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Max_Writer

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition: The Scar Session Two

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Monday, July 25, 2016

(After playing the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition scenario “The Scar” by Ray Winninger from Dungeon Adventures #80 on Sunday from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with Kyle Matheson, Collin Townsend, Aaron Scott, Ashton LeBlanc, James Brown, and Helen Koeval.)

The mage Arthelion the Enlightened, the priest Tarmak of the Winding Road, and the kobold rogue Kilb Bronzescale ran towards where they hoped the entrance to the terrible underground temple lay. Along with them were the elf priest Rome, the hedge wizard Helius Wik, and the dwarf warrior Noiree Fragginth. They arrived at the room with three doors to find the halfling thief Elriya Warrick there with the other slaves. She was looking around the corner of an archway into the darkness to the west. The room itself was only dimly lit by the large brass lanterns down the halls to north and south.

Elriya could see three orcs in a corridor towards the center of the complex, directly where they wanted to go. One of the rare halflings who had infravision, she could see in the pitch blackness perfectly.

Rome, Helius Wik, and Noiree said they would look for another way out. Rome said he knew of a secret door.

“I really don’t think we should split up,” Arthelion said.

“We’ll be okay, man,” Helius Wik said. “We’ll be fine.”

“All right. I trust you.”

“Wizards!”

The three of them headed south into the darkness and were soon lost to sight.

“We’re only assuming the exit is this way,” Elriya whispered.

“I really don’t want to fight anymore,” Arthelion said.

“I mean, none of us do,” Elriya said. “Why don’t you go distract them, distracting wizard?”

“Nah, I don’t want to do that,” Arthelion said.

“Hm,” Tarmak said.

“Hm,” Arthelion said. “All right, where’s the exit?”

“Well, I assume it’s past them,” Elriya said.

Arthelion hid in the corner as best he could. They heard the slapping of feet on flagstones come from the north. Then came the clanking of chains as one of the three doors rolled up into the ceiling. An orc strode out and they recognized him as Storr, the orc sub-chief. He wore the same black cloak the orcs wore as well as leather armor. A footman’s mace was on his belt, as was a scourge. He grinned when he saw the slaves. Nine orcs came out of the room behind him, all of them armed with spears and scourges.

“Prisoners,” Storr said. “You’ve had a good run. Drop your weapons … we’ll let you live.”

“Can you show me how to drop my weapon … like, can you do it and then I’ll know how to do it?” Arthelion said.

Storr looked at him.

“You’re outnumbered, except for those pansy-asses there,” Storr said, gesturing towards the other cowering slaves.

“Are we?” Arthelion asked.

“Yep,” Storr said.

“Hey listen, you guys have had a good run,” Arthelion said. “Let’s just kind of call it quits on the whole enslavement thing.”

“As soon as you go back to your room, we’ll discuss it!” Storr said.

“Like … nice conversation?”

“Civilized human …”

“I would like a debate. Can we debate now?”

“That’s a negative.”

Elriya grabbed Tarmak’s hand and pulled him towards the darkness.

“Grab the next person!” she said.

“Guards! They’re comin’ yer way!” Storr yelled.

Tarmak reached out blindly and grabbed Arthelion’s hand, dragging him along. Arthelion reached out to grab at Kilb but missed the kobold completely.

“Oh no! I wanted to surrender!” Arthelion called out.

“Why’d you grab him?” Elriya said.

“You gave me like two seconds and said ‘Grab somebody!’” Tarmak said. “I grabbed somebody! It’s kind of dark in that corner.”

“Get ‘em!” Storr yelled. “You three!”

He pointed at the other slaves and three orcs rushed to take them prisoner. Three more orcs ran to Kilb and surrounded the kobold, pointing their spears at him. Two of them tried to strike the kobold with the blunt end of their spears. Storr and the other orcs rushed forward, the orcs moving past the fleeing slaves and turning on them. Storr ran up behind Arthelion.

“Hey, I tried to surrender!” Arthelion cried out.

Storr struck Arthelion on the head with the handle of his mace and the man went down, letting go of the spear and Tarmak’s hand.

“Eat my ass!” Arthelion cried.

Kilb dropped his sword and the orcs pointed their spears at him. He looked disgusted.

Several other orcs approached from the other direction, blocking the corridor out with lowered spears. Elriya turned to the left, pulling on Tarmak, who was moving more slowly in the pitch blackness. That gave the orcs time to close ranks in that direction and block them. Several of them started to rear back with their spears to beat on them with the blunt end. Storr put his foot on Arthelion’s chest. He pointed the mace at his face.

“Surrender, wizard!” he said.

“I have,” Arthelion said.

Elriya backed a few feet from them and dropped her dagger, surrendering.

“Can you get your foot off me, please?” Arthelion said.

Storr leaned down to the mage.

“If you’re ever in the mood for bets, let me know,” the orc growled.

“You ever kissed a human before?” Arthelion said.

“Get up!” Storr said, standing back up as he held Arthelion’s hat.

Arthelion held up his hand for help.

“Get up,” Storr said.

Arthelion grabbed the orc, using him to pull himself up. Storr backhanded the wizard and shoved him off and flung his hat at him.

“Thank you,” Arthelion said, putting it on. “How’s it look?”

“Get back in there!” Storr said.

The orcs herded all of the slaves back to the slave quarters.

“Well, we did it once, we can do it again,” Arthelion muttered.

When they got to the room, they got the orc out who was under the door. He was still alive, surprisingly. Some of the orcs kicked his unconscious form.

“Dumb ass!” one said.

“I was just want to say that he was like that when we escaped,” Arthelion said. “He opened the door, guys, and he just slammed it on his back and said ‘Get out of here!’ and we just did what he said.”

He realized the orc was probably still charmed, but also realized he didn’t even know what the orc looked like. It was pitch black in the slave quarters and he had never seen the orc’s face.

The orcs stripped them of their gear and possessions again. Arthelion started to take off his robes as well but one of the orcs shoved him in the chest and he fell backwards.

“Oh, you don’t want …” Arthelion said.

The orcs talked in their own tongue and then closed the door and left. Later that night, when orcs came to search them and the room, they were in groups of six each time. The other slaves whined about what had happened.

* * *

Leon Chamberlyn, Champion of Justice, was a paladin of some little repute. He was amazingly good-looking and had brown hair that was thick but short. He wore splint mail and carried a shield, as well as a bastard sword and a heavy lance. He had come to the Flinty Hills in search of orcs he’d heard were terrorizing the land near the border of Nyrond, committed to ending their reign of terror.

On the evening of the 2nd of Fireseek, in the bitter cold of the hills, he had met with a woman wearing primarily red. She had introduced herself as Odila Redfeather, a traveling bard. She was pretty and rather tall and had blonde hair and green eyes. She had been traveling between some of the gnome villages hidden in the hills.

The two decided to camp together for the night for safety. Unfortunately, they were ambushed by a dozen orcs who entered their camp and took them prisoner, putting bags over their heads and marching them off into the darkness. They walked for what felt like hours before they headed downwards and into some kind of tunnels.

* * *

When the orcs came to get the slaves on the morning of the 3rd of Fireseek, they were all exhausted. The nine orcs also brought two people with bags over their heads, shoving them into the room. Only Kilb and Elriya saw the two in the dark.

“Two more!” an orc said. “C’mon. You’re all getting to work.”

They were all herded out back to the area where they had been working the last two days. In the light, all of them could see the two new arrivals. The orcs gave them shovels and ordered them to clear rubble from the end of a passageway. They grabbed about six of the other slaves and ushered them off towards the library.

The newcomers saw that most of the other slaves were merely commoners though a few stood out, particularly the man in robes and the pointed hat, the man with intense green eyes, a kobold, and a halfling. They seemed to be close to being done clearing the rubble pile they were working on.

“Can I get some ****ing shoes?” Arthelion said to one of the orcs watching them.

“No,” the orc said.

“Please.”

“Back to work.”

“I really need shoes to work effectively.”

“Get back to work.”

“Have you ever stubbed your toe?”

“You’re the mouth, aren’t you?”

“Wait, take off your boots. How many toes do orcs have?”

“All right, get back to work or I’ll start beating on you and if I start, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop.”

“All right, I will work twice as fast if you just show me your feet.”

“Get back to work.”

“Gods damn it.”

He went back to work.

“Is anyone here injured?” Leon said the other slaves.

“Describe injured,” Arthelion said. “Physically or mentally?”

“I can fix physical.”

“Do you think I could have one of them boots?”

Leon looked down at the man’s feet. He was not wearing shoes and his feet were bruised and dirty.

“Why just one?” Leon said. “Here. Take both of them.”

The paladin took off his soft boots and handed them over to the wizard.

“Wow,” Arthelion said, genuinely surprised.

“Your feet look so injured,” Leon said.

Arthelion put the boots one. They were a little loose on him but he could make do.

“We could just alternate every other day or something,” he said.

“But I don’t want you to have to suffer … walking on this cold ground,” Leon said.

“I really appreciate all the niceties but … in a couple of hours, you’re not going to be nice anymore. This place ruins you.”

“It’ll take more than these foul orcs to change my attitude.”

“I don’t think we should be calling them foul orcs!”

He said it loud enough to for the orcs to hear.

Kilb walked by the two and then dropped a large rock almost on Arthelion’s foot. He had done the act on purpose, aiming at the man’s foot, but made it look like an accident.

“Oops,” he said. “Sorry.”

Arthelion was suspicious for a moment but then remembered the kobold was terribly clumsy. He dropped rocks all the time, particularly larger stones.

“Does anybody know where they keep our stuff?” Leon asked some of them.

“Yeah, we got it before,” Elriya said. “Unless they moved it.”

“You look like you were injured as well,” Leon said to Arthelion when he noticed the bloodstains on his robes.

“My pain goes deeper than this stab wound, friend,” Arthelion said.

“Internal injuries?”

“Yeah. You could say that.”

“Try mental,” Tarmak quipped as he walked by.

“Well, I’m sorry these orcs have mentally broken you so,” Odila said.

“Nah, they didn’t mentally break me,” Arthelion said. “I’m about to mentally break them.”

“Um … that doesn’t make much sense.”

“You’ll see.”

“Are you this group’s fool?”

“Nope.”

“Yes,” Tarmak quipped as he walked by.

Others nodded.

“You’re obviously a paladin,” Arthelion said to Leon. “You wouldn’t have given me the boots otherwise.”

“You are correct,” Leon said.

“And you don’t necessarily look strong so, what do you do, sing?” Arthelion said to Odila.

“Yes, I’m a performer,” she said. “I travel around and I sing and I tell stories. I’m sure this will make an excellent one when I get out of here.”

“Your parents must be proud.,” Arthelion said.

“My parents died several years ago,” she said.

“You’ll be dead soon, so you’ll get to see them again anyways,” Arthelion said.

“How long have you been down here?” Leon asked him.

“What is time?” he said philosophically.

A rock struck Arthelion on the back of the head, stinging like the dickens. He spun around and saw Elriya lowering her hand and turning away and guessed she had thrown the rock. He picked up a rock and flung it at the young woman despite Leon trying to stop him.

“People, we mustn’t hurt ourselves!” Leon said.

Elriya was bleeding where where the rock had struck her in the back of the head.

“Why did you do that?” Arthelion said to her.

“Well, now I’m hurt, Mr. Paladin,” she said to Leon.

“Why did you do that?” Arthelion said again.

“We need to not hurt each other!” Leon said as he laid his hands on Elriya’s wounds, magically healing her.

“I-I-I feel─” Odila started to say.

“I think she’s working with the orcs!” Arthelion said.

“I don’t think─” Odila started to say.

“Yes, because I helped you escape!” Elriya said. “Because I was working with the orcs.”

“I don’t think that─” Odila said.

“If we escaped, why are we still here?” Arthelion said.

“You were the one who surrendered first!” Elriya said.

“I’m not the one that ran into six orcs,” he replied.

“There’s a lot of finger-pointing going around,” Leon said.

“You were the one who alerted them to our presence in the hallway!” Elriya said.

“I’m the one that charmed the guard so we could get out in the first place?” Arthelion replied.

“So, you are an effective wizard?” Leon said.

“Oh, highly effective,” Arthelion said.

“I feel like this team is going to be totally hopeless,” Odila said.

“Ain’t no team, honey,” Arthelion said. “What are you talking about? All you do is dance and stuff. This guy can’t even walk straight.”

He gestured at Kilb.

“Everybody’s going to take advantage of you,” he said to Leon. “You’re going to be the prison *****, probably.”

He looked at Tarmak.

“That guy just looks normal,” he said. “I ain’t got a problem with him. And he healed me! I like this guy.”

Leon stared at the raving wizard but didn’t detect any evil coming from the man.

“Do you think we could take him?” Elriya said to Kilb in the kobold tongue, looking at Arthelion.

“Definitely,” Kilb said.

“So, everybody says that you’re a normal person,” Odila said to Tarmak. “So, what’s your name?”

“Thanks,” Tarmak said. “My name is Tarmak. I’m a priest.”

“You’re a priest?” Leon said.

“Yes,” Tarmak said.

“Really?” Odila said.

“Who is your deity?” Leon asked.

“I’m an adherent to the great Lord Fharlanghn, long may he travel,” Tarmak said. “And you, paladin?”

“I serve the great Heironeous,” Leon said.

“Oh,” Tarmak said.

Tarmak knew Heironeous was a good god of chivalry, justice, honor, and war. He knew there were a lot of worshippers of Heironeous in Nyrond.

“Well, if we have a priest … some kind of wizard …” Leon said. “And you can actually do stuff with song, right?”

“Yes, I can,” Odila said.

“If we can reach our equipment, we may be able to free these people,” Leon said.

“Again,” Arthelion said.

“We already tried that,” Tarmak said.

Leon turned to Arthelion.

“And … you, I guess,” he said.

“Again,” Arthelion said.

“He’s the one that ****ed it up last time,” Elriya said.

“I didn’t **** up anything!” Arthelion said. “How did I **** up?”

He looked at her.

“I’m genuinely asking!” he said. “What did I **** up?”

“She just might think you did,” Leon said, playing the peacemaker.

“I don’t think I did anything wrong,” Arthelion said.

Storr walked up to the group slaves.

“I ****ed it up, apparently, and I don’t know how!” Arthelion said. “No one’s going to say anything so …”

“Look alive slaves!” Storr said. “The master’s coming down to check. And if you mouth off at him, Mouth, he’s likely to cut you in half.”

“I don’t give a **** anymore!” Arthelion said.

“It’s hard to cut someone in half with a mace,” Elriya said.

“Would you like to make a wager on it?” Storr said to Arthelion.

“On what?” Arthelion said.

“Are you going to mouth off to him?”

“I might. I just do what I want.”

“All right, if you mouth off to him … and survive … I’m willing to give you some favor of some sort.”

“Like freedom?”

“No, not like freedom. Of course if you die, I get nothing anyway so that doesn’t sound like much fun. Never mind. I love to wager.”

He left them.

They worked for another hour before the orc chieftain Skarg arrived. He wore studded leather armor under his black cloak and a longsword hung from his side. He was in the company of a man in black armor with a helm that covered his face except for a y-shaped slit for his eyes and mouth. Darkness lay within the helmet except for two red glowing pinpoints where his eyes should have been. Small, nasty-looking wings were attached to the helmet. A was very tall and his black chainmail was rusted and old. He carried a two-handed sword in one hand. The temperature of the entire area seemed to drop in his presence.

Leon could feel almost a palpable evil emanating from the terrible creature even without trying.

“They’ve almost broken through Mohab,” Skarg said to the armored man. “We’ll be here when they do! Finish slaves! Break through the wall! We must see if it’s there.”

The man in armor watched, unmoving. The other slaves started working at quickly as they could and soon they broke through the barrier of the rubble to another chamber beyond. As soon as a way was cleared, the orcs ordered the slaves back and Skarg and Mohab entered. They returned after some angry cursing as it only opened into another portion of the room with more rubble beyond it. Both of them seemed incensed at yet another delay.

The orcs ordered the slaves to get back to work and started to lead the slaves into the next antechamber.

“What the hell?” Arthelion said. “I thought when we broke through the wall we were done.”

Skarg walked over and backhanded the mage.

“You’ll work ‘til we’re done with you!” he growled.

“So, do you backhand me because that guy backhands you?” Arthelion said. “Is it kind of a trickledown effect of backhands? I bet his armor hurts you when he hits you, doesn’t it?”

“Does this happen all the time?” Leon asked Elriya.

“I’ve heard of you,” Skarg said. “You’re the Mouth aren’t you?”

“I haven’t heard of you,” Arthelion said. “What is your name, good sir?”

“Skarg. Or you may call me master, if you wish.”

“Did your mother call you that?”

The orc glared at him and then slapped him hard in the face, knocking him backwards.

“Sir, leave him alone!” Odila said, coming forward. “He’s just trying to get a rise out of you. I’m sure he means no harm.”

“He’s succeeding!” Skarg bellowed at her. “Would you like some more?”

“So you admit I’ve succeeded,” Arthelion said.

“Would you like some more?” Skarg said.

“I’ve heard all I need to hear,” Arthelion said. “Thank you.”

The orc glared at him before turning and leaving, followed closely by Mohab. Arthelion rubbed his face, which was beet red where he’d been slapped. His teeth felt loose in his skull. The orc had hurt him. Leon felt nauseous form the overwhelming sense of evil that clung to Mohab.

“We have to kill it somehow,” he muttered.

They worked the rest of the day on the new pile of rubble blocking the room. One of the slaves was sent to bring water three times. Leon thanked the person each time. The slave seemed pleasantly surprised at that. Some hours later, they smelled food and then nine orcs returned to collect them and return them to their terrible cell. It was a half hour after that when six orcs brought gruel and a tiny piece of tough meat for them to eat. Soon after they, they could hear the orc revelry they indulged in every night.

“This might be a good chance to get out of here,” Odila said.

“Welp …” Arthelion said.

“They tried that last night!” another of the slaves said. “You’re gonna get us all killed.”

“Hey man, if they haven’t killed us yet, they’re not going to kill us,” Arthelion said.

“How do you know that?” the panicked voice said.

“They do need the labor,” Leon said.

“They haven’t killed me yet,” Arthelion said.

“It’s too much trouble to get new people,” Elriya said.

“I’ve only known you for half a day and I’m surprised they haven’t killed you yet,” Leon said.

“We’ve only known him for two,” Elriya said.

“Imagine what you saw, but for the past two days as well,” Arthelion said. “But with boots now!”

“You’ve only been here three days?” Leon said.

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t know earlier.”

Tarmak remembered they had not cleared the pile of rubble in the corner of their quarters so he felt his way over to it and started to work in shifting some of the stones. Elriya went to help him.

“What is all that noise?” Leon asked.

“What are you doing?” Kilb said.

“There’s a pile of rocks in the corner,” Elriya said.

“Going to see what’s behind it,” Tarmak said.

“We’ve been moving rocks all day,” Kilb said.

“A couple more won’t kill us,” Elriya said. “I don’t think.”

“A quick question,” Odila said. “Do you know what the orcs and that creepy guy from earlier were actually trying to accomplish?”

Silence filled the room.

“You’re the one who read the papers,” Elriya said.

Tarmak told them of finding a paper that discussed a magic weapon in Cameron’s hands that lay to the south in the Honor Hall. The elf Rome had told them about a hall with statues as well.

“So, what kind of mage are you?” Leon asked.

Arthelion, already asleep, didn’t answer.

Orcs came in twice that night to search the prisoners and the room.

* * *

The next day, the 4th of Fireseek, saw them woken roughly and taken to work on the wall again. A few of the commoners were taken to the library again and the rest were set to work on the new pile of rubble that sat before them. Leon heard two orcs talking about Skarg, but he didn’t understand their language. It was just gibberish to him. Some hours later, Elriya was chosen to fetch water. Two orcs led her to the room with water storage where water dripped down into the tuns there. It was raining lightly above somewhere but even the overcast and cloudy day seemed bright to the halfling after spending so much time underground.

She noticed an orc guard outside of the room where they had found their things two days before. She also noticed the orcs guarding the area near the bonfire at the far end of the tunnel. She had seen two orcs guarding in the area they had almost escaped through but otherwise there were not many orcs about.

The two orcs escorted her back to the slaves with her two half-filled buckets to water the slaves. They cuffed her in the head and ordered her to return with more water, threatening if she tried to escape again, it would go very hard on her. One of them kicked her as she walked away. She walked back towards the water room but turned right and headed into another lit corridor to the northwest.

A pile of debris filled the wide corridor and she spotted a door in a small niche to the right. She walked to her left and saw the corridor open up. Numerous doors were closed on the corridor. She wandered down another corridor and peeked around a corner. Another lantern stood there but there were no orcs in the vicinity.

* * *

“So, what kind of wizard are you?” Leon asked Arthelion.

“Why does that concern you, friend?” Arthelion said.

“You could aid in my rescue of these people.”

Your rescue?”

“I mean … our rescue. It doesn’t matter as long as these people get saved. The orcs will surely kill them after they’re done with what they’re doing.”

“What do you think they’re doing?”

Leon thought on that.

“Moving rocks to get to something?” he finally said.

“What do you think they’re getting to?” Arthelion said.

“It doesn’t matter what they’re doing,” Odila said. “They’ve enslaved us and they’re obviously evil.”

“I’m not convinced yet,” Arthelion said.

“Are you daft?” Leon asked.

“What’s it going to take to convince you then?” Tarmak asked.

“Just … just get hit by one of them,” Arthelion said. “You’ll see they’re not hitting us as hard as they could.”

“They don’t want to hurt their workers too much,” Leon said. “They just want us in line.”

“What is it you want me to do?” Arthelion said.

“Just assist in our escape,” Leon said. “But it would help to know what you can do.”

“What could assist in our escape?” Arthelion said.

“If we could get to our equipment and … probably … is there anything in here that’s dangerous?” Leon said. “Lead them to a pit?”

“There’s the gnasher,” Arthelion said.

“Do we know what a gnasher is?” Leon said.

Tarmak shook his head.

“We only know the guards are afraid of it,” he said.

“What is a gnasher?” Leon said again.

“I don’t know,” Arthelion said. “But if you want to see it, they’ll let you.”

“Are they scared of this gnasher?”

“They won’t go with you.”

“Maybe we could release this gnasher.”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea.”

“It sounds big. We could probably be safe in one room and see how the orcs kill it. Maybe it can take out a few.”

“Do you want me to ask them if they’ll let us go see the gnasher?”

“That actually might not be a bad idea.”

“Oh guard!”

“By Gruumsh, what do you want now!” the orc guard growled.

“Guards, I’ve found somebody who wants to see the gnasher,” Arthelion said.

“Are you insane or just stupid?” the orc said to Leon.

“Why does it have to be one or the other?” Arthelion asked.

“Because there are no other choices,” the orc growled. “Or perhaps both?”

“So, yes, I─” Leon said.

“You want to see the gnasher?” the orc said.

“What is a gnasher?” Leon said.

The orc turned to one of his fellows.

“Go get Storr, he’s going to want to bet something on this,” the orc said.

The other orc nodded and ran into the darkness. He returned after a short while with Storr.

“You boys wanna see the gnasher, huh?” he said to Arthelion and Leon.

“No!” Arthelion said.

“I would actually like to see the gnasher too,” Odila said.

Storr laughed.

“All right … so … place your bets boys,” Storr said to the other orcs.

“We don’t want to go up to it, we’d like to see it,” Leon said.

“Oh, you’ll see it,” Storr said. “Especially you, Mouth, since you were part of that whole uprising the other day.”

“Well, you see …” Arthelion said.

“And no one’s holding your hand, by the way,” Storr said.

“No, but … I want to see them see the gnasher,” Arthelion said. “Is what I want to do.”

“Aw,” Storr said. “So, you don’t mind throwing your friends to the gnasher, huh?”

“Friends?” Arthelion said. “Why are we … nobody’s friends here.”

“You’re all humans,” Storr said. “All humans are friends. You all know each other. We know that.”

“That is not accurate,” Tarmak said.

“Are all orcs friends, then?” Arthelion said.

“All orcs are enemies,” Storr said.

“So, would you stab that guy beside you?”

“Yes.”

“Show me?”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“Okay. So, we going or what?”

“Who thinks they’ll survive?”

Storr didn’t get any takers who would back the men.

“I’m going to wager that they’ll survive,” Tarmak said.

“What have you got to wager, slave?” Storr said.

“Hm,” Tarmak said.

“Well, he’s got some rocks,” Arthelion said.

Tarmak offered healing spells if they didn’t come back and was willing to heal them if they got wounded.

“Heal them?” Storr said.

“No, you,” Tarmak said.

“I’m not going in there!”

“Any of your men that get wounded.”

“All right, all right. You’re a priest, eh?”

“Yes.”

“Healing upon demand.”

“Yes.”

“For the next week.”

“Yes, if they do not come back.”

“Oh. All right, what if they do come back?”

“He can’t heal your face,” Arthelion said.

“Nor yours,” Storr said.

Without even looking at the wizard, he punched him in the face, breaking his nose and sending him stumbling backwards.

“Are you a glutton for punishment?” Leon said to the man.

Tarmak rolled his eyes. The other orcs readied their weapons before they relaxed again.

“What if you win the bet, there, priest?” Storr said.

“That you would allow me to have my holy icon for at least a small amount of time each day so─” Tarmak said.

“You’ll have it for your healing!”

“Obviously if I win the bet, I don’t have to heal you for the next week. It’s just so I can commune with my god.”

“No, I don’t trust you. You’ll cast other spells.”

“Well, it takes a long time to cast spells, even with the icon.”

“Tell you what. You win the bet; I’ll let you roam around for an hour. Anywhere you want to go.”

“Seems fair.”

“I’m not telling any of the guards though, so you’d better keep clear of them.”

“Oh. I’ll take you up on that bet then.”

“What?” Arthelion said, blood pouring from his nose.

“He gets an hour off,” Storr said.

“That’s the most unfair bet I’ve ever seen,” Arthelion said.

“He is getting a lot from it, but who cares?” Storr said.

“You have to survive for me to get that,” Tarmak said to Arthelion.

“Yeah!” Storr said.

“Don’t make me look like an idiot,” Tarmak said.

Storr spit in his hand and shook hands with Tarmak, sealing the bet.

“C’mon, you get to come too,” Storr said to him.

“I’m not going to go in there, am I?” Tarmak said.

“Hey, I’m not going to be able to beat the gnasher already injured,” Arthelion said. “Can you at least let him heal me so I can go fight the gnasher.”

“Wait,” Leon said. “Are we actually fighting this gnasher?”

“I didn’t know that but I like the sound of it,” Storr said. “Sure.”

“What do you think we’re going to do, going in there?” Arthelion said.

“I wanted to look at it,” Leon said.

“If you look at it, it’s going to fight you,” Arthelion said.

“There ain’t no light in there,” Storr said. “Good luck looking at it.”

He took Tarmak, Arthelion, Odila, and Leon. Kilb thought about trying to follow but with six orcs there, he didn’t know if he was going to be able to get by.

* * *

Elriya walked quietly down the corridor knowing any door could have orcs behind it. She came around the corner and found another pile of rubble. Bearing again to her right, she found herself back where she’d started. After some consideration, she chose to open the door in the niche, pulling the chains and slipping into a smaller room that was only about 20 feet across. It was pitch black within but she could see with her infravision.

The chamber housed hundreds of keys of all descriptions, shapes, and sizes, hanging from hooks on the walls. A frieze ran around the top of the room depicting two moons orbiting the world. It had a caption but she couldn’t read it. She recognized it as Oerth with its moons of Celene and Luna. She was unsure about the keys and realized she’d not seen anything like a keyhole on any of the doors but guessed if there was one, it would probably be near the floor.

A small hole was in the back of the room.

She returned to get water and took it to the slaves again. The orcs slapped her.

“Where you been?” one of them bellowed at her. “Hurry up! Faster next time!”

She was kicked again.

“I’m a short little Halfling!” she cried.

“Run then, you stupid *****!” the orc growled at her.

She ran away with the buckets, slowing only when she returned to the key room. She slipped into the hole. The next room was larger than the strange key room and filled with smashed sticks of furniture and trash. Two doors lay close together in one wall and a short corridor connected the large room to another, smaller one with a single door. The frieze was identical in both rooms depicting a hall with statues. She was unable to read the writing, however.

She guessed the door led back to the corridor outside their slave quarters and pulled on the chains to open the door. It was, indeed, the corridor just outside of their quarters. No one was inside the quarters and the door had been left open.

She closed the door behind her and went back through, returning with water. She was slapped again for taking so long and then sent for one last time to get water for the slaves, admonished to hurry it up.

This time, she turned left just after leaving the area where the slaves were, going down the corridor she knew led to the library. She stopped at the hall where the statues were, however. The long hall was 30 feet wide and 100 feet long. In addition to several large piles of rubble and a long, thin pool of smelly stagnant water that ran the length of the hall to the east, were four damaged, 9-foot tall statues covered in a thick dust. A name was engraved on each statue in the common tongue.

The statue furthest north was of a priestess dressed in flowing robes with a dove perched upon her fingertips. The name on the statue was Josia. The second was of a knight dressed in chainmail wielding a longsword. The name upon the statue was Cameron. The third showed a man in flowing robes holding a large stone sphere in his hands. The name Thomas was on the statue. The last was a huntress dressed in a tunic and wielding a bow with the name Dionna upon it.

The frieze that ran around the room depicted the construction of a room filled with small desks upon which papers seemed to be sitting. Men sat at the desks and wrote. She couldn’t read the writing that ran along the frieze.

She headed back, got the water and returned with it. She saw Storr and two orcs leaving with some of the others as she arrived. The orcs cuffed her head and one of them took the buckets back.

“Where are they going?” she asked Kilb.

“They’re going to go see the gnasher,” Kilb told her.

“Why?”

“A wager.”

“For what?”

“They’re going to allow the average guy to walk around for an hour if we win. In exchange for the Mouth’s life. If he dies, then …”

“He’s gonna fight it!?!”

“I don’t know. They went to go see it. There’s a chance they’ll die.”

“Okay. Whatever. Hopefully they survive. I’ve got some stuff to tell ‘em.”

She told Kilb about the areas she’d explored, speaking in the kobold tongue in the hopes none of the orcs understood it.

“So, I’ve noticed Storr likes to wager,” Kilb said.

“Um … what would we wager him?” Elriya said.

“Anything. We could find something of value and try to wager for it. Something they can’t just take from us.”

“Well, something to think about.”

“Like the priest’s ability to heal, apparently.”

“Huh.”

“Can you do something interesting? Because I can.”

“I mean … I can tumble.”

“I can tumble as well. I can walk across a tightrope but …”

* * *

Storr took the four to the room with three doors. Two other orcs were there and Storr went to one of the three doors and got three more orcs to guard them. Then he left them for a short time and returned with Tarmak’s holy symbol. He told his three orcs something in their own tongue and they lowered their spears to point at the four, almost jabbing them with the points.

“Any tricks and you are tonight’s supper,” Storr said. “Understood?”

“No tricks,” Tarmak said.

Storr also drew his footman’s mace. They all watched Tarmak very carefully as he cast a healing spell on Arthelion. The mage’s nose clicked painfully back into place with a nasty-sounding snap. A single tear went down his cheek. It had hurt terribly.

Storr snatched the holy symbol out of Tarmak’s hand.

“Watch them,” he said to the other orcs.

He left them for a short while and then returned again. Then he and the three orcs took them down the wide corridor to the bonfire at the far end. Four orcs stood guard there, watching the darkness beyond.

“All right,” he said. “Go and see the gnasher.” He turned to Tarmak. “You’ll stay here as witness.”

“Now, as to seeing it, don’t we need some sort of light?” Leon said.

“Yeah,” Odila said.

“There’s a bonfire here,” Storr said matter-of-factly.

“Oh,” Leon said.

“I would advise not going too far in,” Storr said.

“Do we have a torch or stick?”

“No!”

Storr bowed mockingly and pointed them to the darkness.

“So, we gonna get some weapons or what?” Arthelion asked.

“No!” Storr said.

“How are we supposed to kill it?”

“I thought you just wanted to see it.”

“Well, if it attacks us, I’d like─”

“Oh, it will!”

“Then I’d like to be able to fight it.”

“Okay, well, good luck with that.”

“So … can I have my stuff?”

“No. Go.”

“Out of curiosity, wouldn’t it be more entertaining for you if we were able to fight it?” Odila asked.

“No,” Storr said.

“Put on a show for you?”

“No, the screams of your dying will probably be quite entertaining enough. And besides, we have a wager.”

“Yes,” Tarmak said.

“That would go against the wager,” Storr said. “Unless your reneging. In which case, you lose.”

“No. We’ll keep going with it. I have the utmost faith in y’all.”

“And remember, you have to tell us what it looks like. Giving you fire would be an undue advantage on your side anyway.”

“You haven’t even seen it?” Arthelion asked.

“Is it afraid of fire?” Leon asked.

“I didn’t say that,” Storr said. “But I think it would be an undue advantage.”

He looked at them.

“Go!” he said.

Leon led the way past the bonfire and into the darker area. He tried to sense evil ahead of him but detected nothing. Odila followed him, as did Arthelion.

The area directly past the bonfire was a room some 25 feet on a side with a wide archway that led to a darker area. In the center of the room was a large pile of rubble. They crept around it and could see a larger pile of rubble in the wide area beyond the archway. The smell of rotten meat began to get stronger. In the shadows to the left, they could see a door some yards away. In the shadows to the right was another door at about the same distance. They looked back and could see Tarmak and the orcs.

Somewhere ahead, they heard deep panting. Leon could still not sense any evil ahead of them.

The three crept to the right and found a corridor leading further into the darkness. They went to the door that lay in the shadows, looking around warily. They heard laughter come from back where the orcs were. Odila thought she’d heard one orc ask another in orcish “How long you think they’re going to last, Storr?” whereupon Storr had answered “A minute? I give them a minute. Anyone want to take more than a minute?” One of the other orcs had said “No.” and they had all laughed.

It was a testimony to orc humor.

Leon pulled on the chains, opening the door. He only opened it about three feet. Odila heard one of the orcs ask what the noise was but didn’t hear any reply. It was pitch black in the room.

“Where are you going?” Arthelion asked.

“Checking stuff out,” Leon said. “Why not?”

“Coming with you,” Arthelion said.

They crept into the dark room and groped around, trying to see if there was anything within. They thought they could feel debris and even what felt like cut stone. Leon wondered if they were gems. He found a necklace as well. Arthelion bumped into some sacks that jingled. Odila also bumped against a sack that jingled. They felt around as best they could. Then Leon felt what seemed to be a round shield.

Arthelion cast a cantrip spell and a tiny flame appeared in his hand. It only illuminated a small area but it was enough, when he was very close to something, to see it.

“Seems like we’ve found some sort of treasure room,” Leon said.

The room proved to be 20 feet deep by 30 feet wide with the door in the center of one of the wider walls. Leon held a small, round, metal shield. It was primarily made of wood with an iron rim and a round iron plate in the center. Embedded in the wood were two bronze serpents or legless dragons coiling around each other and facing each other with long tongues extended. It was quite elegant and very light.

The cut stones proved to be gemstones. Among them was a piece of jasper, a rock crystal, a moonstone, and a piece of citrine. There were also small bags, each filled with a few gold coins. A larger bag held hundreds of copper pieces and yet another bag held at least a hundred silver coins of ancient mintage. The necklace was simple but made of gold. They also found a suit of studded leather armor and a longsword, neither of which appeared to be of any great value, but both of which were in good condition.

Arthelion picked up one of the bags of gold coins.

“There’s no point in taking it with us,” Leon said.

“If we were to come back out, do you think you could fight a couple of these orcs?” Arthelion asked Leon.

“I feel if we could get them in here, the gnasher might be able to help us some too,” Leon said.

“That’s a possibility,” Odila said.

Arthelion guessed if there was a door in the corridor behind the room they were in, it connected back to another empty room the others had found before. He described the rooms he’d been told about when they had last tried to break out some two days before. It would circle them back around to the wide corridor.

They got Leon into the armor and gave him the shield and sword. While they got him in the armor, Odila made a rousing speech about defeating the orcs, noting the orcs were a bunch of oppressive jackasses. However, with the weapon and armor, they could fight them.

“Should we check that other room across the way?” Leon asked.

“Let’s!” Odila said, caught up by her own words.

Arthelion put the necklace around his neck, not even trying to hide it. He tucked the moonstone in his boot. Odila carefully counted the gold coins, finding 20 in each sack.

“The first priority though, is to save the innocent people,” Leon said.

“Yes,” Arthelion said.

“Then we can come back!”

“Well … um …”

“You know what?” Odila said. “You know what? You’re right.”

Arthelion picked up the sacks of gold coins and the sack of silver coins. When Odila asked for a bag of gold, he gave it to her.

“It seems the orcs are scared of this room,” Leon whispered as they left the treasury. “So, if we are running somewhere, we could run over here.”

They could hear panting somewhere in the dark.

“I hear the gnasher!” Odila said.

They crept around the back of the room and, in the dim light of the cantrip in Arthelion’s hand, saw a door exactly where he expected it to be. Arthelion pulled on the chains, making a terrible racket, and opened the door. Light spilled from the room beyond, which proved to be a wide room with a single large, brass lantern in the center. A corridor led to the right, presumably back to the wide tunnel, and another door stood on the far wall. The corridor to the left proved choked with rubble and completely blocked.

They discussed leaving the door open in hopes the gnasher would come out and attack the orcs, eventually doing so.

* * *

While Kilb and Elriya continued to work with the other slaves. One of the people they didn’t know well stumbled.

“I-I can’t … do anymore,” the man muttered.

He was one of the middle-aged men who was very thin but looked as if he might have once been overweight. He looked exhausted and they both knew he’d been their longer than either of them. One of the orcs unhooked the scourge from his belt and walked over to the man.

“Get up, you son of a *****!” the orc said.

He struck the man on the back with the scourge. The man let out a scream and tried to get to his feet.

“Keep working!” the orc shrieked at the man, cutting his back with the scourge once again.

The man screamed out in pain, eventually getting up and stumbling back to work

* * *

“Well, I don’t hear any chewing noises yet,” Storr said to Tarmak.

He glared at the cleric.

“We’ll keep waiting,” the orc finally said.

“Okay,” Tarmak said uncomfortably.

* * *

“If we go to our right, they’ll find us,” Leon said.

“Yeah, we just want to go where they’re not going to find us,” Arthelion said.

“Let’s go straight,” Leon said.

They opened the door directly in front of them as quietly as possible, which was not very quietly. They slipped through and closed it behind them. They were in a large open room with a wide hallway ahead of them and a more narrow one to their left. Debris filled the middle of the room and light came from the wide corridor, where another of the great brass lanterns stood. They could see some doors down the wide corridor and a few more down the narrow corridor.

They turned to the left and found two doors, one on either of the passageway. Leon picked the door on the left and pulled the chains to open the door. The room within was about 20 feet by 20 feet and was musty. It was filled with a messy pile of blank papers and writing implements. The light from without and the dim light from Arthelion’s spell only illuminated part of the room.

“Seems …” Odila said.

“This room seems boring,” Arthelion said.

“Completely useless!” Odila agreed.

Arthelion held up his hand and they could see a frieze around the top wall of the room. It depicted the construction of what appeared to be a cistern and showed a long key with a looping handle. They could not read the caption as it was in a language they didn’t understand. They noted the looping key and determined to remember it.

They went to the doorway across the hallway. The room proved to be very large. Most of it was occupied by smashed wooden benches, shattered statues, and fallen support beams. It was dark and empty and they found it occupied a space some 30 feet wide by 80 feet deep. The frieze along the ceiling depicted a number of men in regal robes who looked like priests.

Against the far wall was an old altar and dais upon which rested an iron bowl and a dried tree branch. When Leon stepped onto the dais, he suddenly received a brief, mysterious vision and dropped to his knees. He could see a crystal-clear image of a long iron key with a thick hoop for a handle.

Odila ran back to the open door to the last room and got pencil and paper to write down what they had found. She wrote down what they’d found and descriptions of the friezes.

* * *

“So, what kind of time limit are we putting on this before you lose?” Storr said to Tarmak.

“I didn’t know there was going to be a time limit?” the priest said.

“I’m bored!”

“What? We’ll just give them a little bit longer. We haven’t heard any─”

“Hey! Are you dead in there!?!”

There was no answer.

“That seems like proof,” Storr said.

“Yeah, don’t you usually hear the gnasher eating?” Tarmak said. “Or making other types of noises when he’d feeding?”

“We usually hear screams.”

“Well, then they’re obviously not dead yet. We would have heard something.”

The orc glared at him.

“Just a little longer,” Tarmak said. “Perhaps they’re still stumbling around in the dark.”

“All right, priest, since you’re going to lose anyway,” Storr said. “We will wait. For now.”

Hurry up, Tarmak thought.

* * *

“Shall we go back and play dumb?” Leon said.

“Um …” Odila said.

“And just, obviously, put the gold back, and the armor?” Leon said.

“Nope,” Arthelion said.

“And come get it later?” Leon said.

“Nope,” Arthelion said.

“Nope?” Leon said.

“I don’t wanna do that,” Arthelion.

“Um …” Odila said.

“Then let’s try to go free those other people,” Leon said.

“Oh!” Odila said.

“I say we keep checking the other doors,” Arthelion said. “We’ve got more to check.”

“Let’s check the other doors,” Odila said.

They moved to the next door and could see down the next hallway. Another brass lantern stood in it, as well as more doors. The ones on the right obviously went back to the temple room they’d just been in. Two others stood on the wall to the left.

“Look, there’s a lantern,” Arthelion said.

“Although if the orcs think that we died, we could work that to our advantage,” Odila said.

“We could,” Leon said.

“Some of us died a long time ago,” Arthelion said.

“It was three days,” Leon said.

“You’ve been here for three days,” Odila said. “I know that the orcs suck but they couldn’t have totally broken you in three days.”

“And you look like a glutton for punishment,” Leon said to him. “You might even be enjoying this.”

They went to the next door but, as Leon was pulling the chains to open the door, a shout came from within.

“Who the hell is that!?!” the voice sounded like Skarg’s.

Leon stopped pulling on the chains.

“My mistake,” Odila called in Orcish. “Sorry.”

“Get out!” Skarg cried.

“Yes sir!” Odila said in orcish.

She motioned for Leon to lower the door and he quickly did so. They moved down the hall to the next door on the left. Leon opened it and, as it went up, they saw two orcs in the room talking. There were bedrolls on the floor.

“What the hell?” one of them said.

“Skarg sent me to give you these for your hard work,” Arthelion said.

He held out some of the pouches and shook them. They jingled.

“Why is he in armor?” one of the orcs said as they got up. “Why does he have a weapon?”

“We work for you guys now,” Arthelion lied.

“You do! You’re slaves!”

“Yes, but we actually will help you with the other slaves.”

“Put down the sword!”

“I was told to escort,” Leon lied.

“Bullshit!” one of the orcs said.

They picked up their spears.

“Uh!” Odila said.

“Nope,” Arthelion said.

Odila ran into the room and grabbed the spear of one of the orcs. The two struggled with it. Arthelion flung one of the bags of gold at the other orc. It missed and burst open as it hit the wall, spilling gold coins all over the floor.

“You *****!” the orc yelled at Leon.

When he got close he suddenly looked nauseous, probably due to the magical ability the paladin had against evil creatures.

“That feels awful!” the orc cried.

He raised his spear over his head and brought it down, slipped, bringing the spear down into his own belly. He shrieked and fell, the tail of the spear breaking off. He landed on the ground, bleeding profusely.

The other orc continued to struggle with Odila for the spear. Leon ran over and swung at him, missing completely as the beast tried to keep the woman between himself and the paladin. A look of disgust went over his features as Leon got close. Then Arthelion ran over to the orc and tried to drop kick him. He only managed a glancing blow and landed on the hard stone floor on his back. Odila continued struggling against the orc but was unable to get the spear from him. Then the orc jerked it out of her hand.

“Oh, you little *****!” the orc growled.

Leon tried to stab the creature, but the orc ducked under the blow. Arthelion stood up and tried to punch the orc as Odila tried to get the spear away from the orc again but the orc pushed her off. Leon finally stabbed the orc in the belly and the orc dropped his spear and shrieked for mercy. He begged for quarter, tears welling up in his eyes as he fell to his knees. Leon looked down at the orc, and saw he was evil. Odila picked up the spear while Arthelion picked up the gold coins and put them in another sack.

The orc continued crying and begging for mercy.

“Will you assist in freeing the prisoners?” Leon asked him.

“Ask him to lead us out of here,” Arthelion said.

“Don’t kill me!” the orc cried. “Please don’t kill me!”

“Will you assist in freeing the prisoners?” Leon asked again.

“Don’t kill me!” the orc cried. “Please don’t kill me! I don’t want to die! Please don’t kill me!”

“You know what?” Odila said. “If you help us escape, we won’t kill you.”

“I can’t!” the orc said. “They’ll kill me! Skarg will kill me! He’ll kill me! His room is right over there! I can tell you where his room is! It’s right over there. It’s right over there.”

“Where is our equipment?” Leon asked.

“It’s over in that armory room down that main hall,” the orc said, still crying.

It sounded to Arthelion like the same place their stuff had been before. He nodded at Leon, who struck the orc in the head with the pommel of his sword, knocking him unconscious. Leon tore the orc’s clothes and tied him up. Then he put the bleeding orc atop the other orc, as if they had been fighting.

The room held rickety tables and decaying floor mats. Five piles of sleeping skins also covered the floor and a rusty pole arm rack holding a pair of halberds sat in the far corner of the room. A frieze along the ceiling depicted two jeweled eggs. There were words none of them could read.

Odila also found a coin pouch on each of the orcs with a total of 31 gold coins between them. She also got the orcs’ spears. She took off the leather armor from the unconscious orc and donned it.

* * *

“Maybe you should go look for them,” Storr said to Tarmak.

“I mean, there’s not much I can do,” the priest said. “Plus, if I die, you won’t get your healing.”

Storr glared at the man. Then he turned to a couple of the other orcs.

“You two go and look around,” he said. “This doesn’t feel right.”

The two orcs turned and walked away. Storr turned back to Tarmak.

“You set this whole thing up, didn’t you?” Storr said.

“No,” Tarmak said. “I mean, how could I know what’s down through there. I don’t think we’ve even been to this side of the complex─”

“Shut up!” Storr said.

He slapped the man smartly across the face.

* * *

A hole in the wall peeked into the next room but they couldn’t see anything in there aside from, via their very feeble light source, more rickety tables and rotten mats. They pushed into the room through the narrow hole but found nothing of value. They realized they had been gone for a while.

“Well, now we know where are stuff is,” Odila said. “Where do we go now?”

“I feel we should rescue the prisoners,” Leon said. “That is the first priority. We could arm them.”

“You know what … well, we have this spear that I have,” Odila said. “There’s two more.”

Leon retrieved the halberds and the damaged spear.

“Well, two of us can sort of fight,” Odila said. “We’re all going to die, aren’t we?”

She looked at them both and then gave them another motivational speech. Arthelion knew where the rest were, but it was a long way. However, when they went around the corner further down the passage, they spotted two doors side-by-side. They discussed which way to go and decided to open the double doors. The room beyond was dark and so they entered.

The large room was filled with smashed sticks of furniture and trash. It was connected to a smaller room via a short corridor with a door on the other end. The frieze around the top of the wall depicted the construction of a long hall with several statues in it. They could not read what was written on the caption as it was in another language. Arthelion thought the other door out of the room led back to the hallway outside of the slave quarters.

They opened the door and found themselves in the hallway where their quarters were. They found their quarters wide open, spotting the piles of straws and the rubble in the corner after a quick look around. Leon headed through another door at the end of the hall. In the chamber beyond that, they saw a hole in the wall. They headed down the narrow corridor and opened the door there. It was very loud.

They found themselves in a room they’d never been in before. It had an elaborately patterned tile mosaic countersunk into the far side of the room. A small kettle was in the far corner, filled with water. Beyond a few broken splinters of furniture, the only other object in the room was a small box in the corner opposite the kettle. A door was on the wall to the left and they guessed it led to where there was light and a pair of orc guards. At least there always had been when they were taken to the digging area before. The frieze around the top of the room depicted a number of trees in a dense forest. There was no caption.

Leon picked up the box which was approximately 12 inches long, six inches wide, and four inches deep. It was made of a strange red metal and was surprisingly well preserved. No seam or method of opening the box was visible but the top of the box was monogrammed with strange sigils, like the lettering of the friezes in the rooms. The underside of the box contained four dials with more of the strange sigils upon them. Each of the dials had five letters. When shaken, something soft moved around and something harder tapped against the sides.

Arthelion took the box, holding it along with the other treasures.

Leon opened the door to the south, where they thought there would be two orcs on guard duty. Odila and Leon waited against the wall while Arthelion hid in the corner.

“What was that?” one of the orcs said in orcish. “Who’s there? Is that you Pall?”

“Yes, it’s me, Pall,” Odila said in orcish.

Leon looked at her.

“Didn’t sound like Pall,” the orc said in common. “Sounds like a human girl trying to sound like Pall.”

The orcs marched over to the door and saw them. One of the orcs stabbed Odila, hurting her slightly. The other stabbed Leon, hurting him badly. Leon tried to stab one of the orcs with the longsword but missed completely. Then Odila tried to stab one of the orcs, her spear not penetrated the orc’s leather armor.

One of the orcs stabbed Odila again but the bard didn’t fall. Leon blocked the other orc’s spear with his shield, which seemed to move deftly through the air. Then he slashed the orc in the gut and the creature went down without a sound. Odila tried to stab the other orc but missed once again. She tried again without luck, unable to hurt the horrible thing.

The remaining orc ran Odila through even as Leon tried to cut him down. She fell to the floor, bleeding.

“*****!” the last orc said, looking sick to the stomach.

He stabbed at Leon but missed the man completely. Leon slashed at the orc, who deftly dodged out of the way. He stabbed the orc in the stomach and the creature fell with a muted cry. Then the paladin quickly laid his hands upon Odila. The bleeding stopped but she didn’t awaken.

Leon pulled the orc bodies into the room and closed the door. He thought about what to do but, in the end, decided it might be prudent to hide the items they had found and sneak back to the gnasher’s area and then claim Odila’s wounds had been caused by the beast. He thought about hiding the gear in the slave quarters under the rubble, but was unsure if the orcs searched it.

He told Arthelion to put the box back where he’d found it. The wizard didn’t want to do so but eventually complied. Then the two carried Odila back into the large double room filled with debris off the corridor to the slave quarters and they hid away the gems, gold, silver, shield, studded leather armor, sword, halberds, spears, as well as the notes, pencil, and leather armor Odila had been using, and even the few gold coins she’d squirreled away from the orcs in the first room.

Arthelion kept the necklace around his neck but put the moonstone he’d hidden in his boot with the rest of the treasure.

They crept back the way they’d come, carrying Odila and closing doors on the way. They moved quickly through the gnasher area and got to the bonfire, still carrying the woman.

“The most terrible thing I’ve ever seen!” Leon said.

“What’d it look like?” Storr asked.

“Look what it did to my friend!”

“Meh. What’d it look like?”

“I couldn’t see! It was in the dark! I barely got her out.”

“So you didn’t see it.”

Storr turned to Tarmak.

“The bet was they’d see it,” he said.

“No, the bet was they’d come back alive from the gnasher’s lair,” the priest said. “I don’t remember you saying anything about them actually seeing it.”

“All right, fine! You can have your hour tomorrow.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Hey, take her to the slave pit. Throw her in.”

“Can he not try to heal her?” Leon said. “Then she can get back to work?”

“It’s true, I can heal at least once more per day,” Tarmak said.

“Go get his gewgaw,” Storr said.

One of the orcs went up the hallway and into the same room they’d raided two days before. He returned with the holy symbol and all of the orcs pointed their spears at Tarmak while he cast the spell on the woman. She awoke and was unpleasantly surprised to find herself surrounded by orcs.

“What happened?” she said.

“The gnasher got you!” Arthelion said.

“The gnasher got you,” Leon echoed. “The gnasher!”

“Right,” she said. “Right.”

“He got you,” Arthelion said.

“Where’d you get this!?!” Storr suddenly said.

He grabbed the necklace around Arthelion’s neck.

“Where’d you get this necklace!?!” Storr said again.

“It was terrifying,” Odila said. “It had thousands of teeth.”

“Shut up!” Storr said. “Where’d you get this gold?”

“Where did you pick that up?” Leon asked.

“I found it,” Arthelion said. “It was on the floor. The gnasher gave it to me.”

Storr slapped the mage and took the necklace from around his neck.

“The gnasher looks just like your mom,” Arthelion said.

Storr slapped him again.

They were sent back to the rest of the slaves where they resumed their labor for the rest of the day. The others told them everything that happened to them during their adventures with “the gnasher.” Elriya told them all about the key room she found that sounded as if it was close to the large room filled with trash where they’d hidden their stolen gear. She was disappointed Arthelion had found the other rooms before she could tell them what she’d found.

“Well, you didn’t see the key room,” Elriya said with a laugh.

“Well, maybe I did!” Arthelion said. “Wasn’t there a room full of keys? Yeah, yeah. We found a room full of keys.”

They looked at Leon.

“See, silence gives consent,” Arthelion said. “We found a room full of keys.”

Leon just shook his head.

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