"We watched the shadow beasts disappear into the night and for a second or two I thought we were safe. Then I noticed a pair of yellow dots moving towards us. One of the beasts had left the pack, and was heading our way. I nudged Juni to call her attention to the danger, but she had already seen it.
"Curiously enough she started to make a snowball, and she signed for me to do the same thing. I did not see the point of this activity, until she straightened up and threw the snowball towards the graveyard gate. This made the beast stop its progress in our direction, and it looked around to discover the origin of the sound. It took a few more snowballs before it found the noise interesting enough to go and investigate it. While the beast was busy, we ran into the tomb and pushed the doors shut.
"In the flickering green light from enchanted torches, I could see stone statues and coffins placed alongside the walls. The stench in there was terrible. I recognized the smell of rotting flesh that surrounds certain types of undead, and I halted and grabbed Juni's arm.
"Careful," I told her, "I think we will have company soon." Unfortunately, I was proven right when three figures moved out of the shadows, and headed towards us.
"Two of them were skeletons, wielding rusty old halberds. The third one was a walking corpse… maybe a zombie. He still had some of his skin left, so he could not have been dead for very long. There were signs of various forms of torture that had, no doubt, been performed on him while he was still alive. His eyelids were gone… and… and bits of thick black tread hanging down in front of his mouth indicated that his lips at some point had been sewn together. I thought I could see worms wriggle underneath the muscular tissue that…"
"Please, Gorion! You do NOT need to give us such details!" Tethtoril looked a bit green in the face. "It is lunchtime soon!"
"I apologize. I fear some of the unpleasant memories from my journey are clearer than others. I will try to filter out the most appalling parts." The last thing Gorion wanted to do was to alienate Tethtoril.
"The First Reader is just being his usual squeamish self." Ulraunt smirked. "Pay no attention to it, missing a meal or two, will do him a world of good. I am beginning to find your tale interesting. Go on!" he urged, and waved a hand at Gorion.
"Juni tried to talk to the zombie. Apparently she had known him when he was alive. "Arad," she said, "I am sorry… please let us pass."
"Die... " I could hear him hiss his reply at her. I am not sure if it was supposed to be a threat or a plead.
"Meanwhile, the skeletons were advancing towards me. They were walking side by side, both of them swinging their weapons in a very jerky way. While I readied my staff, I tried to figure out what tactic to use against them. I gathered that my best chance would be to move up close to them, so that they were unable to reach me with their halberds. Of course, I could not do much damage with my staff close up, but at least my actions seemed to confuse them, and for a short while it kept me unharmed.
"Then one of the skeletons had a bright idea, and moved away from me. But since I was still standing close to the other one, it was difficult for him to get in a good swing against me. I took advantage of the situation, and used one skeleton as a shield against the other. The attacking skeleton took little notice of the fact that he kept hitting his partner instead of me, and my "shield" was not very pleased with the situation so he started to repay the other's blows with equal force.
"I was hoping the two of them would finish each other, but then my "shield" got his skull removed from his neck and fell together in a heap of bones in front of me. Now the surviving skeleton could concentrate on me, and he did so with remarkable intensity. He kept moving his jawbones, as if he was laughing a silent laugh, while he wielded his halberd with movements similar to those a reaper with a scythe uses, when he cuts the corn. I managed to avoid a few of his swings, but then he got in a hit, and I could feel the blade slash through the skin of my thigh."
"Battle details. Very interesting to some, I am sure." Ulraunt said in a sour voice. "But I am not one of them. Since you are alive to tell the tale, I assume you managed to bring the last skeleton down?"
"Err, yes. Of course. I will try to be brief about it then." Gorion sighed. Keeping those two happy, were no simple task.
If only I had the skills of a bard, little one, this would be so much easier.
"As you said, Keeper, I finished the last skeleton. Thankfully the blade on the halberd was old and dull, so the cut it had made where not a deep one. After he had slashed me, the skeleton lost his balance, and I managed to grab a hold of his halberd and disarm him. Since his strength was already reduced from the blows his partner had given him, a few hits from my staff was enough to bring him down.
"While I was busy with the skeletons, Juni took care of the zombie. I had earlier assumed that she carried the axe mostly to scare of potential enemies, but the few glances I got of her wielding it proved me wrong. She was infact very skilled with the weapon, and had little trouble with cutting the creature down. Afterwards she was staring at his remains with sadness in her eyes.
“"Was he a friend?" I asked carefully.
"Juni nodded. "Rota take the evil one and his servants," she mumbled. "It is never enough… pain." When I patted her shoulder to express my sympathy, she winced and moved away. "Time to go." she stated harshly, and pulled a torch loose from the wall, using much more force than seemed necessary for the task.
"Behind one of the heavy stone coffins there was an opening, just big enough for us to crawl through without too much trouble. The tunnels beneath the tomb, looked like they once had been part of a mine. The walls had pick marks, and here and there I could see half rotted wooden beams lying on the floor. Perhaps they had served as rafters. I wanted to ask Juni about it, but she shushed me whenever I tried to say something, so after a while I gave up my attempts at conversation. We walked in silence until the tunnel opened up into a larger, natural cave.
"The cave was filled with spiders: all sizes, colours and shapes of them. Or so it seemed to me. I was getting tiered of having a new danger waiting for us around every corner, and I did not exactly look forward to another fight. The spiders did not notice us at first, and that gave me time to remember that I had a fireball scroll tucked away in my backpack. Suddenly the future looked a little less grim. I got the scroll out, and started to read as fast as I could. So fast in fact, that I miscalculated the distance. Instead of detonating right above the spiders, as I had intended, it exploded against the opposite wall. While the blow killed a few spiders, it just served to make the rest of them angry. Juni gave me a stare that clearly indicated that she found me incredibly incompetent, before she hauled out her axe again and made herself ready for the fight.
"Then stalactites started raining down, crushing some of smaller specimen. It must have been the tremor caused by the fireball blast that loosened them from the roof. The spiders where to busy seeking cover in the surrounding tunnels, to give us any more attention. Juni and I stayed close to the wall until it was over, and afterwards we began searching for the exit tunnel. Upon close examination, we found that there was a slight draft coming from two of them. Since we had little else to make our decision by, Juni chose the one in which she claimed the air smelled fresher. A low rumbling sound followed us as we walked, but except for the occasional stray spider, the rest of our underground journey was uneventful until we could spot the exit.
"I was surprised when Juni suddenly stopped and said that she could not go any further. I had assumed that she wished to get out, as well.
“"Why do you not come with me?" I asked. "You can not possibly wish to go back to that hell hole!"
“"I tried running away before," she replied, "but they always find and take me back. And then they…" She shook her head. "It is no use."
“"But why?" I asked her. The rumbling sound was getting louder, and I had to shout to hear my own voice. "Why are you so important to them?"
“"Because of what I carry with me!" she yelled. I could barely catch her words through the sound of falling rocks. There was no time for any more questions right then, because the tunnel was about to cave in around us. Juni made no sign of wanting to move, so I took a hold of her arm and dragged her with me towards the opening."