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Wilderness: Book One - The Forest (Chapter Twenty-One - Into the Deep)

Author: 
Colin Frayn
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
94

The brave group of warriors proceeded carefully along the narrow mountain path, their weapons drawn and ready. Somewhere in the distance lay the entrance to Rakrath's caves, and within the depths of those dark caverns stood the foul necromancer himself, plotting the downfall of the dwarf empire and his own ascent to power.

The twisting mountain route snaked dangerously close to a precipitous drop down into the valley to one side, and rough, rocky crags rose up on the other, climbing steeply towards the snow-capped peaks above. In the distance, the chattering of trolls could be heard amongst the boulders, the otherwise vicious creatures wisely keeping their distance from this fierce war party. The journey was still perilous - all manner of mountain creatures could have been lurking behind every dark corner, waiting to pounce when least expected.

Carek scouted ahead to check for danger, returning only when he was sure that the path was clear. This slowed the group's progress, but they could not afford to be spotted before they reached Rakrath's caves. The element of surprise was the only real chance they had; without it, they were all doomed.

After an hour of walking, the caves began to draw near. The rock here was blacker than elsewhere, and the stench of decay filled the noses of the brave dwarven warriors, marching briskly onwards in the pale moonlight glow. As they approached the entrance, Carek scouted ahead once more. A group of four skeleton warriors stood at the gate, perfectly motionless, guarding against intruders. The element of surprise here was paramount and the group could not risk the skeletons raising an alarm.

Tarok had just the plan. He hid behind a boulder, getting as close to the gate as he dared before casting a spell towards the keyhole, locking it firmly shut lest any of the guards tried to escape inside. His work done, the wizard stepped back while the dwarfs charged out towards the four skeleton warriors. Tarok's assistance was not required as the dwarfs made short work of their weaker foes. One skeleton ran back to the entrance, found it locked, and was forced to stand and defend against a flurry of dwarven axes. The four guards were swiftly destroyed, and the remains of their bodies hurled off the cliff face to remove all evidence of the dwarfs' deadly arrival.

Tarok undid his spell on the front door, cautiously turned the handle and peered inside. The passageway was dark - too dark for the wizard to pick out any detail whatsoever. The undead creatures under Rakrath's power had no need for light as they saw by means of magic, feeding off the life essence of anyone foolish enough to venture near. The dwarfs lit a couple of lanterns and, one by one, stepped inside the entrance to the caves, carefully shutting the gate behind them.

Carek set off first into the tunnels, scouting for danger with his superior eyesight. The group agreed to follow a minute behind. Randor turned over his timer, and watched the sand pour away into the lower container as Carek advanced into the darkness and disappeared from view.

Carek's mind was full of a host of nervous thoughts. He was scouting alone into unknown caves, not prepared in the slightest for what he was to find. "Stay calm. Stay quiet," he whispered to himself, trying his best to overcome the fear of this place. Quiet as a shadow, Carek crept into the passageways, checking every corner for enemies and traps. He didn't really know what he expected to find, or what he would do if he came across any opposition, but instead he relied on his expert senses to keep himself out of harm's way. Harm, he suspected, would find him sooner or later of its own accord.

Fifty yards into the darkness, Carek reached a T-junction leading left and right. Rather than split the group into two weaker halves, he decided to wait for the dwarfs and decide which route they should take together. Quickly, he checked that both passages were empty, then stood up against one wall, blending with the shadows as he peered patiently back down the entrance tunnel from whence he had come. Sure enough, a few moments later, the dwarfs appeared in the distance and began walking in his direction, attempting to disguise their footsteps, but echoing painfully loudly, at least to the half-elf's ears.

A few moments later, Randor arrived with the rest of the party, walking straight past Carek and not noticing the half-elf hiding beside the wall. It was fortunate that Carek was scouting ahead or the dwarfs would have been easy pickings for any more intelligent assassin. Randor decided to take the right hand passage at the junction, so Carek set off ahead again, scouting for any hidden enemies. Although he doubted the use of his superior vision in such deep blackness, he was still by far the quietest of the group. Dwarfs were actually quite noisy, some would even say clumsy and hard footed. They never prided themselves on subtlety. With their fierce armies and skilled weapon smiths, they never really needed to. Dwarfs preferred to be heavily armoured and armed with a hefty battleaxe. They might not always get the first strike, but they would usually require only one.

After another fifty yards, Carek came up against a small oaken door in the wall. It was only five feet high and three feet wide, but was decorated with numerous grotesque and rather primitive carvings of death and destruction. Carek decided to wait for the rest of the group, not daring to open the door on his own, hardly daring to guess what lay beyond. There was a sound of movement coming from the other side, and Carek didn't particularly wish to find out what was causing it. He was sure that Rakrath had a great many soldiers left, and was in no hurry to meet them without his more powerful friends to support him.

Carek put his ear to the door and listened for noises on the other side. There was definitely movement, but no speech as far as he could tell. Perhaps more skeletons, he thought. It was certainly a possibility. After another minute, the group set off again to catch up with their scout. Carek signalled to them to be quiet and dim the lanterns. They were going to need a plan.

This was a truly difficult situation. They couldn't risk walking straight in to the room in case the door was trapped, or its inhabitants were to set off an alarm. Fyron suggested Tarok threw a fireball inside. Tarok shook his head. "And what if this room contains all of Rakrath's slaves? We cannot risk it." "Perhaps a diversion?" whispered Athena. "Carek and I can lure them out while the rest of you hide in the shadows, waiting to pounce." Randor pondered for a moment. "Yes, do it." It was hardly failsafe, but probably the best option given the situation.

Carek and Athena both walked to their places in the centre of the tunnel and banged their weapons loudly on the floor, picking them up again as quickly as possible. The dwarfs huddled up silently behind the door, waiting to see what kind of creature would charge out at them. There was a commotion inside the room, and then the handle slowly turned. The door swung open to reveal an orc with a torch alight, and a sword in his hand. Carek and Athena smiled at him and quickly turned out their lanterns. The orc peered forward into the darkness, wondering who these strange intruders might have been. Suddenly, two of the dwarfs pounced from the shadows, axes slicing fiercely. The orc fell to the floor, dead.

Through the door, Athena spotted another lantern flickering dimly towards the far wall. Next to this was a length of rope, attached through a hole in the ceiling by some kind of pulley mechanism. Another orc was running over towards the rope, pushing his companions out of the way. It must have been the alarm bell! Athena hurled her sword with all her might, and it sliced into the creature's back, killing it before it had a chance to raise the alarm. The remainder of the dwarfs rushed into the room and killed the last three orcs with a flurry of slicing axes.

The room was fifteen feet square, and had no furnishings except for a small table in one corner. It was clearly just some sort of guard post for the entrance tunnels, but as such, it was remarkably poorly defended. Athena quickly cut off the rope leading up to the alarm bell so that no one else could use it. There was only one other exit - a door in the far wall, which Randor decided to take, persuading Carek to scout ahead once more.

The five orcs were left in a pile in one corner of the room, and then the dwarfs set off after their half-elf scout. The door opened out into a narrow passage, leading downwards at an uncomfortably steep angle. Every so often, a rat scurried past their feet, or a bat fluttered overhead, further unnerving the already apprehensive battle group. The ceiling was eight feet high, and was propped up every so often by a wooden pillar, gnarled by time and scratched by orcs and other creatures of the dark. The lights of the lanterns fell sharply onto these wooden pillars, bringing them alive with a flickering orange flame. To their eyes, these became like towering monsters, leaping out from the shadows whenever the dwarfs came near.

The passage continued straight down into the depths and seemed to go on for an enormous distance before it turned sharply left and doubled back on itself, continuing ever downwards. For whatever reason, Rakrath certainly seemed to enjoy the depths, and the dwarfs felt that the centre of his stronghold would probably lie very deep in the mountain, through all sorts of unknown terrors. Whatever the depths would hold, the group would have to brave them if they were to reach the necromancer and destroy his foul empire.

After another fifty yards, the passage levelled off, and ended in a T-junction with a door in the far wall. This door was slightly larger, about six feet high, and Carek once again listened carefully for noises. He heard a rustling similar to before, with an odd chink of metal. It sounded distinctly like weapons and armour, though he couldn't tell how many creatures lay beyond.

Not wanting to try the same old trick, Randor and Fyarn stood on one side of the door and Athena stood forward. On the count of three, she turned the handle, and the dwarfs charged in, axes aloft. They roared loudly, as if launching into a fierce battle. The room was empty except a handful of rats, brushing against old rusty shields or swords. Carek laughed, watching the dwarfs, eager for battle, sorely disappointed.

The group put away their weapons. This was just a harmless, disused store room. It was full of armour and equipment, with scythes and shields littered haphazardly across the floor. No doubt it was some sort of plunder room, where Rakrath stored all the equipment that he had managed to steal from defeated foes in the past, but had not yet put to use in his army of undead. There were dwarven shields amongst that pile, together with axes and hammers covered in familiar runes. The dwarfs shuddered, remembering their lost friends who had given their lives to defeat the forces of this evil sorcerer.

As there were no further exits from that room, they decided to leave immediately, and search down the passage to the left. This one seemed to slope down even more steeply - presumably towards Rakrath and his army. As they descended even further the pungent smell grew still worse and the stale air in the passages became steadily more unpleasant. They continued boldly onwards, but were soon forced to stop as a marching sound up ahead caught Carek's fine hearing. He signalled for the dwarfs to retreat back behind the last corner as he peered ahead to see what manner of creature approached.

As the group huddled together in the shadows, a group of zombies marched into view, carrying short swords and marching regimentally towards the hidden battle group. The dwarfs could run or stand their ground. Randor turned to the warriors with a stern expression. They could not afford to fall back. They were going to fight.

The zombies marched ever closer, dead flesh rotting on their yellow bones and shreds of mildewed clothing hanging from their repulsive bodies, filling the passageway with a cloud of noxious odours. Carek lifted his spear and led the charge, felling one of the startled creatures with a swift strike to the abdomen. Athena took another with a series of devastating sword blows. The dwarfs charged in and felled the remainder between them, overwhelming the smaller zombie force with a devastating spearhead strike. Eight zombies lay dismembered on the floor, their magical essence finally gone from their lifeless bodies.

The group set off back along the passage, following it down further into the mountain. Sooner or later, Rakrath would begin to get a little suspicious that so many of his troops were going missing and Tarok began to think a little about how the necromancer actually controlled his nefarious minions. Rakrath couldn't possibly have a direct link to his troops, as then he would know straight away when they had been killed. Besides, Tarok guessed this method would absorb vast quantities of magical energy. Not even the greatest magician in the realms could maintain such an exertion. Tarok eventually came to the conclusion that the creatures had been magically programmed as soon as they were first created, and then told what to do whenever their tasks needed altering. That way, Rakrath could summon hundreds of the creatures and send them off to fight without ever having to worry about them. That would explain why the necromancer had not been present at the battle the previous night. He didn't need to risk his own life when he could simply watch safely from afar.

They continued downwards for two hundred yards before the passage levelled off again. They were now in the third dungeon level, and the air was beginning to get more difficult to breathe. Rakrath would be nearby, maybe only one or two levels below them. Tarok didn't even know how to recognise the necromancer when finally they met, although he had no doubt that Rakrath would be the one casting all the spells. He had to be stopped now or he would simply build his forces back up again before the dwarfs had a chance to do the same.

Continuing down the passage they passed a narrow entrance on the left, but carried on, reaching a right turn whereupon they came across a large wooden door set into the wall. It was about eight feet high and probably at least five inches thick. It was obviously some kind of treasure room, or so the group thought. Carek turned the handle and pushed the door, but it was locked, and bolted most likely. Tarok attempted to open the lock using his magical powers, but it was held fast by a far more powerful enchantment.

The battle party could only turn back, and decided to take the narrow passage that they had noticed earlier. Holding their lanterns in front of them, they edged slowly down the tunnel. They couldn't help noticing that the passage was obviously well used as the floor was worn, probably by goblin feet - the place reeked of the creatures. They couldn't fight them in such a cramped passage, as even the dwarfs wouldn't be able to swing their weapons with so little space. They were all eager to get through this passage as quickly as possible, and out into the room beyond.

After almost forty yards, the passage opened out into a small, plain room, ten feet wide and maybe fifteen feet long. It was empty of furniture, allowing all the dwarfs to squeeze in eventually although not without a fair bit of complaining. Shining their lanterns around, they noticed a small hole in the wall. This was clearly some kind of passage for the goblins. It seemed to continue into the rock as far as they could see with their lanterns, and probably a great deal further. There was no visible turn or opening down the passage, but it was clearly some sort of service route leading to another area of the caverns. The dwarfs were certainly not too happy about going down there, into the unknown, but they knew by the look in Tarok's eye that they were going to have to follow him.

Kneeling down, Tarok looked into the passage and checked the floor for any signs of danger ahead. He noticed a few small footprints in the loose soil and guessed that they were of some small humanoid, maybe about three or four feet in height. The passage was only a little bit larger than this, making it look like Rakrath had been employing goblins to run the more mundane parts of his empire. Randor and Carek went first down the tunnel. The half-elf was reduced to crouching low as he walked, and even the dwarfs had to stoop their heads as they shuffled along. Fyarn and Fyron followed closely behind, followed by Athena and the rest of the dwarfs. Tarok went last so that he could guard their rear. Fighting in a small passage would be difficult but Tarok could use his magic quite easily. Unless it involved dramatic hand gestures, that was. Just one bolt of lightning would be sufficient to dispatch a large number of closely packed foes in such a narrow passageway. Of course, that worked both ways.

The dwarfs marched on for quite a while, moving cautiously and continually treading on each other in their haste, which annoyed them all greatly. Eventually Randor called for everyone to stop, and the message passed back through the party to Tarok. There was a problem. The passage finished in a dead end, but a vertical shaft led downwards further than they could see. Randor threw down a stone and heard it crash several seconds later. A thin rope was fixed to the ceiling leading down into the depths, but Randor doubted that it would hold his weight. One of the dwarfs had a rope, but it was only twenty yards long and the shaft was certainly deeper than that.

After a bit of deliberation it was decided to tie the thicker rope to the ceiling hook, climb down to the end of it, and check how far they were from the bottom of the shaft. Carek volunteered to go down the rope, as he was the most nimble, and was certainly used to a great deal of climbing around. He scrambled quickly down the rope and soon disappeared into the darkness. After a few seconds he called up to the rest of the group, "the other rope is only ten yards long. There's no way that they would make it to the bottom on that." He continued down to the end of the dwarf's rope, but still couldn't see the bottom. He levered a rock from the walls, dropped it and waited for a splash, which came a few seconds later. The bottom was still a long way down. Carek began to climb back up the rope, and called up to the rest of the group that he could see no way of reaching the bottom, short of the obvious. His head popped up from the shadows, and he scrambled onto the top of the shaft, perching himself precariously over the edge.

No one knew what to do next - they were completely confused. Looking around, they could see nothing that could be used to go down into the shaft - no ladder, no extension rope. Everyone looked at Tarok, who was the cleverest of the group but for once even he was out of ideas. Randor suggested to look for a trap door, so they all did just that but found nothing. Carek checked in all the cracks for any sort of lever, but to no avail.

They were about to give up and retrace their steps when Carek found a small alcove a small distance down into the deep shaft. He carefully felt around inside it, and uncovered a small lever, on which he pulled. There was a clunk and a churning of gears below him as some magical mechanism began to whirr into action. Everyone stopped what they were doing, and all sat perfectly still as Randor frowned at Carek menacingly. This could have been what they were looking for, but then again, if they had set off one of Rakrath's traps, they were probably all doomed!

They waited, frozen still, for what seemed like an eternity, half expecting poisoned darts to shoot out of the wall, or knives to drop down from the ceiling. Athena looked around nervously, imagining all sorts of gruesome deaths befalling her. Eventually, when it became clear that no such misfortune was to occur, the dwarfs let out a deep sigh of relief. As far as they could tell, nothing had happened. Carek picked up a stone from the floor and hurled it down the shaft in despair. There was a clunk. He frowned, turned to the others and then hurled another stone down after it. It seemed to strike something solid about ten yards down.

Randor spoke, "I believe you might just have found something there, my friend. Climb down and find out." Carek agreed, and began slowly to lower himself down the rope, searching around for anything new. Then, after a few yards, he found himself standing on a small platform which jutted out into the shaft. A door had opened up in one wall, about the same size as the passage that they were already in, and appeared to lead into yet another passage onwards into the darkness as far as Carek could see.

"I believe we've found our way out," he called up. "Follow me!" One by one the dwarfs descended the rope and began to crawl through the lower tunnel into the heart of the dungeons, followed by their human companions.

Carek never realised that goblins could be so ingenious. Maybe the greenskins hadn't made the device, but he couldn't think of any other creature that would build tunnels so small. He soon forgot about the idea and carried on, remembering that they were now closer to Rakrath than ever before. An eerie chanting noise was beginning to fill the passage as they crawled onwards, and they prepared themselves for what was certainly going to be a most dangerous fight. They were now somewhere between the third and fourth dungeon levels, and descending all the time.

The passage sloped down steeply for at least fifty yards and then levelled off, finally opening out into a large room, ten yards wide and twenty yards long. The ceiling was well beyond Tarok's outstretched reach, which seemed strange after such a narrow passageway. There were two exits, other than the one by which they had entered. One was a small passage three feet wide and about six feet high directly opposite them, and the other was a large wooden door reaching almost to the ceiling on their left.

Tarok began to wonder why the room was built on such a grand scale. "I suspect it's for the giant zombies and skeletons that we fought in the battle last night," he began. "This tends to suggest that we're drawing near to Rakrath's lair." Quite what the purpose of this room was, they didn't want to guess, but they knew that they didn't particularly want to wait around and find out, so they began to argue between themselves where they should go. All this time, the chanting which had previously been audible in the background, was growing steadily noisier until it filled the room and began to strike a certain amount of trepidation into the hearts of the brave warriors. The language was unknown to them, even to Tarok who had studied many of the more arcane tongues of the world during his studies. It sounded like a large number of voices, all chanting at once, repeating exactly the same unknown words.

Before they group could decide which exit to take, the chanting abruptly stopped. The group found themselves surrounded by a profound silence, and they immediately ceased talking, looking nervously around. After a few seconds, the sound of distant footsteps began to fill the room, growing ever nearer. It sounded like a large number of armoured feet coming in the group's direction from the narrow passage in front. Not wanting to stay around to find out the source, Randor decided to take a risk, so the war party pushed open the large door, rushed out into the darkness beyond and slammed the door firmly behind them. They stopped for a moment to regain their breath and to work out exactly where they were.

Looking around they found themselves in a large corridor, five yards wide and four yards high. It seemed to continue for quite a while and then split into two smaller passages, one going to the right and one to the left. This was still probably the right size for the larger creatures of Rakrath's horde, so the dwarfs decided that it would be a good idea to move away as soon as possible.

The noise was getting louder behind them in the room. Clearly, a number of creatures had just entered and were gathering within. Randor decided to hurry on to the junction ahead, in case the room's occupants came through the door and discovered the intruders. The dwarfs didn't want to be seen quite yet, especially by such a large number of creatures. From the noise their marching had made, it sounded like dozens of soldiers just yards away. They dwarfs began to run down the corridor, and they were quickly overtaken by Tarok, Carek and Athena, whose longer legs enabled them to sprint considerably faster.

The group arrived at the junction just in time as the door behind them creaked open, and a large number of skeletons marched through in orderly ranks. Quickly, the group decided to take the right hand passage, and ran down it for a couple of hundred yards to get a good lead on the warriors behind. The skeletons were not built to run particularly fast, even compared to the dwarfs, but Randor was taking no chances. The skeletons he had seen would have put up a tough fight, and he felt sure that the dwarfs would have suffered considerable losses if they were to have fought directly.

Tarok stayed near the back of the group, peering behind every so often to check that the group hadn't been seen. With a bit of luck, the skeletons would take the other passage, wherever that led. However, the marching could still be heard in the background, and it didn't sound like it was getting any fainter.

The group found themselves marching rapidly down an unknown tunnel into the heart of Rakrath's lair. Quite where this route led, they didn't know. Nor did they care, for the moment, unless they were forced at some point to turn back and fight their way back through the skeletons behind. Randor's carefully laid plans were all going wrong, and it was at this point that they began to wonder just what sort of fate they had committed themselves to. Rakrath's forces were not as weak as Randor had hoped. Quite how the necromancer had managed to build up so many extra soldiers in such a short time deeply troubled Tarok too, whose limited knowledge of the necromantic arts had showed him only how immensely difficult it all was, but what an enormous drain on one's powers it could become.

It was then that a terrible thought entered his mind - maybe Rakrath was being helped by someone else; some other sorcerer? That would make the situation vastly more difficult. Tarok tried to forget about his fears. After all, why would anyone as powerful and evil as Rakrath ever accept help from another? Tarok turned his attention to the current situation, setting off once again down the passage, holding out a glowing hand to lead the way. The others followed closely behind. They had followed the right hand passage downwards for quite some time, and the sound of pursuit from behind was still rather faint, but growing louder. However, there was no sign of this tunnel being anything other than a simple mine shaft leading well away from where they wanted to be.

As the group progressed further down the tunnel, and still deeper underground, the passage grew cruder and the roof became noticeably lower. Every so often, they spotted a glistening of minerals in the passage wall, and the occasional stalactite hanging like a dagger above their heads. As they marched still further, the noise of dripping began to fill the air, as did the pungent smell of underground gases.

Occasionally Carek could hear the faint tapping of metal on rock. It seemed to be coming from deeper in the dungeons, but he couldn't identify it quite yet. This was beginning to seem too remote even for Rakrath, and they felt sure that they had passed the evil sorcerer's lair and were now descending into the depths of the mountain, whatever lay down in the unknown. The air was getting more and more difficult to breathe as they descended even further, and the tapping grew steadily louder and turned into an ominous, almost morbid rhythm of clunk, clink, clunk, clink, echoing through the narrowing passageway.

Turning a corner, the group came across another slim, wooden door in front of them, blocking their way. The ceiling was now only about five feet high and all three adventurers had to stoop down to avoid injury. The dwarfs could stand up straight, but could not swing their mighty axes above their heads, as they preferred. Any battle down in these tunnels would put the taller members of the group at a significant disadvantage.

The door was in a bad condition and appeared to be almost falling off its rusty hinges. The clatter of the skeletons in the distance behind them was now growing again, but was almost drowned out by the more dominant sound of what the dwarfs could now classify as pickaxes striking rock. Many pickaxes to be precise, even hundreds.

They could do little else but enter through the door in front of them. After a brief whispered discussion, Randor gave the order, and Tarok stepped forwards. Whatever lay beyond the door could not, after all, be any worse than the almost certain doom rapidly approaching from behind. Tarok cautiously opened the door, and peered through, dimming his glowing hand for a moment as he checked for danger beyond.

Tarok gasped. The sight that met his eyes was unexpectedly beautiful. He found himself looking into a huge cavern with a roof twenty yards above his head. The walls and ceiling were studded with crystals and all types of glistening rock, glowing with a spectrum of subterranean light. Looked down, he soon gasped in shock. All round the edge of the room stood scores of workers of every race, dwarfs, elves, humans, half-elves, halflings and even gnomes, hacking away at the rock faces with their rusting tools. All were roughly shackled to iron hoops in the ground by short lengths of heavy chain, thin and weak from malnourishment, covered in sweat and dirt from head to toe.

Some of the workers stood in armour now rusted upon their body, whilst some stood almost naked with coarse cloth acting as clothing wrapped around their waists. They were being patrolled by groups of orcs and goblins, which would occasionally beat the more weary workers with sticks or whips to make them work harder. As Tarok watched, one worker collapsed to his knees with exhaustion, and he was beaten by the orcs to try to make him work. He still did not move. There was a cry from another corner of the cavern, "No! Leave him alone!" A tall man raised his hands in the air, and struggled to free himself. The orc brought out his sword, and thrust it into the struggling slave, lying on the floor. Two goblins hurled his body into one corner, and marched on. The other man screamed out in anguish, "Leave him alone! Please leave him alone!" There was no reply.

As quietly as they could, the group crept out behind some of the huge stalagmites that punctuated the cavern floor. The orcs were at the other end of the cavern, and didn't see their uninvited guests. Carek stealthily ran up to the workers nearest to him and began to whisper quietly in their ears, "Keep quiet, don't alert the guards. We're here to help you escape." He signalled to the dwarfs, who ran around the perimeter of the cavern and then leapt out at the startled greenskins. The dwarfs charged forwards, axes aloft, and soon began to cut down the dozen or so orcs. Randor, Fyarn, Fyron, Tarok and Athena took out the goblins between them. Tarok summoned a great ball of fire first, burning a handful, and then the warriors charged in and slew the remainder with their heavy blades. The workers turned to watch the action, cheering and applauding wildly as the last goblin collapsed to the ground, decapitated by a gleaming dwarven axe.

As the jubilation began to die down, Randor waked to the centre of the room and spoke to the assembled slaves.

"My friends, we have come to release you from this place."

The dwarfs ran round the cavern, breaking as many chains as they could with their heavy axes and war hammers. Randor smiled. So this was where Rakrath kept those he had taken from the many towns he had attacked over the years. Quite how they were going to escape the caverns, he didn't yet know, but they would solve that problem in due time. Rakrath remained alive, but now the dwarfs had reinforcements. The balance was beginning to change, and in the dwarfs' favour. The skeletons approached ever nearer, but now the sides were even.

 

WILDERNESS : Book 1 - The Forest Chapter 21 - Into the Deep © Colin Frayn

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