As the companions raced on, a bomb burst behind them, and flung stinging hot particles of sand and iron shards all about them. Bear moaned in pain, but kept his pace, and Flewingam began to limp from the burning fire in his left leg.
Dwarf ran headfirst into a tall, gaunt man, dressed in a gray-green tunic and trousers, and carrying a great crossbow made of ebony wood. Cranfallow tried to raise his firearm, but a powerful hand wrenched it from his grasp, a bright light flashed in his head, and he sank into an unknowing darkness.
Dwarf was knocked breathless by his sudden collision with the grim warrior, and sat stunned at his feet.
The forest behind them had gone ominously silent.
Flewingam and Thinvoice came crashing up, unable to see until too late the gray figure, the fallen form of Cranfallow, and Dwarf sitting helpless before him on the ground. Bear skidded into the clearing, blowing hard.
The tall warrior did not speak, but stared coldly at the friends. They were transfixed by the harsh blue eyes that glowered at them from beneath dark brows, in a face that seemed ravished by wind and weather, turned to the almost black color of the deadly-looking weapon he held.
Without a sound, a grim ring of men who looked like the first appeared around the dumbfounded comrades.
Before the stunned companions could move to defend themselves, tiny black darts whirred from the bows of the ring of silent soldiers, and bright spinning darkness settled over their eyes and odd music began to play.
In a moment it was over.
And Otter, who had fallen into the depths of an old trap, unused and overgrown with sharp thorn brakes, lay motionless and undetected.
Copyright © 1977, 2002 by Niel Hancock