"No?" Throk asked.
"There were dozens of them. I am deadly but even I cannot fight a small army. Those who were with me did, however, kill them all." He returned his attention to Brahgen, who looked like he was still being restrained by the two armed dwarves. "Consider this your first lesson—never find yourself supporting actions intended to harm a DeathEater. Harm generally comes to those who intend it."
The master smith smirked. "I doubt he'll learn that lesson until he sees what a DeathEater is capable of with his own eyes."
"Have you seen such a thing yourself?" Skharr asked.
"Aye. It’s not the kind of thing you forget. I watched as a group of your clan, at the request of the AnvilForged, attacked a caravan coming away from the mountains. The group had stolen something precious from us and The Clan overtook them on one of the icy roads. Howls split the air and arrows were loosed from every possible angle before the warriors descended and killed them all without mercy. It isn’t the kind of thing a young dwarf would ever forget."
The barbarian smiled and looked at Brahgen, who avoided his gaze and stared at the stone beneath his feet instead.
"We can only hope such a demonstration does not prove necessary."
He would not be able to find his way through the passages on his own if he had a month in which to attempt it. Dwarves had an instinct for navigating their tunnels, while the barbarian was far more comfortable walking through the open spaces, be it in the fields or the mountains.
Skharr liked to think it had something to do with his size that made him dislike enclosed spaces, but if that were the case, he had no idea why he had spent so much time underground. He would need to think on that another time, however.
"All you need do is knock again and you'll be let through," the dwarf who guided him said. "We'll show you."
With little else to do but agree, he nodded. He was, however, mostly sure they hadn’t followed the same route along which he'd arrived. As expected, when he tasted fresh air again, he stepped through into a different alley. The dwarf showed him the knocking code—not only the precise number of knocks but how to perform them, as well as which part of the wall he needed to knock on.
"Stone is not wood," his guide said as the doors began to close again. "You need to have more patience and tenacity when you deal with it."
The door closed before Skharr could answer and left him in the middle of a mostly abandoned alley. The smell of the swamps wasn’t too far off as he moved away and he soon regained his bearings enough to return to the Mermaid without difficulty.
By now, the sun was already straddling the horizon and cast long shadows across the entire city and the torches were being lit throughout. A few areas still hadn't been attended to. The slums would not be lit until the morning light appeared, and he thought he could feel gazes following him through the streets.
Whether they were or not, he couldn't tell. A few too many looks lingered but it was possible that folk were simply curious about him. It was one of the disadvantages of being a little too well-known in the city. Perhaps it was merely his mind playing tricks on him.
And yet the barbarian couldn't resist the urge to keep his hand on the hilt of his dagger while he waited for one of those gazes to follow him for a little too long.
None of them did and he soon approached the famed sign of a topless mermaid perched over the docks. He approached the building through the back. Too many people knew he preferred the Mermaid when he stayed in the city and so it was likely that his entrance through the front would place him toe to toe with folks who wished him ill.
The back door had been left open for him, and he continued through the kitchens that bustled with activity. It seemed the whole room was filled with various aromas and with steam as he turned toward the common room.
He paused and looked around until he saw one of the cooks, who stirred a wooden spoon through the contents of a massive cast iron pot and kept her hair out of her face with a thick leather band.
"Aye, Kora," he answered. "It’s good to see you working today. The food will be better than usual—no offense to the rest of the staff."
"They can be as offended as much as they like. It's true," Kora responded with a grin. "I have a platter ready with your usual fare. Ansen says not to but it's best to have it ready for you."
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