nearly ready to pop out of his head… an orange glow emanating from his body…
“Take cover!” I yelled as I shoved Chucaro away and positioned myself between her and the dwarf. Within seconds, the dwarf exploded in a ball of fire, the heat singeing my fur as I was sent flying into Chucaro, who had readied herself for the blast and was able to cushion the two of us at impact.
“Are you two ok?” Silentknife asked from behind a tree he used as shelter from the blast.
“Yes,” we said in unison as I lifted my head to make sure Chucaro was safe… a sudden movement caught my eye… looking to the north I saw an image that chilled me to the bone… just in the boundary of my vision, I saw the dwarf, Balarbaz, riding a huge beast… his runestones glowing bright orange as he grinned at me. I squinted to get a better look at the beast just before they turned and bound away into the distance.
Wargie… my heart stuck in my throat as the minstrel and huntress rushed to where we were. After the huntress determined we were ok, she went to check the perimeter, with the burglar in tow. The minstrel went at her business quietly, administering some cool salve to my singed fur. I looked up to see her face as she was concentrating on my wounds. Her eyes were red and haggard as if she had been crying. She finished tending to me and briefly looked up… her eyes met mine and she quickly turned away from me. She got up and went to check on Chucaro without saying a word.