Hfel – an exercise in “action” writing
by ObserveTheBanana

The party moved quietly down the corridor. Soon they came to a place where the walls angled out wider and the path onwards was obstructed by a shear vertical wall of wood 10 ft high. They could see that the wall did not reach all the way to the ceiling. Iris turned and looked to the stout dwarf who had been leading them, “So, do you have a plan for this?”. Hfel looked briefly at the wall and answered calmly, “no, but I got a few ideas”. Immediately he pulled the heavy battle axe from his back and stepped up to the wall. With a short, deep grunt of exertion, he swung the mighty axe as high as he could over his head with all his might, while at the same time raising up on his toes. The blade of the axe buried itself deep in the wooden wall with a low thud as Hfel stretched up to retain his grip on the handle. Without any delay he put both hands on the axe handle and grunted as he heaved himself up off the ground toward the axe. As his chest reached the back of the blade, one hand quickly shot up to grab the spike on the top. “Oof, remind me not to try arm wrestling him”, Sten commented, clearly impressed by the small man’s powerful arms.

Now Hfel’s other hand came off the lower handle and in one quick blur of motion pulled a dagger from his belt, raised it high, and thrust it into the wall above the axe. His progress continued as he pulled himself higher using the dagger and got a foot on the top of the axe. Standing straight on the axe he balanced for just a moment before thrusting a second dagger even higher into the wall. Pulling himself up on the second dagger he soon had a foot on the first lower one and again stood and stretched. With a small extra push with his hand on the top dagger, he was just able to hook his fingers on the top of the wall. The rest of the party stood looking up, amazed. Dwarfs were known for their strength, but not agility. With a final grunt and heave Hfel went over the top of the wall. Just as Sten was about to comment that Hfel had managed to disarm himself in the climb, the sound of steel on steel in a close battle rang out from above, out of view over the wall.

Hfel stood behind an orc guard twisting one of his arms behind his back while gripping the small axe in the orcs other hand and moving it side to side to deftly deflect the second Orc’s short sword blows. Clank! – one high – clank! one low. Then, perhaps not completely thinking out his position clearly, the sword wielding orc thrust straight ahead in a stab. Hfel, instead of blocking, just pushed his captive forward onto the blade and felt the tension release in his other arm. The second orc, realizing that he had just killed his comrade grunted in anger and pulled hard to retrieve his blade. Hfel matched his pull with a strong push on the dead orcs back, sending them both tumbling back to the far wall. As he starting to look around for a handy weapon he noticed the orc against the wall frozen with a pained expression on his face. With a a further look he then noticed the row of iron spikes protruding from the wall on either side of the orc, and realized this battle was over.
Below, the party grew concerned over Hfel’s safety but were not sure how they could help. Iris, the small agile female, was trying to pull herself up on Hfels axe, but was having trouble repeating his feat. Moments later there was only silence from above and they looked at each other with dread. They were relieved when moments later Hfel’s weather beaten face peered over the edge and began lowering a rope ladder.

“Hey, if it’s not too much trouble, how about grabbin’ my weapons on your way up?”

They grinned and started to climb.

Other than the two dead orcs, the only other item of interest on the platform was strong iron banded door on the far wall. Hfel considered doing away with the lock with his axe, as he had been doing up until now, but quickly saw that unlike all the previous padlocks which were made of old, rust covered iron, this one was solid shiny brass and was as likely to leave a nasty notch in his axe as it was to give way. “I think this ones mine”, said Iris as she pulled her pick set from her belt and headed for the door. Iris knelt before the lock and examined it closely from several angles, without touching it. The rest of the party moved to the sides of the doorway along the wall. They knew the routine; standing behind a thief while they picked a lock was not a smart place to be. Finally Iris moved to one side herself, then used her long, thin dagger to slowly raise the lock body up away from the door, similar to how it would be raised to remove it from the hasp once it was unlocked. Just before it reached horizontal there was a sharp snap sound and instantly a small dart appeared sticking into the far wall. Unfazed, Iris raised and lowered the lock slightly to make sure nothing else would emerge from the small hole in the door behind the lock, then let it down to rest again. The rest of the party continued to observe in silent respect of an expert at work. Next Iris gently inserted the thin tip of her dagger into the keyhole and wiggled it slightly. After only a moment a thin tip of a needle sprung out of the keyhole just far enough to reach the knuckles of someone trying to use a key or pick on the lock. It was easy to spot the shiny glint of poison on the needle. Slowly the tension released from Irises body as she casually used the dagger to break off the needle. Now it was only a simple matter for her to insert lock pick tools into the keyhole and deftly perform the deceptively simple appearing operation of opening the lock.

Silently they exchanged experienced, knowing glances and moved into position and drew their weapons. Seeing the others were ready, Iris silently pulled on the door to swing it open, while moving herself to the side at the same time. No foe appeared in the doorway. Sten stood frozen, listening carefully at the open doorway, then pointed upwards through the open doorway. Iris nodded and pulled her round wooden shield to her chest while Wulf readied his deadly throwing knives. With one last nod of readiness, Iris took two running steps to the doorway, leapt and rolled through the doorway coming to her feet inside the room facing back towards the door just as two crossbow bolts thunked loudly into her shield from the guards perched above the doorway. An instant later Wulf was through the door also and had launched his two missile-like knives into the guards above, who had not yet even had a chance to drop their now empty crossbows. They slouched forward and fell from the platform over the door and landed with a loud metallic clank of unused swords and the dull thud of death on the floor just inside the door.