Chapter Three: Game Ogre
Opal and Roon sat atop the guard’s tower, overlooking the empty town of Nightstone as the day passed into late afternoon. Eventually, their companions awakened, bruised and bandaged and asking questions about what happened to the orcs.
“They’re all dead,” Roon said quietly, looking out to the forest where smoke no longer billowed. Whatever fire had been amongst the trees had now dissipated. “Elves came and finished them off, but they didn’t stick around long enough to care if we survived.”
“I don’t get it,” Thia shook her head.
“Come on, we need to get moving,” Kilian told them, packing his things. “We need to find the villagers.”
Roon crossed his arms unhappily. “I don’t want anything to do with Xolkien and his band of blind followers.”
“We need to save the town,” Kilian insisted. “These people are innocent.”
“Maybe they’re better off somewhere else.”
“We don’t know that,” his friend sighed. “Come on, Roon. Everyone?”
They all eventually agreed, and took to the road, leaving the town of Nightstone behind them. Opal took the lead, following a set of human tracks. “These must be the villagers!” She exclaimed.
“How many are there?” Thia asked the genasi, who shrugged.
“I think, thirty or fourty, maybe.”
The rest of them were not confident trackers, so they had no choice but to follow the eccentric, strange looking girl with the skip in her step. The tracks took them North, and they had been walking for less than an hour when Opal stopped them and pointed to a large hill at least fifty feet from the road. “Look! A cave.”
“Hm, yes, a dark hole. We should definitely go in there,” Roon said sarcastically. He had been in a foul mood all morning. Being belittled by cult leaders and elves and beaten up by orcs was not what he considered a good couple of days. I never should have left that boat, he thought bitterly.
“That sounds nice,” Evelyn said in her quiet voice. “I like the dark.”
“Evelyn, I wasn’t being serious,” Roon said.
“The tracks lead there,” Opal told them, and with a sigh Roon realized she was right.
“The villagers must have fled here after the attack to find shelter.” Kilian scratched his chin. “We should go in.”
“We can’t just walk in,” Thia said. “I’ll go investigate. I have keen eyes in the dark, unlike humans.”
When no one argued, the elf woman jogged through the knee-high grass and slowed when she approached the cave entrance. Then, they watched as she crept through and disappeared. Not a moment later, they heard a shout. “Intruders!”
“What did she do?” Roon cursed and they all looked at each other.
They started running, and a second after they saw Thia dart from the cave and come toward them. “Ogres!” She shouted. Roon pulled out his bow and Evelyn drew her rapiers against her skin, drawing blood and flames. Opal loaded her crossbow and they all waited.
“Do we run or do we fight?” Kilian asked as a massive, very naked and mud-covered ogre came charging out after Thia, heavy club raised in one hand. A second one appeared behind him, this one female and dressed in armour. She heaved a javelin into the air and Thia ducked out of the way just in time.
Kilian held his hands in front of him and a swirling ball appeared there, writhing and chaotic and filled with darkness and streaks of lightning. He tightened it between his fingers, then released it in a frenzied burst of sound. The spell shot from his hands and burst against the naked ogre, stopping him momentarily in his tracks. Suddenly, a group of goblins emerged from the cave, screaming and brandishing weapons. “Run!” Kilian suggested, then turned and bolted.
Thia continued to run, catching up to them, and the goblins shot arrows. Two missed, but the third hit her in the back. She stumbled but continued running. Roon had turned to run, but at seeing this, he notched an arrow to his shortbow and shot at the naked ogre, who was gaining on Thia now that she had been hit.
The ogre pulled up his club, and the arrow stuck in the wood. Then, with a huge backhanded swing, he cracked the club against the Elf’s head, and she dropped. The goblins immediately ran up and started dragging her body back to the cave.
Bolts, arrows and spells shot from each side in this sudden battle as everyone ceased running and began fighting. Evelyn ran to the biggest foe and began striking the muddied ogre, slashing her tiny blades over every bit of flesh she could reach. The ogre roared and swung out in a frenzied rage. Kilian created a large ball of fire in his hands and split it in two, sending them at each of the ogres. “We can’t win this fight!” He shouted to Roon, who knew he was right. They were already down one fighter, and the ogres were much stronger than any of them.
Roon created a duplicate illusion of himself standing over Thia, and a couple of the goblins screeched and backed off. The duplicate reached down and placed a healing hand over the elf’s chest, and she immediately awakened and sat up, but the goblins reacted immediately. An arrow took Thia in the chest, and with a grunt she fell back again. If she could just get out of there, she’d be fine! Roon thought desperately, and his duplicate set to healing her again. Roon himself shot another arrow at the goblins, striking one down.
“This was a mistake! We did not mean to interrupt your bathing!” Kilian shouted, but the ogres ignored his attempt at distraction. He shot another blast of chaotic energy at them.
This time, Thia made it to her feet and ran. As she ran past, she shot three glowing missiles at the muddy ogre, who was covered in streaks of blood from Evelyn’s persistent cuts. The missiles shot, one, two, three, all three hitting. The ogre swayed for a moment in confusion, then dropped heavily to his knees. With a swift kick to the head, Evelyn knocked the ogre the rest of the way to the ground. “Game ogre,” she smiled.
“Great pun!” Roon said appreciatively. “Now, kill the other one!”
The second ogre cried out at seeing her mate dead and charged with her javelin at the tiny, pale form of Evelyn. Opal and Roon continued shooting, darting from the goblins, who were continuously trying to push forward, and at the ogre when they had a clear shot.
A jab of the ogre’s javelin hit Evelyn, drawing blood at her side, and with a furious shriek the girl emitted a blast of hellish noise, which split into a roar of fire. The ogre covered her eyes from the flames and jabbed again, and Evelyn countered.
“Light em’ up, Kilian!” Roon shouted, and Kilian threw a twin firebolt. One hit the ogre’s arm and another blasted a goblin off its feet. The goblins were close, now. A goblin arrow grazed Roon’s leg and Opal caught one in the ribs. In one moment, three goblins shot their arrows, all aiming at the tallest among them: Thia. All hit, and she fell down for the third time in the fight. Then, Kilian shot a final blast of lightning at the goblins, and two exploded into ash while a third froze instantly, encased in ice. Roon’s illusion appeared again next to Thia and cast a sparing spell to keep her from bleeding out. “Just rest, Thia,” the illusion said, patting her hair. “It’s better if you stay down for this one.”
Kilian focused his energy on taking out the goblins with Roon, but Opal drew a flaming blade and ran into the fight next to Evelyn, both of them taking turns at blows with the ogre.
Just as Roon started to think the tide was changing in their favour, he heard a cry from Opal and turned to see Evelyn stabbed through with the ogre’s javelin. The ogre wrenched it from her and cast the small girl to the ground, then swung around at Opal with renewed vigour. “Take them to Boss Hark!” The ogre screamed at the goblins, and they began scrabbling forward to obey.
With a sigh, Roon’s duplicate ran over to Evelyn’s unconscious form and began casting another healing spell. Then, Opal took her flaming sword and, with incredible strength, sliced the blade clean up through the ogre’s body, splitting it in two. The two halves fell in opposite directions, and Opal flashed a smile to her companions.
“Run for your lives unless you too wish to die!” Kilian shouted to the goblins, who ignored him. “Fine,” the storm sorcerer shot a ball of fire, killing one instantly. Two more remained and continued running at them. Evelyn stood, now healed by Roon’s illusion, and drew her blades to run back into the fight. That girl had a death wish. Having presumably seen something in the girl’s eyes, one of the two goblins turned on its heels and ran for the cave. The second, noticing its companion abandoning the fight, slowed just in time for Roon to shoot it down with an arrow. Opal released the last shot, taking out the fleeing goblin with a crossbow bolt to the spine.
“That went about as expected,” Kilian muttered to Roon, who nodded in agreement.
“We need to get that wizard some armour,” the gnome said, pointing to Thia’s unconscious body. “Oh, right,” he snapped his fingers and his duplicate disappeared.
Opal stepped up to Thia and healed her to consciousness. “What’d I miss?” She grumbled, rubbing her chest where the arrow wound was being knit back together.
“Basically everything,” Roon smiled. “You should try to stop being such a target.”
“No kidding,” she sighed, standing with Kilian’s help. “Thanks.”
“Well, I hate to say it, but now we definitely have to go in there,” the sorcerer announced.
“Wait a moment,” Roon said, and with a wave of his hands three globes of light appeared and floated into the chests of Evelyn, Opal and Thia, dissolving.
“What was that?” Evelyn asked quietly.
“It should help keep you healthy for now. But,” Roon raised a finger, “try to stay out of fights. I can only heal you so many times before my magic is exhausted.”
They all nodded in agreement, and the companions snuck forward to the cave entrance.
The main cave was roundish in nature and had seven separate tunnels leading in all directions. On the left was a massive mud pool bubbling and steaming. “That explains why the ogre was naked and filthy,” Roon grinned and Evelyn grimaced at the very vivid memory.
“Which do we choose?” Opal asked. “There are tracks everywhere.”
Roon reached into his pocket and pulled out dice. “A die, one to six. We’ll roll it and try that one first.” He assigned numbers to each of the tunnel entrances. “Let’s let luck decide.” He tossed the die up into the air and it clattered to the ground, two black dots facing up. “Two it is,” he said, taking the die and striding to the second tunnel. “Ready?”
Seeing no better option, they all pushed their way into the dark tunnel.
“Stop! Who goes there?” A goblin voice demanded from out of the darkness.
“It’s your mum, you—butthead!” Roon cried out in his best imitation of a goblin voice. At the same moment, Kilian shot three dancing globes of light forward to make the room visible. Several goblins stood in what looked to be a mess hall, and along the walls crawled several oversized rats skittering through littered garbage and gnawing on abandoned food scraps.
Roon gave Kilian a sidelong glance, “kill them?” he asked.
“Kill them,” Kilian confirmed as the goblins rushed them.
The sorcerer swept his hand around and a whip of lightning appeared, shooting forward and wrapping around a goblin torso. With a flick of his arm, the goblin was pulled forward, electric currents running through its body and leaving it with scorch marks. At the same moment, Thia took out her blade and cast a songlike spell over it. Then, she cast flames through the room in a torrential pillar that instantly killed a group of rats running through the room, along with a few of the goblins. She retreated in the tunnel as Roon stepped under her and shot his bow. Opal stood over Roon and cast a shard of ice into the room, which exploded in a blast of shattering cold. Evelyn took the opportunity to jump around Kilian, who was casting another spell, and ran at a goblin, cutting open its throat. A few of the giant rats started crawling at Evelyn’s legs, and she swung her rapiers around, trying to ward them off. More rats quickly reached her, and she fell to the ground under the weight of them, thrashing. Kilian ran to her and released a wave of thunder, shaking debris and knocking everyone, including Roon, off their feet. The swarm of rats slammed against the walls and remained unmoving on the ground. Rocks rained down on Roon’s head, and he felt a gash appear on his forehead, crimson spilling into his vision. He mopped away the blood and made his way through the rubble and into the room. Kilian stood with a glowing blue shield around his person, and a few goblin arrows ricocheted off him. Opal shot her crossbow bolts from her place in the tunnel, but Thia stayed back. Probably best, Roon thought. She had been in enough near-death experiences this week.
An armoured goblin, slightly larger than the rest, ran at Kilian with a scimitar. Kilian’s shield faltered as the sorcerer pushed through it and attacked the goblin with a dagger, which slid off his thick armour. Roon turned to an adjacent room as a tiny goblin ran from it brandishing a rusted sword and screaming. Before he could reach to grab it, it dashed around him and jumped on the back of the larger goblin, stabbing and hacking. The larger goblin shook the smaller one off and it fell to the ground, then stood for another assault. What the—?
Kilian took the fight away from Evelyn’s unconscious body, and Thia used that moment to sprint from the hallway and drag Evelyn from the fight. She pulled out strips of cloth and began bandaging the girl’s wounds, and Opal put a friendly hand on Thia’s and cast a healing spell over the girl.
Roon wasn’t paying attention to this, however. He was looking for a way to jump in and help Kilian, but the wound on this head was making it difficult to stand. The world seemed to shift in his vision and black spots speckled the room in front of him. The larger goblin, frustrated by the attacks from both Kilian and the other goblin, screamed and ran Kilian through with his blade. Kilian looked down for a moment at the spotted blade, blinking slowly. The goblin tore the blade free, and Kilian fell back, a spot of blood quickly growing at his abdomen.
“Traitor!” The larger goblin cried, turning his attacks solely to this smaller goblin.
Roon crawled to Kilian and cast a sparing spell on him. Thanks again, Baravar. I’m not sure where I’d be… Roon thought as he repaired the wound.
He sensed a familiar, smug coming from outside of himself, yet present in his mind.
Evelyn jumped up, now healed by Opal, and did what she always did when seeing a fight: she brandished her swords and ran into the thick of it. She cut down the smaller goblin with an easy thrust of her rapier, killing it instantly, then turned and attacked the larger one. Thia stood and began casting rays of frost at the goblin, and Opal followed suit with more shots from her crossbow.
“Stop!” Roon cried. The larger goblin was the only one still alive. “Stop attacking, or we’ll kill you like we killed everyone else!” The goblin ignored him, striking at Evelyn over and over again. Evelyn ducked under his blows with a slightly crazed half-smile on her young face.
Roon ran in to cast a spell, but the goblin slashed, and he just managed to raise his shield in time. Suddenly, a crossbow bolt flew and hit Evelyn in the neck. Both goblin and girl stopped for a moment, shocked, and Evelyn fell to the ground. Roon turned and saw Opal standing there with her crossbow, hand over her mouth. “I missed,” she squeaked, then shook herself and loaded another bolt with shaking hands.
Thia hit the goblin’s armour with a spell, and blue frost began to grow up the front of it. The goblin snarled, whipping around to see the wizard standing there, and at that moment, Opal shot another bolt. It hit the goblin straight in the adam’s apple. It gargled for a moment, blood spilling up between its jagged teeth, then collapsed.
Roon immediately ran to Evelyn and put a hand to the girl’s forehead. A purplish light spilled from his fingertips and trickled across her temples. That would keep her from bleeding out, but she and Kilian needed a breather. They all did.
“Wait, I hear crying,” Thia said, and was drawn out of the room and through an adjacent door.
Roon turned to follow her and noticed, for the first time, a half-eaten human corpse in the room. It was a grisly scene and explained much of the smell. Roon closed his eyes to the sight and ran after Thia. “Watch these two!” He whispered back to Opal, then ran ahead.
The room they entered was small and dark, but both elf and gnome were well-used to dim light and saw the shape of a woman curled up on the ground, weeping.
“Um, hello?” Thia said gently, kneeling down in front of the woman and touching a hand lightly to her shoulder.
The woman jumped back and shuddered, her weeping renewed tenfold.
“It’s alright, don’t worry,” Thia whispered calmly. “We’re here to get you out. What’s your name?”
The woman sniffled, sitting up slowly and trying to look around in the darkness. “Daphne,” she managed to get out between shaking sobs.
“Daphne,” Thia repeated. “Tell us, are you from Nightstone?”
“Y-yes,” the woman nodded, wiping her nose on her sleeve. “I-I’m the l-lady in waiting f-for Lady Nandar.”
“Like a prostitute?” Roon asked, unsure. Thia cast him a scathing look behind her shoulder. “What?” He asked defensively.
“A lady in waiting is a handmaiden,” the elf said as though it were obvious.
Roon shrugged at the term. “Not what I’ve heard it used for,” he said casually.
“Is Lady Nandar okay? Did you find her?” The woman asked, her voice quivering but her tears, for the moment, paused.
“Uhh…” Roon looked around, feeling awkward. “Lady Nandar was in Nightstone. She—she didn’t make it.”
“D-Dead?” The woman’s sobs renewed. Roon started to back out of the room. “I shouldn’t have run away!” She wailed.
Thia tried to speak more with her, but they could get nothing else from the woman. They stepped out to speak with Opal, shaking their heads. “There’s a woman from Nightstone in there,” Thia explained, “but she’s inconsolable.”
“So, we still know nothing,” Roon sighed in defeat.
“Give her some time,” Thia said. “Her grief is fresh, but wait for these two to wake up, and perhaps she will be willing to talk.”
They carried Evelyn and dragged Kilian into the room with the woman and they checked their wounds, taking care to sterilize and bandage them until they could be fully healed. Roon’s hands shook with exhaustion, his magic nearly spent. He was still learning. Some day, he would be able to use magic without discretion. That’s partly why he’d went to the School of Illusion. But, for now, he was frustratingly weak.
It took a couple of hours for them to rest and recuperate before Kilian announced that they could not dally in the caverns for much longer. He went first to speak with Daphne. They were able to glean from her hysterical sobbing that the villagers used these caverns as a hideout during attacks, but it had been overrun by goblins and ogres. The villagers were imprisoned somewhere, but Daphne could not say where exactly, since she had been dragged into this room under a blindfold with her friend Darthag. She had sat there and listened to them eat Darthag alive. That was the corpse Roon had seen in the other room. Kilian helped the woman to her feet and promised that they would save the villagers, then led her to the back entrance they had found. “Stay hidden here,” Kilian advised. “If someone comes through the tunnel, run outside. If there is anyone outside coming in, either hide in the stream, or press yourself behind these rocks. Stay hidden and stay quiet. We will come back for you, I promise.”
The woman nodded fearfully, and they left her, returning to the main cavern to try at another tunnel.
“Kilian,” Roon said, grabbing the human by the arm and pulling him behind the rest of the group as they walked. “This is a game.”
Kilian looked at him, confused.
“Don’t you see it? It’s a metaphor… you know, this is a gamble, but all the odds are against us, and we’re certain to lose.” Roon shook his head slowly. “We will not survive if we continue on this way, and I am much too young—and handsome—to die.”
Kilian shook his head as well. “We can’t leave the people of Nightstone behind.” He said it as a fact.
“Alright, friend,” Roon sighed, “I’ll trust you on this. Just—don’t get yourself killed. I can’t trust the rest of them won’t try.”
Kilian slapped a hand on his back and gave him a reassuring grin, and they continued on with the rest of their companions.
The next tunnel they tried was filled with bats, which Roon accidentally disturbed by kicking a rock. They came flying up in a frenzied swarm. Roon and his companions rushed out, fearful that the noise would draw the attentions of any other enemies in the area, then found another tunnel.
This tunnel had a short chasm through it, which they intellectualized would not have been used to herd the villagers. Firstly, Daphne would have remembered having to leap across something. Secondly, there were probably children and elderly people in the group of villagers as well. But, then they smelled smoke, so they leaped the narrow gorge and continued through the tunnel for another ten minutes before reaching yet another back entrance. There were trees, and they saw a large pile of orc bodies burning slowly. They walked forward to examine the tracks.
“Who do you think did this?” Roon asked aloud.
“Whoever did it, it must have been the reason why orcs fled to Nightstone. They were trying to escape this slaughter.” Thia said.
There was the sound of hooves from amongst the trees, drawing swiftly nearer. “Hide!” Kilian whispered, and everyone shot back into the tunnel, waiting.
A minute later, a group of horsemen approached.
“Elves!” Thia said quietly, then stepped out of the tunnel to speak with the lead rider. “Hello, fellow elves.”
“Who goes there?” The elf demanded. The speaker was a tall, regal-looking elf dressed in grays and browns and mounted atop a white mare. His nose seemed to be so well-used to pointing upwards that Roon didn’t doubt the elf spent most of his time checking it in the mirror to see that it was clean.
“I am Thia,” she said, dropping her hood and showing her distinctly pointed ears. “Tell me, what is your name?”
“Rond,” the man said discourteously, not budging from his seat in the saddle.
“What are you doing out here, Rond?” Thia asked kindly.
“This forest is our home,” he said lightly, “and we were clearing out the scum.”
Thia nodded, casting a glance back at the pile of orc corpses. “Yes, I see that. It was very well done, indeed.”
“You need to go,” the elf said, casting a scathing look at her. “You’re not welcome here.”
“Excuse me,” Thia said, her chest swelling, “but what’s that supposed to mean?”
“We recognize you from Nightstone. We fought the orcs there.”
“I am not from Nightstone,” she said, crossing her arms defensively. “We merely stumbled upon the town while chasing down some gia—”
“I said leave,” he interrupted her. His mare snorted and pawed the ground impatiently. “We don’t want the people of Nightstone anywhere near our forest. That’s why we killed the Lord of Nightstone.”
“Elvish pricks,” Kilian whispered under his breath to Roon and the others.
“As I said,” Thia said slowly, “I am not from Nightstone.”
“Leave,” the elf said, wrenching the reigns of his mare around, “before we kill you.” With that, he and his fellow elves kicked their horses and loped off.
“Well,” Thia huffed, “that was exasperating and useless.”
“Agreed,” Roon said. “I’ve never met elves quite as terrible as these ones.”
“The elves may not be our friends,” Kilian said, “but the people of Nightstone are. We need to keep looking.”
Again, they returned to the central cavern and selected another tunnel. Roon had given up on rolling the dice, since that led them to a near-death-experience the first time around.
“Perhaps we should cover ourselves in mud,” Evelyn suggested in her soft-spoken voice. “You know, to cover our scent.”
“I like that idea,” Roon agreed, “mostly because I love a good soak.”
Thia began delicately splashing the mud over her arms and face. Evelyn quickly dropped her blades on the ground and dipped into the mud, sinking under until even her hair was gone, then resurfacing and flecking mud from her eyes with a grin. Roon shrugged, dropping his pack and weapons, then climbed up on the ledge and jumped in, balling himself up and creating a huge splash that covered everyone.
They wandered for a while before they strolled into a room to find three goblins hiding in a corner and cowering. “Enough games. Enough tunnels. Enough of this blasted place,” Roon said, stomping up to the cowering goblins and grabbing the middle one by the collar. “What’s your problem?” He demanded.
The goblin whimpered in response.
“Why are you scared?”
The goblin looked to the others, but they said nothing. “We—we heard you killing the others,” it said, trembling.
“Right,” Roon nodded, and turned to see Evelyn standing with rapiers aflame and Kilian holding his crossbow aloft. Thia was drawing her blade and Opal was looking around them curiously.
“I would say, why don’t we solve this without violence, but who am I kidding?” Kilian said. “Tell us, where are the human prisoners?”
The goblin shook its head, whimpering. “Don’t know.”
Kilian studied its face for a moment, then sighed. “I think it’s telling the truth,” he said, lowering his crossbow.
“Alright,” Roon nodded. “I don’t like your face, get out of here.” He shoved the goblin away, and they all went skittering past. Evelyn casually flicked her blade as the last one ran past and cut of its head. Roon couldn’t blame her, to be honest, and he usually wasn’t one inclined to violence. They were getting nothing and nowhere in this maze.
“Great, so we still have no information,” Thia sighed. “Now what?”
“There’s only one tunnel left. Tunnel number seven,” Roon laughed to himself. “This is what I get for rolling a six-sided die in a seven-sided situation.”
The final room stretched from a long hallway into a room where large stalagmites created a wall separating two dissecting tunnels. On the ground lay two broken scimitars, the metal on them corroded.
“Left,” Kilian suggested, and they crept through and found a light up ahead.
“Another back door,” Roon said in surprise as the outside world came into view. “This seems like a difficult place to hold.”
“Let’s try the other passage,” Thia whispered, and they returned.
“I’m going to be pretty mad if the prisoners are in the very last place we looked,” Roon grumbled to himself.
“Let’s hope we do find them,” Kilian said, “or we have bigger problems to worry about.”
They crossed the stalagmites and took the other tunnel, which quickly opened up into a tall room with a shallow pool of water at the end and surrounded by green patches of moss with mushrooms growing everywhere. Roon immediately went to the pool and waded in, washing the itchy mud from his skin.
“They’re not here,” Kilian looked around in disappointment. “Did we miss something?”
“What if they moved them out of here already?” Thia wondered aloud. “Wait! I hear something. Everyone quiet.”
Roon slowly pushed out of the water to stand dripping at the shore. He strained his ears and, sure enough, there was a gross slurping sound echoing into the room from the tunnel. Roon drew up his shield. We’re trapped in here, he thought, searching the cavern walls for another escape.
The slurping sound grew louder, and Opal cried out and shot a dagger of ice into the darkness. They heard it hit something and explode, and there was a shriek.
A slithering black mass appeared from the tunnel, its shape undefined and constantly stretching and bulging as it moved. The moment it appeared, Thia shot a ray of frost, which it absorbed. Roon cast a sacred flame into the air, swirling it in the air and lobbing it at the monster. The flames hit, and the form bubbled and hissed.
“Use fire!” Thia shouted. “Not ice!”
Evelyn danced around the shape and started cutting at it with her flaming rapiers. When she pulled them from its gooey flesh, the metal was corroded.
“Everyone, step back!” Kilian yelled, and they did so as he summoned a massive ball of chaotic energy in his hands. He let it grow and grow until, with a sudden slam of noise, he threw out his hands and the ball shot forward.
It sunk deep into the creature, rumbling, then exploded. Black slime flew in all directions as half of the creature was immediately destroyed. The remaining half of the creature stretched up, shuddering, and shot out at Evelyn, who dove and rolled from the attack. Opal ran at it with her sword afire and cut a sizable chunk from its side.
Thia stayed back and shot arrows into the creature, and Roon continued to shoot blasts of sacred flames. The creature was barely hanging on when Evelyn ran at it again, jumping into the attack with both rapiers and slicing it in half again. The ooze creature fell in two halves and did not stir. It seemed it could only survive with so many pieces missing before it died.
“Well done!” Kilian praised Evelyn with a tired smile, wiping his brow.
“That was amazing, Kilian!” Roon said admiringly as he went poking around the mushrooms. He recognized them as poisonous mushrooms and picked a handful, wrapping them up and slipping them into his pack.
“Should we keep going?” Opal asked, sheathing her blade.
“Yes,” Kilian nodded. “Though I’m not sure where we have left to go.”
“We let some of those goblins go,” Evelyn said, pulling back her white blonde hair that was covered in dried mud. “We could find them and ask them again. They may have been lying before.”
Kilian nodded, and they carefully exited the cavern and made their way back to the main one. They returned to the first tunnel on the left and found the cowering goblins, along with a few they hadn’t seen before further into the room, hidden amongst piles of garbage.
Thia stepped in first, holding the tip of her dagger to a goblin’s throat. They all whimpered and looked terrified. “Tell us, truthfully this time. Where are the villagers of Nightstone?”
“I-In the prison!” The one she held at knife-point squeaked.
“Yes, but where is the prison?” The elf demanded. “Don’t play games with us, we’re not in the mood.”
“In the—the bat cave!” Another one said, huddling up to the one in Thia’s grasp.
Thia dropped the dagger and looked at Roon. “I thought you looked in there.”
“I did,” Roon insisted, pointing at the cuts on his face left by the swarm of bats that had come flying up at him. “You saw the bats yourselves. There was nothing in that room except a hole in the floor where all the bats were.”
“Perhaps we should jump into the hole?” Evelyn suggested, a small smile playing on her lips.
“That could be fun,” Roon nodded.
“Where is Boss Hark?” Kilian asked the goblins, towering over them.
“In his room—down the tunnel, on the left!” Another goblin offered.
“Ah, I think we might’ve killed him without realizing it,” Thia said, scratching her chest where she’d taken an arrow earlier.
“That was the big goblin,” Evelyn said.
“Oh, good. One less thing to worry about,” Roon said, then paused. “So, I think this is it. We’ve pretty much killed all the baddies.”
“Not quite,” Evelyn said sweetly, then drew her rapiers and with a single, swift movement, stabbed two of the goblins through the throats. Opal reacted quickly and shot another with a crossbow bolt through the eyes. With a frustrated wave of his hand, Roon shot his sacred flame, killing one instantly. The others screamed and cowered.
“Enough,” Kilian said, putting out his hands to his companions, then looked at the goblins and, in a severe voice said, “leave this place and never return.”
With that, the group of goblins scrambled for the exit and disappeared.
“We shouldn’t have killed them. They weren’t armed.” The sorcerer said sternly.
Roon nodded. “You’re right. I’m just—frustrated. We all are.”
“I hate goblins,” Opal said , suddenly serious. “They are abominations to nature.”
“Right, that too,” Roon said. “To the bat cave!”
With that, they returned for what seemed like the millionth time to the main cavern and slowly, quietly looked into the room where the bats were.
“Send some lights in,” Roon suggested in a whisper, and Kilian shot three globule lights into the darkness to hover. The bats remained unstirring in the hole in the centre of the room, unbothered by the dancing lights.
“What do we want to do?” Roon asked them all.
“I want to take a look in that hole,” Kilian said.
“So, we need to wake up those bats and get them out of the way.” Roon shook his hand and shot firecrackers into the air above the hole. They shot, spewed and crackled loudly.
The bats erupted into the air, squeaking and flapping their wings, creating a swirling tornado of blackness. The firecrackers dissipated but the bats continued to swirl around feverishly. Kilian shot a gust of wind to try and move them away, but it did very little.
“I’m going!” the sorcerer shouted, covering his head and running in, shooting one of his lights down into the hole.
With the light, Roon could see that there were ledges high along the walls and he noticed through the swirling mass of bats there were ladders crawling up each of them. How did he not notice that before?
Everyone but Roon ran for the centre of the room, and Roon pressed himself against the wall of the cave and shimmied his way to the first ledge. The bats were thick in the air and soon Roon disappeared behind them, the noise deafening. Then, he began to climb.
Roon crested the first ledge and came face to face with a wide eyed, grungy looking dwarf with thick, tousled red hair. “Oh, hello,” Roon said, looking up and around. His voice was mostly drowned out by the noise of the frenzied bats.
At least thirty villagers stared back at him looking utterly confounded. “Ah, are you all the people from Nightstone, then?” The dwarf nodded slowly. “Well great!” Roon smiled at them. “We’re here to rescue you!”
The villagers looked out at the swarming bats, which mostly avoided flying into the cubby with them, and looked back at the tiny gnome.
“Right, I’ll call my friends over.” Roon shot fireworks into the air to try and catch his companion’s attentions, hoping that they hadn’t all jumped into the bat hole. He couldn’t see them through all the wings and assumed they could not see him back. “I guess we’ll wait until these bats quiet down, then shimmy down as quietly as we can and get out of here.”
The bats took a few more minutes before realizing there was no immediate danger and settled down. Once the air had cleared up, Roon could see his companions back at the entrance to the room, slightly bloodied and looking around for him. He quietly waved both arms at them, drawing Thia’s attention. She pointed at him silently, and he gestured that he’d found the prisoners. Then, Roon turned to the villagers and whispered. “Alright, we’ve killed slime monsters, goblins and a couple of ogres. All that’s left are these bats. So, I’m going to ask all of you to climb down as quietly as you can. What’s your name?” Roon asked the dwarf, who seemed to be in charge.