A fun teaser this time. Tried to clear it of all spoilers without hurting the flow. This introduces one of the new characters that may or may not play a big role in the story. Honestly, Lodur was just plain fun to write.
Grab a copy for yourself or gift it to a friend who loves barbarians, badass women, and/or epic adventures.
Knowing he is outnumbered and can easily be overpowered, Luke still delivers a kick to the barbarian’s knee. The unexpected blow knocks the larger man off-balance enough for the half-elf to tackle him, both warriors hitting the ground hard. It is a brief tussle as one of the others grabs the forest tracker by the leg and hoists him into the air. A quick punch to the man’s large nose helps Luke get free and drop to the ground. Remaining upside down, he bends his arms and launches himself feet first into his stunned opponent’s muscular gut. Rolling under two grasping hands, the forest tracker tries to sprint for a nearby fence. He gets a few steps before the female barbarian catches him by the face and pins him against the wall of the tavern. She lets go when she feels a sharp pain in her fleshy palm and examines her hand to find a small puncture wound in the center. For a brief moment, she swears Luke has a beak that steadily shrinks back into his face.
“Do you five really want to hurt this young man?” asks a slurred voice from the tavern’s entrance. The man is nothing more than a silhouette in the open door, the lantern in his hand making it difficult for anyone to see details of his appearance. “I’m sure he’s fought and killed many things tougher than you. After all, he is the famous Luke Callindor and we’ve all heard the stories. Perhaps the only reason any of you are still standing is because he is holding back. That means he’s a good man who refuses to hurt the foolish.”
The swaying figure puts the lantern down and steps into the crimson moonlight, which bounces off the metal clips that keep his ragged clothes together. His white hair is knotted and there are several twigs sticking out of the unkempt mess. By contrast, his thick beard is immaculate and runs down to the middle of his chest where it is adorned with a mottled ring of jasper. The man walks with a limp, which forces him to lean heavily on the massive staff in his hand. Everyone winces when a stiff breeze carries the stench of cheap alcohol and body odor to them. Luke notices the hilt of a shortsword sticking out of the man’s rotting belt, but the weapon is covered in rust and tarnish. Even with the disheveled appearances, there is a glint of cunning in the barbarian’s reddish brown eyes that makes the half-elf think this is not someone to underestimate. It is a thought that is wiped away when the man stumbles and falls into the mud where he remains lying face down for a minute.
“Dammit, Lodur!” shouts the heavily scarred barbarian. He goes to help the older tribe member up and props him against the wall. “You know to stay inside if you’ve had too much to drink. Nobody wants to fish you out of another animal pen or scale a mountain to rescue you from a cliff. We’ll do it if we have to, but we’d prefer you stay out of trouble. Just stay inside where you’re safe.”
“I couldn’t stay there when I realized all of you were in danger,” Lodur proudly declares, pointing a finger at the forest tracker. The man drops his staff and takes a shaky step, his limp switching to his other leg. “He has slain Weapon Dragons and demons single-handedly. All he needs to do is draw his blades and we’d be picking pieces of you off the street well into the morning.”
“I really wouldn’t do that,” Luke interjects without realizing his hands are on his saber hilts again. He raises his arms and smiles in an attempt to calm everyone down. “All I wanted to do tonight was wander the streets and gather information. Nobody is saying anything that I don’t already know, so I’d like to go back to my bed now.”
“Please take this one home, which is on the way to the inn,” the female barbarian requests, gently guiding Lodur to the foreigner. The drunk opens his mouth to speak, but two of the younger men reach out to pinch his lips closed. “No arguing. You know everyone is worried about you ever since the attack. Promise us that you will stay in Stonehelm and not wander into the wilderness again.”
Lodur feigns being hurt and leans on Luke, nearly smothering the short warrior in his armpit. “I will remain within this fine city’s walls. My new friend and I will spend the night regaling each other with tales of valor. There’s a case of Ifrit mead and wild rum at my place that I’m glad to share with a famous hero.”
“Great,” the half-elf says, his mouth going dry from fear of the potent drinks.
No longer angry, the five barbarians return to the tavern while Luke does his best to help his new friend along the street. It is difficult because the man is so much larger and there is a horrid smell wafting off his skin. The forest tracker is about to collapse when Lodur abruptly moves away and casually walks alongside him. Staring at the grinning barbarian, Luke can see that he no longer has the limp in either leg and is probably not as drunk as he let on. Though the faint stench of ale leads him to believe that his new companion does spend an inordinate amount of time in the taverns.
“Thought you’d want an easy way out of that fight, youngster,” Lodur whispers, tussling the champion’s blonde hair. “I get away with a lot here ever since I lost my family to trolls. They think I’m a drunkard and not right in the head.”
“Are they right?”