After an hour they arrived at the mine entrance and saw it was guarded by a large Forukk with three horns. Billy was about to shoot it with his bow when Zak walked up to it. Before it had a chance to do anything but laugh at the puny human before it, its body was cleaved in two by Zak’s great axe.
No other Forukks seemed to be around so they continued into the dark earth. The tunnel was wide but not very tall. The walls were rough rock that still bore the marks of pickaxes. The further they headed forwards the smaller the light behind them became. As Zak led them around a corner the light vanished. Liam preferred the dark but the others opted for a light source. Billy went to light a lantern when Zak stopped him.
“I came prepared for dark places.” He mumbled a few unintelligible words and nothing seemed to happen. He then snapped his fingers and a radiant light issued forth from his axe. It died down to a level that did not blind the eye but still lit up the area around them.
“It’s my new idea,” he stated happily. “It’s called a snapper. When I snap my fingers it lights up. I originally wanted a clapper but I found I couldn’t clap while holding the axe.”
The mine shafts were more like a labyrinth than a former place of work. Tunnels headed this way and that, some were a mere dozen yards long, others stretched for several miles. None in the group knew the tunnels at all, they just knew to head south west. Many times they hit dead ends and had to retrace their steps to find a new path.
Progress was slow, the sound of their footsteps echoed terribly and all talking had ended. No matter how quietly they moved the echoes always sounded unnaturally loud.
Zak motioned with his hand and the group halted. Echoed footsteps continued briefly after all feet had stilled.
“We’re being followed.”
“Maybe it’s that assassin that came after me,” said Dawn.
“I doubt it,” replied Billy. “An assassin would mask his steps better than that. I’d guess it’s a Forukk.”
From behind them came an angered howl that resonated throughout every tunnel. It was impossible to tell how near it was to them but they all guessed it was close. Seconds later, answering calls bellowed in the distance, merging together to form one deep and hellish noise.
“I think it’s time to run,” said Billy as a large shadow charged around the corner behind them. A black shafted bolt skewered the wall behind him as the last word left his lips.
Another bolt narrowly missed Trey as he ducked into a bend to his right. No sooner had he turned the corner he crashed into a large, growling object. In the faint glow of Zak’s axe, Trey gazed upon a Forukk of titanic proportions. Its bulk blocked the whole tunnel and its fists were like giant blocks of concrete with a single jagged claw protruding from the centre of each.
A split second before the creature’s fist impacted with Trey’s chest, he managed to manoeuvre his sword to defend himself. It was completely ineffective. A sickening crack echoed around the mines and Trey’s feet left the ground as his body flew backward then hit a wall. He slumped to the ground.
Zak ran at the giant Forukk and embedded his axe in the things chest. It made a series of noises that were its twisted version of a laugh. It swung its arm at Zak and he leapt backwards, leaving his axe in its chest.
Billy dodged another bolt and fired an arrow of his own. It tore into the first Forukk’s skull, killing it instantly. His moment of pride was beaten down when three more appeared in his view.
“We have to go!” he shouted.
“What about Trey?” answered Dawn as she knelt by the boy’s unconscious body.
“What about my axe?” shouted Zak in agitation as he jumped over a low swing by his opponent.
“You and Liam will have to carry him,” Billy stated to the girl. “Zak, unless you want to stay and fight them all for the axe, get over here and help me guard those three while we escape.”
“Screw that! I want my axe!” replied Zak as he leapt back, drew both his swords then dived forward again in one swift motion.
Billy was about to argue when four bolts sped past him, one glancing across his left arm. Another Forukk had joined them, he noted with displeasure as he clenched his teeth against the sharp pain.
“Go!” he commanded, firing at the Forukks, narrowly missing one. The injury was throwing off his aim.
All of the group except for Zak ran through the tunnels and away from the Forukks. Without Zak’s axe there was no light but a hastily lit candle in Liam’s hand.
Meanwhile Zak was still attempting to recover his weapon while trying to survive. As well as the giant Forukk, the smaller creatures had turned their attention onto the boy. All but one. The other followed in the group’s footsteps towards easier prey.
“Gimme back my axe, dammit!” shouted Zak as he simultaneously avoided three bolts and a lunge from the giant. He did not foresee the huge Forukk head butting him so when their foreheads met, Zak was sent hurtling backwards into a wall causing the tunnel to shake and dust to fall from the ceiling.
Slowly he picked himself up, swept away the dust from his clothes and shook his head in agitation. “Screw this!” he roared as he pulled a stolen boom-ball from his rucksack.
A startled, un-Forukk like squeak escaped the lesser Forukks snouts. The greater Forukk laughed, then with startling speed for such bulk, charged down the tunnel towards the boy. The other Forukks had all begun to flee.
Zak lit the boom-ball with a spark of Nimula, held it in one hand and ran to meet the Forukk. When they were within range of each other, the Forukk punched towards Zak, its fist almost the same size as the boy while Zak punched out with the hand holding the explosive. The walls shook and fire shot through the passageways. As the smoke spread out over the ceiling the centre of the carnage became visible. There were two bodies sprawled out on the floor. The Forukk, or what was left of it, lay at one end of the shaft and Zak lay at the other.
The support beams strained perilously as dust rained down upon the two bodies. The dust that fell around the Forukk was engulfed in thick, tar like blood while that which landed upon Zak fizzled out of existence.
The boy’s body glowed with a shimmering purple light that covered every inch of him. Beneath it, Zak was unharmed. He pulled himself to his feet using a fallen support beam and looked around him. The purple shield began to crackle and flicker before dying out completely.
Panting, he sighted his axe embedded into a nearby wall. Striding over to it he pulled it out with ease, despite the fact it was a good few inches into the stone. After hearing an agonized groan from above him, Zak slowly looked up. The roof was seconds away from collapsing onto him.