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9.

We don’t recruit anyone new at Club Six. Instead, we get out into the “outside” room, relieve ourselves to our hearts’ content, and form up: Lali and Gurth, me and Jan, Fen and Zelin.

We head on up the double-wide passage. This is almost as good as I could have hoped: it takes us as far as the third level from the top, where we apparently interrupt a little spell battle, and I, for my trouble in just using my xu spell to see if anyone’s invisible, get ceased again. Among other things, this leaves us in the dark, as the two mages doing battle with the other two mages race off down a side passage.

“Great,” I say, flicking my dead wand around. “That jerk. No light now.”

“Lo,” says Zelin, “do my elven eyes detect a few photons from yon?”

“What the heck’s a photon?” asks Gurth.

“It’s like a penton,” I say. “Okay, I see light there. Go on, Gurth, go that way.” Jan and I start gently directing the warriors in the direction of what becomes more clearly a corner in the wide hall. Around it, lying on the floor is a corpse. I think it’s a half orc, or possibly a very handsome goblin, or a very ugly human. Near it is a torch, guttering a bit but still lit. Jan picks it up.

“Someone’s looking out for us,” she says. “I choose to think it’s the Virgin.”

“Fair enough,” says Zelin.

A little way on, Gurth and Lali get in a knock-down drag-out with what turns out to be a young black dragon. It all happens way too fast: Time is still up to tricks, it seems. I spend the entire minute this takes unable to breathe because of my heart being jammed way up my throat.

The thing’s just learning about how to use its fiery breath, but it manages to chomp both of them pretty good; at one point, both our warriors have to be pulled back by me and Jan, and Zelin and Fenric have to fight the relentless little worm. Finally, ten seconds later, healed up again, Gurth and Lali get in fatal blows, although they take one last nasty raking from those claws, and they, and Fen and Zelin, have to get healed up some more.

“That’s it,” says Jan. “That’s basically all my energy for the day.”

“What’s that mean, then?” asks Gurth.

What that means is that when, on the second level, we find ourselves pursued by thirty or forty goblins, we have no recourse but to sprint at top speed down hall and through room and up stairs, unable to put them to sleep en masse or lock a door or throw webs in their way. We come bolting through a sort of gallery, with critters yelling and shooting at us from the darkness on either side, and then we’re dashing up the stairs and into that first square room, from the east. We keep running.

We get to the top and count up. Six of us, still alive, though we have a few arrows sticking out. “We made it,” I proclaim.

“We’re not the only ones,” says Fenric. He points to a pillar.

Someone has written, in a blue chalk that is not to be confused with anyone’s blood, “Eleanor ♥ Unwin” and just below, in another hand but the same color, “Unwin ♥ Eleanor.”

 

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