Chapter 39

They climbed the stairs which seemed longer going up than down.  When they finally got to the next opening, they were not in the main hall but in a room some ways above it, possibly on the third floor.  It was hard to say with no windows to the outside in the stair well.  The four decided to exit the stairwell and look at the room now before them.  This was some sort of music room.  There were several stringed instruments mounted along one wall.  On a table were a variety of hand bells.  A piano sat off in a far corner adjacent to a door to the room.

They went over to the door and it went out into a hallway going off in two directions.  They took the way that headed toward what they assumed was the front of the stronghold.  There were a few rooms off of the hallway.  They peaked in them as they went by. The first one was an interior bedroom, for someone well positioned in society.  The second was an exterior room that was sleeping quarters for a large group of people, perhaps the guards.  It had no windows, so it was of no use to them.  They continued to a third door that opened up on a walkway that looked down on the great room below.  They ventured out on to the walkway to look for a place to possibly secure a rope and climb down.  Ba-shar was testing the strength of a railing when the room below lit up.

There were lit torches along the wall illuminating a clean room with goblins seated at tables underneath.  They were watching a woman enter from a door off to the side.

“Let me set the scene for you little goblins.  It was a cold winter’s eve and the Lady had finally returned to her brother.  She rapped on his door and he did not stir.  She called his name but there was no response.  Oh, if only she had a key to the door.”  She put on a very distressed look.

The four of them stayed put, unable to move.  Dhavak wanted to grab his crossbow, but clearly could not move it.  Martell tried to move and reach for her dagger to throw, but her body refused.  They heard the door they had entered the room from swing shut.

She then looked up right at them.  “O-ren, you decided to be nice and bring me my key.”  She smiled dramatically. The goblins howled in delight as if they understood all she said. “Thank you my hero.  I shall be united with my brother again and we shall sleep no more.”

Against his will, Oren started to reach into his pouch and pulled out the rod.  It was then he heard a voice call to him in his head, “We can break her control.  But only for one of you, let us know who.”  It was the spirits in the staff reaching out to him.  “Know that we demand blood in exchange for help.”

“Free Martell and you will feast on the goblins below.” Oren thought back to them.

“Very well,” They responded in a delighted tone.

Martell felt herself suddenly back in control of her body.  She found one of the daggers given to her by Oren’s mom had and sent it sailing down at the woman.  It left her hand a moment before Oren released the key flying in the air in the same direction. The woman grabbed at the key and dodged the throw of the dagger.   As soon as the dagger hit the ground, near her, her control over the other three broke.

The goblins, sensing something off, grabbed at their bows and took aim at the group.  Dhavak ran for the door but it would not budge.  Seeing him stuck there, Ba-Shar got a rope out and started preparing a way down for them.  With no real cover, he was not going to let himself die a pincushion.

Ba- Shar slid down the rope to be greeted by a rush of goblins. Once he cleared the bottom, Martell went down, followed by Oren.  Dhavak stayed up top and continued shooting at the goblins.

Oren did not recall much more after that, the fighting was a flurry of movement from his staff.  None of it was at his command. The movements flowed from him as natural as his breath, but it was not due to any skill or training he possessed. He recalled hearing shouts of pain as his staff cracked the bone of the goblins it came in contact with.  There was soreness in his arms he never recalled experiencing before.  His clothes were littered with an abundance of tears and rips.  He saw no blood anywhere on him, a feat he stopped trying to grapple with.

There were dead goblins strewn across the floor.  The sight made him queasy in the stomach.  He looked across the room to Martell who was wiping her swords off on some piece of cloth she had found.  Ba-shar stood stretching, looking at the accomplishment of them all surviving. Dhavak came down from his roost above.  He looked through his inventory and had about half his quiver left.

“She ran through the door over there,” Dhavak pointed.  “We should move quickly, maybe we can stop her before she wakes up her brother.  I got one hit on her before she left, so it might slow her down.

“May not, you saw how she had us frozen up there,” quipped Ba-shar.

“Alright, let’s go, but cautiously.  No idea who else she has waiting for us,” Martell spoke.  She went over and picked up the dagger she had thrown.  She handed it to Oren, “I think that used up the enchantment on it. But the blade is still sharp.”

“Should one of us go back to camp?  The doorway out is right over there.” said Oren.

“I say we continue on,” Ba-shar replied heading to the doorway to follow Lady Nattan.

“Agreed, they will come when we do not report back by dawn’s light,” stated Dhavak.

They went to the doorway and saw it led in a downward direction.  Looking along the ground, Oren spotted some blood, perhaps she was hit after all.  Following the hall, it went down a floor and split into three directions.  Trying to get a sense of what direction to take they looked for any traces of blood.  Lady Nattan must have known she was bleeding as there was a blood trail down all three hallways. Martell and Oren voted for the middle route.

The hallway continued downward into the mountain.  The group had relit their lanterns to see down where they were headed.  Oren paused as he heard from behind them the sound of a shriek.  It reminded him of the wyvern, but was very distant.  He whispered his concern to his companions.  The other three acknowledged that they heard it as well.  It did not bode well for their friends back at camp if there was another one stirring.  However, this was not the time for them to run back to assist.

The hallway opened up to another chamber.  Oren and Martell agreed there was a certain familiarity to the chamber, they saw one of the doors open and the group made their way over to it. They had traversed half the room before they heard some of the doors open.  There was the sound of arrows firing, and Oren immediately moved to shield himself.  When the darkness faded he saw a familiar face charging the group.  Out of the corner of his eye he also saw Ba-shar reeling on the ground as an arrow had pierced into his knee.

Oren took a defensive pose near Ba- Shar while Martell charged to meet Lord Katsutaka in combat.  There were at least four other men with them from Oren’s count. There may have been one more as he saw Dhavak lay down his crossbow and draw a sword.

Martell met two of the assailants, within one strike the first was down on the ground.  The second one hit Martell on the upper left arm, catching her slightly off guard, as she had been more focused on the other attacker.  Oren, meanwhile, waited for one of the men to come over to fight him.  His goal was to keep them away from Ba-shar while he focused on the arrow sticking out of his knee.   Dhavak went to confront Katsutaka.

Oren ultimately found him fending off two of the guards. He found defense to be working far better at this moment as each time he pressed an assault on one of the attackers the other tried to flank him.  Ba-shar had not yet been rendered useless.  He helped parry attacks from his prone position.  Martell had finished off her second assailant and moved to help Oren.  Meanwhile, Dhavak was finding himself well matched against Katsutaka.  The two were doing a good job of tiring one another out, but aside from that, neither was landing a blow squarely on the other.

With Martell’s assistance, Oren was able to break the assault of his attackers.  At about this time Ba-shar removed the arrow out of his knee.

Dhavak finally got the upper hand with Katsutaka and with a final blow that found its way past his armor, cut his neck.  Katsutaka fell over limp.  Dhavak came over to the others to check on Ba-Shar.

“Dhavak, will you stay here with him?”  Oren asked.  “I do not think he would be much use further down here and I would hate to leave him here alone”

“Yes, I would offer to go back to camp if I hadn’t heard the shriek on our way down here.  No telling what is outside currently.  Help us get him to one of these side rooms.  At least he won’t be out in the open then.”

“You do know I am right here,” Ba-shar spoke up.  “Just give me one of the bows, some arrows and my sword.  I can fend off the goblins for hours.  Just need someone to help bandage and splint the leg and I am good.”

“No, you are not,” replied Martell.  “You have no idea if they used poison. The goblins may also bring a wyvern down here and if they do you are not going to be able to fight that. No, the two of you will be a rear guard for us.  At the very least, you can put up a better fight when we are ready to leave and Oren and I are fatigued from what is to come.”

The four bickered a bit longer, but ultimately it was agreed the two would wait here while Oren and Martell went on.

Oren looked to Martell and smiled at her as they proceeded though the door leading to a set of stairs down to where they hoped Lady Nattan and Tariq were.

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