Mortog continues on with his friends.
Time to go!
Doc tried to wake Jackel to give him a little water before he went to work on healing him with his magic. "Durned fools! Shoulda put a protection spell on the lot o' ye's." Doc grumbled almost too quietly for the others to hear. He knelt there with his eye's closed and his hands making movements that none could understand. His hands formed a triangle as he put his two index fingers and thumbs together and held them over Jackels wound. They saw the punctures in his knee immediately start to close up. Mortog and Grumpy never tired of watching magic do it's work.
Mortog looked back at the others who were standing around the large boulder that had often been used as a table.
"Me's fer thinkin dat's da book?" Mortog anxiously awaited Grumpy's answer.
"Aye I got it, but at what cost?" He said as he handed over the book looking over at Jackel, his brother.
"Bah, he's a tough ol'e dwarf, He'll be fine, look, Doc's already got him awake an alert. He's even sittin up." Mortog said to Grumpy as he turned to face Jackel. "Ye bein' okay o'er dare?" Jackel noded his head.
"Time to go an git me some of that mead." He yelled back, with a bit of a chuckle.
"See, I tell'd ye." Mortog hungrily opened the book. He flipped through some of the old pages with a degree of carelessness that had begun upsetting Grumpy.
"Ye be takin care o' dat book now! After all, it is a sacred text, an we didn't risk all dis jest so ye could destroy da durned thing!" Mortog looked up at him, stared at him dead in the eyes and took the next page between his fingers gently then slowly and deliberately, turned the page as Grumpy watched the page float lightly down to the other side of the book. He grinned at Grumpy knowing that it would just make him grumpier. Finding what he was looking for he yelled, probably louder than he should have.
"I found it!"
"Can ye say's it a little louder? I donna' think the guards heard ye." Doc said coming over to the makeshift table. "I'm fer tellin ye that they also got's a mage workin in dare with da Guards. They may be catchin ye yet, ye fool."
"An how's our boy be doin?" Mortog asked him.
"Aye' ee'll be fine in a minute er two. Got im back up to half health, no thanks te ye!" Doc said, with some anger, glaring at Mortog. "Me's hopin it was worth it."
"Aye me's got what I's lookin fer, it's right here in fron' o' me." Mortog showed him the book and the map that was folded inside between the pages. Doc reached for his monocle to look at it more closely. There were strange markings that Mortog pointed out with a curious look. "An ye be thinkin's me's fer helpin ye read it do ye?" But he took the map anyway. He looked at it with a confused look, and Doc never looked confused. He motioned for everyone to back away from the table laying the map on it. He pointed to a spot on a map with mountains.
"I's fer thinkin that's where ye need to be, but I can only make out one word, 'DANGER', all the o'er words be in a language that I don't understand yet. An I see's that it's a citadel there, perhaps the very one ye be lookin fer. Lemme write some o' these down. Meet me at The Cherub tonight and bring da map." He grabbed his pencil and some paper and started to scribble some of the symbols down.
Once at the restaurant and all the boys were present, Doc started his translations of some of the other symbols. They had specifically picked a table near the back that was in the darker part of the room so no one would get involved in their discussions. It wasn't so dark as to hide the logo of the restaurant which was a pair of angel wings gliding down to the ground.
"Ye can'no go without knowin' what these runes er meanin." Doc said forcefully but in a hushed tone. He grabbed the map, grabbed his magnifying glass and paper and his pencil. He reaches over the map and carefully jots down some more of the runes that he sees and approximately where they are on the map. "I canna tell ye right now that I think this one," pointing to a spot on the map near their own citadel, "Is a Harpy warnin'." He sat back in his chair staring at the paper with the scribblings. He kept turning it around and squinting at it. He made funny faces that had even Grumpy, giggling . . . almost.
Doc was young; being just a grade older than Mortog and the others, but he studied his craft relentlessly. He could heal some pretty serious wounds. He was a quick study, but his side passion was ancient languages, so he was really good at it. This perplexing map had him racking his brain and they both knew it. He studied it for a while longer looking at the map several times before he stood up again and pointed out something else on the map which told them of a freshwater pool, but it was guarded by something that he still had yet to decipher.
Mortog started to doubt his plan. He felt like he had to be prepared for anything. He had never fought a harpy before, let alone seen one in person, and now this new unknown creature? His heart had started beating a little harder than normal. He wanted to think he was good enough to go adventuring by himself. He knew he was good in combat, but was he good enough to take on these creatures? Was he good enough period?
Doc and the crew studied the map for quite some time before Mortog got up from the table, still unsure of himself.
"You can't lose that Doc." Mortog warned; knowing that he had to study the book tonight and didn't really need the map yet. Maybe there were going to be other things in the book that could aid him in his quest; he simply had to find them. Then he thought about the chain of events that would undoubtedly happen when he came back successful. He thought about his family's honor, his father's business and how they would receive him. It was at this time that Mortog realized that he had no choice; he absolutely had to go on this quest. Even if he died out there he would have shown that council that he was honorable by even attempting the quest, that's all there was to it, honor restored.
"Me's still thinkin' ye shouldn't be goin after this thing on yer own." 'Now that sounds more like Doc.' Mortog thought to himself, 'Maybe he was just havin an off day.' "Ye be needin help ye durn fool!"
"Are ye done?" Mortog just stared at him. "Me's doin this on me own an dat's final!" Saying it loudly enough for some of the other patrons to turn and look, but they all turned back to their conversations and their own business in short order.
"Ye be actin like one o them trolls ye ugly bastard!" Doc pipes up again. "Ye too young te be doin this all alone and yer definitely gonna need the help; when ye gonna sleep? Ye aint got nobody to stand watch fer ye. An then what happens when ye get jumped by more an one creatures. Ye be dyin afore ye even get to that ancient citadel. " Mortog considered Doc's points. But he just shook his head at Doc, said nothing and walked away. "Durned fool gonna git hisself killed, poor dwarf." Mortog heard every word of that last sentence closing his eyes and cringing a bit even as he continued to walk away.
They were all great points that he needed to figure out how to overcome. He was stronger than all that; he was sure he could find a solution to most of those points. 'Besides how am I supposed to git experience if-n I's ne'er git out dare.'
He spent the long walk home thinking hard about what Doc had said, and all of the other points that had been brought up since he had mentioned this plan.
About a third of the way home he felt a sharp pain in his lower back. He was in a dark passageway. There were soft rocks lining the walls so the sounds wouldn't echo as much. Mortog had to think that it was a great place for an ambush, whoever it was behind him was at least intelligent. But he knew better how to handle this situation, thanks to his mom. He really did owe her everything. His resolve was now stronger than ever to take on this quest.
"Don't even try it, I got ye' this time." Mortog smiled. He recognized that voice as his old buddy Branthony. He knew that his fighting skills were regarded highly, but at that moment, Mortog actually had the advantage. He knew two ways to end this 'stalemate'. He would try the first one, the peaceful one. As to the advantage, Branthony didn't know that he knew his way out of this.
"Branthony my ol' buddy." He said as if nothing was wrong. "What do ye want?" More forcefully spoken now. "Me's on me way home fer dinner." He told him.
"I know what yer doin'." Branthony simply states.
"That's it?" He exclaims. "Well why ye didn't just say so." Mortog, feeling the knife retract from his back a little; stepped forward and quickly spun around slapping his hands together catching the blade between his palms then twisted his hands causing Branthony to release the knife, more in surprise than anything else. Branthony just stood there with his jaw hanging open. He suddenly got into a defensive posture. "I aint aimin fer a fight tonight, I's gots a lot on me mind, so git te yer point so's I can go home an eats me dinner."
"Right, I know's bout yer little plan te regain yer honor." He states. Now it's Mortog's turn to hang open his maw. "I wants in, ye know I's can handle meself, well, not as good as you, but I could learn from ye, obviously yer gittin yer trainin elsewhere."
"Durnet! I'm te do this quest on me own!" Trying to defend his logic once more.
"Ye be a crazy fool do do it on yer own; anyway, I know all 'bout da plan, including da book an da map. Ye can kill me now or let me in, or I go to my paw." Branthony just stood there proud as hell that he stood up to him without fighting. He wasn't sure he would have been able to take him anyway. In truth Branthony was truly afraid of Mortog especially after seeing him in the rink that day.
Mortog really didn't have anything to say. Doc and the others were pressuring him to take someone else with him. Branthony could either be a hindrance or a help to him. He didn't want to hurt any of his friends or even get them killed because of a bad decision on his part. But Branthony, in Mortog's mind, could be trained and since he's not really a friend, he decided, as he stood there quietly, to take him up on his offer. Who knows maybe he had some good ideas, he wasn't stupid just a little quick on the draw when it came to his anger. He could be useful, especially when they were both going to be learning on the fly.
"Alright. Alright. But ye be tellin no one ye hear? Ye meet us in the mornin at The Cherub at 'bout nine. I will be there early with the guys that way I's can talk to em first, git em used te da idea." He told him. "An if I findin out ye be tellin anyone, I'll kill ye! An yer paw won't hafta worry bout his precious little boy no more." With that, Mortog threw the knife at Branthony's feet and turned to walk home. Branthony being happy with himself, just stood there and smiled.
He reached his house earlier than expected, despite the incident in the tunnel, to find his mum in the kitchen crying . . . again, her face painted red from all the constant emotion. She really was a wreck. He was extremely empathetic, which meant that instead of just understanding someone else's pain, he feels her pain. He started to tear up himself as he walked into the kitchen.
"It will git better mum." Mortog said startling her to a standing position then hugging her tightly. He knew he wouldn't be able to feel that anymore until he gets back from his quest. It was all he could do to stop himself from crying as well.
"When?" She said in barely a whisper. "You shouldn't e'er have to witness yer mum in this way." She said in a more pronounced voice after she cleared her throat. He did know her pain though. That's why he was going on this quest, so that his mom could finally stop feeling like her family's honor will never be restored. I'll prove em all wrong. Of this I swear. All o' em!'
The next morning they all sat at The Cherub, the favorite for them because it was quiet, and nobody around them cared about what was said.
"Doc," Mortog said with a smile leaning over to him on one elbow. "I thought a lot about what ye said last night; an me thinks yer absolutely right, I's be needin someone with me. I'm needin someone to stand watch as I sleeps, and the other way around too."
"An what ye got up yer sleeve now Mortog." Grumpy said with a worried look on his face.
"Is bout durned time ye listened te me's." Doc piped in.
"When ye see, ye all going to object, but, fer one, I's now have no choice, an fer two, he's da perfect one te go wit me. He's not expendable but he's not a close friend either; so I's not havin te worry so much bout 'im."
They looked at each other, even Happy was there today. Bashful, Sneezy, and Sleepy were still absent. Mortog began to worry about those three, he at least wanted to say goodbye to them, just in case he doesn't return at all.
"Dat's what ye wants right?" Happy blurts out. "Who cares who he is, I's just happy ye'll not be goin alone." Of that logic, not one of them could argue.
They all heard footsteps behind them, looking that way; A figure shrouded in darkness sauntered their way slowly and purposely.
"The queen is most dissatisfied with your lack of progress." The words slithered out of her messenger's mouth. "The queen is expecting some good news." She floated over to the only mirror in this spire and sprinkled some kind of red dust onto it and turned away. Immediately the mirror lit up. The queen's fair skinned face appeared. The entity drifted over to the spire's one lone window, turned into a Raven and flew off without another word. He stood halfway across the room staring at the image of his queen when it suddenly came to life.
"Well Beltron. Tell me you have it." He was astonished that he was going to converse with a mirror. But then, he supposed, it shouldn't be that hard for a sorceress to use a scrying mirror.
"I haven't yet your majesty, but I am almost there."
"You better be! I sure hope I sent my messenger all the way there for nothing and you'll have it straightaway. There are going to be severe consequences if you allow those insignificant and inexperienced dwarves to get a hold of it first! I want that artifact!" She told him through the mirror as her dark hair fell over her pale white face while she spoke. "I expect you to have it in your possession by the next time we speak."
"Wouldn't it be better to let the dwarves get it for us, it would certainly be easier to take it away from inexperienced dwarves, they can't-"
"NNNNOOOO!" The queen screamed at him through the mirror loud enough to shake a painting off the stone wall across the room. "YOU will retrieve that artifact before they can even get close enough to smell it!" She yelled across the miles in between them. "If you can't accomplish this task as you promised then I will be rid of you and will find someone else who can." She said with more composure in her voice. "You have one week. If you do not have it by then I will send someone to take your place! Is, that, clear?" She demanded his answer.
"Yes your majesty." He said with conviction, a bow and a sense of newfound motivation; while secretly noting to himself that his magic was surely stronger than hers if it should ever come to that. He turned to one of his misty minions.
"Bring me another blood elf." He demanded.
"My master, we have none left and to catch one is . . . no longer as easy as it was before." It told him.
"Fine. Away with you." He said as he waived his hand in the air.
He took to his makeshift study where he kept all of the books and scrolls that he had brought with him. He went directly to an open scroll that was already lying on his desk. Of all the powers he possessed and he still couldn't decipher most of this scroll. He couldn't fathom where the artifact lay but he knew it was somewhere in this particular citadel. He had already tried the library and the main chamber room. His magic could sense that it was somewhere inside this citadel but he couldn't pinpoint where and the queen was getting really impatient.
The scroll, books and even his inkwell suddenly went flying across the room as the red-faced Beltron screamed in frustration. He needed someone who could decipher the writing on that stupid scroll; the only ones who could read it were those blasted blood elves and they wouldn't help him read it, hell, they wouldn't even tell him where the artifact was, let alone decipher a scroll which would lead him straight to it. The good news is that it looked as if the elves knew nothing of the prophecy, so they would end up stopping those stupid young dwarves from getting to it as well; and they were far less experienced at getting artifacts than he; or dealing with those pesky blood elves. They will soon discover what pain is. That thought made him smile wide.
He traipsed over to the cubbies that he used as storage for his books and scrolls. He shuffled through them until finding an old book. He opened it at his desk to a page that held an ancient map. The map was even older than the one Mortog and his friends had looked at. This map was of the citadel when it was a bustling city. There were several buildings that were on the map that weren't in the city any longer and through the use of his magic he had found several secret passages that were marked discretely. There were only two left to check, not that they would map out every secret passageway; in his explorations of the others he hadn't seen even one blood elf indicating that he was indeed in the wrong place. He would have to explore the citadel on his own even farther if he couldn't find it in one of these two passageways.
He put some things together in a pack and called for one of his minions. He ripped the map from the book and folded it putting it in his pocket then he called for one of his minions and left the tower in pursuit of one of the secret passages. He decided to check the lower one first figuring that the passage farthest away from the entrance to the citadel would be the smartest place to hide it; 'but then dwarves weren't the smartest creatures in the realm.' He thought to himself.
He walked out onto one of the cobblestone streets that were at a steep angle as was much of Valdamus citadel. The stupid dwarves had built there city on a large sinkhole. When the sinkhole started to swallow up the city they had to evacuate. He took pleasure in knowing that many of them must've died in excruciating pain; he smiled wickedly.
The friend that walked with him was good with the blade but what makes him special and particularly suited to this quest is that he is also a blood elf which makes him just as strong, fast, perceptive and any of the other traits they posses. He trusted this elf and had worked with him for years; they worked well with each other, one just as maniacal as the other. He had met him on another quest and had been fighting him when he and Beltron couldn't best one another. They had turned their faceoffs into a game and eventually they had become friends. He was someone the queen approved of, not that he needed her approval to do anything, but it sure made things easier when he had to deal with her.
The dark figure slowly approached the table; it was surreal in Doc's eyes. He had come over as slowly as he could, in his arrogance he had wanted to make a dramatic entrance; Branthony was a drama queen if there ever was one. When he finally came into view Doc stood in defiance immediately.
"What are ye about?" Doc yelled as he realized who it was.
Branthony stopped and looked at the ragtag group of kids all a year younger than he, assessing the intelligence they might be using to plan this escapade. Deciding he really didn't have too much of a choice in who he associated with on this quest, he spoke.
"I's about keepin yer friend safe and accompanied on this fool's errand." He told them. Mortog just looked at him as if he had just been betrayed, but accepted his answer as he seemed to know how to ease the group's tension about him.
"Aye, an he's for helpin me's against anything we be findin out there that one dwarf can't handle by hisself." Mortog trying to reason with his friends, even Happy seemed to look upon him with disappointment. Grumpy just shook his head in disapproval.
"Oh great!" Jackel said as he walked up next to Mortog. "When did we invite this troll into our group?" Jackel took up a seat next to Doc. "Well, there be two chairs left. Might as well sit yer arse down and start listenin." Mortog knew that Jackel still held importance to the group and so he allowed him to join in. "Did we git any further in decipherin' da map yet?"
"Aye but ye's not gonna like what I's found out." Doc said as Mortog and Branthony sit in the remaining two chairs. "Looks like it's gonna be a lot longer o' a trip than ye all be thinkin it be. Not only has ye a number o' creatures te avoid, ye's gonna have te go around Gulliver's Gulch unless the two o' ye's knows how te climb-."
"Neigh, the tree o' us!" Jackel yelled out. Mortog slammed his fist on the table and stood fiercely.
"I's only takin Branthony and that's final!" Mortog yelled.
"Aye but there's nothing stopping me from following ye now, is dare?" Jackel said calmly. Veins sticking out of Mortog's red face, he stood there fists clenched in anger, but could do or say nothing to discourage Jackel. He sat back down knowing that he would have to take him with. He started to rationalize why he should take Jackel as Doc continued to argue with Jackel about it. He was an accomplished rogue and he had at least sixty years on Mortog and Branthony combined, so he had the experience.
"So what ye know of the outside world, ye know, outside these walls?" Mortog interrupted. Branthony thought, for sure, that he would find a way from taking him with them.
"We can't take him with us!" Branthony objected.
"Well?" Mortog ignored Branthony's cry.
"I was out dare about twenty years ago fer about a year, maybe two." He told him. "We done some huntin and believe it er not, fishin too. I's know how te hunt and skin and cook almost any animal out dare, an I'm good wit a bow."
Mortog sat silently as Branthony looked at him in disbelief. "Do ye know the area we's goin?"
"Now ye wait jest a minute!" Doc stood yelling. Other patrons turning to look once more as Doc quieted and sat back down. "He's me brother! I'll not allow it." Jackel sat there just shaking his head then putting a hand on Doc's shoulder to quiet him.
"Neigh, we went south, ye's goin north, me's hearin."
"Aye, an from what me's been readin in da book, I's be needin ye. Da place is booby trapped to the nine hells and back. I's be needin a good rogue. I take it yer forte is dem daggers ye keep at yer side at all times?"
"Neigh, I's be favorin da bow. But I am good wit dees, no doubt me be gittin better through dis quest. I can't wait te git goin on dis crazy quest!"
"Well, ye better git packed, the both o' ye, we leave in da morning." Mortog looked at them sternly.
"Neigh, we leave after ye all go te bed. Dis way no one knows yer gone until after school tomorrow." Jackel suggested.
Mortog thought about that for a moment and shook his head. "Dats da plan den. We all meet at da banks after bedtime. I's gittin me a double bladed Mythril axe tonight and I assume ye has yer swords, or do I be needin te pick dem up too?" He looks at Branthony.
"Aye, but I's still not happy bout takin Jackel wit us."
"I knows ye don't like each other but we's all gonna have te work together out dare, unless yer fer stayin home now-"
"Not a chance!" Branthony actually looked excited about going with them, just so as Jackel was.
It was later that day that Mortog went to the dispensary to browse the mythril weapon area directly after school and just before battle training. There were dwarves all around him making axes and other weapons in the forge next to the dispensary. Some were swords and some were axes of various shapes and sizes. There were wood workers working alongside the ore smiths fusing the wood into the ore's sometimes magically. He found the whole experience fascinating. He had been here only one time before; when he was about ten; the teacher took them all down here to see the experts hard at work. Though now there were a lot more dwarves working hard. Now he just needed to go in the back and choose a weapon. He already had his excuse planned. He was going there to pick up a blessed axe for Dargus, for a special class demonstration the next day. He hoped that he would be able to pick out a magical axe for himself. As he walked through the forge he noticed the backroom section where all the finished weapons were stored. He casually walked through a long stone-carved tunnel into the room with the finished weapons; there was no one watching and no guards; that took him by surprise. He took his time knowing that this was going to be his only chance to pick a weapon with which he will probably be using for the rest of his life, as short as that may be. There was a center section that held all manner of swords and even a scythe or two. There were axes and war hammers all around the edge of the circular room. For the most part they all looked like decorative pieces until he ran his finger down one of the blades and sliced his finger without even feeling any pain. He picked up one of the double bladed axes and found that it didn't have the same weight or balance that the dummy one had the day before at the rink. He would have to practice with this one before he has to use it in battle. He picked up another one and it felt almost identical to the first. Then he saw a double bladed battle axe with a long handle that almost glowed, across the room near one of the three tunnels that led into the room. There were intricate details in the handle and all across the blades. It looked like a dragon in the middle and its wings spread wide across the blades; fire was being breathed down the length of the wooden and mythril shaft. The etchings were in an almost invisible gold color, but he could see it clearly. It was throbbing with a soft illumination. His eyes flew wide and he went straight for it before another dwarf seemed to just appear in front of him, startling him slightly as he reached for it. He almost got into his defensive stance. He was a tall dwarf; he stood about five foot two. He wore some ancient service armor and had an axe strapped to his back similar to the one Mortog was looking at. He saw very similar etchings on his blades but he couldn't quite make out what they were of. It was weird because he was the only dwarf in the whole forge actually wearing armor and a weapon. He looked at Mortog and smiled.
"Aye boy, ye like dat one do ye?" He asked. "Aint ye a little young to have one o' dees? Let me see if-n ye can even lift it, I be bettin ye can't." He said with a sly grin.
First of all, Mortog knew he could, he just lifted a couple of them just a minute ago and how much heavier could this one be? Secondly this one seemed to call out to him, almost as if it is supposed to be his. He hesitated for a moment and looked at the old dwarf as he just leaned up against the wall and crossed his arms with a smile on his face. He seemed warm and affectionate; he wasn't trying to mock him at all, he was genuinely curious to see what he could do with one. That's why Mortog hesitated to pick it up, it almost looked like a setup, a trap, but then he remembered, he had his plan.
He looked at the older dwarf watching him, then at the axe in question. He reached out to grab it. He went to lift it, but it seemed heavier than the others but he was still able to grasp it and pick it up with one hand. When he put his other hand on it to stabilize the axe it seemed to become lighter; he felt it adjust to his strength level. Feeling a slight strain on his arms he was able to lift it in his hand and bring it above his head, then feeling its weight he twirled it above his head with one hand, then down in an arc letting it go as he brought the handle back around catching it in his other hand. The dwarf standing there just smiled wide.
"It looks like that be yer axe." He said to Mortog in his deep rumbling voice. He was smiling just as wide as Mortog was. "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with me own eyes. I's gonna turn my back now, when I turn around I don't expect to see you again." He turned and Mortog took off down the tunnel leaving the weapons room, down the stone hall into another room where other dwarves were to sign out their weapons.
He didn't know how to handle this room, he hadn't even thought about a sign out room. There were two dwarves in front of him, he had that long to figure something out. One of the dwarves in front of him was also named Mortog. 'How weird.' he thought to himself, how could that even be. He knew of no one who had the same name that he had. All his brothers were named Dopey. In any case, he signed out a large war hammer and the other dwarf had a simple, yet very artistic sword that he was signing out. He decided that he would just sign it out himself, after all by the time they figured out that he signed a weapon out; he would be long gone anyway.
"Ye look a little young te be signing out weapons aren't ye?" The rather large dwarf behind the stone counter asked him.
"Aye but it's not fer me, dis bein fer me battle commander, Dargus. He asked me to pick this up fer him fer a demonstration tomorrow at school." Mortog said with as much confidence as he could muster, he was just allowed out of the weapons room with it after all. This was going to be his lucky day. And why would they even question a reason like that. By the time they figure out it was a lie, he'll be out of the citadel completely.
"Well then, just sign here an we'll get ye on yer way, don't wanna make Dargus mad ye know." He told him. Apparently he had gotten into trouble with Dargus in the past, and the outcome was not favorable for this very large dwarf. At least that's what Mortog could figure.
Meanwhile in the weapons room, the dwarf turned back around leaned back against the wall, saw that he wasn't there and smiled, then he slowly faded magically into the air.
Mortog and Branthony waited rather impatiently for Jackel to show at the banks. They both checked each other's packs to make sure that they grabbed everything they could bring with them.
"That be one hell o' an axe Mortog, did it cost ye anythin?" Branthony asked him.
"Naw, but I's best be gittin out o' here afore anyone be findin out that I's checked out me new axe."
"Can I hold it?" Branthony begged of Mortog.
Mortog looked him over for a moment and decided with a grunt to let him hold it. He grabbed it from his pack and handed it over to Branthony with one hand, who immediately dropped the head on the ground, still holding its shaft.
"Aye, it weighs a ton! How ye gonna fight wit dis?!" Branthony squeaked. Mortog reached over and picked it up with just one hand and tied it back onto his pack with a smile, knowing that its magic was made just for him.
"Bah, wish Jackel would hurry his arse up." Mortog irritatedly exclaimed.
"Do you think he decided to back out?" Branthony asked excitedly.
"Well, if-n he did then we go without im." Mortog grimly told him. "I knows ye don't like him but we's be needin him badly an ye be happy if-n yer lookin straight down da bolt of an arrow cause ye didn't see da trap an he disarmed it fer ye." He could see Branthony visibly tense up at that, or it could've been that he saw Jackel coming straight towards them with a bow and a pack slung around his shoulder. Mortog immediately took notice of his bow and quiver; he noted the quality of both and the craftsmanship of the bow. Mortog knew then that, indeed, Jackel was an expert archer.
"Check yer packs after we git to the forbidden cavern, we's got's company commin." Jackel said as he walked right past them and headed towards the cavern.
"But that's not the way were te go." Mortog stubbornly objected as Branthony stood there waiting to take his cue from Mortog. Jackel stopped on one of the higher boulders that they would have to climb if they were to get to the forbidden cavern and pivoted on one foot to look at them.
"Da mages are already on dare way, we gots te go, and go now! Dis aint no joke."
Mortog motioned to Branthony to follow Jackel and then followed him taking up the rear.
They climbed fast, Jackel leading the way. After some serious rock climbing they slowed their pace enough for Mortog to go up to the front with Branthony and Jackel.
"It appears their mages has picked up on our scents and the guards are directly behind us. They have already been te yer house Mortog, we have no time te lose, we need te be gone tonight. On top o' dat I could swear I seen Telis talkin te da mages.
"No!" Mortog wouldn't dare believe him, it was just speculation, 'a girl that looked just like her maybe.' he thought. But he knew in his heart of hearts that it was her, and it hurt, it hurt with the pain of a thousand swords running him through. Thinking then of the mages, 'Great dis whole thing is over afore we even git a chance te start. And me own girlfriend coulda done us in.'
Doc was following close behind them in his mother's cloak of concealment. He had grabbed it from her closet years ago when he was just a boy. His mom probably knew he took it and just let him have it. It came in handy now as he was following the group into the forbidden cavern. He was just as close to the group as the guards were to him, just a couple of hundred paces back. Those mages really knew how to track. Doc assumed they were tracking the book. Since they also checked Mortog and Jackel's houses he had the feeling they already knew who was responsible for the theft of the book. Mortog had inquired about the book several times already so they probably had a feeling they knew what book he took and who took it.
He had a pack pre-packed a couple of days ago knowing that if Mortog was really going to go on his fool's quest than he better be there to heal and protect him, God's knows he'll need it. He was really good at his craft and it was no surprise to anyone, as magic ran in his family line, his mother had it, and her mother and her mother and so on. So when he decided to go on this quest Doc knew he had better prepare as best he could, he even snagged one of his grandmothers spell books thinking he may need it. He hadn't really thought Mortog was going to go through with it, but now that the guards were catching up to him, they didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Mortog would be thrown in the local dungeon for who knows how long, and Doc knew it. He was prepared to go with Mortog and now he had all of his supplies and even some extra food. He figured he wouldn't be able to stay hidden for long, maybe just long enough to get far enough away that they couldn't turn him away.
Doc didn't really have any offensive spells but he knew plenty of defensive ones and the new book held even more. He had to catch up to the group if he was going to enter the forbidden cavern with them. He would have to stay within earshot of the crew otherwise he could very easily get lost in it forever. He knew his light spell wouldn't work in the cavern, in fact, no magic would work. They can't even light a torch in the cavern because the darkness seemed to just eat up light itself. He figured if he stayed near them he could just follow their voices. He doubted that even the mages in pursuit would track them once they were inside the cavern.
He watched as they tied ropes around themselves to keep track of each other and he wished he could tag along with them so he didn't get lost, but he would just have to try and keep up with their voices. He also knew the risk if he couldn't follow them, that thought made him weak in the knees.
He entered the cavern to the point where he could still see out and he was able to hear the chatter from the group. He watched as the mages and guards stopped in front of the cavern and just stood there muttering to themselves. One of them tried a more in-depth illumination spell and Doc chuckled when it failed. He could no longer stay and watch though, as the voices were getting farther away. He had to follow into the void.
"Thank the heavens. Light. I'm so happy to be able to see something again." Exclaimed Branthony when they reached a point that held a natural skylight in the cavern. There were trees with green leaves on them and what looked like weeds all over the cave floor next to the large clear pool in the center of the large chamber. Mortog walked over to the edge of the pool, pulled off his pack, and put his hands in the water. It was warm and stunk.
"Now don't ye go drinkin none o' dat water, It ain't no drinkin water." Jackel said. "Don't ye let that pond fool ye, it can be dangerous to drink. I say's we all take a break and check each other's gear now we should be safe from them mages now. I's fer knowin they won't be comin in here."
They all sat down and started going through packs and taking inventory of their supplies and tools. They each had their own specialties when it came to survival, except for Mortog who originally thought that he could just wing it, but when he saw all the traps that Jackel brought with him, he realized right away that he was a fool. He's doubly glad he had brought people with him now.
"How long was we in dare ye think?" Mortog asked.
"Oh me's thinkin about two hours or so." Came Jackels response. "Rest up now, we's gots a hard climb ahead o' us."
"Where are you takin us?" Mortog said almost angerly. "Ye had this planned all along didn't ye?"
"Aye." Was all Jackel said about it.
"Why didn't ye say anyting sooner?" Mortog asked, now angry.
"Ye wouldn't have gone along with it, ye had yer way out an dat was final. Dis way, ain't nobody gonna follow us an they's donna even know dis place exists. Notta one o' dem has e'er been this far back but me. So calm yerself and relax, cause we leave when it be almost dark." Jackel seemed to be taking over Mortog's plans and he didn't like that one bit, but they were now stuck with no other choice but to follow him. Jackel did have a point though; no one would dare follow them into the cave.
Doc took the time while he hid in the darkness to eat, but he didn't have the luxury of checking his gear, he was too far into the void to be able to see well enough to check his bag. He had to feel around to find his meat sack so that he could eat. He simply sat in the void watching Branthony and Mortog messing around and sparing with each other.
"Okay guys, time te pack up an make da climb." Jackel told them as the cavern began to dim slightly. "When we get up te da top we should have enough daylight left te hike several miles afore we need te make camp."
Mortog was getting frustrated at being given orders by Jackel. This was HIS quest, not Jackel's but still, he could find no fault in his logic.
The climb wasn't as 'tough' as they were led to believe; it was a steep incline, but if they missed their footing they would only slide down until they could grab hold of something. They wouldn't go plummeting to their deaths up there.
The cavern had been warm enough but now that they were nearing the top of the climb they found it to be getting colder. The last few feet were the hardest. That was a steep incline, but even with their weighted down packs they still made it up with ease.
The air was crisp and cold, almost too cold. The ground was frozen below Mortog's feet. When he finally stood up, he just froze, his face wrinkled in complete confusion. The sun was shining and the wind was blowing, but there before him lay a frozen sort of paradise. The kids had never seen snow.