Rise of the Runelords VA

From the Journal of Redgar Ironhand - Final
After the Long Dark

It was a cold day in mid-winter when Orin heard that his master had returned to Janderhoff. His excitement hurried his steps down to Torag’s shrine, his legs rushing against the resistance of the heavy leather in his apprentice robes. It was a struggle to keep himself from running—but even as a youngster, Orin knew that Dwarves did not run without good purpose.

His master—a gray-haired, timeworn cleric known as Thorik—was just where Orin had last seen him, leaned over an anvil at the back of the shrine. His hammerfalls came in slow, purposeful strokes, their blows ringing like the tolls of a solemn bell. Orin moved up, and asked if there was anything he could do to help.

“Pump the bellows boy,” Thorik answered as he admired the glowing steel in his grasp, “We’ll need a hot fire for this one.”

They worked for hours in relative silence, the only words spoken were as chants or prayers. Thorik spoke words to Torag as the steel took shape, thanking him for his guidance, his patience, and his strength. Orin echoed the words and felt a touch of his God’s power rise through them. The prayers warmed him from within like the heat of smoldering embers.

The steel became a long shaft for a two-handed hammer. Thorick’s spells put intricate runes up the handle and textured the handle with delicate knotwork. With this done, Thorick fitted a heavy maul-head to the end. Arcane words breathed over the connection of the two pieces forged them as one.

Thorick held the hammer up in the light of the forge and judged it with wizened eyes. He gave the steel a nod, and then passed it to Orin, “Place this on the altar steps and then join me in the study room.”

Orin took the hammer, its haft still warm from the fires of the forge. He went to the steps of Torag’s shrine, looked up to a chiseled likeness of his stern-faced god, and said words of tribute. Orin placed the hammer among the other items forged that day by Torag’s clerics. His patience now gone, he ran to the study room.

Thorik did not look up from his work as Orin returned to him. Before him on a wide stone table, Thorick had spread a number of writings and strange artifacts, many of which Orin had no understanding of. Thorick stared at them for several long seconds before turning to Orin and asking gently, “Have we any ale in the house?”

Orin nodded, “Of course.”

He was surprised to see a smile from the old cleric, “Could you find some for me? I think I might need a mug.”

Orin fetched two mugs and joined Thorik on a bench near the hearth. Orin clutched his cup tight in both hands as he watched his master take a long draw from his ale.

Thorik sighed heavily, “Go ahead boy, I know you want to ask.”

“What did you find at Runeforge?”

Thorik did not answer right away. The dwarf’s eyes went back to the objects on the table, where they lingered for a time and then fell. His brow furrowed with troubled thoughts.

Thorik said at length, “It was a place of great wonders and horrors.”

“But did you find what you were looking for?”

Thorik considered the question carefully before answering. When he was ready, he said, “So little is known of the world before Karzog’s return—of the time before the long darkness and the hundred years of fire. I had hoped that Runeforge would give me a window on what preceded the great fall, a way to see how it all could have gone so wrong.”

He shook his head, “But there was no such lesson to be learned there…only an evil trapped in time and the ghosts of those that came before. In Runeforge I learned that there was no great battle lost to give Karzog his freedom…no moment of choice gone wrong. The world simply let it happen. The few who stood against him were no match for the powers they faced.”

The words seemed to drain the strength from Thorik. He leaned forward against the table, his eyes cast down into his ale. Orin watched him with held breath.

Thorik blinked after a moment, then turned to Orin, “Before I left, you told me you intended to pledge yourself to Torag’s anvil. Is this still what you want?”

Orin nodded, “More than anything master.”

“Then I have something for you,” Thorik replied, “A story with a lesson to be learned.”

Thorik reached across the table for a thick red book with a metallic clasp. The cover was scarred, singed, and tattered with age, but the script on the front was still clear. It said, “The Journal of Redgar Ironhand.”

Orin took the book and held it reverently. He asked, “Who is Redgar Ironhand?”

“Read it and find out,” Thorik advised, “Come back to me when you are finished.”


Orin read through the night by candlelight, turning page after page of the ancient red book. The world Redgar described was something quite different from the one Orin knew—a world with verdant forests and human cities—a world where the light burned brighter than the shadow loomed. It had taken the free peoples of Golarion two thousand years to overthrow Karzog’s dominion. It seemed the world their battles had left was but a shade of the one that had come before.

As Orin saw hope dwindle in Redgar’s entries, he found himself cursing the ignorance of the mortals of his time. Surely others had seen the signs, surely others could have intervened in their time of need. But only Redgar and his companions had risen to stand opposed. As Thorik said, the rest of the world had let it happen.

Redgar’s story then was not one of heroism, but instead only a long tragedy. What started for Redgar and his companions as a call to good became a burden as the story went on—a burden that none of them could escape. For every victory they scored came only a new challenge to overcome—each more terrible than the last. And as they fell, one-by-one, Orin’s heart fell with them.

Orin knew how the story must end, and yet he was surprised when he came to the last entry. There was no finally statement of hope…no pardon…no redemption. Redgar’s journey had ended suddenly, like a prayer cut off in mid-sentence. He felt sick to his stomach when it was done. He tried to sleep, but no rest came.


The next morning, Orin joined Thorick again in the forge. They worked together on the blade for a long pike. They folded steel and sang prayers while sweat beaded across their foreheads. When it was done, the edge of the blade gleamed with a razor’s light.

They retired again to the study room, and again Orin found them mugs of ale. When Thorik had finished his first mug, Orin offered Redgar’s journal back to his master, “I have read it.”

Thorik made no move to take the book. Instead, he looked down on it as it trembled in Orin’s hand.

The old cleric asked, “Has Redgar’s story troubled you boy?”

“It has master,” Orin answered, “It has.”

“And why is that?”

Orin looked down to the book and shook his head mournfully, “In the end it was…it was all for nothing, wasn’t it? They fought, they suffered, and they died…and it didn’t change a thing. Karzog still rose and plunged the world into an age of darkness. All they did, all they hoped for…it was lost with them. No one now even knows their names.”

Thorik asked, “Did you read the inscription in the back?”

Orin shook his head, then opened the book from the rear cover. He found words on the last page, their letters written in large, deliberate strokes.

Why I Fight

For Torag, who gave a lost life meaning.
For my Mother, who showed me what it is to sacrifice.
For my Father, who taught me the meaning of service.
And for my friends, who bear this burden with me.
When I fall, I will sleep beneath the anvil of the world.
But until that day, I will carry it on my shoulders.

“This is the lesson of Redgar’s story,” Thorik said when Orin looked up, “The lesson of purpose.”

“Master, I don’t understand.”

Thorik drew in a regal breath, “Orin, when you swear to Torag’s anvil, it is not to win battles or vanquish evil…it is to live with purpose.”

He reached out with one hand and touched the journal on its cover, “Redgar did not succeed, he did not stop the rise of evil. But there is no shame in his failure. He did not give up. He did not surrender. He did not turn from the path Torag showed him. This is what will be asked of you as well. Are you ready to carry the anvil of the world?”

Orin shook his head, “I don’t know…”

Thorik lifted his hand for a gentle pat at Orin’s shoulder, “That’s okay son. Redgar didn’t know at first either. We’ll find out for you. We’ll find out.”

The old cleric sat back on the bench and folded his arms across his chest, “Keep the journal Orin. Read it again. It’s not the story I want to tell you…but it’s one that you need to know.”

Orin bowed, “Thank you master.”

Thorik raised his mug again, and seemed surprised to find it empty. He offered the cup to Orin with a smile, “Why don’t you find us another, eh? We have more things to talk about.”

Orin nodded as he took it from him, “I’ll be right back.”

He left the journal on the table.

Thorik stared at the book for several seconds, the mirth slipping slowly from his lips. When it was gone, he was only an old man with a sorrowful expression. He felt a pressing heaviness spread across his back. It took all his strength to bear its weight.

Thorik touched the book once more and said sadly, “There was a purpose friend.”

He said then a prayer for the fallen, a prayer for the lost, and a prayer for the forgotten. He thought he heard a ghostly echo from over his shoulder as he said the words. Thorik turned to look, but there was no one there.

He said to the silence, “Thank you.”

And the presence was gone.

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Syphacia and Mallisun Final
The Long Rest

Syphacia ran with her bow up. As she rounded the corner, she sighted down a nocked arrow. The succubus was now in front of her, but where there should have been one, there were six. Syphacia had seen the mirror image spell used before, and knew that the only way to defeat it was through luck and tenacity. She picked an image and fired at it. The shot was true, but the target was false. The succubus stared imperiously down through a swirling mist.

Syphacia felt a hard punch in the small of her back as she drew from her quiver—an enemy arrow launched down on her from above. She ignored the pain as she fired again at the demon.

Mallisun’s thoughts were a shout in her mind, Behind you!

“I know,” she gasped as she fired again. The arrow went wide. The succubus leered.

There was another sharp blow to her back, and then another. The arrows burned where they touched, extinguishing like white-hot pokers drowned in flesh. Syphacia fought to stay on her feet as she reached for another arrow. Behind her she could hear the thundering charge of giants. She heard Redgar praying desperately through an incantation. Razan struggled forward with Aramil’s lifeless body slumped over her shoulder.

Mallisun’s urged desperately, Run!

Syphacia put the arrow to the bowstring. She tried to pull back, but her arm wasn’t working right. There was blood in her eye, she could barely see beyond the bow. Her body seemed so heavy. A burning arrow missed her by inches from her right. Another found a soft spot above her knee.

Mallisun thoughts roared, RUN!

But Syphacia knew it was too late for that.

She said to her bow, “Please…”

Another black arrow pierced her before she could draw. It caught her in the back of the neck and punched through below her chin. Syphacia tasted blood for a moment…

…and the world went dark.

She woke to the rough sandpaper of Mallisun’s tongue. His voice said, “Open your eyes.”

Syphacia did as he asked.

She found herself in the shade of a mighty oak tree, deep within a sprawling forest. She laid curled into Malliusn’s furry side, dressed in light clothes and warm from the noon day sun. There was no pain in her now, no bite of injury or taste of blood. She felt rejuvenated, as if waking from a welcome slumber.

Syphacia sat up slowly, and as the world turned she touched Mallisun on the back of the neck to steady herself. She looked around slowly, asking him, “Where are we?”

“Someplace nice,” he replied.

Syphacia turned to her cat with wide eyes. The response he had given hadn’t been in her mind…it had rumbled up from his throat as if voiced from a throaty roar. She gaped, “You can talk…”

Mallisun didn’t look surprised. As he licked at his paw he said, “I can here.”

Syphacia just stared for a moment. Her mind tumbled with unrecognizable thoughts.

Mallisun closed his eyes and bumped his head lovingly against her. He said above a familiar purr, “This is where we get to play.”

“Where?” she asked.

But suddenly she knew the answer. The thought was terrifying…and yet it didn’t terrify her. It only made her sad. It broke her heart.

She said to him in trembling words, “I tried Mal…I really tried. I did what Ketephys asked. I tried…”

Mallisun rumbled at her side, “I know.”

Syphacia embraced him and felt her tears wetting his fur. She sobbed, “I didn’t want it to end this way…I didn’t…”

He said warmly, “But it hasn’t ended.”

Mallisun drew back from her here, and turned to look off into distance. There, between the trees, a firepelt the size of an elephant prowled on long, slow steps. Beyond the giant cat, other wondrous creatures frolicked among the laden trees, their calls, howls, and roars combining to a song of unimaginable splendor.

The world seemed to open around Syphacia like a wondrous gift. It was almost too beautiful to stand.

Mallisun stood, and then helped Syphacia up with a nuzzle at her side. He said to her, “Let’s go play.”

And Syphacia followed him into a land of dappled sunlight.

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Razan's Account, the Thirteenth
Dreams of Grandeur

A,

Nuwairah used to tell us stories every night. This one comes back to me as we wait for weariness to overcome fear.

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Stupid !~#$ing Magic Dungeon, and a Hedgehog
-4708, Absalom Reckoning

I think we all may have just come from the grandest fight of our lives. Not even Arkryst could top this guy.

 

                A wizard who dabbled in metallurgy, locked in an extra-dimensional dungeon to act out his experiments in their fullest capacity. Years and years of testing seem to have led to perfectly recreating himself in metallic form- one of the many facts about him that proved to be a royal pain. The other major fact being… he was a wizard. Notice my clever use of the past tense, there.

                Yes, indeed. The implication there was that he is now dead. Incredibly dead, in fact. It so happens that a wizard without any magic is just a shmoe with a fancy beard. Too bad for him, his ability to ruin our day has greatly diminished because of it. So long. I hope there’s at least a welcome wagon in whatever hell you now preside. Oh, and I hope you don’t miss your spleen. It’s only fitting, considering you turned the only decent wizard in the room into a hedgehog. Not that Aramil particularly likes me anyway. I suppose now he has much… simpler concerns.

                Unfortunately, that blasted wizard was not the only ill that happened to us so far. I also failed- rather spectacularly- to catch a particularly nasty trick door. My over-confidence in my find was my un-doing, and so I and my Dwarven companion were both crushed by the piston that was waiting for my thieves’ tools. The Dwarf was robust enough to withstand it. I however, was not born of the mountain. Thankfully, Redgar was able to revive me again. In my prayers tonight, I must remember to send thanks to Torag as well as Khepri for saving me from my own blunder.

                Something I found quite fascinating was the wizard’s use of some sort of transmutation magic to turn nay-saying or wrong-doing servants into fish, who were then used to decorate the various fountains in the dungeon. It’s cruel, but I would imagine also incredibly effective. If I had worked under these wizards, I would have tread carefully, having seen the fate of my brethren. Unless of course I wished it upon myself, but I would have to have done something really stupid in order to believe I deserved such a punishment. Perhaps something involving a trap and lots of broken bones…

                Ah, nevermind. I’m sure that if Khepri has further disciplinary action to take, he will send it down to haunt me soon enough. Until then, may he watch over us all. We’ll need a God or two on our side to get us through this.

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Syphacia and Mallisun #14
Syphacia and the Hedgehog (aka Aramil)

When Syphacia had been a child in the Mirenai forest, she had once come across a baby squirrel that had fallen out of its nest. Instinctively, she had brought the tiny animal back to the house and had sought to feed and nurse it until it was well enough to return to the trees.

Syphacia found this task was greatly complicated by her mother’s cat, a fiesty tom by the name of Cayden. The cat was always around when the squirrel was out, always climbing and staring from as close as she would allow. And though Cayden never made an overt move after Syphacia’s squirrel, he never shied from eyeing it greedily, as if saying with his purr, “Oh yes, it will be mine.”

This was similar, but far weirder. For one, she could literally feel Mallisun’s thoughts in the back of his animal mind as he wondered what hedgehog would taste like. For another, the hedgehog was actually Aramil.

Syphacia had placed Aramil in one of the smaller cages from the Sorcerer’s experimentation room, one of only a few that had not been seared badly during the battle with him. As a hedgehog, Aramil had seemed quite scared at first, but through a long routine of cooing, petting, and gentle words, Syphacia had calmed him to a state of mild anxiety. The little beast’s spines were still partially stood up, no doubt meant as a warning to a certain staring firepelt.

Syphacia looked her cat squarely in the eyes, “Mal…stop it.”

Mallisun seemed disinclined to look away from the hedgehog. He thought, Let it out.

“No,” she answered firmly.

Mallisun glanced up at his master, We’ll play.

“No you won’t,” she said in reply, “No, you’re going to sit right there and be a good cat…for once.”

Mallisun settled back on his haunches, I’m good.

“I know what you’re thinking Mal.”

The big cat looked away, pretending to be distracted by something, No.

Syphacia smiled and rubbed between the firepelt’s ears, “Yes I do, so stop it.”

Mallisun let out a low a rumbling purr.

“You wouldn’t like hedgehog anyway,” she added, “It’s probably like eating thistle.”

Elsewhere in the room her allies were trying to find someplace comfortable to bed down for the ‘night’. Redgar was sorting through charred furniture for something worth sitting on, while Coram dug in his bag for a flask to drink. Razan had slumped in one corner, still bloody from the battle that had come before. Masud was on watch—not that there was much to watch. The halls around them were eerily quiet, save for the trickling sound of water from the runeforge’s animated fountains.

Syphacia’s task while they waited was to watch Aramil. As a hedgehog he had lost his human identity—and left to his own devices he would almost certainly flee to some hidden corner to live a hedgehog’s life. Redgar had indicated that he could restore Aramil to his former self, but that he needed time to memorize the spell. Until then, Aramil was trapped as a tiny, prickly mammal.

He had never been so cute.

Syphacia was not embarrassed by the feeling, but she hesitated to act on it. Redgar could not verify how much Aramil would or would not remember when he was restored, so Syphacia fought the urge to cuddle him against her bosom. As a hedgehog he was a little ugly, but it was a cute-ugly, the kind of ugly that was adorable on accident. She wouldn’t have minded waiting a few days to restore him.

She imagined that Aramil might.

So, with a sigh, she settled back against the wall with Aramil at her side. She touched him through the bars of the cage, and felt his tiny teeth as he nibbled at the tips of her fingers. She laughed a little.

Mallisun sent a note of jealousy over their mental link.

She reached for the cat with her other hand, “It’s alright Mal, you know you’re my favorite.”

He leaned into her, I know.

“Now lay down,” she told him, “You need your nap.”

Mallisun lay against her, snuggled close, and fell to sleep beneath the gentle strokes of her hand.

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From the Journal of Redgar Ironhand #26
Redgar Takes a Breath

The Runeforge has certainly lived up to our expectations for it. Its denizens have tested us, right up to our limits, and only through tenacity and luck have we managed to survive. We have bested but one wing of this strange laboratory, and in so doing have been humbled again by enemies of enormous power.

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Aramil''s musings later to be transcribed

I am sure I will have time to later write this in my journal. Right now we are in the runeforge in peril of our lives. This metal transmuter man has nearly routed us and with fly magic has rendered most of our warriors ineffective. He has dealt out deadly spells, even ones with the power to disintegrate us like poor Jaben or even turn our flesh to stone. Right now the monster has left us and I have put a wall of force on the doors to stop it from returning. I hope it can hold and give us some time to regroup but another bout of its distingration magic could bring down even my formidable wall.

If I had my way I would send all transmutation to the devils. Of course I neglected its study so it is so exhausting for me to use. There are some very useful spells but I am sick and tired of seeing this bastard deal so much dammage to us. Everyone has been tight and Regdar stands out again as a formidable force in this group. Syphacia too is able to give out monsterous amounts of damage and I greatly respect her prowess. Corrum’s my cousin so I will always respect that even if I can’t respect all of his actions.

If only Regdar could appreciate the beauty and freedom of life like Syphacia does. He’s far too caught up in following the rules and regulations and the rigid dogma of his faith.

Enough musings. My magic anihilated the water elementals earlier today. I will prevail again against this transformation thing.

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Razan's Account, the Twelfth
Dragons and Darkness

A,

I suppose I never thought to fight dragons. Certainly, in the stories there is always one, yes? But even as I headed out for duty and adventure and glory… I never thought to fight dragons.

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Forethought, Afterthought, and All Inbetween
-4708, Absalom Reckoning

                It seems Khepri is not done with me yet. I’m not sure whether I’m being taught a lesson, or simply living as Khepri wishes me to live already. Either way, it’s not quite as pleasant as I suspected it would be.

                The sign I found in Nirmathas- a massive and ill-tempered horse- turned out to be under the ownership of a surly Qadiran woman by the name of Razan. I was greeted with mild surprise and disdain, as if I were some threat. Granted, I am a threat to most people, but I did my best to be pleasant. She had no hand in the occupation of Osirion decades before, and I had no hand in fending them off. Ostensibly there should be nothing there, but it seems that there’s some tension between us. Quite a shame, considering everything else. We would’ve started on just the right foot had it not been for that.

                The surprises did not end there. Razan was joined by an Elf, a Dwarf, and several more Humans before the morning was done, and to top it all off Razan- convinced that she might be ignoring a sign of the Gods- took the whole merry band to visit the local Seer. She passed vague judgment, in that way that only Seers can, and it was determined that I could tag along if I so wished.

                Do not misunderstand me. One of the very first things that had been said to me (from the Dwarf, no less) was that they were on their way to fight a massive evil threatening to engulf the world. I would not have followed, but I had still been led here, and I was not about to let that go to waste. Plus, this was the first real sign that I had encountered since Razan’s equine friend. It’s not every day you encounter a band of demi-humans out to destroy a world-conquering evil, especially not in such a small, harmless little village like Sandpoint.

                It was determined that we were to travel to Magnimar, and catch a ship up to Brinewall, all at the direction of some riddle-poetry they had found on a wall underneath of the village. It seemed strange, but I suppose I was in no place to start scoffing- I had just followed a horse across half a continent on a whim. At least Redgar warmed up to me somewhat. We spent many long hours on the trip discussing our chosen deities. It was interesting to hear a bit about the staple Dwarven God, and similarly he seemed earnestly intrigued by Khepri. I was more than happy to fill him in on some of the details, and we shared prayers for a while. I think it may have been these discussions that saved my life later.

                We arrived at Brinewall and spent some time harvesting information from the locals. What little we scrounged up told us that there was a landmark several day’s ride up the mountain called Rimeskull, and that supposedly the site used to have a white dragon guardian named Arkhryst, but he had long since moved on. I was quite unhappy so close to the top of the world. It was freezing cold, and it only got worse as we traveled up the mountain.

                Upon arrival, we spent a long while discussing what we were looking for and how we were supposed to reach it, again referencing the poetry for most of our guesswork. The Dwarf finally gathered himself and cast something-or-other on one of the seven statues in the clearing. There was a massive, keening bell and a key appeared in the statue. No sooner had we picked it up were we beset by a large dragon, suspiciously matching the “white” descriptor that the people at Brinewalll had given us.

                Remind me not to take locals at their word anymore.

                The beast had not even touched down when most of us scattered to the four winds, leaving the Dwarf and the Elf to fend for themselves. I have no idea what happened in the interim, but several hours later I was located by the Elf and led back to camp a ways down the mountain.

                We re-evaluated our approach and cast preparatory spells. This time, we saw him coming, and had laid everything out to the best of our abilities. The dragon, perhaps toying with us, actually decided to land and take us on toe-to-toe. Seeing what may have been my only chance, I charged forward and landed a hit before taking the full force of its fury. Not my best day. Deciding that he’d had enough, Arkrhyst grabbed me in one massive claw and pulled me high into the air. Syphacia caught him under his jaw, and so he and I went plummeting back down. My perception of the ground was rather brief, and the coldness of death began to creep into me.

                Fortunately, Redgar was able to revive me at the very last moment, and thus I rose up- essentially dead- from the worst fight of my life. I made certain I thanked him, and in my evening prayers I tossed an appreciative mention. It was the least I could do.

                Now, I’m told by the wizard that I sit in some extra-dimensional space, with no apparent exit and some kind of time limit, lest we all be unable to leave. Khepri, you have my heart and my skill, and I owe most everything to you. But this? This is sick. I would like you to know that.

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Syphacia and Mallisun #13
Syphacia and Mallisun in a Strange Place

Beneath the dome of the Runeforge’s vast, central cavern, Mallisun was growling in the back of his throat. It was a subtle sound—a rolling rumble like muted timpani. Syphacia doubted any of the others would notice it at all. That meant it was for her.

Stop it, Syphacia ordered him over their mental link.

Not right here, Mallisun answered her.

I know, Syphacia replied. She looked down at the cat, “But growling isn’t going to help.”

Mallisun stopped the growl, but his ears stayed flat, and his tail twitched anxiously. The cat’s tension had put a tight knot in Syphacia’s stomach—as if she needed anything else to distract her.

Ahead of her, the others eyes were mostly upwards, trying and failing to take in the enormous scale of the place. Seven towering statues dominated the room, each bearing the face of a tyrant from millennia past. They looked like villains to a one.

Want to leave, Mallisun told her.

“We can’t leave until we find out what we’re here for,” Syphacia answered in a low whisper. “Right now we don’t even know how to leave. This isn’t like anywhere else we’ve been Mal. We’re not even in Golarion anymore.”

Still want to leave.

Redgar’s gruff voice boomed in the silence that surrounded them, “We’ll set up our camp here and explore the hallways one by one. We’d best organize a watch order…though it’s going to be hard to tell time down here.”

“There’s no sun,” Razan observed sourly.

“There’s no anything,” Coram added with a smirk.

Mallisun’s growl threatened to return.

Syphacia put a soothing hand on the firepelt’s flank, “Settle down Mal…just settle down. You need to rest. I’ll get you some venison out if you want. Would you like that?”

Mallisun answered, Yes… but he didn’t see happy about it.

Syphacia sloughed her pack off her shoulder and began digging for her pouch of dried meat. When she found it, she unwrapped it and knelt down to offer it to Mallisun. The cat took the whole thing with a single swipe of his sandpaper tongue.

“Chew it,” she told him.

Mallisun had already swallowed it by the time she got the words out. The cat thought, We leave soon?

“As soon as we can.”

Mallisun lowered his head, then moved forward to collide with Syphacia’s shoulder. He circled her three times before finding a comfortable place to lay down at her feet.

Not right here, the cat thought again as he closed his eyes.

“You’re right Mal,” she answered softly. Syphacia looked again to the circle of cruel statues that surrounded them, “You’re so right.”

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