Chapter Seventeen - The Wizard and the Wyrm

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GEORGE WAS THROWN TO THE FLOOR AS THE REAR WALL of the cavern exploded outwards in a welter of jagged stone and dust. He rolled away towards the cave mouth and sprang to his feet. Tayn stumbled out, he was covered in grime and George saw blood dripping from a gash on his forehead.

'Are you okay,' George shouted.

The Elf nodded trying to catch his breath.

'What is it?' George shouted.

Tayn coughed trying to clear his throat. 'Something monstrous,' he gasped.

From inside came a series of shouts and screams. He could see very little through the clouds of dust. The fire had been extinguished and the only light came from the faint bluish light of the Elven lamp that still glowed somewhere inside.

George drew Frostblade from his belt and started back inside. Stryker appeared, crouching at his side. Ears flattened against his skull and teeth bared the large wolf-dog growled at something hidden within.

'Good boy,' George whispered patting the dog on its flank.

He shaded his eyes against the thick haze of dust and grit. More shouts came from inside followed by a strange clicking sound. He could see flashes of Elven magic in the swirling murk. George moved towards them and almost bumped into Meriol. The Princess, blades in hand, stood guard over Cadoc's body.

'Is he...?' George asked fearing the worst.

Meriol shook her head. 'No. Just unconscious I believe.'

The clicking grew louder and Meriol slashed at something that reached through the dusty gloom.

'Look out!' she shouted.

A long thin tendril whipped at George and he threw up an arm to protect himself. Sickly pale green and oozing a vile mucus it coiled about his wrist. It began to constrict and a stinging sensation crept slowly up his arm. He panicked and hacked at it with Frostblade. Even as the severed ends fell away two more of the tendrils stabbed towards him. He dodged and triggered the magic. A layer of frost coated the writhing stems and they quickly withdrew.

George knew he had been warned about using his magic, but he could see no other way.

Suddenly Malin and Altard were stood with them. The Captain's sword quickly cutting through several more of the wriggling tendrils as the Spellcaster sent bursts of magic into whatever lurked in the shadows at the back of the cavern.

The rapid clicking grew even louder and George caught sight of something thick-bodied and serpentine moving through the murk.

'Quickly, take Cadoc and get out,' Malin called back over his shoulder. 'Ready the wolves, I will try and hold it off for a few moments longer.'

With Meriol's help, George laid Cadoc on Stryker's back. The big dog could easily carry the weight of the Elf.

'Princess, you and Altard, go with him,' George said signalling Stryker to leave.

'Don't worry, I'll follow in a minute,' he shouted when she turned to protest.

Stryker moved off, carrying the fallen Elf. Meriol and Altard rushed alongside allowing the dog to guide them through the roiling cloud of dust and rubble.

The thing pushed forward with its attack. George and Malin backed away slowly, trying their best to force it back. But it was hopeless, the tentacle things were everywhere, writhing and striking at them. They both dodged and weaved, slicing away at any that reached for them. Even so some got through, grabbing at them, inflicting painful stings on their exposed flesh. For all his speed and dexterity one grasped at Malin's ankle and pulled him off his feet. Before the captain could recover more grabbed at him and began dragging him towards the thing hidden in the shadow.

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