Chapter 19: Marching
“I want to save those other adventurers,” said Rose.
“Then let’s do it,” said Arrth. “I’m tired of branding Uruks. Let’s get out and kick some bad guy butt!”
It took nearly two hours to get the Uruks on the march, but they got moving, about ninety of them. They wanted to reach the other side of the dungeon, and the bridge across the chasm was down. Urnarat said he knew another way, a longer way. He and Urpetar were the pathfinders. Urarrth and his loyal troops followed behind.
Urnarat led them sideways. They passed through narrow stone passageways where no two Uruks could march abreast. They entered the part of the dungeon claimed by the death dwarves. “This part of the dungeon is heavily trapped,” L’nrrd told Urthorn.
Urarrth called a halt and brought his scouts back while they discussed how to get past all the traps that were ahead. “We don’t want to lose anyone to these traps,” explained Urarrth. “We need to find them, disarm them, or bypass them.”
Urroz turned to L’nnrrd. He was so different from the dwarves she knew—his ebony skin, his light robe instead of leather and steel, the wizardly staff. “Do you know where all the traps are?”
“Not all of them. One thing we can do to avoid traps is we can search for hidden passages. Our scouts need to watch the walls closely down here at eye level for dwarves. There are signs that indicate hidden doors, and wherever there is a hidden door there is usually a trap just beyond it.”
“What are these signs?”
“There are three different signs, and they are subtle.”
“Tell us, or show us.”
“I will show you when we come to them. In the meantime, it would be good if we had some miners in our party. We can send a message with stone talk, and they will meet us up ahead.”
“Watch!” L’rrww stepped over to one wall and began to beat on it with a metal staff that he carried. Instead of a dull clank clank clank, the pounding produced an unexpectedly loud clang clang clang. “Now when I modulate the pounding, I can send a message. This means pay attention.” He pounded the wall four times with a ten second wait between beats. ”There are listeners set up throughout our tunnels to catch such messages and relay them. Listen!”
Several seconds went by, and then they all heard a series of clangs coming back from the stone. Clang-clang, clang-clang, clang-clang, clang-clang. “That is the ready response. It also means what do you want?”
“You dwarves are cunning,” said Urroz. “I knew you were the Masters of Stone, but this is brilliant.”
The dwarves acknowledged the flattery with small smiles. L’rrww put the end of his staff against the stone and scraped it harshly across the rock face. Sparks flew. The metal produced a kind of dull buzzing noise. “That sound indicates that we want miners,” he explained. Then he pounded rapidly on the rock twenty times. That’s the number that I want. If my message has been understood, we will soon gain twenty recruits.”
Clang-clang-clang, clang-clang-clang. “That sound was the message understood response,” explained the dwarf. “We should get twenty miners next time we come to a cross passage. Meanwhile, we should go on, and be wary of traps.
They proceeded down the tunnel. The glowstone lamps set into the walls here were small, weak, and more than one hundred feet apart.
“It is hard to see in here,” said Urarrth.
The two dwarves took the lead. Urroz walked with L’nnrrd and Urthorn walked with L’rrww. They moved more than one hundred feet down the passageway, when L’rrww stopped them. “Look at the stones here.” He pointed at some rocks in the wall that were at eye level for the two of them.
“They seem like ordinary wall stones to me,” Urthorn answered. She tapped on the wall with the side of her axe. “They do have a bit of a hollow sound.”
“This trap would catch you, Urthorn. See how the stones come together here.” He showed where the edge of the top stone came down in the center of the stone below it. “Now look at the other stones. See how their edges are all aligned. This indicates a crushing trap ahead.”
“I see,” said Urthorn. She noticed how two smaller blocks had been used in the place of one larger one to give the trap signal. Urroz, Urrarth, and Urpetar took careful note. Urcaryx seemed to pay no attention. Urnatar also observed how the trap was indicated.
He showed it to Urrokko and Urkharf.
“What kind of trap is it?” asked Urthorn.
“Not far ahead there is a pressure plate set into the floor. Any weight upon it will activate the magical pistons to drive both sides of the walls together and crush anyone caught in between.”
“How is the trap disarmed?” asked Urroz.
“You can avoid the trap by leaping over the pressure plate.”
“You dwarves don’t look much like leapers.”
“Or you can walk very close to the walls, and not step on the trap trigger.”
“But some of our Uruks have big feet, and not all of them are as dainty-footed as you Death Dwarves.”
“There is another way to handle it.” Both Urcaryx and L’nnrrd said similar words at bout that time. “A locking spell,” they both said.
“How unusual!” commented L’rrww. “You uruks have a wizard who knows locking spells? The uruks we have known do not have much in the way of magic.”
“We are not your average uruks,” said Urthorn. “And well you know it, L’rrww, but keep it to yourself, please.”
The dwarf accepted the rebuke with a bit of surprise. He was not used to holding his tongue, or to being commanded by strangers.
“You lock the one on the left,” L’nnrrd suggested to Urcaryx, “and I will do the one on the right.” He reached out and tapped the stone wall ahead of him with his staff. The rod glowed with a sudden golden radiance. Urcaryx gestured with both hands at the wall across the corridor. There was no apparent affect on either wall.
“Did you do it?” asked Urarrth.
“I believe so,” answered Urcaryx, “but we won’t know until we get a volunteer to walk down the passage and test it.”
“I trust my colleague’s magic,” L’rrww declared. “I will walk through and prove it safe.”
“We cannot risk you,” declared Urarrth. “I need a brave volunteer he shouted.”
“Me! Me! Me! Urgundur! Urkopp! Me! Me!” Some of the uruks shouted their names instead of saying Me. Urarrth had at least a dozen volunteers. He chose the closest one.
“I want you to run down the passage for about thirty steps, then stop and come back to us. Go as fast as you can,” he told his volunteer.
Urgundur nodded to show he understood. Then he took off. They all heard a distinct click as his booted foot struck the hidden pressure plate, but nothing happened. He passed across it, turned, and sprinted back.
“Dat wuz easy!”
“Good work, Urgundur!”
“It looks safe enough. Let’s all get through here,” ordered Urarrth. Led by the two Dwarves, the uruks quickly filed through the trapped area.
“Look!” L’rrww pointed out another spot where a stone seam came down in the center of the block below it.”
“Another trap?” asked Urthorn.
“No. This shows the end of the trap as we go through it, or the beginning if we were going the other direction. We should now have at least one hundred feet of safe passageway.”
“That will barely be enough for our soldiers.”
“There may be much more, but there will be at least that much.”
They all filed through safely.
“How long will your locking spell hold that wall?” Urcaryx asked L’nnrrd.
“Ten turns of the sandglass,” he answered. “Yours?”
“Perhaps one turn.”
“You should use stronger magic,” the dwarf reproved her.
There was considerably more than a hundred feet of safe passage. They moved on for more than a thousand feet before encountering a cross passage. Waiting there were twenty dwarven warriors—they all wore armor, but their chief weapons were pickaxes.
“This is excellent,” Urroz told L’nnrrd and L’rrww. “From here on, you show us the traps, and we take them apart.”
“You will soon have the opportunity.” L’nnrrd pointed ahead. “Do you see that yellow stone?”
“Yes, it does look out of place, but there are many stones in these walls that don’t quite match the rest.”
“The yellow stones indicate a blowgun trap. Notice that the passage is very dim here. You would have to look very hard to find the small holes that the darts come out of.”
“Then how do you normally bypass this kind of trap?” asked Urarrth.
“We just duck,” explained the Dwarf. “The darts are set to come out between this level and this level.” He indicated shoulder to over his head with hand gestures. “If you simply bend over double, the darts can’t possibly hit you.”
“How deadly is the poison on the darts?”
“Not very deadly at all. Sometimes we want to capture our foes, and for that, simple unconsciousness will do. This is a form of spider venom that puts the victim to sleep. It also causes a terrible rash.”
“Let’s take it apart,” said Urarrth. “Some big ape like Urrokko wouldn’t get down low enough, and would certainly get hit.” He gestured to left and right. “Miners, destroy those walls.”
The Dwarves went to work with their pickaxes. With just a few blows they peeled and broke off enough stone to reveal a narrow metal pipe inside the stone. At the far end was another passageway—this one so small that anything larger than a dwarf would have been stuck in it. Even a large dwarf would be unable to get through.
“This is a very cunning mechanism,” said Urthorn with admiration. “You see how the trigger here trips the hammer here which activates the bellows and forces enough air into the pipe to expel the dart. It’s gravity fed and spring balanced so it constantly resets itself.”
“I don’t understand,” said Urarrth. “It just looks like a mishmash to me. Take it all apart, until all of these traps are disabled. “
“I would like one of those metal blowguns and a good supply of the poison darts,” said Urpetar. “I am interested in such things.”
“You can have as much as you want,” said Urarrth.
Urpetar collected poison darts. Death dwarf miners took the walls apart, although they knew they’d probably have to rebuild them later. The army moved on.
“We are reaching the end of this passage,” said Urnatar. “At the next crossroads we turn left. You might be interested to know, Boss, that we are near the edge of dungeon in this direction and we will be going by the Ogres’ Treasure Room.”
“What treasure do they have?”
“They have the biggest supply of jewels in the dungeon. You know how ogres love jewels.”
Urarrth smiled a tusky smile. “I had no idea that ogres loved jewels. I though all they liked was sheep.”
“Har, har, boss! Dat’s da troof!”
“Speak Common. All I understood there was the Har har part.”
“Whose treasure is it?” asked Urroz.
“It belongs to the wizard in black. Everything in this dungeon belongs to him.”
“Then let’s take those jewels,” said Urthorn. “We’re very angry with him right now, and those jewels will come in handy when we get out of this place.”
“Fight the Ogres?” asked Urkharf. “Yes, I always wanted to do that. And it should be fun for the troops.” He passed the word down the line that they were going to stop, beat up the Ogres, and take their treasure. The Uruks began to cheer.
“Let me kick the door in,” pleased Urrokko. Urnarat and Urkharf were lining up their toughest fighters. “Try not to kill them,” Urarrth cautioned.
“Why?” asked Urnarat. “They will be trying to kill us. “
“Tell them that,” answered Urkharf. “These guys play rough.”
“Never mind, let’s tear them to pieces,” Urarrth amended his order.
All of his chieftains grinned ferociously. That was just the kind of order they liked to hear.
Urrokko kicked the door open.
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