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Volume 3186
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ROSE OF STORMGAARD
A Serialized Fantasy Adventure Novel
By Ken St. Andre

Chapter 16: Bjeggok
David Ullery art
Arrth Fights

“Urarrth! Urnarat! Urkharf! Urdarrho!”

The marching chant had evolved into the names of all the leaders. With twenty uruks chanting lustily, they made a lot of noise as they trooped through the passages to the Eating Place. Urnarat was up front leading.

“Urroz should be in that chant,” muttered Urthorn.

Rose smiled. “I’ll just stay the power behind the throne. You don’t think Arrth is letting all this go to his head, do you?”

“The taste of power is a heady thing,” said Calyx.

“Don’t worry about me,” said Arrth. “I know the difference between illusion and reality.”

“Then you are a rare human being indeed,” smirked Petal.

“Indeed he is,” muttered Rose with a secret smile.

They reached the Eating Place. It proved to be a large hall with tables and benches set up along the sides and a wide open space in the center.  The tables came in three sizes: fairly low ones suitable for Dwarves, medium-sized ones suitable for Uruks, and very high ones suitable for Ogres and Trolls. The uruks had by far the greatest number of places to sit.  The place was also much better lit than the corridors. Every twenty feet along the walls there was a shield-sized glowstone, all of them emitting at near full power.  This made the Eating Place nearly as bright as day, although the light had a different, more reddish quality to it.

The dwarves that ran the hall had a different look to them. Although they had normal dwarven size and body shape, they all had ebony black skins, pointed ears, and slanted eyes. They dressed in thin robes crisscrossed with wide leather belts. The robes came in different colors, bright screaming crimsons, yellows, and greens unlike the usual steel and leather of most Trollworld dwarves. Attached to the belts were many daggers, some of them with very unusual shapes. Every dwarf had a stiletto, a broad leaf-shaped blade, and a third that consisted of two sharpened circles tangent to each other and mounted on a silver hilt. Some also had hooked blades, and saw-toothed knives.

At the farther end of the hall, a windowed wall separated the Eating Place from the Cooking Place. Hungry creatures would go to one of the windows in the wall, speak to those in the kitchen, and soon return with a bowl of some kind of food.

Urdarrho’s gang took all the dead skwaawgs they had collected back to the kitchen, and dumped them into a large bin next to the wall. Then they headed over to the windows and ordered food.

Acting according to plan, all the uruks in Clan Cave Panther spread out to find other uruks in the hall. It was their job to recruit other members for the clan. Urroz didn’t expect this to have much effect until they had a chance to do something about Bjeggok, but it would plant the seeds in the minds of the uruks present.

Bjeggok wasn’t in the Eating Place when Clan Cave Panther arrived, but a few of his minions were. When they heard that the Cave Panther Clan was there to meet their boss, they slipped away to tell him about the impudent newcomers.

Urthorn had never seen dwarves that looked like these before. She stepped over to talk to one, and found to her surprise that they didn’t speak Dwarvish. They could talk to her in the Common Tongue, but only looked blank when she said anything in what should have been their native language. She returned to tell Urroz about the nondwarvishness of the black dwarves.

“They don’t sound like Gristlegrim’s dwarves at all,” said Rose.

“Maybe they aren’t,” offered Calyx. “There are other worlds, other universes, you know?”

“That is what legend says. I have only seen this one.”

While their new followers had dungeon food, Rose and her group fed themselves from their provisions. It wasn’t that they thought the food in the hall would poison them; it was just that they didn’t feel quite ready to dine on giant rats and cave moss yet.

They sat together and planned their strategy for when Bjeggok arrived.

“You will have to kill him, Arrth,” said Rose, “and you’ll have to do it one on one and convincingly.”

“I am a fair fighter, but this Bjeggok sounds unbeatable. I may not be able to take him in a fair fight—that is, if he even fights fair.”

“Then we will have to cheat better than he can,” said Rose.

“The first thing to do is increase your speed and strength,” said Calyx. “I have spells that can do that for you, although you will pay the price in exhaustion later.”

“If I am still alive when the fight is over, I don’t think I’ll care how exhausted I feel.”

“The other thing we can do is weaken your foe,” said Petal. She showed Arrth a long narrow tube and some tiny darts. “With these I can deliver poison from afar. He may be immune to magic, but I’ll bet spider venom will at least slow him down.”

“Don’t miss and hit me,” said Arrth.

At that moment Bjeggok and his gang arrived. There were fifteen uruks in his band. Bjeggok stood in the doorway to the Eating Place and stared around, trying to find the uruk foolish enough to challenge him.  He was enormous, almost nine feet tall. His skin had a blue-green tint to it.  He had muscles on his muscles. His upper tusks protruded down below his chin. His anti-magic sword was a blade five feet long and the metal was black with veins of crimson in it.

“Show time!” said Arrth.

Calyx put her hands on both shoulders, and Arrth felt a charge of energy entering his body.  “You are now stronger and faster than you were. This power will only last about ten minutes, so finish him quickly.

Arrth strode out into the center of the hall. “Bjeggok, you bloated bag of bat droppings, I want your sword, and I want your followers as part of Clan Cave Panther. You have one chance to give it to me peacefully, or I’ll kill you. What do you say?”

Bjeggok’s answer was a roar of outrage. He hauled out his sword and charged. He moved amazingly fast, appearing almost a blur to the watchers. His great black sword swung up over his head for a blow that could cleave Arrth from crown to crotch.

“Get me back and up!” Petal hissed to Rose. “I need to be behind everyone so people won’t see me use my blowgun, and I need to be high enough to shoot over the crowd.” The two of them worked their way back to the wall.

Bjeggok was moving swiftly, but not so swiftly that Arrth couldn’t keep up with it. Different tactics raced through his mind. A stop thrust lunge could impale the big uruk, but there were problems with that. Broadswords aren’t made for lunging, and he’d hit Bjeggok’s body armor and probably not penetrate. And Bjeggok might well get his cleaving blow delivered. Alternately, he could take the blow on his shield, and try a counter swing. The uruk didn’t have a shield and would almost certainly take a major wound in return. Unless . . . unless Bjeggok hit him so hard that he split the shield and killed Arrth before he could do anything, and from the looks of the giant uruk, that was a distinct possibility.

Arrth had a third alternative, and he used it. As Bjeggok closed and brought his sword down, Arrth sidestepped and darted forward, passing under the uruk’s arm to get behind him. As he passed he made a backhand cut with his sword at Bjeggok’s knee, but hit him a little higher in the thigh. Bjeggok had no armor there, but to Arrth it felt like he was chopping into a tree. He inflicted a wound, and hot coppery blood spurted out onto the floor, but it was not the crippling blow that Arrth had hoped for.

Bjeggok’s howl of rage turned into a howl of pain. He spun to get at the annoying foe, and Arrth moved with him, staying behind, and bringing his arm back for another swing. But, Bjeggok charged and Arrth’s second swing cut only air. The move took Arrth by surprise, and the two separated, allowing Bjeggok to once again face his enemy.

Bjeggok limped toward his foe, his sword held out in front of him. Arrth knew he wouldn’t be able to use the same trick again. He took the offensive, aiming a cut at Bjeggok’s stomach. The uruk blocked, and the two swords rang with a bell-like tone. Arrth’s sword was driven back and a big chip of steel flew out of it. Bjeggok twisted his wrists and turned the parry into a cut at Arrth’s head. The man ducked and the blade passed over him. Arrth was close, and he drew his blade across Bjeggok’s abdomen in a slice, but the Uruk wore chain mail and the cut didn’t penetrate.

Bjeggok swung wildly with his other hand and clipped the side of Arrth’s head. It sent the man tumbling to the floor. Suddenly Arrth had an incredible headache and flashes of light in front of his eyes. He managed to hold onto his sword and roll frantically. Bjeggok’s sword struck sparks from the stone where he had been.

“You had better hurry, Petal. I don’t know how much longer Arrth can dance with that monster.”

Petal sat on Rose’s shoulders with her back against a wall. She chose a small dart, one liberally smeared with spider venom. She took a deep breath, aimed, and blew the dart at the back of Bjeggok’s neck.

The big uruk swung again and again. Arrth dodged and dodged, and caught the third blow on his sword in a kneeling parry that knocked him flat on his back. Bjeggok had really put a lot of effort into the blow, and he ducked into it. Petal’s dart flew over his head and struck an uruk ten feet beyond him. The victim looked surprised. His eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed.

Bjeggok stepped up and put his foot on Arrth’s chest. It was the bleeding leg, and gore dripped down onto the man. “You don’t dodge out of this one, stranger. When you are dead, I will take your women and your warriors instead of you taking mine.” He gripped his massive sword in both hands and drove it toward Arrth’s chest.

That’s when Thorn barreled into him, driving the blow aside with a swing of her axe. “Yer don skrragg my chief so easy,” she snarled in the uruk tongue. She also hit him in the wounded leg and buckled it. The huge uruk toppled sideways and the anti-magic sword flew out of his hands.

“Dat woman attacked da boss!” One of Bjeggok’s warriors took offense at her getting into the fight and spoiling Bjeggok’s kill.  He jumped on Thorn to pull her away from his leader.

Urrokko saw Urthorn jumped by one of Bjeggok’s boys, and he got involved. He rushed up and clouted that uruk in the head. From there it turned into a free for all. Every uruk in the room was battering at someone. The black dwarves only fought to protect themselves, and they all headed for the kitchen.

Arrth rolled over and got to his knees, and then a flying uruk landed on him and flattened him again. He struck his chin against the hard stone floor. A crimson wave passed over him, and he felt the blackness closing in. It would be so easy to surrender, but he thought of Rose and what might happen to her if he failed in this fight. With a supreme effort of will he shook his head violently. Blood from his cut chin spattered out across the floor.

Urnarat came up and threw Bjeggok’s uruk off his boss’s body. He started to offer  Urarrth a hand up, but saw the violent head shake and took it as a command to not help. A second later Urarrth had gotten to one knee, and his sword hand was free again..

Bjeggok groaned. He had never taken so much punishment in a fight before. His leg still bled freely—the wound was less than a minute old. He felt a wave of weakness, but fought it off. Then he realized that he wasn’t holding his sword any longer. He looked around for it.

“Put me down,” said Petal. “I can’t get a good shot in this melee.”

Rose had no time to do that. A strange uruk lunged at her with a short club in his hand. She spun into a kick that planted her boot in his face, and also flung Petal off sideways. The strange uruk went down, but there was another right behind him. That one rushed up and threw his arms around her, getting her in a bear hug, and lifting her off her feet. Urkharf showed up and rapped that one on top of his head with the pommel of his dagger. The uruk dropped Rose and turned to face his new attacker.

Petal fell on a table, rolled across it, and landed on her feet. She pulled out a dagger, and a vial of contact poison, and splashed the blade with it. This poison wasn’t immediately lethal, but it made anyone who got it into their bloodstream violently ill. She jumped back up on the table and began hopping from one to the next moving toward the spot where Arrth had gone down. If anyone got too close to her, she slashed at them with her dagger.

Bjeggok located his sword. Urrokko was just picking it up. “Dat’s mine!” Bjeggok  bellowed.

Calyx didn’t want to see that sword in Bjeggok’s hands again. She concentrated on a kill spell and blasted Bjeggok with it. She put all the energy she had into it.

The spell struck Bjeggok right between the eyes. He looked amazed, frightened, and finally dead. He toppled like an oak, and fell near Arrth.

Arrth looked up just in time to see Bjeggok falling. His sword was still in his hand. With a grunt of effort Arrth brought his broadsword up in a sweeping blow that took the giant uruk’s head right off his shoulders. A fountain of blood sprayed the combatants, most of it landing on Urrokko. The body fell right beside Urarrth while the head flew out into the crowd, hit a table and bounced toward Urroz. Reflexively she reached out and snagged it by one the tushes. Her mailed gauntlet saved her hand from being ripped open by the huge tooth. Gore drained out of the neck and splashed down her arm.

“Ha! Look what I’ve got,” she smirked mostly to herself, since the racket of uruks fighting other uruks in the Eating Place made it hard to hear anything clearly.

“Bjeggok is dead!” bellowed Arrth. “Stop fighting!” He spoke in Common, and it was just more crowd noise to the combatants.

Nobody paid him the slightest attention. Everyone was having too much fun.

Interlude 3
                                 Goddess
The battle with Bjeggok was over and the Goddess was most amused. She looked down into the Pits of Despair and smiled viciously. Once again it was a woman who won the day, and a man who took the beating. The man was an uruk, and he lost his life, but the other man, Arrth, had also suffered. She summoned her Apprentice.

Terevorr knelt before the presence. He intoned the praise chant, as he always did when summoned before his Mistress. “Great art thou! Mighty art thou! Wise art thou! Greater than the Others! Mightier than the Others! Wiser than the Others! Fortunate am I!”

“Terrevorr, Terrevorr!” Whenever the Goddess used his true name a pain like fire flared through his undead body. “You are such a flatterer. But enough of that, have you checked on your latest victims in the Pits of Despair lately?”

“I checked several hours ago, Mistress. They have completely disappeared. Perhaps the lizard-men killed them at the beginning.”

She gave him a particularly nasty smile. “Is that what you really think?”

Terrevorr trembled. The Goddess was taunting him, and she only did that when she was disappointed, or had decided to teach him something. That was always painful.

“You have underestimated Rose and her companions. On one side of the scale, I am most amused by the entertainment you have provided; on the other side of the scale, I am most disappointed by your incompetence. I wonder if you can truly deal with the situation you have created?”

“What do you mean, Goddess?”

“We’ll get back to that. Are you aware that Cherry and her companions still live?

“Yes, I know that, but they are trapped in the Temple of Skulls. There are more than a hundred skeletons trying to get in, and I have a troll on the way to batter their last barrier down. They might last another day, but not much longer.”

“It is already three days longer than you said they would last.”

“Mercenary groups led by women seem to be more resilient than those led by men, and Cherry had quite a reputation before I went after her. Yet, Rose and her group seem to have died very easily.”

“I suggest you check again.’

Terrevorr walked from one end of the dungeon to the other, looking into every room, and every corridor. “I don’t see them,” he announced.

“Perhaps you should scry for them.”

Terrevorr hated it when she took that tone of voice. He searched the sigils attached to his robe and found a small silver globe. He detached it and set it on the edge of the table. He concentrated on his memory of Rose.  A tiny scene appeared on the surface of the globe.

“Magnify!” commanded the Goddess. The scene lifted off the tiny globe, and grew and expanded in the air before them.

Terrevorr found himself looking at the eating place of the death dwarves. Five uruks sat around one of the tables. Four of them were women, and one was a man. One was much shorter than the others. The armor looked familiar. The short one carried a dwarvish war axe. One of the uruk females was remarkably beautiful for an uruk and had a mane of rich red-brown hair that fell to her shoulders.

“They have become uruks!” said Terrevorr. “How could they do that? “

“Think about it.”

Terrevorr thought. “Illusion,” he said. “They only look like uruks. Why would they make themselves look like uruks? Adventurers never disguise themselves as monsters!”

“These did, and guess what the results were.”

“What is going on in that eating hall?”

“They have just killed Bjeggok and taken that anti-magic sword that he had. They are well on their way to uniting all the uruks in the dungeon into a small army that they lead.”

“They can’t do that!” Indignation twisted the lich’s face into an ugly mask of hatred. He walked over and loomed above the Eating Hall of the Death Dwarves. “I’ll blast them where they sit.”

“You forget. You can watch them, but you can’t affect them directly while they’re in the Pits of Despair and you’re outside of them.”

“The Pits are the trap. I am glad that they are amusing you, Goddess. But they cannot do anything but die sooner or later as long as they’re in the Pits.”

“Everyone dies sooner or later,” the Goddess reminded him. “I want them to die sooner.”

“I will make certain that it is sooner,” vowed the lich. “I will introduce some new monsters for them to meet—things that they will have no idea how to deal with them.”

“Things like the gakks?”

“Worse!”

“And if they beat your creatures?”

“That could never happen. One or two mighty rock trolls could finish them.”

“Perhaps,” said the Goddess, “but they’re not alone any more.”

“Just leave it to me. I can handle Rose and her friends, no matter how tricky they think they are. After all, they are only mortals.”

“On your head be it! You have the power to destroy them, Terrevorr, and I give you one week to do so. If you fail, then I will set them free.”

“I still believe that the Pits will be sufficient to destroy them all, Goddess.”

“Thank you for the entertainment, Terrevorr.”

He shuddered and wished She wouldn’t use his name so often.


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