Chapter 40

The stairway down was well lit.  The walls were hewed out of the mountain itself, with an unusual smoothness to them.  Whoever had cleaned them out had not left much in the way of tool markings.  When they got to the bottom of the stairs, they found Lady Nattan.  She stood with around ten people working to clear a path to a doorway that had been blocked by a cave-in.   The ceiling had a hole in it going up a ways.  This had probably at one point been as pristine as the place Nattan had been preserved.

“Work faster,” She hissed.  “I got the key; you were supposed to have cleared this out for me already.”

“My Lady, It keeps caving in.  Without proper supports our progress means nothing.”  One of the workers shouted back.

“I do not care; they will be here soon and we need my brother to fight them.”

“Too late,” said one of the men.  He put down his shovel and ran to his sword.  The others, taking the hint, ran to get their weapons as well.  Lady Nattan turned to them, fury showing in her face.  If they didn’t know better, they would have claimed flames were erupting from her eyes.

“O-ren, did you come to greet your new queen?  And I see your lackey survived as well.”  She reached into her pouch and drew out a sphere, hurling it at Oren and Martell. She muttered a phrase he had not heard her say before, the ball erupted in flame and came right at them.

Oren reacted by putting the staff out in defense, his hope that it would work as well as it had in the dream encounter.   The fireball lessened in intensity, but then it still went past his staff.  Oren felt the heat sear against his skin; he felt like he had just received a sun burn across his skin.  He also heard a voice in his head, “I told you we need practice, the real ones are stronger than what we have dealt with before.”  Oren felt frozen in place, as his legs would not respond to what he commanded.  Martell, thankfully, looked unharmed by it all and was heading over to face their opponents.

She stepped in to fight with her two swords drawn.  She cut down the first two attackers without more than a thought.  The next two wizened up and waited till a group of four of them could press the attack.  The din of the swords echoed through the room.  Oren felt helpless as he could only watch right this moment.  Lady Nattan walked over to him and was inches from him.

“Let us watch your servant fight, my O-ren.  She is so masterful with her technique. I wish I could have at least one ally with her sword skills.”  Lady Nattan paused, as if she expected Oren to speak. “Oh, you are right, I could step in and help them, but you have my attention right now.  I know about your abilities with spirit control and it could easily undermine my authority here.  That is why I am keeping you and your staff out of the fight.”

She paused again as if he was expected to say something, “Really, I should be a little more useful to them.”  She tossed another sphere, this time at Martell.  This time her words charged the sphere with electricity. Martell jumped to evade the sphere, but the metal of her armor still received a shock.  She fell to the ground.

Lady Nattan stood there with her hand outstretched from throwing the sphere, smiling like someone that had just won the bout.  An arrow flew across the room piercing her hand.  Lady Nattan looked over to see Dhavak rushing over to her, sword drawn back ready to strike.  Ba-shar was clumsily trying to re-tension the crossbow for another shot.

Martell lay there feeling helpless.  She tried to figure out what just happened while a sword rose above her in hopes to strike a killing blow.  Everything went black.

Oren had gotten the break he needed, Nattan could not maintain the hold on him and the spirits in the staff while dealing with the bleeding hand.  Seeing Martell in a dire situation, he shielded her while maintaining his stillness.  His hope was to not tip Nattan off too quickly.  He then stealthily moved the base of his staff by her feet and then pushed her over using the staff to disrupt her balance.  With her on the ground, he brought the staff around and up and then down onto the top of her head.

The four workers not quite engaged in fighting were confused by the sudden change in events and yielded.  Meanwhile the other three tried to attack Martell, who had after being able to see again, rolled a bit away from them.  She was now with Dhavak at her side.  They were able to make quick work of their opponents.

“Thanks, Dhavak,” Martell finally said as temper’s cooled.

“Not a problem,” he replied.  “Oren, is she dead?”

“No, she is unconscious.  May wish she was dead after the priests get a hold of her. Ba-Shar, you got an eye on the rest of them?”

“Yeah Oren.  But what should we do with them?”

“Well, let’s have them carry her out of here,” said Oren as he reached down and pulled the key off her body. “Best keep this out of her reach too.”

Lady Nattan stirred slightly and saw Oren grasping the key from her hand.  “Amar…” she whispered before passing out.

They heard a rumble and the ground started quaking.  The pile of rubble started to shift.  The four workers panicked and rushed to the exit. Ba-shar let an arrow fly when he thought they were rushing him.  One of the men took it in the arm and seemed indifferent, running past him up the stairs.

Martell and Dhavak jumped back as they realized the pile of rock was moving.  Oren assumed that the door was opening beneath the rubble. He hit down on Lady Nattan’s back in frustration.  The three spread out preparing to take on Tariq.  They had no idea what he was capable of or what his reaction would be to his sister laying beaten on the ground.

“Thank you,” said a voice emanating from the clearing rock pile.  “Lady Nattan you have done well releasing me.  Unfortunately, your brother died during the wars for the kingdom.”  A dust cloud obscured the view of whoever it was walking out from behind the chamber.  “Oren is it?  You were quite helpful too in waking me up….” there was some incomprehensible chanting.

Ba-shar had heard enough. He let a bolt fly at whoever it was coming out.  The shadowy figure flinched as it was hit, but the chanting continued.  Ba-shar dropped the crossbow at the sound he heard next.  It was claws rapping on stone.  Lots of them and they were headed down the stairwell.

“We have something coming down the stairs,” Ba-shar commented as he reached to pick the bow back up.

“No, need to worry yourself,” the voice said.  “Just my pets coming down to greet their master. But you have the option to either being a treat for them or assisting me in my endeavors.”

A quiet filled the room as the four exchanged glances. Each with the reluctant acceptance the fighting was not over.  Ba-shar reached to reload the crossbow while moving himself out of the doorway. He was clearly trying to figure a way out of his predicament. Dhavak looked to Martell and they rushed to assault the man in the shadows.

Oren stood; sensing spirits in the room retreating from the individual he now assumed was Casapan.  They feared him, at least the lesser ones did.  He was fixated on trying to grapple with the why of it.  In his distracted state, he almost missed the figure materializing behind him.  Oren shielded himself from a blow from a mace Casapan was wielding.  When he turned to face him he had already retreated across the room.

The speed he moved caused Ba-shar to miss the shot.  He saw the man appear out of nowhere swing something at Oren and then was gone in a flash.  Nothing had ever moved with such speed in the battlefield.  He reloaded preparing for the wyverns approaching.  At least those he knew he could harm.

Oren called to Dhavak and Martell.  The two of them had still been looking for the adversary in the rubble.

“Your choice has been noted.  Though, your besting of poor Lady Nattan was a good indicator.”  Casapan mocked.  He then threw something at Dhavak while muttering a few words.  Unfortunately for Dhavak, it caught him off guard; the object hit him in the left arm shattering and as it did so; it encased most of his arm in stone.

Dhavak shrieked in pain as the stone crushed in on his arm.  It took all his mental strength to focus past the pain and charge at Casapan.  For the first time he was hit.  Dhavak chopped with his blade into Casapan’s shoulder.  Casapan dropped the mace he was wielding, but otherwise did not react.

It was now that the first wyvern poked its head in the room.  It saw Ba-shar and made a beeline for him.  Ba-Shar held the crossbow steady, aiming till he felt he could hold no longer.  Firing the bolt flew, straight into the wyvern’s eye.  The beast cried an unearthly screech; it made the room feel as if it was shaking.  All five of them were slightly disorientated by the sound as it reverberated in their ears.

Out of the people in the room, Martell regained her senses first.  She looked over to Oren to make sure he was still standing.  Above each of Oren’s shoulders a small flame started to appear.  As they grew, Martell recalled seeing something like them once before.  The flames at this point were growing larger into the shape of ravens.

Casapan was next to shake off the disorientation.  He took some object out of a pouch from his left hand and held it against Dhavak while chanting something.  The stone started expanding over more of Dhavak’s body.  One of the birds dove at Casapan, distracting his focus.  This left the left side of Dhavak’s torso and all below his waist encased in stone.  It seemed to stop causing him pain, as he was no longer screaming.  The diving bird had singed some of Casapan’s hair, which was still releasing smoke.

The second bird bore down at Casapan running into his waist.  It broke a belt that held on several pouches, and resulted in Casapan cussing at the creature.  Meanwhile, three more young wyverns made their way into the room.

Martell drew the second dagger she had received from Oren’s family and threw it at Casapan.  It wedged into his back.  Casapan let fly a string of expletives as he unsuccessfully tried to use his talismans.  The birds of flames dove in and started pecking at him, like real birds picking at a carcass. His anguished cries were drowned out by the wyverns as they closed in on Ba-shar.  The bolts he fired this time were not on mark.

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