"Have no fear, noble warriors!" came a voice, suddenly, from the darkness.
It was brave. It was ringing. It oozed confidence. It belonged to a young man in a flashy tunic who was weilding the bow that had just put an arrow in the chest of another spider-man. Several more arrows followed the first, felling the mutants with almost ridiculous ease until there were no more left, or at least no more in the immediate vicinity. Kal and Pickle were saved.
As much as he was grateful for this, Kal could feel a terrible, terrible dread creeping over him.
This was going to be another companion. He could feel it.
The young man swaggered over and offered a hand to help him up. Kal accepted, knowing before he took his hand that his grip would be strong, friendly, and above all honourable.
"The name's Falcon," the young man introduced himself. "I say, is that your mage over there?"
"Kal," Kal said, glancing over at the mage. "Oh. Pickle. Yeah. I guess he's with me."
Falcon strode over and lifted Pickle as though he weighed nothing at all, slinging him over his shoulder. Behind his back, Kal gave him a look of intense and long-lasting dislike, and wondered how much force he'd have to put into a blow to cleave the man's head clean in two. Falcon seemed entirely oblivious.
"Adventuring in the Dungeons, are we? Excellent pastime. I think I'll join you! I'm a Ranger, you know. Might come in handy, aye?"
No. No. You insufferable little squit, you are not coming, thought Kal, rather hotly. He was just about to open his mouth and voice these thoughts aloud when he heard a small but meaningful cough behind his left shoulder.
Spinning around, he came face-to-face with the Adventuring Code Fairy, who proceeded to read from his book in an annoyingly smug voice.
"All characters who offer their services must be accepted, so that the Hero has as many noble Companions around him in the final battle as possible. Section Three, Subsection A, Paragraph nine-c. Are we quite clear?"
"Crystal," Kal grated. "But why?"
The Fairy looked almost affronted that anyone could be so absolutely ignorant.
"So they can die, and the Hero can vow to avenge them, of course," it snapped, slamming the book shut. "Now. You accept that Ranger's offer, or it's the Adventuring Hells for you."
Adventuring Hells? Kal hadn't heard of them before. This made absolutely no difference, of course, because if they hadn't existed before they did now. And no doubt his place in them was being meticulously prepared at that exact moment, with the latest in red-hot irons and the most fashionable thumbscrews around.
"Fine," he breathed, tightening his grip on the handle of his axe and turning back to Falcon, who conveniently appeared to have heard none of the above conversation and was still looking at him with an expression of mild good nature. Kal forced a smile onto his face.
"Okay. You can come if you carry the mage."
"Certainly," Falcon agreed amiably. "Now. We can go down that tunnel, the one I came from, or that one over there with the spiky rocks at the top and bottom, or that one over there with the red glow coming from it. Where do you think?"
Kal looked. None of them looked promising in the least. Of course.
Probably a case of the lesser of three evils, then, he thought morosely.