The Ogre saw Corwin's lackey fall on its own blade. He would have cursed the thing's weakness had he bothered to care. To him it was just another failed experiment, something that failed to lift the burdens their master placed on its shoulders. He'd have to spend time whipping it into shape when they got back.

Except the body wasn't dissolving. Why wasn't it dissolving? That's how it went. Things die, they dissolve and are at a specific place. It's rare now but he's remembered dying, waking up, dying again, and again, and now he was staring at something that wasn't conforming to the pattern. Its head was lumped at a harsh angle and there was enough blood pooling that it can't be alive.

The four beings were talking. Normally he tuned this out. Against the Elves it had always been this sneering whine at how misshapen he was. Against the Dwarves it was always something over how tough they were. Not here. The stone woman was curled protectively around the Dwarf of the group as the . . . Elf? He wasn't sure. It lacked the pointed ears but had the height and was scrawny by its measure. So. Elf.

"Hey!" The Elf-Thing shouted at him as he marched to them. "Your boss listening?"

Confusion crept through the Ogre's features, "'Course he's listening. He Always listens when it's important, and clearing you scum out is important."

In spite of how he hefted his war hammer and readied himself to charge, the Not-Elf stood there, hand on the pommel of some sort of curved sheathed short sword. "Your fungus infected and infested someone of the Dungeoneer Confederation. It isn't confined to Dungeon Creatures. Word's been sent out. People will see it as something they can't ignore."

The Ogre grunted and raised his hammer to signal his troops, for they were his troops no matter what that whimpering dog-thing insisted, to advance.

The Not-Elf remained where he was standing. The other three. The clockwork thing that had killed many of his men. Killed him once. She was flanked by the stone woman and the dwarf as she drew an arrow.

He heard something. Some grand proclamation. He could feel Power and had presence of mind to go down on his belly as the arrow loosed.

He couldn't see. Had it hit? No. this wasn't the caverns. His eyes adjusted as dark splotches softened and cleared as he slowly got to his feet. He didn't bother looking to see who had survived. Instead he again raised his hammer to signal to any survivors to stand and fight.

"If you won't let us pass we will have to go through you." The Not-Elf stated as he drew his blade and charged.

As the Ogre brought his hammer down he was dimly aware of the other three charging forward then past him. His focus shifted back to the elf-thing as it rolled inside his guard and struck him with the pommel of his sword.

The Ogre grunted in pain as his grip changed and shoved his opponent back with the haft of his weapon. "Boss says he's in control. Everything it touches will be friend."

The Elf-Thing pivoted away from another swing of the Ogre's weapon. "And what about you?"

The Ogre spat as he lashed out, striking his opponent to the ground with the pommel of his hammer.

The two continued like this. Each managing the odd body blow, but either the Ogre would be too tough to harm, bring his weapon up in time to block, or the Not-Elf would dart in and out of effective striking distance. In time the Ogre would win this game of cat and mouse, there was simply far more of him and he was too enduring for it to go any other way.

"What about me?" He held his opponent with one of his great hands.

"Your boss would turn you and your men into meat puppets." The Not-Elf managed to get out between attempts to wrench free from the Ogre's grasp.

Undaunted and unmoved, the Ogre started hitting his opponent. It wasn't enough to kill him. He'd simply come back. he wanted to Hurt his opponent. To make him Shut Up. "You talk too much."

The Not-Elf's gaze met his own. There was no fear there as the Ogre felt the blade go through his chest.

As his grip loosened and the Not-Elf fell, the Ogre wondered how the blade managed to bite through now and not before.

As he fell he saw dropped weapons, health potions, and other bits of loot that his kind left as reminders of their passing. His vision blurred as he saw the Not-Elf kneel.

"Stay with me big guy." The voice wasn't one of disgust or hatrid. Instead it was concern. "Taru! Help me stabilize this guy!"

They wanted answers. That was the only answer that made sense to The Ogre.

"How bad is he?" The voice was crystalline, light, and it sounded like it was shouted from far away. "Ishida can you pick up the slack?"

"Chest wound. I don't want to pull my sword." The Not-Elf responded.

"Hey." He was being addressed now as he felt his head lifted. "Hey... Look. Can you talk?"

"Go to the pits. I ain't telling you nothin." THe Ogre's voice was weak. Yet even with that he almost instinctively drank the health potion held to his mouth.

"Your boss isn't just wanting to make us all minions. He managed to make that guy," The Ogre didn't see where Not-Elf pointed but he assumed it was to the goblin coward, "was being made to fight against his will. Killed several people on the way to your boss, and was going to have to fight his apprentice."

"So?" The Ogre asked between sips of the warm slightly tangy liquid. "Boss says we fight, we don't get to question."

"Yea, but you're still You." The Not-Elf countered, "You get orders, same as I get orders, but you get to pick how you follow that order."

When the Ogre nodded the Not-Elf continued. "That guy was a friend of mine. Was the guy the dwarf in our group trained under. Is there anyone you'd die to protect?"

He felt a pair of small hands. One on either side of his temple.

"Who would you die to protect?" The Crystalline voice repeated the question.

He felt something in him ease. "My men. Dying hurts and." He drew a shuddering breath, "Always afraid boss'll say they're no use and let them stay dead."

The crystalline voice again spoke. "And your boss could use that fungus to make you kill them without hesitation. He doesn't want dwellers. He wants Slaves."

The Ogre sighed. "Can't argue. Can't leave either."


Wait what was this? He almost saw the words more than heard them. Somehow he knew what it meant. Join them. Join the dungeons he had been fighting.

"Please." The Not-Elf's voice was soft. "I'm tired of fighting. We want to make this town live again. Not-" Anything else that might have been said was cut off with a scream

The Ogre saw what interrupted the Elf-Thing. A goblin head. Except it had six spindly limbs sprouted from its sides and its jaws were clamped around the Elf-Thing's calf.

"No...." The automaton whispered even as she stabbed the spider-goblin thing with an arrow, making it dissolve. "No.... no no no... No..."

The Not-Elf gave a shuttering breath. There was surprisingly little blood. Just rows of black pinpricks where he had been bit.

The stone woman could be heard, "Kamio what did-" Her voice was cut off and the Ogre saw part of her in the edges of his vision. "No. Gods No."

Then the Dwarf spoke. "Lad. What do we do?"

The Not-Elf. Kamio? He thought he remembered hearing it called Bonehead. Whatever. He stood, testing his injured leg. "Nothing we can do. you try killing me I'll probably register as one of Midori's."

"Yea." The Ogre grunted, "That's how it usually works. One of the fungus units nicks a bloke. We kill 'em, and our enemy's down a unit and we keep 'em in the dungeon til they stop fighting us."

Bonehead? Kamio? He nodded. "Alright. Offer's still open. I'm going to go have words with your boss, and I assume he won't want to talk to me if I'm in the dungeon. so here is what's going to happen."

The Ogre blinked as a hand was put on the sword hilt sticking out of his chest.

"Your boss is going to call off this plague. I am going to get fixed so I don't lose my mind. The Alliance I am part of is going to fix this town, and I am going to open a noodle bar." Bonehead stated matter-of-factly.

The Ogre started to laugh.

That laughter died in his throat as Bonehead stared into his eyes. "Eternal beings acknowledged my right to fight side by side with them."

"I survived the death of Creation." His grip tightened on the sword sticking out of the Ogre's chest. "I went to war with things older, stronge,r smarter, and more powerful than me to save my friend's Soul."


"I want you to remember that for when we meet again." Bonehead's voice was hard as he looked down into the Ogre's eyes and pulled the sword from his chest.

As the Ogre's vision blurred and he felt the life spill out of him he saw the four start to walk away. For a moment, before blackness overtook him, before the time between death and respawning, he could have sworn he heard music. Two Notes. One Beat





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