Back up Pavis overall

The Rescue Party


As Graylor's group are preparing to leave, the guards sight another group approaching - and to their surprise, recognise Karrath, the new Warlord of the Humakt temple in the New City, and many of his men. The formal challenges and greetings are begun, but Karrath waves them aside. "No time for that, now, this is important. Where's Illig? There's a vampire on the loose, and making more like himself, so this thing tells us." He waves a hand at a prisoner - blond, brown-eyed, and obviously terrified. "Don't kill the bastard, Lord Aurel promised him protection before we knew the full story. Now, let's get on with this."

Then he looks around at the preparations - the Zebra cavalry moving out under Jamal's command, the magical wardings being set in place. "Whatever you're doing, you'll have to stop it, a vampire's more important."

"With respect Sir; these are preparations for the vampire." Graylor responded. "We encountered it last night in the Zebra stockade. It has abducted one of our number, for what foul purpose we know not. We followed it to the edge of the Devil's Playground; there we lost it. We were able to narrow down the search area with an Umbrolli and we have sent flooding rain against that locality to keep it pinned into its underground lair. Lord Illig is inside the temple leading the magical preparations for the attack. I'll take you to him directly."

"Yenda, please will you let Lord Illig know that he has a visitor."

"Sir, might I have permission to question the prisoner?" Graylor ventures as he escorts Karrath to the temple. "This morning a group of men dressed the same as him abducted ten-thane Dorinda. I think that this is linked to our vampire. The leader drank the blood of one of his men! It sounds like he is in the final stages before he becomes a vampire."

"Yes, go ahead, do with him what you feel best. Get him to tell you, and the men, about vampire's plans. It'll stiffen their resolve for the fight!" Karrath replied rather cryptically. "I have to tell Illig and see where we can be of most help. Remember don't harm him. We are upholding Lord Aurel's oath!"

Graylor walked over to the prisoner only to find him surrounded by several angry faces, members of the legion who remembered his face from Yellow Sky. "Leave him be, he is under the protection of Lord Aurel. We are not to harm him, whatever your grievances." He turned to the prisoner.

"I am Graylor and I seems that you have met some old friends. However, the word of a Humakti is never lightly broken, so you are safe for now. What is your name?"

The man stared at Graylor mutely. He was shaking from head to foot. Eventually he stammered. "S-S-S-Santhis. My old master intended much harm against these men. I regret bitterly that I was part of his unholy band."

"Why not tell these good men why you are here?" Graylor asked suspiciously. "You think that the name of Cavos and his new master Parus will be sufficient to redeem you in their eyes?" The mention of Parus name caused Santhis to flinch and look round him wildly as if he expected the vampire to appear.

"No I have more disturbing news than that! Cavos and that vampire are planning an unholy union, the joining of Oilemaly and Vivamort. They will produce a race of super vampires that will be unstoppable.

"Have you ever seen the full power of Humakt raised against wounded one?" One of the crowd sneered.

"You don't understand, Oilemaly magic is powerful." Santhis retorts, now warming to his subject he continues passionately. "It deals with deception and the ability to hide your true nature. How will you fight if you don't know who to fight? It steals powers from Yelm and as such one need never fear Yelm's curse. Further it counters your own Death magic. Why do you think that the ceremony in Yellow Sky needed Yelmalians and Humakti? A vampire with such magical capabilities would counter all Humakt's advantages." Santhis finished almost shouting. They had attracted quite a crowd now.

"I am tired of living in fear and I want to be a man again. I joined Cavos out of fear; stayed with him because of fear. But now fear drives me out he has the cravings of a vampire but no ability to satisfy them. And the Carmanian, everyone should rightly fear him. But you want to know why now? That's easy, I was to be the sacrifice that gave the vampire his new powers and seal the bargain with Cavos so that he can become a vampire too."

Mutterings of horror and indignation spread through the crowd. These feelings were soon replaced with an implacable hatred and a desire to fight their ancient foe.

"When was this to take place?" Graylor demanded.

"I'm not sure. I was never told, but it has to be soon because Cavos is almost uncontrollable. It has to be in the next few nights."

"Right, you want freedom from fear and redemption. The first I can't give, all me live in fear, it's what you do when faced by fear that makes you a man... or not. Humakt can offer you redemption, but it will not be easy his way is as hard and straight as his sword. There are some here who bear you no love; it will be hard to win them around." Graylor warned. He then spoke louder to the crowd. "If you prove worthy you will face Humakt's judgement. If he accepts you then will your past and present die, and you will be reborn in Humakt and you will truly be safe. Do you accept the path that is offered?"

"I swear that I will do anything you wish to be free of Cavos and his master."

"So be it. You have sworn in front of these Humakti and they take oaths very seriously." Graylor instructed. "Your first task will be to lead us to their hideout in the Devils Playground."

Santhis blanched and fell to his knees. "No, no not that.." He muttered to himself. ".. but it is my one chance." Slowly he straightened up. "If that is what you ask the so be it. I will lead you there."

"Good, so it begins. You redemption will be hard, you have a long way to come back, but what assistance I can give will be yours." Graylor offered the man his hand. "Welcome back to life!"

The crowd starts to disperse with uneasy mutterings. They are not sure of the path offered the prisoner, but he would face Humakt and that was sufficient. They are sure that the vampire abomination should be eliminated. At this point Elendala spoke up.

"Don't for get Dori's map. If this thing is going to be of use to us he can tell us if the map is true." The contempt in Elendala's voice was overpowering. Santhis studied the map for a brief time and verified that it lead to the vampires lair.

Afterwards Elendala's eyes locked onto Santhis. "Your foul brood have my ten-thane. You have tried hurting her before and failed. I will not let it happen this time. If I think that sacrificing you will help preserve Dorinda then I will not hesitate. If you fail to keep your vow then anyone of us will act to dispense Humakt's judgment."

Fortunately Santhis was spared any further warnings as Illig and Karrath emerged from their conference. Illig spoke up.

"Right listen up. I am sure that you are now aware that plans have changed. This operation in now no longer a search and rescue, we know where Egil and Dorinda are being held. So the plan is this: The Zebra riders will circle round to the west and come at the position from the south-west. The Yelornans and friends will go to the east and approach from the south-east. The main force of Humakti will strike directly south to approach from the north. I want nothing escaping from their hideout. Each group will have members of the legion and General Vur's men to aid in communication. "

"Don't go out looking for trouble, there will be enough that will find you! Remember that this is a rescue and time is of the essence."Karrath added.

Illig took Graylor to one side. "Take control of Dori's ten and scout out the route. Keep us informed of any problems. But get there quickly."

"Yes Sir." Graylor smartly salutes and goes to find the rest of the ten. With Santhis in tow they set off for the Devils Playground. Before long they hear the sound of thundering hooves as the two groups of cavalry set off round the long way. Graylor noticed Yenda's longing look at the unicorns and smiled to himself. Then they entered the Devils Playground. Graylor was pleased to notice the swift responses to his hand signals and the general alertness of the ten. "This is definitely something to aspire to." He thought to himself.

With his mind back on the job he started using his senses both physical and magical to scan the area for trouble. Very soon the actions became automatic, though the vigilance was not. Areas were searched and several smaller and weaker denizens of the place were ousted from their hiding places and either dispatched or more often left to run away. Once a path was cleared they left simple way markers to show the route. Suddenly all of Graylor's senses were screaming wrongness.

"Kristen, Halt!" He called "back up! There is something by you." Graylor walked up to the astonished Kristen, feeling somewhat surprised himself. What was it that triggered such a reaction? Graylor responded to the question forming in Kristen's eyes.

"You were about to step on something dangerous." He said and in speaking he realised that it was true. There was a slight tremor in the ground ahead. "Something chaotic is under there waiting to pounce."

He turns to the rest of the squad. "Right we need to deal with this. Two of you roll get a boulder rolling over that section of ground, but keep your selves well back. The rest spread out and be prepared for anything jumping out, whatever is under there is chaos and may take any form."

The boulder crashed along the ground and just before it hit the place that Graylor had noticed moving a huge section of the ground lifted up and out ran a giant spider. A thing of chaos indeed it had mutated to a hughe size, fully eight feet across, black bodied and hairy with thick brown legs, it's fangs dripped venom that puffed out smoke and hissed as it hit the ground. It's eyes glared malevolently at the warriors surrounding it. It picked out Yenda and stared at her for a brief moment then with shocking speed it dashed forward and made a grab for her. Yenda made no attempt to save herself and the fangs sunk in to her thigh, instantly she collapsed. This shocked the troops into action and the thing was hit from many sides, but none more viciously than Kristen. Who could be heard to mutter. "Why is it always spiders? I hate spiders." As she systematically dismembered the beast.

Graylor and Elendala were at Yenda's side examining the wound. It didn't look good, the bite had gone through to the bone and the surrounding skin was shot through with black streaks that were spreading.

"Fortunately I have magic to stop the spread of the chaos corruption, but she needs more help and that is beyond our abilities." Graylor said sadly.

"We have some herbs that will help the bleeding but not much else." Elendala agreed. "Unless we can get to the unicorn riders. She had an affinity with them and they healed us after Dori was taken."

Graylor's face was a picture of indecision. His heart told him that this wound needed immediate attention and Elendala was right; the unicorns were Yenda's best hope. But his duty was also to scout the route and get to Dori and Egil as quickly as possible. Abruptly he stood up his mind made up.

"Irnar, you run back to the rest of the legion who are following and report the injury. We'll have to take Yenda to the Yelornans for help. Ask for extra men to replace us in the scouting party."

Irnar ran off without a word. Graylor next turned his attention to Yenda and Elendala.

"We need to stabilise her leg so that she can walk. I have something that will stop the pain for a short while. I hope that it will last long enough."

So it was done, and by the time Irnar returned Yenda was awake and ready to travel. Typically she was apologising for being mesmerised by the beast. Her apology was cut short by a gruff voice, slightly slurred.

"Graylor, what in the hells is going on here. Got some garbled message that you are off playing with the girls on their ponies!" Karrath had come with the replacements. Graylor patiently explained the situation and his decision, whilst Karrath took a huge pull from the flask at his side. The man reeked of mead.

"Right, still don't understand why you want to see the pony girls though."

"Because the unicorns may have a chance to heal her leg. It is full of chaos venom that we can't do anything about," explained Graylor.

"Unicorns? Bloody creatures won't go near her unless - come on, a good-looking bint like you?" Karrath turned back to Graylor, appalled. "Don't tell me all the women in this "Legion" of yours are frigid? Damn waste, I say."

"I wouldn't know." Graylor stared at Karrath in disbelief. "I wouldn't presume to pry. Anyway she was healed by them this morning!"

"Oh, OK. Well then let's get on with it then man. What are you doing standing around talking for!" Karrath slapped a friendly hand on Graylor's shoulder. Graylor sighed resignedly and gave the orders to move out. Just as they were leaving Karrath decided to join them.

"I'm coming with you. Need to see if these lasses are any good. If you know what I mean." Karrath laughed. "Besides I've never seen a unicorn do its thing, must be a sight."

The ten moved out heading more to the east looking out for the Yelornans as well as keeping a close eye on the local denizens. As it turned out they saw both at the same time. The riders were just entering an avenue of less collapsed buildings whilst hiding half way down the avenue was a scorpionman. It was in a building with no wall from Graylor's view but the wall to the street was in reasonable repair. Graylor reached out with the power of his god and felt that the whole area was teeming with chaos of all varieties. This was a big trap and the Yelornans were riding straight into it!

Graylor acted immediately, he flung out Herewards wind that was now his to command to warn the troop. Too late he realised that this magic was beyond him. There was no time for more mundane signalling the trap was being sprung; two dragonsnails were enticed into the street by pieces of meet dragged across the road by the scorpionman Greylor had spotted. Graylor directed the ten to spread out and attack the ambushers, he called on the cohorts wyter to help the men face the horrors he knew lay within the buildings ahead.

As one the Yelornans lowered their spears and charged at the snails, before the message that Graylor had sent could be transmitted to the leaders. As soon as the horses started the charge further scorpionmen blocked either end of the street by collapsing walls. To give them their due the Yelornans did not pause in the charge and destroyed the dragonsnails before the snails were really aware of the riders' presence. The charge faltered as scorpion men began to appear and threw their spirits at horses and riders. Graylor and his troop ripped through the houses at one end of the street. Many of the warriors where shrouded in the black glow of Humakt's power their black swords dealing death. Graylor's gloves glowed with Jalmar's power, wherever his blades hit chaos withered and died, their empty souls sent screaming back into the void from whence they came. Graylor was beginning to enjoy himself when a thought intruded on his mind. "What of your duty?" Graylor stopped and realised in the joy of wanton destruction he had forgotten why they were there. He started issuing orders and the ten formed a shieldwall across the street and advanced up the street to the struggling Yelornans. They beat back the chaos and just as they reached their allies the scorpionmen regrouped and started chanting together in their foul toungue.

"Retreat." Graylor ordered. "Lets get out of here before what ever foul magic they are attempting comes to fruition."

They had nearly made it to the end of the street when two things started to happen. A shade appeared in their midst scaring the zebras who unseating the few who were still in the saddle. The unicorns seemed to be unaffected and joined with the Yelornans to dismiss the shade with a brilliant ball of light.

Karrath turned at the sounds of panic, just in time to catch one young warrior as she fell from her bucking zebra. The jolt of the landing knocking them both to the floor. The girl's helmet rolled free to reveal a shock of red hair that shone in the light raised by the Yelornans.

"You're not a Yelornan!" Karrath managed to splutter: then, with his expression turning to a grin: "and no unicorn for you, either. Well, if hiding out with them bitches fer too long means you throw yourself at the first good-looking man you see, I'm sure I can do something about that. You need to be careful falling off horses, girl, you might've damaged something important."

"You've had too much mead to be any use to me now," she retorted: the smell of his breath must have been obvious at what was still very close range. She scrambled back to her feet, smiling. "Later, though, maybe. Unless you think you're damaged beyond repair? But first let's get out of this place."

Before anything else could be said a horrifying scream rent the air, all eyes turned in terror back to the chanting scorpionmen. The chanting had stopped and they stepped back to reveal the bodies of two slain Yelornans, as they watched the bodies started to twitch and then slowly, awkwardly stand up. Now upright they tipped back their heads and let out another unholy scream. The scream spoke to all the horrors that live in the dark places of your mind. It was too much for many and they fled.

Despite every effort Graylor felt the fear start to rise within. Then suddenly it was gone, well not gone he could still feel it, but now it did not unman him. He realised that this was Braveheart's doing and relaxed knowing that he would be able to fight. Just then Braveheart whispered in his mind.

"The men will stand with you, I have seen to that. Though you need to fight these horrors for none are better qualified."

The legion supported by their wyter stood firm and turned back the wave of scorpionmen who were keen to chase down their prey. Then the walking dead approached and the scorpionmen scuttled out of their way. Graylor's blades started to glow, he leaped out in front of the shield wall to confront the animated dead. These weren't ordinary zombies, the word ghoul passed through Graylor's mind. He ducked under a wild blow by one and simultaneously he lashed out with Enjou and was happy to smell the familiar smell of scorched flesh. The corpses were now moving more quickly and close to the sound of their howls and screams was almost more that Graylor could bear. His next thrust entered the mouth of one and through into the brain, Kogoeshinu froze the head instantly and the creature stopped moving. With only one to face Graylor was able to find its heart and stop it beating again! Graylor looked carefully with his soul vision and was rewarded by the sight of the ghoul leaving the body of the fallen warrior.

"Graylor, retreat." Karrath's voice penetrated through the noise of battle. "I have set a warding that should hold them back while we escape."

Graylor rejoined the shield wall and they backed through to the end of the street, an orderly retreat that any would be proud of. As they reached the end Karrath activated the warding trapping the scorpionmen inside. The first to attempt to cross the invisible barrier died. The Humakti didn't stop to see what happened to the rest. The collected a very sick looking Yenda and found the Yelornans and Vingans regrouping a short distance away. They looked most abashed at fleeing from the battlefield and were preparing to return.

Fortunately Hildian and Milia were part of the party. They recognised Yenda and immediately Milia neutralised the poison and sealed Yenda's wound.

"You'll have to get your own unicorn if you keep on getting injured at this rate." Hildian joked.

Karrath watched the unicorn heal Yenda and then turned to Graylor. "A bit bloody disappointing if you ask me," he grunted.

As the group reformed, the Vingan they had met earlier strolled over to Karrath. "So, not too badly damaged, then? Let me see that." She caught his shield-arm, inspecting the gash in it despite his protests: and despite his attempts to pull away. Either he really was hurt, or she was stronger than she looked. "Stop fussing, woman!"

"It's Nayla, not woman. Now act your age, man! That needs sorting before the next fight. And since the unicorns won't be helping you - well, the Spearwoman doesn't need unicorns. Not for anything." She concentrates, and an orange glow appears between her hands, sinking into his arm, and the cut vanishes. "There. Sorted. And if you think anything else's been damaged - we can see to that later, can't we?"

Her grin has only one meaning, and she's completely unembarrassed about it. Karrath, for once the prey instead of the hunter, flounders for words. "Er.. Karrath.. not man," he eventually manages to stammer.

Graylor has been talking to the troops, assessing their reactions to the appearance of the ghouls. All is well Braveheart's blessing dulled their horror and they are anxious to rescue Dori and Egil. He walks over to Karrath and Nayla and hears the end of their conversation with amusement.

"I hate to split you two love-birds, but we have a job to do. You can make your offerings to Ulrea once Dori and Egil are found."

Finally he approaches the Yelornans, he bows formally. "Hail Shield Maidens, my name is Graylor sometimes called Bladedancer. I am sorry for your losses. I wish that there was time to offer them a proper blessing though I am sure that their souls are with Ty Kora Tek, and the violation of their bodies has been revenged. I thank you for saving my companion; I am deeply in your debt." Suddenly he breaks the formality and smiles. "For the second time. I will try and make sure that she is more carefull next time."

A single Yelornan stepped forward to greet Graylor. "Hail Graylor Bladedancer, I am Adelsa often called Impetious. Thank you for your kind words and you noble actions in releasing our sisters from their cruel treatment. There is no debt to be paid. We would have gladly done such a favour for any who helped us in the way you and your men did." At this point Adelesa too broke off the formality. "It was a good scrap until those things took control. The howling they made, the fear of them will live in my nightmares for some time. How did you manage to stand and not run?"

Graylor was about to speak when he stopped and a concentrated look came over his face. In a few moments he looked outwards again. "I am sorry Adelsa we have to leave now. Our guardian has told me that Egil has called on his aid and we must get to him as soon as possible."

Graylor called Santhis to him. "Right we need to know the best route from here and what is likely to be guarding the temple?"

"As far as I know there is only the one entrance to the temple in the north wall. Cavos had us make the two houses opposite the temple into our base. There were some score of us then. The temple itself was guarded by broo that HE killed and reanimated again. I don't know how many; each time I went there seemed to be more."

"Is there some open ground by the temple?" Graylor asked.

"I think so. Yes there is on the east of the temple there is what used to be a paved courtyard." Santhis replied.

"Great, then I have a plan." Graylor outlined his plan to Karrath, Adelsa and the other squad leaders. "We Humakti will march straight to the temple and attract the attention of the guards. As soon as they attempt to engage us we will fall back to the courtyard where there should be sufficient space for your cavalry to have room to be effective."

They all nodded their agreement and in moments all the troops were ready and marching or riding.

Karrath pulled Graylor to one side. "Not a bad plan, though we don't need to fall back too quickly. Don't want to have had all this mead and waste it without a good fight!"

"I think there will be enough to satisfy you. If not you could always see if Parus is willing!"

They followed the plan and it worked. The zombie-broo came pouring out of the temple guided by human operators. Graylor was watching Santhis as much as he was fighting so he noticed Santhis blanching as he saw the operators. "These must be Oilamley followers that he knows. Let's see how he deals with them."

But for now they were content to survive the broo. Graylor lived up to his epithet as he danced between the monsters dealing death with two swords that shone brightly with their own magic augmented by that of Jalmar and Indrodar. Yenda was also enjoying herself, her Jalmari training really enabling her to avoid the clutching claws of the broo that the other Humakti were having problems with.

Santhis faught grimly, he wasn't used to a sword but the slow moving zombies gave him time to adjust. He was dreading the moment when his former friends would spot him. All too soon comes the cry.

"It's Santhis. He's fighting for them. He's turned traitor!" The cry caused Santhis to hesitate and he lowered his shield. A sharp pain in the chest brought him round. The broo had butted him.

"Hey traitor, Cavos is really pissed at you. I recon you aren’t going to enjoy what he'll do to you when we bring you to him."

This just caused Santhis to fight harder. At the same time his mind started to think on the horrors that he had seen Cavos perform over the last few days. When a voice in his ear said.

"Cavos is not going to survive the day. Together you and I are going to see to it." "I'm not going to give Cavos the pleasure." It was Graylor.

"I think that Cavos will find that difficult with a sword up his arse!" Santhis called back.

The Yelornans and Vingans were using their mounts superior speed and strength to mount wave after wave of charges into the beast's flanks. The human operators tried to make the broo give chase but the unicorns flicked out contemptuously and sent the broo flying back over the heads of the second rank. It was in this way that the real fight ended. A particularly solid kick sent one broo back to where the Oilamley worshipers were directing. Unfortunately the thing exploded on impact and knocked them all out. With out the guiding support of the humans the zombies were easy to overcome.

Graylor prevented the Yelornans and Vingans from butchering the unconscious men. "We may have need of them before this is finished. But rest assured that they will not escape the justice that is their due. Humakt is willing to be patient to reach the correct judgement. So let's not be hasty in their execution." He argued, and was successful in stopping their immediate execution. Soon the six men were bound and awake, their struggling futile against the bonds so expertly tied by the unicorn riders.

Graylor addressed the captives. "You have all consorted with the void and for that your lives are forfeit. However, leniency may be offered to those who repent their actions and assist us in rescuing our comrades."

"Now who commands here?" Graylor abruptly barks in one mans face. He flinches but gives nothing away. Yenda steps forward dagger drawn and forces a man to his feet at the point of her knife.

"This one leads here Graylor. His friends' eyes give him away." Yenda asserts. She casually slits his gag with a flick of her blade. "Now tell us what is in the temple. Where are our friends?"

"I'll not tell you Humakti witch!" He spat.

"I don't think you understand your situation here." Yenda spoke softly, but the iron behind her words was plane for all. "You will tell us what we want to know. It is just the manor of your telling that is at issue." With these words she lightly pinched the skin in his upper arm. The effect was astonishing, the prisoner leaped as if he had been branded with hot metal.

"Well look at that there isn't even a mark. Did you know that there are another 71 spots where I can cause such pain with a touch? Some of them are in much more interesting and sensitive areas. The movement of her eyes left the captive in no doubt where they were. Now imagine the pain if I actually used some real force like this." She delivered a sharp blow with the hilt of her dagger in the precise spot she pinched before. The man collapsed on the floor retching. Once the worst of the spasm had passed she lifted him up again on the point of her knife.

"Now will you tell us what we want to know? Or shall I continue?"

"No. Please no more I'll tell you." He sobbed. "The blond wi..." One look from Yenda silenced him. "Sorry the blond woman is to be a sacrifice and not required to resist so I put her in slave bracelets. The man is bound and is needed to fight. They are both down in the main temple, or at least that's where I was told to leave them."

Yenda turned to Graylor with a grin of triumph. "You would have been hampered by having to tell the truth."

"Where did you learn that stuff?" He asked in amazement.

"It's one of the many things I found in the temple library. I've never actually used it before!"

"You must tell me about the other 71 spots!"

"I can't the scroll only gave 3!" Yenda laughed. Graylor just stood open mouthed. Eventually he pulled himself together.

"Santhis, do you know where this temple is?" Graylor asked.

"Yes it's underground and the route is a little tricky as there are a number of traps for the unwary. But I can guide you there." Santhis assured Graylor.

Graylor walked over to Adelsa "Thank you for your assistance thus far. I intend to go into the temple, a place that your steeds will not be comfortable. Please will you stay round here guarding our exit and watch for any escapees."

"Naturally, we don't make a habit of leaving jobs half finished." Adelsa responded.

"Karrath, will you join us?" Gralor requested.

"No I'll stay here. I can hear my rabble approaching! Something that they will regret. Don't suppose that I can have your help in teaching this lot to move, if not silently at least quiet enough to not rouse the whole of the Rubble! We'll look after the prisoners and make sure that they don't do anything. Humakt guide your swords and give that vampire a good kicking from me!" With that Karrath walked off to deal with his troops.

"OK, let's get in there and rescue Dori and Egil." Graylor spoke to his troops. "Santhis here will lead us safely to the temple. So follow his instructions closely. I don't need to remind you to keep your vigilance high. We are no use to Dori and Egil dead."

Santhis went to the door and started examining the bronze studs, in a few moments he selected three and turned them. A quiet click was heard and he opened the door. He showed off the three crossbows mounted behind the door. A fine greeting for any unauthorised entry. The bows were swiftly rendered in operable. The warriors found them selves in the ruins of a once fine hallway, several doors lead off in different directions and the remains of an ornate staircase curved upwards. Meanwhile Santhis ignored all the doors and lifted a section of floor to reveal a round large hole leading straight down, a ladder was fixed to the side of the hole.

"This leads to a maze of tunnels that I was told were made by Karshtkids. There aren't any down there now, the tunnels were abandoned after the karshtkids were attacked by Uroxi many years ago." Santhis moved to one of the doors and opened it to reveal a small closet with several lantherns. "It's very dark down there, you'll need these to light the way."

"The legion has its own way of dealing with that." Elendela replied. "So just take what you need." She then invoked Ashar's blessing to illuminate the darkness.

Santhis with Irnar climbed down first. Once they had pronounced the way clear the Humakti started to descend. As the first warrior was only half way down he let out a scream and plummeted to the bottom of the shaft.

"Something hit Oddus in the back!" Irnar called back up the shaft. "He'll be OK though the wound is not deep. Let me go back up and see what caused it."

Not waiting for a reply Irnar started climbing. He cautiously approached the spot where Oddus fell. After a brief search Irnar was able to spot a hole in the shaft wall opposite the ladder. He could just see the tip of a spear in the hole. He quickly tried to wedge the mechanism with a stone. Just to be safe they all carried double shields to protect their backs. Elgan, Vindana and Kristen passed without any problems then Yenda descended and the stone was flung loose and the spear bit deeply into the shields. Yenda was caught by surprise but not hurt.

Vindana spoke. "You fools! Its obvious, I've worked it out, it is only attacking the Humakti."

"You are sure?" Graylor queried.

"Of course!" came the tart reply.

"OK. Let me try something. I remember that Jalmar was able to pass un-noticed by chaos. It might work on this trap." Graylor murmered a short prayer to Jalmar, and passed down the shaft without incident.

Santhis abased himself in front of Graylor. "I am truly sorry. I didn't know anything about it."

"It looks like you were not told everything. Which is to be expected, a group that survive by deception will practice it even amongst their own." Graylor thought a bit more. "Maybe my magic will block the trap for the others but what of anyone else? We need to disable the thing. Any ideas?"

"Well, as I see it the easiest way is to break the spear." Vindana offered. "Someone must climb back up and activate the trap, catch the spear and break it."

"Oh so nothing difficult then!" came Graylor's amused reply. "But, you are right, with my magic I can get myself in position before dropping it and hopefully I'm quick enough to get the thing before I am gutted!"

So Graylor climbed up the shaft and tied himself to the ladders before turning around. He drew a sword with his left hand and mentally prepared himself focusing all his Jalmari training and natural speed into this one action. He rehearsed the move several times before dropping his magical defence. His right hand struck like lightning and gripped the spear as it emerged from the hole and tried to hold the spear back. At the same time he started swinging his sword with his left. The spear was thrust strongly and had nearly reached his chest before the blade bit and cleanly severed the shaft of the spear. With some relief he joined the others.

"At least it is now safe for all others who follow us. We'll have to watch out for other traps that are triggered only by Humakti." Graylor turned to Vindana. "Thanks for the advice. But can you tell me why that trap was not lethal when it so easily could have been? The spear only scratched Oddus' back and why place it most of the way down the shaft and not near the top where a fall would be more dangerous?"

"Thinking off the top of my head. The fact that traps are set against Humakti indicates that they are expecting you. Non lethal traps suggests that they are trying to soften you up. Whoever set them wants you alive but with reduced capability." She paused and turned a little pale. "They want you here! Egil and Dori are bait for a Humakti trap. Of course Parus wants revenge on the legion for interfering with his plans. "

"Do you know how I would plan it?" She asked Graylor, but continued without waiting for his response. "I'd put in a series of traps that would annoy and demoralise and when there is only one way to go seal off the exit so that they can't escape."

They nervously walk through those chaos formed tunnels. Santhis blocked the traps he was aware of and lead the way well with the minimum of wrong turns. Whilst the Humakti waited for the traps set only for them. Some minor injuries were sustained but as Vindana predicted none proved lethal and none were beyond Elendela and Graylor's powers to fix. At last Santhis indicated that they had reached the final tunnel.

"There are no more tunings from now on. This is where the containing trap will be." He whispered to the party.

"Right then the block will be here and the trigger will be somewhere close to the other end. He'll want to catch us all.

They searched the section of tunnel thoroughly without finding anything. Until one of the men commented that "All sections of this blasted piece of tunnel looked the same to him." He happened to say this as Graylor was staring at the ceiling and the import of what he was seeing finally made it's self clear to him. There directly above him was an almost circular grey stone embedded in the sandy stone of the rest of the ceiling. Three deep scratches crossed the stone which looked rather like the Issaries rune, and not two feet away was another stone looking identical with the same scratches. He called Santhis over.

"You mentioned that Oilamley have a speciality in deception. Does that extend to visual deception?" Graylor asked quietly.

"I know that it extends to facial disguise. So in a sense yes. Why?"

"I think that this piece of ceiling has been copied from that one there. See the two grey stones? And this scratch that ends strangely, almost as if it was cut off?" Santhis nodded in agreement. "Let's see if we can get rid of this piece of magic."

So they combined Humakt, Lhankor Mhy, Alusar and Oilamley magics to defeat the illusion. It worked but only just, the Oilamley magic felt unnatural and grated against the others. Following this Santhis looked embarrassed and thoughtful, for he could feel the wrongness of his magic against the wholeness of the others. With the illusion gone they could see that there was a large hole in the ceiling in which was suspended a large block, they guessed, just the right size to completely block the passage.

"How do we fix this one?" Irnar asked. "We would need large timbers to support that weight."

"No need for that." Vindana replied. "See those holes in the walls beneath the block. They are designed for metal rods that would support the block whilst the trap was created. We fill those then the block will never fall."

Graylor was admiring the runes on Enjou's blade whilst he was listening to Vindana. "How many spare blades do we have? We could use them, make them unbreakable and they'll support it as long as Ashar can keep up the magic." A handful of spare short swords were soon placed in the holes. Knowing the block was now safe they prepared themselves to enter the temple.

Suddenly an awful thought struck Graylor. "We need the Oilamley guy to release Dori. Only the person who put on a set of slave bracelets can take them off. Santhis and Yenda will you go back and fetch him. We will need Dori functional as soon as possible."

Yenda and Santhis raced off and returned swiftly with the wretch, tightly bound and gagged.

"He tried to persuade me that he would welcome me back if I freed him and overpowered Yenda. So I gagged him. I've heard enough of his lies to last a lifetime." Santhis said in response to Graylors raised eyebrows. "Then he tried to escape so we added a few more bonds."

"Fine. Lets go then." Graylor said after a quick look to Yenda who nodded an affirmation of Santhis words.

Graylor lead the way nearly to the end of the tunnel and listened carefully before looking into the chamber beyond. There was no noise except the small sounds of running water. The hasty glance in the room revealed that it was completely empty. Graylor signalled for the rest to follow and he entered the pillared temple. As soon as the others started to move a loud wailing noise started.

"What the hell is that racket?" Graylor called.

"That is the noise of a warding." Vindana's voice could just be heard. "The final trap, remember? This must be it's activation."

"Santhis, is this where the ceremony is supposed to take place?"

"Yes, but that stream over there must have changed their plans." Santhis replied.

"Right, Irnar, Yenda, Kirsten and I will find where they are now. The rest secure the area and prisoner. Then see if there is any way to make that stream a bit bigger." Graylor ordered.

Very quickly they found a side door to the temple with recent tracks going through it. The four passed through quietly and followed a passage to another smaller shrine. Several things immediately struck Graylor. The first thing was that the far wall of the shrine did not exist in this world. Both Dori and Egil were there and armed. Egil was bathed in Humakt's light and his features were changing between that of Egil and those of a man from the Far East, that must be Li Phanquann. As he watched, Li/Egil turned towards the darkness that was the far wall and started to walk.

"Egil! Li!" Graylor called out, not knowing how deeply submerged, in Li Phanquann's personality, Egil was. "Wait, where are you going?"

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