Leatherfoot Tales: The Houndslayer, Part Three
The final part in the Leatherfoot Tales: The Houndlayer book tells of the Houndslayer Gumpy Nattoo's triumphant return to Rivervale with the lead unit of the Kithicor rangers.
To commemorate his receiving the nickname "Houndslayer," the Kithicor ranger squad leader insisted upon slicing off the dead wolf's tail and tying it to Gumpy's belt. Gumpy felt a bit foolish having the tail flopping about as he and the rangers continued to Rivervale, but the rangers seemed to set a high store by his showing it off so he said nothing. He had found over the years that the less he said, the better off he ended up.
As the sun rose over the river which gave Rivervale its name, Gumpy and the Kithicor rangers entered the town. Smoke curled from a few chimneys, but the halflings were given to sleeping late. Gumpy said, "If anyone's awake, they'll be at a pub." Even though Gumpy told them it wasn't necessary, the rangers darted from one patch of shade to the next, looking both ways before they crossed any road and generally being so stealthy as to draw attention to themselves.
Having gotten the rangers to the inn, Gumpy went to the Sarge's home to rouse him and tell him about the visitors. The Sarge seemed put out that Gumpy was there so early in the morning, but he threw on his uniform and accompanied Gumpy back to the inn. Wrinkling his nose, the Sarge said, "Gumpy, I don't know where you got that mangy tail from, but I'd get rid of it; it stinks."
The ranger's squad leader and the Sarge held a quiet meeting together, during which time the Sarge furrowed his brow so intently that his eyes were nearly shut. At the conclusion of their discussion, the Sarge clapped Gumpy on the shoulder and told him, "Gumpy, you done us proud. The rangers are impressed with you and they've asked me to have your unit work with them on their mission. Good work, son." Gumpy thought this sounded like more work. Hard work.
The Kithicor rangers and the Leatherfoot's elite scout unit gathered together in Rivervale's ranger guild hall, where both the Sarge and the ranger squad leader took turns explaning the mission to the troops. Gumpy slumped dejectedly in his seat; the mission was as bad as he'd expected. The Leatherfeet and some of the Kithicor units would be heading to Neriak's Foreign Quarter within the hour. "And I haven't even had breakfast yet," Gumpy thought sadly.
"Troops," the Sarge said in his booming voice, "We've been hearing for many days now about the war going on over to Faydwer. Them gnomes as have come to Rivervale report a great loss of life. Them dark elves and such are burning and pillaging as they go, and we got to help stop them afore those pesky elves come this-a-way." At this moment, Gumpy slipped out for a snack; it sounded like the Sarge would be carrying on for a while.
"...and that's the orders, troops!" The Sarge finished speaking as Gumpy returned, his belly full of bacon, cheese toast and scrambled duck eggs. Chairs scraped the floor all across the hall as the Leatherfoot's elite troops stood to leave. "What's the order? What'd I miss?" Gumpy asked the nearest soldier, but there was so much noise in the room he couldn't get anyone's attention. "Come, Houndslayer!" cried one of the Kithicor rangers, "You travel with us!" Gumpy sighed, "Great."
"We travel through the Kithicor Woods, thence to Nektulos," said the ranger, patting Gumpy's shoulder. "You will be our emissary, Houndslayer, delivering dispatches between the units as you are well-acquainted with the woods." Gumpy tried to explain that he wasn't as familiar with the woods as the rangers credited him, but his new friend laughed merrily and said, "Nay! Nay! Your modesty is all too well known to us, Houndslayer! Now, let us prepare for the coming battle!"
Gumpy had never paid much attention to the gnomes that had been showing up in increasing numbers within the past months, but now they lined the streets of Rivervale alongside the halflings, waving farewell to the departing troops. "We won't be sneaking up on anyone anytime soon," grumbled Gumpy, "since everyone within a hundred sprockets of here can hear the racket."
The Kithicor ranger unit with Gumpy was the last to leave Rivervale. Turning to look over his shoulder at his home town, Gumpy felt a lump in his throat and his eyes stung as though pricked by tiny needles. "Must be getting old," he thought wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, "That's the last breakfast I'll ever have at the Egg Pan. Forgot I'm allergic to duck eggs again!"