Chapter 14: Recruiting
Four uruks sat flat on their butts on one side of the square room. Their weapons were all piled on a table in the center, or leaning against it. Five other uruks watched from the other side of the room.
“What shall we do with them?” asked Petal.
“Slit their throats and take their stuff,” answered Thorn.
Narat nudged Rokko. “The short one is the mean one. She’s probably the reason this group is still alive. I kind of like her.”
“The pretty one is mean enough, boss. She kicks like a centaur and hits like a warhammer.”
“Wen dey tries ta kill us, I wants yer all ta fight yer hardest.” Narat switched back to the Uruk language. “Us rock uruks don die easy.”
Rose came up and whispered in Arrth’s ear. His face passed through interest, disbelief, and finally humor. “Har! You can try it, Urroz!”
Urroz stepped up to almost in reach of Narat. “Boyz, yer don havta die if yer jes answers some questions right. But let’s do it in Common so da Boss,” she jerked a thumb at Arrth “can unnerstan yer.”
“I will answer questions, I would much rather talk than die,” babbled Ugly. He had a pounding headache and several bruises to remind him that Urroz meant what she said.
“You ask the questions, Urroz.” Arrth sat down in a chair and tried to look mean. He didn’t succeed very well, but the two-foot long dagger he used to clean his fingernails certainly looked nasty.
“Narat, you can stand up. The rest of you, sit still and pay attention!”
Narat got to his feet. He and Urroz were about the same height, but he had much bigger tusks, a greener cast to his features, and he was as bald as an egg. He also outweighed her by a hundred pounds of muscle. She, however, pulled out her knife and held it casually as she talked. The bright blue glow doubled the illumination in the room.
“That is an elven weapon.”
“I took it from an elf when I killed him. I collect elven weapons. Our clan has a lot of them. They are sharper than ours, and sell for more money in town.”
“That’s smart. Who taught you to be so smart?”
“Flattery will get you everywhere, Narat, but not right now. It’s my turn to ask questions.”
“So go ahead and ask.”
“What is this dungeon called?”
“You don’t even know where you are?”
“My turn to ask questions, remember?”
“Sorry, Urroz. We call this place The Pits.”
“Cuz it iz da pitz,” sniggered Ugly. Thorn took two steps and slapped him lightly on the side of the head with her axe. “Yer not talkz!” she growled in Uruk. She stepped back just as quickly.
“We were tricked into entering this place by a lich wizard all dressed in black. Do you know him?”
“I have never met him, but that sounds like Terrevorr the Apprentice.”
“Do you know who his master is?”
“We only have rumors. She is supposed to be a wizard of godlike power.”
“That’s not good,” said Calyx. “I would match this group against any mortal threat, but how can we win against a god?”
“Urroz will find a way.” The Forest Elf had never seen Rose fail in anything she tried. She had faith.
“We killed some lizard-men getting in here. What do you know about them?”
“You did?” Narat’s ugly face split into a big happy grin. “You guys are all right. Nobody likes the lizard-men. They stay on the other side of the Big Empty Place.”
“What else lives in these pits?”
Narat held up one hand and began counting on his claws. “There are lizard-men, uruks, death dwarves, ogres, trolls (but not very many), slime-things, gakks, skellybones, living statues, and the hobgoblin slaves. There might be a few other things. They say that Terrevorr is always sending new creatures into the pits. Looks like you guys are just the latest batch.”
“We don’t intend to stay in here. We are seeking a magical armband that Terevorr said he lost in here. It’s gold with an emerald set into it.”
“That sounds like a nice piece of bling, but if that wizard had lost anything like that in here, the whole dungeon would know. “
“That’s what I thought,” said Urroz. She gnashed her tusks. “That being the case, we have to find a way out of here, and then kill the bastard.”
“He’s a lich. He’s already dead. It doesn’t stop him.”
“He will be a lot deader if we cut off his head, drive a stake through his heart, and then burn the fragments.”
“Tough talk, Urroz, but there is no way out of these pits. New blood comes in. Nobody ever gets out.” The Uruk gnashed his own tusks. “Don’t you think that the boys and me would like to see the surface world again? We would! Uruks aren’t meant to spend all their time underground. We’re not trolls.”
“Speaking of new blood, we heard that another party of treasure hunters came into these pits. Terrevor said he was sending us in because they had failed. You know anything about that?”
“There have been rumors of fights on the other side of the dungeon. But that’s slime and skelly territory. We would need a pretty big army to go over there safely.”
“Who leads the biggest groups of uruks in this part of the Pits?”
The uruk thought for a while. “Bleggo the Foul has the biggest band. He has about twenty followers. The rest of us bosses have anywhere from two to ten. I’m only a little guy with three followers.”
“An army would be good,” said Arrth, banging the table for emphasis.
Urroz smiled at Narat. “How would you like to be a high leader in the Clan of the Cave Panther?”
“You would outrank everyone but the five of us.”
Thorn gave Narat a particularly evil grin. “I have a feeling that Bleggo isn’t going to be alive for too much longer.”
“Easier said than done. You guys haven’t seen Bleggo. He’s bigger than Urarrth. We think he’s urukin instead of uruk. He’s a monster, and he’s immune to magic, or so they say. We don’t have many magicians down there.”
“Is he immune to poison?” whispered Petal.
“How can he be immune to magic?” asked Calyx.
“They say he has a sword made of metal that fell from the sky. Whoever holds that sword cannot be harmed by magic. It is certainly a vicious weapon with a hooked blade and an ebony hilt. Everyone wants that sword, but no one has been able to get it away from him.”
“When we take him down, Narat, you shall have that weapon,” Arrth promised. Narat licked his lips.”
“You will probably get us all killed, but the boys and I will join you.”
“Ah, good! Calyx, dig out some rings for these new members of the clan.”
“The loyalty rings of Clan Cave Panther.” Urroz showed him her ring. All the others held out their rings also.
“That’s a mean-looking cat,” said Narat in admiration.
Arrth took a ring from Calyx and walked over to Narat. “Once you put this on, you must never take it off on penalty of death. You belong to me, and to Clan Cave Panther. If you take this ring off, you will die within a day.”
“Is this some form of magic?” asked Rokko.
“Oh, yes,” said Calyx, Arrth and Rose at the same time. “When you wear the ring you will be stronger and tougher and smarter. If you take it off, you will die very quickly,“ Rose promised him.
“I want one!” said Rokko. “I will join your clan! Gimmie da ring!” He lapsed into Uruk in his excitement.
“We will all take one,” said Narat. “I am the boss, so I get the best one.”
“Urcaryx, give Narat a special one,” Arrth commanded. Calyx took four more Cave Panther rings from her pouch. She had about 20 of them. They were cheap trinkets that she carried for trading. They also came in useful for minor enchantments. She cast a glow spell on the one that she passed to Arrth.
“Hold out your hand,” Arrth ordered. “You must take the oath when you put on the ring, and you must change your name to a Cave Panther name. Your name is now Urnarat.”
“What is the oath?”
“Repeat after me. I swear I will always obey the leader of Clan Cave Panther. If I disobey my leader, I will die.”
“Uruks are not afraid to die.”
“That is good, but say the oath.”
“I, Urnarat, swear I will always obey the leader of Clan Cave Panther. If I disobey my leader, I will die.”
“Bare your throat.”
Urnarat looked doubtful.
Urnarat bared his throat.
Arrth took out his dagger and laid the keen edge of it across the uruk’s throat. “Urnarat, you live this close to death. Obey, live, and triumph! Disobey me, and death will soon find you. Do you understand?”
Narat gulped. “Yes, Boss. I have never met anyone like you and your women. I believe you. I will always obey.”
“Good. Now give the oath to your men, so that they understand they must obey you and me.”
Narat’s uruks all took the oath. They all felt the kiss of the knife blade against their throats, but Narat held the blade for them. They all took the Ur prefix for their names.
“Now, Urnarat, who do you know that should join us next?”
Urnarat grinned an evil grin. “Kharf has always been my rival. Let us take his band, Urarrth!”
“This could work,” muttered Thorn. “I always wanted my own army.”
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