There was blood in his eyes; it burned like fire till the tears washed out the congealing stain. Talberth shook his head to scatter the drops and blinked, he could not move his arms and, blinded, he could not see what held them. He was standing and something bound around both his elbows and his wrists kept him upright. His head had been down, his chin on his chest, but as he moved he could feel nothing behind him, he was not up against a wall. Talberth's knees were bent; he braced his feet against the ground and stood. There was a pulling at his arms, whatever held him would not give, not when he tried to free himself, not even enough to let him fall. As he moved his legs he felt the bindings which were wrapped around his them. His ankles were within unyielding cuffs, metal most likely; the bands around his elbows and wrists felt the same. To the right a deep voice laughed, a rough barking sound, Talberth was not surprised when he heard the orc called Boss begin to speak.
"Got you, got you," the orc laughed. "Bone men got you, Hah!"
"Got you too," said Talberth, "Didn't they."
"You shuddup," Boss yelled.
Talberth obliged the orc, he squeezed his eyes shut and slowly opened them. His sight was blurred but he could see. The light from his amulet lit the room; he was more surprised to find himself still wearing it than he was to find the orc.
The room around him was bare, an empty rectangle with a long pit at its center running down what appeared to be its entire length. Talberth was held at the far end of the long chamber, squinting he could see the dim shape of an opening far off opposite from where he stood. The mage looked down and saw the rings that held him were grey; they seemed to be of stone, the same with those that held his arms. Next to him were a row of identical rings set near the floor and at the same height along the walls, but they floated in the air attached to nothing that he could see. The ring that circled his foot was frozen in place, suspended above the floor; it would not move despite the pressure he put against it with his legs. Talberth couldn't see the back of the rings which held his arms but he knew that they must be enchanted just the same.
"Pull, pull," laughed Boss, "maybe pull arm off." the orc waggled his own bound arms, dark blood coated the rings which held him; he'd tried to free himself till he rubbed his flesh raw and strained the muscles in his arms and shoulders.
Talberth let himself relax, but his shoulders were sore and his back ached. His head ached as well and an open wound, now caked with half-dried blood, stung with every throbbing pulse that ran through the veins along his temples.
"What happened to the others?" Talberth found himself asking the orc.
"Gone, bone men take them," Boss said unconcerned.
"How did you get here?" Talberth wanted to talk; it calmed him, distracted him from his aches and let him think more clearly.
"Look for stuff," Boss told him, "follow tunnel, find doors. Bars come down and... magic... magic like you... doors not real. Old room full of dust and bone men. Chop them up no problem. Then ragmen come and they too strong. More bone men bring us here, bring you here too."
Talberth shook his head, he could do little else. At the far end of the hall a door opened, a strange pulsing light glowed from somewhere beyond it. Dark shapes appeared within the frame though they did not block the light. A dozen skeletons clacked toward them, bones clicking on the floor, scraping softly at the tiled stones.
Boss roared at them, "Him! Take Him!" a stream of orcish curses escaped his lips, but the skeletons did not pay him any mind.
* * *
She knelt before the Saint but she could not see him. There were stones beneath her; she could feel them, cold and smooth. All around her there was a golden light, a glow at the edge of her vision. Before her, where the Saint stood, a much brighter radiance of gold that Gytha could not face. Tears streamed down her checks, they tasted of salt as they passed her lips and fell from her chin. There was a wondrous joy within Gytha which she could not contain, and there was an infinite sadness, a sense of loss that she had not felt since her parents had been slain. Her eyes clouded by the tears, Gytha raised her head and looked into the golden radiance...
* * *
Boss was gone and Talberth was all alone. The orc's screams had faded so that Talberth could only hear them when he closed his eyes. The mage shook with fear, for a moment only the stone rings which bound his arms were all that kept him on his feet, but then he calmed. The fear fell from him as if it had never been. Trapped, his hands and feet bound tight within enchanted rings of stone, Talberth felt free. He was not scared anymore, and even if worse things were to come he did not think that he would be afraid to face them. With his mind calm he took stock of his situation. It did not look good to him.
"At least I am still alive," he said to himself. "Why am I alive?" Talberth's brain flickered into action; he cleared away cobwebs that his fear had created within the corners of his mind. As best he could he went over every moment since he had stepped beyond the long corridor.
"What did that skeleton say?" he asked himself. The words it had spoken seemed familiar, "Suel, yes Suel, they are part of this place. What were the words, Z, something, something." Talberth moved his head slowly back and forth then up and down trying to shake free a memory.
* * *
"Don't touch the bars," warned Harold.
"I wasn't going to," the ranger replied peevishly.
"So this is where Talberth was caught," said Ivo. The gnome reached into a pocket in his vest and felt for a small metal box. As his fingers touched it a better thought came to mind. "No need to see if there is magic here."
"There is a powerful spell on those bars at least," said Harold.
"Stand away," Ivo waved the others back.
"What are you going to try?" asked the ranger.
The large man had not moved back as far as Ivo would have liked. He walked toward the ranger and shooed him further up the hallway. "I'm going to see if the magic can be cast aside."
"Is it dangerous?" Harold asked, the halfling took quick steps backwards to avoid the retreating man.
"Of course it's dangerous," Ivo chuckled at the question. "But less so than walking blindly down these halls."
"Hey!" Harold objected. "It was Talberth, he wouldn't listen."
"We will see what he says about that when we find him," Ivo told him.
"I hope you are right," said Harold.
"So do I," muttered the old gnome. "Now stay back and keep quiet while I cast this spell," Ivo said in a louder voice.