"This I do not like," Ivo said looking back the way they'd come.
"Yes," Telenstil agreed speaking slowly, "both our scouts are gone."
"I've heard you both say the same before and it came to naught," Harold said, "I'm going to find Harald, you stay here and wait for Ghibelline." The halfling turned aside and gestured to Little Rat to follow.
"Wait, Harold Wait," Telenstil called after him. To his surprise the halfling stopped. "We will go, but I will not abandon Ghibelline or Harald."
"You will have us split again," said Ivo.
"No, we will search for Harald first then for Ghibelline," Telenstil told them all.
"No, Telenstil, we cannot leave Ghibelline," Gytha objected.
"Ghibelline may be well," said Telenstil, "he works to hide our trail, but Harald should have come back, something is wrong there."
"I will go back and find him," Gytha said firmly.
"Gytha, no," Telenstil looked her in the eye. "We may need you. If there is something wrong we would lose you as well. We will not abandon Ghibelline...."
"We are, Telenstil, we are," she said regretfully. "Let us be gone then, I will not abandon Harald as well."
* * *
Stillness: A slight breeze that ran across the denuded woods and raised a small dancing ghost of shredded leaves, then stillness again. Ghibelline did not move. Time passed, he worried that he was too long away from the others, but the feeling that something watched, something followed; that feeling was strong. His only cover was the thickness of the brush, but it was enough. Something stirred, the debris were furrowed by its passage.
At first Ghibelline could not make out what it was, all that appeared was a depression where branches were pushed down and a stirring of the leaves that were driven aside. Then as it came near he could see the scales, translucent but tinged with red. A fanged head turned and looked at him, a tongue split like a two pronged fork shot out and seemed to taste the air and then it turned away.
Ghibelline launched himself from behind the bush, his sword drawn, slashing at the long and sinuous neck.
* * *
"It just looks dark to me," said Talberth.
"There is light enough," Ivo told him, "I've spent too much time under the sun of late."
"The orcs are eager to get away from the light as well," Talberth looked back at the small group waiting behind him.
Telenstil went ahead with Harold and Little Rat, they showed him where the found the hole clawed through the stone floor, all three stood above the shaft and talked of what to do.
"It's an easy climb," said Harold. "I'll go first, he'll follow," he said pointing to the young orc.
"Cool here," said Little Rat, "let's go."
"Wait a moment," Telenstil said, "I will have the others come up. We will need a rope to lower Derue."
"Better just to leave him up here," said Harold. "It'll be harder getting him back up."
"We need to watch him, and we need a place where we can leave him safely," Telenstil looked down the shaft. "This may prove a convenient spot, a temporary prison."
"I'm for getting rid of him," Harold agreed.
"I am hoping to cure him of this curse," chided Telenstil. "Wait here, I will bring up the others."