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We strolled down the tunnel toward the Dark Elf outpost. Rolen had swapped his slave clothes for the armour of a dead soldier. He tugged at a length of silk robe that bound Wyanet, Kalista, and myself together. Caeldrim, wearing a looted full face helmet and armour, walked behind us carrying everyone’s weapons.
Iron bars, as thick as tree branches, stretched from floor to ceiling. Smaller rods braced the main bars from behind. A section large enough to fit a single wagon gaped in the center of the lattice work. Two guards with halberds and shields as tall as themselves flanked the opening. A third guard, carrying a buckler shield and a rapier at his hip stood in the middle of the gateway.
“Halt!” The guard in the centre shouted at us as we approached the tunnel spanning gate. “Where is the rest of your party?”
Rolen tugged on the rope, jerking us all forward a step.”Kneel.” He demanded. Caeldrim forced each of us to our knees. “We got ambushed by these surface scum. We were the only two to survive.” the guard captain walked down the line, inspecting each of us. “That human woman killed the captain and her spider by herself.”
The guard captain studied Wyanet with a heavier eye “Looks like you got in over your head, little bird.”
Wyanet spat in the Dark Elf’s face.
“I’m taking them to the Matron Mother.” Rolen offered while the guard wiped spittle off of his face. “They kept us from going above ground to trade.”
The guard captain tisked and stood in front of Caeldrim, looking up into his eyes. “I don’t recognise you.”
I kicked the guard captain in the leg. He screamed in pain as he fell to the ground. I scrambled onto his chest and wrapped the rope around my wrists around his neck.
Caeldrim dropped our weapons and pulled out his sword. He hurled it at one of the other guards as they rushed forward. The sword found its mark. The guard fell forward onto his shield.
Rolen sliced Wyanet and Kalista free.
The third guard dropped his weapons and ran away. Wyanet scooped up her spear and threw it like a javelin. The spear punched through the fleeing guard’s back. He fell forward, propped up by the spear.
“I thought we were going to sneak past?” Rolen said.
I shoved the purpled corpse of the guard captain away. “They figured it out.”
Caeldrim tipped off his helmet. “We were walking into a fight anyway. Our story wasn’t very good.”
“It’s done. We got past the checkpoint, it does not matter how we did it.” Wyanet said.
“We should hide the bodies.” Rolen replied. “If anybody comes out here looking, that might buy us some more time.”
We hid the bodies in a small building a little way beyond the gate filled with crates, barrels, and cloth sacks of varying sizes. The building stood over seven feet tall, lacked windows, and a twin stood beside it.
“We should wait for the slaves to leave the fields for the night before we go any further.” Caeldrim declared after we hid the bodies.
“Why don’t we try the fake prisoner thing again?” Kalista asked.
“We do not know how many guards exist in the city, and the plan did not survive the scrutiny of a single guard.” Wyanet replied. “This is not something we will be able to fight our way through.”
“All the Watchers know my face.” Rolen added. “If one of them decides to stop us, I’ll be killed, and you all will be killed or forced into slavery.”
“What if we tried to sneak through the city dressed as soldiers?” Kalista offered.
“Same issue as the fake prisoner plan.” Caeldrim said. “There aren’t enough helmets, and you….” Caeldrim pointed at Kalista’s horns. “Won’t fit into any of them.”
“If that many soldiers came back without an officer, the Warrens will execute us all for desertion.” Rolen added. “If they don’t strip us and send us to the slave pits first.”
“What if we dressed Wyanet up in the captain’s armour?”
“She’s too bulky to pass as any type of Elf, and her skin isn’t dark enough to be a Dark Elf.” Caeldrim countered.
“As much as it pains me to say it, waiting is our best option.” Wyanet conceded. “Rolen, when do the workers finish for the day?”
“Don’t know. It is up to the Watchers, and they change it every cycle.” Rolen replied.
I flipped up my hood. “I’ll play lookout and come to get you when the coast is clear.”
I sprinted down the hallway until it terminated in a wall made of blackened timbers. Blinding light spilled through an iron gate eight feet wide and high. An intricate lock sealed the gate.
I pressed my back to the wooden wall and peered through the gate. The cavern beyond rose fifty feet to the ceiling. Orbs place at equal intervals along the ceiling shed light in approximation of sunlight. The cavern floor had been tilled and broken into farm fields. The fields stretched for a mile in either direction. A mature field of grain blocked my view of the opposite wall. A stone path in front of the gate stood several inches above the tilled dirt. It stretched well beyond my eyesight.
I settled in and waited by the gate. Hours passed. A Dark Elf riding on a half-bird, half-lizard bipedal creature lead a group of slaves into the empty fields by the gate. I slid along the wall into the nearest corner and made myself as small as possible. I waited, and listened. Several more hours passed and a horn bellowed through the cavern.
I slithered from my hiding spot back to the gate. The slaves marched in two single file lines in front of their Dark Elf master, leaving the field. The globes in the ceiling dimmed until they more resembled dusk.
I jogged back to the checkpoint, and it looked abandoned. The gate was closed, and locked. I looked in the supply shed. Two extra bodies had been tossed onto the heap, slash wounds across their necks. I poked my head into the other building.
A leather pouch collided with my face. The pouch fell to the ground and clinked like coins. I entered the hut and scooped up the pouch.
Caeldrim sat with his legs propped on a small table, Strix rested on his lap. Wyanet sat in the corner, honing the edge of her spear on a sharpening wheel. Rolen slept in one of four bunks on the far side of the hut. Kalista leaned against a stone countertop, giggling like a little girl. The smell of stale wine filled the air.
“What’s this?” I held up the pouch.
Kalista continued to giggle. “I thought monks…were good… at catching things.” She slurred.
“That’s your cut of the loot.” Caeldrim said as he scratched Strix beneath his beak. “There’s almost a hundred dragons in there, and that’s not even counting the gemstones.”
“It would be more.” Kalista glared at Wyanet. “But Miss moral compass thought we should leave some behind.”
“It is only two hundred dragons, and the freed slaves will need it if they are to start over. You’ll get more after we sell the gemstones.” Wyanet declared.
Kalista rolled her eyes and took a drink from an empty wine skin.
“Freed slaves?” I looked towards Wyanet. “Does that mean you have a plan?”
Wyanet stopped spinning the sharpening wheel. “Rolen believes many of the slaves in Delara are unhappy, and wish to revolt.”
“Of course they are. The only people who would choose to be slaves are as monstrous as their masters.” Caeldrim interjected.
“The only reason they have not yet revolted is because of a woman named Bibi, and the other slave den mothers, have spoken against it.”
“And Rolen thinks our arrival might tip the scales.” I finished.
“We can already give them some weapons, and the ones who do not wish to fight can shelter here.” Wyanet said. “And Rolen has offered to take us to see Bibi.”
“It’s the only plan we have for right now, but we might not be able to get into the next cavern. The gate’s locked, and I don’t know if I can pick it.” I snatched the empty wineskin from Kalista. “And I don’t think she can do anything useful right now.”
“Don’t need to pick no locks when you got the key.” Rolen held up a heavy iron key dangling from a leather strap. “All the Warden captains carry ‘em.” Rolen sat up in his bunk. “I take it the fields are clear?”
Rolen clapped once and swung his legs out of the bunk. “What are we waiting for? Let’s go meet Bibi!”
The story will continue, July 18th.
Written by: Sweeney
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