“Are we lost?” said Jandyr while examining the flint of an arrow.
“No,” replied Trogdar huffily, “I just wanted to have another look at that weapon rack.”
“Have you given him any more herbs?” whispered Short-arse from the corner of her mouth.
Jandyr laughed quietly to himself and shook his head. The truth was he could think of no passages they had skipped, no doors they had missed save the one which was locked, and there looked nowhere else to go. His mind returned to the first rooms they had come across, and what treasures may be lying there waiting for him.
“See, I like the look of this axe,” said Trogdar, reaching out and grabbing a hefty-looking axe. As he pulled it, there was a click and a grinding of stone as the wall behind it gave way.
“You Dwarves and your secret passages,” tutted Jandyr as he sauntered through the opening.
“Kept you lot out, didn’t it?” Short-arse muttered before chuckling to herself.
The passageway beyond was cold and foul-smelling, and there were ominous vapours emanating from the far end.
“Something does not feel right,” said the Wizard as they approached.
“What gives you that impression?” said Trogdar as he shone the lantern ahead. A darkened chamber lay beyond, with roughly-hewn stairs leading up to a platform above. In the far corner stood a cauldron atop a small fire, the contents bubbling away noisily and releasing the foul smell into the air.
A shadow, hunched and shambling, moved between tables and shelves piled with hideous forms and features. Dead animals and bones, jars filled with what looked like body parts and cages which squawked with captive birds.
The shadow reached out for a jar, revealing a thin, clawed hand and bony arm. He turned to the cauldron, pouring the contents of the jar into the mixture which evaporated, sending a plume of green smoke into the air.
“Wot yoo lot doin’ ‘ere?” said the shadow as he saw the lantern’s light.
The shadow stepped forwards to reveal a jaunted, sagging green face with numerous small scars. A purple bat lay on his head, and he carried a long staff with yet another bat emblem atop it.
“I’m ready for ya dis time!” cackled Skabnoze, shaking with mirth, “Guards!”
A door near Skabnoze burst open and out marched a line of Orcs, led by an enormous greenskin clad in armour, who bellowed orders to the normally unruly mob.
3 of the Orcs were ordered down onto ground level while the armoured Orc took position at the top of the stairs, daring anyone to face him.
“You sort them,” said Short-arse, gesturing with her axe at the Orcs who were jumping from the platform, “I’ll take the big ‘un.”
“Who put you in..?” began Trogdar.
“CHARGE!” growled the Orcs in unison as they ran for the barbarian. Trogdar began swinging his sword in wide arcs, holding the first Orc at bay.
Jandyr had tensed his bow and was just drawing back to fire when one of Trogdar’s swings cut clean through the bowstring which fell limply into Jandyr’s hand.
“TROGDAR!” shouted Jandyr.
“TROGDAAAAAAR!!!” screamed Trogdar in consensus, slicing his sword out towards the first Orc’s neck without breaking rhythm. The blade buried itself deep in his opponent’s neck and came out the other side.
The second Orc could not stop himself in time and barrelled straight into his comrade, the blade piercing his throat as well as the Orcs and Trogdar collapsed to the ground.
The third orc clambered over the top, approaching the Wizard who was lost in concentration. A flash of white lightning separated the Orc’s head from his body as Jandyr’s sword found its mark.
“FREEZE!” said the Wizard, opening his eyes.
There was a momentary pause as all sides waited for the results of the mage’s invocation. The silence was broken by a deep laugh from Skabnoze which broke into a high-pitched cackle.
“Bit chilly are ya?” he said, pointing at the Wizard as he continued laughing, “Dat magik won’t work in ‘ere.”
The Wizard’s face dropped as he realised his main source of power had disappeared in the Shaman’s den. Panicking, he looked around at the leering Orcs and shrank back into a corner of the room.
Skabnoze continued to laugh as he surveyed his lair. The muscly human was trapped beneath a pile of Orc carcasses, the lanky Elf still stringing his bow back together. The human magician was cowering in the corner behind him.
As he continued his gaze however, he saw the Orc Big ‘Un and the Dwarf locked in a ferocious combat which the Orc appeared to be losing. Both had severe wounds, but the Orc was now taking back-steps at the fury of his opponent.
Skabnoze knew he had to do something before the Dwarf got too close. He couldn’t summon a Minotaur, not here with all his fragile experiments. He screwed his eyes together tightly trying to remember what he learnt as a runt.
“Aha!” he shouted, opening his eyes and pointing towards the Dwarf.
“Look,” he said in a strange, other-worldy voice, “Pritty lites! Shiny. Cud be jools or sumfing!”
The Dwarf looked at the shaman as if he had 2 heads. She rammed her axe deep into the Big ‘Un’s mid-riff and advanced on Skabnoze.
“Fuggit, fuggit, fuggit!” screamed Skabnoze as he reached for his magic ring. The Dwarf grew ever closer, a snarl on her face as she swung her axe backwards…
Skabnoze disappeared as the axe fell. There was no impact or sign of blood. He’d escaped again.
The remaining Orcs were finished off in short order as Short-arse continued her search for the reclusive shaman to no avail. She did however find a scroll buried amongst a pile of parchment:
“Skabnoze ya git! I bin told dat yooz haz sum stunty necklaze. I wantz it to ang on my frone so brings it to me NOW!
GORGUT da Boss”
“So who’s got it, Skabnoze or this Gorgut?” asked Trogdar.
“Don’t know,” said Short-arse, “guess we’ll have to ask them both.” She gestured with her axe as she spoke the word ‘ask.’
“Anything else of value?” asked Trogdar.
“Not unless you want to try that potion, see if it makes you stronger?” replied Short-arse.
“Dare you!” said the Wizard.