After a short rest to get their breaths back the four adventurers and the automaton started moving again. It didn’t take long for the tunnel to start looping to the right. When they noticed it had turned almost all the way back around again, they were able to smell burning skittering creepers.
“Great, it loops.” Julian sighed with annoyance. “I think we’re going to have a welcoming party.”
“Don’t worry, friends, you have me now. I won’t let you die on my watch.” Enress saluted by clanging her fist on her chest.
Burner smiled slightly. “Yes, I know. You and Julian saved our hides back there. Thanks again, Enress.”
Enress shook her head. “No thanks required. We have shown we will help each other. I trust you, and I hope that goes both ways.”
With a nod Burner moved out of the tunnel and looked around. “Stay sharp. There’s some skittering creepers out here.”
Gaemacirch lumbered forward in his ferret shape and motioned with his snout at Enress. “Hey, take my sword. Consider it yours until we find you your own weapon.” Enress took it and nodded in thanks. Gaemacirch jumped into a group of creepers, distracting them for long enough for Enress to attack them and she took quite a few out. After a few scrapes the five came through just fine.
“Okay, Enress, do you know where we need to go to get deeper into Dark Under and seal the darkness?” Julian leaned against a wall, a little winded.
With a sigh Enress nodded. “I was afraid that was why you were here.” She sat down with a thud. “Yes, but only if you make me a better face, Julian.”
“Fine.” Julian motioned back towards the tunnel they had just come back through. “Let’s go.”
Burner, Dreekt, and Gaemacirch looked at each other and shrugged.
“So, should we come with, or…?” Burner asked.
“No, we’ll only be a few minutes.” Julian waved as he went into the entrance of the tunnel that they had gone in first. “The metal’s pretty close to this end of the tunnel.”
– – –
“Magnus, sir, more news from the realm.” A man in a beautifully crafted grey tunic handed a parchment to another, slightly taller man with short blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and a golden tan wearing a deep blue robe.
“Thank you, Jersun, I’ll just take a look at that.” Magnus took the parchment from his manservant. “I wonder what lies they’ve been spreading about me.”
“Well, sir, they’ve done something worse. I think maybe you should sit down before I tell you.”
Shrugging, Magnus sat down on a cushioned stool. “Well, tell me.”
“It’s about your wife, sir.” Jersun paused for a moment. “They’ve kidnapped her.”
“What?!” Magnus Overton stood at his full six-foot, two inches. “Where have they taken her?”
A popping noise resounded through the halls as a woman with orange skin appeared next to Magnus’ table. “That’s a good question, Magnus. I’ll tell you where they have her, but only if you make a deal with me.”
Magnus looked aghast. “Adalet! The Sorceress told me you were missing!”
“The Vengeance is never gone for long.” Adalet smiled broadly. “If I tell you where they have her you hire a certain group to save her. You don’t go yourself.”
“This will be binding? If so, I will get the appropriate components.” Jersun motioned towards a door out of the small dining hall.”
A small, insincere smile came to Magnus’ lips. “I believe she does intend that. Grab the components.”
“Very well, sir.” Jersun turned and walked out of the hall.
“Another thing. Next time you marry the offspring of the gods? Make sure not to lose her.”
Magnus’ eyes grew wide. “Surely The Warrior and The Vicious are not out for my blood. Their daughter can hold her own against fifty armed men.”
The Vengeance shook her head. “Not when she’s been drugged, she can’t.”
Jersun entered the room with an odd collection of spell components. “Here you are sir,” he turned and nodded at Magnus, “goddess,” he nodded at The Vengeance.
“Thankyou, Jersun. You may take the rest of the night off, if you wish.” Magnus took the components from him.
“I believe you will need a friend, sir, don’t you?”
“Yes, yes. I believe I shall. Please, stay.”
Magnus and The Vengeance mixed a thick brew out of the spell components and soaked a rag in them. They then tied the rag around their right hands, which were in a clasp.
“I will tell you where your wife is, and in return you will hire the one group I specify to find her, and no one else, including yourself, will go to find her for at least a year.” The Vengeance looked at Magnus in the eyes. “Are these terms agreed upon?”
“Yes, they are.” Magnus kept his eyes locked on The Vengeance’s eyes until the spell was complete. “Well, where and whom?”
– – –
While Julian and Enress were away Burner and Gaemacirch sat down on some rocks while Dreekt did some circuits around the cavern. The gaseous tendrils were still floating about, but they seemed disinterested in him.
About ten minutes went by and Burner started to get concerned. “Hey, Gaem, do you think you can go check on them? I don’t really know what they’re doing, and I feel the need to stick together.” She glanced over in Dreekt’s direction. “After that spider run-in I think Dreekt was right. No small groups.”
“Agreed.” Gaemacirch slinked off.
Dreekt noticed Gaemacirch leaving and swiftly returned to Burner. “What’s up?”
“I sent Gaem to check on Julian and Enress. I’m getting a bad feeling.”
“Oh, good idea.” Dreekt leaned against the wall and looked out over the quiet, still stinking, cavern. “I’m going to meditate for a little bit. You may need to shake me out of it when we move on.”
Burner’s glowing eyes stared into Dreekt’s avian eyes. “Don’t use the stone, not in here.”
“No, no. I’m meditating on my powers. With any luck I’ll be better with them afterward.”
“Good.” Burner took a position to watch the cavern and the tunnel entrance.
Ok, spirit. We have some time. How do we do this knowledge thing?
Like this, Dreekt. Also, now that we aren’t in any danger, my name is Kwase.
Nice to meet you, Kwase.
So, Kwase began, in order to use your powers more effectively you need only commune with me. You may do that like this for a short boost in abilities, or in a dream state where I can train you more directly. I think a dream state is not the best at this time.
Agreed. Dreekt set his bag on the ground and folded up into lotus position on the uneven ground.
Kwase laughed lightly. I don’t believe that does anything, but not a bad idea. Now, grab some paper and a quill. You will be doing arcane formulae today.
Great, more school. Dreekt pulled the aforementioned materials from his pack and grabbed a stone tablet for a writing surface.
You forget, I know you slacked during basic math. This will be much, much harder.
– – –
Gaemacirch rounded a corner in the tunnel and saw Julian literally molding the metal of Enress’ face. Gaemacirch slowly backed away and curled up on the ground. “Hey, guys! Burner sent me to keep watch. I’ll just be over here, not watching.
“Prevest!” Julian yelled. “Wait, I can fix it. Gaemacirch just startled me.”
“No, I like it.” Enress said with satisfaction in her voice.
A few seconds passed, Gaemacirch assumed Julian was assessing whatever happened.
“Well,” Julian said with genuine agreement, “it does look ferocious…and a little attractive.”
Enress chuckled lightly, the sound was that of small bells. “Yes, I agree. Let’s go rejoin the group.” Enress came around the corner and Gaemacirch got a good look at her new face. It looked like Julian was going for a small nose and subtle features, and when Gaemacirch had startled him he had brushed along her face from the bottom left to the top right. It made lines that looked like war paint. Gaemacirch had to admit to himself that it was indeed attractive.
“That looks very nice. A great improvement, of course, but also a work of art.” Gaemacirch bowed his ferret head. “My compliments to model and artisan.”
“So, myself twice?” Enress asked, amusement in her voice.
Julian punched her lightly on the metallic shoulder. “And me once, for the current state of your face.”
“Right, right.” She turned and hugged Julian. “Thank you so much!”
Gaemacirch stood up from his curled position and motioned his head towards the mouth of the cave. “Let’s go…and I saw what you were doing. That’s an interesting magic you have there.”
“It runs in the family…kinda.” Julian looked mildly embarrassed. “I really wasn’t supposed to show anyone, but now I guess the creeper’s out of the trap.”
With a hearty chuckle Gaemacirch turned to head back to Dreekt and Burner. “I never noticed how stupid that zarx saying was until you said it.”