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“As long as I don’t hafta do nuthin’ but walk.” Jeb nodded.

“Let’s get to it then.  We have a good ways to go.”

*~~~*~~~*

They led Orin into the Commander’s tent, still shackled by wrist and ankle.  He was escorted to the solitary chair in the center of the tent and forced to sit. Commander Thanto Veesal sat behind his desk absorbed in the report in front of him. His face was blank, and unreadable as he looked over the gold-rimmed spectacles at Orin.  The investigation had been done quietly.  It was beyond imagination that a dwarf would be helping the Elven Nation.  Much less a Phoenix Guard.

“Do you realize what a stir you’ve created, soldier?”

“I dinna ask th’ bloody elf ta save me, Commander.”

“Still sticking with your story eh?”

“Tis th’ truth.” Orin spit. “Regardless o’ wot anybody sez.”

“Leave us.” Commander Veesal waited for the guards to file out before sighing and taking his spectacles off.  He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, holding that position almost long enough for Orin to think he had fallen asleep. “Your story checks out.  We recovered some documents from the elf’s courier bag that bear out your story.”

“Then take these bloody chains off’n me!”

“Calm down, soldier.  I have a proposition for you, first. You see, now we have a slight problem, and you are in a unique position to help us, son.”

“Wot problem?’

“We know that supposedly there is a faction of elves that don’t agree with what their government is doing.  We know they may be ready to join our cause.  We just don’t know where they are or how to contact them.”

“Supposedly?”

“It could all be some kind of elaborate trap.  We’re not sure yet.  We’ve had some of the Gnomish Intelligence Agency deciphering the documents that scout of yours was carrying.  So far it hasn’t given us many leads.”

“Beggin’ yer pardon, sir, but I still dinna see where I ken help.”

“One of the documents was a map.  There were several locations marked on it.  They seemed to be important, but we don’t know why just yet.”

“Yer still a pourin’ wit’out a mug, sir.”

“The higher-ups want you to go on a special assignment for them.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning you go covert.  A stealth operation.  The trial goes through as a cover story.  With all the rumors floating around, no one will question it.  You will be offered amnesty in return for your resignation.  Only on paper.”

“An’ then wot?”

“Then we ship you out to one of the locations on that map.  You will be stationed there without anyone’s knowledge.  You will work independently of the military.  I’ve seen your records.  You’re qualified for this, son.”

“An’ wot is it I’m supposed ta be doin’?”

“The higher-ups believe that your elven scout was going to these locations for reasons that may be extremely important to the future of the war.  IF there is an elven underground, it wouldn’t hurt for us to have a bargaining chip on the table.  You are to go there and investigate anything you deem might be important to an elven resistance.  If you find anything, take appropriate measures to secure it and report back to us.”

Orin was quiet while he thought over the implications.  He would be leaving the Phoenix Guard in disgrace.  Dishonored, even if only on paper.  That would be a heavy burden to bear.  He wouldn’t be able to tell anyone.  His brothers-in-arms would spit on his name.  Could he handle that for the greater good of the Dwarven Kingdom?  Commander Veesal could see he was struggling with the decision.

“I know where your loyalties lie, son, but just think of what the might of the Dwarven military would be backed up by elven magic.  It could turn the tide of the war.  We might actually be able to go on the offensive.  Take the fight to them.”

He knew the Commander was right.  It was still a lot to ask of one soldier.

“If’n I do this, where will I be goin?”

“I can’t tell you that unless you accept the mission.  I’m sorry.”

“Fine.  I’ll do wot I can, sir.”

“I knew we could count on you, son.  Your new assignment will be a long way from the Front Line.  It’s a small dwarven city, but it is civilization.  You’re going to be the next Captain of the Watch in a little place called Hammertown.”

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