Krager awoke with a start, nearly cracking his forehead against a rock that jutted out of the cliff he had slept under. He had fallen asleep during his watch, and the clockwork machinery of fate had allowed the deep, clear night to ferry away their horses without waking Lew, who still slept soundly nearby.

Krager loudly cursed in the motionless night air, knowing that Lew slept like Cthulhu on vacation and would not wake until roughly shaken by the shoulders. Lew was a decent rustler, but he was useless at defending a camp. Krager had put up with all manner of setbacks in the past few weeks, but this was the worst -- their mark was passing through the valley below before sunrise, and they were behind schedule and horseless. The horses had most likely run off; they probably had already been spotted and rounded up by Rhys. As this thought occurred to Krager, he renewed his cursing.

Rhys was an interesting midget who ran security in the area. He had a maniacal laugh and a glint in his eyes, both of which went hand in hand with his reputation for being slightly crazy. His eight hammers were his weapon du jour -- throwing hammers -- and from his incongruous rickety perch of a running horse's saddle he could smash a milk bottle off of a fence running fifty yards parallel to his steed's course.

Krager put all these thoughts aside and turned his attention to rousing Lew.

"Lew. Lew!"

Krager punched him a few times in the shoulder. Lew made a snuffling noise, sharply inhaled, and resumed his rhythmical, ambulatory snoring. Krager imagined Lew was probably quite exhausted after the previous night --

Wait. What had happened the previous night? Krager's mind raced across blank sheets of parchment and scuttled through rooms packed with empty boxes; he charged his mental faculties with the task of auditing the recent past. For the moment, receiving no answer, his eyes fixed on his canteen and he realized he was thirsty.

The water in his canteen was light and cool, and he drank like a converted xerophyte. After several gulps, though, he realized something was amiss; the liquid had a salty, metallic aftertaste and his innards began to sting. Lew. Lew had filled the canteens yesterday evening, just before -- just before. Just before what?

His mind jackrabbited through sagebrush, but got nowhere. His breathing was steadily worsening, sandpaper rasping his throat. Lew had drugged him, that double-crossing oaf. A susurrance of quiet rage began to fill Krager's drugged mind as his arms lurched towards Lew's recumbent form.

Krager was startled as his eyes presented him with two Lews to choose between. His mind swimming, he maneuvered two of his four conjoined arms and managed to grab one of the Lews under the armpits. Krager's consciousness slowly distended, trying to contort itself out of the streams of anger and hallucinogens as his double vision collapsed into surrealism. His four arms dragged the two turncoat Lews' asses towards a widening fissure which glowed coal-hot from within. The Lews were unceremoniously dumped in. As they fell, one of the them cheerfully smiled back up at him. The other had a consternated, unfocused look in his eyes.

Krager looked up from the fissure, his face feeling like it had just been glazed in a kiln. In a swirling haze, he saw Rhys bearing down on him. Standing astride two horses, Rhys teetered like a raj in a miniature castle on an elephant's back; seven visible hammerheads arrayed behind his back glistened threateningly, like chrome shuriken which had been fanned amongst an angry ninja's fingers.

The eighth hammer struck Krager in the face.

Haschel47 says: If I recall correctly, the names in your story are from the authors Eddings, Jordan, and Kurtz. Am I right?

Hmm, that may be, although the actual derivation was this:

  • Krager - a shortening and combination of Krieger, Jean Reno's character in the Mission Impossible movie, and Krakkagar, a giant black beetle from another dimension in the webcomic Scary-Go-Round.
  • Lew was played by myself in the dream that this story was (loosely) based on, but I didn't want to put my username in it so I shortened Runaway to Rew, and then to Lew because I wanted to use Rhys' name without doubling up on the consonants.
  • Rhys was actually played by John Rhys-Davies in the dream; kind of a Gimli-type character at first but I didn't want anyone to find out I'm mortally afraid of dwarves.
The original plot actually had Dragoons and Snuffleupagi as well, but I left them out in the interest of clarity.