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By Hans-Jrg Knabel

Two different armor sketches for the paladins supporting the host of Rhobar III.

Thunk.

Wood met stone.

Thunk
. Thunk. Thunk.

Murdra looked up from the cooking pot and glanced in Belgors direction. He was hobbling towards the table where Feren and the rangers were sitting. es gettin used to the new leg, she thought. The crutches stood in the corner by the sideboard. He hadnt touched them for two weeks now. Belgor was still fighting for his balance and wobbling as he walked, but the wooden leg didnt slide away from under him anymore, as it had at the beginning, and it had been a while since he last fell flat on his face.
Craglan gave him an appreciative nod and pulled him up a chair. Belgor sat down at the head rangers side with a groan and slid his peg leg under the table.
Ah, the wobbling landlord, Feren mocked.
Belgor ignored him. Since the night he had charged the shadow beast armed only with a torch and a pitchfork many regulars had started to mock him, calling him a cripple, half a man, considering him unfit to run a tavern. Feren wasnt the only one, but he was by far the worst. He enjoyed thinking up several names for Belgor, like wobbling landlord, peg-legged fool, and hayfork-foot.
Should be kicked out, the lout, Murdra thought. In her eyes, Belgor was more of a man now than he had ever been; he had proven that he was a hero. Far from being a flaw, the wooden leg was no flaw it was a mark of distinction, a badge of honor crafted for her husband at the kings behest, a sign of the monarchs gratitude. She ladled a last portion of stew into the bowl she had specially prepared for Belgor and made her way out of the kitchen, bowl in hand. Grabbed her broom as she passed the door, she trudged to the table.

What are you talkin about? Belgor asked as Murdra served him the stew.
Nothing in particular, Feren said in a bored tone, playing with his rings. Nothing a cripple should care about.
Murdra scowled, gripping her broom, and began to clear away the damp hay around the table with large, angry strokes.
Craglan gave Feren a steely gaze. About the new king, he said to Belgor. Up there, on the continent.
Calls himself Rhobar III, Ricklen added. Not a very original name, if you ask me.
Youre certainly right about that, Feren agreed.
I dont know, Craglan mused. Kings pick their names carefully. As you may have heard, he doesnt simply call himself the king of Myrtana, but the king of Midland. Trust me, my friends there is a storm brewing, for that name clearly states one thing: he intends to reunite the old kingdom. Dont forget the southern islands used to be part of the realm!
If you can believe the rumors, Jilvie chimed in, he is two paces tall and wields a greatsword in one hand.
Yes, Ricklen added. I heard he challenges every man who crosses his path to a duel. Hes just a giant brute someone will have his head long before he can set foot on our island.
Whether he is a brute or not, I cannot say, Craglan interjected, but from what Ive heard, hes supposed to not only be a master swordsman, but also level-headed and sound strategist. The people of Myrtana support him as he promises them lasting peace.
We already have peace here, Jilvie said. We dont need a Midland king!
We dont, Craglan agreed. But on the continent, things look pretty grim. There are wars being fought all over.
What about the story with the eagle that accompanies his army wherever he goes? Ricklen asked.
Dont know anything about that, but in any case, Rhobar III has chosen an eagle as his emblem, Feren replied. And his campaign against the orcs was blessed by the gods he has driven them out of Myrtana, and Thorus has fled the continent with a handful of minions.
Hes going to sail back to Torgaan, Jilvie piped in.
Well, I ope es not comin ereaways, Belgor said. Last thin we need is a bunch of warrin orcs!
Tell you what Belgor, Feren said with a grin. If I were you, its not orcs Id be worried about. With that pitchfork leg of yours, a little shepherd boy could give you a thrashing.

Escutcheon with an eagle, the sign of Rhobar III.

The chatter gave way to an uneasy silence. The rangers exchanged embarassed looks. The pig, Murdra thought.
If its trouble, youre lookin for, Feren, you can ave it! Belgor thundered, smashing his fist on the table so hard the stew spilled over. He tried to stand up, but Craglan held him back with a hand on his shoulder.
Dont, the ranger murmured.
Brushing his hand aside, Belgor hauled himself up. Yes! he yelled at the young trader. Ive only got one leg! Even a molerat can see that! But one leg is all I need to kick you out of my tavern! He rolled up his sleeves and hobbled around the table, his eyes fixed on Feren.
I dont think so, Feren said cooly, standing up.
Wait, Belgor, Craglan said. Ill toss him out for you.
Stay! Belgor replied. His wooden leg was planted firmly on the stone floor, like an oak. Feren grinned. Belgor didnt hesitate he came at Feren with a right cross, but Feren simply stepped back. Belgor lost his balance, the wooden leg sliding away to the side, wedging itself into a crack between two floor stones. He stumbled, but did not fall. Belgor struck again, this time with his left, but Feren easily blocked the blow and deftly stepped to Belgors side, kicking the wooden leg from under him. Belgor fell and hit the stone floor face-first with a resounding thud.

Murdras hero had fallen. Now es gone too far, she thought, gripping her broom with both hands. Out! she hissed at Feren. Youre not welcome ere no more!
Think about it, Murdra, the young trader said, laughing. Do you really want to do without my gold?
Damn your gold, she thought, jabbing her broom at Ferens face. The birch switches raked his cheeks, lips and eyes. Feren stumbled back, the laughter cut short.
No. I Im gonna toss im out! Belgor groaned, struggling to rise.
Murdra heard him, but she couldnt wait. She fell on Feren like a mad harpy, striking him left and right. Feren stepped back, trying to block her blows, but Murdra pressed on just like the king in his fight with the shadow beast, with a broom and apron in guise of mace and plate mail. She overwhelmed Feren, and the switches of her broom whipped over Ferens face, leaving bloody streaks across his cheeks and brow. He turned for the door and fled, but Murdra didnt let up. Feren stumbled, but managed to catch himself by grabbing the door frame. With a savage blow, Murdra catapulted Feren off the porch, sending him flying face-first into the dirt.
And dont ever think of showin your face around ere again! Murdra yelled and slammed the door shut.
She turned around and saw Craglan helping Belgor up. Dont worry about the likes of him, he said with a comforting smile. Theyre not worth it.

Belgor snorted. The skin over his cheek bone was swollen and turning purple. He avoided Craglans and Murdras gazed and headed for the stairs, eyes downcast, his wooden leg pounding against the stone floor..

Thunk
. Thunk. Thunk..

Murdra watched him go, still gripping the broom. Belgor hobbled up the stairs, vanishing from her sight, but she could hear the slow beat of his peg leg against the wooden floor of the gallery.

Thunk
. Thunk. Thunk.

The door to the bedroom slammed shut.

Thunk
. Thunk.

Something wet ran down Murdras cheek. She hadnt felt like this for a long time.

Thunk
.

Cant do anythin bout that, she told Craglan, and wiped her face with her sleeve.


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