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    Origins Of The Silver Wolf: A Light In The Dark, Part Six
    Posted on Tue, August 20, 2013 by Ullmaster
    CruelSummerLord writes "

    They had expected horror when they entered into the large cavern, but what they saw was something out of a madman’s nightmare. The cavern was filled with dozens of corpses, many of them with rotting flesh still hanging from their bones. The flesh and the bones alike of the bodies were riddled with bite marks, as if something had started trying to eat them and then finished halfway through. It was just like the scene they had encountered in the first cavern, and yet it was worse, as many of the bodies were being posed in ghoulish scenes.

    They had expected horror when they entered into the large cavern, but what they saw was something out of a madman’s nightmare. The cavern was filled with dozens of corpses, many of them with rotting flesh still hanging from their bones. The flesh and the bones alike of the bodies were riddled with bite marks, as if something had started trying to eat them and then finished halfway through. It was just like the scene they had encountered in the first cavern, and yet it was worse, as many of the bodies were being posed in ghoulish scenes.

    Some of the corpses were committing lewd and obscene acts to one another. Others looked as if they were conducting some blasphemous religious ceremony dedicated to one of the evil gods, or some devil lord or demon prince. Still others were posed in silent screams, looking as if they were begging for mercy from some unseen monstrosity. Towards the opening in the far wall, there was another line of corpses arranged in a mocking, laughing salute, as if mocking the hopes of anyone who passed into the darkness.

    Luna’s spell exposed the full horror of the cavern for them all to see, further heightening the adventurers’ disgust and anger. The feeling the adventurers had felt throughout the caverns grew oppressive now, almost tangible in the air, even as the mocking laughter began.

    The ogres Droolord and Hahaduh, and the maimed verbeeg Bruddelmort, were all there at the other end of the cavern. Gnorf was the other verbeeg who stood with them, his drooling face and dull eyes registering an intelligence so slow it was a miracle he even remembered to breathe.

    They were not the ones laughing, however.

    The three creatures called themselves the weird sisters, but they were better known to humans and their allied races as hags. They resembled decrepit old women with wild hair, but the strength in their limbs, the ugly colors of their skin, the malicious look in their eyes and the sharp points of their talons and fangs. The greenhag Dorbella was an ugly olive green, with greenish-black hair and glittering orange eyes, clad in faded noble’s finery that she had no doubt scavenged from her victims. The annis N’arghenn was taller, with deep blue skin and dull green eyes. Her clothes were those of a peasant, only more ragged and smeared with excrement and mud. The sea hag Ublodine hissed and spat at the adventurers, her ugly, almost fish-like appearance making them physically ill. Her skin was of an aqua green, and her clothes made of rotting shark skin and dolphin hide.

    Staring at the creatures in disgust and hatred, Seline recalled what she’d read about hags. They possessed formidable magic on their own, but when three of them united in a covey they were far more dangerous. Hag coveys could cast magic that allowed them to animate the corpses of the dead, to haunt the dreams of their victims and to disguise their minions or their lairs.

    “How do you like our artwork?” Dorbella asked, as her eyes flashed. She suddenly took on the appearance of a beautiful human woman, which contrasted all the more with the ugly appearance of her sisters, the rags she wore and the horrors with which she’d surrounded herself. “We find it gives a certain poetic beauty to these stark, ugly lands.”

    “Kill ‘em and die! Kill ‘em and die!” Ublodine screeched, drool running down her chin at the thought of fresh meat.

    “Soon enough,” Dorbella smirked. “You’ll all make fine meals indeed, and indeed-“ her eyes flashed hatred at Amyalla, Seline and Luna, “you’ll need to be prepared appropriately. Should I rip out your hair, or just slash your faces?”

    “You can indulge your vanity later, Dorbella,” N’arghenn interrupted. “Lord Orcus grows impatient, and demands his sacrifice. All we desire from them is their deaths.”

    “KILL THEM!” she screamed, as the weird sisters’ minions attacked. The giants and ogres whooped eagerly and charged forward, as the companions braced themselves to meet them.

    All of a sudden, the light Luna had cast on Seline’s staff was snuffed out, plunging them into darkness, as still more laughing, this time interspersed with birdlike squawks, erupted from above them. The companions were caught off guard, unable to move or swing their weapons too fiercely for fear of hurting their friends, as the sound of birds’ wings came down from overhead. A chill came over the companions at that time, as they felt something otherworldly and evil approaching, showing no mercy as it brought death from above.

    Chanting frantically, Seline caused a collection of bright lights flashed into light, spreading them out so she could widen the area they lit. The new arrivals were a pair of horrifying monstrosities that looked like a cross between men and vultures, radiating malice and hatred. They were vrock demons, disgusting creatures from the Abyss that lived only to make humans and other mortal races suffer. It was their darkness magic that had snuffed out Luna’s original spell, and it was their magic that was now sending the large rock flying at Seline. Luna sprang over as quickly as she could to try and deflect the rock with her shield, and she could only brace herself, grunting with pain as it slammed into her and bounced off her shield. The demons squawked in annoyance and came down to attack, hissing eagerly at the chance to destroy one who could channel the holy power they so hated.

    Up ahead, Airk had eagerly charged at the heavily scarred Bruddelmort, eager to finish the fight he had started. Unfortunately, as he swung his morning star he was forced to strike short as Bruddelmort vanished. Airk could hear Dorbella’s cackling as it happened, and he realized that her magic had no doubt caused the giant to vanish. He tried to determine where Bruddelmort had gone, but he was rudely awakened as the giant hacked at him with his sword. Airk took a vicious slash that sent him staggering back, and he was lucky indeed to get his shield up to deflect the next few blows.

    Revafour swung mightily at the verbeeg Gnorf, who returned the favor with his hammer. Their weapons clashed loudly, and man and giant were soon caught in a shoving match as they each tried to push the other back. A loud cry caused Revafour to turn his head, wondering if one of his friends was in distress, but instead he saw Ublodine’s face leering at him. His heart began pounding wildly with the disgust he felt, and for a moment he wondered if it would stop. A sickening chill filled his body as he staggered, and his grip on his sword seemed to slacken. Soon Gnorf was pushing him back, and slammed his hammer into Revafour’s chest with a brutal two-handed swing. At that moment, Revafour was grateful for his heavy armor, realizing full well that without it the giant’s blow would have crushed his ribs.

    Gasping for breath, he tried to redouble his effort and strike back, but his limbs trembled as his heart continued to race.

    What had that sea hag done to him?

    Weimar grunted, buckling briefly under the blow Hahaduh slammed into his shield, as he struck back with his axe. He could only give a frustrated sigh, realizing that his enchanted axe was better suited for battling the demons. His heart ached at Luna’s cry of pain, but then a smile crossed his face as he heard one of the demons wail in response. Worse than that was the alarmed cries Amyalla was making as Droolord tried to chase her.

    Angrily, he ducked under Hahaduh’s next blow and charged in, hacking away repeatedly at the ogre’s leg as he tried to fell his opponent. The dumb creature began shifting its defenses to block its leg, which was just what Weimar expected as he drove his axe into the monster’s chest.

    If Weimar expected that blow to finish Hahaduh, of course, he was badly mistaken, as Hahaduh struck back. Weimar got his shield up to block it in time, but the sheer force of the blow knocked him flat on his back.

    Luna gritted away the pain from her bleeding side as she struck again at the demon. Her mace glowed brightly with a golden light, and an uncharacteristically wicked smile crossed her face. The mace she wielded had been a sacred gift from the head of a temple of Pelor in Idee, given for the help she, Seline and Ma’non’go had given them some time ago. It was specially made to destroy the undead and profane, and she intended to show this demon what her weapon could do. Unfortunately, the demon was canny, swiftly dodging her blow and striking at her again. She managed to stop the blow with her shield, but fatigue was beginning to set in for her even as the demon leered.

    Beside her, Ma’non’go was having more luck, as he tore his trident through one of the creature’s arms. The vrock howled, and Ma’non’go continued to show no mercy, ripping his trident free and then plunging it into the creature’s gut. Black gore oozed over Ma’non’go’s arms as the creature staggered, and the southern warrior showed no mercy as he yanked out his trident yet again and this time plunged it through the vrock’s beaked face.

    Luna redoubled her efforts, whipping her mace in front of her own opponent’s eyes. The creature jumped back and broke off its attack, instinctively preparing a veil of darkness, but that was all Luna needed. Her mace caught the vrock square in the head, causing it to scream in agony as the mace’s sacred power flooded through its body. Luna struck at it again and again, an angry look crossing her face as she pounded the obscene thing with all the strength left to her.

    Oftentimes, Seline had been frustrated by the way magic worked. Wizards were generally required to learn and prepare their spells before they were cast, and had to anticipate what they would run into. Coming into these caverns, she was not sure what to expect, and so she had not prepared as many destructive spells as she probably should have. She hadn’t yet used her most powerful one, however, and she realized that now was the right time to do it. The bit of fur and the tiny crystal rod in her hand faded to dust as she gestured, replaced by a bright flash of blue-white energy as she finished her chant.

    It was a bolt of pure lightning that tore through the ogres Droolord and Hahaduh, killing them instantly before it caught the verbeeg Gnorf in the chest and sent him staggering back. Amyalla gave a triumphant laugh as the lightning bolt flashed behind her, having lured Droolord into its path, and Revafour didn’t waste the opportunity as he struck Gnorf with his blade and slashed the wretch’s throat. The battle lust was upon him, as he charged at the hags.

    Dorbella advanced to meet his challenge, no longer focused on turning Bruddlemort invisible again after he struck at Airk. The battered gnome bled from several wounds, but he hardly felt the pain as he struck his giant foe in the chest with his morning star. Bruddlemort struck back, but this time Airk was ready as he threw his shield up above him and struck again with his morning star. He caught the giant square on the hip, and as Bruddelmort staggered Airk drove his morning star straight into Bruddlemort’s already-wounded face.

    Howling in agony, Bruddlemort dropped his sword and fell to his knees, clutching at his face. Airk smiled a terrifying grin as he slammed Bruddlemort across the back of the head once, twice and then three times with his morning star, crushing the giant’s skull and leaving him a bloody corpse on the ground.

    Amyalla had had all she could handle trying to avoid being crushed by Droolord’s attacks, and she was fortunate indeed to have been able to lure the big lummox into the path of Seline’s lightning bolt. Looking around, she saw that Luna and Ma’non’go had finished off the demons they were battling, and the verbeeg and the ogres were now dead. Revafour and Airk were now advancing on Dorbella and Ublodine, and Seline and Weimar were coming to join them. That was two of the hags accounted for-even with their magic and strength, they were badly outnumbered.

    That thought made Amyalla pause.

    Where was N’arghenn, the annis?

    Whirling around, Amyalla could only give a cry of warning to her friends as N’arghenn loomed out of the shadows, swinging at the halfling with her vicious talons. Amyalla shrieked as the claws tore into her shoulder, but she could barely finish her cry before she went flying from N’arghenn’s kick. Landing on the ground painfully, Amyalla saw the annis chanting and pointing a wand at her friends. The hag had taken her time sneaking around though the cavern’s shadows, out of range of Seline’s lights, to reach the place she wanted to be, but she was now ideally placed to cast another burst of steam at her victims, much like the one she’d used in the caverns above.

    The adventurers managed to avoid the deadly steam as it flew out from the wand, Weimar dropping his axe and shield as he pulled the bow off his back. Within a few moments, he had released a flurry of arrows at N’arghenn, who stopped to deflect them. Most of the arrows bounced off the annis’ iron-hard skin, but they held her up long enough for Ma’non’go to make his way around the steam cloud and charge at her. The annis’s iron-hard skin would have deflected most of Ma’non’go’s blow, but the silver anklets she wore glowed brightly as the blow struck, and it didn’t seem as if she had been harmed at all. Lashing out with her claws, N’arghenn forced Ma’non’go back before she struck out with her head and sank her fangs deep into his shoulder. Hissing in pain, Ma’non’go tried to break free as N’arghenn tried to grapple him, but she was forced to release him as a brightly glowing mace slammed into him from behind. Luna’s eyes glowed as she gestured with her own enchanted mace, using the weapon she had conjured to strike again and again at N’arghenn.

    Dorbella and Ublodine only hissed as Airk and Revafour advanced on them, with Seline not far behind. She knew the hags would be using their magic, and what they were capable of, and she knew she’d chosen wisely when the darkness surrounded Ublodine and prevented her gruesome appearance from weakening her friends anymore. Scrambling for her dagger, Ublodine was helpless as Airk and Revafour attacked her greenhag sister.

    Dorbella wasn’t bothered at all by the odds against her, easily using her inhuman strength to slash the weakened Revafour and knock him prone, even as she focused another weakness spell on Airk. The gnome merely snorted at that, his race’s innate resistance to magic enabling him to shrug it off. He kept advancing, slamming her in the hand with his morning star when she struck at him. Seline began chanting as well, releasing a long series of fiery bursts of energy that ripped into Dorbella, even as some others blasted the still-helpless Ublodine. Shouting a battle cry, Revafour struggled to his feet and swung his sword as best he could, tearing into Dorbella’s hip.

    The greenhag’s cry made N’arghenn realize that the weird sisters had to act, and soon, else they were doomed. Chanting loudly, she caused a thick veil of fog to rise up all around them and broke off from Ma’non’go. The adventurers were forced to give up their attacks, afraid of hurting one another, but they knew they could not afford to let the hags escape. There was no telling what they might do to their prisoners, just to spite the adventurers who had so badly wounded them and slain all of their servants. They were forced to try and call out to each other, lighting lanterns to clear their vision.

    Guided by the glowing lights she had cast, Seline emerged from the fog cloud as she caught sight of Dorbella’s footprints. Directing one of the lights ahead of her, Seline saw that it led up a set of stairs. She knew she was taking a dreadful risk in going after the annis, but she also knew that the longer she and her friends took to get organized, the more time the hags had to escape or go after their prisoner.

    Calling out to her friends to let them know which way she’d gone, she charged up the stairs, hoping that they would get to her soon. 

    She only stopped halfway up the steps, pausing briefly to cast a protective spell before she resumed her run.

    The weird sisters were more cunning than Seline supposed, however. The stairway in fact led to a labyrinth of stairways and side-passages, and it didn’t take long for her to lose N’arghenn’s trail. Cursing herself for her foolishness, Seline looked around to try and find the annis’s tracks, directing the dancing lights of her spell every which way, but it was the screams that alerted her. The enchanted ring on her finger that allowed her to become invisible wouldn’t be of much use-she still needed her dancing lights to see, and in any event she recalled that illusions were mostly useless against annises anyway.

    Running down one side passage and up the stairs, Seline emerged into another large room, this one filled with barred cages and screaming and crying children. She had found the dungeon where the hags kept their prisoners, and realized that her initial suspicions were right-the annis had clearly come up here to try and exact some spiteful revenge on the prisoners for the adventurers’ bearding them in their lair. Several of the children sprang up at the sight of her, crying out for help. Seline did her best to ignore their cries, knowing she couldn’t afford to be distracted-

    Another veil of fog loomed in all around her, causing her to immediately be on her guard. Annis hags could generate magical fog clouds to confuse their opponents, and this time Seline was on her guard. Unfortunately, she still wasn’t sure where the annis’s attack would come from. She constantly looked around, expecting an attack from any direction and hoping that she’d positioned herself between the cages correctly for one of her next spells to work.

    The magical protective spell Seline had cast before she’d resumed the chase saved her life, as N’arghenn’s wickedly taloned hand loomed out of the fog. It slammed hard into the barrier and bounced off harmlessly, but after that N’arghenn had measured its angle and struck around it. Seline did her best to dodge it, but the claws tore wickedly into her hip and she cried out in pain. She sprang back as quickly as she could, dropping her staff as N’arghenn charged after her. The annis’s fangs were bared, and Seline’s barrier could not hope to stop her this time.

    Holding her hands up, Seline chanted frantically as N’arghenn came in for the kill. Seline’s magical barrier slowed the hag’s advance long enough for Seline to finish her chant, and the explosion of fire from her hands blasted N’arghenn full on in the face. Holding her face and screaming in agony, N’arghenn failed to notice Seline’s next chant until the amount of spider webbing that Seline tossed at her exploded into a thick mass of gluey fibers that sprang up between the prison cages. Caught off guard, N’arghenn could not hope to avoid the webbing and was hopelessly entangled.

    Her side aching abominably, and her skin still sore from being scalded by steam, Seline was gasping for breath. Rage filled her heart as she looked around at the crying children, helpless victims who had done nothing to deserve their fates. Focusing back on N’arghenn, now trapped in her web, Seline’s eyes narrowed. The annis was one of them, one of the weird sisters responsible for all this suffering and death.

    Picking up her iron-shod staff, Seline swung it at N’arghenn’s head. The staff caught the annis in the head with a sickening crunch, as she howled again. Seline’s anger rose even more at this, and she lashed out once again with her staff, cracking N’arghenn once more. The wizard went into a frenzy, pouring out all her anger and pain on the annis as she beat the monstrous creature over and over again with her staff.

    Her spell soon wore out, and the webbing vanished. It was only then that Seline realized she’d smashed N’arghenn’s head to a bruised and bloody pulp, and that the annis was nothing more than a corpse.

    Tears formed in Seline’s eyes as she sat down, her back against one of the cages. Folding her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them, she breathed deeply as she tried to overcome her feelings of disgust.

    “You can’t find her?” Revafour asked Airk, who only shook his head. The Flan warrior cursed, before glancing back at Weimar and Luna, who was carrying a lantern for them. Even the gnome couldn’t hope to track down Dorbella or Ublodine in the maze of passages and stairways-Dorbella had probably used her magic to conceal her tracks, and Luna didn’t have any magic prepared that would enable her to detect the concealment.

    Chattering cries and footsteps suddenly came from one direction, while screams and cries of mercy came from the other. The adventurers looked at one another determinedly, realizing that one or both of the sounds could be a trap…or someone who would die at the hags’ hands if they were not stopped. The hags were doubtlessly trying to split them up, but they couldn’t afford to take the risk of letting any more of the hags’ prisoners be killed by the weird sisters.

    Strapping his shield on his back, Weimar took the lantern out of his backpack and lit it up as he followed Revafour down one passageway. He could only pray that Airk and Luna, going the other way, would be all right. He might have gone with the priestess, but he saw how the large Flan’s stride had slowed and the way his hands shook after seeing that gruesome sea hag.

    He’d never abandoned a comrade in need during his time in the Keoish Army, or in any of the street duels he’d gotten into in Niole Dra, and he would be damned if he did so now.

    Ma’non’go cursed his bad luck, realizing he’d gotten separated from his companions once again. Shining his lantern around, he could only hope to find some trace of the hags, or where the prisoners were located, but he was no tracker. All he could do was look around hopelessly, until he felt a cool breeze coming from one passage. Walking up the stairs, he felt the breeze get cooler until he emerged from the cave into the surface of the hollow that was the Bearded Lord’s Hollow. The scenery was beautiful, but Ma’non’go hardly noticed as he saw the repulsive figure of the sea hag Ublodine crossing into a cavern across the way. Scowling angrily, he charged down into the hollow, following the hag into the cavern, silent as death.

    In spite of himself, the large man shivered as he strode down into the cavern. Although he knew nothing of magic, he knew that the runes carved into the walls were evil, sending chills down his spine. The ugly scenes and demonic images above the runes only heightened the disgust and horror Ma’non’go felt, a scenario he felt as he came into the main cavern.

    One side of the cavern was taken up by a pool of murky dark water, but Ma’non’go hardly noticed that. His attention was more taken up by the collection of stone tables, stained with dried blood, that were placed around the room. The ugly stains, and the oppressive feeling they inspired in him, were bad enough on their own. However, even they paled in comparison to the large stone altar at the far end of the room, itself stained with more blood and demonic runes, and over which a horrifying statue loomed. The statue was carved to resemble what seemed like a depraved cross between a man and a goat, with large dark wings spread behind him.

    In the old days in X’tandelexamenken, Ma’non’go had heard of this disgusting being, one of the demon lords of that gods-cursed plane called the Abyss. The name Orcus was hated and feared in every language, hated as much for his being the Prince of the Undead as for the depravities his cultists wreaked on the innocent and defenseless.

    Glancing around as he came into the cavern, Ma’non’go put down the lantern and held his trident in both hands, looking around as he expected an attack from any direction. His gaze shifted to the water as he heard a splash, knowing that it was the natural place for a sea hag to hide, but he instantly turned when he saw Ublodine spring out from behind the altar. Even in the dim light of the lantern, he saw her gaze clearly, and her eyes flashed as they made contact with his.

    Ma’non’go felt his heart skip a beat, before it began pounding in his chest. His blood felt as if it was on fire, and his entire body went into convulsions. Gasping for breath, he dropped his trident and collapsed, unable to even move as the cackling Ublodine advanced on him. She had bested him with a mere gaze, a look, and for all his efforts he was powerless to fight back. Now, she stood over him with a fanged grin, a dagger in her hand, looking over him as if he was a prize kill and she was determining where to begin skinning him first.

    Ma’non’go felt no fear of the sea hag, or even any sadness at the fact he was about to die. All he felt was shame, shame that he had failed in his oath to Lord Roas to protect Luna and Seline. Once Ublodine was done with him, she and the rest of the weird sisters would kill the women he was pledged to protect, to say nothing of the others they had befriended since they had left the eastern lands.

    He heard a sudden scream pierce the air, but it was not that of Ublodine.

    Then who…

    Amyalla knew she’d made the right choice in following the big man on his way through the caverns. The idea of making her way alone through that maze of passages and stairs sickened her. She hadn’t been able to catch up with Ma’non’go, given how short her stride was compared to his, but she’d seen him entering this second cave. The idea of anyone entering this cave, particularly with its wall designs, made her skin crawl by itself, but the idea that someone would enter it alone made her feel even more revolted.

    When she’d finally emerged into the cavern, she came upon the sight of the prone Ma’non’go, with Ublodine looming over him sizing him up like a particularly juicy piece of prey. It was all the same whether the prey were humans or halflings-either way, they were unable to fight back against their predators.

    Amyalla knew that feeling all too well, and it made her scream in anger as she whipped a dagger at the sea hag. Caught completely by surprise, Ublodine turned to see who was screaming, and then screamed herself as the dagger caught her squarely between the eyes. Stumbling back from the mortal wound, she collapsed on the ground as Amyalla came walking up. Raising her foot, she stomped down on the dagger handle, pushing it further into the sea hag’s head. Finally, Amyalla yanked the blade out of the sea hag’s face, before she turned to consider Ma’non’go.

    “Where’s Revafour when you need him?” Amyalla asked, a sad smile on her face. “I think I’m a bit puny to be getting you back on your feet. But I’ll be damned if anything happens to you-especially here and now. The only kind of person who deserves to die in a place like this is garbage like that,” she finished, gesturing contemptuously to Ublodine’s corpse.

    “They’ll find us,” Amyalla assured Ma’non’go, sitting down near his head so he could see her. Picking up one of his massive hands in both of her own, she grasped it tightly.

    “And until they do, I won’t let go,” she promised him.

    “You don’t see anything either?” Weimar asked Revafour, who only shook his head. Both men had been looking for tracks or signs that something had passed by here, but neither one of them had seen anything. That didn’t sit well with either one, particularly not when they’d already seen how the greenhag could magically erase her tracks. Despite it all, they still heard the screams, and could now see the flicker of torches in the distance. Clearly something was going on there, and-

    Weimar was caught completely by surprise as Dorbella flashed into view. Her claws ripped into his back, causing a line of blood to pour down his back, before she flung him hard into the wall. Crying out in pain, Weimar bounced off the wall and collapsed to the ground.

    Concealed by her invisibility, it had been a simple matter to attack once her illusions had lured them here. Revafour staggered forward to try and attack, but he was still sickened by Ublodine’s appearance and it was all he could do to even raise his sword. Swinging his blade at the greenhag, Revafour cursed as Dorbella caught it in her hands. A thin line of blood dripped from her hands as the blade cut lightly into them, but she ignored the pain as she pushed the sword aside. Revafour couldn’t react in time as Dorbella lashed out with her talons, slashing him repeatedly with her claws. He tried to raise his sword again and swung at her, but she easily dodged the blow and resumed her attack.

    Gasping for breath, Revafour felt frustration rising up with his anger. The sight of that damned sea hag had made him so sick that he could barely fight back. What if she had…

    The thought that it might be permanent made Revafour so furious that, for a moment, his sickness was forgotten. Swinging his sword furiously, he tore an ugly gash in Dorbella’s stomach, but that only filled Dorbella with anger as well. Knocking Revafour’s sword aside as he tried to attack her again, she gripped one of his arms tightly as she ripped into him yet again with her claws. Revafour staggered from the blow, unable to break free and feeling faint from the blood he was losing.

    Dorbella sensed his weakness, and cackled wickedly. She raised her hand for another strike, when she heard a cry come from behind her. She only managed to turn her head halfway before Weimar’s axe clove into her hip. Cursing in pain, she tossed the injured Revafour aside and turned to face Weimar. The Keolander was pale, rivulets of blood dripping down the back of his leather jerkin and his head marked with an ugly bruise from where he’d hit the cavern wall, but the fire in his eyes was all too clear to Dorbella as he lunged at her again. Dorbella struck back with her claws, but Weimar easily deflected her blows with his shield and chopped into her leg with his axe. As she staggered from that blow, Weimar struck again, this time cutting her arm.

    The greenhag was feeling winded now herself. Her thick hide gave her ample protection from the humans’ weapons, but all of the blows were taking their toll and she knew she had to end this quickly. Even if she was the only one of her covey still alive, and she would have to flee to survive, she intended to at least take these two humans with her. She charged forward as Weimar withdrew his axe, knocking him off his feet. He rolled out of the way as she tried to stomp him, but he was clearly off balance as she came in for another strike.

    A war cry forced her to stop, as Revafour struck at her once again with his huge broadsword. Dorbella managed to avoid that strike, but it gave Weimar time to recover and the two men immediately struck at the greenhag. Weimar deflected Dorbella’s next blow with his shield, as Revafour swung once more with his sword. This time the sword clove into and straight through Dorbella’s arm, striking almost exactly where Weimar’s axe had hit it. Dorbella howled in pain, staring in horror at the bleeding stump that used to be her arm, before Weimar struck her in the chest with his axe.

    Another blow from Revafour’s sword clove deep into her shoulder.

    Weimar’s axe slammed into her chest a second time, this time tearing into her heart.

    The greenhag screamed in horror before she finally collapsed, nothing more than a corpse.

    Weimar and Revafour stared at each other for a long moment, gasping for breath before Weimar went to reclaim the lamp.

    Revafour led the way as they resumed their search through the maze of passages. They soon emerged in the hollow that was the Bearded Lord’s Hollow, and soon found the traces of a human and a halfling heading for the other cave. The horrifying runes and scenes carved into the walls almost made them turn around in despair, but they stubbornly kept going and soon found themselves in an even more grisly place, one suffused with malice and horror.

    Despite all the misery and evil, their faces brightened at the sight of Amyalla and Ma’non’go.

    Looking up at them, the halfling only smirked, turning the paralyzed Ma’non’go’s head so he could see them too.

    “I knew you’d come,” she said wryly, “but I think a little help might be in order here,” she said, indicating Ma’non’go.

    It did not take Luna and Airk long to realize that they had been tricked by the greenhag’s illusion magic into separating from Weimar and Revafour. Looking around, they realized that they had probably found the living quarters of the hags and their servants. One of the interconnected rooms had a large collection of trunks and crude, oversized bunk beds. The next room had a large cauldron, cupboards and cutlery, obviously a kitchen, with a large closet that served as a larder and pantry. The last room had three elegant beds with silk and satin sheets and luxurious pillows, all of which were filthy and dirty from the hags that slept in them. That wasn’t what Luna focused on, however-her attention was more directed to the stone idol of Orcus that rested in an alcove at the far end of the room.

    A look of palpable anger crossed Luna’s face as she walked up to the idol. Raising her mace, she struck the idol dead on, breaking it into several pieces. Without a word, she turned back to Airk, who led her back into the maze of hallways.

    Destroying the idol had lifted a tremendous burden off of Luna’s shoulders, and her anger was gone. However, destroying the idol had done little to relieve her worries about her friends, or the sorrow she felt for all the people who these monsters had victimized.

    The children in the cages were begging Seline for release, but there was little she could do to free them. N’arghenn had not been carrying any keys to the cages, and she had no spells that she could use to open the cage doors. Their sorrow and frustration echoed her own, as she cursed herself for her stupidity in abandoning her friends. She had killed one of the hags, but already it felt as though the cost was too high.

    Her spirits lifted when she saw Luna and Airk walk into the room. Their relief at seeing her and all of the prisoners still alive was palpable. While they had no keys to free the children with either, Luna and Seline knew all they needed would be enough rest to recover their magic and start getting the children out of their cages.

    They were still on edge, though, not knowing what had happened to the rest of the adventurers.

    It was that much more of a relief when Amyalla arrived in the dungeons, followed by Revafour and Weimar carrying Ma’non’go over their shoulders.

    They were all alive, and there were more of the children still alive than any of them could have hoped, including Teddyrun, Elian and Sienna.

    That realization lifted an immense weight off all of their shoulders. 

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