|Three more days pass, and the stone grows looser and easier to shift.|
Jack observes Colonel Firebrand signaling among the Dwarves with elaborate hand gestures. He can imagine a whole network of communication among the imprisoned Dwarves of the Eglantier Crest; hand signals, whistles, coughs, throat-clearings, taps upon stone or torchlight reflected off makeshift mirrors. The Colonel assures him that when they have broken out the Dwarf warriors will be ready. Jack accepts this information with a dull nod; although his imprisonment has sharpened his darkvision and the angles of his starving body, it has dulled his mind and hopes. He gives little thought now to the captive Princess or the shattered Nightcrystal; now his only thought is the shifting of a stone, one grudging hairs width at a time.
Suddenly, without preamble, the stone gives way and slides free. Jack hisses to the Colonel, who rushes over and helps Jack wrestle the heavy block to the floor. It lands with a thump and a moment later a section of the wall formerly supported by the huge stone collapses in a heap of mortar dust and rubble. There is no time to lose; the guards will have heard the noise. Jack scrambles through the hole into a narrow, torch lit corridor. The Colonel thrusts his head and shoulders through the hole, but is unable to move further, thanks to his greater girth. Jack takes the Dwarf by the armpits, plants his boot against the decaying wall, and heaves back, praying the enchantment upon the Seven League Boots will be inclusive enough to recognize his needs. From the corner of his eye, he can see a Giant Lizardman with golden skin enter the far end of the narrow tunnel. The Lizardman draws his blade and begins to lope forward, uttering an outraged hiss.
Colonel Firebrand pops through the hole in a shower of rubble and collapses on top of Jack. The Dwarf scrambles to his feet and hoists a huge chunk of masonry over his head. He flings the missile with both arms and it sails away down the hall toward the charging Lizardman. The Dwarf does not hesitate; he lowers his head like a bull and charges after the thrown section of wall, Jack close on his heels.
The Lizardman dodges the flying masonry, but the act slows him and throws him off-balance. He is unprepared when the Colonel crashes into him like a catapult stone. In the time-honored Dwarven tradition of Giant-slaying, Firebrand rolls himself into a ball as he leaps and aims for the Lizardman’s knees. The impact knocks the beastman clear off his feet and sends him tumbling into a heap on the flagstone floor, buried under the huge mound of the Dwarf. Jack can hear the snap as the Lizardman’s legs break under the impact. A piece of broken masonry in hand, Jack uses the Colonel’s broad back as a springboard and leaps over the tangled mound of bodies and limbs, smashing downward with the stone as he flies. The Lizardman falls dead, his skull split open.
Perilous Jack and Colonel Firebrand are on their feet in a trice and quickly strip the Lizardman of his gear. The Colonel passes the huge broadsword to Jack, denouncing the weapon as ‘too human’ for his taste, and keeps a light throwing axe for himself. Jack is surprised to note the quality of the Lizardman’s sword; could it be Mithril? A ring of keys hangs at the Lizardman’s belt, which the Dwarf tears away with a triumphant cry.
Already more Giant Lizardmen are crowding into the narrow corridor from the far end; Jack and the Colonel retreat into the wide, intersecting hall lined with cells. Jack conceals himself around the corner, waiting for the first of the Lizardmen to enter the intersection, while the Colonel begins unlocking cells. In moments the hall is filled with Dwarf warriors, hard-faced and half-starved, but clearly ready to fight. They have not been idle in their cells; Jack sees sharpened chips of stone clenched in many fists, scavenged bits of metal sharpened into shivs against stone floors, even makeshift pieces of armor engineered from flat pieces of stone and leather cordage. One Dwarf wields nothing more than his steel breakfast plate, but judging by his murderous expression, even a blade of fine steel could hardly be more effective.
The first Lizardman dashes into the broad hall and Jack swings the huge broadsword from his concealed position, nearly cutting the guard in two, an easy victory – but the fight is just beginning. Another ten Giant Lizardmen pour into the hall and the Dwarf prisoners surge forward with a cry, brandishing their homemade weapons.
The escape from Blackrock Castle has begun in earnest!
The purse of the Lizardman yields 90 Gold! Add this to the Pouch of Ghrul. Add the Mithril Sword to Jack’s right hand.
It suddenly occurs to Jack in the heat of battle that he has a rare opportunity – as long as the Lizardmen are busy preventing the escape of their prisoners, the Pyrohydra may be lightly guarded. He can slip away from the battle, collect his equipment, and slay the Pyrohydra himself while the Dwarves keep the Lizardmen busy.