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3.

We encounter a series of halls, rooms and occasional stairs and ramps. It’s very confusing, and our map experts, Jan and Fen, get so discombobulated at one point on the fourth level down that we get in a sort of polite frightened argument in the middle of a wide, rough hallway about what goes where and whether we’re to the west or east of the chapel where Fred & Ed met their demise. My opinion, which is that we’re south of there, I keep to myself; I settle for holding the wand light over them. Gurth and Lali, Unwin and Eleanor stand in pairs on either side of the knot, eying the darkness.

It’s still very quiet, in the sense of quiet in Valen. We’ve gotten more than halfway down to the level we want and the only thing that’s happened is that we facilitated a fight between a troll and some goblins, and Unwin’s gotten bonked on the head, from which, due to Jan’s ministrations, he’s fully recovered. His helmet has a couple of dents.

The argument is clearly one of those that aren’t going to get settled by arguing. So when my arm gets tired from holding up my wand, I say, “Okay, folks, let’s just try that hall to the left.”

“I agree,” says Zelin, looking that way. “This wide hall makes me nervous.”

“I don’t like it,” says Jan.

“That’s the way we’re going, then,” says Fenric. The darkness hides Jan’s eye-rolling: I’m already down the wide hall to where a narrower, less rough hallway goes to the left, eastward. We form up again and start down this new way, and about forty paces down, we come to another four-way intersection. Lali, Gurth, Zelin and I are all in the intersection when the rock moves under our feet and we’re all thrown lurching against one another. Lali and Gurth have to pick themselves up off the ground; I pick myself up off Zelin, who’s shoved against the wall of one of the outgoing passages.

“What the,” I say.

“Rotation,” says Zelin. “Ninety degrees, I think.”

“Great,” says Jan, from the hall we came from. Or is it?

“Dak,” I think Unwin says.

“Hey!” says Eleanor. There’s a scuffle. Fenric says something. Someone else says something, a few words cut off in a grunt.

“Ow,” says Unwin.

“Are you okay?” asks Eleanor.

“Um, I’m bleedin’. Ow! An’ I hit my head I think.”

“Wait, wait,” says Jan. “Let me see. Light!”

“What the?” I say. “You guys. What happened?” I push my way back there, and I see Jan has Unwin up against the wall. He’s bleeding from a flesh wound in his side: Unwin has a bit of padding there, mostly from his appetite for cheesy pie, I suppose. Jan is already healing him. I move my wand beyond them and look at Eleanor and Fenric. They’re looking down.

“Stinkin’ assassin,” says Fenric. “Junior grade.” There before us sprawled is a young man, much like Fenric really, dressed in black without visible armor. He’s dead, a dagger in each hand; the knife that killed him is in Fenric’s hand.

“Assassin?” I repeat. “What, someone’s out to get Unwin?”

“It sure seems like it,” the warrior pipes up.

“No,” says Fenric, “he probably had a mission just to prove himself by sneaking up on some party and stabbing the rearmost guy. So he waited by this very interesting intersection, and when it rotated, that was his cue. I don’t suppose it hurt that Unwin banged his head on the wall when the thing moved.”

“Hurt me,” says Unwin. “This was his mission? Mission accomplished, I guess.” But he’s looking much better. “Thanks, Faddah.”

“No problem,” says Jan. She, er, he picks up the board with the map on it, and hands it off to Fenric. “I guess there’s no point in arguing about the map anymore. I guess we can stop worrying about mapping too.”

“We have a compass, you know,” says Fenric.

“Yes,” I say, “and I think we should go south.”

“Why? The Chapel—!”

“Wherever the Chapel is, I want to go the other way. And I think that means this way. And since you thought it was east and you thought it was west, you don’t really disagree.”

“And,” says Zelin, “there’s a door on the left down there, and we can get out of these hallways, which I find a bit sinister, if you don’t mind.”

“Okey doke,” says Gurth. “That’s a good enough reason to me.” Unwin and Lali agree.

So we form up and troop down there. It’s maybe fifteen steps from us, just at the limit of the wand light. We get down there and Fenric elbows his way to the front. We all shut up and he goes through his whole listening routine. He turns and says, “Definitely noises. Orcs on the march.”

“This way?” I ask.

He puts his ear to the door again. “No,” he says, “they’re going out of earshot.” After a moment he looks back at us. “We should be good.”

“Well, you’re going to find out.”

He grins and gives a thumb up. Then he puts a finger over his lips and slips through the door. There’s a twangy sound, and a thump, and then the door opens and Fenric slides back out and falls into Jan’s arms. “Not so good,” he says. There’s an arrow in his chest.

 

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