Chapter 33: The Elf
Hobble sat off in the opposite direction from the approaching men. Jumping the remains of a stone wall and sliding under a wagon he came clear of the throng. He slipped down an alley. Even mid-morning, the towering buildings made the narrow street gloomy. Stalking close to the buildings, he hoped the shadows engulfed him. It was probably his imagination, but he felt the wish came true.
‘Let’s go, he went down here!’ The call came from the alley opening.
Hobble prayed he was concealed. In the next moment, all went dark around him. What in a crazy troll’s cave! Someone was using magic. Feeling the wall on his left, he continued forward. At least he did not have to limp to carry on the charade of the crippled foot.
‘What’s that darkness?’ The call came from behind. ‘Watch out, there is magic about!’
A few moments later, Hobble emerged from the dark globe. He glanced around and saw no one. Weighing his options, he decided to go for speed and started running down the street. Discerning that his followers would approach the darkness with caution, he concluded that he might leave them altogether if he hurried.
Rushing out in a busier street, he resumed the limping and blended with the crowd. He followed the mass for a while, but they moved too slowly for the impatient halfling. Coming to an intersection, he left the hectic street and went down an alleyway. He hobbled along at a brisk pace. Soon he was back in Oldtown and confident he had left the pursuers behind. But what now? He was a criminal. By the laws of Shacktown, he would be sentenced by one of the councilmen. He was not sure who was in charge of the area around Bits Arena, but it did not matter. The sentence would be to fight in the stadium at the weekend. It was Wednesday today. In a few days, he would fight for his life for the amusement of rich human ladies.
Hobble came to the inn. Stepping into the common room, he nodded to the old man at the bar before he climbed the stairs to the second floor. At the third door, he raised his hand to knock. Knowing there was no turning back after entering, he hesitated. Bowing his head, he sighed and knocked.
‘Come,’ sounded the muffled voice from within.
Hobble opened the door. The elf looked up from some papers he had in front of him at the table.
‘Hobble’—the elf raised his eyebrows—‘I didn’t expect to see you.’
‘I need your help.’
‘You realise my help does not come for free?’
‘I do. May I become a part of your group?’ Hobble asked.
‘I will ask you this only once,’ Zekatar said, ‘so be sure about your reply. After having worked so hard to leave my employment. After breaking into the dungeon and getting that sickly elf out, are you sure you will come back under my dark wings?’
Zekatar watched him, cocking his head and lifting his eyebrows.
‘Yes,’ Hobble said with all the conviction he could muster.