The unearthly wail, its notes primal and agonized, echoed off the stone walls of the cavern complex, reverberating into the very heart of the mountain itself.
The tips of Le'lorinel's sword and dagger dipped toward the floor. The elf stopped the training session and turned to regard the room's open door and the corridor beyond, where that awful cry was still echoing.
"What is it?" Le'lorinel asked as a form rushed by. Jule Pepper, the elf, who sprinted to catch up, guessed.
Down the winding way Le'lorinel went, pursuing Jule all the way to the complex of large chambers immediately below those of Sheila Kree and her trusted, brand-wearing compatriots, and into the lair of Chogurugga and Bloog.
Le'lorinel had to dodge aside upon entering, as a huge chair sailed by to smash against the stone. Again came that terrible cry - Chogurugga's shriek. Looking past the ogress, Le'lorinel understood it to be a wail of grief.
For there, in the middle of the floor, lay the bloated body of another ogre, a young and strong one. Sheila Kree and Bellany stood over the body beside another ogre who was kneeling, its huge, ugly head resting atop the corpse. At first, Le'lorinel figured it to be Bloog, but then the elf spotted the gigantic ogre leader, looking on from the wall behind them. It didn't take Le'lorinel long to figure out that the mask of anguish that Bloog wore was far from genuine.
It occurred to Le'lorinel that Bloog might have done this.
"Bathunk! Me baby!" Chogurugga shrieked with concern very atypical for a mother ogress. "Bathunk! Bathunk!"
Sheila Kree moved to talk to the ogress, perhaps to console her, but Chogurugga went into another flailing fit at that moment, lifting a rock from the huge fire pit and hurling it to smash against the wall - not so far from the ducking Bloog, Le'lorinel noted.
"They found Bathunk's body near an outpost to the north," Bellany explained to Jule and Le'lorinel, the sorceress walking over to them. "A few were killed, it seems. That one, Pokker, thought it prudent to bring back Bathunk's body." As she explained, she pointed to the ogre kneeling over the body.
"You sound as if he shouldn't have," Jule Pepper remarked.
Bellany shrugged as if it didn't matter. "Look at the wretch," she whispered, nodding her chin toward the wild Chogurugga. "She'll likely kill half the ogres in Golden Cove or get herself killed by Bloog."
"Or by Sheila," Jule observed, for it seemed obvious that Sheila Kree was fast losing patience with the ogress.
"There is always that possibility," Bellany deadpanned.
"How did it happen?" asked Le'lorinel.
"It is not so uncommon a thing," Bellany answered. "We lose a few ogres every year, particularly in the winter. The idiots simply can't allow good judgment to get in the way of their need to squash people. The soldiers of the Spine of the World communities are veterans all, and no easy mark, even for monsters as powerful and as well-outfitted as Chogurugga's ogres."
While Bellany was answering, Le'lorinel subtly moved toward Bathunk's bloated corpse. Noting that it seemed as if Sheila had Chogurugga momentarily under control then, the elf dared move even closer, bending low to examine the body.
Le'lorinel found breathing suddenly difficult. The cuts on the body were, many, were beautifully placed and were, in many different areas, curving. Curving like the blades of a scimitar. Noting one bruise behind Bathunk's hip, the elf gently reached down and edged the corpse a bit to the side. The mark resembled the imprint of a delicately curving blade, much like the blades Le'lorinel had fashioned for Tunevec during his portrayal of a certain dark elf,
Le'lorinel looked up suddenly, trying to digest it all, recognizing clearly that no ordinary soldier had downed this mighty ogre.
The elf nearly laughed aloud then - a desire only enhanced when Le'lorinel noticed that Bloog was sniffling and wiping his eyes as if they were teary, which they most surely were not. But another roar from behind came as a clear reminder that a certain ogress might not enjoy anyone making light of this tragedy.
Le'lorinel rose quickly and walked back to Jule and Bellany, then kept right on moving out of the room, running back up the passageway to the safety of the upper level. There, the elf gasped and laughed heartily, at once thrilled and scared.
For Le'lorinel knew that Drizzt Do'Urden had done this thing, that the drow was in the area - not so far away if the ogre could carry Bathunk back in this wintry climate.
"My thanks, E'kressa," the elf whispered.
Le'lorinel's hands went instinctively for sword and dagger, then came together in front, the fingers of the right hand turning the enchanted ring about its digit on the left. After all these years, it was about to happen. After all the careful planning, the studying of Drizzt's style and technique, the training, the consultations with some of the finest swordsmen of northern Faerun to find ways to counter the drow's maneuvers. After all the costs, the years of labor to pay for the ring, the partners, the information.
Le'lorinel could hardly draw breath. Drizzt was near. It had to have been that dangerous dark elf who had felled Bathunk.
The elf stalked about the room then went out into the corridor, stalking past Bellany's room and Sheila's, to the end of the hall and the small chamber where Jule Pepper had set up for the winter.
The three women arrived a few moments later, shaking their heads and making off-color jokes about Chogurugga's antics, with Sheila Kree doing a fair imitation of the crazed ogress.
"Quite an exit," Bellany remarked. "You missed the grandest show of all."
"Poor Chogurugga," said Jule with a grin.