And Betrayal Served Hot

Well, that was quite something. I had such rage, such anger towards my traitorous friend. And I was so scared for Fiola. And, guess what, my ability to sense their status wore off.

Looking around at the caves, I noticed that just past the caves was a lake. Approaching it, I could see that it was being fed from below, and the water was hot. Very hot. But that opening was large. Perhaps I could travel down.

"Kord, give me the ability to withstand these temperatures, the ability to breathe and move freely in the water." And His warmth rushed over me. Time to go diving.

So I dove in, swimming against the rushing current. I doubt I could have made it without Kord's power. Even with that, it was strenuous.

I swam down and I entered a metal tube, and then I was in a large metal basin. Swimming down, I could see that it was hot at the bottom, scorching hot. Tubes were running all over the place and I could feel currents flowing all around me in all sorts of directions. But then I saw a large opening and it looked like stone beyond that and water was rushing in from there. I swam out and found myself in an ice cold lake.

I swam to one side and got out, taking a look. It was a vast cavern, but near where I came out, I could see steps leading down, light beckoning from below. I went down and saw a river of lava flowing through that lower cavern. Hanging above the lava was the great metal basin.

What was this place? Anyway, I had to go and find Fiola. I listened carefully and heard lots of shouting and chanting. In orcish. I traveled towards it, up some stairs, and then I saw a good-sized cavern in front of me.

And in the middle was Fiola, tied and gagged still. She seemed okay otherwise. But the orcs were feasting, drinking, and carrying on, chanting, "Vengeance is now. Gruumsh will feast. We will play."

I could see a group of gnomes in the corner. They looked rather beaten up. One was tied up as a ball and they were kicking the gnome back and forth. My blood ran hot.

But where was the traitor? Where was Starg?

And then I felt it, a blow to my head. And I could hear the words, "Ah, Mord. My old friend. Welcome to the orcs." And I fell unconscious.

When I awoke, I was bound and gagged and staring into Fiola's face. She was trying to tell me something, probably that I was an idiot, I thought. She looked actually rather calm.

I heard Starg who seemed to be nearby. "My fellow orcs, I give you these two servants of Kord. I only ask in return that you accept me as one of your own. Do I have your agreement?"

There was thunderous roars of approval. "Starg! Starg! Starg!"

"Well, then, my comrades in destruction, let us do the ceremony. I shall remove this eye of Kord from my face so that I might better see Gruumsh!"

And he walked over to their filthy altar of Gruumsh and picked up the ritual sacrificial dagger.

"I, Starg, will sacrifice this eye, given to me by Kord, to follow you, Gruumsh, the One-eyed. May He rule all!"

And he raised the knife about to strike. I was shocked. All these years of hatred related to his one eyedness and in one day, he goes back to it?

And then I heard Fiola whispering. I looked. Her ropes had come off and she was fully equipped. The orcs were surrounding the altar, all eyes on Starg. And then a firestorm appeared over them, encircling them, covering them, but leaving Starg untouched.

The orcs were wreathed in fire, crying out. I saw Starg smile, take the dagger, and stick it into the surprised orc chiefs chest, calling out to him, "I am sorry, old friend, but I no longer follow Gruumsh. May your death illuminate you as to why."

I was confused. And then my ropes just undid themselves. I got up as Fiola said, "Mord, make a wall of blades around the orcs. I will protect Starg." And so she created a ring of blades about Starg and I made one about the orcs. They were trapped in between, blades whirring. They stood there confused. I quickly prepped for battle.

"Know this orcs. Your days are numbered. Surrender or be slaughtered. I, Fiola, will see to your destruction."

"Please, my fellow orcs, following Kord is good. Open your hearts again. I, Starg, have seen death and Kord's land is fun. Gruumsh's is cruel and cold."

The orcs looked torn--kill Starg or kill Fiola?

The orcs pounded the ground and charged through the blades. Some died as they went through, but many more came out, cut, bleeding, and rushing us. I pushed Fiola behind me. And I could see some went after Starg.

"Come, orcs. I am Mord. I serve my lord Kord with this sharp greatsword. Feel its bite."

And I was ready for the wave. So was Fiola. She brought down lightning on the lead orc and then it arced to all of the others, felling several more.

As the wave crashed upon me, I swung furiously, felling the first ones to reach me. But more came on. Some went after me while others were determined to get to Fiola. I swung as fast as I coud, killing and killing. Fiola stepped right up to me and then did a burst of fire, flames flowing out, killing even more.

But the fury in the remaining orcs doubled. They counterattacked, doing deep damage to me and to Fiola, particularly to Fiola. Seeing Fiola hurt drove me mad and I killed the last four about us.

Looking around, Starg had felled two of the orcs on him, but still had a couple of orcs attacking him. Starg was not looking too good.

Fiola threw an orb of acid at one of the orcs, taking that orc down. Starg was cutoff from me. So I healed Fiola. Starg continued to fight the remaining orc and Fiola threw another orb. Looking sickened and confused, the orc stumbled into the whirling blades, killing itself.

Fiola and I dispelled our blade barriers. I looked from Starg to Fiola.

"What was all that about?" I demanded.

"We couldn't find you Mord. It looked like you had been taken away and we assumed the orcs had you. So Starg thought that if he took me in as his prisoner, we could be in a position to rescue you. We could also get all the remaining orcs together and finish the job. At leas that last bit worked out. But what did happen to you? Did you miss your ale too much or something? Where did you go?"

"Me?! I went nowhere, at first. Both of you left me. I was contemplating what to do when goblins attacked me. They dragged me to their lair and I killed most of them. There were a couple of families of goblins that were actually good. Not sure how that happened. Then they sent me to kill a bugbear. And I rescued some orcs, some good orcs. And I met someone..."

"Goblins? What were you doing with goblins. Mord, focus on the mission. Orcs, good orcs? What? Who did you meet?"

"Later, Fiola. Later. You will see. First, thank you Starg. You both took quite the risk. What was up with the ropes?"

"Ah. That was Fiola's idea. You see that little bag? That holds a lot of stuff. And in there are some ropes that obey her mental commands. Very handy. Well, that allowed me to lead her in and then distract the orcs so that she could do her magics. I think it worked well. Yes?"

"Yes, indeed. So is that all of them?" And we looked around. Starg and Fiola both think that all the orcs are accounted for. We found many items of interest, items the temple may be happy to receive back.

We freed the gnomes and I healed them and the rest of us. The gnomes explained to me, at length, that the place we were standing in is a heating area for the gnome burrows that are scattered around these areas. The pipes go on for miles. It is quite the setup. The gnomes don't actually like these caves though and they were looking forward to getting out of them. They thanked us for taking care of the orcs. We apologized for our "relations".

After cleaning up, I suggested we go meet the goblins and Kordian orcs. Some of the gnomes wanted to join us, being naturally curious.

Mords of Wisdom: And know when an enemy is a friend.