Designed by Mhordamis
Medium Groups: 25-31
Large Groups: 22-31
Laen Macdauer stopped for a moment to put his hand on the tunnel wall and catch his breath. It was at times like these he wished he was an Unger, a dark-skinned race of dwarves whose stamina and endurance could be compared to a lion's.
He wiped at a stream of sweat on his forehead, then examined his hand and realized it was blood. Blood gushing from a wound in his scalp. He shivered at the sight; anything that shouldn't be allowed out of the body made him queasy.
With abrupt shock, he realized, by the sound of the myriad footsteps echoing off the tunnel walls, that the Unger were still chasing after him. He thought he had lost them ten minutes ago, but they were able to track him, even though he had been cautious and clever in his escape through the labyrinthine tunnel system.
Letting out a sigh heavy with fear, the Helbalas dwarf named Laen Macdauer turned and ran the same way he was running before he stopped for a breather. He licked at the roof of his mouth and his gums for saliva, but all his tongue could feel was dryness, as if a ball of cotton had been in there a second ago.
"He's this way!" shouted a voice that sounded not too far away from Laen. "I hear him running!"
The bronze axe came out of its holster at Laen's waist flashingly quick and was in his hand in less than a second. "Come and get me!" he shouted with confidence booming in his voice.
"Okay, but stop running!" pleaded the voice.
"What?" Laen yelled.
"I'm not stopping so you can catch up with me. I stand a better chance of surviving this way."
"Okay, but you're only wasting our time by running like this."
"Wasting your time?!" Laen shouted furiously. "Look, I'm the one who is..."
"Yeah, yeah," the voice interrupted.
Deciding on saving his breath for more important matters, Laen kept his mouth shut. It was time to make a decision.
The Unger would be upon him soon, and if he continued running he would have no energy left to fight. If he stopped, he would have maybe a minute of time to rest and prepare himself for the battle. He was outnumbered at least ten to one, but, thankfully, it was possible he could take each of the Unger one on one because his enemies were not grouped together in one giant formation.
Sighing once more, he stopped and sat on the cold, stone floor. He would wait and hope that each Unger dwarf arrived individually, so he could fight them all separately.
He thought about his chasers, trying to remember them in previous encounters of the battle. He knew who four of the dwarves running after him were after having seen them in the massive fight in the throne room, but the others he hadn't seen until he escaped from the prison. He wanted to remember how they used their weapons and defended themselves, so he could finish each one off as quick as possible.
Laen could hear the Unger dwarves' footsteps walk closer to where he rested, and knew that it was time to stand up. A buckler strapped onto his left arm and a bronze axe in his right hand, the Helbalas dwarf stood stoically in the center of the cavern, watching each of the three passageways with vigilant eyes.
From the darkness emerged the first of the dark-skinned Unger. A fairly muscular dwarf who stood a good three inches under Laen, he wielded twin daggers in each of his hands and crept toward him with an assassin's silence.
"I see you," Laen said. "Stop trying to be stealthy."
"Er," the assassin said. "Oh. Well, okay." He straightened his back and turned out to be a full head and shoulders taller than Laen.
Then the assassin flicked his wrists.
The daggers soared through the air quick and true, their steel blades reflecting the flames of the torches ensconced along the walls, and Laen just managed to dive out of the way before one of them almost plunged into his throat. Laen rolled to his left and stood up as fast as he could, knowing that the Unger assassin would be on top of him soon.
Laen saw a shadow glide across the floor, and realized that the Unger had jumped into the air and planned on landing atop him. Knowing this, the Helbalas dwarf swung his bronze axe around, and the blade of the weapon connected with the neck of the assassin, sending his head flying off his body.
The headless corpse hit the floor and blood bursted out of its neck, splattering all over Laen. He immediately disgorged the dinner he had eaten earlier that day, accidentally dropping the axe while doing so.
The second Unger dwarf struck while Laen was cleaning himself up, using the front of his shirt to wipe his face and hands. A club smashed into his back and sent him flying onto the floor, the impact knocking at least two teeth out of his mouth. Laen rolled violently and managed to knock his attacker over as he dove on him, sending the club bouncing across the floor. He leaped onto the Unger dwarf and straddled his waist, using his empty hands to choke his foe. The Unger kicked up hard and fast with his knees, sending Laen flying across the tunnel, his shoulder crashing into a wall.
Almost immediately after the crash, Laen felt the rough hands of his attacker around his neck. The Helbalas dwarf tried to counter with a knee to the groin, but he was too weak and stunned to put any strength into bending his leg. Instead, the pain in his shoulder throbbing, he began choking the Unger dwarf once again.
It became a contest of who couldn't breathe the longest. For several minutes they struggled with each other, both of them trying to wiggle out of the other's death grip. Laen could feel that the Unger's hold on his neck was loosening as he got weaker, but he didn't know if he could last long enough to win. Using every ounce of strength in his body, Laen managed to kick out and send the Unger stumbling backwards across the tunnel. The Helbalas dwarf fell to his rear end, using the wall as a back support. He was too weak to stand. And far too weak to fight.
The Unger dwarf stood up, then fell to the floor as he realized Laen was resting. Laen figured the Unger didn't want to enter the fight again until his dark-skinned comrades showed up.
"Why?" Laen asked, struggling for breath.
"Why... what?" the dark-skinned dwarf replied, his gasps as wheezy as Laen's.
"Why did... the Unger... attack... Tharhalas? We were... at peace."
The Unger dwarf took a heroic chug from his water canteen, then said, "We wanted... an Unger on the throne... not another Helbalas."
"Then why didn't you protest... at the time of the succession? Why did you wait... till after?"
"We didn't have a problem with it until the Prince was made king," the Unger said.
"Because he didn't wear the robe of Dwarven Ceremony?"
The Unger laughed. "You believe in that superstitious garbage?"
"That legend you call 'superstitious garbage' has kept us at peace for centuries! Because the robe was not worn during the succession, hundreds of our kind have died!"
"You sound awfully silly trying to tell me that some fancy robe can unite races as violent and hate-filled as ours."
"But it has! Isn't it obvious? The story about the first dwarven king and the High Magician is true."
"Is not," the Unger protested.
Laen stood up deftly and leaped towards his weapon, which he had dropped next to the headless corpse. At the same time, the Unger had the exact idea to go for his own weapon, the club. Both men stood as still and silent as statues, facing each other with unblinking eyes, waiting for the other to move. When Laen heard the sound of approaching footsteps behind him, he darted to his right and swung the axe around, slashing into the chest of an Unger assassin.
Shortly after, he felt the pain of the club slamming into his head only for a second, before everything went black.
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