Zed pivoted on his boot heels, moving to exit the dreadful passage, but his concentration had been so absorbed in his malevolent thoughts and the lousy conversation that he hadn’t acknowledged a hulking silhouette sneaking up behind him, until his eyes met a dozen staring back at him hungrily.
A tremendous, rock-fleshed insectoid was partially outstretched and readying to deliver a swift pinch with one of its meaty pincers, (used for breaking down and crushing large boulders when burrowing underground, no doubt). A startling sight such as this would have the ordinary mortal flinching, if not reeling back from sudden shock and terror before their utter demise, but Zed glanced at it unamused as his frown lengthened. He spoke a spell and simultaneously reached for the monster, tapping it gently. An incandescent spark transferred from Zed’s fingertip to the creature, and it froze stiff right before it could clutch its prey. Then a half a minute later it gradually crumbled onto the ground, turning into a harmless mound of soft sand in an empty passage.
Meanwhile, beyond the amassing horde that clambered through the cornices and down the wintry ravines toward the main trail, Shenon was busily distracting herself as best she could and anticipating the arrival of Bornen or Grom any second. She hardly enjoyed being alone, though it afforded her time to clean and offered her the privacy of being in Dhumond’s company. The dwarf maiden was dusting off the mantle over the fireplace, at times chipping away dried candle wax drippings as she went along. Every now and then facing the portrait of her deceased husband, she addressed him as she talked aloud.
“He gets it from you, you know,” she reminded him reproachfully. “If it wasn’t for all of your journeys and legacy nonsense, our son wouldn’t be so stubborn about adventuring.” Placing a candle back in its usual spot, she sighed despairingly, “I don’t know what I’m going to do about him, my love. He can’t abide by my rules forever. Sooner or later he’ll take to his own, and what then? Hmm? I’d like you to tell me.” Shenon rested one of her hands upon a hip and cocked a judgmental eyebrow.
The painting made no obvious reply.
“Why’d you have to be an adventurer anyway?” she continued, “Couldn’t you have been a cobbler, or a smith, or even a humble farmer?” Frustration transformed into flirtation when she blushed and smiled playfully. “Although,” she added as she fetched a bristled broom, “I’ll admit that you looked good wearing a suit of armor. It made you more . . . edgy, I suppose. And that beard . . . goodness that beard!”
The broom swept with loud swishing sounds as Shenon dragged it around the surface of the floor. She hummed a tune from her homeland as she delighted in fond, unforgettable memories that youthful romance provides. She bent over, reaching for the handle of a slender pan when something rapidly passed from sight just beyond the window. When she saw this, she gasped and nearly jumped out of her slippers.