Emerging from the forest on the nearside of the bridge was a band of goblins in uniform. Taking a quick guess of their number, he slid down the slope and joined the others. He whispered. “There is a Goblin Patrol coming this way. We must remain silent until they have passed.” His party nodded in unison and did their best to calm the animals.
The shuffling of goblin boots was unmistakable as it drew near. Soon the incoherent voices became clear as the troop reached the bridgehead. “This is ridiculous,” cried a voice from above. Several others joined in a sentiment of agreement. “What are we doing here?” the voice continued. “We were supposed to be on rest period for nearly half a day. Instead, we are dragged out of our billet and sent to guard an insignificant bridge little more than a stone’s throw away.”
Another voice barked at the first. “You read the orders the rider delivered during the night. They came directly from General Tecious. There are four escaped elves and one female human everyone is hunting. We are to guard this bridge and then send up a signal if we spy them.”
“Why won’t they let us fight?” demanded the first voice. “We have a full platoon here short of our Sergeant who is likely still sleeping.”
“I will tell you why, Private,” the second voice responded forcefully. “Whoever the escaped prisoners are have burned half of Marinhalk and evaded the largest manhunt in history. The General’s orders were specific. We are not to engage them if we see them. As for the Sergeant, someone had to stay at the supply depot in case another messenger arrived while we were away. He delegated guarding the bridge to us and the depot to himself. If you are unhappy with his orders, he is just behind those trees at the base. You can see what he thinks of your opinion.”
For a time there was only the sound of the rushing water to fill the air. The first voice sounded humble as it spoke. “There is no need to bother the Sergeant,” the voice said meekly. “I just don’t understand why we can’t fight prisoners if we find them. We are trained as soldiers, Corporal. Why will they not let us fight?”
The corporal’s voice became ever more firm. “You said it yourself. You are a soldier. It is not your place to question orders. Another word from you and I’ll gladly give you ten lashes by my own hand. As for the prisoners, we’ll never see them. This is a minor bridge in a rural county. The General is being thorough as usual. You just wanted to sleep. Well there will be none of that when we are on guard.”
Linvin smiled as an idea came to mind. Oh yes you will, he thought as he pulled the staff forth. Placing one hand on either side, he rolled it back and forth between them rapidly. The Red Sapphire began to glow and a magical mist began to be released upward. A red fog moved quickly and with stealth. No sooner had it reached the top of the bridge than the sound of bodies falling to the ground filled the air. It sounded as if twenty suits of armor were dropped on the ground simultaneously.