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Ryel allowed herself to be carried away from the scene of the dhole’s feeding. Allowed: that was the way she described it to herself. The nightgaunt at first swooped almost horizontally, but presently it began beating its huge membranous wings to raise it and its cargo higher off the bony ground. Ryel was fairly sure she did not want to go higher.

Was the nightgaunt an animal? If so, what sort? Should she try the language group of birds? Of giant insects? Of faceless creatures of the nighted abyss? They hang with ghouls: she could try the ghoulish language, if she knew it. Ghouls are not really human, but they aren’t animals either. So—?

“Hey up there,” she tried in the talk of the giant eagles. Nothing. What the heck, let’s try insects: still nothing. She tried meeping, which she knew was what the ghouls did when they spoke, but she couldn’t think how to say anything with her meeping other than Good evening, do you have any change for a gold piece?

So she tried that. It didn’t exactly work, but it did something.

The nightgaunt suddenly changed its course. It stopped ascending, and banked to the left. Its tickling hold tightened to a comforting grip on Ryel’s upper arms. Ryel was no musclebound specimen, any more than any other elf maiden would be, but she was a particularly well practiced archer and she had the shoulder and arm muscles to prove it. She could hang with this guy for hours if need be, although hours from now who knew where they would find themselves or how far they would have gotten from that stupid dwarf.

Why were dwarves so easy to manipulate? But then she was the one who was being carried by a huge and mostly mindless flying creature a few dozen feet above the bony carpet of the great Abyss. If Arkmar was being manipulated, then what was Ryel being?

“Good evening,” she said to the nightgaunt, “do you have change for a dwarf? You’re a very good thingy, aren’t you?”

The nightgaunt adjusted its flight again: now it dropped a little more and seemed to sway left and right as it passed over the hills of bones. Ryel tried to concentrate, to differentiate shapes in the dark. Did the ghasts have some sort of city or stronghold? Was he imprisoned, or hanging from a gibbet where she could at least see him?

Then among the many sounds of the Abyss, crashes and screams and huge rustlings and cries of deadly despair and the calls of demonic things, she heard something that got her a little excited.

“Good evening,” Ryel said to the nightgaunt in words of ghoulish she was remembering as she spoke them. “Do you have change for a sounds of battle?”

The creature turned and headed straight for the nearest sounds of battle. And there, now she could just about see it, there was a boulder perhaps three times her height and just as wide, and something was producing sounds of battle from the top of it while other things milled and crashed around its base like sickly surf.

“Okay, lower,” she said in Sindarin. “Good evening,” she said again to the faceless flying tickler carrying her. “Sounds of battle, not actual battle? Ergh,” she went on, switching to the common tongue, “just don’t drop me. Okay?”

Ryel adjusted, and the thing carrying her adjusted to her adjustment. She managed to get her bow ready, and then she managed to get an arrow out and put it on the bow. “Lower,” she said, “a bit lower,” trying to pretend it understood what she was saying.

Yep. Definitely someone standing on the rock, silhouetted against the glow behind. Oh yes. Definitely flying creatures attacking it: not faceless, but rather covered in horns and with swinging, barbed, no doubt venomous tails.

“Hey Arkwad,” she cried out. “Get ready?” Then with a fwang she loosed an arrow and it took one flying demon in the back of the head. It cursed and spiraled down to land among the mob of ghasts threatening the rock from below. “Good shot, Ryel,” said Ryel, readying another arrow. Fwang! Another flying demon came crashing down. The ghasts seemed to be tearing up the crashed demons: eating them was one thing Ryel had never even considered.

Now she was in close. She shouldered her bow, and said, “Good evening, please not to drop me please.” In response the nightgaunt dropped a few more feet and took her in flat at rock top level. The third flying demon came at her, but it had no strategy, and she had this nifty sword. A swing and a slash that chopped its horrid head in half. A fourth demon was just stooping upon Arkmar, who was wielding his own sword to great effect: swinging it back and forth in a lovely weave, he suddenly was up under its guard and its arm went skittering off into the crowd. As it flew past him screaming, his weaving blade took off that barbed tail. Then he turned in shock to the approaching apparition.

“Grab my feet,” she shouted. “Grab! Grab!” And grab he did. “Up! Good evening, I would like to try the up,” she said to the creature, and up it climbed into the thick air, easily carrying Ryel and the dwarf who clung to her ankles and knees up, up away from the disappointed ghasts.

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