“This can’t be good,” Fadeyka said.
We were standing in front of the entrance to either servant’s quarters or a cluster of domestic repair shops. It was difficult to tell due to the heavy soot on the ceiling and walls and the immense pile of ash in front of the melted metal doors to the cluster of chambers. When the Doric Horde invaded these halls long ago, some of the dwarves apparently barricaded themselves in these chambers. The attackers had created a great fire in front of the doors and made it hot enough that the stone softened and the metal bindings melted and ran.
“How would you even do that,” I quietly asked out loud, not really expecting an answer.
“They turned this courtyard area into a primitive blast furnace,” Fadeyka answered, equally as quiet. “They forced air down the corridor we walked down to get here and it exited through this side passage. Once it got started, the dwarves couldn’t open the gates to do anything about it or the flames and fumes would have flooded over them.” I looked over at Fadeyka and raised an eyebrow. “You’re not the only one who knows unexpected things, Epikydes,” she replied to my unspoken question.
“Fair point,” I replied. “And it is one of the reasons I asked you to come here with me.” I started pulling out my map to check it again, but it was tricky to do while holding the candle I was using as a light source.
“Yes, I do recall you mentioning that you wanted someone smarter than you to back you up.” She stepped over to me and took the candle out of my left hand, allowing me to pull out the map and check it without struggling. There may have been some subtext there, but I was focused on the map.
“I meant every word of it,” I replied, opening the map and then holding it so I could read it by the candle light. Fadeyka moved the candle to help and so she could see the map as well. “Looks like we are going to have to go through here,: I said. “That side passage heads the wrong way and this is a dead end otherwise.”
Fadeyka looked up from the map and into the soot covered ruins we were going to have to transverse. “I wish you hadn’t said it that way.”
“Why,” I asked as I started folding the map back up.
“Getting here was almost too easy. The dwerro never came up to these passages, even though we could hear them searching down on the main level. I’m concerned there might be a reason for that.” She was still staring into the blackened ruins, a look of concern on her face.
I took the candle back from her, noting it still had another hour or so left on it. “You mean like they remember something bad happened here and avoid the bad luck,” I asked hopefully.
She pulled out the jade moon medallion that was the symbol of her faith with one hand and then readied her chain sickle in the other. “If that’s all it is, I think we will be very lucky.”
I thought back on the events that got us here and then started readying my weapons as well. This had not been a trip overflowing with luck.
The inner courtyard was covered with soot, as were the side passages and shops immediately off the courtyard. There were signs the entry doors had been subject to hasty reinforcement, but apparently it had not been enough.
We walked without talking, trying to make as little noise as possible. This was easier for me than Fadeyka as the armored jacket I wore was designed to be quiet and I had training in moving silently. Fadeyka on the other hand wore chainmail and as quietly as she tried to step, it still made slight metal-on-metal noises as she moved. Anywhere else but here and it might not have been noticeable, but here the soft metal noises seemed to carry and echo.
We made it past the entry courtyard area and started walking along a ten-foot wide passage that led deeper into the cluster of chambers. The walls were not as soot covered here, but the ceiling was streaked with it. We were starting to breathe easier and slightly picking up our pace as we passed broken down doors to storage areas on either side of us. Then we heard the sound – Fwoomp – followed by a soft crackling noise.
I turned to look at Fadeyka and silently mouthed, “What was that?” She shrugged and pointed towards a storage area to the left and slightly ahead of us, indicating that was where she thought the sound came from. A flickering light could now be seen lighting the open doorway.
I used hand gestures to suggest we move along the wall to the right, away from the now lit doorway. Fadeyka nodded agreement and we resumed slowly moving down the passageway.
As we came even with the doorway on our left, we could see into the storage room. It once had shelving on the walls and down the center of the room to hold small crates and maybe furniture. It was now a fire-scarred ruin. The source of the light was a short stocky skeleton of a dwarf, flames licking its bones, shuffling around the debris that now filled the room. Everything it touched immediately caught fire.
Then it saw us.
It turned to face us and made to bellow, its exposed ribs creaking and popping as they flexed. The sound that came out was the whistling shriek of steam escaping from a wet log thrown onto a roaring fire. The small licks of flame along its bones bloomed into a full aurora of flames and I could feel the sudden wash of heat from over 30 feet away. Then it moved towards us.
I’ll be honest – I was ready to bolt out of there and already taking my first steps. Fadeyka, on the other hand, held out her jade moon medallion and said in a firm voice, “In the name of Armea Gris I compel you to back to your eternal slumber!” Her medallion flashed with a green glow that slammed into the burning skeleton, cracking bones and driving it back into the storage room, where it collapsed and went out.
I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open at that point as I had to close my mouth before I could say, “Wow.”
The jade of Fadeyka’s medallion still glowed with an internal radiance. Her eyes were also glowing as they did when she channeled the power of the goddess she served, the light leaking out around the goggles she was wearing. “We need to hurry now,” she said as she started walking past me.
“Why?” I asked, stepping quickly to follow her. “You just smacked that bag of bones down.”
“Two reasons,” she replied. She held one finger up as I caught up with her. “One, it takes a little bit before I can do that again. Two,” she held up another finger, “There’s a very good chance that…”
Behind us we heard: Fwoomp, Fwoomp, Fwoomp, followed by a now familiar crackling noise.
“…There may be more of those burning revenants.” Then we heard the Fwoomp noise several more times ahead of us. “Many more of them.”
We came to a T-intersection and paused. The walls down either passage had doorways spaced evenly along them; several now had firelight emanating from them. I thought back to what was on my map and then pointed down the right-hand corridor. “The laboratory is in this general direction, so there should be an exit this way.”
“Why? I thought you had no maps of this area?” We started moving in the direction I indicated.
“I don’t, but if there’s no exit this way…”
“…Then we get to join the burning undead,” Fadeyka concluded my sentence.
“There is one good about this,” I said. Up ahead we could hear the steam-shriek of several revenants calling to each other and the temperature in the corridor rose noticeably.
“What’s that?” Fadeyka asked as we started running.
“When they attack, I won’t have to hold onto this candle in order to see.”
“Ha!” Fadeyka laughed as we turned a corner to the left. Two burning revenants stepped out into the corridor behind us and started pursuing us. “Always looking at the bright side I see.”
I groaned at her joke, but didn’t stop running. Up ahead I could just make out another intersection with some piles of rubble in it. Hopefully one of the branches led to the way out of this cluster of chambers. Then two of the “rubble piles” ignited with a Fwoomp and started standing up.
We slowed from an all-out run, but kept approaching the intersection. I willed the star blade into a throw-able configuration and flung it at one of the burning revenants. The star blade clicked into the proper configuration in flight and then smashed the bones apart before the revenant could fully assemble. After the strike, the star blade looped back to my hand and I caught it. One of the many advantages of a magical throwing weapon.
Fadeyka once again held forth her jade moon medallion and a bright ray of green light leapt forth, lancing the remaining revenant, cracking bones. The revenant staggered, but did not fall. It’s aurora of flame rose up around it, but I noticed there were sparks of green amongst the flames.
“Yours is still standing,” I said, stating the obvious as it moved to attack me.
“I know, but I want to keep the channeling ready in case there are more. Plus it should be easier for you to hit now.”
It swung at me with an arm like an inferno. It failed to connect (barely), but the heat from the flames was wilting none-the-less. The candle I was holding completely melted and went out and the air I breathed in seared my lungs. I was much too close to it for comfort, no matter how you defined it.
“Easier to hit? All I have to do is stand still and I can hit it with my face.” I took a quick step back to give me enough room to throw the star blade again and did so. The star blade smashed apart the remaining bones, which fell to the ground, flames quickly dying out (but not before I safely caught the returning star blade). I slumped down to one knee with a groan I hadn’t intended on letting out.
“Epikydes? Are you alright?” Fadeyka asked. I could just make out her silhouette as she moved over and crouched next to me, backlit by four burning revenants that came around the corner down the corridor behind us.
“Mostly,” I croaked. “It’s a little difficult to breathe – I can’t quite catch a full breathe.”
“Let me help,” she said. Her jade moon medallion glowed again, but this time, instead of striking an enemy, Fadeyka said a word and the glow enveloped me. Immediately the tightness in my chest dissolved and I could breathe again. The stinging in my hand where the molten wax had poured across it also eased to nothing as the green glow faded away. I immediately started slapping at my belt pouches, searching them by touch. “What are you doing?” Fadeyka asked.
“Looking for my flint and steel so I can light another candle and we can get out of here.” I found and pulled them out and then went to the pouch containing my candles – it squished. “Crap,” I said.
“Your candles are melted,” Fadeyka stated.
“My candles are melted,” I confirmed.
“Well I have a couple torches,” Fadeyka contributed. “If you use them right, I think you could light one off of those fellows,” she said while gesturing towards the approaching revenants.
The light was now bright enough for me to see where she was gesturing and despite myself, I snickered. “Sure,” I said. “I’ll just go hit them up for a light.” I stashed my flint and steel again and Fadeyka and I stood up together. We were both looking at the four approaching revenants and grinning at them. “Has anyone ever questioned the wisdom of the priesthood of Armea Gris?”
“Well, we are followers of the Adventuring Goddess of Magic,” Fadeyka replied.
“That would be a ‘yes’, wouldn’t it,” I stated, still grinning.
“Do you want a torch or not,” she asked. She was still amused, but I might have been getting to the edge of this little comedy routine.
“Yes. Yes I do,” I answered with a more serious bent to my voice. I reached over to her backpack and removed one of the three-foot torches still strapped there. I looked at the revenants and said, “We take down the first three and then try and light it off the last one?”
Fadeyka was about to agree when we heard the unmistakable Fwoomp sounds of more revenants activating off to our left. We looked down the side passage and saw three more burning revenants forming in a courtyard down that direction. We could also see the partially destroyed gates of the exit. “How about we take out all four of these,” Fadeyka said, gesturing at the four pursuing us, “then two of those, and then light it off the last one.”
“That sounds like a plan, but we need to hurry before we fight all seven at once.”
“Agreed,” Fadeyka replied. “Let me attempt to turn all four of these first, then you clean up any stragglers?”
I sheathed the star blade, stuck the torch handle-up in a bit of rubble, and readied my throwing stars. “Deal,” was all I said.
By that point the intersection was fully lit from the four revenants almost on us. Fadeyka held forth her jade moon medallion and again said the words, “In the name of Armea Gris I compel you to back to your eternal slumber!” Again the green glow slammed into the revenants, cracking their bones and driving them back. All four blew apart into an intermingled carpet of burnt bones and their flames blew out.
I blinked a couple of times and then turned to the second group. They started to stagger closer to us, but were not fully moving yet. “Change of plans,” I said. “Let me weaken these instead and then you start picking them off,” I called as I moved forward. I then started throwing a flurry of blades, filling the area and hitting all three revenants multiple times in multiple joints. While clearly damaged, none were completely destroyed. They staggered towards me, but did not catch me before I fell back to the intersection with Fadeyka.
“I will never again poke fun at you for packing so many of those,” was all Fadeyka said before lancing one of the revenants with a bright green blast from her medallion, destroying her target.
I grabbed the torch from where it was standing and readied it like a club. “You take the one on the right; I’ll try to light this off the one on the left when I smash it to pieces.”
“Agreed,” Fadeyka said as the last two revenants closed on us.
I charged the revenant on the left, acrobatically rolling around behind it at the last second and swinging with all I had. The heat near the thing was nearly unbearable, but I connected with the torch, shattering the bones. At almost the same time, Fadeyka blasted the other revenant with a lance of green light.
I did my best to hold the torch head in the rapidly dying flames from the revenant and was rewarded by the crackle of the torch lighting. I stepped back from the remains, pulling in some (slightly) cooler air as I caught my breath.
Fadeyka walked up to me, panting slightly herself and grinning. “That wasn’t too bad,” she said. “Want to stick around and clear out the rest of them?”
“Nope,” I replied. “I’ve had enough of fighting the undead. Help me find my throwing stars real quick and then let’s get out of here.”
She chuckled to herself as we picked up as many of my throwing stars as we could quickly find and left through the exit.
Copyright Patrick J. Walsh 2014. All rights reserved.