With equal intensity, Bruenor and Wulfgar charged into the large cave. Wulfgar headed to the side to intercept a pair of large, armored ogres while Bruenor went for the most exotic of the three, an ogress with light violet skin wearing a huge shining helmet and wielding an enormous scythe.
Morik came in behind the ferocious pair, tentatively, and making no definite strides to join the battle.
More eager behind him came Catti-brie. She had an arrow flying almost immediately, staggering one of the two ogres closing on Wulfgar.
That blast gave the barbarian all the momentum he needed. He drove hard against the other brute, Aegis-fang pounding repeatedly. The ogre blocked and blocked again, but the third chop hit it on the breastplate and sent it staggering backward.
Wulfgar bore in, smashing away.
The ogre’s wounded companion tried to move back into the fight, but Catti-brie hit it with a second arrow, and a third. Howling with rage and pain, the brute turned and charged the door instead.
“Brilliant,” Morik groaned, and he cried out as a large form brushed past him, sending him sprawling.
Guenhwyvar hit the charging, arrow-riddled ogre head on. She leaped onto its face, clawing, raking, and biting. The brute stood straight, its momentum lost, and staggered backward, its face erupting in fountains of blood.
“Good girl,” said Catti-brie, and she turned and fired up above Bruenor, nailing the ogress, then drew out Khazid’hea. She paused and glanced back at Morik, who was standing against the wall, shaking his head.
“Well done,” he muttered, in obvious disbelief.
They were indeed an efficient group!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The magical darkness lifted.
Drizzt sat against the wall. Across from him sat Le’lorinel, in almost the exact posture and with a wound identical to the drow’s.
Drizzt stared at his fallen opponent, his eyes widening. Thin magical flames still licked at Le’lorinel’s skin, but Drizzt hardly noted them. For the wound, torn through Le’lorinel’s leather vest and across the front, revealed a breast—a female breast!
And Drizzt understood so very much, and knew those eyes so much better, and knew who this truly was even before Le’lorinel reached up and pulled the mask off her face.
An elf, a Moon elf, once a little child whom Drizzt had saved from drow raiders. An elf driven to rage by the devastation of the drow on that fateful, evil day, when she was bathed in the blood of her own murdered mother to convince the dark elves that she, too, was already dead.
“By the gods,” the drow rasped, his voice weak for lack of air.
“You are dead, Drizzt Do’Urden,” the elf said, her voice equally weak and faltering. “My family is avenged.”
Drizzt tried to respond, but he could not begin to find the words. In this short time, how could he possibly explain to Le’lorinel that he had not participated in that murder, that he had saved her at great personal peril, and most importantly, that he was sorry, so very sorry, for what his evil kin had done.
He stared at Le’lorinel, bearing her no ill will, despite the fact that her misguided actions and blind vengeance had cost them both their very lives.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Chogurugga was doing well against the mighty Bruenor Battlehammer, her potion-enhanced muscles, potion-enhanced speed, and potion-enhanced defenses more than holding their own against the dwarf.
Bruenor just growled and cursed, swatting powerfully, taking hits that would fell most opponents and shrugging them off with dwarven toughness then boring on, his axe slashing in.
He was losing, though, and he knew it, but then Catti-brie’s arrow sizzled in above him, driving into the ogress’s chest and sending her staggering backward.
“Oh, good girl!” the dwarf roared, taking the advantage to charge forward and press the offensive.
But even as he got there the ogress had yet another vial in hand and up to her lips, swallowing its contents in one great gulp.
Even as Bruenor closed, starting the battle once more, the ogress’s wounds began to bind.
The dwarf growled in protest. “Damn healing potion!” he howled, and he got a hit in against Chogurugga’s thigh, opening a gash.
Immediately, Chogurugga had another vial, one similar to the last, off of her belt and moving up to her lips. Bruenor cursed anew.
A black form sailed above the dwarf, slamming into the ogress and latching on.
Chogurugga flailed as Guenhwyvar tore at her face, front claws holding fast, fangs biting and tearing, back claws raking wildly.
The ogress dropped the vial, which hit the floor but did not break, and dropped her weapon as well. The ogress grabbed at the cat with both hands, trying to pull Guenhwyvar away.
The panther’s hooked claws held tight, which meant that throwing Guenhwyvar aside would mean tearing her face right off. And of course Bruenor was right there, smashing the ogress’s legs and midsection with mighty, vicious chops.
Bruenor heard a crash to the side, and Catti-brie was beside him, her powerful sword slicing easily through Chogurugga’s flesh and bone.
The ogress toppled to the floor.
The two companions and Guenhwyvar turned about just as Wulfgar’s hammer caved in the last ogre’s skull, the brute falling right over its dead partner.
“This way!” Morik called from an exit across the wide room, with a corridor beyond heading farther up into the complex.
Bruenor paused to wait for his girl as Catti-brie stooped to retrieve Chogurugga’s fallen vial.
“When I find out who’s selling this stuff to damn ogres, I’ll chop him up!” the frustrated dwarf declared.
Across the room, Morik bit his lower lip. He knew who it was, for he had seen Bellany’s alchemical room.
Up went the companions, to the level corridor with five doors that marked Sheila Kree’s complex. A groan from the side brought them immediately to one door, which Bruenor barreled through with dwarven subtlety.
There lay Drizzt, and there lay the elf, both mortally wounded.
Catti-brie came in right behind, moving immediately for Drizzt, but the drow stopped her with an upheld hand.
“Save her,” he demanded, his voice very weak. “You must.”
And he slumped.
Wulfgar stood at the door, horrified, but Morik didn’t even slow at that particular room, but rather ran across the hall to Bellany’s chambers. He burst through, and even as he was entering he prayed that the wizard hadn’t trapped the portal.
The rogue skidded to a stop just inside the threshold, hearing a shriek. He turned to see a halfling extracting himself from a magical web.
“Who are you?” Regis asked, then quickly added, “See what I have?” He pulled open his shirt, lifting out a ruby pendant for Morik to see.
“Where is the sorceress?” Morik demanded, not even noticing the tantalizing gemstone.
Regis pointed to the open outer door and the balcony beyond and Morik sprinted out. The halfling glanced down, then, at his enchanted ruby pendant and scratched his head, wondering why it hadn’t had its usual charming effect. Regis was glad that this small man was too busy to be bothered with him.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Catti-brie paused, taken aback by the sincerity and demand in Drizzt’s voice as he had given her the surprising instructions. The woman turned toward the fallen elf, whose breathing was as shallow as Drizzt’s, who seemed, as did Drizzt, as if each breath might be her last.
“The Nine Hells ye will!” Bruenor roared, rushing to her and tearing the vial away.
Sputtering a string of curses, the dwarf went right to Drizzt and poured the healing liquid down his throat.
The drow coughed and almost immediately began to breathe easier.
“Damn it all!” Catti-brie cried, and she ran across the room to the fallen elf, lifting her head gently with her hands, staring into those eyes.
Even as Drizzt opened his eyes once more, Le’lorinel’s spirit fled her body.
“Come quickly!” said Regis, arriving at the door. The halfling paused, though, when he saw Drizzt lying there so badly wounded.
“What’d’ye know, Rumblebelly?” Bruenor said after a moment’s pause.
“S-sorceress,” Regis stammered, still staring at Drizzt. “Um. . Morik’s chasing her.” Never turning his eyes, he pointed across the way.
Wulfgar started off and Bruenor called to Catti-brie as she fell to her knees beside the drow, “Get yer bow out there! They’ll be needing ye!”
The woman hesitated for a long while, staring helplessly at Drizzt, but Bruenor pushed her away.
“Go, and be quick!” he demanded. “I ain’t one for killing wizards. Yer bow’s better for that.”
Catti-brie rose and ran out of the room.
“But holler if ye see another ogre” the dwarf shouted behind her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Bellany cursed under her breath as she gingerly picked her way along the mountainside to come in sight of the coast, only to see Bloody Keel riding the receding tide out of the cave. Her deck bristled with pirates, including, prominently, Sheila Kree, wounded but undaunted, shouting orders from the deck.
Bellany fell into her magical powers immediately, beginning to cast a spell that would transport her to the deck. She almost finished the casting, was uttering the very last words and making the final motions, when she was grabbed from behind.
Horrified, the sorceress turned her head to see Morik the Rogue, grim-faced and holding her fast.
“Let me go!” she demanded.
“Do not,” Morik said, shaking his head. “Do not, I beg.”
“You fool, they will kill me!” Bellany howled, trying hard to pull away. “I could have slain you, but I did not! I could have killed the halfling, but. .”
Her voice trailed away over those last few words, though, for the huge form of a barbarian warrior came bounding around the mountainside.
“What have you done to me?” the defeated woman asked Morik.
“Did you not let the halfling live?” the rogue reasoned.
“More than that! I cut him out,” Bellany answered defiantly. She went silent, for Wulfgar was there, towering over her.
“Who is this?” the enraged barbarian demanded.
“An observer,” Morik answered, “and nothing more. She is innocent.”
Wulfgar narrowed his eyes, staring hard at both Bellany and Morik, and his expression showed that he hardly believed the rogue.
But Morik had saved his life this day, and so he said nothing.
Wulfgar’s eyes widened and he stepped forward as he noted the ship, sails unfurling, gliding out past the rocks. He leaped out to another rock, gaining a better vantage point, and lifted Aegis-fang as if he meant to hurl it at the departing ship.
But Bloody Keel was long out of even his range.
Catti-brie joined the group next, and wasted no time in putting up Taulmaril, leveling the bow at Bloody Keel’s deck.
“The red-haired one,” Morik instructed. Bellany elbowed him hard in the ribs and scowled at him deeply.
Indeed, Catti-brie already had a bead drawn on Sheila Kree, the pirate easy to spot on the ship’s deck.
But the woman paused and lifted her head from the bow for a wider view. She took note of the many waves breaking over submerged rocks, all about the escaping pirate, and understood well the skill needed to take a ship out through those dangerous waters.
Catti-brie leveled her bow again, scouring the deck.
When she found the wheel, and the crewman handling it, she let fly.
The pirate lurched forward, then slid down to the decking, taking the wheel over to the side as he went.
Bloody Keel cut a sharp turn, crewmen rushing desperately from every angle to grab the wheel.
Then came the crunch as the ship sailed over a jagged reef, and the wind in the sails kept her going, splintering the hull all the way.
Many were thrown from the ship with the impact. Others leaped into the icy waters, the ship disintegrating beneath them. Still others grabbed a rail or a mast and held on for dear life.
Amidst it all stood Sheila Kree. The fiery pirate looked up at the mountainside, up at Catti-brie, in defiance.
And she, too, went into the cold water, and Bloody Keel was no more than kindling, scattering in the rushing waters.
Few would escape that icy grip, and those who did, and those who never got onto the ship in the first place—ogre, half-ogre, and human alike—had no intention of engaging the mighty friends again.
The fight for Golden Cove was won.