Al’az – A Hero’s Return
He didn’t expect that the place he escaped to would be darker than the dungeon that previously trapped him. Al’az felt claustrophobic in the first few moments when he found himself in the mine, his memories fluttering between the collapse he had narrowly avoided earlier, and the crushing mechanism from the Living Dungeon that threatened to pound him into a pulp.
The orc breathed deep then, pushing out any anxiety that tried to fight to the surface. Al’az had his pride, and there was no honor in losing his sense of self.
Over time, his eyes adjusted to the darkness. Somewhere, in the maze of tunnels, there was light that poured in from the outside. He merely needed to take things slow and find his way out.
Holding his hand against the uneven stone walls, Al’az couldn’t help but feel more at home. Everything in the dungeon felt unnatural, and fabricated. But at least there, in that recess of the mining cavern, nothing had been carved by mortal hands.
In the distance, he heard a cacophony of voices. From his place in the mine, he couldn’t hear what words were said, but a variety of emotions swelled in each person’s tone.
Al’az used them to help push forward. Between the light and the voices, he knew that he could find his way out before long.
Fallen rubble, and support beams that had given way blocked his path, and the proud warrior allowed himself some humility as he tossed his axe through the gap and crawled beneath the blockades. When his spiked spaulders caught on the wreckage here and there, he unfastened them, pushing them into place as well.
Finally, he could smell fresh air. The deeper parts of the mine had fallen, but the area near the entrance to Felwain’s most profitable resource had remained stable. Al’az spotted fallen mattocks, lanterns, and linen caps, and knew that those who had escaped had worried about being pursued by whatever foul monsters brought the place down from within.
Delayed as he was, though, the orc warrior knew that he was safe from whatever creature or phenomenon had assailed them.
And he had faced worse over the past days.
As the voices continued to reach him, he realized that to them, it must not have been so long.
Al’az grunted, stopping himself before he drew too close to the exit. While he was a hardy warrior, and presented himself with an impressive physique, there was more to his appearance than his flesh would show alone. He took the time then to reattach his spaulders, and to drape his axe over his shoulder.
Then, he proceeded to march the rest of the way from the cavern.
Grumbling, groaning orcs nursed injuries or pressed back against the horrible memories of the mine collapsing atop them. The laborers did not notice, at first, when one final orc emerged from the cavern.
But one of the other mercenaries who often roamed the tunnels, ensuring things were safe, spotted his ally, and pointed a finger in his direction.
“Al’az!” he cried.
The orc warrior raised his free hand and shook his head. “Do not weep for me, as I do not need your tears,” he said, a wry grin separating his lips.
His appearance shook most of the miners from their stupor, a reason for cheer suddenly presenting itself. Amazed that another proud orc had escaped from the collapse had inspired them, reminding them that even greater tragedy could have struck. They hurried to greet Al’az, their onslaught of questions nearly knocking him from his feet.
He lifted his hands to placate them and squeezed the handle of his axe as he leaned forth, arching an eyebrow.
“Let me tell you all about the demons that I faced…”
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