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5.

“Daisy,” says Fenric, “this is Zelin, you may remember—?”

“Hi, Zelin,” I say. “Archer?”

“Indeed,” she says, rising to shake my hand. I rise too. I’m glad to see I’m now merely tied for shortest member of the group.

“So we’re up to two archers, a cleric, a magician and a thief. I gather some warriors are coming?”

“I may have that covered already,” says Yanos.

“My friend Gurth will be there,” says Zelin. “He knows some of the way, as much as I do, and he is not stupid like so many humans. Who are warriors.”

Janet asks, “How much of the way do you know?”

“I have been in Valen Dungeon twice,” the elf answers. I have to say I don’t instantly trust her, but on the other hand, well, elf, right? “Once I think we met some of you, we had found ourselves ambushed on the third level in, and that is as far as I have been.”

“I have been further,” says Yanos. I’m sure he’s not lying, but in what way is he not lying? He goes on the same vein: “I and two others managed to sneak down as far as the stairway to the fifth level down, and near there is where I have reason to believe the Old Order held sway at one time. They are not there now, I promise you that.”

“Who is there now?” I ask.

“The usual,” he says. “It’s not without risks, or it would be without rewards.”

“Risks? You mean goblins?” He smiles and sort of shrugs. “But not only goblins,” I say. “Not only monsters, you know, the odd alligator-bear-wormy thing. What about having another magic person? I’m really great with the sleeps, you know. Maybe you want more than that?”

“If it’s mostly just goblins,” says Fenric, “no prob.”

“It’s not going to be mostly goblins,” says Zelin.

“I want an enchanter, at least,” I say. “I don’t care if it reduces my share of the gold. I’ll give half mine to pay extra to the enchanter.”

“We do have a thief, remember,” says Fenric. “And a cleric.”

“Oh, sure,” says Janet, “I have plenty of energy for sleeps as well as minor wounds. Not like we’d need more than that, right? Are we sure we don’t want an enchanter and a priest?”

“I’m pretty sure Yanos can get an enchantress,” says the elf maid, in a tone that I can’t quite place, somewhere between disdain and reassurance. She fixes me with a look and spreads her hands on the table. “And I have some small healing skills.”

“Well, come to that,” I say, trying to work out even ten percent of Zelin’s gestures and looks. “I can be the enchantress, but not this first trip. Professor Stintsing says this can be my ordeal for Grade Two, and then I can cash in and get us a two word spell. But we need a scouting mission first.”

Zelin and Yanos look at each other. Every time they do that, I wonder if they’re totally in collusion, or if they totally distrust each other. “All right,” says Yanos, “we can do something with that. We will see about getting together a preliminary party. Say, in three days? It’s the eve of Feastday.”

“Do you think Mummy will give you the day off?” asks Fenric.

“I can get it off,” I say, “as long as I know I’m getting it off. After we come back from whatever this is—jeez. Gonna be an Enchantress! What should I do for my first? Not Continual Light.”

“A damage spell,” says Fenric. “Obviously.”

“I’m thinking Lock might be useful,” I say, “but it rather depends on whether we have another enchantress with us, like Zelin here says. And how much of a hurry Yanos is in.”

Everyone looks at Yanos. He smiles and shrugs, again, whatever that means. Goddess, I want to hug and or strangle him when he does that. And then he says, “I am in no hurry. I simply believe we can do this on our second effort, if not our first.”

“Geez,” I say, “glad you’re not in a hurry. Hate to see what that would be like.”

Fenric says nervously, “So Daisy, are you in or are you not in?”

“Oh,” I say, standing up, “I’m definitely in. I just hope everyone else is as in as I am.”

 

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