Tawmis covered his ears, “What in the gods is that humming sound?”
“We’ve nearly found him,” Coy said, his nose twitching with excitement.
“Blaz?” Tawmis asked.
“Undoubtedly him as well,” Coy nodded, scampering ahead.
“Him as well?” Tawmis looked at Taren, who in turn, shrugged.
They quickened the pace and saw Coy peering around a corner. He turned and faced them and gestured for them to be silent as they approached. “What’s going on?” Tawmis whispered.
“It’s as I feared,” Coy replied. “The Undying One has taken control of your Mage friend.”
Tawmis peered around the corner, and in the center of a massive room was a magnificent cube made of gleaming steel and gears. Tawmis turned to Coy, “That’s the Undying One? Not exactly how I imagined him to look. I thought he’d look…”
“More human?” Coy asked.
“Less square,” Tawmis managed to joke. He peered around the corner again, “So what’s happening?”
“My guess? The Undying One is sending mental commands to your Mage friend to complete him,” Coy replied.
“Complete him? What do you mean?” Tawmis asked.
“When your parents came down here with the Orb to try and destroy the Undying One, they, as you can see did not kill him; but they did damage him. Pieces of him were scattered around the dungeon; some of the pieces flew with such force that it penetrated various levels of the dungeon, embedding themselves within the very walls.”
“So why isn’t that… statue… doing anything?” Tawmis asked, nudging towards the one massive statue.
“Those are called Wardens,” Coy explained. “They activate if they believe that there’s an attempt to free the Undying One.”
“So why aren’t they activated with Blaz in there?” Taren asked gruffly, sizing up the statue.
“The Undying One must be using his magic to ‘hide’ Blaz from their view,” Coy explained. “He can probably afford to hide one; but if we all come around that corner, the Warden is going to activate.”
“And that would be bad,” Tawmis asked, knowing the answer.
“Very,” Coy replied.
“So how do you propose we do something about this?” Silvertan asked, still not trusting Coy.
“Well, I suspect the only way out is activating the Undying One,” Coy shrugged, looking back at the others, and with a shrug of his furry shoulders, added, “but it might cost us all our lives.”
“Or just ours, as you make your escape,” Silvertan said aloud.
“I can see why you wouldn’t trust me, despite the effort I’ve made,” Coy replied. “If you know of any better ideas, I am more than happy to hear it. Going into a room with the Undying One siphoning the magic from your Mage friend and a big, stone guardian just waiting to activate as soon as we set foot in there is not exactly an ideal good time to me.”
“So how are we going to do this?” Tawmis asked.
“I take the Warden,” Taren said. Tawmis looked back into the room, gazing over the stone Warden then back to Taren.
“I can’t let you fight that thing alone,” Tawmis shook his head. “That thing has a flail in each hand. And its hide is made of stone.”
“You will need to get Blaz away from the Undying One,” Taren said. “I am the best suited to fight the Warden.”
“I will keep the Undying One occupied,” Coy said.
“I will help with the Warden,” Silvertan finally replied.
Tawmis looked at Taren, whose deep, dark eyes stared back down at Tawmis. A smile formed on the corner of Taren’s lips. “This will not be the last time we see each other, human.”
“It feels that way,” Tawmis whispered.
“There is the life after this one,” Taren said with a nod. “We will find each other again there.”
Tawmis and Taren clanked their blades together, and chanted, “In life, I lived with honor; in death, I will be remembered.”
Taren stepped into the room, holding his sword and shield. Instantly, the Warden’s eyes suddenly glowed blue.
Time seemed to suddenly move in slow motion as everyone charged into the room. There was no fear. Only a purpose to do what was expected. Death may come for them all – but there was no time to think of that now.
Taren dodged the Warden’s slow swings. Being made of pure stone, the Warden was at least slow. The Warden brought the flail downward, and though Taren was able to side step, the strength of the Warden became very apparent, as the flail crushed the stone floor that it collided with. It would only take a few hits to break through Taren’s massive muscles and shatter his bones.
Tawmis reached Blaz’tik, who seemed to be hypnotized. Tawmis was shouting at Blaz’tik, but the insectoid just seemed to stare forward at the massive, metallic box in front of him. Tawmis looked around and shouted, the words seeming to fall from his lips at a decelerated speed. “He’s not responding to me!”
As Tawmis looked around, he saw Silvertan trying desperately to pierce the Warden’s stone hide with his weapons. Tawmis looked around and could not see Coy.
“Where’s Coy?” Tawmis suddenly shouted as the room suddenly jolted into normal speed.
“I knew we couldn’t trust the damn rat!” Silvertan shouted as he barely dodged a backhanded swing from the Warden. “He set us up to die in here! Sacrifice to the Undying One! That’s how he’s lived down here so long! He’s made a damn deal with the demon!”
Suddenly Tawmis saw, from the corner of his eye, Coy was screwing a piece of a gear unto the Undying One. “What are you doing?” Tawmis shouted.
“Believe it or not, I am getting us out of here,” Coy replied.
“By putting the Undying One back together? You said my parents came down here to destroy him! Why would you undo what they risked their lives to do?” Tawmis shouted. He shoved Blaz’tik aside and quickly strode over to Coy.
“Because,” Coy said, stopping to look Tawmis in the eye. “I know how to get us out of here. I admit, I have not been up front with all of you. Yes, I did set your Mage friend up.”
“What do you mean you set him up?” Tawmis shouted.
“I knew the Undying One syphoned off magic from Mages,” Coy replied. “I knew from the time I was thrown down here nearly twenty years ago, when the mage that was thrown down here with me was compelled by the Undying One. In his dying words, he told me about the dreams he had, how the Undying One had visited him, called to him. Since then, I have been gathering the magical components of the mages that perish down here. Hoping one day, a set of prisoners would come down here, strong enough to possibly do something against the Undying One. So yes,” Coy snapped, “I knew giving those spell components to your Mage friend would trigger the Undying One to call upon your Mage friend. I knew this. I used your Mage friend as bait. But your Mage friend is the key. And by the gods,” Coy gestured to the Taren who was fighting the Warden. “I have never seen such courage and determination in anyone else that’s been thrown down here. The bond you two shared pushed one another to keep going. And to learn that you’re the son of Contar and Yennica… I knew this was the time. I knew it was now or never.”
Taren barely had time to worry about what was going on with Tawmis and Coy; he could only see that his dearest, and truly his only friend, was flailing his arms in an angry gesture as he was speaking to the Ratling. The Warden brought his flail down, which Taren was able to deflect. The chain around the flail wrapped around Taren’s blade, and the Warden was able to yank the blade from the minotaur’s firm grip. “I don’t need swords,” Taren growled. He bowed his head down and charged. The Warden managed to bring his other flail down into Taren’s back, ripping the minotaur’s fur, splashing blood upon the ceiling as the flail left the tattered skin. But Taren did not stop, he charged, his horns slamming into the Warden’s abdomen, barely giving Silvertan enough time to slide out of the way as Taren crashed the Warden into the far wall. With no need to breathe, the Warden was not stunned for long, and brought his flail down again, striking Taren in the back once more.
Silvertan watched in horror. There was nothing he could do to even damage the Warden. He watched in sadness as the Warden raised his arm, the bloodied flail coming up. Much to his surprise, as the flail came down it did not strike the crushing blow that would have severed Taren’s spine. Instead, it struck a metallic shield. Tawmis was now standing between the Warden and his best friend. “Not today,” Tawmis growled. “Not today…”
“Silvertan!” Tawmis barked. “Go help Coy put the Undying One back together!”
“We’re putting that thing back together?” Silvertan asked.
“Just do it,” Tawmis shouted as the Warden brought down the other flail, denting the shield in Tawmis’ hand.
“I can not believe we’re doing this,” Silvertan grumbled as he ran by Tawmis and began helping Coy put the Undying One back together.
Tawmis pulled out the Dismantler, the electric humming began, electricity coursed through his body. “What are the odds that this blade can cut through you?” Tawmis sneered as he brought it down upon the Warden’s arm. Much to his surprise and disappointment, it barely nicked the stone guardian’s armored flesh. “Well,” Tawmis muttered, “that’s certainly disappointing.”
He tilted his back towards Coy and Silvertan, “If you two are going to do something, you’re going to have to do it real quick. This is not going well over here.”
The Warden had forgotten Taren and now focused on the new threat; the one still standing, the one with a weapon – Tawmis. Time after time, the Warden brought its massive flails down; Tawmis tried to deflect with his battered shield until he was sure that the very vibration of the pounding he was taking had finally broke his arm, and he could not raise his shield anymore.
“It was a good plan,” he muttered, “except for the part where we all die.”
Much to his surprise, again, he saw two large, black hands wrap around the Warden’s throat from behind. Huge, gleaming eyes of crimson burned in the shadows. Tawmis had seen it before. It was Taren, and he was in a blood rage.
“No more,” Taren gargled, barely coherent, his words giving way to the savage beast within him. “No more.” He put all his weight into his hands and slammed the Warden down upon the ground. The surprised Warden was caught off balance and collapsed to the floor, seemingly unable to stand again.
“We’ve got it!” Coy shouted gleefully. The Undying One was now beginning to hum massively. “Now! Now!” Coy jumped up and down. “Strike it with the Dismantler.”
“Then what happens?” Tawmis asked, rushing to Coy’s side.
“We pray to the gods that your Mage friend is able to harness all the magic that’s about to come pouring out of him,” Coy shrugged.
Tawmis looked at Blaz’tik who still looked like he was in a trance. “He’s not even coherent!” Tawmis pointed to Blaz’tik with the Dismantler blade. “How is he supposed to know to channel magic?”
“The Undying One has been in touch with his mind,” Coy replied. “He will sense the release of the magic from the Undying One, and begin to absorb it into himself.”
“And then?” Tawmis asked.
“Hopefully your friend creates a portal before all of this explodes,” Coy smiled, as if he were saying, “The sun should come up tomorrow.”
“This seems like a really horrible plan,” Tawmis muttered.
The Undying One began to glow. “Horrible or not,” Coy said, “it’s the only one we’ve got and the Undying One is coming out of the magical trance. You do it now or he starts killing us.”
Tawmis thrust his blade into the Undying One – and at that moment, there was an unholy scream.
Magic suddenly poured out of the gaping hole that the Dismantler had put into the Undying One – and just as Coy had said; Blaz’tik suddenly opened his arms, closed his insect eyes, and gazed upward, pulling all the magic into himself. Though there were no doors, no windows, the wind within the entire room seemed to come alive.
The wind’s speed increased, so that it became a part of the Undying One’s screams.
A loud boom – and everyone was thrown to the floor. All except Blaz’tik who was floating in the air, arms out stretched, eyes glowing blue. “I have –tic!- found the way. We can –tic!- be free.”
“Blaz! You’re back?” Tawmis shouted with joy as he began to stand.
“I –tic!- am,” Blaz’tik replied. “I have never felt to –tic!- alive in my life. I can see the world in –tic!- ways you could not even begin to –tic!- imagine!”
He closed his eyes and a small shimmering light appeared; slowly it grew larger and larger. “We must –tic!- go quickly – tic!- for the Undying One is about to explode!”
The shimmering light grew to large square; through the lights, they could see the world outside. “A teleporter,” Blaz’tik smiled, “as I had assumed, not an incinerator.”
Tawmis smiled. He watched Coy quickly jump through. Tawmis helped Taren to his feet and allowed his friend to go through the teleporter. “What about you, Blaz?”
“I will close the door behind us,” Blaz’tik said, “so that –tic!- the explosion is hopefully contained within Grimrock.”
“Behind you!” came a shout from Silvertan who had not yet stepped through the portal. Tawmis turned in time to see Silvertan push him out of the way as the Warden’s flail came crashing down; crushing Silvertan’s fragile, reptilian spine. “Silvertan!” Tawmis screamed.
“Go!” Silvertan cursed, as the Warden moved forward. “Go, damn it! Go!”
“I can’t leave you behind!” Tawmis shouted.
“You must!” Silvertan said. “It’s already too late for me.”
Tawmis stared hopelessly. The Warden was approaching again. Tawmis cursed and stepped into the portal.
Blaz’tik looked back at Silvertan, “You found what you came –tic!- for here,” he said, nodding. Blaz’tik opened his insectoid hands and with a simple blast incinerated the Warden to rubble. He kneeled down in front of Silvertan. “You found honor –tic- and I will speak of it to all who listen.”
Silvertan gripped Blaz’tik’s hand and nodded, “Thank you.”
“I must –tic- go now,” Blaz’tik said. He turned and stepped through the Portal.
Blaz’tik emerged north end of the Great Lake, just south of the Deathfang Ridges. “We should be –tic- safe here,” Blaz’tik said.
Then the explosion came.
It was louder, stronger, more powerful than any of them could have expected. It knocked all of them into the Great Lake’s waters.
Tawmis opened his eyes, and looked around. There was a familiar sight. And for a moment, he wondered if he had dreamed the entire event of Grimrock – and wondered if he was still in the prison cell in Curvia, where this had all begun.
But when he could barely stand, and not because he was groggy from the explosion, but because the ground seemed to sway beneath his feet; he grabbed the bars for balance. Then he could smell it. The fresh ocean breeze. The sound of waves crashing against a ship.
He looked around him and saw Taren, Blaz’tik and Coy.
“Where are we?” Tawmis asked, having no memory after the explosion that shook Grimrock.
“We’re on a slave ship,” Taren muttered, recognizing the interior of the ship.
“The Elf Wind,” Coy said, “to be exact. Chances are we’re headed up Daejon for Gladiator combat slavery.”
“What happened?” Tawmis asked.
“The explosion drew a lot of attention,” Coy replied. “Mages. Warriors. Thieves. All interested in what might be within Grimrock’s remains. Apparently we were fortunate enough to be found by slavers and traders down stream from the Great Lake.”
“That’s just wonderful,” Tawmis sighed, and sunk against the bars. “What else could possibly go wrong?”
Tawmis Sanarius – Human (Son of Contar Stoneskull and Yennica Whitefeather) – Warrior
Taren Bloodhorn – Minotaur – Warrior
Blaz’tik – Insectoid – Mage
Silvertan – Lizardman – Rogue
Coy – Ratling from the Isle of Nex – Rogue