The last statement caused the party to pause, and glance around nervously.
"Thank you, Newli." Gruffydd said. "May we visit you again?"
She looked at the ground again. " I suppose".
The party made ready to leave, and give up the shelter of the tree. Alabazium turned, "Newli, do you know of a tomb around here?"
She stared blankly at him.
"It would be large, and made of stone." He said "Maybe, with a great statue of a king. You know, a man with crown." Alabazium put his hands to his head and mimed a crown.
"Oh!" Newli said excitedly. "I know where he lives. That way!" She pointed northwest. "I can see him from the top of my tree. I wave to him sometimes, but he doesn't ever wave back."
"Thanks, for your help." It was Gruffydd this time. "We'll see you again soon."
They moved on, off the road and across a new crop of windswept hills. When they turned back to look, she was gone.
"Stupid Dryads," Gildrid said.
"Yeah", Dimzad responded, "we should have lopped off her head. She might be nice now, but I promise you, she'll be trouble later."
They became strung out along the hills. The weather and the walking was taking its toll. Mellion was bringing up the rear. He turned to get a gauge on where they were in relationship to the road. That's when he saw them. Four cloaked riders were keeping pace with them. They were just far enough away to be out of bow shot. Mellion alerted the others.
It was about this time the front of the party saw a great statue rising from a large hill, surrounded by 4 smaller ones.
"Everyone!" Gruffydd shouted. "Make a run for those hills!"
The hill turned out to be steep, and the climb took the last of their energy. It was around noon, but the sun stayed hidden.
The Statue was enormous, at least 20 feet tall, but it leaned at an odd angle. The elements had taken their toll. Most of the detail had been worn away, but one could tell this was once a great man.
The base of the statue was roughly square and swallowed by vines and undergrowth. The party began to frantically search for an entrance to the vault that had to be below. Swords and axes hacked at the vines till finally a recessed door appeared.
"Outta my way!" Dimzad shoved his way past the others to the door. "Not trapped. But you'll need a dwarven back to push this door open."
He pushed. He strained. The door didn't budge. Everyone crowded around, trying their strength. Still nothing. Everyone was so busy examining the door, they forgot about the riders.
Alabazium, left the top of the hill, and the shelter of the bush, to have a look. That's when they jumped him. One of the riders readied a bow. The magician yelped and ran for the top. Gwynfor's dog was the first to notice the commotion and started barking. His master readied his bow while the dwarves charged down the hill giving great war cries.
One of the rider's shouted as he menaced Alabazium. "If you want to travel these lands, you must pay the Bandit King!"
The mounted bowman loosed and barely missed Gwynfor. The fighter did not. Gwynfor's arrow struck a spear armed rider in the chest. He slumped in the saddle. One of his brethren grabbed his reins and began to lead his horse away. More arrows were exchanged to no effect.
Alabazium grabbed the distracted archer by the leg and dragged him from the saddle, just in time for the dwarves arrival. The stunned rider looked up just in time to have his head caved in by Dimzad's massive battle axe. "There's your payment," the dwarf said.
By now, the three remaining riders, or bandits as they were now known to be, had made good their escape. Miss Adventure had watched the whole skirmish unfold from her vantage point atop a rock, eating cheese.
Mellion had been studying the door. With little effort, he slid the door to the side. "Hey dummy, it slides open! You don't shove it", he shouted over his shoulder to Dimzad.
"I knew that," the dwarf replied.
Further examination of the bandit yielded a little gold and silver. Gildrid grabbed the discarded spear, and Miss Adventure the bloodied cloak.
Meanwhile, Mellion had decided to head into the tomb. His elven site required no light, and revealed a steep staircase down into the depths. It was made of finished stone, and as the elf descended, he heard the dwarves behind him comment on its quality.
"There's a lot of steps!" he shouted to others further up.
"Wait for us!" Gruffydd shouted back.
"Hey,"said Gwynfor,"let's drag this body inside and spike the door shut, in case his buddies show up."
While the banging of hammers on spikes echoed down the tunnel, Mellion discovered the steps ended abruptly. There was a large section, 3 or 4 steps missing, before the steps continued. Mellion made the leap. After alerting the rest of the party, he moved on.
Everyone took turns making the leap. It wasn't hard, as the pit wasn't wide, and was down hill. The ropes were more for the return journey, where the leap would be upwards.
Gruffydd was next to last. He slipped on some rubble and went head first into the darkness. The rope around his waist held, but his beloved warhammer disappeared into the abyss. A few moments passed and a loud clang announced the the hammer's arrival at the bottom.
Gwyndor and Dimzad were able to lower Gruffydd down far enough he could grab the hammer amidst the rubble at the bottom.
While Gruffydd was being hoisted up, Mellion had gone farther down the stairs. "Guys!" he shouted. "There's a doorway down here with a large room." No sooner had he said that, the he heard a loud "click". The stairs he walked over collapsed with a loud crash. They dissolved into another large pit, similar to the one above. Dust and noise filled the air, but Mellion had managed to leap forward, down to the doorway below. A pit now separated him from the rest of the party. He gained his feet just in time to see four wide figures rushing at him in the darkness. Their stink reached him before their battle cries.
"Orcs". Mellion said under his breath.
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