“So… what is it?” asked Trogdar.

“It’s an idol,” replied Short-arse.

“I can see that,” said Trogdar impatiently, “but why would Orcs be worshipping… that?”

“I don’t believe this is of Orcish design,” spoke Jandyr.

“Nor Dwarven,” interrupted Short-arse, “We’d never had had something like this in here.”

“Do you think the Orcs even knew it was here?” asked Trgdar.

Jandyr and Short-arse looked at each other and shrugged. The idol stood at the far end of a vast chamber which had no natural light, yet was bathed in a red glow. Before the idol was a great bronze bowl, about 6 feet in circumference and half as deep again.

“Better go take a look then,” said Trogdar, strolling into the chamber.

“No, wait..!” said Short-arse.

As Trogdar entered the chamber, fire erupted in orange flame from the bowl, shooting high into the air. There was movement from beneath the statue, and strange, gnarled creatures began hopping and bouncing towards the Barbarian.

“Err..?” said Trogdar, backing away from the advancing monstrositieS.

“Those are Squigs,” said Jandyr, firing an arrow at the mob and plucking one of the creatures out of mid-air.

“Orcs eat those?” asked Trogdar in astonishment.

“The smaller ones, yes,“ replied Short-arse, “the ones this size tend to eat them.”

Trogdar looked back, horrified as the squigs came closer. He took and wide stance and held his sword out to the side, ready to swing.

“FREEZE!” cried the Wizard from behind. The chamber was suddenly bisected by a blue wall of shimmering ice in front of Trogdar. The bouncing squigs froze solid within the wall, held captive at whatever height they’d reached.

“Well that’s been a long time coming,” said Trogdar, sheathing his sword, “why didn’t you do that with the Minotaur, or the damn hound earlier?”

“Sorry,” said the Wizard, “something not right about this place. No magic.”

There was a loud creaking sound followed by a sonorous crack as the ice fractured. Through the translucent wall, the orange flames could be seen growing brighter, and even through the freezing ice, the heat in the chamber began to grow in intensity.

Suddenly, the wall shattered, throwing shards of ice across the Warriors. The still-frozen squigs fell like heavy raindrops, exploding on the floor as they fell.

The flames burnt more and more intensely, turning a brilliant bright white and blinding the warriors. They bathed the idol in gossamer strands of fire, until the bronze ran red with heat.

The fire exploded upwards, coursing over the idol and down across its back. As the flames died down and the warriors’ vision returned, the statue’s head began to move, examining each warrior in turn.

“Who dares enter here?” it spoke with a booming echo. “Pay me tribute or DIE!”

The flames exploded into life once more before dying down enough to reveal a sparkling pile of golden coins.

“Here-here you go boss!” said Trogdar, reaching into his cloak and pulling out a pile of coins, quickly throwing them into the crucible and bowing down before the statue.

“I refuse to give a brazen idol any of my hard-earned coin,” said Jandyr, beginning to walk away towards the door.

“No,” said the Wizard, turning and following.

“THERE IS NO ESCAPE” spoke the idol again. A stone slab thundered down over the only exit. “Place offerings before me or die in agony!”

At this, spikes began to rise from previously hidden holes in the floor.

Jandyr scoffed as he nimbly tip-toed around them, “is that all?”

The idol’s mouth jerkily began to curl at the edges, resembling a crooked smile. Its bronze eyes burned red as the flames intensified in the crucible below.

A jet flame fired across the hall, burning the Elf and Wizard who screamed in agony.

“Here you go,” said Short-arse quickly, throwing a handful of coins into the bowl.

The fire died down again, and the spikes returned into their recesses as Jandyr and the Wizard collapsed to the floor.

“Are you alright?” said Trogdar, rushing over to the two warriors.

“I think I may need more than a few herbs,” croaked Jandyr, his mouth blackened and burnt.

“I don’t think there’s any other way out of this,” said Trogdar with concern.

“I believe you may be right,” replied Jandyr, “Help me to my feet.”

Short-arse had already helped the Wizard, who was undressing in front of the idol.

“What are you doing?” shouted Trogdar.

The Wizard held out his robes in front of the idol. “Take these robes, o’ mighty idol. They are worth at least 50 gold.”

He dropped the robes into the fire which flared into life, bathing the Wizard in orange light.

“FOOL!” spoke the idol, “What use have I for the trappings of man!?”

“Here, here!” said Jandyr, reaching into a hidden pocket in his tunic while being supported by Trogdar and throwing a small amount of gold into the bowl.

The fire died down. The Wizard miraculously remained standing, though he was clearly shaken.

“Just throw some gold in!” prompted Short-arse.

“But it’s mine!” wailed the Wizard.

“It’ll be mine when you’re burnt to a crisp,” replied Short-arse with a hint of menace.

The Wizard pondered this for a second. “Good point,” he said, before turning to Jandyr. “How much did you put in?”

“I’m not sure,” said the Elf, “about 30 gold?”

The Wizard reached into a large pouch at his side, “Here is 29 gold.”

As the gold tumbled into the bowl, the fire died out completely, revealing a golden ring with a single red gem set within it.

The idol’s head turned towards Trogdar. “THANK YOU MY SERVANT, YOU WILL BE REWARDED WELL FOR YOUR BELIEF.”

At that, the idol began to darken in colour and returned to its natural state, still staring at Trogdar with unseeing eyes. The stone slab grated as it returned into an alcove in the wall.

“Thanks?” said Trogdar, reaching for the ring with trepidation. As he picked it from the bowl, he felt a strong surge of power and confidence flood through him.

“I know just the place for this!” he said, reaching into his loincloth and rearranging himself.

As the Warriors turned and headed for the exit, Trogdar looked the Wizard up and down and said, “Have you got any more clothes?”