The Unrepentant (Skharr DeathEater #6) by Michael Anderle

A child would have been easy to hold up and the dwarf was considerably heavier than a child of roughly the same height, but he was not willing to drop the pest yet.

"Throk needs you to enter the warrens through another route," the first dwarf continued and watched his kinsman's struggles with interest. "And since Brahgen is available, he will show you the way Throk wishes you to take."

"I take it Brahgen is the name of this sullen creature?" Skharr asked and raised an eyebrow.

"And I'm a creature now, am I?" Brahgen continued his fight to free himself.

"Aye," the other dwarf answered and ignored the protest. "Provided he ceases his difficult nature."

"I'm not difficult. I'm…adventurous."

"There’s not much need for that in a city, ye little shit. Now stop being an adventurous pest and do as you're commanded. I won't return with news of how a barbarian was right to lop your arm off."

Brahgen stopped his struggles, looked around, and finally acknowledged the wisdom of this with a slow nod. Skharr smirked, opened his hand, and let the dwarf fall.

He was nimble and lithe and rolled smoothly over his shoulder to regain his feet before he brushed the dirt from the cobbles off his cloak.

"Right then," the younger dwarf muttered, straightened his clothes, and rubbed some feeling into his sore arm. "Follow me."

Skharr nodded and complied without comment. Their route branched off the thoroughfare he’d been on and proceeded along a handful of parallel streets through the sector until they reached what looked like a dead end.

His guide seemed undeterred, approached the wall at the far side of the alley, and rapped his knuckles against the stone in a quick code to whoever might have waited on the other side.

A few moments later, the sound of stone grinding on stone heralded a section of the wall being dragged clear. It moved along a meticulously dug rut in the ground that worked as a track to allow it to come free and be pushed into place again without too much difficulty. It would have been invisible to any eyes that weren't watching for it.

Not many in the world could work stone like dwarves could. The barbarian wondered if there was something innately magical in their blood that allowed for it, but those he’d questioned had all replied that it was merely due to skill and instruction.

The wall opened onto a narrow staircase leading into the earth. He needed to duck as he followed Brahgen into the Warrens.

That dwarves liked living underground was not new information, of course, but he wondered if even the city guard had been down there. It seemed to add a multitude of streets to Verenvan that were entirely populated by dwarves, kept secret and hidden, and allowed them some degree of autonomy in a city that was otherwise populated mainly by humans.

A few twists and turns through the well-lit tunnels came and went before there was any sign of other dwarves in the area. Skharr moved his hand immediately to his dagger when they turned a corner and came face to face with a half-dozen dwarves. These wore full armor and were armed with shields and spears.

All six were tense and lowered their weapons when they saw him and a swift shout stopped them short of attacking.

A woman pushed through the group, caught one of the guards by his shoulder pauldron, and shoved him roughly into the wall.

"Voras wer shit, you useless idiots," she snapped and mixed her native tongue with the common language spoken in the region. "And you, Brahgen—you and I will have words!"

His guide took a step back, which told Skharr that the nature of those words would not be pleasant. It was made worse when the woman boxed the young dwarf on the right ear and proceeded to grasp him by it as well.

"Throk has gone to great lengths so you don't have your schion chopped off for his sister's sake, but you'll find I lack his patience."

She dragged him between the six guards and toward another set of steps that appeared to open into a more spacious area underground. Unsure of what he should do next, the warrior looked at the guards.

They were similarly confused and simply shrugged and stepped aside to create a path for him to follow Brahgen and the woman who still had him by the ear.

No one stopped him as he advanced through their lines, down the steps, and into the Warrens.

In most ways, this could not have been more different than the previous council meeting Micah had attended. The members present were mostly human, for one thing, and all appeared to be from one noble house or the other. They spoke with perfect clarity and cultured intonations and called on the mighty names of the past to support their arguments and conclusions.