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6.

Jan and Fen materialize just when we need them: none of us is capable of dragging Gurth, much less Lali, through two rooms and into the sleeping chamber. The other four people in the pile are around Lali’s weight (which is about two of me) though it’s distributed in various ways. We leave them sprawled about; several waiters (wouldn’t that be an interesting job) show up and set about depositing them out in the big urine-smelling chamber outside the club.

“I hope this doesn’t delay us much,” says Glee.

“I hope Gurth and Lali can stand to be in the same party,” says Lucette. “They don’t seem on the best of terms, even for them.”

“They’ll stand it,” I say, “because I say they’ll stand it.”

“Can you guys help at all?” asks Fenric. “Just the Amazon alone is too much for me and Father.”

“Ah you baby,” says Lucette. “Gfug.

And again I find myself actually revising my estimate of Lucette’s brain and usefulness, as we guide the hovering unconscious warriors to their beds on the floor. The room is fuller than I’ve seen it, but we manage to find some space together. We all throw ourselves down in a little group, and Zelin sits nearby in the dark, meditating or something.

About two seconds later, Zelin is waking me from a deep sleep and a dream about people playing a dice game in a shallow cellar. There was a sofa and I was half sleeping on it, sleeping while I was asleep forsooth, and it was way more comfortable than the floor with a thin blanket under me. She’s shaking me and saying something like, “Roll three dice, roll three dice!”

“What? What?”

“Daisy, get up,” Zelin says, apparently for the tenth time, in that penetrating whisper of hers: highly effective at a range of one foot or less. I sit up.

Jan, kneeling nearby, says to me, “Certain persons have been sighted within the perimeter of the club, and leadership thinks it wise to bug out.”

“Don’t ask any questions,” says Fenric over Jan’s shoulder, “till we’re on our way.”

So I don’t.

We are out the far end of Club Six in a few minutes. Gurth and Lali wake up angry: it transpires that she was flirting with several men, flirting to the point of light petting, and he tried to get back at her by returning the advances of a young priestess of Baal, whose virtues were understandably questionable but were still valued by her Black Amazon companion, and grievances accumulated from there. Lucette and I threaten to put them to sleep and leave them outside, and they drop their argument to whispers.

So we get outside and form up in the far-side cavern. “In front,” I say, “let’s have Gurth and Fenric. Then me and Zelin, then Lucette and Jan, then Lali and Glee. Objections?”

There are none. We go down the spiral ramp and find the five south-pointing halls. I have an itchy feeling. I lead the group into the middle one of the five and stop.

“So who was it and where did you see them?” I ask no one in particular.

“It was Gerard and Gregorio,” says Jan, “and with them were, let’s see. Stacy. Igbo, that other new sorceress. I think I saw Eleanor. No Ralphie of course, no Unwin.”

“You’re sure about Eleanor?” asks Lucette. “Damn. That would mean I was wrong.”

“Pretty sure,” says Jan, adjusting his collar.

“Samuel of Tingwall?”

“Yep,” says Fenric.

“No warriors or archers?” I ask. “Except Eleanor?”

“We saw them coming out of the wide hall,” says Jan. “We were both out there peeing.”

“That must be interesting for you, huh,” says Lucette.

“I’m trying various modalities. Never mind that. They have, like, these four magic users, and Gerard and this dark elf monk chick, and some big warrior guy and Eleanor, and guess who is the other archer?”

“Yanos,” several of us say.

“You got it. So I put it away, Fenric puts it away, which takes a second longer of course, not that I’m smug or anything, we come right to you guys and five minutes later we are all out the back door, you know why?”

“Why?” asks Glee.

“Because we are a freaking awesome team,” says Jan. “Now, anyone know the way down without falling in an orc pit?”

“I’m going to say onward, and what the hell,” says Lucette. “We went the east way before, and that didn’t work out great. So—?”

“I’m up for it,” I say.

We all sort of shrug and head on southward, and after a long way it turns sharply east. Fenric is in front with Lali, and, since he doesn’t get to be in front much, he makes a big deal of sneaking around the corner and reporting. His report is that he doesn’t see anything but a hall going on for a while.

“That’s not very interesting,” I say.

“What would be interesting?” he replies. “A gold dragon? A hundred orcs?”

“I don’t know, a spell battle? A secret door?” We stand there just around the corner. On a whim I twirl my wand and say, “Xu.” Reveal.

And something is revealed: a rectangle seven feet high and four wide appears in the stone wall on the right, the south wall. It’s a door. A secret door. And behind it is a narrow little stairway going up to the right and down to the left.

“Well, I’ll be,” says Zelin. “The Long Stair.”

 

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