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6.

I have never slept underground until this night, and, in spite of what you might expect, I find myself waking from sleep underground. Someone is pounding on the wooden door and my instinct is to yell for them to wait while I get the shop ready to open. I hear voices: Gurth and Janet inside, Yanos outside, then Zelin’s calm sarcasm.

“Daisy, time to get up. We need your awesome spell power.”

“What? What for?” I ask, shaking myself into a sitting position. I feel like a bag of potatoes someone has spelled into consciousness.

“Do you have a spell that opens a locked door?” asks Gurth.

“It’s rok,” says Zelin.

“The door is wood, dear,” I retort. I stand up. I’m still in my sensible boots, as well as my ankle-length peasant dress and my cloak and all my usual undies. I have my cloth hat pulled over my hair, which would be even more of a mess otherwise. I’m both sweaty and cold.

“No, no,” says Zelin, while Yanos is still yelling outside: yelling as one only yells when one is afraid of waking the neighbors, who might possibly be trolls or dragons. “The spell word is rok. You can say that, can’t you? Do you already know that one?”

“If you know it, why don’t you say it?” I ask, letting them lead me over to the door, still shaking the sleep out. What was I dreaming? Something about a cellar and a bunch of dice.

“Because,” the elf replies with great patience (for her), “I am not a magical practitioner.”

“And what exactly is the situation?” I ask. Yanos is quieting down: he’s settled for occasional knocking.

“Just open the door,” says Yanos somewhat quietly.

I pull my wand out of the pocket I sewed into my dress and wave it. “Rok,” I say. It works first time: the door pops open. Yanos bursts in and shuts it.

“Thank you,” he says. “Took your time about it.”

“I don’t even know that spell. Where’s Barb?”

He looks over his shoulder at the shut door, and then he looks around at us: Zelin is on one side and Janet on the other. “We, ah, went for a scout last night,” he says. “Ah, this morning.” He laughs nervously. Perhaps he expects us to be surprised. We are not. He says, “We found a trapdoor with a ladder down to the fourth level. I’ll show you on the map when we get out.”

“Where’s Barb?” asks Janet.

“Well,” he says, “we drop into this room, it has one door onto a hall, we go out and sneak down the hall, we’re keeping the wand light low, right? So we walk and walk and nothing. And then we come around a corner and there’s, I don’t know, orcs or something coming way down the hall. So we slip into a room and it’s someone’s place.”

“Someone?”

“I didn’t get a good look,” he says. “There’s spells being thrown. Barb tries her fire spell. They throw a three-worder. Someone throws a spell on me, I felt weird but I’m not a mage, so maybe it doesn’t do anything to me. I’m feeling really weird though.”

“Might have been cease,” I opine. “You didn’t have any spell power to lose, but maybe it’d make you feel like you’d lost all your spell power.”

“Or you barely resisted a sleep spell,” says Zelin. “What about Barb?”

“Well, I sort of fall back, and now I’m out in the hallway, and these orcs are right there. What could I do? I took off.”

“You just left her there?” asks Janet.

“I actually can’t blame you for that,” says Zelin. “I can blame you for going on a scout by yourself.”

“It was okay with you at the time. You could’ve gone with us.”

“In point of fact,” says Zelin, “I told you not to go.”

“In point of fact,” Fenric adds, “I told you not to go and I told you to take a thief with you if you did go. You should’ve sent me all by myself, that’s what you use your thief for. Not to skulk in the back and guard your wallets.”

“You’re lucky we took you at all, thief,” says Yanos.

“Don’t talk to my friend that way,” says Janet.

“So you lost our best magic user,” I say, “and what you got is: there’s this ladder down, and there’s someone down there with three-word spells, and guess what, big news, there’s orcs. Think the Old Order is still there? Or someone’s replaced them. Or, it’s just Level Four and it’s freakin’ dangerous. Take your pick. Because you know who your biggest magic user is now? Me.”

We all stand there glaring at each other. Gurth finally says, “Okay, let’s pack up and go. I think we all agree with that.”

We look around. Yeah. Not my favorite bedroom. And, I hate to say it and I miss him like crazy already, but old Jorg is starting to smell bad.

 

I wish I could say our hike back out was uneventful. I wish I could say I remember all of it. Suffice it to say, along about the second floor, we get charged at by a bunch of little jerks: kobolds, Gurth calls them, which I believe is Dwarvish for ankle-biters. Someone who isn’t a kobold is with them, because I get to experience that cease spell: nik er goth or something like that. And as soon as I realize what happened, I look down and there’s an arrow in my stomach.

Literally the next time I wake up, I’m lying on a block of stone in the afternoon sun (of late November), being tended by Janet and Zelin, while Gurth and Fenric look on with concern.

“She’ll be fine,” says Janet. “It didn’t hit anything important. She just lost some blood.” Pause. “Kind of a lot of blood,” she elaborates.

“It kind of hurts,” I manage to gasp out.

“Have more anesthetic,” says Zelin, pulling on her pipe and blowing the smoke into my face. I lapse slowly back into unconsciousness, just as Zelin is instructing Gurth to pick me up again.

 

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