Eruviel paused in a shadow near The Pony. “Hal.”
“What?” he asked, stopping on the steps.
“I can’t walk in the main room looking like this,” she said, motioning to her dirt and black-bloodied self. “I’m going through the back.”
Hallem gave her a guilty look. “Are you all right? For sure?”
Her mouth set in a firm line, she nodded. “I will be. I’ll see you inside.”
Giving her another look, Hallem continued up into the Inn. Turning, Eruviel slipped through the shadows along the side of the building, making her way around to the back door. By the Void, she felt terrible.
Stepping in the back door, a small breath or relief escaped her at seeing the hall vacant. Moving in she hesitated at seeing her reflection in a mirror along the wall. The cut over her jaw from the arrow didn’t look as bad as she’d thought, but she was indeed a sight with dirt and pineneedles in her braid. Orc blood stained her dark shirt and streaked over one side of her face, but the worst was the light bruise that had begun to form on her neck where the Orc had grabbed her.
“I’m going to be in so much trouble,” she murmured with a weary sigh. Poor Hallem. She had been furious when he’d dove for cover under a dead Orc. She supposed it was her own fault. Instead of calling for help, she’d called his name, and it had been dark . . . .
Shuddering, she moved to lean against a wall and wait. The pack she had filled with items from the camp they had passed slipped off her shoulder to the floor, and she pulled out the small note Hallem had found. Keep it up. We’ll starve them out, was scrawled across the small page in Black Speech. Her thumb traced over the name for the Orcs to contact. Ievi.
Fitting the note safely away, Eruviel shoved her hands into her pockets and fixed a hard look down at the black Orc arrows in her quiver. Leave messages for the guilds, inform the authorities, get food, find Rhe — Footsteps down the hall interrupted her list. “Ah, there you are, Hal,” she said, turning her stern gaze up from the floor. She then nods politely to Morty as he followed close behind the young man. “Master Mossfoot.”
“Eruviel? What’s going on?”
Eruviel pushed off from where she leaned. She’d never seen the gravedigger look so serious or strained with worry. “Orcs have us trapped in Durrow. They mean to starve us out. They are part of a group the Wayfarers encountered before . . . led by an Orc . . . His name starts with an ‘S’. Forgive me for not remembering off the top of my head. We are all right, for now.”
Morducai rubs at his face. “Stockard’s bones. What do Orcs want with Durrow?”
Hallem looked between them and responded, “That part-orc, Rheb, ran off. He was mad at Cwen. It could’ve been him.”
“I don’t know who either of those people are,” said the gravedigger, “but all right.”
Eruviel frowned. “What they really want? I’m not sure,” she admitted with a sigh. “I hope to find out more on our way back. My theory is that Rheb is being used by the Orc leader to hurt the people there for revenge . . . or power. Maybe both.” She then nodded to Morty. “Does the name ‘Ievi’ ring a bell?”
Morducai shook his head. “No, sorry. I don’t socialize with a lot of Orcs, either.”
Eruviel managed a small smile. “Probably for the best.”
“But Esthr and Hawk are both fine?” the man quickly asked.
“They’re fine, Morty,” said Hal with a nod. “But we n-need to get food.'”
Eruviel nodded in agreement. “We should get going . . . Can we take anything back for you? Any word or notes?”
Morducai looked to her. “Yes. Please let Esthyr know I know, and I’m doing everything I can to get the Freemason’s Guild down to you.” He then turned his gaze to Hal. “Go talk to the Mayor.”
“What about Kennick? Is he here?”
“Haven’t seen him in a few days, but he was with me when I found the avalanche, so he knows.”
“Anya found the raven, by the way,” said Eruviel as she picked up the pack.
Morty smiled. “Good. I thought she would. I’d say give her a kiss for me, but, well.”
Eruviel chuckled. “I think a sisterly one will have to suffice. I’ll give Hawk a kiss as well.”
“Thank you. I’ll do everything I can from here,” he said before looking back to Hallem. “It’s really good to see you, lad.”
Hallem nodded. “Yeah. You too.” The young man turned a bit towards Eru. “I guess we should go.”
Eruviel took a step towards the door. “We should. Be well, Master Mossfoot, and thank you.”
Morducai nodded. The man was so stressed that he forgot to tip his cap. Giving them one last look he turned and headed down the hall.
Eruviel took a deep breath, and gave Hal the other half of her smile. “Do you want to go see about the Mayor while I get the food?”
“Yeah,” he sighed. “I’ll do it.”
Eruviel nodded. “See you at the West Gate in . . . half an hour?”
Hallem followed behind her as she walked to the door. “Half an hour.”