I fear I may be losing my battle with this vile beast known as NewsPro, but I will persevere. Still, it has been some time since I posted the first installment, and have received many messages asking for the second part. So, for your enjoyment, assuming this vile creature allows me to post it, here it is! <div> </p> </p> <table cellpadding="0" width="100%" border="1"> <tr> <td> <h3><font face="Arial" size="4">Chapter Eight</h3></font></td></tr> <tr> <td> “So, what you're actually saying, is that I'm asleep?” he enquired into the darkness.</p> </p> “After a manner, yes.”</p> </p> “Then, all I have to do, is wake up.” </p> </p> “If it was only that easy. But, no. You will find that is denied you. His hold is too strong – you will end your days here, sating Morpheus’s hunger for adventure. A shame. Too many of the land's great bards and story tellers have met their end here – far too many. Do you recall Bill, the spear-shaker?”</p> </p> “The name is vaguely familiar, aye. But, while I have oft hoped for a peaceful end, in my bed, it will not come this way! I will escape! And I have friends who will be doing all they can to help me!”</p> </p> “You will learn. It is hopeless.”</p> </p> “You do not believe that, sir. If you did, you would not have made yourself known to me, and would not have wasted your time telling me your tale. No, there is a way out, and I intend to find it!”</p> </p> “Believe that, if it gives you comfort.” sighed the voice. “I know the wards that were placed there. By now, his spells will have convinced your friends that your path and theirs are no longer one and the same, and any who might have helped you will have been sent on their way.”</p> </p> “I have a far better class of friend than that, I assure you.” snorted the old miner. “Many friends of good heart and noble spirits – they will not be easily swayed by some conjuror's charms!”</p> </p> “Time will tell. For now, I suggest you try to find some measure of comfort in this place. You cannot mine it, as I am sure you already know. Perhaps you can find some other use for it – you will be here a very long time.”</p> </p> With that, the voice fell silent for a time.</p> </p></td></tr></table></p> </p> </p> </p> <table style="WIDTH: 100%" cellpadding="0" width="100%" border="1"> <tr> <td> <h3><font face="Arial" size="4">Chapter Nine</h3></font></td></tr> <tr> <td> The orc mage drew strange symbols all about the chamber, using the blood of a hapless snow leopard to do so. Beatrice couldn't help wondering if this wasn't just a case of an orc taking advantage of the opportunity to mark his territory inside a ‘hoomie hut’, but wasn’t prepared to say anything that might put her lord in jeopardy. </p> </p> Having completed his orcish graffiti, the mage then squatted in a strange position in the centre of the rug, and, closing his eyes, started a long, low chant. Outside, a wolf howled briefly, yelped, and could then be heard disappearing into the distance, still yelping. Bea shivered. </p> </p> The orc began to rise into the air, and glowed briefly. Then, the customary sprinkling of powder around the room began, and the chanting continued. After about two hours of it, Bea was growing more than just a little bored, and more and more suspicious.</p> </p> Just as she was about to ask if the orc was doing anything more than singing campfire songs, the air split open with a resounding crack, and both she and the mage were flung against walls of the room! A voice echoed around the chamber – a sinister voice, but filled with power: </p> </p> “Little mages, you are overstepping your bounds. You were not invited into my realm, so cease your pounding on the gates!”</p> </p> Bolts of black energy shot through the air, and Bea flung herself to the floor behind the mirror. The mage was not so lucky, and the air filled with a smell not unlike burnt chicken, as the black tendrils tore the life from his burning, flailing, form.</p> </p> “Consider this a warning, little mage.” came that hideous voice again “He is mine, and I will not allow thieves such as you to take him back.”</p> </p> There was a thunderclap, and all was still, save for the sound of the orcish mage's burning flesh crackling quietly.</p> The fire in Bea's heart turned from hope to rage. </p></td></tr></table> </p> <table cellpadding="0" width="100%" border="1"> <tr> <td> <h3><font face="Arial" size="4">Chapter Ten</h3></font></td></tr> <tr> <td> The darkness, combined with the silence, would have taken a toll on most men's minds. But, there in the dark, Otto was at home. Many years had passed since he last saw anything, and it was normal to have silence as company, deep in a mine or cave. Still, the depth of the silence was a little unnerving... He sat back, and thought about what the voice had told him. Of course, there was no reason to believe a solitary word of it. But, if it was true... this was a prison cell. So, if that was the case - how to escape? He considered what the voice had said, and thought of his friends. Some might be convinced - for a while - that he had gone somewhere, or that his life had taken a strange turn, away from them, but only for a while. And some would sense that something was amis immediately. No, he knew the metle of his friends, and the 'voice' was wrong. </p> The walls of his prison - if walls they were - couldn't be passed with force. For all the force he had expended on them, he had no rubble to show for it. That which there had been, had gone - seemingly back whence it came, as the walls healed themselves somehow. The same was true of the floor. So, was there a ceiling? Taking his pickaxe in hand once more, he swung it upwards, and connected with absolutely nothing. So, if there was a top to this cavern, then it was a high one. And, if there was no top, then was it not simply a matter of climbing out? Hurling the pickaxe upwards at a slight angle, so that it would not fall back on him, he listened carefully. But the only sound was that of the pick striking the floor as it fell. He retrieved it, and felt the walls again. Opening his tinkers toolkit, he carefully made a few pointed spikes, and started hammering them into the wall. If the top was not too far away, he hoped, he could climb out. But, twas not to be. The first spike stayed firmly in the wall for a moment or two, but, as the rock seemed to heal itself, it was slowly forced back out, until it fell to the ground with a clang. If there was climbing to be done, it would have to be extremely swift, as would the hammering. If any obstacles were met, he would probably not heal nearly as well as the ground. But... if he was asleep.... He pondered this. He could feel the ground under his feet, he could feel the rocky walls. A slight mishap while hammering in the second spike had shown he could feel pain. But - could he be injured? Even die? Surely not, if this truly was a dream? He decided to take the chance, and a few moments later, was franticly hammering a makeshift path up the rock face, the hammering drowning out the clanging of the spikes falling to the ground below him as he went. </p></td></tr></table></p></span></span></span></span></span></div> There is more to come, when I get the chance!