Paradox Metaphor
Chapter 18 -- The Ambush
by Steve Donohue

Rel and Dahj were growing tired of their assignment. Like most sentries, they were absolutely convinced that nothing was going to happen. Dahj felt he had covered their tracks fairly well and with the ranger already taken prisoner, there was no way the people of Westvale were going to find them.

So it was that when Pok and Kern finally arrived to relieve them, they were able to sneak up on the two of them and catch them unawares. They rubbed snow in their faces and the two new guards laughed mightily as their predecessors cursed at their bad joke. The four of them were engaged in a heated argument when Pok heard a sound and quickly motioned for silence.

In the clearing below they could see five figures moving towards the hillside carefully. There were three humans, a dwarf, and, most surprisingly of all, an ogre down there, all of them working on the trail they had left the night before. The group headed south, following the trail leading to their decoy inn. The orks had a quiet conference and decided killing them all was the best thing to do. Once theyíd done that, theyíd head back to the caves and report their success.

The other group must have determined that they were on the colder trail and headed back into the clearing. They had just started up the hillside when Dahj gave the signal to fire. As he did, there was a tremendous war cry behind him. The startled orks aimed badly and the warning enabled those below to block most of their arrows. Dahj turned to see an elf standing there with a razor thin blade in one hand and a dagger in the other.

"Would you like to surrender now," said the elf, "or shall I run a couple of you through first just so you can see how itís done?"

Dahj screamed in fury and grabbed for his heavy club. As he picked it up, the elfís blade flicked him lightly on the wrist and the club slid from his suddenly nerveless fingers. Beside him, he heard a tremendous crash and a bellow of pain. He looked over his shoulder for just a second to see Rel pinned by a huge rock. Pok and Kern darted behind trees to take cover.

The split second was all Tim needed. When the ork turned back, he had Elven steel poised at his throat. Dahj dropped his hands to his side and fixed the elf with a steely glare. He felt a sudden rush of heat as first Pok and then Kern were bathed in flame. The elf smiled.

"I believe, Sir Ork, that you are now our prisoner. Nod once if you understand me."

Dahj nodded.

"Very good then, you shall accompany us back to our home and there you will deliver information as to your kind and number in this area. Should you choose not to do so, well, you seem in good shape, Iím sure youíll make a fine meal for our friend the ogre."

He gestured with his blade and Dahj turned to walk down the hill. As he turned, he spotted the charred remains of Pok and Kern, incinerated by some sort of vile magic. He had thought about making a break for it, but the sight of his friends lying there dead convinced him that this group was too capable for such a ploy to succeed. When he got to the bottom of the hill, the dwarf bound his hands behind his back with a leather thong and then tied his boot laces together to form a hobble.

"Ron, clean up the battlefield and see if thereís anything else we should worry about. Tim, do a little bit of scouting but not too much. Donít take any crazy chances. The rest of us will head back to the inn with or prisoner and formulate a plan. Steve, you have the point. Brian, Nick and I will bring up the rear. Brian, if the ork does anything rash, kill him."

Their odd procession began making itís way back to the inn. The ork was deliberately slow, but the humans didnít seem to notice. The two younger ones were engaged in a heated discussion of what had just happened.

"I couldíve thrown that rock up there easy if the Beast hadnít grabbed it first," said Brian.

Nick nodded his agreement, "but being strong isnít the only thing. Did you see the way Mark just tossed those two pine cones up there and they burst into flame. Those orks never even had a chance. If theyíre all this stupid, this should be easy."

"No kidding," said Brian, "especially with the way Tim melted into the forest like that. Itís almost like heís invisible or something."

Dahj wasnít sure what was up, but it was clear to him that these humans were not experienced warriors, despite their skills. Even if they didnít think he was going to escape, their discussions were unwise. He was now certain that they had only recently gained these skills, perhaps at the same time his cave was moved from itís original home. If he did escape, he would have quite a story for Telrik and the others.

Finally, Mark grew tired of their discussion and asked both of them to be quiet. They complied for a few minutes but were soon back to whispering about what had happened and about what would have happened had they been given a chance to fight. Luckily, they reached the inn before Mark really lost his temper.

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