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Volume 3187b
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ROSE OF STORMGAARD
A Serialized Fantasy Adventure Novel
By Ken St. Andre

Chapter 21: Anomalies
With the ogres defeated, it was time to gather up the treasure. Most of it rested inside a massive treasure chest that was inside the artificial cave, although there were a few dozen jewels spread around the hall, on the table, in the corners, on the ogres’ bodies. Urthorn and the two dwarf wizards set out to divide the loot.

Fourteen uruks and two dwarves had been killed. Another six uruks were so badly hurt that it looked like they would die, but Urcaryx worked healing spells on them. She didn’t fully heal them. She only used enough energy to save them from dying. Even so, it took her reserves of magical energy to dangerously low levels.

When the healing was finished, Urcaryx pulled Urroz, Upetar, and Urarrth off to one side. She wanted to point out something before it was too late.

The first thing Urthorn had the uruks do was search the whole hall. It was surprisingly large, and they went over it with diligence. Whenever anything was found, it was brought to the center of the room and piled on, or under, the table. This took quite a while.

Urcaryx borrowed a trenching tool from one of the Dwarven miners. It was more of a scoop than a spade, but it would serve her needs. She took them over to the edge of the boggy part of the floor and gave Urarrth the tool. “Dig.”

Urarrth didn’t know why they were digging up the muddy part of the dungeon. Urcaryx explained while he worked. “Toward the end of the fight, I cast the Soften Stone spell on the dungeon floor right below the Sapphire Ogre’s feet. I used the standard spell which should have produced a hole ten feet deep and ten feet wide in each direction. That would have dropped the Ogre into a mucky pit with only its head and shoulders above the surface, which should have made it easy enough to kill.”

“That didn’t happen,” said Urarrth. “It only seemed to drop about three feet, and wasn’t impeded much at all.”

“Yes, that’s why you’re digging now. Is it possible that this dungeon, which seems to be built entirely out of stone, isn’t made out of stone in reality?”

Urrarth’s scoop hit something solid. He scraped the muddy water out of the way, and heaved the last scoopful of muck out of the hole just in time. The Soften Stone spell wore off, and the mud visibly hardened into rock again.

The three of them looked down into the small hole that Urarrth had made. It was about three feet deep, and there was something brown showing at the bottom of it. The brown was distinctly not the same material as the grayish material of the rock on top of it.

“That looks like wood,” said Urpetar.”

“Sure does,” Urarrth agreed.

Urroz pulled out a dagger, leaned down into the hole, and drove her blade down with considerable force. It punched about an inch into the surface and stuck. When she wiggled it free and brought her arm and knife out of the hole, a few splinters of wood adhered to the knife blade.

“What kind of dungeon has wood beneath its stone floors?” Urroz asked.

They sat down to ponder the question for another.

“I have noticed something strange also,” said Urpetar.

“What?”

“Look up!”

They all looked up

“I don’t see anything.” Urarrth looked down again.

“It’s dark up there,” said Urcaryx.

“Too dark.” Urroz looked puzzled. “Do any of you remember seeing a ceiling in any place we’ve been inside this dungeon?”

“I’m pretty sure the stairway had a ceiling when we came in, but once we started off down that first hallway, all I remember is thinking that the walls were unusually high, “ said Urarrth.

“Even in places where you would expect a ceiling, places like the Dwarven Eating Place, I don’t remember seeing one,” commented Urpetar.

“It’s like we never even thought about looking up,” said Urcaryx.

“You think the ceiling is impossibly high.”

“That would be one explanation.”

“Or, it is magically shrouded in darkness so we can’t see it.”

“That’s possible, but why would Nam want to do that?”

“His behavior has been pretty strange,” said Urroz.

“What if we can’t see a roof because there isn’t any roof?” asked Urcaryx.
“If there isn’t any roof, then why can’t we see out of this dungeon?” Urarrth’s uruk face was creased with thought and worry, not expressions generally seen on a male uruk.

“It’s very dark up there, artificially dark.”

“Magically dark?” suggested Urcaryx. “For a wizard of Nam’s power and ability, such a spell would be trivial.”

“Why would Nam want a roofless dungeon?” asked Urarrth.”

“It would make it easy to watch us,” suggested Urpetar. As the scout of the party, and as a forest elf whose life depended upon vigilance within the mighty forests of Trollworld, she was the one most in tune with the idea of surveillance.

“That ties in with the idea of dungeon as entertainment that I mentioned earlier,” mused Urroz. “Nam is probably gnashing his yellow teeth right now at what we’re doing to his beautiful dungeon.”

“I hope he can’t hear what we’re saying.” Urcaryx looked worried for a moment. “Scrying doesn’t generally allow people to hear what is being said.”

“That would explain the thing that I’ve been noticing,” said Urroz.

“What?”

“This dungeon is amazingly flat. Since we came down the stairs, we haven’t gone up or down once.”

“There was the chasm,” said Urpetar. “There was a lot of down available there.”

“What if that was a gap between two tables?” asked Urarrth.

“It could have been. You notice that we couldn’t see the bottom of it either, just darkness.”

“Or the chasm could have been mostly illusion.”

“I’m not sure I want to go jump into it as a way out of this place,” said Urarrth.

“We will save that for a last resort,” said Urroz.

They were still thinking about these matters when Urthorn and the dwarven wizards came over to join them.

“We have finished dividing up the loot,” Urthorn announced.

“How did it go?”

“Um, there’s good news and bad news about the treasure in here.”

“What could be bad about treasure? Don’t tell me it’s all cursed,” Urroz demanded.

“Um, maybe you should hear the good news first,” said Urthorn.

“We have been thinking about bad news, so some good news would be welcome,” said Urroz.

“The good news is that there were enough gems to give each surviving uruk ten of them.”

“And we gave each surviving dwarf twenty gems,” said L’nnrrd.

“Leaders like us got thirty gems apiece,” said L’rrww. “Your leaders Urnatar, Urkharf, Urkathal and Urdarg got thirty gems also.”

“And there were still enough left over so that each of us can have a hundred jewels each.”
Urthorn spilled a sack of rubies, emeralds, and diamonds on the floor in front of where her companions were sitting.

“The light is bad in here, but they don’t sparkle as mush as I would expect them to.” Urarrth picked up a ruby the size of his little fingernail and scrutinized it. He didn’t see any fire at its heart.

“Then what is the bad news?” demanded Urpetar.

“The jewels are all fakes,” said L’nnrrd.

Urroz looked questioningly at Urthorn. Urthorn grimaced.

“It’s true.” The dwarf woman in uruk form confirmed it. “All the jewels are made of a substance we call astep. It’s more like a resin than a rock. It can be colored and shaped to look like almost anything, and is often used in the manufacture of fake jewels for cheap jewelry.”

“Does that mean they’re worthless?” asked Urarrth. “Was this whole fight a waste of time and life?”

“They aren’t completely worthless,” said Urthorn. “These are pretty good fakes, and they’re larger than usual. They could be worth five to ten gold pieces each.”

“Nam or whatever his name is has a lot to answer for,” vowed Urroz grimly.

“Did you tell the uruks?” asked Urarrth. He was worried that the uruks might get angry and decide not to follow him any longer.

“There is no point in telling them. None of them are likely to figure out that these are fakes. If they get them out of the dungeon, they will still be worth something.”

“How do you feel about this revelation, L’nnrrd and L’rrww?” Urroz searched the faces of her Dwarven companions to see how they reacted to this setback.

“It makes us wonder,” said L’nnrrd. The wizard who brought us here seems to have played us false. He promised there would be great treasure for us in this place, and indeed there has been plenty of gold back in our Halls, but now we wonder if that gold is real, or another illusion foisted upon us by a superior magic user.”

“The more we learn about Nam, the more deceitful he becomes,” said Urroz.

“And we’re not going to let that undead bastard get away with it, are we?” growled Urarrth.

“No, we won’t!” vowed Urroz. The others echoed her sentiments. “Let us vow vengeance upon him.”

They all agreed. Urthorn took out a small knife and made tiny cuts on each of the seven leaders’ hands. They each let a few drops of blood well out of the pinpricks and then put their hands together in such a way that the blood smeared and mingled.

“True death to our betrayer,” snarled Urroz.

“True death to him. By our blood, let it be so,” growled all the others.

 

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