Chapter 4 Dirgs

Somehow, Edrick reached the town without being killed, an amazing feat in and of itself. After being scratched by an angry amber-eyed cat he let Tamma down and let her walk. "I guess we can hide out here for a while and then make our way back to Canburaugh." He led her to the tavern in the town so that he could get a drink, and maybe something a bit harder.

"Edrick! Get over here," this was a voice he recognized, one he really wanted to hear.

"Tristan!" He ran over to a booth in the corner. I it sat Tristan, leaning his head on Helena, Nathan, and Deirdre. "When's the last time the gang got together?"

"I don't remember," Nathan said, handing Edrick a sloshing mug of ale.

"I can't even remember your name Edrick," said Helena, running her fingers through Tristan's sleek blond hair.

"Come on," Edrick said, finding a seat on the bench. "I'm Ferret, you're, you're, oh maitza."

"I'm Helena, the Fox."

"I forget, how did you get that one?"

"Well," she began, massaging Tristan's shoulders. "The first things I ever stole were chickens, for my family of course, and they thought it was a fox."

"Well," Nathan said. "Here's to the reunion of the Beastly Thieves, greatest theives' guild this side of the Carrach Mountains!" He raised his glass.

"The Carrach Mountains?" Deirdre laughed drunkenly. "In all of Eladra!"

"Here Here!" they said, clanking mugs. The sound was much louder than expected and involved crashing and breaking glass.

"Lay off," said Tamma, sending a gust of air that blew away a group of soldiers lunging for her.

"I leave you alone for one second," Edrick groaned. He drew his daggers and charged at her. "Come on," he was annoyed. Apparently, he couldn't even take a booze break with this girl around.

"Who is that?" yelled Tristan, jumping out of the booth.

"My, uh, neice," he said, barging through the wall of soldiers. His friends were in hot pursuit.

"Then why is she being chased?" Deirdre said.

"Long story," he grunted.

"Well follow me," Tristan said. "I know there's a cave nearby we can hide out in." He pulled them toward a side door and off into the forest. They were so near the mountains, they reached the first one before the soldiers had a chance to group together and follow them. There were enormous double doors set in it and with the army of soldiers coming up fast they forced them open and ran inside.

They slammed the door tight. It took the combined weight of all four of them to keep the soldiers from breaking the door down. However, four against an army wasn't much.

"It's not working!" Tristan groaned; his face strained with the effort of holding the door. It was true; the doors were slowly being forced open. Through the widening crack, they could see a wall of soldiers heavily clad in armor. Tamma looked at Edrick pleadingly. He shook his head frantically. These people were his friends, but they were thieves. If she did something magically out of the ordinary, they could decide to turn the girl into the king to claim his ransom right then and there. Her eyes began to glow.

"Alright fine, do it," hissed Edrick.

"Hey, what's going on?" said Nathan, sweat dripping down his face.

"Nothing," Edrick grunted, but apparently something was going on. Tamma put her hand into the air. When she clenched it into a fist and pulled it up, spears of stone shot out of the floor of the cavern and dug into the door. She repeated the movement until there a wall of stalagmites kept the doors wedged shut. The thieves stepped away from the doors and stared at her. Though her eyes returned to normal quickly, they had seen the glow.

"She's an Earth Elemental," Tristan gasped. "Tam, you have some talent for being a little kid."

"Thank you," she said with a little curtsy.

"That is not your niece," Tristan panted, grinning like a madman. "But that's none of my business I'm guessing?"

"Nope," Edrick said. He punched Tamma playfully on the shoulder. "Well done."

"Hey Tam," Deirdre sighed. "You couldn't have maybe come to the rescue any earlier?" She wiped a stream of blood from her lip.

"Oh lay off her," Tristan said, still smiling. The relief was still washing over him and he couldn't help beaming. "She came to the rescue now." Helena was looking at Tamma strangely.

"But those spiky things," she said, striding towards her. "That is way more than most mages can do, much less some kid mage."

"No," Edrick interjected. "That was just-"

"Oh she did it alright," she continued. "But then she can't be an ordinary Earth Elemental. Who are you?"

"Oh she's, she's, my niece."

"Ha," Nathan panted. "You already used that one." He turned to Tamma with a gleam in his eyes. "You're that girl on the posters aren't you? They want you not us," He lunged for Edrick but Deirdre blocked him.

"Nathan!" She turned back to Edrick. "What were you thinking? Bringing her here? What is she even doing with you?"

"It's a long story," Edrick said, motioning for the girl to sit down. She did so, but glared at Tristan who wavered a little. "Some lady's paying me fifty gold to bring the girl to her, alive," he said once he and Deirdre were out of earshot of the girl.

"Right," she said, grasping both of his shoulder and turning him to face her. "I'm just going to have to suspend disbelief that you've gone from robbery to kidnapping in a matter of days and go straight to why the hell did you bring her here?!"

"I thought she'd be safe, I thought I lost those soldiers in the woods. Look, you guys help, we can split the gold, equal shares," Inwardly, Edrick cringed. Splitting it between all five of the thieves would make the shares ten gold apiece, not enough to earn him a long vacation. However, with possibly the entirety of the king's army outside, he would need all the help he could get. "Agreed?" They all looked at each other, wordlessly assessing the others.

"Agreed," they cried over the din. Although it was clear that it would do little, it sounded as though the soldiers were pounding against the door to the cavern. Tristan laughed nervously.

"I don't see why they're trying to get in, that door's two feet of solid wood. Plus your earth magic stuff will hold it even longer." His smile was tense though.

The girl stood up and held out her hand to command silence. As ridiculous as this order seemed coming from a child, they all fell silent and turned toward her. "They are not trying to get in," she said.

"Oh really," said Nathan mockingly. "And you would know this how? Did you go out there and ask them?"

"No," Tamma said, and shot him a dirty look. "I know where we are, and it means they don't have to get in. A few more minutes pounding and we'll be done for."

"What are you talking about?" he said crossing over to her. "What are they trying to do then?"

"This is the cavern under Maumrond, the mountain that marks the beginning of the Carrach Mountains. Better known as the Giant's Chasm." Tristan paled and Helena leaned on his shoulders.

"But, the giants have been dead for centuries," she said hopefully. "They killed each other off." The thieves' eyes jumped around the cavern as though a hand the size of a horse might come groping at the group at any moment. Tamma frowned.

"Yes," they all let out a breath they'd been holding. "But it has become a hiding place for dirgs smuggling black market goods from the South. Cadogan must have known and chased us here. They aren't pounding the door down, they are trying to get their attention." If anything, these were worse than giants. Dirgs. Eight foot tall slimy humanoids. Skin like frogs except for the claws sprouting from their hands and feet. They weren't exceptionally intelligent but they were strong, brutish, and greedy. Too stupid to make things for themselves, they dealt in the black market.

"How do you know all this anyway?" Edrick said. "I thought you grew up in the forest."

"Yeah, but I had a family before that. My sister taught me a lot of things." Edrick would have replied with a million questions had not something happened that silenced them all. Suddenly from somewhere deep into the cavern they heard a yell. Almost instantly, it was followed by more angry bellows and words in some tribal language. The ground was rumbling with the vibration of hundreds of pounding feet.

"Oh Maitza," said Tristan. Nathan gulped nervously.

"Yep," said Edrick, drawing his daggers.