Kelda Oxgutter

Jethrik walks over to the big stupid paladin “Hey Toshio. You like those old stories, eh? I found an old scroll in the harpy’s tower. I forget what it was called, but it was one you were looking for back in town. It appeared to be in good condition.”

“Really?” replies Toshio, brightening. “That’s great! But we’ll have to wait until we clear the place to go get it. Thank you, Jethrik,” he says with a smile, “that’s really good news.”

“Yeah, sorta” Jethrik shrugs. “But I’m not sure you can get them. I mean we have this understanding between the harpy and ourselves. We helped her kill her boyfriend, and she’s supposed to leave us alone. So far she’s abided by her side of the agreement. Unless she breaks her word, I don’t see how you can get those scrolls without breaking yours.”

“She might be willing to bargain.”

“You can bargain with a creature like that? Well, we’d best join the others.”

“Well, I think our prior deal with her is over, so there’s no obligation on either side… But you’re right – we should join the others.”

Zeyala shows no further interest in the room. As she exits, she takes one last look at Toro’s remains and says, “Your soul has been released from this realm to stand in judgment before the Reaper. Hopefully your actions in life will overshadow what you’ve done in undeath, for your sake.”

​As they leave Toshio muses, “Did you notice the helmet the guardsman in the artwork was wearing?” Indicating the helmet he now wears he continues, “I bet that was this helmet I wonder what happened to turn him from defender of the castle into that undead thing.”

Jethrik replies, “I guess we will know more as we go further into the ruins, but perhaps that priest in the red robes is powerful enough to animate a corpse. That’s not something I like to consider, since we have yet to find him. We may have another terrible battle on our hands.”

The search of the rest of the second floor of the keep goes by without any further incident. The next door over to the right of the storeroom opens into a narrow passageway that twists around until it ends at another door opening back into the feasting hall. Two doors on the north of that passageway open onto room that were probably once servant’s quarters. The first is a cramped chamber containing several bunk beds leaning precariously against the walls. Jharad spots a loose brick in the eastern wall behind which is a cleverly hidden niche containing several pieces of silverware that might be of some value.

“So one of the servants were stealing silverware!” Jethrik gasps. “Ameiko will be furious when she finds out! Probably have them put out on the streets!”

The door to the next room is stuck, just like the door to the storeroom. “What is wrong with this place, does nothing work properly,” snarls Keng? He plants his back foot firmly on the ground and kicks at the door with the flat of his foot just next to the handle (because everyone who knows anything about kicking in doors knows not to use your shoulder) beginning a series of ever increasingly fierce blows until on the third kick the door flies off its hinges broken into kindling. “Whatever is in here, surrender now or prepare to die.” He turns to Toshio and says, “All yours Mr. Dragon-Helm.”

Once Jethrik throws in the pebble, Toshio and the others can see in its light that it is another room for servants. In this one filaments of white, fibrous mold grow all along the walls and across the bunk beds, giving the room a foul, musty stink. Here and there, thicker mounds of fungus grow in nauseating colors. No magic or evil is detected in the room.

“I’m not fond of this mold or stench,” says Zeyala. “I think we should leave it alone.”

Keng nods vigorously.

Jethrik waves the stink from his nose “I vote for leaving it alone.”

Toshio says, “I think this one is best left alone, or at least until we clear out the more active denizens. This wreaks of illness.”

“Jethrik,” asks Jharad, “Can you use that sift spell to sort out from a distance what may be in this room?”

“Oh, right” Jethrik makes a box of his fingers and peers with one eye through the hole. He pans swiftly from side of the room to the other. He does not find anything of value or interest other than the fact that beneath the mounds of fungus on the beds are the bones of the previous inhabitants.

Moving along they check out the door in the feasting hall between the two doors leading to the servant’s quarters. This door opens into a small chamber that was a washroom and lavatory for the castle’s upper floor. It is unusually clean, indicating that the dire corbies that lived in the castle for decades didn’t bother to use it.

After that they enter the donjon through the unlocked double doors on the north side of the feasting hall. The layout is similar to that of the floor below, though the two side rooms on this floor were armories (now empty) and not offices. Judging from the bloodstains and gouges marring the walls, a terrific battle once took place in this guardroom. Nothing else of interest is found other than a secret door leading into an alcove by a stairwell. In that alcove is another secret door opening onto the battlements.

Jharad says, “The only thing left above ground should be Zaiobe’s roost and the library below it on this floor. Lets just see if she is there. My guess is that she has taken over as the queen bird of this castle and has retreated below with her new minions.”

“Good idea,” says Toshio. “And if the Tayagama is not actually part of her nest, well, that would be convenient.”

Back in the tower they find that the corpses of the dire corbies are still where they fell from the fight the day before. Seeing nothing else but furniture and scattered papers Jethrik sneaks up the staircase to the top floor of the tower after casting detect magic. He hears nothing and as he comes to the top of the stairwell and peeks in finds that Zaiobe’s nest is indeed deserted. Otherwise, all is as it was the day before. Jethrik casts sift and checks out the nest. After that he scarfs up the box of scrolls of the Tayagama and sneaks out again.

Jethrik offers Toshio the scrolls “Stolen scrolls, get ‘em while they’re hot! And I want to read them after you!”

Toshio accepts the box eagerly. Smiling, he says, “Thank you, Jethrik! I can hardly wait ’til there is a chance to read these.”

“Lets descend the stairs back in the donjon. I suspect they expect us to come down from the other, but we should nonetheless proceed with caution. If they abandoned the upper levels like this they surely are planning a welcome party for us below,” says Jharad.

Jharad decides that they should take the stairs in the donjon down into the dungeon below the castle. Keng leads, with Toshio behind him to light the way with the earring Jethrik pinned to his chest. Next is Jharad, Zeyala, and then Jethrik. The stairs end at a narrow tunnel that winds around to the southwest and ends in an iron portcullis. Unlike the gatehouse, this portcullis is not at all rusty. Looking around for traps, Jharad notices two 5-inch circular depressions in the walls to the left and right of the portcullis, faintly inscribed with an image of the sun to the left and the moon to the right. They both radiate a faint transmutation magic, just like the seal found in Kikonu’s leather pouch. Jethrik, with the trained memory of a bard, recalls the things Ameiko had been saying in her possessed state:

Beware the birds that wish to fly but cannot.

Beware the cuckolded cuckoo – it is in his shattered silent love you should seek aid.

One treasure beyond two seals in the third vault…

One key you now have. The other lies in the grip of the ten-handed one – his fear is your greatest ally.

Jethrik takes out the disk Spivey brought them. “This looks like it would fit one of those depressions. I guess the other is with the ten-handed-one of the prophecy. We’ve got to find that guy and get the other disk. Ameiko’s prophecy about the treasure says it is behind two seals. That must be this place.”

Jharad ponders the puzzle before them and what Jethrik says. “Yes, this certainly does seem to be the gate to the vault we seek.”

“We need another disk,” says Toshio, even though he knows it’s stating the obvious. “The ‘ten-handed-one’ must be in the lower levels. Let’s go back and descend by the other route. We’ll come back here when we get the other disk.”

“Good plan. Let’s go,” says Keng.

The stairs from what was probably a briefing room next to the throne room takes them down what may have been a mess hall for the troops. Long benches in various states of disrepair and several battered and filthy wooden tables stand between the stone pillars of this large 50’ by 20’ room. The air stinks of troglodytes. Toshio is unable to see all of the room, but Keng and Jharad are both able to see that even in the darkest corners there are no hidden foes. Neither is any evil or magic detected, and there is nothing of any value or interest in the room. A single door is in the southeast wall across from them, and on the northeast wall is a set of double doors.

“By the clock,” asks Keng?

Jharad points to the double doors and says quietly, “Lets spread out then open that door. Keng and Toshio on either side, Zeya and I will stay back a ways. Jethrik, do your door thing but check them for traps first if you can. I will help with that then get back into position.”

Keng nods and takes the right side of the door.

The next room is irregularly shaped but runs roughly east to west with stone pillars supporting the ceiling over a large kitchen – although the fire pits, tables, and pantries look like they haven’t been used in decades. Thick layers of dust cover everything in the room. It does appear that there has been some traffic between the double doors to a door on the north wall and to a set of double doors on the south wall. There are also single doors on the west wall, the east wall, and another on the south wall.

After a cursory look in the irregularly shaped room to the north Jharad quietly says, “I know we didn’t wanted to do this in an anti-clockwise manner, but I do not like leaving something unknown at our backs. Let’s check the other door in that first room.”

Behind that door they find a short and narrow hallway that runs 6’ or so to the southeast and opens into another narrow hallway running east to west for only 25’. At the western end on the south wall is a door and at the eastern end the hallway turns south and after another 5’ ends at another door. Behind the western door they find room 10’ wide by 15’ deep that was probably an armory though now all the armor stands, weapon racks, and shelves are empty. The door on the eastern side opens into a hexagonal room with a 15’ high ceiling supported by four stone pillars. The middle of the room sags in a bowl-like depression, leaving a five-foot-wide ring of level ground around the room’s perimeter. Remnants of a low wooden railing mark the edge of the depression, but most of the fence has collapsed. A large chair sits in the corner of the room next to a table heaped with doubtful-looking cuts of rancid meat. The meat may only be a few days old. All throughout this area is the stink of the troglodytes.

“Didn’t you guys already kill the troglodytes in the forest fire… I mean, big battle?” Jethrik hides a mischievous grin.

Keng snarls a grin and snorts.

Jharad almost looks disappointed. “Well,” he says quietly, “smells like troglodytes, but none to be seen. Very curious. Let us return to the northern room and its north door.” Jharad expects a trap so he abandons the clockwise search procedure for a more logical assessment of the situation. As the north door that looks to be more heavily traffic, he decides to check that first.

Beyond the north door is a narrow and very short corridor that immediately turns to the left (west) and ends at another door. Beyond that door they see a tangle of stalactites and stalagmites filling a low-ceilinged cavern, with only a five-foot-wide path running along the southern wall being clear of obstruction. With his darkvision, Keng can see that the cavern is only about 20’ wide at its widest point and only 35’ deep. Jharad sees that at the west end is another secret door concealed as part of the rock face. This secret door is turns out to be locked tight and nothing will budge it. The skeleton key that unlocked the door upstairs also will not fit into it. With their keen senses Jharad and Jethrik both smell the tang of sea salt in addition to the stench of the troglodytes, which isn’t as thick in this cavern as back in the other rooms. This leads them to suspect that this is probably the entrance to an escape tunnel down to a beach below the cliff on which the castle perches, but for now it is inaccessible to them.

Keng also sniffs around the door jam and says, “I smell the ocean.  This must lead to the sea.”

“It may very well, but we can’t open it.” Jethrik observes. “Let’s check out the ones we can open and come back if we need to.”

Jharad responds, “Agreed, as much as I would like to have this as another escape route there is nothing we can do about it. Let us return to the pillared room we came from, then proceed to the double doors on the south wall. Same as we have done so far if you will.”

The double doors open into a 30’ diameter domed room wherein lies a pond of dark water in the center surrounded by four stone pillars. Another set of double doors is on the east side of the room. Other than that the room is empty. It was most likely the water supply for the troglodytes.

The single door just west of the cistern opens onto a stairwell leading up to the throne room.

Jharad goes back and points silently to the eastern set of doors in the cistern. Toshio and Keng get ready at the sides as Jharad and Zeyala take cover behind one of the pillars closest to the doors. Jethrik opens the door, ready to jump aside if anything threatening should appear.

As Jethrik opens the double doors the first thing he notices is the ogre noticing him. The ogre is sitting cross-legged on a filthy nest-like bed in the middle of the room, heaped around a central stone pillar. He seems to be gnawing on the remnants of what must have been a horse sized giant centipede. The ogre starts to get up saying to Jethrik, “You’re not allowed in here, ‘cept if you’re here for to be going in a cage. You want in a cage?” He reaches for an uprooted sapling whose roots are still caked with numerous layers of gravel and tar.

Ignoring the ogre’s inane question, Toshio charges, hoping to get inside the sapling’s arc and then slip around it to flank it with Keng.

As Toshio charges Jharad quickly enhances his bow with magical power and lets fly an arrow into the ogre, hitting it in the chest and drawing first blood, though the injury doesn’t appear to have been mortal.

The ogre swings at Toshio but the latter ducks and only a few roots clang off his helm. Inside the ogre’s guard Toshio slashes it belly with Whispering Shrike leaving an ugly wound.

Since ogres are large creatures, Jethrik casts grease under the ogre’s feet not worried that it will affect his friends.

Keng gives Jethrik a sidelong glance and says, “If I start slipping again you little shite, I am going to crack your nut sack! Ease up with that spell.”

The ogre slips and falls as soon as Jethrik finishes casting.

Jethrik turns to Keng and sticks out his tongue.

Zeyala reaches over and casts guidance on Keng.

Keng moves forward carefully to attack the fallen ogre, unfortunately he still slips on the edge of Jethrik’s grease spell and it throws off his swing causing him to miss the fallen ogre. He bellows, “You little shite bag!”

“I swear. Are we trying to hurt or help these fiends?” sighs Zeyala.

The ogre manages to get back to its feet while successfully using its sapling to ward off Toshio and Keng. He smashes Toshio with the sapling, sending the paladin reeling back.

Jharad looses another arrow at it that hits but the ogre doesn’t seem to have been hurt. Doubtless between the hides it is wearing and its own thick skin the arrow was barely felt.

Toshio slips around the ogre to get it between Keng and himself but he is unable to cut through the ogre’s hides but he keeps at it.

Jethrik casts grease on the ogre’s club. “Hang on tight!” The ogre immediately loses his grip on his club and it flies away into the darkness behind him. This, of course, enrages the ogre to no end.

Zeyala, retreating back to the pillar, calls upon Pharasma and warm healing light embraces her and her comrades healing them of their injuries, though Toshio still feels a little soreness from the ogre’s blow and Keng still feels somewhat drained from his earlier battle with the wight.

Keng, now flanking the ogre with Toshio, roars and hacks through the hides and thick ogre flesh to spill a copious amount of its blood onto the paving. The ogre looks shocked. It says, “What you do that for? Why!? Why?!” It reaches out to grab Keng with hands big enough to crush his skull. Toshio tries to cut it, but again his blow the hides thwart his blow. Keng swings as well but the ogre sidesteps the blow and grabs Keng’s wrist and jerks him close enough to almost be overwhelmed by its foul breath as it screams in his face. Then its eyes roll up into its head, its lets go of Keng and falls down hard – with one of Jharad’s arrows in its neck.

Keng screams down at the fallen ogre, “Your breath don’t smell so sweet now!” Then he turns to the elf, “Again?! You get the kill shot again?!

Jharad smiles brightly at the half-orc, “Your welcome. Oh and mind the grease there.”

“Not funny,” snarls Keng. Turning to the gnome, “Do not use that fracking spell in close combat again!”

Jethrik looks back at Keng and mutters a long string of words in Gnomish as the air around him turns blue and sulfurous.

Toshio puts the ogre out of its misery. “Keng may be over-reacting” he says, looking at Jharad. “However, I appreciate the help. Only… could you bring that kinda help a little earlier next time?”

Laughing, Jharad responds, “Sure thing Toshio.”

Keng and Toshio, and soon enough the others, now see that past the 10’ by 10’ foyer the room is 20’ long running north to south, and 20’ wide from east to west. There are three cells of iron bars in the room – one to the north and two to the south. A very sullen blond woman occupies the north cell. She is very tall and muscular and even in her ragged shift it is apparent from the pride in her eyes and the dignity in her bearing that she is probably an Ulfen shield-maiden from the Lands of the Linnorn Kings. When the ogre fell she stood up and took hold of the bars. She says nothing but only glowers defiantly at the party, as if daring them to say something spiteful about her circumstances. In the cage in the southwest corner of the room is a suite of scale mail, a heavy steel shield, four javelins, a longsword, clothes, and a belt pouch. There is also a door on the north wall to the west of the cage.

Jharad makes his smile fade as he notices the woman in the cage. “Why hello there. Would you care to be released now?”

“That would be decent of you,” she replies.

“Let’s find the key to these cages,” continues Jharad. He walks back over to the ogre and picks up its pouch, which looks to have been made out of a cow’s stomach. Inside is a collection of shiny river rocks, a few dead turtles that look like they have been munched on, the key to the cells, 77 gold pieces, a filthy masterwork dagger (for pimple care), and a rock that radiates an aura of moderate power of the conjuration variety. After a few moments he discerns that this rock is actually an elemental gem that if crushed, smashed, or broken will summon forth a large earth elemental that will do the bidding of the person who broke it.

Keng goes over to the cage in the southeast corner to look over the armor and other equipment there, but it is out of reach and the cage is locked. It is clear that they were made to fit the woman in the north cage.

Zeyala’s first instinct is to heal her companions. “Is anyone still injured?” she asks.

Toshio replies “I am injured. That sapling gave me a heavy blow. Any healing would be appreciated.”

Zeyala places her hand on Toshio and a rush of healing energy clears up all but the light bruises.

Together Zeyala and Toshio walk over to the woman in the cage. Zeyala asks her if she is injured Even as she asks Zeyala can see that the woman does indeed have numerous deep bruises, gashes, bite marks and even burns on her body.

The woman answers, “I am well-enough.”

Zeyala follow up with another question, “And how did you end up in there?”

“That is something I would rather forget than recount.”

Jharad mutters, “Parvo Dolis,” and with a whisk of his hand cleans the ogre snot and other sundry muck from the pouch and its contents. Then, save the key, he returns the items to the pouch and drops it into his pack. He then walks over to the woman’s cage to unlock it.

Keng walks over with Jharad and openly appraises the Ulfen Warrior.

Jethrik notices Jharad and Keng ogling the unfortunate prisoner. “Freakishly tall isn’t she?” which is his opinion of almost all humans, elves, half elves.

Toshio asks, “So, to whom do you owe allegiance? Not the creatures of this castle, eh?”

“Certainly not,” says the taciturn young woman.

“I am Toshio Izawa, servant of Iomedae and protector of the Kaijitsu family. What is your name?”

“I am Kelda Oxgutter. Perhaps you saw my longship out in the harbor. Unfortunately I am all that is left of the crew that came here from the Thanelands.” The Thanelands, as Toshio and the others know, are the heartland of the Lands of the Linnorn Kings.

Zeyala also introduces herself and adds, “I can tend to your injuries once we get you out of there, if you like.”

“How about we open this up while our paladin interrogates you,” Jharad says with a look of ‘you are being rude’ towards Toshio.

“Cautious. Just cautious. Remember that shape changer in the swamp?” Toshio tries to detect any evil in the strange woman.

Keng takes a step back from the woman and says, “Jharad, we know nothing about her nor if she is as she claims.”

As Toshio scrutinizes her Kelda looks him over and then notices the icon of Iomedae that he wears. She sneers, “Oh, you are a paladin of one of those soft southern deities. Are you looking into my soul paladin?” She steps away from the bars and then tears off her shift in disgust, revealing a body that is muscular but well-toned and proportioned though so injured by bites, bruises, and burns that it is a wonder she can stand at all. She casts her gaze upon the humans, half-orc, elf, and gnome who are all standing outside the cage staring at her. “There! You might as well see all of me. Do you like what you see? Do I meet with your approval – paladin?” This last she spits out.

Toshio, does not, however, discern any evil in her. This only means that she is not a cleric of an evil deity, nor an anti-paladin, nor undead or a fiend. If she is evil, it is that of a mortal not so steeped in it that Toshio can pick it up, or there might be some magic hiding it from him, but neither Jethrik nor Jharad pick up any magical auras on or near her person.

Jharad pauses briefly to look over her nakedness and smiles with a blatant nod of appreciation. ​”You have an impressive form Kelda,” he says with a smile as he opens her cage. “I have to say that I enjoy your lack of modesty. Are you as you claim?”

“I can only be who I am, and I have told you who I am.” She picks up her shift and puts it back on before walking out of the cage.

Keng says, “Nice to look at but has a sharp tongue.”  Looking at Jharad he adds, “Maybe you can tame her,” he snorts.

“Contempt for your liberators, accidental though we may be? Though, I’m sure you don’t share similar sentiments towards Pharasma,” says Zeyala.

“I have no contempt except towards the contemptuous,” she says with a pointed look at Keng. “I will not be ogled like a slave in a market place nor do I recall being asked if anyone could look into the state of my soul. As for Pharasma, she is the goddess of birth and death for all that live and die. She is not soft. She does what needs to be done.”

“Why don’t you give her back her armor, but hold back the weapons until she swears not to turn them against us.” Jethrik suggests. Turning to the young lady he says, “I hope you find that honorable and sensible, Kelda.”

“Yes, that would be ‘honorable and sensible’ little one,” Kelda responds

Toshio takes the key from Jharad, retrieves her gear, hands it to her, and asks, “What will you do now?

“I will return to my homeland. I am through with this place.” Gingerly she begins putting her armor back on. Clearly she is still in pain and her scale mail weighs heavily on her wounds.

Jharad ​removes a potion of cure light wounds from his pouch and hands it to Kelda. “This should ease some of those cuts and bruises.”

She looks Jharad in the eye, as though trying to ferret out his ulterior motives, but finally she takes the potion and consumes it. “You have my thanks.” She hands him back the empty vial as she no longer has any use for it. Unfortunately the potion only lightened her wounds slightly.

Keng loses interest in the warrior maiden, she had after all been conquered so in his mind is not of much use outside of the bed and clearly she is too sharp for that. He says, “Let us continue and leave her to her journey home.”

Toshio asks Kelda, “Would you accept healing from a ‘soft’ goddess? If so I can help you a bit more.”

Kelda considers this for a moment, but finally pragmatism apparently winning out over reticence. “Yes, I will accept your healing.”

Toshio puts his hands upon her shoulders and sends healing power into the shield-maiden. This seems to heal the worst of her burns and bruises. She still looks worn out but is no longer in as much pain.

“Would you consider accompanying us?” Toshio asks. “We could use a good warrior and you might get the chance to punish some of those that captured you.”

“Uh, that’s kinda sudden.” Jethrik comments to Toshio. “We only just decided to give her armor back. I’m not sure we are all ready to let her know why we are here. I mean, there’s more at stake than our welfare alone. I’m not sayin’ I’m opposed but give us all a chance to accept this.”

“You’re right, Jethrik. What do the rest of you think?”

Jethrik says to Kelda, “Forgive us for discussing this in front of you, I mean no disrespect. Freeing you is the right thing to do and I am glad to have done it.” Jethrik bows “However, we need to discuss how much to tell you of what we hope to do here and what we can let you see. We may ask you to wait for us here.”

“I understand,” Kelda says to Jethrik. “You all have freed me, probably saved my life, healed me, and returned to me my gear, even after I insulted you and your goddess.” She bows her head and then looks up again. “I apologize to you Toshio – and to the rest of you. You have my gratitude and I cannot blame you for your suspicions. I only wish to return to my homeland, but I will accompany you and lend the strength of my arm in whatever cause you are pursuing if you will have me. If in time you can accompany me back to Kalsgard I will also see that you are properly rewarded for your kindness. Alas, my longship was destroyed in a fight with a sea drake, so it will be a long walk. I will wait here while you decide what you wish to do.”

They all step back into the room with the pool.

Keng says, “If she can fight and be trusted she is always welcome.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to have another sword,” says Zeyala. “At least until we’re finished here.”

“I agree. Anyone can see she would be of help. That is not an issue. I am worried about who sent us here and how many people should know or who should know. If the majority feels this is not an issue, I will assent.” Jethrik bows his head.

Toshio says, “I’m not used to keeping secrets, but you make a good point. Does she really need to know of our mission? She may be better off leaving on her own than coming with us, ‘though I suspect she’ll take offense at the suggestion. I don’t feel strongly either way. Should we suggest she wait for us at camp? We could tell her what to say so Shalelu doesn’t shoot her, and we could send her with a note of introduction.”

“Sending her off on her own is dangerous to her. She could wait here while we explore further.”

While the others are discussing what to do, Jharad looks around the room with the cells as the conversation continues, making sure nothing is coming up from behind them from any of the various doors. ”So Kelda, do you know anything more about the inhabitants down here? Have any gone through that door?” he says as he points to the door.

She shakes her head in the negative. I was captured three days ago I think. It’s hard to tell time down here. The only creatures I have seen other than… anyway the ogre and a tengu named Kikonu are the only creatures I have seen since being imprisoned. Many of my crew were killed by the sea drake, but those of us who survived decided to search the castle for salvage. We knew of a secret tunnel and went in that way. There was something in the caverns beneath this castle… something hideous. I am not sure what it was, I only remember a darkness that even our torches couldn’t penetrate and then being burned, grabbed by many arms or perhaps tentacles, bitten… I heard my men screaming until only my own screams were left. Then I blacked out and awoke here.”

Jharad responds with a frown, “That sounds horrible. I am sorry for your men. You may find comfort though that Kikonu is dead. In fact the castle is almost all cleared above us, except for a pool in an internal courtyard.”

“I am glad to hear it,” Kelda says.

“So what would you like to do?” Jharad continues. “Wait for us either above or down here, or come with us? My guess is that our path takes us back into that darkness you speak of. But I feel quite certain that we will defeat whatever we find there.”

“You are certainly confident. You did take out the ogre, but this is so much worse than any ogre, maybe even worse than a troll. I will help you though, even if it means my doom.”

At that point, Jethrik and the others walk back in. Jethrik says, “So what have you been discussing? May I jump in to ask what our new friend knows of the ruins and their history? It might make our decisions much easier.”

Kelda repeats to them what she just told Jethrik. After her recounting of her tale he says, “How can I argue with such honor. Lady, I am sure secrets are safer with you than with me.” Jethrik bows.

“Then she joins us,” says Jharad cheerfully.

Adopting a slight tone of command he continues, “Okay, I want Keng on point. Toshio and Kelda will be next as our front line shield wall. Myself then Zeya as support with Jethrik floating as rear guard support and door opener. Let’s try and be more careful with our area affect spells, calling them out as we cast them. Keng, do what you do but try not to get yourself separated. Although you are certainly the most powerful of us all, we are stronger as a team.

“Now when we engage I want Keng to move around to either side or behind the enemy then Toshio and Kelda to flank from the front. Try and leave enough space between you for me to fire arrows and not hit you. Should anybody need assistance cry ‘Zeya’ and it will come. Obviously this will not always work but it is our goal. Adjust as you need to. Any questions?”

Keng gives Jharad a blank look thinking, ’Of course, what else would I do?’ Then he adds in Orcish, “Potoa se zadrži.” [“Then keep up”]

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