Meatstealer turned to Boss prepared to go to the human's aid, but Boss held him back. "Let them kill him. Maybe they can cut down the other one as well," Boss said in the gruff orcish tongue.
"They'll cut him to..." Meatstealer began but stopped as he saw the human down one then another of the rebel orcs with bare feet and hands. "Maybe this one doesn't need help."
Boss shook his head. "He has Gruumsh's own strength. Ah they have him now."
They could not see what happened. The rebel orcs closed in and blocked off their view.
"I don't know," Meatstealer said. He could hear the shouts and cries of pain coming from orcish throats but not cheers or laughter to say that they had slain the madman or captured him for slow death by torture.
The crowd swayed, the rebel orcs seemed to draw in like sand falling down an hourglass, funneling to one point. There was a final shout and the rebel orcs set off the way they had come leaving their dead and wounded behind.
* * *
There was a smell, sharp but choking, then the feel of heat, a great simmering wave that became a smothering blanket, stifling, a physical presence in the air. Edouard nearly gasped, but the call from Kalfashow was too great. It washed over him and put all his other thoughts and senses aside. He had turned off from the passage he'd been following down a slanting tunnel. Somewhere ahead was the source of the great heat and the burning smell, but he could see nothing but the stone walls and the haze of torchlight far away.
The tunnel made a turn. The way went to his left, but only for a dozen feet. A sharp wedge of stone split the passage right from left, broadening out in both directions till the way was wide enough for a wagon to pass. To the left the wide stone tunnel was lined with weapons, heaped with shields and armor, piled with bits and pieces of metal waiting to be fixed or melted down. Bags of coal and cuts of wood were mixed within, a rough storage nook, though large enough to fit a peasant's house between the walls and roof.
Edouard paused, he glanced at a row of swords hung high upon a wall, but his head turned to the other way. The call came from the right, not from the storage nook. His blade was not hidden among the weapons there or buried beneath a sack of coal. The right-hand way was broad and slanting down. It was from here that his sword called to him, and from here that the heat pulsed out. It had become so great that he was cooler inside than without, the thickness of the air made his eyes tear, a cloud of smoke, black as a rain-filled cloud, hung against the ceiling. As he crept forward he could see the source of the heat and smoke, a massive forge, its edges taller than a man, a huge bellows set above it, unmoving, waiting to breathe life into the coals and make the red sparks dance. The walls were hung with weapons, helms and bits of armor, all formed for giants. Edouard felt like a child stepping into his father's armory. The room seemed empty, but there were wings which went off to either side, Edouard could not see what they contained from where he stood crouching in the outer hall. The call came to him again. It sang with great allure, he could not resist.
* * *
"I would like to just sit here, but we need to move the table over," said Telenstil. "There is a viewport set up there in the door and I want to watch for our companions' arrival."
"As long as it isn't just something to keep us busy," laughed Gytha.
"I know that when I get a chance I will lay down for several days," said Ghibelline.
"I thought you elves never slept," said Gytha.
"Hah!" it was Ghibelline's turn to laugh. "That is a fable. We need our rest, though there is truth in the tale. We sleep, though you could say that we elves sleep with our eyes open, even when they are closed."
The table was made for the bugbear guards. It was large but not giant-sized, sturdy but crude. It screeched across the stones as they dragged it and pushed it up against the door. Telenstil climbed up, there was a small cover set between metal runners that blocked the viewport. He slid it aside and peered out into the room beyond.