Chapter 30: Escape
The battle was over, and there were many things that needed to be done. Things were further complicated by the fact that there were several different groups in the Hall of Skulls, each with their own agenda. A single leader was needed to sort things out.
Rose and Cherry eyed each other warily. Neither was accustomed to backing down for another. Others began lining up behind them. Karalialin landed on Cherry’s shoulder; Muck towered over them both, and the Old Wizard sidled up to stand beside her. Calyx and Petal came over and stood with Rose who was walking toward Arrth’s body. They had taken off their amulets and so appeared as elves. Urthorn still maintained her uruk disguise. The eleven uruks and seven dwarves who had survived the final melee now clustered around her.
Rose gestured and Calyx knelt beside Arrth.. She tested the body, but it was obvious that the man was dead. “He’s dead, Rose. Look!” she indicated Arrth’s ears where gray matter had burst forth. “That spell fried his brains and stopped his heart.”
“Can you bring him back? Can you heal him?”
“I can’t. I’m only a rogue. I know a few good spells, but that’s it. Maybe the Old Wizard can do it.”
“Call me Ohtar,” said the ancient elf. “I’m not that old. Thirty three hundred years is not that ancient for an elf.”
Rose turned to him. “Can you help? Can you save my friend? Can you bring him back?”
Ohtar closed his eyes and seemed to meditate. He held the pose for a couple of minutes. When he opened his eyes again, he looked sad. “Your friend says goodbye. He was just about to walk into the light when I caught up with him.”
“You saw him?”
“I saw his spirit. His time had come. He said thanks for the adventure. It was the best.”
Rose’s face grew very sad. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes, although she did not sob or say anything. She gulped and took a deep breath.
“Well, it was worth a try,” She turned away. “There are things to do. We still have to escape from these pits.”
“The wizard had a way in,” said Calyx. “He must have had a way out, too. We should search his body. She and Petal moved toward it.”
“What are we going to do about da Boss?” asked Urrokko.. He crouched beside Arrth’s body. “And what about Urnatar and all my dead friends?”
“We will find a way to take them out of this place,” answered Rose. “No one will be left behind.”
“There are a lot of magical talismans on what’s left of the body?” Calyx announced. She had been pulling them out of pockets and off belts and chains hidden inside Terevorr’s robes. “Do you want any of them, Ohtar. I’m willing to divide them with you.”
“I don’t want any, and you shouldn’t take them either,” answered the older Elf. “They are contaminated with his dark magics. I can sense part of Terevorr’s spirit still clinging to each talisman.”
“Look!” Petal pointed to a fragment of arm that was still clawing its way toward what was left of Terevorr’s body. The body itself seemed to still be twitching. “What does it take to kill this thing?”
“Terevorr cannot be killed,” said Ohtar. “He is already dead, and has been dead for decades. Spirit is eternal, and when the body dies, there are many different things that can happen to the spirit. Terevorr’s spirit is bound to his lifeless body and possessions, and he is the eternal slave of the Goddess.”
“Then let us destroy his body and possessions,” said Rose. “Let us obliterate them in flame.”
“I don’t have a flame spell,” said Calyx.
“I do,” said L’nnrrd, reminding them all suddenly that there was another wizard in the room, and if neither of you want those talismans, then I do.”
“But, they are tainted. They are evil,” protested Calyx.
“Evil is just a point of view,” L’nnrrd countered. “What may seem evil to the fine sensibilities of an elf doesn’t seem that bad to a dwarf.”
Rose, Calyx, Petal, and Urthorn looked at the dwarf sharply. They had heard that opinion before.
“You may choose two talismans to keep. Anything more might contaminate you and resurrect the evil that was Terevorr,” declared Ohtar.
“You are just wasting good magic!” protested the dwarf. Everyone glared at him, and he subsided. He picked through all the sigils and talismans that Calyx had taken off the wizard’s carcass, finally choosing one that was a sphere, and another that looked like a hammer.
“Look at this,” said Calyx, holding up a tiny doll. “Isn’t this a golem? Do you think Terevorr used this to control those things that attacked us.”
“It seems very likely,” said Ohtar. “I believe I will take that one, at least for a while..”
“Here is one that looks like a gate,” said Petal, pulling another charm from the pile. “Do you think this could be our way out of here?”
“It is flattened, mangled, and broken because the rock troll crushed it when he stepped on Terevorr’s body. Even if it is the gate, I don’t think I’d trust it,” warned Rose.
Cherry and her friends had not been idle while all the discussion of what to do with Terevorr and his belongings had been going on. They went out through the broken wall and explored the corridors beyond, but all they found was more dungeon. They didn’t see any stairway or other form of gate leading out of the Pits. From time to time over the next couple of hours Karalialin would return with a status report.
After the few things that they wanted were taken from the liche’s body, L’nnrrd and the remaining dwarves piled the rest of it in one place and then called flame. “Stand well back!” he told everyone. “This fire will be hotter than any fire you have ever seen before.” From a good ten feet away he thrust his wand toward the pile of undead wizard, not-so-living statues, lizard and skeleton corpses and other debris. Cloth, leather, and skin blazed up first with a flare of shocking orange that quickly turned into a blue-white flame leaping some twenty feet into the air. A wave of heat washed over them, and they broke into sweat.
“Get back!” yelled L’nnrrd. “It will get hotter.”
“Out of the hall!” ordered Rose. “Everyone get out!” Urrokko picked up Arrth’s body and carried it out. Dwarves and uruks had been toting their own slain companions out for some time, until only the most badly hacked and mangled were left.
“One more thing!” yelled Urthorn. She held in her hand the canvas bag that held the head of the gorgon, and she whirled it over her head and pitched it into the heart of the flames.
“You just threw away a perfectly good statue-maker,” quipped Petal.
“I don’t like snakes much,” answered Thorn. Now that all the uruks were gone, heading back to their parts of the dungeon, she had taken off her amulet also.
“I think I have a way out of these Pits,” said Calyx.
“We should use it in a place where everyone who wants out can get out, especially our uruk and dwarf allies. I suggest the kitchen area. That seems to be neutral ground in this dungeon,” said Rose.
It took hours, but they returned to the Dwarven Kitchen. They spread the word that anyone who wanted to leave the dungeon should meet there. Once the word got out, the kitchen filled up with creatures, not only uruks and dwarves, but also lizards, skeletons, statues, trolls, a few ogres, yellow-skinned goblins of a form that Rose had never seen before, some things that looked like walking squids, a lamia., three vampires, and there were even some gakks hanging at the farthest fringes of the crowd in the corridors. Two trolls were pressed into service as door guards. Inside the kitchen area, the tables had been cleared away, and half the room was barricaded off.
“Now, how do we get out of here?” asked Rose.
“Do you remember when we were fighting the jewel-colored ogres? I tried to liquefy the stone under one of them, but the spell didn’t work the way I thought it would. The stone ended and it looked like there was wood underneath it,” said Calyx.
“Yes, that was strange.”
“And you know we’ve walked for what seems like miles in these hallways and rooms, but there hasn’t been much in the way of up and down. No deeper levels to find, no way to climb out of here.”
“Yes, these so-called Pits are unusually flat.”
“It’s a table,” said Thorn. “We’re on a gigantic table.”
“Or perhaps we have been shrunk to fit into this place,” said Petal. “Smaller is smarter, after all.”
“We can’t go out by going up. Karalialin told us she could only fly up so high.”
“We can’t go out by using Nam’s sigil for gates. It’s broken.”
“And there’s a wooden table beneath all this stone,” said Thorn. “It makes sense. For one thing, this stone isn’t any natural rock I’ve ever seen.”
“There is no ore in this rock,” said L’nnrrd. “We have all these miners, but all we can do with them is dig out new passageways. We never find gold, silver, or even iron. The rock is more like bricks than real stone in this place.”
“So, let’s go down,” said Rose. “L’nnrrd, we will need some miners to scoop out the liquid rock and clear the hole.”
K’Glldr, the dwarven lord came forward. “You have them, Lady.” He gestured to a squad of dwarves with shovels. L’nnrrd discretely stepped backwards to allow his ruler to lead the way out.
“Once we reach the wood, we can probably burn through it,” said the dwarven lord. “L’nnrrd, stand ready with your burning spell.”
“Yes, my lord.”
“If we do come out through the bottom of a table, I can levitate everyone to the floor,” offered Ohtar.
Calyx cast her liquefy stone spell. The dwarves scooped the watery mud out and threw it off to the side, and in a short time, a wooden surface appeared. L’nnrrd hit it with a concentrated blast of flame, and the flame scorched it, but did not burst through. Dwarves jumped into the hole and attacked the charred wood with pickaxes, breaking it up, and shoveling it out. When they could dig no farther, L’nnrrd cast more flame at it, and charred the lower surface. They repeated this process four times . . .
And they broke through to open air on the other side.
“I should go through first,” offered Muck the Rock Troll, “just in case there is anything large and dangerous waiting for us.”
As soon as the dwarven miners got out of the hole, Muck jumped into it. The hole wasn’t quite large enough for a being of his size, but he smashed right through it and fell. Ohtar stood at the edge and cast a levitation spell at the troll that slowed his rate of descent.
“He looks like he’s falling, but he doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller,” said Rose.
“He is expanding in size as he falls,” said Ohtar.
The dungeon quaked violently and rose into the air. Everyone standing was knocked down. It was like the worst earthquake they had ever experienced except that nothing broke and fell on them.
“I am on the stone floor of a large dark room,” boomed the voice of the Rock Troll, “and there is a table on my back. I’m out.”
“Looks like no more levitation is needed,” said Rose. “As people get out of the magical field that surrounds this dungeon, they regain their true size.”
“Then let’s get out of here,” said Cherry.
The dungeon evacuation took hours, but in the end, no one who wanted to leave was left behind. The different dungeon kindreds moved out in groups, with instructions to leave the area as soon as they got out of the dungeon. They were told that they were in a wizard’s home, and to loot and take anything they wanted, but to be very careful. Few of them were interested in looting.
In the end, everyone who wanted out of the dungeon got out of the dungeon—even the almost mindless creatures like gakks and slimes. They found themselves in the mountains. Most of the different groups of creatures simply took off in different directions, and finally only Rose’s group, Cherry’s group, and the surviving uruks were left.
“We don’t know where we are, and this could be a long walk,” said Rose.
“We don’t have to walk. I feel very strong now,” said Ohtar, “and I believe I can transport us anywhere we want to go? So where do we want to go?”
“Stormgaard,” said Rose, Calyx, Petal, and Thorn.
“Khosht,” said Cherry, Muck, and Karalialin.
“Khazan city,” said Urrokko. “I hear there are many uruks there.”
“Let it be so!” declared the Old Wizard. He snapped his fingers once, and the uruks were gone, taking with them their honored dead including Da Boss.
He snapped his fingers twice and Cherry, Muck and Karalialin found themselves on the docks not far from the Ruptured Troll Tavern.
He napped his fingers a third time and Rose, Calyx, Petal, and Thorn found themselves in the street outside the Black Dragon Tavern in Stormgaard. “After all that, I could sure use a bath,” said Petal. “Dungeon delving always makes me feel dirty.”
“I’d rather have a drink,” said Rose. “Perhaps several in honor of Arrth and everyone else who died in those Pits.” She shouldered her way past them and went into the tavern.
“I hate it when her romances go wrong,” said Petal. “But, I still need that bath.”
“Fastidious Elf!” snorted Thorn. They all laughed and the three of them headed off to Steamy’s bath house.
Khazan Ohtariel Khazan found himself alone in Terevorr’s fortress. He rubbed his bearded chin with his long, long fingers. “Now where shall I go?” he mused.
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