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Prince Nytheun Annals Ymd Eras Of Miashunes & The Epithecesh The Lay Of The Epithecesh Oh Heynoch Thuntmutz Crimson Night The Crystal Tower Finishing The Job Exiles In Terror Moonchild The Death Of A Duke Oracle Awakes Philosophical Essays Rants From A Nihilist Existence - An Exploration Syllogisms For A New World Short Stories The Little House Behind My Old Garage

Exiles In Terror
A Short Story

Silvanus S-gar Prince

Copyright 2012 Spicer Publishing Company

Now... in this far away land Strange... that the palms of my hands Should be damp with expectancy Spring.... and the airs turning mild City lights... and the glimpse of a child Of the alleyway infantry Friends... do they know what I mean Rain.... and the gathering green Of an afternoon out-of-town

But Lord I had to go My trail was laid too slow behind me To face the call of fame Or make a drunkards name for me Though now this other life Has brought a different understanding And from these endless days Shall come a broader sympathy And though I count the hours To be alones no injury... My home... was a place near the sand Cliffs... and a military band Blew an air of normality

Exiles King Crimson

We grow up hearing stories of terrors in the night. Of bogey men and sand men who will steal our souls if we let our guards down. How in the dream time, monsters may lurk - waiting for that moment of contented passivity to pounce on an instant of weakness or unpreparedness. We spend every night jumping at shadows, imagining ghosts and ghouls who may, or may not, be the result of overactive imaginations. The old tell the children tales of things that go bump in the night - goblins and ogres, demons and ghosts. Yes, every human child is taught to fear the night and to fear the creatures who lurk within the shadows. It is perhaps why we bask in the light of the moons, for their almost ethereal light helps to keep the monsters at bay - or so we tell ourselves. Yet on the darkest nights, when both moons are in their new phase and there is only the light of the distant stars to light the night, true terror haunts us, always licking at our heels - waiting for its chance to take us. My life beyond this abyss seems so distant in the past that those happy times in the sun are more like the memory of a distant dream of another lifetime. Its connection to who I am right now and the absolute misery I live each and every day seems fleeting - if not completely disconnected. In fact, one has a hard time even calling my pitiful existence

living - brutal torture at its worst and mere survival at its best. Who I was before, I have almost forgotten - so harsh is this reality. The fiends have nearly beat those happy memories out of me, yet my soul still clings to their images like my last defense against finally losing all sanity. Yes, somewhere deep down within me is a minute bit of hope that my life will not end here. This hope is all I have left. What I remember of those times long ago - the time in the sunlight and in the freedom of the world - becomes foggier every passing day. I remember a sea-side village and growing up happy, even enjoying hearing those tales of terrors of the night that the elders would share. I remember working on a fishing boat, plowing the sea for sustenance. And I remember a woman, a beautiful maiden with red hair that shawn in the morning light. The fiends have stolen her name from my memories, but memory of her face and her beauty keeps me safe while I suffer the most brutal of punishments. How I came to be here in this abyss of torture and misery is the same tale told by many who inhabit these pits of despair. Once we were sailors or passengers on vessels traveling the seas. Yet on one fateful day, black sails - the dread black sails of those terrortales - appeared on the horizon. No matter how skillful the helmsman or captain of our ship was, we could not evade them. And when they boarded our ships, our weapons were no use against their magic. They did not even kill those who were frail, too young or too old for their needs. They herded us all aboard their dread ships and locked us in the hold. Our time at sea was perhaps a mocking example of the lives we would soon lead. I say mocking for it was luxurious compared to the depravation we would soon come to expect. There were perhaps two hundred humans packed together in the bottom of the hold, sitting in the bilge of the ship. The whole room stank of disease and suffering, yet the terror we all felt at being taken captive by the fiends somehow gave us strength to not whimper or cry. How long we were at sea, none could fathom, however I would now trade that squalor for the abysmal conditions we suffer now. After many long days and nights we came to the cursed port of ji Nunarru, the dread city of The Vixen Of Death. We were herded like swine into the slave pits in the nightmarish under-city. Once down into the pits we were separated according to some strange reasoning that only the fiends understood. Each group was then prodded by spears and halberds into various cells and pits where they would endure endless suffering. My own cell was occupied by twenty other men, all about my age and build. It was a small cramped space, barely ten feet by ten feet. The men were all from diverse backgrounds and all were in various states of emaciation and suffering - depending on the length of time they had suffered in this nightmare realm. I would later discover that this group was in much better health then most. The reason for this was the leadership of a single man who had a very noble bearing. This man went by the name Quashef - a name

I immediately suspected as being an alias. He was extremely tall and had dark red hair and fierce knowledgeable green eyes. He wore the shambled rags of a slave - as did the rest of the men - but even they did not take away from his aura of nobility. He said he had been a member of the Grand Ducal Ranger Corps of Ravenstone and had been captured while on a mission defending the realm. It was all the past he would share - in fact, most of us kept our pasts close to our chests. It was hard to talk about those times - the memories seemed to only bring pain. Quashef had a small cabal of men who were fiercely loyal to him and often they would sit and talk in hushed tones in one of the corners of the cell. I often imagined they were planning some escape from the terror of this place, but I knew deep down the only escape was death. Still, I wondered what sorts of things Quashef and his cabal discussed. They were the envy of the entire cell, certainly the top of the pecking order in our little twisted society. Many of the other men sought Quashefs favour, hoping to be welcomed into the cabal and be able to share the secrets they held. There were seven men in Quashefs cabal. The man known as Erinefing was the closest to Quashef. He was a big burly warrior who had numerous scars all over his body. His dark brown hair was thinning on top, due to malnutrition, but his brown eyes were intense and filled with a fire which once would have instilled fear in his enemies. However, our captors never looked into his eyes and his fierce some gaze apparently had no effect on them. Clineta was a brown haired rogue who once was a bosun on a navy warship. On one particular cruise, he ran afoul of the ships first mate and promptly decided that desertion from the navy was in the best interests of his career. From there, the grey-eyed rogue joined the crew of a merchantman and enjoyed several years of good fortune. The halcyon days would not last, for one day the merchantman was surrounded by a small flotilla of the Vixens Pirate ships and taken captive. The entire crew had been forced into slavery here in ji Nunarru. Yet somehow, the sly bosun had found a way to prosper even here in the pits. Erinefing and Clineta were fiercely loyal to Quashef and they seemed to have the most influence with him. The other Cabal members: Keinliy; Poshewin; Ekyablash; Epycople and Nochepy were certainly part of the group but found themselves in a much more subordinate role. Quasef directed the Cabal - and most of the men in the cell, rationing what little sustenance was given to us to ensure that all of the men ate. There were some times that I noted that he himself did not eat his own ration - in stead he gave his portion to the most needy within the group. Even though Quasef shared his ration on a regular basis and went without food more often then not, he did not seem to be adversely affected. I began to have suspicions that he was magically sustaining himself while helping the other men keep their health. Now when I call our place of detainment a cell, I use the word by its loosest possible

sense. When one uses the word cell, one usually imagines a small room with some sort of steel door that is locked from the outside in order to keep prisoners in. Our cell was little more then a pit - its door was a hole in the ceiling that the slaves were pushed into. The hole was sealed by a metal grate which did little but filter in a small amount of light enough so that the cell was not left in complete darkness. The grate also served as a feeding hole. Whatever sustenance our captors deemed worthy of our consumption was poured through its narrow slits, left to rain down on the men below. Fortunately, for the sake of our sanity, we were not confined all of the time to our cell. At disjointed intervals, the grate would open and we would be magically levitated one by one - up out of the cell and fettered into a chain gang. Mercilessly we would then be marched down out of the detainment area and into the subterranean mines below. We were given crude stone tools and forced to mine the shafts for various metals - iron, copper, silver, gold and tin. The work was horrendous and the conditions worse then that of our cell - but at least it gave us a reprieve from the monotony of confinement. Our captors were beyond what humans would deem cruel. They treated the few animals they kept better then us. We were nothing more then a means for them to achieve some terrific end. In ancient times, my people had fought them in a great war that lasted centuries and it was during those ancient times that we discovered the depths of their depravity. In the tongue of the noble Iperatesi, whom our captors are related to by race, they are called the Ayrtesi. But my people gave them a name which was the origin of all those horror stories told by the elderly. The word Drow sends shivers through the souls of children and can even make a grown man weep in abject terror. One old tale tells that the Drow were the originators of all evil in the world. I am not entirely certain how much I believe this, however having suffered under their cruelty, I can attest that they are vile beyond measure. My first night in the cell was a nightmare - one which I have yet to fully wake. There were two other men from my ship who were with me - Whaibun and Geoneko. After being pushed through the hole above, we thankfully suffered only minor bruises. It would have been very easy for one of us to have broken an arm or a leg during that fall. Most of the men already in the cell kept their distance from us - seeming almost scared of our sudden appearance within their own nightmares. As if we were new demons haunting their ever-waking dream. However, one of the men approached us - the sly rogue, Clineta, crawled over to the corner where we had found some space to sit. He introduced himself and then quickly started giving us advice on how best to survive in this hell-hole. This is for your own good. he told us in a serious tone. Dont look the Drow in the eye, dont speak to them - unless they directly ask you a question and demand an answer. Do whatever they demand - no matter how vile the task may seem - without word or hesitation. In short, dont give them an excuse to torture you more then they already

do. The Drow delight in watching others suffer. The more we resist them, the more they take interest in us. Let fools with bold hearts and are men of rash actions suffer the consequences of their wrath. The only way out of here is death - and at some point you will be praying for your death. What good is it then if there is no hope? Whaibun asked the question I knew we were all thinking. The brown haired rogue looked at us, as if measuring our characters for later use. Then he leaned in close and lowered his voice: Some believe there is no hope and quickly loose the will to live. They become the play-toys for the Sgavar1 who relish inflicting untold pain and suffering on their victims. These evil priests then use their magic to heal their victims back to health - or if needed bring the poor suffering souls back to life - in order to continue to torture them. Pray to whatever gods you may hold dear that such a fate does not become your destiny. I can think of no worse existence then becoming the toy of the Sgavar. Life here in the pits is a paradise compared with what you will suffer in the Sanctuaries of the Sgavar. Again he looked into our eyes and then, satisfied that his warning was heeded, crawled back to his customary place next to Quasef. My two companions and I were silent, lost in the terrors that Clinetas words had conjured within our minds. It was during that dark moment, after having the reality of our situation explained to us in frank terms, that I made the decision that I would somehow survive this. My capture by the Drow was a test laid upon me by the gods. I would not fail and show the frailty of my mortality to them or any one for that matter. Let the fiends torture me. My will to survive would carry me through.

There was no sense of time down in the pit. What could have been days might have felt like hours and what might have felt like days might have only been minutes. I soon found, for myself at least, that keeping track of time was pointless and maddening. In fact, I had the sense of my own sanity slipping away just a little bit every time I earnestly attempted to count the passage of time. How long it was before I gave up this fruitless task, I could never be certain - but I was able to feel more at peace once I did. At first the members of my crew stuck mostly to ourselves. Slowly, however, we began to open up to the other men who shared in our hellish existence. One man in

Ayrtesi: Pain-Lord. The Sgavar are an order of clerics dedicated to Ayrowor, god of Darkness. They are masters of torture and they torture their victims in strange rituals that glorify their twisted understanding of the god of Darkness.

particular that I became close to was an Hanoteac warrior named Teoch. He had long black hair and the ever-present prisoners beard. Behind his brown eyes was an intelligence and empathy which really seemed unique. Though his proud demeanor often masked this trait, he truly was a spectacular individual. Teoch was one of the few men in the pit who did not kowtow to Quasef - in fact the two men were often at odds with each other. However, there seemed to be a mutual respect which ran much deeper then perhaps most observed. When Teoch would argue with Quasef - much to the disdain of Clineta and Erinefing - the quiet leader of the pit would often listen attentively to the Hanoteacs points. Though he only rarely agreed with Teochs viewpoint, Quasef always took the time to consider the other mans words. Teoch was quiet about his past - as were most of the other men. However, he stood out amongst them, being the only Hanoteac in a cell filled with Erupuan. His prideful demeanor also made him stand out, though one could not fault him much - the Hanoteac are known to be proud men. Though he was another unfortunate prisoner of the Drow, Teoch would often act as if he were a freeman living in some other situation far removed from the reality we all suffered. Yet, he seemed to have a sense of prudence when it came to his interactions with our captors. He followed the suggestions Clineta had offered myself and my crew mates - though you could often see in Teochs eyes a sense of disdain for the Drow whenever they were present. My association with Teoch began after my first encounter with the Drow since being shoved into the pit. It was one of many times we would be forced into mining the underdeeps of the city. At the sound of the grate opening all sound ceased within the confines of the cell. Every man down in the darkness collectively held his breath, not knowing what to expect. When one of the men began to be levitated off the floor, the sense of terror did not ebb - was this the beginning of a mining work gang or was the poor soul being taken for some other hellish amusement? When a second man began gently floating up towards the hole in the roof it seemed as if our entire group began to breathe a little easier. I watched, fascinated, as one by one each of the men in the cell magically floated up through the hole. When at last it was my turn, I was filled with a sense of awe as well as terror. Slowly I floated up through the hole, emerging into the stone chamber above. There were seven well armed Drow warriors waiting for me. Two watched the line of men already chained together while four others surrounded the hole, their black longswords drawn and ready. The last warrior stood to the left of the hole - on the brow of his helm was a rose with very large thorns. He was the only one with this design on his helm and he seemed to be the leader of the group. In short utterances, he ordered his soldiers in the vile tongue of the Ayrtesi. For their part, his warriors did not hesitate, they wordlessly followed his commands - ushering me at sword point to stand in line with my fellows as one of the two chain-gang guards attached the shackles to my ankles.

I followed the suggestions of Clineta - keeping my eyes trained to the ground, not making a sound. As the four sword carrying warriors returned the hole, I quickly snuck a glance to the right to see who I had been shackled with. I was taken slightly aback as I looked deeply into the intelligent brown eyes of Teoch. He turned his head slightly, looking over my shoulder and then returned his gaze to me. He nodded his head slightly as if to say: Dont worry lad, Ill help ye get through this. and then, seeing that I had understood, he returned his gaze to the back of the head of the man who stood in the line in front of him. Taking his cue, I did the same and waited for the long process of retrieving all the prisoners from the cell to be complete. When at last the long process of retrieving the prisoners from the pit was complete, we were herded like cattle along a narrow passageway. This passageway was different from the one which had followed when I had been first brought to the hellish slave pits of ji Nunarru. We marched for quite some time and all the while I noticed that the passage was on a decline, delving deeper into the under-deeps of the evil realm of the dark elves. We came to a junction of passages and dutifully followed the indications of our captors, marching into the right hand passage, continuing further into the depths of darkness below. At last the passageway opened up into a large cavern which was lit by the eerie phosphorescence of an unusual fungus. The light was pale purple yet the amount of fungi within the cavern gave ample light to see the extent of the massive space. The ceiling of the cavern must have been fifty feet high while the entire circumference was perhaps two hundred feet. The cavern was carved in five concentric tiers with the highest one around the perimeter and the lowest tier in the centre. The passageway we had just exited opened up onto the outermost tier and I could see numerous work groups already hard at work chipping away at the stone. Our own group was herded to the right of the passageway towards a small ramp which descended down to the next tier. We continued along this path, passing other work groups - some of which paid us no heed while others looked upon us with curiosity or some minute recognition. Again we descended a ramp down to the next tier, continuing along in this way until we finally reached the bottom of the cavern and the final tier. We were then given crude tools and ordered to begin work. Not knowing what exactly was expected, I watched the others begin to work, pounding away at the stone walls with the crude metal clubs we had all been given. Taking their cue, I too began the gruelling task of chipping away at the hard stone with my impotent tool. The work was hard and seemingly fruitless. Each swing of the club sent jarring shocks through my muscles as the blunt metal hit the much harder stone. Though this process was bad enough, the entire experience was made worse by our retinue of guards who brandished whips and cruel flails which they used at will on any slave they believed was not working hard enough - or simply for their own twisted sense of pleasure. After

a long a jarring process we would perhaps see the strength of the stone begin to fracture and small chips would fly away from the wall as we senselessly beat against it with our metal bars. At these moments we would find a minute sense of accomplishment - we were beginning to make headway against the brute strength of the stone. However, it was a small victory - we were still suffering under the relentless and cruel hands of our captors who saw this minute progress as inconsequential. Once these small fragments of stone broke free, our guards became far more cruel and demanding - desiring, it seemed, nonhuman results. I often wondered how much easier it would have been for the fiends to simply use their own magic to carve the stones. But then, they would not find any pleasure in performing the task without souls to torture... During that first time working the stone down in the mine pit, deep under the infernal city of ji Nunarru, I was helped by Teoch - the black haired Hanoteac warrior with intense eyes. He showed me the best technique to use the metal bar against the stone. He kept a constant eye on our guards, warning me of when one would be approaching with the pain-delivering whips or flails. Teoch even watched all the other members of our work crew, warning them of impending reprisals. I immediately discerned that he felt, for some deep seeded reason, the need to protect our group from the tortures of the fiends. It was this caring empathy of Teoch which occupied my thoughts while we toiled away at the seemingly fruitless task of mining with metal bars. The humanity he showed acted like a blessing of some god upon all of us. Even the nobility and caring of Quasef, and his industriousness in helping the entire group stay as healthy as possible given the circumstances seemed to pale in comparison to the compassion of the Hanoteac warrior. The interesting thing about Teoch is that because of his proud demeanor, most of the men in the cell did not recognize this humanitarianism. Very few appreciated what he did to protect the whole group. However, there was one other man amongst us, besides myself, who had obviously seen through the Hanoteacs proud bombast and noted his wish to protect us. Quasef, I think, understood the Hanoteac warrior on some deeper level then perhaps anyone else in the cell did. Though the toiling in the mines was inhumane, it was a reprieve from the confinement of the cell. It allowed us to breathe a little easier and stretch out our aching limbs - though we had to be subtle when we did so, for fear of the lashing of a Drow whip. I soon learned we lived in two worlds, both of which had their positive points and both of which were horrendous beyond imagination. In the cell we were confined in close quarters with other men, but we were usually safe from the abuse and torture from the fiends. In the mines we suffered such abuse but were able to feel a sense of personal space we truly lacked in the almost complete darkness of the cell. Even the difference in lighting - the eerie purple glow of the fungi - was a welcome change which kept most of us clinging to our sanity.

Unfortunately, sanity is a fragile state and some men are able to grasp it better then others. In our group, one man lost his grip on sanity and that deterioration nearly destroyed us all. The mans name was Igeawes and he had been a sailor aboard yet another ill-fated ship captured by the Vixen of Death. Others told me that he had been prisoner in the cell for almost as much time a Quasef - in fact he had been aboard the same ship as Teoch. The delirium came upon him slowly, as I would imagine it does for all of us. The first sign was that he had begun to talk to himself, holding long conversations about his time at sea - retelling stories of past voyages and passengers he had known. This in itself was not unusual, some of the men talked to themselves and tried to remember their past lives before this fiendish existence. However, his condition began to deteriorate - he began to argue with himself and these disagreements became quite heated, disturbing what little peace others enjoyed. Another sailor, a man named Ethen, was the most upset by Igeawes outbursts. He complained loudly to his neighbours about Igeawes constant disturbances and grumbling about Igeawes delirium began to affect the morale of the entire group. Ethen and his cohorts went and talked to Quasef to demand that something be done and a great debate ensued. Ethens group wanted to put the man out of his misery, but most of the other men saw this as stooping to the same level as the Drow. Quasef was in agreement with this idea, he was completely against any course that would harm Igeawes in any way. Though his mind has perhaps failed him, Igeawes still has the right to live. Quasef ruled. If we kill him, how are we any better then the Drow who torture us daily? Then what should be done, Quasef? Ethen demanded. Let us all think of a solution. the red haired man replied. There are enough of us with good minds left to us that we can come up with a better solution then putting this poor soul to death. There was some grumbling from Ethens cohort over this, but the debate was at a standstill for the moment. Everyone returned to their places, contemplating the words of Quasef while the mad Igeawes continued to loudly argue with his phantom self - his schizophrenic quarrel almost blotting out our capacity to think. How long we endured the ranting, I cannot say. However, my own mind was snapped out of its reveries and its attempt to close out Ipeawes shouts when I noticed Teoch move over to talk with Quasef. I shifted a little closer in an attempt to hear what they were saying. They were speaking in Erugioth, the high tongue of the Erupuan, and seemed to be arguing over some plan Teoch had devised. Its far too dangerous, Teoch. Quasef was arguing. The Drow can detect the use of magic and their reprisal against it will be swift and merciless. If they discover that youre a magic user there is no god - even your own - who will be able to save you from a monstrous fate.

Noble words, Quasef. Teoch returned. Yet we both know ye have used yer own magic to sustain yer body all these years. Igeawes madness can be cured by my arts and he can be saved from a worse fate. Quasef considered the Hanoteacs words, looking gravely over at Igeawes where he sat arguing with himself. We cant chance it, Teoch. Quasef held firm. The magic that sustains me is minor and I try to time its casting with when I sense the Drows own magic being cast in an attempt to hide it. I admit I put us all in peril by doing this, but I think it is worth the risk if I can help the others stay better nourished. The spell you need to cure Igeawes of his madness is much more powerful and will undoubtably draw the Drows attention to us. You will not be able to hide it from them. If they discover that you are a magic user, they will look more closely at all of us. Are ye deciding this on account of all of us, or just yerself, Quasef?? Teoch demanded. It is best for us all if the Drow have no reason to watch us more closely then they already do. Quasef retorted in a tone that spoke of finality. Then I echo Ethens words: what be the solution? the Hanoteac countered. I wish I knew, Teoch. the red haired man replied in a sad voice. The Hanoteac warrior shuffled back to his normal spot in the cell, his face was dark and I could just imagine what he was thinking. Was it worth jeopardizing the safety of the whole group in order to save the mind of one madman? That night - or at least the portion of the day we called night, for it was when we slept - there was an uncomfortable quiet. Igeawes had fallen asleep, preferring to argue with his demon in the dream state. Most of the men took the time to sleep as well, revelling in the quiet and darkness and hoping to recharge their energy for the next day. Even the Cabal and their leader, Quasef slept. It was some time during those quiet hours in the darkness when we were lost in our slumbers, praying for nice dreams whilst attempting to survive our nightmares, one of our number murdered poor sleeping Igeawes. It was when we all awoke that one of the men discovered that the poor delirious Igeawes was dead. It was quite evident that he had been murdered and suspicion for the death immediately fell upon Ethen. Do not think I did not think of it. Ethen admitted. But I swear to all of you that I did not kill him. Quiet, Ethen. Quasef interjected. We have not been so deprived that we do not follow the rule of law. Even here one must be proven guilty - not assumed to be so. The tall man looked around at all of the men in the cell, looking intently into each of our faces. Did anyone see or hear anything last night which might indicate what happened to Igeawes? It be best for us all. Teoch stated in a flat tone. After a shocked pause - in which

it was evident that the Hanoteac would venture no more information - Quasef ventured a question. You killed Igeawes? the red haired man asked, shocked and a little saddened at the same time. I offered to heal him, Quasef. the black haired warrior, who now was the subject of many fearful and shocked gazes, reminded his interlocutor in a steady tone. And I agree with ye, that path be far too dangerous. And so, I offered the madman mercy - and a mercy for the rest of us as well. Quasef was dumb and the shock cascaded through the ranks of the men. Though I wished to end his life, Ethen cut through the tension, now that the deed is done, I am aghast. Teoch, why would you do this? Would you have killed me if it were I who was afflicted? The question hung in the air, the implications of which soured the morale of all who remained within the cell. I was certain we all knew the answer, but we wanted to hear it spoken out of the Hanoteacs mouth. Teoch did not reply at first, knowing full well the import of his response. As the moments passed in silence, the tension within the cell rose. I could have saved him. the Hanoteac stated again, keeping his eyes from the gaze of Ethen. In stead, I have perhaps saved us all. It might not be the best choice, but it is a choice I will live with for the rest of my life. I alone carry the guilt of his life upon my soul. Thank your gods that ye are not the one that be having his blood on yer hands, Ethen. What do we do with the body? another man, Deenosh, asked. If it stays here we will become diseased with the death airs. Aye. Ethen agreed. You could see in his face he was not satisfied that Teoch would not speak the answer we all knew, but I think he knew better then to press the warriors patience. How do we get rid of it? Quasef looked around, his face deeply troubled by what had transpired. Clineta leaned over and began to whisper in his ear. After a few moments, the tall red haired man nodded his ascent and then began to speak. Though I wish we could give Iqeawes a proper burial, we cannot. The best course of action is to wait for the next time we must mine and let the Drow... he said the word with such malice it sent shivers down my spine. ...take care of the corpse. At this point, Quasef walked over to where the body lay and knelt down next to it. Ethone, he prayed to the god of the Sea, protect this man in his journey to the Halls of Erron. Let his poor soul, that has suffered such pain and evil in this life, sail upon smooth waters to his final destination. And may you bless us all, your humble servants, so that perhaps we might find the light and hope that will allow us to avoid the fate suffered by poor Igeawes. Forgive Teoch of his action for he acted in what he believed to be best for us all. Blessed be. Quasef stood up and turned to face us all again. That is the end. We are to speak

of this no more. This incident will do nothing but divide us. We must put it aside and move on. That is the only way we can retain our hope. There was a grumbling ascent from the gathered men. We all sat back down in our usual places, though those who normally sat close to Igeawes gave the body more room then the man was afforded in life. Of all the men, I was the only one to look at Teoch. The proud Hanoteac warrior sat silently in his usual spot, his face a mixture of sadness and resolve. He glanced over at Quasef, who was talking silently with the members of the Cabal, and then turned his gaze towards me. He looked deeply into my eyes for a moment and leaned his head back against the stone wall and shut his own eyes. Whether he actually slept or simply shut out the world, I do not know. But Teoch sat like that for a very long time afterwards.

It was after our next sleeping period when we were again levitated up and out of the hole. No comment was made by the guards when they brought Igeawes corpse up out of the cell. We were glad to have the rotting corpse gone, the stench of which would eventually make us all sick with disease. The commander of the guards simply barked orders at two of his underlings who then carried off the body through the tunnel which lead up to the surface and the city above. Again I was shackled next to Teoch in the chain gang but he kept his gaze fixed on the stone floor beneath his bare feet. I wanted to say something to him, but knew better then to speak with the fiends standing guard over us. In stead, I stood in numb silence, awaiting the order to march down to the mines and the inhuman work that lay ahead of us. The work, of course, was arduous and fruitless. What progress we perhaps made was unidentifiable. For what purpose we dug out this massive chamber, rationality could only hazard. Yet pounding away at those stone walls with those blunt metal bars felt good. I was able to relieve a lot of tension which had built up inside me since the discovery of Igeawes death. I could see the others were receiving the same therapeutic impulses from the brutal work. Our collective unease became even deeper when, on our march back to the cell, our guards were halted by another group of Drow. Their leader was tall and wore no helm, sporting the black hair which was the norm for their race. His eyes were green and his angular features were handsome in way only the elves could be beautiful. However, there was a cruelty apparent in his green eyes and the black chain armour he wore, along with the Drow long sword which hung from his belt. These demonstrated that he was just as wicked as every other member of his race. He began berating the leader of our group of guards in tones that denoted his superiority in rank. The leader of our guards seemed

undisturbed by this new arrivals demands and was seemingly in the process of telling the new comer what he thought when the green eyed fiend produced a scroll from a scroll case hanging from his belt. Even I recognized the seal of the Vixen of Death, the dread matriarch who ruled the city of ji Nunarru and all the Drow Pirates who scoured the waves of the north west sea. The new comer did not even have to open the scroll before the leader of our guards began to back down in submission. Admitting defeat, the leader of our guards barked an order and his underlings quickly stepped aside. Not a word was spoken by the new leader as his retinue of soldiers surrounded our chain gang. Again, no command was given, our new leader simply turned on his heals and began marching off, our new guards prodded us and we followed, fearful of what new nefarious fate might await us. We were marched back along our normal route. However, when we reached the chamber that contained the hole which was our cell, we were prodded past into the passage the lead up towards the surface of the city. My own unease deepened and I could see terror in the eyes of my fellows - all except Teoch, who strangely seemed at peace. We marched through countless passageways, all of which were a maze of intersections and bends. Some passages had an incline and it seemed as if we could taste cleaner air filtering down from above. Yet others were on a declination and sank back into the depths of the under-deeps. I quickly became lost and forlorn, convinced that these new guards were marching us to a fate worse then death itself. How long we marched like this, I could never say - how far we travelled Ill never truly know. However the green eyed leader of our guards set a steady pace and seemed to know exactly where we were headed. At long last we entered a natural cavern, again lit by the eerie purple phosphorus fungi. This cavern was about twenty feet in circumference and had a number of stalactites and stalagmites distributed throughout the chamber. Again, without a word our leader halted and then turned on his heal. Our guards forced us to halt as well. The leader then walked down our lines, as if inspecting us - gazing at us with a keen interest. When he stepped in front of me I did not know if I should avoid his gaze or stare him down. I chose to stand calmly, returning his gaze in the most neutral way possible. He nodded slightly and then continued on down the line. Once he was finished he began to issue commands to his soldiers who immediately took up their tasks. They began to separate our chain gang into smaller groups, some of us being unchained and then shackled next to others. We were divided up into three groups of six men each - except for one group that had seven. Each of these three groups was guarded by a contingent of three Drow guards, including the leader who was with the guards who stood near my own group. Again, without any further commands, the three groups were prodded into motion. We were marched to the far end of the cavern where another passageway opened up. Each group entered separately, lead by its contingent of three

Drow soldiers. My group was last to enter, bringing up the rear as we plunged into the greater darkness of the tunnel. We travelled in this manner for some time until we came to a three way intersection in the tunnel. I noted that the first group marched off to the left, while the second group marched off to the right. My own group was headed for the central passage and, with terror deepening in our souls, we marched onward, separated from our fellows. Again our course was a labyrinth of twists, turns, intersections, inclines and declines that were so numerous we quickly lost all sense of distance, time or direction. Yet still the leader of the Drow knew exactly where he was going - at every intersection or other crossing there was no hesitation in his intended course. The five other men who had been put in my group were Quasef, Clineta, Erinefing, Teoch and Ekyablash (who was a member of Quasefs cabal). I found it strange that the Drow had chosen to keep the leaders of the Cabal together and that myself and Teoch had been put with them. Was this a random coincidence or part of some deeper nefarious plot only perhaps understood by the monstrous minds of the fiends? I forced myself to believe the later, after all I was certain that our captors were well aware of the pecking order of our deranged little society. But what was the reason they kept the six of us together? This question occupied my thoughts all through the long hours of our seemingly directionless trek through the under-deeps of ji Nunarru. How long it had been since we had been divided into groups I could not say. Only that exhaustion was beginning to overcome us. Our guards, as well, were starting to show signs of being tired. Thankfully the leader called a halt when we entered another cavern and we were shockingly allowed to sit down and rest. Vials of green liquid appeared in the hands of the two guards who accompanied the Drow Commander and they offered them to us to drink. When we refused, the commander stood up and came over to us. Drink these and feel your strength returned. he told us in perfect Erugioth. His tone was strangely compassionate which defied everything we expected. Quasef looked deeply into the Drows intense green eyes, his face impassive. The rest of the group followed his lead. Quasef, the Drow continued, using an actual name for his captive - again shocking us beyond belief, there is a blue stone in a red garden which shines in the morning light. Have you ever seen such simple beauty? The expression on the tall, red haired mans face changed at that question. From stubborn impassivity to one of wonder. But he quickly forced himself to look impassive again. Something important had just happened, I didnt know what. However in the next instant, Quasef took the vile that the Drow Commander offered and drank it down. Myself and the rest of the men were still expecting a trick, some evil result of the potion offered to us and drank so heartily by Quasef. But nothing happened - at least nothing bad. In fact

one could say that after drinking the green liquid in the vile, Quaself appeared healthier and more robust then I had ever seen him. What the Drow offers is indeed rejuvenating. Quasef told us. I trust him with my life and I ask you that you trust me with yours. Drink and feel healthy my friends. I was shocked by Quasefs admission that he trusted this Drow with his life after hearing him speak some cryptic phrase. However, the members of the Cabal seemed to have no reservations and took the vials proffered them. Only myself and Teoch remained unsure and we both watched the others drink the green liquid with a sense of confusion and trepidation. Quasef looked at the two of us. Teoch and Esthin - you have to trust me. he implored. I can tell you with certainty we are safer right now then we have ever been here in the city of ji Nunarru. Drink this healing liquid - you will both need your strength for what I believe will be a long and hard voyage ahead. Teoch looked deeply into Quasefs eyes, as did I. I saw sincerity there. I was overcome with a sense of trust. Quasef despised the Drow beyond measure and yet he said he trusted this fiend with his life. It did not make sense - something was afoot, something I could not quite understand. However, I saw that the members of the Cabal were suffering no ill effects and were indeed rejuvenated. I put my own doubts aside and took the vile the Drow Commander offered. Without any further hesitation, I drank it down. The liquid tasted of apples and honey - with a hint of cinnamon. I felt it course through my body. As it flowed through me, I felt my strength return - as if all the time and suffering I had experienced here in ji Nunarru had been washed away. I closed my eyes and sighed deeply - it was one of the most amazing feelings I had ever felt in my life. I opened my eyes and looked around the cave, Teoch was now the only one left to place his life in Quasef & the Drow Commanders hands. He looked at each of us in turn, and then, without any word, took the vial and drank it down quickly. The Drow Commander smiled. My name is Ivaztu, Commander of Admiral Thuqaesis Iguthrats house guard. We have yet a long journey before us. Get some rest while you can. When it is time to depart, we cannot tarry. He turned and walked over to one of the sides of the cave and sank down to a sitting position. He shut his eyes and appeared to enter a deep meditative state, but I thought it was just a trick. He was much too smart to let his guard down. Even behind those closed eye lids he was still keeping an eye on us. The other two guards also had sat down on the cavern floor. Unlike their commander, they did not close their eyes, keeping a silent vigil: watching us as we rested. Our rest was short, but with the rejuvenating liquid that Ivaztu provided us, I felt as if I could walk a thousand miles if needed. I was quite apprehensive of our final destination, knowing that the Drow leader was the Commander of the house guard of the citys Matriarch. Admiral Thuqaesis Iguthrat - who was better known as the Vixen Of

Death - was perhaps the most feared Drow pirate on any of the seas of Nytheun. Her reputation for brutality and cruelty was infamous enough that even the sight of the dreaded black sails of her pirate ships was enough to send grown men into fits of terror. Even my worst night terrors could not conjure up what possible purpose the Vixen Of Death might have in store for us. But then, why was Ivaztu leading us on such a long route? Would it not have been quicker to have simply brought us up to the city proper and take us directly to the Vixens Palace? Or was this perhaps yet another incomprehensible example of the torture methods of the fiends? Was Ivaztu leading us through this labyrinth simply to drive us mad? Those initial suspicions regarding his sincerity began to creep up within my mind and I was determined to be on my guard. After quite a long time and more twists and turns then I could keep track of, I began to notice that we were following a route that had a definite incline in the passage we were moving through. In fact, the last few passages all had an incline and I knew we were slowly making our way towards the surface. After another turn in the passage and one more change of direction at an intersection, I began to smell the salty sea air of the city above. We were very close to the surface - which meant we were nearing our destination. The joy of feeling fresh air on my face was quickly supplanted by the terror of what the Vixen had planned for us. Thankfully for our eyes - which had only known the minute light of the under-deeps - it was night time out, and even the two moons had not risen yet. We were awed by the beauty of the night sky, our first sight of the spectacular and starry sky since being captured by the Vixens pirate crew. Our guards, ignoring our dumbfounded hesitations, prodded us onward, out into a stone courtyard. It was not a large space, but the stones looked ancient - far more ancient then any city I had ever seen. The courtyard was in a triangular shape surrounded by a high stone wall on each side. The stones of these walls did not appear natural, looking like clay that had been formed into a particular shape by the magic of the Drow, though it was obvious that the material was definitely stone and not clay. Various strains of lichens and moss grew along the tops of these walls, as well as between the cobblestones at our feet. There were three entrances to the courtyard, the first of which we had entered from the subterranean passageway. The other two were found on the opposing walls and seemingly lead into the city beyond. In fact, we could see the towering buildings of ji Nunarru rising above the stone walls of the courtyard. Yet, I could hear the sound of waves crashing against the shore and the unmistakable sound of boats rubbing against the piers they were tied to as their hulls rose and fell with the waves. We were very close to the sea - a fact that confused me greatly. I had expected to emerge somewhere close to the Vixens Palace which stood far up above the port of the evil city, overlooking the Vixens small realm with an air of power

and might designed to instill fear in all who beheld the Palace Keep. Yet here we stood perhaps a hundred or so yards from the piers which stretched out into the cold waters of the north west sea. Again, my mind was a torrent of confusion and doubt. I quickly looked around at my fellows as the guards prodded us towards the courtyard entrance to the left. Everyone - except Teoch, who seemed emotionally detached from what was happening - wore the same looks of confusion and fear I imagine my own face was displaying. Ivaztu again wordlessly lead us onwards into a narrow street which reeked of garbage and filth. He had picked up the pace and his two guards prodded us onwards, wordlessly forcing us to keep pace with their leader. A few minutes later we came to an intersection and Ivaztu raised his left arm, indicating a halt. We did so and I was surprised to see the tall Drow Warrior look around through the darkness of the streets, as if to see if we were alone. Why were we stalking through the streets? What game was the fiend playing at? Seemingly satisfied by what he saw - or sensed - he motioned us to move forward. Again our guards wordlessly prodded us on and we quickly crossed the intersection, staying on the same street we had previously been travelling. Judging by the proximity of the sounds coming up from the sea, we were headed towards the docks. Again, this newest deduction did nothing but raise more questions and create more confusion in my mind. Where were we going and what was the true purpose of this Ivaztu? Perhaps ten yards past the intersection, Ivaztu hissed loudly and the guards quickly forced us all to the ground. There were some protests, but they were quickly subdued by the two Drow warriors using the butts of their swords as added incentive to remain still and quiet against the cold cobblestones. In fact, they quickly pressed themselves down upon us, laying on top of our prone bodies in order to make sure we stayed down. Even in this prone position I was able to see the skitter of a childs feet scamper across the road perhaps ten feet in front of us. When they had disappeared and their skittering sound had dissipated, I heard Ivaztu give one of his soldiers an order in a harsh whisper. The guard immediately raised himself up from the position he had been in, laying on top of Teoch and Clineta, and raced off in the direction in which the child had disappeared. Ivaztu hissed another order at the remaining guard and the two of them rose up and began to prod us up onto our feet. The now frazzled Drow Commander quickly looked around the street and then began to prod the group forward, setting a very fast pace. We could do nothing but obey and be herded along like cattle to the slaughter. It seemed that whatever Ivaztu feared was coming true, for we had moved perhaps ten more feet - within sight of another intersection - when we were confronted by a small band of Drow Warriors. They wore the tell-tale black chain armour of the fiends and had their long black swords drawn and ready.

Upon the brows of their helms were purple lightning bolts which seemed to indicate some sort of unit insignia. Their commander was as tall as the rest of them and he was identifiable by the long purple plume that extended up and out of his helmet. He stood in the middle of his troop and he glared angrily at Ivaztu. The two Drow Commanders began to argue in their own vile tongue, their words becoming more heated with each passing moment. At one point, the opposing Commander must have said something truly offensive to Ivaztu, for the later drew his long sword and appeared to directly challenge the other elf with words in a very serious tone. A ripple of shock passed through the ranks of Drow soldiers on both sides of the standoff and all eyes turned to the purple plumed Commander. For his part, the Commander did not take his blue eyes off of Ivaztu and no expression of shock crossed his angular face. When at last he spoke, his words were laced with a tone which carried a sense of zeal and pleasure - as if this fiend had some old score he was ready to settle with Ivaztu. All of the Drow soldiers took a step back and us six men were pushed back by our handlers. Ivaztu stood, his long sword gleaming in the torch-lit street, starring down his opponent with an expression of satisfaction. Now you will die, Apizniz Nunvig. Ivaztu stated in perfect Erugioth, again deepening my confusion regarding this strange Drow. The next instant he disappeared, completely dematerializing before our eyes. Apizniz closed his eyes, beginning to concentrate on a spell, when suddenly smoke flashed behind him. From within the swirling grey smoke which began to fill the entire street, Ivaztus sword appeared, swinging at his surprised enemy. The arc of the sword swing struck Apizniz square in the back destroying muscle and cartilage. I could also hear the sound of bones breaking and the force of the blow drove the surprised elf forward. The result of the attack felled the purple plumed Drow and he lay upon the cobblestones gasping his final mortal breaths. Ivaztu knelt down next to his nemesis and whispered something in the prone elfs pointed ear. A look of shock and rage mixed with the elfs pain filled face and he began screaming. Ivaztu laughed maliciously and then drew his dagger, cutting the elfs throat and, uncharacteristically for a Drow, put him out of his misery. Blood began to pool next to the corpse as Ivaztu stood back up and looked at Apiznizs soldiers. He barked an order at them in the language of the Drow and they begrudgingly departed from the scene of the duel. Turning to his own soldiers, Ivaztu gave them quick, concise orders. Again, without a word, the two Drow Warriors followed their Commanders orders and disappeared down the street back the way we had come. Ivaztu then turned his attentions to us: The plan is quickly falling to pieces. Apiznizs soldiers will quickly report to their master and then a city-wide hunt will be ordered for us. We have no more time to spare. Ivaztu looked at Quasef. You will have to tell them who I am, my

Lord. Quasef nodded his head and then turned to look at us. This Drow is a spy in the employ of my father. He is not really an elf but of Erupuan blood like most of us. He is on a rescue mission to save me and as many others as he can possibly save. My true name is Edi Peuthewhon. the man disguised as a Drow introduced himself. Quickly, we dont have much time. And then he pointed his right index finger at the chains that secured us all together and then intoned the word Nrxir! At the casting of the spell, I heard the distinctive click of all the locks on the chains indicating that we had been unshackled. Take off the chains and follow me. We did as we were told, quickly following Edi further along the street, closer - I assumed - to the sea-side and what ever means of escape he had waiting for us. I quickly glanced around, noticing that Teoch had picked up the fallen long sword of Apizniz and was holding it at ready. I turned my attention back to the road ahead and quickly noticed that the street was beginning to turn to the left. Edi slowed our pace as we passed into this bend, insisting we keep to the shadows as much as possible. We walked a few hundred more feet and then came to the place where the street opened up along the shore. The docks of the city stretched out before us and there were a multitude of ships of all types and sizes moored on the piers. Torchlight illuminated most of the docks and Edi was tensely scanning all directions, searching for signs of any sort of movement. I can smell you, Teoch. a hauntingly familiar voice echoed loudly along the length of the quay. I smell your living blood coursing through your veins and I smell the blood on your hands. My blood! Igeawes! Quasef gasped. Did you tell him to kill me, Quasef? the ghostly voice demanded. I did not! the red haired man protested. And I prayed that your soul would find peace. Yet you let the Drow have my corpse! came the angry retort. See now what I have become! A shape ambled out of the shadows to the right of where we were standing. Slowly it crept towards us, with other shapes coming out of the shadows behind it. They all stumbled awkwardly as if they were just learning to walk for the first time. As the forms came into the light I saw the rotting forms of men, hobbling along - the walking dead come to avenge a murder. Their stench precluded them, a disgusting rotting smell which soured the senses into a disgusted stupor. Yet their appearance was no less grotesque - animated corpses in various states of decay. Some, like poor Igeawes, were fresh corpses recently deceased and twisted by the vile magic of the Drow. Yet others were in such an horrible state of decomposition that it must be the evil magic flowing through their rotting corpses that kept their bodies from completely falling apart. One of the walking dead was so

decayed that all that remained of his face was some disgusting muscle tissue holding his jaw bone in place and his mad and senseless green eyes which bore into our souls with such malice that it chilled my very being. Edi was looking around, attempting to spy some avenue of escape from the oncoming undead who were getting closer with each passing moment. Quasef stood motionless, his face a picture of torment and sadness which could only be worn by one who has suffered inhumane treatments. Teoch, on the other hand, had moved out in front of our group and stood - fearlessly - holding the long sword of the slain Apizniz. He was ready to face the consequence of his choice and he stood firm. I was so inspired by his courage and sense of resolve that I took a step towards him. I was unarmed and would be of little use against the rotting assaults of the walking dead but I felt Teoch needed someone to support him. He turned slightly and looked at me, smiling for the first time I had ever witnessed. Thank ye, lad. he nodded in his heavily accented voice. But this be my fight. Go now with the others and escape this abyss. I was about to protest, but then I saw the resolve in his face. He was right - he had to face his own demons alone. There was nothing I could do to help him and I would probably end up only hindering him. Turning his attention back to the oncoming dead, he bellowed his battle cry: Ore o apluthe oplin!2 and then suddenly leapt into the air. He swung the long sword in a wide arc, in what seemed to be almost a ritualistic dance. The blade sliced through the first two walking dead it encountered and they fell to the ground having had their heads decapitated. One of the dead reached out his left hand, attempting to grasp the sword arm of the dancing Hanoteac Warrior. Teoch though continued his acrobatic maneuver as his left foot touched the ground. Spinning on his extended toes, he stretched out his right leg, kicking the offending undead square in the chest. His sword arm followed the same arc as his right leg and seconds after his right foot connected with the monsters decaying chest, the blade of the long sword severed the neck of the bewitched corpse. The decapitation of their fellows had no effect on the morale of the oncoming walking dead. In fact, they payed the obvious superior skill of their opponent no heed, continuing to press forward in a mindless assault. Another of the dead reached out to grab Teoch from his flank. The Hanoteac saw the attempt and quickly reacted: bending his right leg at the knee, spinning slightly on his left toes, and kicking outward; breaking the rotten lower arm of the walking corpse right off. The dead man did not appear to notice that he had lost part of his limb and kept moving what remained of his arm as if he still had a hand to grasp with. Teoch reversed his sword and swung his right arm down, sending the blade into the exposed chest of his assailant. The Hanoteac then bent his left knee, pushing his weight down on his left foot and then leapt up into the air, drawing his sword out of the chest of the dead-again corpse which fell lifeless to the ground. Once in the air, Teoch spun round, kicking his left leg out and catching the head of another walking dead sending it sprawling into two

Old Hanoteac: For A Safe Home!


of its fellows. For their part, the other dead simply pushed their fallen comrade to the ground and pressed forward. This was a tactical error with mortal consequences, for Teoch was now returning to the ground yet was still spinning in the air - the blade of his Drow long sword travelling in a deadly arc augmented by the momentum of his acrobatics. The blade cut cleanly through the neck of the first walking corpse and continued to follow its arc, slicing through the chest of the second. Both corpses fell motionless to the ground, their souls hopefully free to find a final peace. Teoch landed in a kneeling position amidst the carnage he had created. The possessed corpse of Igeawes stood motionless about five steps away. There was one remaining corpse that had not been dispatched, the one which Teoch had knocked down with his rial kick. The prone walking dead was feebly attempting to raise itself up to no avail. The kick had obviously done some serious damage to the decaying corpse. Teoch rose up to his feet and calmly walked over to where the walking dead lay. He said something in the language of the Hanoteac and then ended the suffering of the poor soul. Then he looked up at Igeawes - tears filling his proud eyes. I wanted to heal ye oyer madness, Igeawes. Teoch stated through his tears. Nay, twas too perilous with the prying eyes othe Drow. I took yer life to save the rest. Can ye forgive me? Never! Igeawess undead self raged. It hurled itself at Teoch, a bright dagger suddenly appearing in its cold dead hands. The Hanoteac did not even lift his sword to parry the blow which no doubt was meant to end his life. But suddenly I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and I watched in amazement as Quasef, wielding Edis Drow Long Sword, came rushing in towards the charging animated corpse, impaling the sword deep in the chest of Igeawess dead body. The corpse sank to the ground as Quasef let go of his hilt, stepping back away from the poor tortured body of Igeawes. There was a stunned silence on the quay. No one spoke, nothing moved. Teoch was starring at the dead face of Igeawes and Quasef had sank down to his knees, a look of tortured sadness washing over his noble face. And then, like an ill omen announcing the pending arrival of a distant storm, Edis voice broke the spell which seemed to have enraptured everyone: Quickly, we must reach the ship before the Vixens soldiers arrive. Yes, you are right, Edi. Quasef replied, rising up and pulling the sword free from Igeawes corpse. Take us to the ship. In silence we followed the spy along the quay until we reached a sleek looking ship, even Teoch wordlessly kept pace. The ship had three masts and appeared to be built for speed. She was of elvan design and construction, but I noticed some distinct differences that set her apart from the Drow vessels nearby. Edi called out something in the Drow tongue - or at least it sounded like the Drow tongue, though the cadence of his words had more of a sing-song quality to them. In fact, the words brought a warm smile to the troubled face of Quasef, the first I had ever seen. A reply came from the ship and a gang-plank was lowered down. Two figures in dark cloaks rushed down the gangway and intercepted our group as we reached the spot where the wood from the gang-plank touched the quay. The immediately went to Quasef and then pulled back their hoods. Both were men of the Erupuan Empire and had the weathered faces of men who had spent much of their lives in the wilds. They were both tall, yet not as tall as Quasef. One had short white hair and striking green eyes while the other had dark red hair, a full beard and brown eyes. Quasef obviously recognized them as friends or comrades and he hugged the white haired man warmly. We have no time right now, Quasef. the white haired man stressed. We must get aboard and set sail before Thuqsis has time to muster her fleet.

Yes, of course, Ezisapla. Quasef replied. We were all quickly ushered on board the ship and the gang-plank was raised once the last of us was on board. We were quickly taken bellow decks to the officers quarters by two well armed elvan warriors. As I climbed down the ladder to the deck below I felt the ship begin to move, immediately recognizing the rocking sensation of a ship at sea. Gods how I had missed that feeling! We settled into the officers quarters, almost uncomfortably. Though being aboard a ship yet again felt so familiar there was a strange sense of unease which crept up within me. It had been so long since I had been free, that to all of a sudden be free of the torture of the Drow seemed somehow deceiving - as if I was still expecting this to be some sort of elaborate torture administered by the Vixen herself. To take my mind off of my wild fantasies, I looked over at Teoch who sat with a blank face in one of the corners of the room. Though we all bore scars from our time in ji Nunarru, I thought perhaps Teoch suffered the most. Not only having Igeawes blood on his hands, he had been faced with an appalling necromantic animation of the mans corpse which had come seeking vengeance for its death. I could not imagine what sorts of things Teochs mind was currently contemplating. Quasef entered the room at that point. He had been talking with the white haired man, Ezisapla up on the main deck of the ship. He told us that we had been the only ones to escape and that we were currently sailing on a north-east bearing, hoping to fool any pursuit. He also told us that food was being brought up from the galley as well as clean clothes for everyone. After his short speech, he sat down next to Clineta and Erinefing and the three of them began to talk in hushed tones reminiscent of our time in the confinement of our cell. Who be ye, Quasef? Teoch asked, breaking his melancholy silence for the first time since the animated corpse of Igeawes had tried to kill him. The red haired man stopped conversing with his fellows and looked over at the Hanoteac Warrior who had battled the undead with more skill then I had ever seen in any warrior. I am a member of the Grand Ducal Ranger Corps of Ravenstone. Quasef replied in a matter of fact tone. Ezisapla is the Chief Ranger and he came to rescue me. Ye told us Edi worked for yer father. Teoch pointed out. There be few people who be affording the services oa spy who be taking on the appearance oone othe Drow. Edi, who sat next to me, said nothing. We all just looked at Quasef, awaiting his answer. After a long pause with tension and anticipation building in the air, the red haired man answered: I am Ethithung Geongechuth, son of Grand Duke Ethiati Geongechuth of Ravenstone and heir to the Grand Ducal Throne. he revealed. What I said earlier is true: I am a member of the Grand Ducal Ranger Corps and our escape was a result of their determination to rescue me. Stunned silence filled the room. We had all known that Quasef was of noble birth, but to be the heir to the Grand Ducal Throne - that was extraordinary. Even Clineta and Erinefing were shocked - they had been his closest confidants in the slave pits of ji Nunarru and even they did not know his lineage. Well then, my Lord. Teoch continued, I must be thanking ye for saving my life. I be in yer debt. Not at all Teoch. Ethithung countered. It was I who told you not to heal Igeawes. I am just as much to blame for what happened as you. I absolve you of your debt. The black haired warrior did not reply. Ethithung continued: Now that youve satisfied your curiosity, Teoch, please allow me to

satisfy mine. The heir to the Court Of The Crimson King looked deeply into the Hanoteacs blue eyes. Your fighting skill is remarkable. I do not think I have ever seen a single man take on that many adversaries at once with so little effort. Who, then, are you Teoch, slayer of the Undead of ji Nunarru? Since we be revealing our true selves to each other, Ill tell ye, my Lord. the Hanoteac answered in a humble tone. I be Teoch Tuynthe - son of Moch Tuynthe, othe Tuynthe. Again, shock raced through the room. We had all heard of the near-mythical Hanoteac Warriors known as the Tuynthe - how their fighting prowess was possibly unmatched anywhere in all of Nytheun. Yet the histories said that the Tuynthe had been all slain after a great battle centuries ago. Legends had it that a great assassin hired by a rival Hanoteac clan had hunted down and poisoned every last one of the Tuynthe - even their women folk and children. It was said none survived the vile deed. Yet here sitting before us was a man claiming to be of the Tuynthe and who had demonstrated fighting skills the likes we had never seen before. I had understood that the Tuynthe had all been killed centuries ago. Ethithung stated once he had time to process Teochs revelation. Aye, most were slain in those dark days. Teoch replied in a truly sad voice. Indeed, there be few ous that remain - so few escaped the Tuynthe Purges. Many hide their heritage, reduced to shadows sulking in caves. But nay me family. We be the heirs to Ynuuthe, the founder of me clan. We be proud being Tuynthe and we wants to bring our clan out othe shadows and into the light again. A noble challenge. Ethithung replied, still amazed at what the Hanoteac had related. I promise you this, Teoch: if there is anything I can do to aid you in helping your clan return to its former glory, I will do so. You just need to ask. The red haired man offered his hand to the Hanoteac Warrior. Aye. Teoch replied, shaking Ethithungs hand. Thank ye, my Lord.

After a light meal - which was probably the best meal I have ever eaten in my life - and changing into some clean clothes, I went up on deck. The sun was rising in the east, just peeking up above the horizon. It was a glorious sight to behold after being so long in the darkness of the under-deeps of ji Nunarru. In fact, the brilliant light was beginning to hurt my eyes and I was forced to look away. In stead, I looked around the ship, immediately noting that the entire crew was elvan - but not Drow. These were the noble Iperatesi elves who have been the allies of the Erupuan since that ancient war against the Drow. Up on the bridge of the ship was the Captain and a few of his officers. The Captain was a tall elf with a lean muscular body and dark hair. Even from this distance I could see his green eyes which had probably first looked upon the world centuries before any of the humans on board had been born. The Chief Ranger, Ezisapla, as well as Ethithung and another man I did not recognize stood near the Captain, deep in conversation. The third man was tall and lean - almost as tall as Ethithung and the Iperatesi Captain. He had short reddish-brown hair and blue eyes. He was dressed in a simple white tunic and dark pants with a dark cloak hanging on his shoulders. I assumed he was another of the Grand Ducal Rangers until I heard his voice recognizing it immediately. This was Edi Peuthewhon, the Grand Ducal Spy, as he truly looked. I found a place just underneath the railing of the bridge where they were talking. It appeared

that a small flotilla of Drow Pirate ships had been sighted and that they were closing in on our position. The Captain, whose name was Nithimeth, was telling the humans that his ship was going as fast as it could and that the three Ayrtesi ships would probably catch them within the next two hours. Ezisapla asked if the Iperatesi could use their magic to better their tactical situation and Nithimeth replied that the Ayrtesi would simply use counter magic to keep their advantage. Stand and fight. I heard Ethithung say. The Drow... again he said the word with such venom, ...only have small boarding parties on their ships. Even their crews are small since they rely on their slaves to operate so much of their ships. Between your crew, the rangers and those of us who have been rescued, we should be able to fight them off. That assumes they will board us in an attempt to recapture you, Quasef. Ezisapla noted. They might just prefer sinking us and letting the sharks and other beasts of the deeps deal with our corpses. Indeed. Captain Nithimeth intoned in the sing-song voice of the elves. The moment the Ayrtesi officers see Iperatesi on board this ship they will simply try to sink us. They have no desire to capture us - knowing full well that it is far easier to kill my people then to enslave us. We are perhaps the one race who are spared life in their slave pits. Send me and the spy. I heard the accented voice of Teoch say - interrupting the conversation. I looked up to see the tall black haired warrior standing on the bridge on the other side of the ships wheel from where the small conclave was having its discussion. Gives us a long boat and well wreck havoc amongstem. Teoch, do you know how dangerous such a plan is? Ethithung asked. This ship is nay able to fend off thassualt othree Drow vessels. Teoch pointed out. What other course be there? No one replied at first. Ethithung and Edi could attest to Teochs fighting prowess, but could the Tuynthe truly take on an entire crew of Drow? Edi spoke up: I can get you to one of their ships safely. I can not guarantee your safe return. There was another long pause as each man and elf contemplated the plan that was being proposed. I say such a plan is sheer madness. Captain Nithimeth stated in a matter of fact tone. Yet you humans are known for your daring. If you think that Teoch can do what he claims, I will grant the use of one of my long boats. Very well. Ezisapla decided. That is the course we will take. Edi and Teoch will assault one of the Drow ships. In the mean time, I propose that we turn ourselves around, Captain Nithimeth and charge directly at the oncoming Drow ships. They will not expect it and it will give us an advantage as they scramble to counter our attack. I see where you are going with this, Chief Ezisapla. the Iperatesi replied. The timing will have to be perfect or else the Ayrtesi will have ample time to react. I heard the captain step away from the humans and begin to give orders to his crew in the song-like language of the elves. All around the ship I watched the crew prepare for the battle to come. One of the officers brought swords on deck and began to distribute them to us humans. The elvan crew, unlike any human sailors who might be prone to mutiny, carried their own weapons. I watched as the crew began to prepare ballist as well as small catapults along the port and starboard sides of the ship. There were four ballist and one catapult on each side as well as two small catapults on the forecastle which could be swivelled to attack ships to the fore or on either the port or starboard. Yet,

I was most fascinated by a pair of weapons I had never seen before on any human ship. The elves called them Eraphrlim and they were magical weapons designed to not only incapacitate another ship but to also destroy it. They did not look like weapons at all - simply blue orbs which sat on a round wooden frame. These Eraphrlim were stored bellow decks and had to be carried out and placed in whatever position the captain deemed best. The orbs must have been quite heavy because it took two of the tall elvan sailors to carry one while a third elf carried the wooden stand. However, once they were setup, it took only one sailor to operate - as opposed to the two or three who manned the catapults and ballist. A long boat was also being prepared by three elvan sailors. They were being supervised by Teoch and Edi who would use this small craft to assault one to the Drow pirate vessels. Many would have considered such an assault a suicide mission, however after watching Teoch in battle against the walking dead of ji Nunarru I knew that the proud Hanoteac warrior would not only be successful but he would return triumphant to our ship. One of the elvan sailors was using his magic to move the long boat through the air while his two companions simply guided it by hand. Teoch said very little, happy to watch the elves work. Edi, on the other hand, was talking to the elves in their own language, directing their movements and helping them to avoid any accidents. I watched, fascinated as they pushed the boat over the gunwales and it floated gently down to the sea bellow. Teoch laughed suddenly - the first time I had ever heard mirth coming from the man - and then he leapt in the air and flipped over the side of the ship. I looked over the railing to see him land perfectly in the long boat bellow. Whatr ye waiting for, Edi? he shouted up to the deck above. Simply the bar by which my own entry into the long boat shall be measured. the spy replied. There was a sudden flash of smoke and in the next instant the tall Erupuan had disappeared. I leaned over the railing to see him sitting comfortably in the bow seat of the long boat. I say that be a draw. Teoch offered, a smile on his face. Fair enough, Teoch. Edi replied, taking up the oars. Teoch sat down and took hold of his own set of oars as the boat began to manoeuver its way out of the wake of the ship and towards the on-coming Drow raiders. Just as the long boat cleared our wake, I noticed that we had begun to turn to the starboard. Captain Nithimeth was beginning his manoeuver - which meant the Drow were approaching fast. I turned my attentions to the direction of the Drow ships which were now perpendicular to our starboard side. They had not changed course and were still sailing directly for us. They were perhaps still a mile away but they were gaining fast. We completed our turn and somehow the winds had turned with us. I imagined this was the result of elvan magic since no human ship ever had such fortune on their side. As such we sailed at full speed towards the oncoming Drow ships. I looked out and saw Teoch and Edi in the long boat, pulling on their oars as they made their way towards the oncoming ships. They seemed to be headed for the ship on the far right which now had cut the distance that separated us down to hundreds of yards. I could feel the pre-battle tension growing all through the crew and I clutched the grip of my elvan long sword tightly, feeling my own bodys excitement and fear. This would be a fight for our lives and hopefully the gods would be on our side. Suddenly we found ourselves within firing range and the two catapults on the forecastle let loose a volley of grapeshot which flew through the air, hitting the middle Drow ship. The Drow ships did not return fire, they simply rushed forward, the gleam of the rams mounted on their bows shining in the morning light. I watched as the oars of their ships, driven by the sweat and pain of

countless slaves, pushed through the water towards us. By this time our catapults had reloaded and were sending another volley of grapeshot at the incoming Drow ships. I could see the main sail of the middle ship get ripped to shreds as the grapeshot sliced through its black fabric. But even this damage to their sails did not stop their propulsion. The ships just kept on coming towards us, propelled forward at ramming speed by their oars. It was at this moment that I heard, across the roar of the waves and the sounds of the ships perhaps carried by the wind - the battle cry of Teoch. I looked over at the third Drow ship just in time to see the form of a man leap from out of the long boat and up onto the deck above. Within moments I saw two bodies fall overboard, their blood turning the seas red once they splashed into their cold watery grave. The third ship, now under the surprise assault of the Hanoteac warrior, began to stray from her course - turning to her starboard As I watched the ship swerve into its new course, I heard a new sound - one which I have never heard before. This sound was coming from my left and I turned my attentions towards it. Standing over the blue orb of the Eraphrlim was an Iperatesi sailor who was chanting in the strange language of magic. The orb itself was glowing bright blue and I realized almost immediately that it was the Eraphrlim which was creating the strange sound. The sound seemed to be a low hum, but there was an undercurrent of crackling sounds which were a higher pitch - tho of much lower volume then the deep humming noise. I watched, fascinated by the sorcery unfolding before my eyes, as the Eraphrlims glow became brighter and bigger, soon growing to encompass the body of the elf who was operating the orb. And then suddenly a bolt of this blue light shot forth from the orb in the direction of the Drow ship in the centre of their formation. The radiant blue light engulfed the entire ship and it stopped moving - not even drifting on the waves. In fact, even the banks of oars which hung from both sides of the vessel had stopped rowing and the ship sat eerily motionless in the wake of her fleet. Our own ship now rushed into the space between the left hand Drow ship and the ship that now found herself at a complete standstill. Our port side catapults and ballist opened fire as we passed the starboard side of the Drow ship, wreaking havoc on her main deck as grapeshot and bolts ripped through her rigging and her crew. For the first time, however, the Drow vessels returned fire, a hail of black arrows flew forth from their deck. Instinctively I ducked down behind the railing of the ship as the shafts of arrows rushed past me. I saw two elvan sailors fall, a number of arrows sticking out of their chests, but there was nothing I could do to help them. They were too far away from me and there was still the deadly rain of arrows falling on the ship. Suddenly I heard the sound of ballist being fired, but I knew that the Drow did not arm their ships with those weapons. Peering over the gunwale, I saw a number of chains with grappling hooks flying through the air from the Drow vessel. Within a heartbeat the grappling hooks had sunk their metallic claws into the gunwales of our ship. I stood up and ran to the closest hook and started helping the elvan sailors in their effort to pry it loose. Clineta also joined us and we were able to pull the barbed hooks of the grapple out of the wood of the railing. However, our endeavours were ultimately moot as a large number of Drow warriors suddenly appeared in our midst. Seeing one warrior not five feet from where I was standing, I turned and rushed at him, swinging my long sword in dangerous arcs. The fiend parried my blow and then reversed his own blade, cutting low. Reacting on instinct, I jumped backwards, avoiding the sting of the black blade. As I landed on my feet a pace behind my previous position, I pressed forward - stabbing at the Drow with the point of my sword. I watched in satisfaction as the blade slid through the fiends chest

between the corner of his breastplate and his shoulder plate. He fell to the ground dead, as I pulled my blade out from his corpse. Looking around, I found myself in the middle of the chaos of shipboard combat. Everywhere I looked I watched Iperatesi and Drow dancing in the macabre dance of the melee. I saw one Drow Warrior kill an Iperatesi sailor and decided that this fiend would be my next enemy. I rushed at the Drow, who had his back to me, and swung my sword which sliced cleanly through the back of his neck, severing his head and spraying his blood in a fountain all over my body and the deck. His corpse fell limp to the wood bellow, falling on top of the elf he had just killed. At that moment, Clineta bumped into me, knocking me to my knees as the rogue tripped over my falling body. The black blade of a Drow Warrior came swinging down towards us and I quickly rolled to my right out of its path. Clineta was able to get his own sword up in time to parry the blow and the sparks from the impact of the blades flew brilliantly into the air. Raising myself up onto my knees, I swung my own sword at the Drow hitting him just bellow the belt, cutting him deeply. He cried out in pain and took a step back, re-assessing the situation. Clineta took that opportunity to jump up - and in one fluid motion (perhaps inspired by the prowess of Teoch), he swung his sword slicing through the fiends pointed helm and destroying his head. The corpse fell to the deck and I looked around to see that all of the attacking Drow now lay dead or mortally wounded on the deck. We had suffered many casualties ourselves, but had defeated the boarding party. I took a deep breath, sitting down on the deck in hopes to relieve my tired muscles. As I looked around, I saw one of the elvan sailors go to the port side Eraphrlim and begin chanting. That strange humming with the crackling sounds began to pulse from the now glowing blue orb. The elvan sailor continued to chant and the blue aura grew, enveloping him in its sapphire light. Then he reached the climax of the spell and a great bolt of blue energy shot forth from the orb towards the Drow ship which was still fully grappled with us. Suddenly their main deck exploded in a multitude of blue flames and screams of terror and pain could be heard across the water. Our own sailors were desperately attempting to free us from the Drow grapples, pulling on the large hooks with all their might. After much persistence and strength and without the pressure of bow fire or a boarding party, we were able to free ourselves from the grasp of the Drows grapples. Slowly, our ship began to manoeuver itself away from the burning hulk of the Drow ship. A great cheer arose from our crew - one which I happily joined. I rose myself up and looked around the deck. Not far away I saw Clineta, nursing a wound on his left arm with a bandage. Erinefing was helping him and Ekyablash sat nearby looking out over the gunwales at the burning Drow ship which was being left behind in our wake. Ethithung and Ezisapla had returned to the bridge - for I had seen them fighting the fiends in the melee. They now stood with Captain Nithimeth, obviously making further plans. I looked out over the railing of the ship to see what had become of the last Drow raider - the one Teoch and Edi had so bravely assaulted. It appeared to be floundering in the waves, as if it had lost its crew and had been set adrift, left to the mercy of Ethone. I could not see the long boat or any evidence that either man had survived the attack. Just then, from up above in the crows nest, a cry came - one in Erugioth which we humans could understand. The long boat had been spotted and it was on a course to meet up with us. Another great cheer arose from the officers and the crew. In fact, the Iperatesi broke out in song - a truly marvellous thing to experience. The song became even louder as the elves began to really pour their emotion into the verses. Just as the long boat pulled up along the starboard side of the ship, the Iperatesi reached a climatic

chorus which sang out as they magically lifted the small boat up and out of the water and back onto the deck. Sitting within the long boat, with a triumphant look on their faces, were both Teoch and Edi and a great cheer rang through the ship as both men climbed up and out of the long boat. Everyone crowded around them, wanting to hear their tale - how they had set the Drow ship adrift, uncommanded by her crew. Ore o apluthe oplin! Teoch bellowed his battle cry, raising his bloodied long sword into the air. Another cheer arose from the crew. Tell us what happened, both of you! Ethithung demanded. I have never seen such skill, my Lord. Edi began. Teoch was like an omnipotent demon, a whirlwind of movement and blades. He was so fast and so precise - he cut down the Drow as if they were wheat for the harvesting. None could withstand his assault - even their wizard, who was cut in two with the incomplete words of a spell still passing through his lips. Ive done only what I be trained to do. Teoch humbly told everyone. The Tuynthe be sworn to protect they who be needing protection. You did more then protect us, my friend. Ethithung cut in. You helped guarantee our escape from the Drow. Again, there was such malice in the word as he pronounced its single syllable.

Two weeks later we came into the port of Noch Geongechuth, capital city of the Grand Duchy of Ravenstone. There was no heros welcome - in fact to the general populace of the city we were just another elvan vessel come to dock in the busy port of Noch Geongechuth. We simply disembarked, yet more travellers who had arrived to the large city that day. The only elves that came with us were Captain Nithimeth and the yeoman of the ship - an elf named Enitithis. Otherwise, it was all the men who had been rescued from ji Nunarru, along with Edi, Chief Ezisapla and the small retinue of Grand Ducal Rangers. We walked through the city, all the way through the port quarter, through the old quarter and into the Grand Ducal compound to the famed Palace of the Crimson Kings. Waiting on the steps for us were the Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess: Ethithungs parents. Also assembled there were the Grand Ducal Guard; Aheneko, the Richethi Court Warlock and a few Palace functionaries. Throwing decorum to the wind, the Grand Duchess raced down the stairs and engulfed her son in her arms. Tears streamed down her eyes and her son just stood there letting her have her time with him. At last, she composed herself - perhaps remembering that she was in public and that there were servants and other eyes watching. Ethi, Ethi... she stammered, You are home. We had feared that you were dead. I have survived, Mother. Ethithung replied. And so have the men who were able to escape with me. The Grand Duchess looked around, seeing the rest of us perhaps for the first time. By Ethone, she swore, I can not begin to imagine what terrors you have seen. She turned round. Aheneko, take these men inside and have the staff provide them with a meal and clean clothes. We must celebrate this day - the day my Son has been returned to us! Of course, your Grace. the golden skinned Richethi Warlock bowed her head. She lead us into the grand entry hall of the Palace and through the doors at the far end. We then entered the

banquet hall where Aheneko had us sit. Moments later, servants entered carrying hot food which was placed before us. Fresh lobster and scallops from the Crimson Strait, baked potatoes and vegetables from the farmlands of the southern portion of the Grand Duchy and one hundred year old red wine which had been brought up from the cellars of the Palace to celebrate the return of Ethithung. We ate, and we ate - drinking down the wine and celebrating life and the luck the gods had shown us in our escape from ji Nunarru. We recounted the harrowing tale of our escape, praising the brave actions of Edi and Teoch - not only during the sea battle but also in the caverns and streets of the Drow city. We also praised the skill of Captain Nithimeth and his crew as well as the bravery of the Grand Ducal Ranger Corps for helping Edi in his perilous mission to rescue us. Though it has now been years since our escape, we still live with the nightmares of our experiences in the pits of ji Nunarru. I, myself, have dreams where I hear the mad voice of Igeawes telling me that I will never be free - that I will never again be able to truly see the light. His wickedly insane voice whispers in my mind that a now lay upon my soul and that I would never be able to rid myself of it. That no one ever escapes the pits of ji Nunarru - the terror of that place and those experiences will live with me for the rest of my life and possibly even haunt me after my soul has moved onward. As much as I think that Igeawes voice is wrong - and that I fight against it every day - I know deep down he is right. And that is the true horror of ji Nunarru: there is no escape - we will forever remain exiles in terror.

Mirrors on the ceiling The pink champagne on ice And she said: We are all just prisoners here, of our own device And in the masters chambers, They gathered for the feast They stab it with their steely knives But they just cant kill the beast Last thing I remember, I was Running for the door I had to find the passage back To the place I was before Relax said the night man We are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like But you can never leave. from Hotel California The Eagles