The lakeside path became increasingly muddy as Rhogar and Martin continued west until it was shin-deep pools of muck. The lake itself sloshed a murky brown as well and the southern hills had closed in on the road becoming steep rocky cliffs. Martin was quick to point out that their chances of coming across another ambush were looking better and better. Rhogar nodded in agreement and the pair stopped as soon as they came across a narrowing in the road where two tall orange rock outcroppings thinned it to the point that they’d have to travel single file to get through.
“I do not like this.” Rhogar grunted and gestured to the narrow path. He hefted one sludge covered leg out from a particularly deep puddle of mud. “Also, how in hell is this muck not bogging you down?”
Martin looked down at his own feet which seemed to stand atop the muck without so much as sinking an inch. He looked back at Rhogar with a smirk and shrugged once again. “I don’t like it any better than you. If I were to set an ambush, I couldn’t wish for a better place.”
Rhogar looked around at the high cliffs to either side and the brown lake in disappointment, “Getting around it doesn’t seem likely either… unless you can walk on water too?”
Martin shook his head, no, and then it snapped sharply to one side and he placed one finger to his thin lips. Rhogar watched as the elf seemed to be listening to something that he couldn’t hear. Martin brought his head back up and pointed to a rather large pool of muck to the south side of the road before nocking an arrow. Rhogar nodded once, shifted his axe, and crept with difficulty through the mud toward the pool. As he got closer he recognized the shapes of two men beneath a thick sheet of mud, he could see it undulate as the hidden figures breathed.
Rhogar swung his axe around once more, slinging it into the leather catch on his back. His two huge clawed hands then thrust into the puddle, grasped both men by their necks and lifted their sludge covered bodies up high above the ground.
“What RATS are these!!!” Rhogar roared, his draconic face twisted into a visage of rage as shards of frozen spittle flew into the wide-eyed faces of the men.
“Don’t kill us!” the shorter of the two men squealed in fear.
The taller one glowered and sneered, “Do what you will, child thieves!”
Rhogar felt surprise and looked over his shoulder back at Martin who had two arrows pulled back in his bowstring but seemed to be lowering them slightly at the comment.
Rhogar shook the pair of men with his mighty arms and growled, “Where are you from!?”
The short man flinched as his teeth seemed to rattle in his head, “We’re from L…”
“Don’t tell him a damn thing.” The tall one interrupted.
Rhogar pushed his face closer to the men and his reptilian eyes seemed to scrutinize everything about them. A moment passed and finally Rhogar lowered them to the muddy ground and let them go. “You’re from Lochsburg. You’ve got the same shabby leather armor as Garret… settle down, we’re here to help.”
“You are?”, the small one looked hopeful.
“Not likely.” the tall one mumbled.
“I swore an oath to Garret to find out what happened to your children.”, Rhogar explained and absently began to pick the mud out from under his scales with one claw.
“What about him?”, the tall one asked suspiciously pointing at the elf.
Martin lowered his bow and re-quivered his arrows. “I hunt the eladrin traitor you call Cessil… for my own reasons.”
At this Rhogar peered back at Martin and raised a scaly brow in his direction but said nothing.
“So, you’re really here to help? Oh, thank the gods… thanks the gods. We lost the others, Garrin, Cole and Wes… they…” the short one faltered.
“They were killed by dwarves.” the tall one said, and his companion lowered his head.
“We came across one of them back down the road a ways—for such small stature we somehow managed to leave him a head shorter than we found him.”, Rhogar said.
The tall one seemed to smile a bit at this. “Good riddance, and… thank you. For all that’s been done to us, our anger is impotent at best… we are not fighters, never have been, though I wish for all the worlds that we were now.”
The short one nodded brightly, “But that’s why you’re here, right? You can help us with our trap!”
Rhogar gave the small man a quizzical look.
The tall one sighed, “There’s a slave caravan along this road further west. A handful of dwarves and some kind of giant monster pushing a caged wagon full of children.”
“Your children?” Rhogar asked.
“If only, but no… they’re not human.” the tall man shook his head.
“They’re like you!” the short man erupted and pointed at Rhogar.
“Dragonborn whelps imprisoned!?” Rhogar nearly roared and clenched his fists until his claws pierced the palms of his hands.
“We couldn’t stop them. The other three attacked the dwarves and were smashed down before they could get a strike in edgewise… But the caravan came through this pass, and well, the ground here is weak, we were going to collapse a sinkhole where the pass is most narrow and cut off their route… a weak plan really—they’d have a bridge built over it in no time I’ve no doubt.” the tall man explained.
“It may work to our advantage yet.” Rhogar said. “Let us cross first and then collapse it behind us. It will keep anyone from coming up on us from the east. Should we manage to rescue the children you’ll need to improvise a bridge to get us back, can you promise us that much?”
“Yes, of course!” the small man nodded.
“If you manage to rescue any children, I’ll build you a bridge of gold myself.” the tall one smiled brightly for the first time since they’d met him and even managed to wink.
Martin nodded to the two humans and then quickly ran ahead lightly atop the mud while drawing two more arrows.
Rhogar grasped both men by the shoulders and nodded as well before following.
The smaller man waited until the two warriors were out of sight and then asked, “Do you think they can really do it?”
The tall man rolled a large boulder down from the rocky hillside and heaved it heavily on the ground nearest to the thinnest part of the pass and watched as a muddy hole opened up and swallowed it. “I don’t know.”