Chapter 27: Besieged
The fairy stood on Rose’s shoulder, a perfect beautiful humanoid only three inches tall. She had transparent dragonfly wings sprouting from her shoulder blades, and even when she wasn’t flying, they vibrated quietly, helping her keep her balance. She wore the daintiest green dress that stretched from the top of her breasts to just above her knees. She had neither boots nor gloves nor headpiece of any kind. Her corn silk yellow hair was cut short at the nape of her dainty neck. Her voice was high and tiny, not much louder than the whine of a mosquito. She carried a two inch long steel needle in her hand, and the tip of it was stained a dark reddish brown.
“Who are you?” asked Rose, “and what are you doing on my shoulder?”
“I am Karalialin. The old wizard scried you in a jewel and sent me to find you. Please hurry! Cherry and Muck have been holding off the skeletons and lizards for days, and I don’t know how much longer they can last.
“We will help you,” said Rose. “Can you lead us where we need to go?”
“Of course, it is less than half a league from here, although I have flown much farther than that searching for you.”
“Stay with me and be patient.” Rose turned her attention to Arrth. “Let’s get the clan moving. I think we’ve found the destination at last.”
Urarrth called his squad leaders over to him. “Line up the uruks. Tell them to get ready for combat. We’re moving out.”
At the same time Urthorn spoke to the dwarven wizards. “The fairy will guide us to the other party.”
“They should be in the Hall of Skulls,” said L’nnrrd.
“You know we’re not really uruks,” Urroz whispered to the fairy.
“I know. The wizard showed me your true form in the jewel.”
“You should meet my scout. Urpetar, come meet Karalialin.”
The wood elf joined them. “I am the scout. You need to leave Urroz and ride with me if you’re going to lead us out of here.”
"I don't think she needs to do that," said Urroz. "I want to talk to this fairy, and not just rush off into a battle."
"Then how will we know which way to go?" asked Urpetar.
L'nnrrd the Dwarf approached. "Karalialin, your group is in the Hall of Skulls, is it not?"
"That would be a good name for the place. The doorway is marked with three skulls. The room is quite spacious. There is a defensible second room at the far end of it where a single fighter like Cherry or Muck can hold the doorway against all foes. We have been holding out there for seven days now."
"Then I can lead the army there from here," said L'nnrrd. He made a rolling motion with his hand and suddenly a piece of parchment was there. He opened it to show a complex series of lines and circles and rectangles inscribed on it in a glowing red ink.
"What is that?" asked Urpetar.
"A map of this dungeon," the dwarf answered. "Look, here is the Throne room of the Gorgon." He pointed a stubby black finger at a large rectangle with a picture of a face with wiggling lines coming out of the head. "Here is the Hall of Skulls." L'nnrrd shifted his finger several inches to indicate another rectangle bedecked with three tiny skull emblems. "This is the path that connects the two places." He traced his finger along a zigzag line between the two boxes. "These are where the traps are." He pointed out places where the lines were broken by a double slash mark. "By following this map, we should be able to reach the Hall of Skulls in about an hour."
"Excellent," said Urroz. "Let's get going! L'nnrrd, please take the point with Urpetar and Urnarat. Karalialin, Urarrth, and Urcaryx, you're with me at the front. Urthorn and L'rrww and Urkharf, your job is to keep the army moving. Urdarg, you take charge of the rear guard."
The uruks looked questioningly at Urarrth. He was Da Boss. He should have been giving the orders.
"Do as Urroz says!" he bellowed. "Urroz is my general. She is smarter and tougher than any of you, and when she gives an order, it is just like me giving it." He aimed a buffet at Urdarg who seemed just a little slower to move out than the others. His blow caught the Uruk squad leader on the shoulder and sent him staggering. Urarrth had purposely avoided hitting Urdarg in the head--he didn't want to bruise or break his fingers against the notoriously hard skull of an uruk.
"Dat's da Boss," chortled Urrokko. "I will help Urthorn keep da troops in line." Urthorn gave him a tusky grin.
"Get your stuff and fall in!" bellowed Urarrth. "We're moving out! We will have a big fight in about an hour, so march and get ready for it!"
Karalialin had fluttered into the air during all the shouting. She flew around the throne room, weaving in and out of the pillars, easily dodging the hands and scimitars that some of the uruks tried to swat her with.
"Leave the fairy alone!" bellowed Urarrth. "She's on our side!"
"Now I has seen everything!" grumbled Urjax.
Karalialin returned to Urroz and settled on her shoulder. "My compliments, Lady. This is definitely the way to plunder a dungeon. How did you manage to hire an army of uruks and dwarves?"
Urroz laughed. "I didn't bring them. I recruited them when I got here. It helps if you look a bit like the locals."
"Those are great illusions that your party has. How do you manage it? Usually touching an illusion is enough to break the spell, but I'm riding on your shoulder and you still look, feel, and smell like an Uruk to me. No offense." The fairy smiled.
Urroz fingered her Uruk amulet. "The enchantment is in the amulet. As long as it is touching me, I will appear to be an Uruk. The spell is constantly renewed. Even if someone touches me, the amulet still makes me look like an Uruk." She moved it up lightly to touch the Fairy. When the carved uruk figurine touched the Fairy, Karalialin seemed to turn into a miniature uruk, only three inches tall and standing on Urroz's armored shoulder.
"Ewwww," said Karalialin. "I'm an uruk! Oh the shame of it!" Then she burst into tinkling laughter. "Bwee hee hee hee!" She laughed so hard that she fell off the shoulder, broke contact with the amulet, and had to flutter back into position.
"I want to ask you about your group," Urroz told her. "Who are Cherry and Muck that you keep talking about. What kind of names are those anyway?"
"Muck is a young rock troll. Cherry is, I believe, the greatest human fighter in the world."
"And what makes her so great?" asked Urarrth. "The world is wide. No matter how good a person is, there is always someone better, perhaps in another place, or using a different style of combat."
"I have never seen her lose a fight, even against trolls, and once she single-handedly beat a dragon."
"How can she do that?"
"She never gets hit. She moves amazingly fast. She hits extremely hard. And her blows always seem to land where they will do maximum damage."
"How is that possible?"
"Magic! What else could do it?" quipped the fairy. "The story she tells, and I don't know if it's true, is that she once liberated a genie from its prison, and in gratitude the genie granted her a wish. She wished to be unbeatable in combat."
"That's some wish."
They walked in silence for a little while as Urroz thought about what it would be like to be unbeatable in combat.
"Then why exactly are you here in this strange dungeon?" asked Urroz.
"We were tricked into entering by a black-garbed lich wizard named Nufon. He came to us in Khosht and offered a hefty fee if we would enter and find some magical bauble he lost down here. I think it was an emerald armband."
"Did this wizard carry a lot of silver amulets, charms, and sigils around his body?"
"Yes, he did! How did you know?"
"Different name, but the exact same story he used on us. I didn't want to take this mission, but it seemed like the best way to find out what the evil bastard was up to."
"We have come to believe that Nufon was lying to us, and the armband isn't even in this dungeon."
Urroz took out the silver arrow charm and invoked it. The arrow twisted on its chain and pointed straight up. "We were sent after the same armband, but we made the wizard give us a charm to help locate it. The armband is somewhere above us."
They both looked up. Only a kind of shimmery darkness could be seen above them.
"There isn't any up in here," said Karalialin.
"And that seems kind of strange, doesn't it? You can fly. Have you tried to fly up to the ceiling at any time?"
"Yes, I've tried a few times, and I never get more than thirty feet up before I simply stop moving. It's like hitting an invisible wall. I can't go any higher, although it's easy enough to fly back down."
"We knew the wizard as Nam, but the Dwarves here call him Terevorr, which sounds more like a real name."
"Let's call him Terevorr, then," said the fairy.
"So, if he lied to us, and he doesn't want us to fetch his jewelry, then why lure us into this place?" mused Urroz.
"The old wizard said this place is a prison."
"Who is this old wizard you keep mentioning?"
"We found him in the Gallery of Chains. He appears to be an ancient elf--he has the longest ears and nose on a being that I've ever seen."
Urroz looked at Urcaryx. The elf disguised as an uruk nodded and grinned. "It's true that elvish ears and noses and a few other parts never stop growing."
"So, you're not very old, Urcaryx?"
"I am young and beautiful," the elf-uruk gloated.
"If those elven bucks could see you now!" jeered Urthorn who had wandered up to the front of the column again.
The stone of the dungeon walls had changed. The black stone of earlier passages had given way to what looked like blocks of granite, huge stones mortared together with generous helpings of cement. The glowstones were still few and far apart, but no one except Urarrth had any difficulty seeing in the low light conditions.
"Tell me about this Gallery of Chains," said Urroz.
"We were questing down a narrow passage. Muck could barely get into it when we heard a kind of eerie singing. There was nothing to be seen, but I cast a searching spell--yes, I know a few roguish spells--and found a secret door. We opened it--actually Muck punched it open. Inside was a darkened hall, about twenty feet wide, with chains and foot shackles riveted to the stone. Most of them were empty. A few had skeletons hanging against the rock. The shackles closest to the door held the old wizard. He was glowing, not very bright, but with a pale green radiance. He was singing, or chanting. I speak a few words of elvish, and he was saying 'Life, life, help. Life, life, help.'"
"A hidden prison," mused Urroz. "It would seem that anyone prisoned there was just left to die."
"But the wizard wasn't dead. I wonder how long he was in there."
"When we got him out of the chains, we asked him that, but he had no idea. He said that he thought it might have been a long time."
"If those chains could hold a wizard, how did you get him free?" asked Urarrth. "I don't suppose the jailors left any keys lying around."
"Your guess is correct. There were no keys. Muck just pulled the chains out of the wall, and then bent open the manacles. You know how strong rock trolls can be. Once we got the chains off of him, the old wizard slowly came to his senses. It helped that we fed him some waybread and wine. The wine really seemed to help him a lot."
"Did this wizard give you a name?"
"He called himself Ohtar."
"That's a strange name for an Elf," said Urroz.
Urcaryx jumped back into the conversation. "Ohtariel is a famous old Elven name in the Shancinar area. And this elf sounds like an old guy."
"Ohtariel sounds familiar, but I don't know where I've heard it before," said Urroz.
"The name was common enough a thousand years ago before I was born," said Urcaryx. " You don't hear it much any more."
"Soon after we rescued the old wizard our problems began. Before that we had a few encounters--a couple of squads of lizard-men, a gakk, a spider troll, nothing we couldn't handle. Suddenly, monsters were coming out of the walls. Twenty skeleton men hit us before we had gone more than ten minutes. Muck broke them like so much kindling, and Cherry cut them down one by one. The old wizard even took one out with a kill spell, but before the fight was over, we could hear the drums. After that we were on the run."
"I remember those drums," said L'rrww. When the drums sound it means that everyone in the dungeon should stop what they're doing and send help. We dwarves may have sent a party to help chase you."
"There are dwarves in the army besieging us," said Karalialin, "but they have hung back, leaving most of the fighting to the skeletons and the lizards."
"Any uruks?" asked Urarrth.
"I haven't seen any uruks," said the fairy.
"The uruks would have been the farthest away from the action," explained L'rrww, "and they don't ordinarily cooperate with anyone but the dwarves. We try to cooperate with everyone. They might not have answered the call."
"We were in a fighting retreat without knowing where we were going. Cherry took down a meat troll that tried to block our path. Muck kept anyone from taking us from behind. Then we found the Hall of Skulls. It was empty. We took it and locked the door."
"Your work?" asked Urcaryx.
"Yes, I can throw a locking spell." Karalialin beamed at being recognized for her abilities.
The scouts stopped. Urpetar sprinted back to the head of the column. "We're here! Listen! That roar is a throng of fighters."
L'nnrrd also came back. He pulled out the map. "The Hall of Skulls is just around the corner and down the passage. It's time for a battle plan."
"And I have a truly evil plan in mind," said Urroz. "It depends on the dwarves and you, Karalialin."
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