Chapter 24: Lizards
Urpetar took the left side of the passage; Urnatar took the right. Their scouting involved not only looking and listening carefully to determine if anyone or anything was ahead of them, but also of carefully examining each stone block ahead of them to see if there were any trap indicators. It was slow going. Twice they found additional traps in the passageway. Since they no longer had the Dwarves with the pickaxes with them, they could not dismantle these traps and had to avoid them. They found both a blowgun trap and a crushing walls trap before something new appeared.
They had a couple of runners that they could send back to the main troop with news. Urpetar stopped her advance and sent one back to bring Urroz and Urcaryx up to the front.
“Why did you stop us, Urpetar? I see no indication of a trap.”
“I do. Look up ahead. No, don’t look down the middle. I want you to look UP!”
“I don’t see anything. Just more of this passage.”
“ I see a passage with a ceiling. There hasn’t been a ceiling anywhere else we’ve been.”
“I see it. There are several places in the dungeon where such passages exist. We call them tunnels.”
“And that’s just what they are. Tell me, do trolls usually hang out in the tunnels?”
“Sometimes, but it’s not a regular thing. Trolls mostly like to hide out where it’s warmer. Anyway, we Uruks go through these tunnels all the time without any problems.”
“I have a feeling that there might be a problem for me.”
Urcaryx and Urroz arrived with the runner. “Oh, that’s new,” said Urcaryx.
“Death from above,” said Urroz. “What are we going to do about it?”
“We could try the locking option,” said Urcaryx. She focused on the passage ahead. “I’m not sensing any target.” She aimed her spell at the ceiling. No click ensued. “I don’t think that did anything.”
“Then we have to find a way around. Search the side walls before we get into the tunnel,” said Urroz.
They found the secret passage entrance down around foot level. There was a shiny bit of stone unlike the rest of the wall. Urnatar kicked it while the others stood back. A section of wall groaned and then swung slowly across their path, opening up another path that had no ceiling. Urpetar and Urnatar took their scout positions again and advanced.
They only walked about fifty feet before Urnatar found another kick trigger. When he kicked it, the wall groaned and moved at an angle that would shunt them back to the original passage. An angry shout rose from behind them. The wall was closing there too. Urroz kicked at the trigger in the original passage, but that had no effect. The original passage restored itself foot by foot, and the secret passage vanished.
Urcaryx, Urkharf and four other uruks had managed to enter the passage while it was open. They rushed forward as the side walls suddenly began to close in on them. Urnatar and Urpetar stepped out into the original passage ten feet beyond the tunnel section.
As they did so, Urnatar sensed something and brought his right arm up in a blocking motion. A spear shaft bounced off his forearm and shunted the hard hurled blade over his head. Out of the darkness ahead trotted a squad of lizard men. The leaders of the lizards cast spears even as they came.
Urpetar fell flat and the hurtling spear passed above her, hit the wall, and dropped. Urnatar howled an uruk war cry and charged. “We’re under attack!” yelled Urpetar. The uruks in the passage behind her broke into a charge with Urkharf taking the lead. He broke out of the secret passage at just about the same time that a lizard man reached Urpetar who was still on the floor. The uruk rammed his spear through the lizard’s stomach and drove him backwards. The reptile hissed and twisted to face his new foe. He didn’t seem to care that he had been impaled.
Urcaryx came out of the passage and saw a lizard man, huge, green, muscular, with the head of an alligator, at least fifty percent larger than the uruk who was driving it backwards with a spear through its gut. The lizard had a stone dagger in one hand, and was swiping at Urnatar’s head with it. “Die!” she yelled, thrusting out her hands at the lizard. A bolt of pale green energy shot from her fingers and enveloped the reptile. It screeched. The dark green scales blackened and began to fall away from its body, and hot lizard blood burst out and befouled the floor. The lizard sagged, dying on its feet and falling to the side. Urnatar let go of the spear, and pulled out his scimitar, and just in time as another lizard charged toward him, hissing, sword-club in hand.
Eight lizard-men made up the squad. The reptilian warriors stood between seven and eight feet tall, although the total body length including the long crocodilian tail was closer to twelve feet in length. They wore neither clothing nor armor, but they had a harness of crossing straps with places to carry sword-clubs, daggers, and a pouch. Their hides were dark emerald green, their three-inch long teeth as yellow as lemons, their claws and fingernails hard black keratin capable of ripping through leather. Although they resembled crocodiles in the shape of their heads and tails, they were land lizards and not aquatic. Each warrior carried three weapons, a medium spear suitable for throwing, a heavy club made of wood studded with sharp pieces of flint—a weapon that would both crush and make great tearing wounds—and a large flint dagger of chipped stone for close work. The skulls did not show a large brain pan, but obviously these creatures were sentient enough to have language, work together, and fight as a team. One had already died, impaled on an Uruk spear and then fried by Urcaryx’s spell.
Urcaryx rushed over to Urpetar and helped her to her feet. Two lizards charged at them with spears leveled. Urcaryx thought fast. Neither she nor Urpetar had the bulk or the weapons to stand against this charge. Dodging downward would leave them helpless. Running would take them into the closed off passageway. The only direction left to go was up. Gripping Urpetar tightly, she willed herself up into the air, rising with enough speed to let the charging lizards pass beneath her feet. They crashed into the wall and shattered their spears.
Urkharf and his four underlings charged out of the side passage and hit the two lizard men from behind. Scimitars flashed and took great bites out of the reptiles. One dropped, his backbone sheared by Urkharf’s mighty swing. It wasn’t dead, but it was effectively out of the fight unless something came close enough for it to bite. One uruk was hit by a lashing tail and knocked down the hall toward the oncoming lizards. The remaining lizard managed to draw out his flint dagger and drive two uruks backward with a mighty swing that scraped a wound into one uruk’s hide and simply hurtled the other back when a long green lizard arm smashed across its chest.
The action grew more furious. In the passageway Urnatar found himself fighting two lizards. He blocked one club smash with his scimitar, and the blade was almost wrenched from his hand as it stuck in the wood for an instant. At almost the same instant he leaped above a swinging tail. Then a flint knife raked off his rib armor and slid downward to gouge a chunk out of his thigh.
Above the melee Urcaryx found herself strained to levitate both herself and her friend at the same time. She couldn’t concentrate enough to get off another killing spell without dropping back into the melee. Urpetar, although dangling awkwardly, was able to draw her blowgun and open the pouch that held the darts. Showing how nimble she was, she wrapped her legs around her friend’s waist, shrugged out of Urcaryx’s grip, and dangled upside down. In an instant she assessed the situation, aimed, and propelled a poison dart into the open mouth of the second lizard attacking Urnatar. The tiny missile embedded itself in the lizard’s tongue and the paralyzing poison entered its bloodstream. The sudden jolt of pain rocked it back so that it missed its second swing at the battling uruk.
The remaining three lizards joined the melee at the end of the corridor near Urkharf. It was chaos with four uruks battling four lizards and Urnatar fighting two by himself. The lizards were bigger and stronger. The uruks were slightly faster and had steel weapons. Hissing and cursing filled the air. Urkung, who had been smashed down the corridor by a flailing tail, picked himself up, and even though he had broken ribs, he dove into the battle to help Urnatar. The second lizard turned to face him.
Urnatar allowed himself to fall away from his wounded thigh. As he went down, he cut mightily at the lizard’s foot, hit it just above the ankle, probably the thinnest part of the leg, and sheared it off completely. That lizard went down and crashed into the back of its comrade, throwing it off balance. Urkung aimed a killing blow at his foe’s head, but the lizard put up his hand to ward it, and instead got its hand chopped off. More lizard blood spurted into the corridor. The off-balance lizard crashed into Urkung and carried him to the floor. The uruk hit his head hard against the stone, and was stunned. Aware only of pain in his ribs and head, and almost unconscious, Urkung didn’t notice when the lizard atop him bit his head off completely.
Urkharf parried a flurry of blows from his opponent. After the fourth, he tried a counterstroke, but missed as the lizard leaned away from the cut. Then Urpetar put a poison dart in that lizard’s eye, and the reptile went crazy. In moments its frenzied thrashing knocked down every other combatant in the area except Urkharf, who finally put it out of its misery with an overhead chop to the skull, splitting its head and strewing lizard brains in all directions.
Urcaryx landed in the secret passage. Urpetar somersaulted free and into position near the intersection of the two corridors. “I think I have enough kremm for one more kill spell,” gasped Urcaryx.
“Then do it!” The smaller Uruk reloaded her blowgun and looked for a target. She saw a lizard use its tail to vault back onto its feet, and she shot a dart right into the center of its chest. The lizard swiped at its own torso and knocked the dart loose, leaving a bloody scratch through its own scales.
“Die!” prayed Urcaryx and shot green energy from her fingers at the nearest foe. The lizard sizzled when the beam struck. Scaly skin boiled away, blood gushed, and its heart stopped. Urcaryx also went down. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she was unconscious. She had over-extended herself with that last spell.
Urnatar rolled and came to one knee. A lizard head lunged at him, jaws snapping viciously, and he simply extended his arm and skewered the creature right down its throat. Urkharf whirled and chopped halfway through the squat neck of a lizard that was busy bashing its way through another Uruk’s guard. The uruk warrior went down, and his slayer went down right on top of him.
And then the fight was over. Some of the lizards were still alive, but they were unable to fight. Two of the uruks were dead, and all had taken minor wounds except for Urpetar and Urcaryx.
The secret passage closed for a few moments, and when it opened again out came Urarrth, Urroz and another ten uruk warriors. They finished off the lizards that weren’t quite dead, set up a command post, and began bringing all their warriors through.
Urroz and Urpetar took Urcaryx aside and gave her first aid. This consisted mainly of getting a little wine down her throat. After swallowing, she weakly opened her eyes.
“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” Urcaryx gasped.
“You did great as a fighter, though,” Urpetar told her. “You killed two lizards and saved my life.”
Urcaryx gave one of those tusky uruk smiles and closed her eyes again. She was more tired than she had ever been before in her life. Urroz and Urpetar sat beside her and guarded her.
Urarrth, Urthorn, Urkharf, and Urnatar, now with a blood-stained bandage wrapped around his wounded thigh, put their heads together to discuss tactics in the event that they meat any other hostiles. Urnatar assured them that they would, and that the good fighting was just beginning because they were now in the lizardmen’s part of the dungeon, a part where uruks were unwelcome.
They were still making plans when L’nnrrd and L’rrww arrived with thirty-five Dwarven miners.
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