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7.

I’m not at the front of the pack. I land on Lali and Gurth and Padric, and I’m fairly glad it was that way and not the other way around. Lucette lands on me. Fenric lands on both of us, and Jan and Zelin land to the sides. There is a lot of swearing. Then we all try to stand up, and there’s a lot more swearing.

The chamber we’re in is narrow and bowl-shaped. In it already are two live people, and several more not so live. These form a sort of carpet. It’s a challenge just standing up. But presently we manage, and then we start to ask the important questions.

“What the hell?” says Lucette.

“What the hell just happened?” asks Padric.

“Are you guys okay?” asks a woman who was here before us.

“Who are you?” asks Jan.

“What the hell am I standing on?” I ask.

“Where is my frickin’ wand?” asks Lucette.

“Here,” says Fenric. Lucette takes her wand back and gets it lit again. I raise mine too.

We are in a narrow, round room with smooth walls. The floor is down there somewhere, its concavity buried in several dead bodies. Right next to me is a gnome in a round iron helmet. He’s looking up at me—finally someone shorter than I am!—and squinting against the light. He gives me a serious look, then gestures at our feet. “That,” he says in almost no accent, “is Harald. He was with my group. This one,” he goes on, seriously, gesturing at the body Lucette is standing on, “he was here when we fell in here. The others are goblins, as I think you can still tell. I think there are a couple more buried under the ones on top. Me, I am called Othgar. Oh, and this is Glee,” he finishes, indicating the other living person, a brunette my age whom I have never met. She’s wedged between Gurth and Padric, and Lali is looking upon her with loathing. The woman is holding a wand too.

“Glee Fredkin,” she says. She whispers to her wand, and it lights up blue. “Sorry I didn’t have this going before. It might have helped.”

“I doubt it,” I say. “Zelin, are you around here somewhere?”

“I’m behind Padric,” her voice says from what seems a great distance. “I gather that this is an orc trap, a trap set by orcs that is. But of course they’re already being called to the surface for the Wars, so perhaps they aren’t checking their trap like they should.”

“You’re saying,” Lucette replies, “orcs trap people here and rob them. Or what?”

“Or kill them and eat them. And that would be an inclusive or.”

“But they trapped some goblins,” says Padric. “Is that something they would do?”

“Oh, sure,” says Gurth. “Orcs think goblins are lesser beings. I actually took some Orkish at the Institute, you know, before they figured out I couldn’t even manage a light spell and kicked me out.”

“I didn’t know you’d tried magic,” I say.

“Oh, he’s full of surprises,” says Lali. “And he’s, my, boyfriend. What are you, an enchantress?”

“Hey now,” says Glee. “I am on my mission for sorceress.”

“Well,” says Lali, “if your mission was to get trapped and starve to death, I guess you’re well on your way.”

“We’re going to starve to death?” asks Lucette. “There’s no way out?”

“There’s a way out,” says Zelin. “Actually there are two.”

“Okay, elf girl, explain about that.”

“Okay. Obviously we could go back the way we came.”

“Right. If we had like a ladder, or we’d thought to anchor a rope up there or something. I don’t even know how far we fell. I think I twisted my ankle.”

“There is also the entrance the orcs would use to kill us and take our things. You can just make it out up there,” and she moves around Padric so she can direct my wand light at a smooth area on the wall about twenty feet up. Sure enough, there are cracks that indicate a well-fitted secret door.

“Again,” says Lucette, “great if you could climb a sheer wall.”

“Or,” says Zelin, “if you had the Levitate spell.”

“The what?”

“Dang,” I say. “I was going to get that next. You don’t have it, do you, Glee Fredkin?”

“No. You’re an enchantress? Both you guys?”

“Yep. We should be ready for our sorceress missions too, if we ever get out of this.”

“So none of you knows the spell,” says Zelin. We all wait a beat, and then she says, “I know the word, if you want to try it.”

“You what?” asks Lucette. “You’re a magic user too now?”

“No, no,” I say. “She just remembers the words. She doesn’t have any actual power.”

“And you can learn them off her?”

“Yes,” says Zelin, “because Daisy is a good learner. Are you a good learner?”

 

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