The slimy reptile slammed into Samuel's shield with enough force to make the warrior take a step back. The creature's javelin stabbed at the Fighter from over his shield, nearly hitting him in the face.
"Ha! Ya be mon, critter!" shouted Huthgar, as he took a step forward, intent on hacking the beast in half with his axe. "Argh!" Huthgar's swing was interrupted by a stabbing pain. Looking down, he could see another javelin piercing his leg, passing clean through. He grabbed for it with his left hand.
"I told you there was more than one!" Erlik cried, stabbing his hand forward. "Nok!" Two blue, scintillating balls of light streaked towards the second creature, striking it squarely in the chest. The cast of its second javelin was broken up, as it grabbed at its torso in pain. "Running out of spells!" The Wizard shouted, as a reminder.
Lily seemed to recover herself and staggered to her feet. Drawing one of her daggers, she cast it. "Ha!" The dagger handle struck the creature and glanced harmlessly away. "Damn!" The Rogue reached for another.
Samuel tried chopping at the reptile with his sword, but it was pressing the Fighter too closely for accurate swinging and he opted to stab at it instead. "My sword is too long for such close in work!" he grunted.
The lizard-like creature clung to Samuel's shield with one claw, while stabbing its javelin over the top with the other.
"Umph!" The Cleric grunted as he snapped off the javelin piercing his leg, then, taking a fresh hold of his axe, he swung it with all his might into the back of the reptile. "Ahh!" Huthgar sighed with satisfaction as the blade of his axe sank into the creature's back, nearly slicing it in two.
Another javelin stuck the wall near Lily. "Don't . . ." she coughed, ". . . forget the . . ." she coughed again ". . . other one."
"That's not going to happen!" Samuel shouted. Free of his attacker, he charged down the tunnel in the dim light.
"Wait!" cried Erlik. "Idiot!" he breathed, as he took up his staff and followed after the Fighter.
"We bes' hobble afta' 'em, lass," Huthgar suggested.
"Yes, we'd better," Lily replied, offering her shoulder to the dwarf.
* * * *
The creature was down on one knee, still in obvious pain from Erlik's attack. Samuel charged headlong and slammed into the smaller creature with his shield. It fell over backwards, tumbling head over heals upon the ground. Before it could recover, Samuel plunged his sword into it, pinning it to the ground. "Die, you damn, filthy beast!"
The beast struggled briefly, squirming upon the blade, then it hissed and lay still.
Erlik caught up, his lantern swinging wildly from his sprint, casting light eerily about the cavern. "That was stupid," he said. "We've no idea how many there are." He moved his lantern about, peering into the darkness, but all he could see were the walls of the cavern.
"I don't care how many of them there are," snarled Samuel.
The Wizard nodded in the darkness. "Yes, that's your problem," he softly replied.
"What do you mean?" The Fighter demanded, swinging about to face the wizard.
"I mean, it's going to get you killed," Erlik replied. "I just hope it doesn't get me killed too."
Lily and Huthgar came hobbling up together. "What are you arguing about now?" the Rogue asked.
"The same thing we always argue about," Erlik replied, jerking his thumb at Samuel. "His recklessness."
"Doh! Somebody give this guy a tissue already, will you?" pleaded Samuel.
"He's not wrong," Lily replied. "That 'berserker' thing you do is going to get you in trouble . . . one of these days."
"Let it go, lad," Huthgar said, looking at Samuel. "Tha' no be Fighters. Tha' no understand."
Samuel opened his mouth to reply, then shut it and shrugged. "Whatever."
"Lily, let's shine some light around this place and make sure there aren't any other surprises, shall we?" suggested Erlik.
"Right." Recovering her breath now, the Rogue moved about the cavern looking for any breaches in the walls. "Looks like a dead end," she reported.
Erlik nodded agreement. "Yes, it does." He looked at the others. "Paco will need to close off that other tunnel. The water's leaking in here from somewhere and each of the creatures we've encountered can easily use that access point to regain entry into the mine."
"Well, best get back up top and tell him then," said Samuel.
"Ack!" Huthgar grunted.
"What now?" asked Lily casting her gaze about the darkness.
"I told ya we'd be needin' to clumb back up tha' damn ladder!" the cleric cursed.
"Don't forget to gather up your daggers," Erlik reminded the Rogue.
* * * *
Once up top, the companions informed Paco of the situation.
"So you'd best close that tunnel off," Erlik advised. "Otherwise, you're going to have more trouble."
"Then it is safe?" Paco asked. "I can return to working in the mine?"
"As safe as it ever was," nodded Samuel.
"Long as ya close off da utter tunnel," added Huthgar.
Paco threw up his arms and smiled. "Ah! I thank you, my friends! Thank you!" He waved them towards the cottage. "Come! You eat and spend the night, yes? Tomorrow you can continue on your way with your salt! Come! My wife, she prepared a ham for you! A large ham!"
Samuel and Huthgar started for the cabin, smiling and laughing; Huthgar limping upon his wounded leg.
"A large ham is all the reward those two require," Lily whispered to Erlik.
The Wizard chuckled and nodded in agreement.
The Rogue slipped her arm into the Wizard's. "So, any idea what you're going to do with your share of the salt?"
"I think we'd better decide where we're going to sell it, first," Erlik replied. "It just seems to work better if you turn the salt into silver . . . before trying to spend it. The market around here isn't going to be as good as someplace without a salt mine."
Lily nodded. "Any ideas?"
"I'm thinking we might wait until we reach Bethmoora," Erlik replied.
Lily nodded. "Yes, always thinking." She looked at the Wizard. "That's why I keep you around."
Erlik turned his head abruptly and looked at the woman. Seeing the twinkle in her eye, he chuckled again.