The Box (Part XIV)

There was a deep burning sensation in the empty cavity where his eye had once been.  It felt as if a thousand ants were feasting upon the newly exposed flesh, breaking it down piece by piece to return to their nest for later consumption.  Added with the dull ocular throbbing of the broken nerve, he found himself struggling to remain conscious.

It had been several minutes since the sorcerer had passed through the cavern below but he didn’t yet feel strong enough to continue. He needed some time to think.

Oramiir had betrayed them!  His magics had lured the Destrachan from the depths of the underdark for the sole purpose of getting them out of the way!

It had been pure chance that he was alive, but the poor elf hadn’t stood a chance.  Even now, the creatures were gnawing at the bones of the once proud warrior.  The sound of the teeth scraping against them sent shivers down his spine.  One would occasionally lift its head as if scenting the air, but they seemed content to laze near their dinner.

Another blast of hot air passed through the junction, reminding him that even as he perched above the elf’s remains, the sorcerer was drawing ever closer to the lair of the dragon.

“Perhaps it’s time I use some magic of my own,” he spat venomously.  Below him, each of the four creatures turned their heads in his direction, suddenly interested in the small bag of fresh meat dangling from the ceiling.  One of them whistled softly, testing for a reaction from the small hobbit, but he seemed to be paying them very little notice.

As they continued to ‘watch’ him from below, he reached into one of his many hidden pouches and removed a small crossbow. Unlike the hand-crossbows of the Drow, this small folding instrument had very little use as weapon.  He’d had it specially crafted some years ago as a tool to aid him in his more discrete activities.

A flick of his thumb and the tension bar snapped into place.  With his other hand, he reached into another pocket and carefully removed a small cloth bundle.  Careful as to not drop it or the contents inside, he opened it and loaded a small bolt into the small crossbow before replacing the bundle into the pocket from whence it came.

His stomach gurgled once again, a painful reminder that he was missing yet another meal, drawing the attention of the creatures back to his position.  He needed to find a way out of this junction, soon, before his presence became enough of an annoyance to them that they decided to do something about it.

Moving slow and deliberately, he shimmied out from his perch and along the wall.  It was over a half a dozen yards to the floor, but he was never one to be bothered by heights.  Even as the creatures began to stir beneath him, his toes and fingers were expertly digging into even the smallest of cracks that only he could manipulate.

It was painfully slow going.  There were a couple of moments where the hold he had gained crumbled, nearly sending him tumbling to the ground, but several minutes later he found himself resting outside of the junction.  The Destrachan had either decided that he wasn’t big enough to be a threat, or were content to remain with their meal, and he was able to breath a sigh of relief.

He fished through his pouches before finding a suitable enough snack to placate the angry grumbles in his midsection, but his heart wasn’t in it.  He slowly chewed on a bit of rabbit jerky as tears fell from the corners of his eyes, and he mourned the loss of his friend.

Every so often, he would look in the direction the sorcerer had traveled and absently touch the handle of the crossbow now hanging from his belt.

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