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5.

We could freak out, but we’d wind up in the same place either way. So instead, somehow, we drag the umberhulk out into the hall and leave it there. Janet makes a pass at healing poor Jorg, but there’s nothing to be done, and we all know we’re not going to sleep with him lying there by us rotting. Fortunately Barb finds a semi-secret panel that leads into a sort of closet. In it we find about ten mismatched and damaged boots, a big sack of flour and several boxes of what appears to be rusty chain mail repair parts and tools. We trade all that stuff for Jorg, and use some of it to make sure he doesn’t fall back out.

There’s also a small grate with, of all things, a vent. Gurth and Zelin manage to get a little fire going on some mid-size tree branches, and we sit around it and eat whatever we thought to bring with us. I share out my molasses cookies. Barb has two of them but makes slightly disparaging noises. Yanos says, “It’s definitely the best cookie I’ve had on the third level down in Valen Dungeons.”

“Thanks, Daisy,” says Gurth. “This hits the spot.”

“You made these yourself?” asks Janet. “Not your mom?”

“My mom’s cookies? You wouldn’t want those,” I tell her. “Besides, she saves all her pastries for Constable Robert.”

“Oh, he’s an ass,” says Gurth.

“He doesn’t deserve anything like this molasses cookie,” says Fenric.

“Hey,” says Zelin. I look her in the eye. “Thank you for the cookie.”

“Do you think they might have some elven healing quality?” asks Yanos.

“Do you know, I think they might. May I please have one more, Daisy?”

“Anyway,” says Yanos, “I think we might scout a little further once we have some rest. Just cast about for a way down, maybe have a preliminary recon on the fourth level? I would like to look at the map, if I may.”

“Of course,” says Janet. “I hope you’re not planning on me going with you on your little recon.”

“I’ve definitely had enough,” I say. “For this trip.”

“Well,” says Yanos, “here, or this way: one really wonders what might be in this zone here? We know there’s a way down, there may be two or three we could get access to. The more ways we know, the better. And there is safety in numbers. Gurth? Fenric?”

“I definitely want to go further,” says Fenric, “but I agree with Daisy, not this trip. We were doing well, but this far in, we’re starting to meet things we can’t handle. I mean, umberhulk? Seriously?”

“We were lucky,” says Gurth. “I was lucky. I could’ve been a big ol’ steak for that thing.”

“I just feel as if, you know,” says Yanos, “we’re here. We’re this far in. And so far, for treasure, we have these lovely chain mail parts. And a sack of flour.”

“We might as well go a little further,” says Barb. “We could go, just the two of us, Yan,” she says. “An archer and an enchantress. We can slip out and slip here and slip there and—who knows where we might be able to slip in?”

“Zelin,” says Yanos, “what about—?”

“I’m happy here,” says the elf.

“Perhaps after a rest?”

“I don’t need rest,” she says.

Barb and Yanos go on talking about what they could do, just the two of them (Barb) or why we should all go (Yanos). Presently I need to pee. I’ve kind of needed to pee since we came down those first stairs, but it comes and goes. Now it’s becoming insistent.

“What does one do about the situation where—?” I start to ask Zelin.

“Out in the hall,” she says. “I’ll cover for you. Gurth?”

“I need to pee too,” he says.

Life is full of moments where you find yourself doing something you never thought you’d do, and this would be one of those, I think, as I squat down in a small alcove outside the door and down the hall about twenty feet. Gurth and Zelin stand nearby, facing away, chatting about the air movement this far down. Then I pull up my undies and come out, and Gurth wanders up the hall past the door; he stops just within the reach of my wand light, and goes ahead and waters the wall.

“You don’t need to?” I ask Zelin.

“I did, just before we came down the stairs into the dungeon,” she replies. “Hey, it’s not like the fair folk have some special ability to hold it in. We have bladders and they fill up just like yours.”

“Okay, okay,” I reply. We don’t say anything. She starts filling her pipe. Presently Gurth returns, fastening his belt. “Better?” I ask.

“Loads,” he replies. “Smoke?”

“Light me up,” says Zelin, and I do, feeling like I’ve grown up about five years in the past hour. “Daisy,” she says after we’ve all had a couple of hits, “you think you can sleep?”

I blow air out between my lips. “Actually,” I say, “I’m pretty sure I’ll be asleep as soon as I put my head on my pack. You?”

“Nah,” she says. “I have no need of sleep.”

“Ah,” I say, “fair folk wander in dream while awake and all that.”

“Yes,” she says coolly. After a moment she glances at me and says, “Kind of sucks, actually.”

“You think,” asks Gurth, “those two are going to slip out on a scout?”

“Yep, that’s what I think,” she says.

 

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