Renuk’s point of view:
After our skirmish with the walking dead, we’d managed to make it back to the others in mostly one piece. Whot was hurtin’ and lookin’ a little pale, but I guess having a chunk taken out of your leg by a corpse’ll do that to you. Tyr tried all the healing magic he knew, but the dwarf didn’t look any better. In the morning we packed and rode out to meet the wizard that’d sent us into that damned pit, hopefully to get a substantial amount of pay. I figured this wasn’t gonna be the case when I saw the hovel the old man lived in; a round shack badly in need of thatching, with a stone turret piled at its side. This is the Cabal Argentum, eh? Standing outside the wizards shack was not at all what I expected to see; a powerfully built she-dwarf and…I couldn’t believe it. Skyzx.
“What’s that little shit doin’ here?” I ground out. The goblin jerked like he’d been struck and his face slid from boredom to terror in a heartbeat.
The dwarf looked us over coolly, keepin’ a firm hand on the leash she had ‘round the goblins waist as he cowered behind her.
“Who are you?” Mara asked, more politely.
The dwarf introduced herself as Kindra and explained that Skyzx was in her employ. I was spared havin’ to think on that when a half-mad lookin’ human walked out of the hovel. This had to be our wizard. He asked if we’d found the book and the elf handed it over to him. He snatched it up greedily, eyeing it like an orc with a shiny new halfling to play with. Whot brought up the way he’d pitted us against our rival mercenary gang, the Black Eagle Company; said we didn’t do business that way. We had morals. I laughed inwardly. I guess I had morals. The wizard seemed amused too, said that of course we were ‘welcome to seek employ elsewhere’. This one knew the game. I asked for his name and he paused, eventually saying “You may call me…Zed.” If that was his real name, then I’m an elf.
Zed said that for payment, he could ‘enchant’ our weapons or armor. I’d rather have coin any day. He did, however, make Whot a disgusting brew that seemed to give the dwarf some strength back. Kindra the she-dwarf stood near and Zed said that she had a job for us. She told us how her brother’d gone missin’ 40 damn years ago in an old mine and now she wanted help to go find him. Said she’d found Skyzx lurkin’ around and caught him to use as a guide. Skyzx was almost cryin’, beggin’ not to go back into those mines. Hell, watchin’ him blubber his way through the mines would almost be payment enough. We agreed to help her.
Zed added on that he wanted samples of anything ‘unusual’ we might find inside. Which reminded me of the fat man full of wigglin’ guts back in Fallenrock. I told him ‘bout this and his eyes lit right up; said that was exactly what he was after. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess.
We followed Kindra and the goblin into the woods on foot; it was too rocky for the horses. Filbert, Tristem and the other elf stayed back at the wizards shack. After a few hours march we reached the mouth of the mine. Looked like there’d been a cave-in some time back. We picked our way inside.
“Ohhh, I don’t want to go back. There’s just bones…all my friends…” The goblin whined. Kindra tugged the leash and I grinned. I led the way with my night-eyes, the others filin’ behind me. The tunnel walls opened out into a massive room and the air smelled thick and rotten. Somethin’ very wrong lurked somewhere just outta sight, maybe behind the piles of rock that’d tumbled down from the ceiling. There were low scrapin’ sounds, and a drawn out, moaning growl. Sounded like a bear…but not. The goblin shook so hard I could hear his fangs chatterin’.
“It’s behind those rocks.” I whispered to Tyr and Whot who stood closest. Mara bent and picked up a few stones, tossin’ them at the source of the sounds. She drew out somethin’ monstrous. It might’ve been a bear once, a long time ago. It was covered in a thick, black slime of worms, bone jutted up out of its spine and massive shoulders. Its jaw gaped open like a snakes, skin tearin’ and worms fallin’ to the ground. The roar it let out shook the room and sent rocks clatterin’ down on us. I recovered from the shock first and flung myself at it, greatsword ready, screaming a mighty battle-cry: “OH SHIT!”
I missed the first hit, Whot and Tyr tried their hands at the beast next, and Mara loosed her bow. We were whipped up into a fear-fueled frenzy. We beat the shit out of that worm-bear, Whot landing the finishing blow. Reeking guts and slime and worms spattered out and the beast slumped down to the ground, lookin’ pretty dead. I could hear Mara retching as we gathered up a sample of the worm guts (in her wine skin no less) for the wizard.
We searched the room for some sign of Kendra’s brother and found nothin’ but goblin bones. Skyzx whined and cringed and begged to be let go. ‘Course we didn’t oblige him. We headed into the next room and this one had caved in so badly that most of it was a pile of rubble, with only a thin trail ‘round the edges to follow. Mara decided to take the high ground, pickin’ a way through the tumbled stones…and tripped and fell with a curse, knockin’ them loose. The room seemed ‘bout to give way, stones and dust rainin’ down on us. We ran for the door, wrenched it open.
Oddly enough, Skyzx seemed a bit more at ease in this chamber. Bats were flyin’ about and he said somethin’ bout his ‘boss’ having had one for a pet. Far off in the corner we could hear somethin’ leathery floppin’ about. Somethin’ big. Skyzx screamed and would’ve run, but Kindra handed his leash over to the elf as a ball of wings and bone and gnashing teeth flung itself out of the darkness. Like the bear, it was a mess of black worms and slime. I landed a hit, as did Whot but the creature turned on Kindra, knockin’ her down and wailin’ on her. I figured she was done for, but the she-dwarf let out a mighty roar and hit the creature so hard that it damn near exploded. Whot finished it off. Kindra was covered in wormy entrails and looked disgusted. Whot suggested she take off her clothes…then realized how that had sounded.
Wantin’ to get the hell out of the mines, we quickly searched the room and again found nothin’. We entered the next door. Near a forge, there were buckets full of shinin’ ore and fine weapons and armor still hung on the walls. Skyzx perked up at something; a hunched figure sitting in the corner of the room.
“Boss?” the goblin asked. He crept as close as the leash would allow, paused and then scuttled back in panic. The figure didn’t move. Mara strode forward and poked the thing a few times with her quarterstaff. It spun about with a gurgling yell. It had been a goblin, but now it was covered in the same black, worm-mess and two long tentacles grew out of its body. It lashed out, catching Mara by the arm with one tentacle. Whot darted in and hacked it off her. Mara tried to strike it, but the thing grabbed her again with the remainin’ tentacle. I went into a rage and sliced that one off. We destroyed the thing quickly, not givin’ it much of a chance to fight back, and then searched the room. Skyzx had run; the elf must’ve let go of the leash. Kindra gasped; tucked away in an alcove was the still-armored skeleton of what could only be her brother. Around the alcove were old runes that I couldn’t read, but the spell of them must’ve protected the body for decades. Kindra crossed over to him and took an old, tattered book from his bony clutch.
The rest of us set about takin’ armor, weapons and all the mithril we could carry. Kindra wanted to take her brothers bones out of the mine, so I gave her my jacket to bundle them in. We loaded up and set off quickly; the mine looked like it was goin’ to collapse any second. As we ran through the chamber of the worm-bear, we saw that bits of it were beginning to ooze back together. My stomach churned. Once out of the mine, we blocked up the tunnel as well as we could, shouldered our burdens, and started back towards the mad wizard.