The notes for “The Story of Jasmine” continue:
“Heigh Ho! Friend or foe?” Ahearn looked in the direction of the call. His sword was still strapped to his horse and he would not be able to retrieve it in time.
He held up his weaponless hands and replied, “Friend!”
The moon had disappeared again. Ahearn heard some bustling within the chamber and then the slow advance of footsteps. “Nothing will happen to you if you are, indeed, a friend.” Ahearn noticed the stocky figure approaching him was a mature dwarf with a graying beard and piercingly clear eyes.
The dwarf had on his person several daggers and a great battle-axe hung at his side in the customary way mercenary dwarf warriors wore them. What’s more, still stained with fresh blood, this battle-axe had recently been used. Ahearn noted his proud bearing as he spoke. “Who are you and what is your business here?”
Noticing a second man off to his left, Ahearn answered, “I’m a mercenary soldier, much like yourself.” Ahearn immediately launched into the cover story he had prepared for himself earlier when he began his quest to find the lost princess.
When he had finished, the dwarf asked, “Who do you work for?”
“Unemployed at the moment. I am in service to none. I intend to inquire for some work, in Oxted but have not make it that far.”
“You say you are not coming from Oxted, but are traveling towards Oxed?”
“Yes, from the west,” Ahearn lied, “from the north-west, if you must know! Now may I ask what all his is about?” The dwarf had already backed down and signaled to the man who stood watching in the shadows.
With his hand on the hilt of his sword, the man approached them. As he got nearer, Ahearn saw he had fiery red hair and beard. There was no mistaking him. This was one of the Nôr-men of Roth. Ahearn was surprised to see him. The Nôr-men of Roth infrequently ventured beyond their own borders and, to his knowledge, never this far south.
The Velgrath Mountains stood between their two kingdoms in the north. Ahearn reasoned that if he could recognize one of the Nôr-men, he could just as easily be identified as a Dockalfarian.
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