Chapter 10: Dungeon
The stairs seemed to go on forever. Every hundred steps thee was a landing, and the stairway changed direction. The red light of the open doorway far above got smaller and smaller. When they reached the eighth landing, they heard a distant slam, and the light above them disappeared.
“Swords out, ladies!” Calyx, Petal, and Rose pulled their swords out of their scabbards. The Elven blades all glowed with a blue radiance.”
“Magic,” hissed Arrth. “I have heard of such weapons, but . . .”
“You ain’t seen nothing yet, kid,” Thorn told him. “You haven’t thrown your lot in with any ordinary group of adventurers.
“But why do the swords glow? Is it a spell or a charm?”
“It’s the metal itself,” Calyx explained. “These swords and our daggers as well, are made of true silver, also known as elven steel. The metal stores light. In darkness, it releases that stored light, thus glowing. It is the same principle as elven lamps and glow stones.”
“Elves used to make weapons that were magically enchanted to glow in the presence of other Kindreds such as Uruks,” said Calyx, “but that proved to be a really bad idea. Not only did it take a lot of magic to enchant the weapons, but a kremm battery had to be supplied. Instead of striking fear into our foes, the weapons became prized by the very Kindreds they were designed to destroy. The glowing swords gave us away in the dark. If an Uruk got one, they would use it as a torch—a free source of light for them, courtesy of the Elves. Traders would buy them from us and then sell them to the specified Kindred for huge profits. We stopped making those blades,” explained Calyx.
“But aren’t your swords magical?” asked Arrth. “That glow is more than just second-hand sunlight, or I don’t know anything about weapons.”
Calyx and Petal exchanged “The Look”.
“Tell him,” said Rose. “He’s in our group now. We should trust him.”
“These blades are enchanted,” said Calyx. “It’s a spell of my own design. When they strike a foe, they do additional damage by burning that foe with elven fire.”
“The shock of the fire alone is often enough to slay weaker foes like goblins,” added Petal.
“That would be a useful weapon to have,” Arrth said enviously.
“If you work out with us, Arrth, we may get such a sword for you also,” said Rose.
“I think I’d like that.”
The talk subsided as they continued down the stairs. Two flights lower they reached the bottom. The path ahead of them turned into a passageway. The floor was set with blocks of gray stone that were two feet square. The walls seemed to be made of the same material. The corridor was eight feet wide, and stretched ahead of them into the darkness. They could not see the ceiling—the walls just seemed infinitely high.
“This doesn’t look like any natural place to me,” Thorn grumbled. “I would bet that we’re not underground in any conventional sense of the word.”
“I would bet that this place is some sort of magical construct,” said Calyx.
“A thousand steps,” marveled Arrth. “We have come downwards nearly half a mile.”
“It isn’t that far,” said Rose. “Those steps were not a pace in height. Still, we have come down a long way, if down was our direction. I wonder if we are still in Trollworld at all.”
The hall that they entered went off at right angles to the stairway. “Right or left?” asked Arrth.
“Neither,” Rose answered. “This might be a good time to sit down, rest, have a drink and a bite of supper, and plan our strategy. Since you are new to this group, Arrth, you don’t know how we operate.”
“I will take the point position if you want me to,” he volunteered.
“Point is my position,” said Petal firmly. “You can follow and be support if you wish, although that is usually Rose.”
“Why do you send your smallest member out front?” Arrth was puzzled. “I would think that you would want one of your best warriors leading the way. I’m not bragging, but I’m pretty good with this broadsword.”
“We’re glad to know that,” Rose answered. “However, Petal is point. She has the keenest senses of anyone in this group.” Petal smirked at him. You and I will move in support, Arrth, on opposite sides of the passage. Calyx follows us by a few feet, and Thorn is rear guard.”
“That makes sense to me.”
“What illusion shall we wear?” Petal asked.
“We could run into anything in here. Let us go disguised as uruks. They are well-respected as fighters and get along with most other dungeon guard types. Plus, they like to move in groups, which is a natural sort of cover for us,” said Rose.
“We disguise ourselves as uruks?” wondered Arrth. “I’ve never heard of adventurers doing that.”
“I don’t believe it’s a common trick,” said Calyx. “I came up with it myself, but it’s a great way of avoiding useless conflict with the evil Kindreds that live in places like this.”
“Calyx, how can you say such a thing” taunted Thorn. “You should know by now that evil is just a point of view.” They all laughed. “Yes,” said Calyx, “and any point of view that wants to kill me and my friends is, by definition, evil.”
“How can you disguise us as uruks, Calyx?”
“Illusion, Arrth.” She opened her backpack and pulled out five amulets. Even though Thorn carried the heavy backpack with most of the party’s supplies, each member carried a lighter pack with some of their personal necessities in it. Each person brought what they thought they might most need. Calyx brought magical supplies. “These project the illusion that the wearer is an uruk. Watch!”
Arrth watched the transformation. Her ears shortened, her skin darkened, her mouth grew prognathous with fangs jutting outside the thin lips. Her body grew shorter and more muscular.
“Doesn’t that hurt?”
“No, I haven’t really changed.” She passed out the amulets and each member of the party put one on. Everyone donned their amulet and transformed. The amulets did not affect the appearance of their armor. Calyx then withdrew five rings from her pack. Each was just a bit of copper with the face of a panther engraved on the flat upper service.
“More magery?” asked Arrth. “What do the rings do?”
“Each ring contains the Cats Eyes spell. As long as you wear it, you will be able to see very well in low light conditions. We cannot very well masquerade as uruks if three of us are obviously carrying elven weapons.”
“I don’t need the ring, Calyx,” said Thorn. “Dwarves see as well as uruks in dark places.”
“Wear one, anyway, Thorn. They identify us as members of the same clan—the clan of the Cave Panther. All uruks belong to one clan or another, and they always have some means of identifying their clan. Usually it is a tattoo, but some clans use objects instead.”
While Calyx was passing out trinkets and answering Arrth’s questions, the rest of the group was eating and drinking. It was only a wafer of trail rations, but the food made them feel better.
Petal finished eating first, and got up to explore the passage. “Someone has been here before us,” she announced. “There is an arrow on the wall in red here just past the intersection.”
“Nam said that he had sent another group into this pit ahead of us.” Rose was happy to have that part of the wizard’s story confirmed.
Arrth looked at her. “Do we follow them?”
“No, let’s go the other way.”
Petal took the lead, and the Raiders left the stairway and entered the Pits of Despair.
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