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3.

People say that Time Slows Down in situations like this. Considering that I’ve literally never been in a situation like this at this point, all I can say is that slowing down is just the first of the tricks Time tries on me. We’re standing there looking at Hurcus. He’s definitely dead. The dark sticky stuff on the stone floor is clearly his blood. The five bazillion arrows in him are definitely to blame.

“Orc arrows,” Harmon notes, with his characteristic willingness to share his deep knowledge. It’s a quality of his I’m sure I’ll miss.

The room is a low rectangle, lit by no light but my own. The walls on either side are within ten feet of us, but the far end is hidden in shadow. I can make out doors along both sides, perhaps one every six or eight feet, perhaps into side galleries which are totally dark.

That’s when Time decides to go on a spree. Cries break out from both sides. Arrows fly, in their bazillions. Harmon goes down in front of me. I guess instinct makes me step back, because suddenly I’m on the bottom stair. Janet is just in front of me, shouting; Eleanor takes a moment to just freak out. Fenric’s shouting as well.

Some light must have been kindled in those side galleries, because I can see with more than just my wand. The place is crawling with goblins, these sort of humanoid vermin in leather armor. All the ones I can see have hand weapons: swords, hatchets, cudgels, a pitchfork, a shovel. The two oaf warriors go into this wave of awfulness—I really am sorry, I can’t tell which is which at this point.

“Can’t you do something!” shouts Eleanor. “Ow!” She holds up her left arm—an arrow’s stuck up her sleeve.

There’s a lot of blood, but it could have been worse. Instead of telling her so, I say, “Shoot! Shoot for gosh sakes!” She pulls the arrow out, puts it on her bowstring and shoots it into the face of an orc about two feet away. She follows it with more arrows of her own.

Fenric throws a couple of his fancy daggers, but who, honestly, can tell what the hell happened to them. He pulls out his short sword and backs toward the stair. Five of the goblins converge on him, waving swords, axes and a length of chain.

Ag!” I cry. What the hell. I put half my energy into it. Three of them topple backwards asleep.

“It’s a start, god damn it,” says Fenric, using his sword just to keep the other two, and three more who’ve joined them, out of range of his throat.

Ag!” I cry again, and this time Janet joins in: it’s the first I knew of her having that spell. Six more go down, and two behind them fall to arrows. Fenric actually does one more of them harm with his sword, then backs to the stairs. More arrows are flying, mostly not hitting us.

“Back up the stairs,” he says.

Janet and I are inclined to agree, but Eleanor says, “No! We—!”

“Back. Up. The stairs,” says Janet. She and Fenric grab Eleanor by the armpits and give her the backwards bum’s rush. Next thing we know, we’re in the big square room.

“But,” says Eleanor.

“But we’re alive,” says Janet.

“But the others.”

“But they’re not. Alive.”

“How do you—how do you just know something like that?”

“Look,” I say, “do you think, honestly, we should go back down there and find out?”

Eleanor thinks about that a moment. I can’t help but admire her looks. She’s sweaty and dirty and a little bloody, she’s just been through hell, but she’s still so darn pretty. Still, what an airhead. She looks about to throw up.

Then she shakes herself, turns and storms off toward the way out. The next we see of her, she’s back in Insmoor with a bandage on her arm.

 

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