The Realms: A World Apart

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Chapter Seven, Part Two

The sixteen men who pushed the party and Evenliir into the volcano rejoin Creole and the rest of the male villagers in the clearing halfway down. The men expect to be met with cheers and smiles, but instead, they return to eerie silence and stern gazes.

Swordmaster Creole saunters up to within arm’s reach of the first of the sixteen to return and asks, “Tell me, where are the valuables the band had with them?”

“In the volcano; you said – “

The man never finishes his sentence. Creole pulls the man’s own sword and kills him with it in two blindingly fast slashes.

“All right, people, you’ll get your killing and raping today after all! Tear them apart,” Creole shouts, pointing at the remaining fifteen.

. . . .

He has no idea how long he has been ‘asleep.’ What is clear is he is very, very hot!

Orjulun opens his eyes and immediately closes them. The pain! He rubs both eyes until they are less irritated, then slowly opens them a crack. Squinting into the darkness, he checks his surroundings. One of Percy’s legs is lying on top of him. This is confusing to him since he distinctly remembers Percy falling in before him. He cannot see beyond his own body. A small, but firm hand pushes on his chest, startling him.

“We’ve got another one up,” Red says, removing her hand. “Still waiting for Percy. It seems he took quite a fall.”

Through the black smoke, everyone feels around for one another as they sip from the one waterskin they located.

The rest of the party explains to Orjulun what he missed. They all landed on a shelf inside the volcano fifteen feet down from where they were pushed. The updrafts slowed their descent, so no one was hurt much, except Percy, apparently. SeLiem believes the shelf was constructed long ago as a place for monsters of some sort to scavenge virgins tossed in as sacrifices. The walls have deep carvings on them which are of the same type he saw on the outside of the volcano near the gong. After she untied everyone, Red had walked off and located an empty lava tube close by but heard some sort of beasts approaching from the other end. She located other passages further away and suggests they should leave now before the monsters reach them. There is no sign of Evenliir. It is assumed she must have bounced off them and into the lava far below.

Before more discussion can be had, Red says, “Percy stirs, let’s go.”

SeLiem throws his hands up to the heavens and gives thanks to Kubri. That he would be smiled upon and spared this day is something he considers to be a great honor. “Glory be,” he says to the others, “I am very glad to see everyone is still alive through this ordeal. I believed we would all die. I should not have lost faith that my god would see us through.”

Melias rubs his aching shoulder, rotating his left arm as he does so. He hears something popping inside when he does this. “Yes, thank him for me while you’re at it,” he tells SeLiem. “And thank you, Red, for untying us. You are quite the little escape artist to wiggle out of those bindings.” As they walk toward the tunnels, he keeps feeling around for his sister. “You’re certain you didn’t see my sister anywhere? I wouldn’t mind if you broke the news to me that you saw her fall into the lava. If you didn’t, then I won’t be surprised so much if she found a way to escape the clutches of death and plans another surprise for us in the future. She’s a crafty one.”

“Melias, I personally want to kill your sister. Never have I met an Elf with intentions of pure evil. I know we’d all like revenge on Metava, too, but right now we are in no condition to take on a whole village again.” Arturus says.

He nods to Arturus and says simply, “Stand in line, my friend.”

Rastorn coughs out phlegm and spits it into the glowing pool of lava far below. “Oh, they will get theirs.” His words are raspier than normal. “Their village will burn and one day I will have all their corpses as my walking dead army.”

“Thank you, my dear Red. You are a beautiful woman for your vigilance. May the light of many gems sparkle in your crown in the afterlife,” Orjulun says to the Dwarf in her own language.

“My eyes were useless from smoke and such. She could have run off. It took me a bit to get out of the ropes. It was a good thing that dope was weak-minded, and he went and untied me. All I had to do was ask,” Red says with a chuckle, adding, “Must be my womanly charms.”

Percy pats his back, searching for his two-handed sword.

Red tells him one of the men with Creole had picked it up and kept it, as they carefully ascend the narrow ledge connecting the entry shelf and the tunnels. She takes the lead as they travel through the circular tunnel she explains was likely formed by a prior eruption, stopping only to cast healing spells on Arturus.

Once through the tunnel, they enter a cavern filled with pools of glowing lava and lit by stray flames. Melias taps Arturus and points at Red. She is bruised and swollen from the beating she took. Both men raise an eyebrow as she strides cheerfully over the rough terrain.

SeLiem speeds up to walk beside Red and says, “Once again, you amaze me, Red. Though you are battered and beaten, you turn your healing to the others first before yourself. That is a very honorable thing to do. But how about you? Shall I tend to your injuries as well?”

Melias drops back to his familiar spot, in the back of the group, even pausing for Percy to pass. He is concerned his wicked sister Evenliir follows behind them and will aim a lightning bolt at them or some such thing. He keeps glancing behind them as they head through the next lava vent, hoping Red knows where they were going. He pauses to gauge the situation for himself. Is it getting hotter? Is the smell of sulfur getting thicker in the air as they continue forth? It is unnerving enough to walk through the belly of this lava-belching giant, but he has no idea if they are heading out – or further into – the volcano.

Red waves SeLiem off and focuses on the terrain. The lava tube split in two directions. She places her ear on various spots of the cave and feels the warm walls with her bare hands. Two minutes later, she turns to face the group and shrugs. “Deeper may get us out, or not. It depends on whether the lava carved its way out. Sometimes, it will cool before it gets out and flow back and block the way. Any suggestions?” When no direction is given, she shrugs again and says, “My guess would be left, but . . . “

SeLiem used this time to cast more healing spells on himself and the rest of the party, but when Red announced her uncertainty on which direction to travel he says. “I may be able to be of some help here.” He looks down both paths and nods. “I’ll need a little time and some quiet, please.”

He sits down cross-legged before the fork and holds his hand up in one direction, calling aloud for divine inspiration.

“Damn – you’ve got some tricks up your sleeves you haven’t shared with us. Nice,” Rastorn says as he pats SeLiem’s shoulder.

Once the Augury is completed, words form in SeLiem’s mind.

Know there’s one choice, two choice, three choice,

Matters not, when one has wrong voice,

Marching down, the only way out,

Either way a dangerous route,

A vote will tell what must be done,

Or, if left or right, do not run.

Before he might forget them, he recites the words back to those around him.

Red, who hadn’t even looked at SeLiem since his prayer on the ledge, finally speaks to him. “Well, that sounds like a bunch of donkey shit.” She turns to face the others and asks, “Which way men . . . and Elves?”

Percy shakes his head, then places his hand to his forehead and grimaces in pain.

“Well, it seems both Red and SeLiem say to go down in order to get out, so that’s the way then,” Orjulun says. “Does anyone have any kind of protection from fire or heat spells, in case the heat gets to be too much for someone?” He still hurts from the fall, feeling the soreness in his joints and muscles, but he is determined to not be the one to hold the party back.

“As for which tunnel to take . . . if there’s still a debate about that either flip a coin or do what I always do. When faced with a decision like this I always say, ‘Left is always right.’ Then I go down the right side because usually only certain death awaits down the left side and it seems fate likes to put me in those situations,” Arturus says.

Melias blinks hard as he listens to Arturus ramble. He chuckles, then says, “When it comes between the flip of a coin and words from a god, I think I’ll heed what SeLiem says. Down is out. Left goes down. So, let’s walk, not run, to our nearest exit.”

“What’s with the ‘one has wrong voice’ gobbly-goop?” Red asks SeLiem directly, “Can’t your deity talk plainly?” Without waiting for an answer, she turns to Orjulun and says, “Listen, bub, I am not sure which way to go, but SeLiem here says to vote. If I am reading ye right, the Elves are split, aye and Percy don’t care and you don’t give a damn unless we head up, right?” She looks around a second, then continues, “That isn’t much of a proper vote, especially since ye can’t really know which way goes more down this early on.  How about we vote properly?” She clears her throat and orders, “All ye in favor of going left say ‘I’.”

She and Melias say, “I.” 

Percy, clearly bored, waves his hand.

Red leads them down the left route.

Melias notices Percy has been slowed considerably since the fall and seems almost frail in his movements. He watches as Percy moves to the middle of the party, apparently doubting his ability to react quickly if in the front.

Red, stays in the lead, telling the group she can detect a cave-in before it happens and pointing out those behind her can fire arrows over her head if needed.

The tunnel is pitch black. The walls and floors of the oval-shaped passage are black and very rough, with slightly sharp bits of cooled rock-hard lava jutting out several inches or more in random spots, every step or two. The group moves quickly, except Rastorn and Orjulun, who seem to be stubbing their toes and tripping every few steps. Hearing Rastorn swearing under his breath, Red suggests SeLiem pull out his light rock and let the Humans use it.

Rastorn fumbles with his Wand of Fire, not attempting to use it, but rather to learn it. He is bewildered he couldn’t just figure it out, considering his god-like intellect. When he grows bored with that, he taps Percy on the shoulder, whispering, “My good man, what seems to be your ill? You have not said a word and you seem distant at this moment. Can I be of some assistance?”

Percy looks at Rastorn and shakes his head. Then he places his fingers to his temples again, apparently regretting moving his head so quickly.

SeLiem isn’t sure which way to go either, so he quietly follows along. The part of the Augury that mentioned the ‘wrong voice’ bothers him. Only Red had spoken up. He wonders whether her voice was the ‘wrong voice.’ “The metaphysical nature of an Augury spell, my dear Red, is never straight forward. The answer comes in visions, or in riddles… and requires a clear mind to sort through. I’m sorry if my god has spoken over your head. No pun intended.” He bows slightly and looks to the others to see how they cast their votes.

Melias shrugs, not caring. He looks at Percy, then cocks his head to the side. “Hey Percy,” he says, “would you like to use my sword? It’s not nearly as impressive as yours was, but it’s better than nothing. I can stick with my bow.” 

Percy unsheathes his own long sword, which – like Arturus’ – glows slightly in the dark. He makes several very quick fencing-style flourishes with it, then sheathes it again. He starts to speak, but his voice cracks and goes from deep to shrill before he can intone a complete syllable. He holds his throat, clears it, and shakes his head again.

While this exchange is taking place, Arturus looks down both tunnels and shrugs. “I don’t care, either. Let’s just hope one way leads out of here and not to certain death.”

The party continues down the tunnel, which Red claims slants downward, although no one else can tell. It is much cooler in this section but pitch black with little change for a long while. 

After what seems like a mile, the air quality changes slightly – for the worse – and, almost imperceptibly, it gets gradually warmer. When they reach larger pools of lava, they must cover their eyes to guard against the heat. The lava flow splits three ways at this point. Two sections flow downward creating the pools and possibly continuing to burn straight down, while a smaller portion of the flow continues much the same path as before. Red explains that after creating the lava tube straight ahead, the smaller portion likely continued out of the side of the mountain, as the tunnel cooled in its wake. Where the three parts split, a bridge of sorts was created – a ten-foot-wide and 100 yards long stretch with lava swirling and bubbling to either side. Even the sure-footed Red says she will be extra cautious crossing this bridge.

Melias pauses the group a moment in the light of the lava and calls SeLiem to Percy. “Is he alright? He seems to be getting worse since the fight. I wonder if he might have been poisoned.” He asks Percy, “Is this because of some dependency you’ve developed with that weapon of yours?” 

Percy shrugs and coughs. Pushing back his headband, he looks into SeLiem’s eyes. SeLiem looks back at him and says he looks tired, but not sick. They are interrupted when the ground shakes and rumbles. It stops abruptly.

“He looks fine,” Red says, “Let’s get going. This bridge isn’t going to collapse, but it could burn away if there’s an eruption.”

“Horse-shit!” Rastorn’s words are hissed in anger at the sight of what they are about to face. “Crossing a stone bridge over a river of molten rock. This is exactly how I had planned to spend my day.” Looking up at Percy, he asks, “I’m pretty light, can I tie off to you? Just in case?”

Arturus looks at everyone and says, “No time to dawdle. We can worry about illnesses and other matters after we get across.” He gets a running start and sprints across the bridge.

Percy ties a rope around his waist and hands the other end to Rastorn, just as Arturus bolts across. 

Arturus makes it without incident and stands waiting at the entrance to the next section of tunnel.

Red cheers Arturus and begins walking across herself, followed by SeLiem, Percy, and Rastorn.

Orjulun and Melias wait to go last.

Out of the lava, two huge fiery humanoids with reptilian-looking tails jump out at the group from either side. Brandishing spears, they wrap their tails around Percy and squeeze him. SeLiem dodges one spear, while Rastorn ducks another. Percy steadies himself. Each monster pulls a different direction, so neither wins.

Arturus draws his magical longsword and runs to Percy’s left side slashing the arm of the creature on that side.

Melias jumps back from the attack and draws his bow to start firing at the fiery creatures, deciding there is no reason to get close enough to risk severe burns if he can help it. He aims at the one to Percy’s right.

“These must be Salamanders! I thought they were mythical beasts,” SeLiem says as he steps off the bridge to pray. He holds up his hand and with great concentration shouts “Bless us!” A small glowing yellow-whitish aura appears in the palm of his hand. Then it spreads rapidly through him and his companions. He smiles as he remembers this was the first spell he ever learned.

For a moment, Red stares at the Salamanders. She is astonished they can survive within the molten lava. They look like Human men with fiery beards, but their lower half shows them clearly to be monstrous in nature. It is with these snake-like tails that they constrict Percy and yank him side to side. He has become like a tug-of-war rope for the two competing Salamanders, while the rope tied around him keeps jerking Rastorn off-balance along with him.

Percy screams the shrill scream of someone both surprised and in agony and slams his magical long sword down on the monster to his left. 

A moment later, Arturus does the same and the Salamander cries out in anger and pain.

Melias lets fly two arrows, aiming at the lower, still partly submerged, half of the Salamander. One arrow hits the super-hot lava and vaporizes. The other is a direct hit but proves ineffective.

Red strikes the same one as Melias. It hisses when struck and spews sparks from its mouth as it recoils in pain.

Orjulun casts Magic Missile and splits it sending two into the creature on Percy’s left side and one into the creature on the right side.

Cursing, Rastorn draws a dagger and cuts the rope.

The Salamander on the left turns and attacks Arturus. It spears him then wraps its tail around him and constricts. Arturus has his arms free, but he is barely able to move his lower half. Beyond the injuries he sustained from the Salamander’s spear and tail, he is also seared by the creature’s heat. Worst of all, he may soon be pulled into the lava.

The other one jumps into the lava and tries to pull Percy in with it.

Melias is near Percy, and after shouldering his bow, he leaps and grasps onto Percy’s legs. He doesn’t have any weapons useful for fighting monsters immune to non-magical weapons, but he decides he can at least try to keep his party from being incinerated. “Someone grab Arturus; don’t let him fall in!” he exclaims.

Red dives toward Arturus and grabs hold of his ankles, just as he tumbles over. She holds as tight as she can and tries to pull him away from the lava, just as Melias is doing with Percy.

With an extremely angry look on his face, Percy tosses his blade in the air and catches it with a reverse grip, then stabs at the creature’s face. He strikes a glancing blow and under his breath calls the Salamander a ‘Feleti-hii,’ the Elf term for one who copulates with his own mother.

Rastorn Magic Missiles that Salamander.

A small glowing blue hammer appears in SeLiem’s hand as he completes an incantation. He knows this weapon can hurt the Salamanders – if he can hit them.

Arturus stabs at the tail holding him.

“The things I do for friends,” Melias blurts, as he rolls to the left to dodge the Salamander’s spear. “Stab that bastard again,” he tells Percy, still holding tight to the man’s feet and pulling back toward the center of the bridge.

All three of Orjulun’s Magic Missiles strike the Salamander holding Arturus. It releases him and quickly slides back below the lava. It is not dead but clearly injured. Seeing this, the other one lets go of Percy and escapes.

“Let’s get out of here, before they return with friends,” Red shouts, then runs for the continuation of the tunnel. 

Percy wastes no time following her.

Once their jog through the tunnel slows to a walk, Red asks Percy if he needs any aid, adding that she is out of healing spells, but could look at his burns. He waves her off, apparently not as badly hurt as she thought.

The next section of the tunnel is short, but much wider, with large sections of the floor covered with rocks that had collapsed from the ceiling. Beyond that, the cave stops, and the tunnel left by lava continues in a much steeper downward angle, not quite straight down, but close. The tunnel is more of a chute, but the lava left a spiral pattern, as if from a giant corkscrew.

As he catches up to them, SeLiem pants, then tells Arturus, “You know, maybe I should speak louder when my god says to me ‘left or right, do not run!’” He scowls, then says, “That was much too close for comfort. You know that bridge was obviously very old if it didn’t get destroyed by the lava before, why would it now?” He looks down the next section of tunnel and says, “This looks dangerous.”

“Do you think we should tie each other up again, Rastorn?” Melias says with a mischievous grin.

Rastorn smiles weakly and mutters, “Smart-ass Elf,” under his breath.

Red looks down the hole and ponders it for a moment, then says, “This is it, boys. We have to go down.” and begins climbing down the outer rim.

The hole is basically a rounded tunnel going almost straight down. The lava had created a swirling lip going down like a corkscrew that the party can use as a downward circling ramp.

Percy follows Red down. He is extremely agile for a man of his size and has no trouble climbing. Reassured by the ease at which Percy is climbing down the spiral ledge Rastorn goes next.  Soon, the whole party is cautiously descending the hole.

Once Melias is twenty feet from the top, he hears a sound above him. Looking up, he sees the two Salamanders rolling a large rock to the edge of the downward tunnel. They balance it on the edge, preparing to push it down onto the party. It will have catastrophic effects on the party since it will likely strike each of them as it falls and bounces down on them and past them. He shouts a warning to the others, knowing there is little any of them can do.

Before any of them can react, two glowing arrows come from the direction of the lava bridge and strike both of the Salamanders! One of them turns instantly into pink smoke and fades away. The other, unable to support the rock without assistance, loses its balance, flips over the rock, and falls straight down the hole with the rock on top of it! The rock and the Salamander fall clear of the sides of the tunnel and don’t even graze the party clinging to the walls of the pit. Further down, the rock smashes the creature into pink smoke then continues down. 

The party escaped a normally inescapable trap – but who had saved them? They all look up, waiting to see who will appear at the top of the hole.

“Holy smokes – pink smoke at that. I don’t know if we should bother thanking whoever just did that or start running for the exit,” Melias confesses to the others.

The party is randomly spaced throughout the hole, on all sides and varying depths. Melias is closest to the top and Red, with Percy almost directly across from her, is closest to the bottom. 

The bottom, however, is not visible. 

Red isn’t sure how much further the tunnel travels, but she expects it to be quite a drop, based on the distant sound of the Salamander’s rock hitting the bottom. Climbing down looks to be easy though, since the large ripples in the walls below her are well-spaced and wide enough to walk on. She looks back up toward the top of the hole just as light appears there.

Peering down from the top of the pit is a torch-carrying Percy Mudd. 

He looks down and smiles at Melias, who is one of the few he can see clearly, and waves. The heavy chains on his wrists swing around as he does so, and he deftly avoids the red-hot ends of them where they had apparently been melted apart with lava. His ankles are still chained, but they had also been burned with lava to cut the chain in half so he could more easily walk.

His long sword is missing but other than that he looks exactly the same as the other Percy Mudd – who is looking up at him in shock.

“I pushed you into the volcano! You could not have lived!” the Percy near the bottom of the tunnel screams in a sweet sing-song voice that no-where-near matches his hulking body.

“There was another ledge further down,” the Percy at the top says in a confused tone and cadence. He cannot see where the voice is coming from, but he certainly didn’t expect the enemy to be traveling with his friends!

The other Percy jumps out into the middle of the tunnel and drops like the rock. As he falls, he exclaims, “I will never forgive you for the indignity of saving my life, brother! We will meet again!”

“Uh, what’s going on?” the Percy at the top asks, as he begins climbing down the hole. “Has anyone seen my long sword?”

Melias leans back against the wall as his head swoons. That was my sister? I had better stop underestimating her. “Greetings, Percy. I’m sorry we left you behind,” he says.

Arturus, searching for his next handhold, says, “I feel like an unobservant fool. We had the enemy right beside us, even saved the bitch from the Salamander. Damn, I wish I still hated Percy, then I would’ve just let that fire-lizard take him . . . her.”

The party continues down the hole. Five minutes later Red alerts them they are almost to the bottom. “Dwarf ears aren’t as good as Elves’, but nothing’s making much noise down there,” she whispers up to the group. She lets go of the last bit of ledge and drops down to the floor. She sees the Salamander’s rock and not much else at the bottom. The area looks like a dried-out pond made of rock. Obviously, the lava pooled here, burned a little deeper, then cooled. The floor is still slightly hot. Light shines from what she believes to be the west and she assumes that is the way out. It is out of view since she is in a lower area.

One by one the others drop into the new section, with nothing happening until Melias enters the area. When he does, a Magic Mouth appears on the wall behind him, saying, “I thought I should reward you with a welcoming party, dear brother. You are expendable too, Rastorn. You shouldn’t have stayed loyal to these fools!”

Two Gelatinous Cubes ooze down the sides of the upper area and into the indented area where the party is gathered. 

Arturus looks at Melias and says, “Your sister again. Either I’m beginning to like her or I’m going kill her.” He charges the monsters.

Melias frowns as draws his bow and takes aim. “I can’t say I’m surprised about this, at least. Do arrows work on creatures like this one?” He wonders why he even bothers attacking anymore. His items seem all quite harmless against the things they have been facing the last few days. “We can probably outrun these things, what say we head West and out of here, hopefully?”  

Arturus keeps running and slashes at the closest cube with his sword. The monster’s near transparency causes him to misjudge where it is, and he spins around and winds up with his elbow in the creature. He pulls his elbow out quickly before anything happens.

Percy shoots two arrows at a different cube, but both bounce off its rubbery hide and as it sloshes forward the arrows are enveloped by the creature.

“Ye may be able to outrun them, Elf, but my legs – though shapely – are only so long,” Red shouts, as the other Gelatinous Cube corners her.

“Unless my weak eyes are deceiving me, there are three of them,” Rastorn tells Orjulun as the two of them slip between two of the cubes and scramble to higher ground. The third is nearly invisible but slides slowly down the wall near where they entered the area. “Fire kills Gelatinous Cubes, I believe,” he says, pointing the wand at that one. “Dammit, here – you can borrow the wand and see if you can get it to work. I can’t see how, but I must have said the command words wrong!”

Red shoots at the cube with a sling bullet, but it also bounces off.

Arturus, Percy, and Red will soon be completely surrounded by the Gelatinous Cubes and unable to escape.

Melias has also reached the higher level. He asks, “Does anyone have oil?”

No one does.

Arturus starts whistling a happy tune as he attacks.

Orjulun says the first set of words written on the side of the wand. Nothing happens. He says the second phrase and a small fan of flames projects from the end of the wand. He recognizes this as Burning Hands spell. He says the third words and the Burning Hands continues, but nothing else happens.

Rastorn nearly toppled over he is so excited. He quickly shouts to Orjulun, “That’s it Orjulun – the first words initiate the wand and the next ones are the effects! I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out! Forget about the Burning Hands, you’d have to get too close for that to have any effect. Say the first words and the fourth words in succession and I’m guessing you’ll get a Fireball spell. The monsters are ten feet high, if you aim high, you should be able to catch two of them without burning the party! I’ll Magic Missile the other one right now.” He releases three missiles at the cube furthest from him. It shrinks and slows, but still moves.

“I’d been saving this for just such an occasion,” Rastorn says as he hands a potion bottle to SeLiem. “This will heal Arturus, SeLiem. You’ll need to get it to him somehow as soon as you can. Otherwise, I fear we may see the fool die before our eyes.”

The Gelatinous Cubes have surrounded Red, Percy, and Arturus and are closing in. There are small alleyways between each of the cubes, but those are too narrow for any of them to fit through.

“Don’t let them touch ye,” Red warns, “they paralyze their prey then envelope it for an acid bath. That’s how they eat ye.”

SeLiem runs forward and throws the potion over the monsters. “Arturus catch! Drink this!”

Arturus is attacking the Gelatinous Cubes and unable to catch the potion, but Percy, who only has a bow to use, is able to catch it for him. He removes the wax seal and pours the contents down Arturus’ throat.  

The Gelatinous Cubes move in, each attacking a different party member, but each one is unable to score a hit on the dodging threesome. As the cubes press closer to the wall, they will have the group completely enveloped.

Arturus and Red strike at the monsters but can’t cause any visible damage. Percy helps guide the others back, so they don’t touch the cubes in error. The only light they have is the glowing stone SeLiem holds, so even he is not sure exactly how much space they have left, but they all realize that it is running out and they will soon be smothered by the monsters. They are back to back and almost unable to move when the Fireball spell explodes over their heads. A twenty-foot sphere of fire lights the cavern and all three Gelatinous Cubes shudder and collapse into large puddles. Percy and Arturus duck down over Red as the goo that was the cubes splashes all around them. Before the acid can do any harm, the goo all disappears, magically transported back to whatever place from which Evenliir’s spell had summoned the Gelatinous Cubes.

After a short celebration, the party walks out of the indention and into the tunnel proper.

It is a standard lava tube tunnel, with light at the end. The light source is out of sight, due to the slight downward slant of the tunnel.

Red marches down the tunnel. Looking back, she says, “Come on, fellas, we’re almost out!”

Moments later she runs back, waving her battle-ax in the air. “Stirges! Lots of them! Get ready, boys!”

Just over her shoulder, they see a cloud of bat-like forms flying after her.

As the last party member steps into the lava tube, a large section of the ceiling gives way behind them and crashes down where they had just gathered.

“Great, now we have to deal with cave-ins. I’m very much looking forward to leaving this wretched mountain,” Rastorn growls as he readied a spell.

To be continued in Chapter Seven, Part Three next week!

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