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The Last Satyr: The Two Paths Part 2

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In Part 2 of "The Last Satyr", the wild adventure continues as the Boy must rescue Graybeard from the orcs and drow before the keeper becomes the evil Lolth's prisoner forever. But how can mere boys defeat the mighty army Lolth has raised? It can't be done! Yet smile and laugh along, or hold your breathe in fear, as the Boy comes up with one plan after another with things only getting worse and worse. Yet the worse things get, it seems the closer to success they become.

Fantasy / Adventure
Age Rating:

PART 2 of The Last Satyr: THE TWO PATHS

The boy grew restless in his sleep, perhaps because cold, hard rock is never comfortable, or perhaps because of something else? Something he hadn’t felt before; the sensation of not being alone.

Abruptly, he snapped his eyes open and looked up, wide-eyed, into the ruby red eyes gazing down into his. Something was leaning down over him, something that startled him, something not what it should be. For a moment, the boy thought he was dreaming. How could this be?

He should have realized, the boy thought. He should have known!

“You left this behind,” a familiar voice spoke, dropping something with a loud plop that woke up the others.

The boy knew her even in the dark. He and the dwarf, Marroh, the elf, Ronthiel, and young Joe were now the only survivors of their mission to enter the ancient mithril mines and rescue the satyrs. He had expected to find nothing but death in this tunnel side shaft. Yet here before him was a welcome face.

“Leradien?” he whispered in recognition and breathless disbelief.

“What other girl would chase after you?” she asked him.

The other boys now scrambled to light their torches, terrified of the intruder.

“Why are you here?” the boy gaped with raised eyebrows.

“I decided you might need me,” she answered. “It certainly looks like you need help. You don’t even have a guard.”

“We’re exhausted,” he admitted. “We’ve been fighting orcs.”

“Really?” Leradien took interest. “How many did you kill?”

“Five,” he said.

“Only five?” she seemed unimpressed. “If you ever want to leave this place, you’ll have to do better than that. This one,” she said of the one she had dropped, “killed many goblins.”

The boy looked at the fallen body as the now lit torches revealed him on the stone floor.

“Amien!” he said in recognition.

“Is that his name?” Leradien looked down on him. “I’ve been calling him tall, dark, and handsome.”

A now fully awake Ronthiel had his bow and arrow pointed at Leradien. “What brings you here, you black-hearted witch?!”

The others had drawn their weapons, too.

“Put down your weapons,” the boy told them. “It’s Leradien, our drider.”

“You mean your drider,” Ronthiel warned, still holding his aimed bow. “She’s not ours!”

“The elf speaks the truth,” added the dwarf, his ax raised and ready. “She’s no friend of mine!”

“She could have killed us all if she wanted to,” the boy insisted. “She’s come to join us.”

“Well! Maybe we don’t want her to,” Joe countered. “Did you ever think of that?”

“She brought back Amien’s body,” the boy pointed out.

“I found him in a pool of water at the bottom of a crevasse,” she explained.

“The only reason she went down that hole after him was to make sure it wasn’t you!” said Ronthiel, still holding his arrow on her.

“I admit that,” Leradien shrugged. “But I brought him back with me, didn’t I?”

Suspicious, Ronthiel asked why she did.

“It seemed like something a member of the gang ought to do.”

“Aye!” the dwarf admitted, a sense of respect softening his features as he lowered his axe. “That was the proper thing to do.”

“At least now we can give him a proper funeral,” Joe said, sheathing his sword.

“That we can!” Marroh nodded. “We can build him a funeral pyre to burn him in worthy of a king!”

“He might object to that,” Leradien pointed out with a reminder in her eyes, “considering he’s still alive.”

“Still alive?!” cried Joe and rushed to check him and looked up excitedly. “Why, she’s right! He’s still breathing!”

“A drider is never wrong about such things,” she assured him.

“When he fell in that hole, I was sure he was dead!” gasped young Joe.

“There were plenty of dead goblins beneath him to cushion his fall,” she said. “So, what do I get for bringing him back alive?”

“You know I’ll promise you anything,” the boy quickly agreed to her.

“How about keeping your last promise not to ever leave me and always be my friend? You certainly didn’t waste any time breaking that one!”

“I tried to get the others to let you join. You know I did.” A touch of defensiveness crept into the boy’s response.

“Am I still not wanted?” she asked.

“You’ll not be initiated into the gang so long as I’m a member,” stated Marroh without hesitation. “I’ll not share a blood initiation with a drider. I’ll not mix your black blood with mine!”

Resolute determination filled Marroh’s words.

“Nor I,” agreed Joe.

“Nor I,” added Ronthiel. “Hers is the blood of the Fell!”

“Well! Of course, we can’t allow her a blood initiation,” said the boy, thinking quickly. “And anyway, no self-respecting gang would admit a girl.”

“That’s right,” Joe crossed his arms in full agreement. “We don’t allow girls!”

“See?” said the boy to the others. “Joe knows all about it! No girl can become a member by initiation. Right, Joe? She can only become an honorary member.”

Confusion and curiosity blended in Joe’s expression. “What’s an honorary member?”

“That’s somebody that’s done honorable things for the gang,” said the boy. “Like saving Ronthiel here or Amien. She’s done both. You honor that person for doing it by giving them your highest reward, honorary membership.”

“Does that mean she gets a share?” asked Joe.

“No. She doesn’t get a share, and she doesn’t get to vote in gang business. It just means she’s worthy to be allowed to be with us.”

“Well! If she’s worthy to be with us,” complained the dwarf, “how unworthy does that make the rest of us?”

“She saved Ronthiel and Amien,” the boy reminded him.

“Aye! I’ll grant you that,” admitted Marroh in concession of disgusted defeat. “None of the rest of us did. I guess that makes her an honorary member.”

“I’ll go along too,” A reluctant Joe likewise agreed.

“I know when I’m outvoted,” added a downcast Ronthiel.

“But, if she’s our cavalry,” young Joe stood his ground. “I’ll not ride her!”

“No one rides me,” warned Leradien in reply. “Save the boy!”

“You’ll get no argument from the rest of us on that,” said the dwarf.

He was right. None protested.

The boy asked her when Amien would wake up.

“Not long.”

Thus, the reason for Amien’s present circumstance was resolved, even if he was unconscious for every word of it. Instead, the subject turned into what to do next. It was Ronthiel who promptly raised they pursue the orcs and rescue Graybeard now that they had a drider. And it was Leradien who just as quickly countered it, pointing out that the way out of the mine was behind them and it was now clear of the enemy, so they ought to go that way. The boys, having already forgotten she couldn’t vote, weighed in. Young Joe sided with Leradien, saying he had no armor to go forward, that he missed home, and that they ought to go back. Marroh stood for going after Graybeard because no dwarf will desert a friend. Ronthiel would not abandon his keeper.

Thus, it was up to the boy to break the tie, who dared not place himself in that position. It meant risking the chance of being wrong. So he did what all satyrs do best and passed the buck.

“We shall ask Amien his opinion when he awakens,” he suggested. “That’s only fair.”

That was true. No one argued with that, and it was then that Amien stirred.

“Oh! My head!” the man moaned. “How much ale did I drink last night?”

He slowly opened his eyes to take in the familiar faces surrounding him until, of course, he reached Leradien’s. Then his gaze widened, and his hand leaped to try and find his missing sword.

“Lolth!” he exclaimed.

“Why does everyone call me that?” demanded Leradien. “The one named Belam called me that, too!”

“You spoke to Belam?” Joe repeated in astonishment.

“I did,” she said. “I found him in a tunnel trying to fend off goblins and not doing a very good job of it either, I might add. Unfortunately, I was too late to help him. Are you young Joe?”

He nodded.

“He asked me to give you this,” she said and handed Belam’s impressive shield to him. “I certainly hope it serves you better than it did him.”

“It will,” Joe took it and savored it with appreciative eyes. “Trust me! It will!”

Amien looked confused as Joe returned his sword to him.

“What am I missing?” Amien inquired. “Why is this drider with us?”

“Remember when Graybeard kept saying we were seven?” asked the boy. “Well! He was talking about her.”

“And who is this 'her'?” Amien questioned.

“Leradien,” answered Marroh, “the boy’s drider.”

Amien's jaw dropped. “The boy really has a drider? He wasn’t lying?”

“I am not someone’s property!” she retorted.

“No. I don’t suppose you are,” Amien agreed to that. “So where is Graybeard? I don’t see him.”

“A troop of orcs captured him a little way ahead of this spot,” the boy explained. “They’re taking him now to Lolth. We were just discussing what to do about it when you awoke. We have agreed to listen to your opinion.”

“Much has changed since I was last awake,” said Amien, shaking his head once again to clear it. “One is missing and one is gained.”

“Hardly a fair exchange,” grumbled Ronthiel.

“As if you have the brains to know!” snapped Leradien.

“Enough! Both of you!” the boy silenced them. “Let Amien speak!”

The man reflected on their situation.

“It seems to me Graybeard wanted us to free the satyrs, and he was willing to sacrifice himself towards that end,” he answered after a time. “If so, I believe it would be his wish that we go on to free the satyrs.”

“Is that not our luck?” cried a thwarted Marroh on hearing this. “We ask for a second opinion, and we get a third!”

“What do you mean?” Amien became curious of the dwarf.

“We took a vote in your absence. Two were for going back, and two for going forward to save Graybeard. You have not broken the tie by voting to save the satyrs,” Marroh replied. Then he turned his eyes to the satyr to say, “We are back to your vote, goat boy.”

That was true. It was up to the boy. He was being forced to do the one thing every satyr who ever lived sought to avoid—take responsibility. He had no desire to rescue Graybeard. Graybeard was being taken to Lolth and, wherever that was, it was the last place the boy wanted to be. As for going back, he had favored that decision all along, especially with Leradien, to see him back home safe. Yet Ronthiel and all the other elves of Linthiel would blame him for abandoning Graybeard to his fate if he did. There was only one choice left to him.

Pass the buck again.

“I vote with Amien,” he said. “We free the satyrs.”

“And I thought it couldn’t get any worse,” sighed Marroh. “Now it’s a three-way tie!”

“Not entirely,” Amien pointed out, “for the majority vote is to go ahead.”

“Aye! That’s true,” nodded Marroh with a thoughtful muse. “That is the majority vote.”

The boy’s heart fell. He had not foreseen this when he sided with Amien. He wanted to go back but not as the deciding vote. Rather than do so, he gave Leradien a pleading look for help, and she immediately understood his dilemma.

“We should not go near Lolth,” she warned, “for Lolth delights in cruelty. All the terrible things she will do to Graybeard, she will do to us if we’re captured. Unspeakable horrors, she would do to him—things I cannot even name. She will do them not only with malice but with love for malice! Unimaginable terror awaits anyone who attempts to rescue him.”

The boy immediately understood her ploy. If she could get either Ronthiel or Marroh to change their opinion, the majority vote would be to go back. Since it went against the boy’s vote, no one could blame him for what happened to Graybeard afterward. It was a brilliant plan! The boy eagerly awaited its acceptance.

But Leradien’s advice was not being well received. First, she was a girl, and all men, regardless of race, are trained since birth to ignore a woman’s opinion. Second, she was a drider and, therefore, not to be trusted. If she advised them to take two steps forward, they would take two steps back. And, if she advised them to take two steps back, they would take two steps forward. Third, the idea of Graybeard being ruthlessly tortured while they ran for home did not play well to their ears. It produced guilt and guilt is a heavy chain. It swayed the entire company, even Joe and the boy, to do the opposite of the drider’s advice.

In a matter of seconds, retreat was no longer an option. The group made plans to move ahead. Ideas flowed like a river, carving their course. They would free Graybeard first and then, with his leadership, free the satyrs (assuming there were still satyrs to be saved.).

Against Leradien’s will, a plan was soon being offered that they attack the drow guards ahead and fight their way through them. Amien opposed this, though, until he had at least given young Joe some lessons in using his new shield and they had ascertained the strength of the enemy before them. Ronthiel complained that, no matter how they conducted the attack, he could not see the enemy to aim his arrows in the dark. He needed Graybeard to cast light for that and Graybeard was now taken as a prisoner. Joe was certainly in favor of delay until he had his shield lessons, while Marroh favored an immediate attack.

The boy offered a compromise. Rather than attack the drow directly, why not lure the drow down this tunnel and surprise them?

They offered all sorts of wild schemes in support of the suggestion. They could cook bacon in the tunnel and let the smell of it lure the enemy to them. They would hide in a side shaft and wait for them to pass and then attack the drow from the rear. Leradien listened for a while, grew bored, raised herself up and wandered on ahead, presumably to check out the enemy positions.

With her gone, they addressed the problem of Ronthiel not being able to see. Once the enemy passed by their side tunnel, they would throw torches into the tunnel the drow were in, to give light for Ronthiel’s arrows. No! Marroh offered an even better idea. They would pour tallow over the ground of the tunnels the drow walked in, and after they passed, Ronthiel would shoot a flaming arrow into the tallow, ignite it, and burn the enemy alive!

This brought great praise and enthusiasm until Ronthiel asked how he was supposed to shoot a flaming arrow at a target when he could not see?

The suggestion was made that Marroh, being the bravest as well as the smallest target, and protected by chain mail, should toss a torch forward by which Ronthiel could see.

Amidst the rapid exchanges of ideas, a sudden terrible racket echoed down the tunnel. There was a major battle being fought furiously ahead.

Metal clanged against metal, and pained screams pierced the air. The boys grabbed their weapons and hurried forward to take part, expecting that the men of the Rim had somehow fought their way through to reach them.

As they entered the expected fray, they found themselves in grim surroundings. A whirlwind of violence had taken place here. Blood splattered walls, severed limbs, broken shields and no small number of dead drow and orcs were everywhere. Their bloody bodies were either split through with gaping holes or simply torn to pieces. Even those that ran lay cut down.

What had done this?

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