Torin whistled as he headed down the forest path. He had a bag of potatoes over one shoulder and a five piece in his hand. Wouldn’t Merinne be thrilled! He tossed the coin into the air and caught it, then heard a noise in the brush ahead.
At first he thought it was just of fox or a jackrabbit, until he looked over and saw a flash of a brown cloak slipping behind a big rock. Because the colors blended into the forest so well, he thought he’d imagined a green, pointed hat—it was a wonder Torin saw anything at all. His curiosity getting the better of him, he took a step off the path to investigate.
A little woman with mousy, brown hair peered out and waved a bent hand at him. Startled, Torin caught his breath. Was she a dwarf? A gnome? She looked younger than the pictures of gnomes and dwarves he had seen in books. Her hair was pulled into a bun, but wisps had come loose and framed her face. She crooked her finger at him.
He pointed at himself. “Me?”
She looked around as if she was afraid someone might have heard, then held a finger to her lips. Again she beckoned for Torin to follow. She ran a few steps but paused and looked back to be sure he’d come.
Torin debated for only a moment. If Merinne were there, she’d insist he go straight home. But this felt different than the times he’d been duped, like when he bought a goat for milk and didn’t realize it was a he-goat until it was too late. He tucked the coin into his pocket, hoping the woman hadn’t seen it, and promised himself to not give it to her.
Again the woman stopped and waved him on. Torin stepped off the path and followed through the rough. She moved quietly as she led him to a tiny cave hidden behind some brush. He had to lean down to fit inside. She pulled Torin into hiding, throwing a glance into the wood as she drew him in.
Her wiry hands gripped his as she whispered, “Your father is alive and needs your help.”
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