Part Eleven: Tunnels Of Leaf



                The two heroes headed down the dark stair. Berthond immediately regretted not bringing a torch, for it was pitch dark, and the companions had to feel their way down the steps for fear of falling.

Soon, Berthond thought he could see a faint glow further down. They headed steadily towards it, and emerged into a strange, round tunnel. The walls seemed to glow from within, providing a faint light. Vines crawled across the surface. A few feet away from where the adventurers stood, there were odd-looking panels in the floor. There were slits in the walls after the panels, and various other panels further down. At the very end of the long corridor, about a hundred feet away on a wooden pedestal, stood a familiar clear orb.

Berthond stepped forward to head towards the orb, but Harresta held him back. She unsheathed a dagger, and threw it gently into the middle of the corridor. It landed on a panel, and there was a faint *clink*. Instantly, a massive flamethrower hidden in the ceiling activated, and filled the area of the corridor that was beneath the panel with curling flames. When it finally shut off, all that was left of the dagger was a little pile of molten goo.

Berthond swallowed. ‘Right. Um.’ Harresta shut her eyes. ‘I’ll do this. I’m small, light and agile. If this is the bit where I die, then so be it. At least you’ll have the final Lestine.’

Berthond opened his mouth to object, then shut it. She had a point. ‘Good luck’, was all he managed to say. Harresta took a deep breath, and leapt forward.

Berthond had never seen anything like it. The little Halfling leapt between swinging blades, artfully dodged poisoned spikes, cartwheeled between collapsing floor tiles. She got to the end, and snatched the Lestine off the pedestal. Berthond could see, from a distance, a golden-green glow spread from the centre of the orb.

Then there was the matter of getting back with a large crystal orb in both hands.

All the same, Harresta tossed it into the air, rolled under a saw blade that sprouted suddenly from the wall, and caught it again. She made her way along the corridor in a similar fashion, rolling the orb between cracks in the floor before swinging after it on a vine and catching it, using it as extra momentum for leaping across gaping pits.

She was nearly at the end when glass walls shot up in front and behind her. They were tall and slippery, and impossible to climb. Black water quickly began to fill the basin they formed, with Harresta trapped inside. She screamed as it swirled around her ankles. ‘It stings! It’s burning my skin!’

The water rose to her knees in only a few seconds. Berthond was screaming frantically. He ran forward and tried to smash the glass with his sword, but it hardly made a crack. He then had to run back to the starting platform, since poisonous darts were being shot at him from inside the walls. He watched helplessly as the corrosive water sloshed around Harresta’s waist. She was wailing and screaming in agony.

Berthond gave up. ‘Toss it! Throw it to me!’ ‘What?’ ‘Throw me the Lestine over the wall!’ Harresta gulped and obeyed his instruction. The acid was up to her shoulders. Berthond caught the orb, and looked up at the Halfling. There were tears in her eyes. ‘Save the world for me’, she whispered, and her head disappeared under the murky liquid.

Berthond wanted to cry, but the tunnel was shaking, and the roof was starting to collapse. He raced back up the stairs, the corridor closing behind him. He dived out the entrance just as the stone structure fell down on top of itself. Selebriar, who had been sitting a few feet away, stood up in alarm and rushed over to help Berthond up.

The Elf looked around. ‘Harresta…?’ Berthond gasped for breath, and shook his head sadly. Selebriar stood silently, whispering words in Elvish, then gently took the Lestine from Berthond and placed it in the sack.

They didn’t talk to each other that day, but in the night, Berthond thought he could hear singing.

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