“Quiet. What was that?” hissed Amethal peering intently into the gloom coiled at the edge of her flickering torchlight. Despite her elven heritage, she couldn’t make out what had made the faint scuffing sound.
“What was what?”, muttered Sakari. “There’s nothing there, just like the last time”, he continued. “You’re just being paranoid.”
“No, I’m not”, she retorted, “There’s something out there. It’s stalking us”.
“Bollocks to that”, muttered Sakari as he thrust his torch ahead trying to push back the wavering shadows. “I didn’t hear anything. Anyway, we’ve been down here for hours. Except those trogs, we’ve seen nothing, and nothing’s seen us.”
A moment of uncomfortable silence settled over the two adventurers as they each looked at the other, unwilling to back down. After a moment, Amethal sighed, “Alright. Let’s just wait for the others. I could do with a rest anyway.” With that, she leant down and propped the torch against the rough cavern wall before running a hand through her thick, dusty hair.
The party were deep in the Twisted Warrens and had been for hours. The day before, they’d been dropped off at the Landings by a fisherman they’d paid two—two!—gold coins with the promise of four more if he waited for them. They’d climbed high up into the bowels of the Mottled Spire before discovering a sloped natural passageway leading down into what could only be the Twisted Warrens.
Since then, they’d wandered at random through a confusing, twisted labyrinth of caverns and passages. Amethal had no clue how far they had come, but she was exhausted. Not just physically tired, but emotionally exhausted. The darkness here was total—except where torchlight forced it back—and oppressive. It seemed to have a weight all of its own that grew heavier the further they pushed into the Warrens.
Suddenly, behind them, the clamour of battle shattered the quiet. Shouts and the screams of the injured spoke of sudden, mortal combat.
Amethal leapt to her feet, grabbed her torch and rushed back the way she had come. Behind her, Sakari ripped his sword from its scabbard and chased after her.
“Slow down!”, he called, “Wait for me.”
Ahead, the flicker of torchlight threw weird, lurid shadows onto the rough cavern walls. Shouts, grunts of pain and the wet thunk of weapons cleaving flesh echoed down the passageway. Around the next corner lay a small cavern, Amethal remembered. It sounded like that was where her friends fought.
“Wait, damn you”, cried Sakari from behind her, his heavy chainmail slowing him down. He was strong, but Amethal was far nimbler and the uneven floor slowed the burly warrior.
Fleet of foot, Amethal easily outpaced her friend. Rushing around the corner, she barely had time to register the scene—a dozen or so scaly humanoids surrounding her hard-pressed friends—before she ran straight onto a spear held low by a grinning troglodyte warrior. The troglodyte hissed with pleasure as the spear’s serrated head pierced her side and pain exploded in her belly. Amethal screamed as her momentum forced the weapon deep into her stomach as it scraped along her hip bone. The elf's legs collapsed out from under her and, the spear ripping and tearing at her flesh, she fell to the ground.
Warm blood welled from the savage, ragged injury. Clutching the wound, Amethal tried to roll away from the warrior who screamed in triumph. Weakened by the pain coursing through her body, she fumbled for her short sword managing—just—to drag it from its sheath. She tried to raise her weapon, but it slipped from her blood-slick hand as the troglodyte stalked toward her, spear held high ready for the killing blow…