"Can you walk?" Gytha asked Jalal.
The old man still lay on the floor with his back propped up against a wall. He breathed deeply and seemed asleep till Gytha spoke, but then his eyes opened, lively and bright.
"I don't know," he said. "I will try."
With a groan he shifted onto his side and got to his knees, Gytha reached out to help, but Ghibelline put his hand on her shoulder and drew her back. Jalal's bones creaked as he stood, and he used his hands braced against the stones so that he could straighten up, but when he faced them it was with his shoulders back and his pride in place.
"We must go," said Telenstil.
"I have a friend here..." Jalal began.
"I am sorry, we have also lost companions, the one who was left here and another, but we cannot stay." Telenstil explained.
"There are places we could hide, and the orcs, they are in rebellion, we could enlist their aid," said Jalal.
"I am afraid that we have had a confrontation with the orcs. They will not help us," Telenstil told him and shook his head sadly.
Jalal sagged a bit at the news, but caught himself and addressed Telenstil once more. "I cannot abandon my friend."
"We may be able to return. I had not planned to leave entirely, but this foray, we have stayed much longer than I had thought to." said Telenstil. "Come with us now and we will try to help your friend and rescue our companion."
"I will come. You promise to return?" Jalal asked.
"I can only promise that we will try," said Telenstil. "I cannot even promise that we can escape."
"Come Jalal, we cannot leave you here. We will do all that we can," said Ghibelline. "That I promise."
"Then we had best leave," said Jalal.
"Is there another way out of here?" asked Gytha.
"No, there are tunnels that have been started and a warren of caves where the orcs hide, but the stairs are the only way that I know of to leave the dungeons," Jalal told them.
"Harald," Telenstil called to the ranger as they left the cell. "We are taking Derue, please help him up, but be careful. I think he is awake, but pretends to still be senseless."
"If he is dangerous, why not leave him here?" asked the thief.
"He is not himself," Gytha said. "There is a spirit within him."
"How do we know?" Harold asked, still questioning the sense of dragging the scout along. "He has always been a suspicious sort. I have never trusted any of them, him, his brother or that priest who employed them."
"And now they are all gone or mad," added Talberth.
"I would suspect them more if they were still here or if they had showed us a pleasant and friendly face at the start," said Telenstil. "They have been honest with us, I feel. I did not like them, but they did not break their faith with us, at least not till they found those weapons that the giants hid."
Harald went to retrieve Derue and he found the scout still out cold and breathing stentoriously through his open mouth. The ranger reached down and grabbed him by the belt, hauling Derue up into the air. As his feet left the ground the scout spun and placed a kick against the ranger's leg, just missing the knee.
* * *
Harald dropped to the ground as Derue's kick sent his leg out to the side but failed to break the thick bone. The ranger let himself fall forward. He slammed Derue face first into the stones and brought his other knee down hard against the scout's back. Dazed, the scout moaned and tried to wriggle free. Harald grabbed a handful of his hair and bounced Derue's forehead on the hard rock, knocking the man cold.
"You were right," Harald called to Telenstil. "This time I'm tying his feet. I'll have to carry him."
"Are we ready?" Telenstil asked.
There was a murmur of assent, the little thief started off first through the vast and almost empty hall. The orcs had gone, but they had left the bodies of their dead behind, several dark lumps of flesh and cloth left lying by the walls and a carpet of dead, the bodies thick, one against the other, where Talberth's magic bolt had slain them by the score. The group stayed together, Harald carried the scout like a sack of grain across his wide shoulder, Ghibelline and Gytha helped Jalal keep the pace, the old man had his arms around the elf and cleric's necks. They half carried him, but Jalal barely weighed a thing, he was only skin stretched over bone. Before they reached the stairs Harold came running back, he waved to them to stop and rushed up to Telenstil.
"There are orcs ahead, a small group waiting on the stairs," Harold reported. "They didn't look threatening. They look more like a group of beggars in a marketplace."
"Let us proceed with care," said Telenstil.
"Let's get out of this hall," said Talberth, "and up from this dungeon."
The ranger unslung Derue when they reached the arch before the stairs, leaving him leaning against the wall.
"Ho there!" he called in the orc tongue, but he received a reply in the common traders' language used across the Flanaess.
"You there," the voice called out. "We wait for you. We had deal. You lead us out."
"I had no deal with you!" Harald called back.
"Not so loud!" the voice hissed back. "I come down, you no kill." The orc dropped down the stairs and walked into the light. He was the one called Boss, but his followers had almost all deserted him, a bare half-dozen remained waiting up the stairs.
"I deal with that one," Boss said pointing to Derue. "He make deal. We help, you help."
"The orc is correct," spoke up Jalal. "Your companion promised to help them, as he promised Ghibelline and myself."
"Then we will accept their help, and help them as well," said Telenstil.
"Help these monsters?" Harold spoke up surprised.
"There are worse than orcs about, and they are no friends of the giants," the ranger said.
"Come, we delay ourselves for nothing," said Telenstil. "We will honor our companion's word. Let us be out of here."
The ranger nodded to the orc. "We will help you. Carry this one," Harald said pointing to Derue. "He made the offer. He is your burden."
The orc beckoned to his companions and the other orcs came down the stairs. They waited for the Telenstil and the others to climb, following last carrying the still unconscious body of the scout.