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.It was a frightening thought, to her.The farther they went, the more she realized that the chances of finding their way back to where they were diminished.They were now completely dependent on the dwarves for their lives.Maric seemed willing enough to trust their fate to Nalthur and his men, but that was part of the problem.Maric was far from infallible.He trusted her, after all, and thus his instincts were more than a little suspect.Still, there was nothing else for them to do now but follow.Eventually they arrived at another outpost not unlike the one they had found when they first entered the Deep Roads, although this was far more intact.The massive gateway that bisected the passageway had been repaired, the heavily armed dwarves standing guard outside snapping to attention as soon as they saw the blue lights approaching.The cavern beyond was small but high, with reinforced walls and a number of smaller caves radiating out from the core.Dominating the center of the cavern was a great statue of a dwarf, holding up the ceiling as if it were a tremendous burden upon his shoulders.It was not unlike the great statue they had seen back at the ruined thaig, though this was much more majestic.He wore a large helmet with horns as broad as his shoulders, and his armor was a coat of linked octagons covered in glittering runes.It seemed that the dwarves had done a great deal to clean up the outpost and push back the filth.Even their supplies were neatly stacked, right down to the last cup on a table.Nothing was left astray.Cleanest of all, however, was the statue.It was possible that they had even cleaned it first.“Is that Endrin Stonehammer?” Katriel asked, staring at it in awe.She had seen a painting once, in a tome that told of the oldest dwarven legends, but it had been a faded depiction, and not a good one.To see a likeness in the flesh, so to speak, rendered in such magnificent detail.“That is King Endrin Stonehammer,” Nalthur muttered angrily.“And mind how you speak that name, woman.We’ll make only so many allowances for surface folk.” Without waiting for a response, he turned to the warriors who filed through the gate behind him.All of them halted in unison as he spread his hands high over his head.“We have survived one more night, my brothers and sisters!” he shouted.“One more night to deliver vengeance on the spawn that stole our lands! One more night to spill their blood and hear their cries of terror!”The dwarves thrust up their weapons as one and roared in approval.“It has been one hundred and twelve nights since our deaths!” he shouted, and they roared again.“And tonight five more of us have found peace.”The shouting died, to be replaced by a somber silence as the wrapped bodies were delivered forth, passed overhead from dwarf to dwarf until the five lay before Nalthur on the floor.“Rest well, my friends.For one hundred and twelve nights you lasted.Now it is time for you to return to the Stone, in the sight of the First Paragon.”Quietly, a large number of the dwarves marched into the rear of the cavern and returned with picks.Immediately they began pounding away at the ground a distance away from the statue.The noise was incredibly loud, but they appeared to be making quick progress in digging a pit.Noticing his guests watching with bafflement, Nalthur turned to them.“There is enough room in this cavern to bury most of us.They will dig a tomb and seal the bodies within, so the darkspawn cannot get to them.” He shot them a dark look as if this was to prevent something he did not want to discuss with strangers.“Most of us will be returned to the Stone.”“Most of you?” Rowan asked.The dwarf nodded grimly.“Eventually there will only be a handful of us left.Then the darkspawn will come.” His dark eyes became distant.“We will not be returned to the Stone,” he said flatly.The sound of the picks cracking at the stony ground rang throughout the cavern.The dwarven warriors who were not taking part in the digging spread out quietly into the outpost, removing their armor and tending to their injuries.They spoke only in hushed voices.As Nalthur moved around, inspecting his ranks, they glanced respectfully at him and then their eyes moved suspiciously up to the tall humans and the elf who followed behind him.Eventually they reached an area with several earthen ovens carved into the stone walls.Three male dwarves and a large, pretty female dwarf were sweating profusely as they worked over massive iron pots bubbling with meaty-smelling stew.The female dwarf turned to regard Nalthur with a displeased look, wiping her filthy hands on her smock.“Still alive, then, are you?” she chuckled.“So far.” Nalthur shrugged.Her eyes glanced up at Maric and then at the others.“Those don’t look like darkspawn.Where did you pick them up?”“Out in the Deep Roads.Alone, if you can imagine.” He turned to look at them.“Are you hungry?”“No,” Loghain said instantly.“Yes,” Maric amended.He looked at Loghain.“We all are, in fact.”“It’s not ready just yet,” the female dwarf grumped, “but for you I’ll make an exception.” She dug up several bowls and scooped out the stew into each.When no one was immediately forthcoming, she cleared her throat at Maric until he belatedly rushed forward to take his bowl.The others followed suit, followed by Nalthur.They followed him out into one of the side caves, ducking their heads to get through the door.It was his quarters, Katriel assumed, though it was also neatly packed with enough barrels and crates and piles of fur and odd weapons that it might have doubled for a storage room.The cot was thick but sturdy, and Nalthur sat down on the edge of it.The others found seats wherever they could and began to eat.Maric dug into his stew ravenously.Katriel picked at hers gingerly, sipping on some of the broth.The dwarf all but gulped his down greedily, finishing it long before the others were even half done, and then belching loudly.He wiped his beard with the back of his hand.“Not as hungry as you thought?” he asked, watching their progress.“No, it’s fine,” Maric quickly commented.“What is it?”“Deep stalker.” He grinned.Loghain paused.“Deep what?”“You would have encountered them before the darkspawn if we hadn’t been hunting them around these parts for more than two months, now [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]