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A sweeping scimitar swung towards Grignr's head in a
shadowed blur of motion. With axe raised over his head, Grignr prepared to parry the blow, while gaping wideeyed in open-mouthed perplexity. Suddenly a sharp snap resounded behind the frothing shaman. The scimitar, halfway through its fatal sweep, dropped from a quivering nerveless hand, clattering harmlessly to the stoneage. Cutting his screech short with a bubbling, red-mouthed gurgle, the lacerated acolyte staggered under the pressure of the released spring-board. After a moment of hopeless struggling,
the shaman buckled, sprawling face down in a widening pool of blood and entrails, his regal purple robe blending enhancingly with the swirling streams of crimson.
"Mrifk! I thought I had killed the last of those dogs;"
muttered Grignr in a half apathetic state.
"Nay, Grignr. You doubtless grew careless while giving vent to your lusts. But let us not tarry any long lest we over-tax the fates. The paths leading to freedom will soon be barred. The wretch's cries must certainly have attracted unwanted attention," the wench mused.
"By what direction shall we pursue our flight?"
"Up that stair and down the corridor a short distance is the concealed enterance to a tunnel seldom used by others than the prince, and known to few others save the palace's royalty. It is used mainly by the prince when he wishes to take leave of the palace in secret. It is not always in the Prince's best interests to leave his chateau in public view. Even while under heavy guard he is often assaulted by hurtling stones and rotting fruits. The commoners have little love for him." lectured the nerelady!
"It is amazing that they would ever have left a pig like him become their ruler. I should imagine that his people would rise up and crucify him like the dog he is."
"Alas, Grignr, it is not as simple as all that. His
soldiers are well paid by him. So long as he keeps their wages up they will carry out his damned wishes. The crude implements of the commonfolk would never stand up under an onslaught of forged blades and protective armor; they would be going to their own slaughter," stated Carthena to a confused, but angered Grignr as they topped the stairway.
"Yet how can they bear to live under such oppression? I
would sooner die beneath the sword than live under such a dog's command." added Grignr as the pair stalked down the hall in the direction opposite that in which Grignr had come.
"But all men are not of the same mold that you are born of, they choose to live as they are so as to save their filthy necks from the chopping block." returned Carthena, in a disgusted tone as she cast an appiesed glance towards the stalwart figure at her side whose left arm was wound dextrously about her slim waist; his slowly waning torch casting their images in intermingling wisps as it dangled from his left hand.
Presently Carthena came upon the panel, concealed amonst the other granite slabs and discernable only by the burned-out cresset above it. "As I push the cresset aside, push the panel inwards." Catrhena motioned to the panel she was refering to and twisted the cresset in a counterclockwise motion. Grignr braced his right shoulder against the walling, concentrating the force of his bulk against it. The slab gradually swung inward with a
slight grating sound. Carthena stooped beneath Grignr's corded arms and crawled upon all fours into the passage beyond. Grignr followed, after easing the slab back into place.
Winding before the pair was a dark musty tunnel, exhibiting tangled spider webs from its ceiling to wall and an oozing, sickly slime running lazily upon its floor. Hanging from the chipped wall upon Grignr's right side was a half-mouldered corpse, its grey flacking arms held in place by rusted iron manacles. Carthena flinched back into Grignr's arms at sight of the leering set in an ugly distorted grimmace staring horribly at her from hollow gaping sockets.
"This alcove must also be used by Agaphim as a torture
chamber. I wonder how many of his enemies have disappeared into these haunts never to be heard from again," pondered the hulking brute.
"Let us flee before we are also caught within Agaphim's
ghastly clutches. The exit from this tunnel cannot be very far from here!" said Carthena with a slight sob to her voice, as she sagged in Grignr's encompasing embrace.
"Aye; It will be best to be finished with this corridor as soon as it is possible. But why do you flinch from the sight of death so? Mrift! You have seen much death this day without exhibiting such emotions." exclaimed Grignr as he led her trembling form along the dingy confines.
"---The man hanging from the wall was Doyanta. He had
committed the folly of showing affections for me in front of
Agaphim --- he never meant any harm by his actions!" At this Carthena broke into a slow steady whimpering, chokking her voice with gasping sobs. "There was never anything between us yet Agaphim did this to him! The beast! May the demons of Hell's deepest haunts claw away at his wretched flesh for this merciless act!" she prayed.
"I detect that you felt more for this fellow than you wish to let on ... but enough of this, We can talk of such matters after we are once more free to do so." With this Grignr lifted the grieved female to her feet and strode onward down the corridor, supporting the bulk of her weight with his surging left arm.
Presently a dim light was perceptibly filtering into the
tunnel, casting a dim reddish hue upon the moldy wall of the
passage's grim confines. Carthena had ceased her whimpering and partially regained her composure. "The tunnel's end must be nearing. Rays of sunlight are beginning to seep into ..."
Grignr clamped his right hand over Carthena's mouth and with a slight struggle pulled her over to the shadows at the right hand wall of the path, while at the same time thrusting this torch beneath an overhanging stone to smother its flickering rays. "Be silent; I can hear footfalls approaching through the tunnel;" growled Grignr in a hushed tone.
"All that you hear are the horses corraled at the far end of the tunnel. That is a further sign that we are nearing our goal." she stated!
"All that you hear is less than I hear! I heard footsteps coming towards us. Silence yourself that we may find out whom we are being brought into contact with. I doubt that any would have thought as yet of searching this passage for us. The advantage of surprize will be upon our side." Grignr warned.
Carthena cast her eyes downward and ceased any further
pursuit towards conversation, an irritating habit in which she had gained an amazing proficiency. Two figures came into the pairs view, from around a turn in the tunnel. They were clothed in rich luxuriant silks and rambling on in conversation while ignorant of their crouching foes waiting in an ambush ahead.
"...That barbarian dog is cringing beneath the weight of the lash at this moment sire. He shall cause no more disturbance."
"Aye, and so it is with any who dare to cross the path of
Sargon's chosen one." said the 2nd man.
"But the peasants are showing signs of growing unrest. They complain that they cannot feed their families while burdened with your taxes."
"I shall teach those sluts the meaning of humility! Order an immediate increase upon their taxes. They dare to question my sovereign authority, Ha-a, they shall soon learn what true oppression can be. I will ... "
A shodowed bulk leapt from behind a jutting promontory as it brought down a double edged axe with the spped of a striking thought. One of the nobles sagged lifeless to the ground, skull split to the teeth.
Grignr gasped as he observed the bisected face set in its
leering death agonies. It was Agafnd! The dead man's comrade, having recovered from his shock, drew a jewel-encrusted dagger from beneath the folds of his robe and lunged toward the barbarian's back. Grignr spun at the sound from behind and smashed down his crimsoned axe once more. His antagonist lunged howling to a stream of stagnent green water, grasping a spouting stump that had once been a wrist. Grignr raised his axe over his head and prepared to finish the incomplete job, but was deterred halfway through his lunge by a frenzied screech from behind.
Carthena leapt to the head of the writhing figure, plunging a smoldering torch into the agonized face. The howls increased in their horrid intensity, stifled by the sizzling of roasting flesh, then died down until the man was reduced to a blubbering mass of squirming, insensate flesh.
Grignr advanced to Carthena's side, wincing slightly from the putrid aroma of charred flesh that rose in a puff of thick white smog throughout the chamber. Carthena reeled slightly, staring dazedly downward at her gruesome handywork. "I had to do it ... it was Agaphim ... I had to, " she exclaimed!
"Sargon should be more carful of his right-hand men." added Grignr, a smug grin upon his lips. "But to hell with Sargon for now, the stench is becoming bothersome to me." With that, Grignr grasped Carthena around the waist leading her around the bend in the cave and into the open.
A ball of feral red was rising through the mists of the
eastern horizon, dissipating the slinking shadows of the night. A coral stood before the pair, enclosing two grazing mares. Grignr reached into a weighted down leather pouch dangling at his side and drew forth the scintillant red emerald he had obtained from the bloated idol. Raising it toward the sun he said, "We shall do well with this bauble, eh!"
Carthena gaped at the gem gasping in a terrified manner "The eye of Argon, Oh! Kalla!" At this the gem gave off a blinding glow, then dribbled through Grignr's fingers in a slimy red ooze. Grignr stepped back, pushing Carthena behind him. The droplets of slime slowly converged into a pulsating jelly-like mass. A single opening transfixed the blob, forming into a leechlike maw.
Then the hideous transgressor of nature flowed towards
Grignr, a trail of greenish slime lingering behind it. The
single gap puckered repeatedly emitting a ghastly sucking sound.
Grignr spread his legs into a battle stance, steeling his
quivering thews for a battle royal with a thing he knew not how to fight. Carthena wound her arms about her protectors neck, mumbling, "Kill it! Kill!," while her entire body trembled.
The thing was almost upon Grignr when he buried his axe into the gristly maw. It passed through the blob and clanged upon the ground. Grignr drew his axe back with a film of yellow-green slime clinging to the blade. The thing was seemingly unaffected. Then it started to slooze up his leg. The hairs upon his nape stood on end from the slimey feel of the things buly, bulk. The Nautous sucking sound became louder, and Grignr felt the blood being drawn from his body. With each hiss of hideous pucker the thing increased in size.
Grignr shook his foot about madly in an attempt to dislodge the blob, but it clung like a leech, still feeding upon his rapidly draining life fluid. He grasped with his hands trying to rip it off, but only found his hands entangled in a sickly glue-like substance. The slimy thing continued its puckering; now having grown to the size of Grignr's leg from its vampiric feast.
Grignr began to reel and stagger under the blob, his chalk-white face and faltering muscles attesting to the gigantic loss of blood. Carthena slipped from Grignr in a death-like faint, a morrow chilling scream upon her red rubish lips. In final desperation Grignr grasped the smoldering torch upon the ground and plunged it into the reeking maw of the travestry. A shudder passed through the thing. Grignr felt the blackness closing upon his eyes, but held on with the last ebb of his rapidly waning
vitality. He could feel its grip lessening as a hideous gurgling sound erupted from the writhing maw. The jelly- like mass began to bubble like a vat of boiling tar as quavers passed up and down its entire form.
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