Jak Barley-Private Inquisitor and the Seven Dwarves
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Private Inquisitor Jak Barley wonders if his drinking cohorts at the King¹s Wart Inn are playing an elaborate prank on him. What else is he to think when seven dwarves want his help against a wicked witch they blame for poisoning an innocent young maiden staying with them named Frost Ivory?
"This reminds me of a humorous fable," I observed while eying Snot, the dwarf, with suspicion. "A priest, a shaman, and a soothsayer walked into a tavern. The innkeeper looks up at the three, pauses, and says, 'Is this some kind of joke?'"
The dwarves eyed me in what appeared to be honest befuddlement.
"What I'm trying to say is, you wouldn't be joking me, would you Snot?" I continued the conversation as I meaningfully fingered the hilt of the short saber hanging from my belt.
The squat dwarf (of course all dwarves are short and stout) vigorously shook his head no. So did his six brothers lined up behind him. They were a grimy band. I had arrived before any of them were able to wash off the coal dust after a long day at their small mine. The shaft was located halfway up the hill behind their quaint little cottage.
I hate quaint.
They looked at up at me with what appeared to be a heartfelt faith that I could help them. That was questionable enough. Dwarves and puppy dog eyes do not go together. The little beggars are usually a villainous lot, digging about for whatever their stock specializes in. Those furrowing for precious metals and jewels make up the greediest and least trustful broods.
But these were coal dwarves, looked down upon by their more affluent cousins. Since coal dwarves are not averse to trading the fruits of their labor, they also mingled the most freely with humans.
Still, I felt as if my cronies at the King's Wart Inn were setting me up for a jest. I turned again to the glass coffin containing the pallid, young woman. Her beauty made my chest tighten, a feeling alike to the way a very sweet confectionery can make your teeth ache.
Her skin was as white as her hair was black. The girl's garb matched her features, a black dress with a front that plunged to reveal a white blouse strained by her full breasts. Until now, I would not have believed anyone could have had such an innocent and yet seductive face--open like a child's, but with just a hint of adult sensuousness about her mouth
I turned again to Snot, so named because he seemed always to be suffering from a cold. "I will take the bait. What happened to your Frost Ivory?"
"A wicked witch fed her a poison apple."
"I am out of here," I said with renewed wariness. "That is it. Seven dwarves, a spellbound maiden, and a wicked witch. Do I look to be the fool? Next you will be telling me that...?
I stopped dead in my rebuke. Several bluebirds had swooped in to drop a wreath of heather and violets upon the coffin. At the base of the glass encasement lurked two doe-eyed bunnies, the missus wearing an apron and bonnet. They were wringing their little rabbit paws and forlornly gazing up at the still figure.
It was too much. The husband hare in the straw hat was not quick enough. I dove and caught the rascal before he could dart into the surrounding shrubbery.
"All right, my fine furry fellow. What be this charade? What jest do you play?"
His reply was but a squeak. I shook him once then glanced to see the dwarves staring at me in alarm. I looked back to the rabbit to see it gaping at me in stark terror.