|Gunther Treszhnak, the landlord of The Golden Axe|
A contingent of dwarf miners were making quite a racket in one corner of The Golden Axe, but Imogen, Kirchin, Harry and Marigold were focussed on the landlord, Gunther Treszhnak, who was recounting some of the horror stories he had heard about the Witch Of Huldre Forest.
"The orcs of Tanander calls her their queen," he growled in his thick accent, "though I hear some also call her 'Granny'. Maybe thas 'cos she eats their babby's."
The dwarf smiled a slightly crooked smile at Marigold - who could also hear the grains of sand racing through the hourglass that was her mortal life - then slammed his fist down on the bar and roared with laughter.
"But she's mite strong with the magics, and no mistake. Whatever it is you want, she can make it happen, they say. Even Revoreesh treads lightly when it comes to Granny, they say. You cuddies and cubs need to be sharp in the wits if you're lookin' for Granny. You're best route is head down to Bright River Fort, get a ferry across the Bright then follow the track towards Dill. It's about a day's march from the river bank to Dill, but don't get too close - that's an orc town and they'd eat ya as soon as spit at ya."
He roared his slightly unnerving laugh again.
"Head south-east, towards the ruins of Landmaster Hall. Should take you another day or so to get in the forest good. From what I've heard the witch moves through the trees in that part of Huldre. If you don't find her, she'll find you soon enough.
"Once over The Bright, you're on your own. Trust no-one and expect to die. Have ye not heard the legend of Farthwane The Wanderer? A great ranger who travelled the land for years until he ignored the warnings and crossed the Bright. The orcs got 'im like that!" Gunther slammed his fist down on the bar again, making his audience jump. "And he was a better man than any of you."
The gruff dwarf lowered his voice conspiratorially and added: "For the most part these days, the orcs are feudin' amongst themselves, but that doesn't mean they're stupid. You see a green snout, you better run for the hills. They spot you, they'll gi'you more'n a knuckle sandwich. You've have it easy north of the Bright, but there ain't no rules in the south 'cept orc rules. Might even be an idea to get a guide, but Skarg's is the best place to find one and I hear he's no friend of yours, 'specially Davian, wherever the feck he is."
Our heroes exchanged glances. Harry gulped, quite audibly. Gunther bringing up his name reminded them that they had been wondering where Davian had got to. They hadn't heard from him in several hours (he'd left them after their audience with Sir Browyrd to attend to business at his forge). Kirchin rather suspected the old dwarf was asleep somewhere.