Wolfgar tells the boy to stay put and moves quickly, glittering blade out and ready for trouble. He curses Kel for a fool, running off into the wilderness, but he is a young man, full of life, piss and vinegar, and shit. He makes sure that Kel's pursuers don't give up and return, and then he ducks down into the stairwell.
He doesn't dare light a torch, and he moves slowly as his eyes adjust. The gray light from the rainy afternoon seeps into the hole Wolfgar descends. He is alone. He hears very little ahead of him, but this doesn't make him less cautious. He knows the enemy is somewhere below. Kel said there was a hostage, and for Wolfgar, that's all he needs to know – no human should be left to the depredations of these beasts. He thinks back to the shackles in the training room, covered in human blood . He shudders and grips his sword tightly.
When the light from the staircase helps him no more, the weathered man sets about lighting a torch. He is on the landing where they slew the pit's first opposition to their descent. He grits his teeth as he sets flint to tinder and sparks the torch to life, working quickly, methodically, not wanting to leave himself exposed for longer than he has to. He should have brought the boy to hold the torch. He curses. He thought only to protect the boy, but what good is he doing leaving him above where all sort of beast can encounter and slay him out of hand?
Wolfgar turns, his torch lit, to return and get the boy, when he hears an angry yelp from below. Wolfgar turns again. "The boy will have to wait," he says to himself.
He descends through the field of gore to the corridor the barbarians have come to know well. The scent of the dead flesh is almost overwhelming, and the weathered man does his best not to gag picking his way down the stairs. Rats have been gnawing the corpses, whole hordes of them by the looks of some.
When he gets to the corridor he moves as quickly as possible while making little noise, scanning rooms for the beasts and their prey. He comes last to the door of the temple Kel desecrated in a rage. Wolfgar remembers the earthquake well, and what spirits must have been angered by the sacrilege comitted to the altar. Wolfgar is sure that whatever god the temple had been dedicated to, the sacrilege comitted on the altar was far worse than whatever Kel did to it.
Angry voices come from within. They are speaking orc, but too fast for Wolfgar to catch more than a general anger, first at the ones who chased after Kel, and then, about the state of the temple. He hears no human voice, but that's just as well.
Wolfgar kicks the door open, "Aye, dread beasts, I've come to sing the song of your death!" The two beastial men stand awestruck for only a moment – Wolfgar doesn't see any hostage as he charges the nearest of the beast men.
Wolfgar's blade is turned by the curved blade of the foe he charges, closest, but not the one who had shouted. Wolfgar begins to sing, as the beast he attacked counters, forcing the barbarian to throw himself out of the way of the skilled chop of his enemy's blade. The second beast man, bigger, wearing more armor, has a look Wolfgar almost recognizes. It attacks, but Wolfgar is able to parry this blow.
Feeling over matched, the barbarian flails at his attackers with sword and flaming torch, hoping to hold one off until he can slay its companion. The torch is knocked aside by the first beastman – Inviting Wolfgar's blade to bite deep into the neck of the beast, who drops gurgling to the floor holding it's ruined throat.
The second beast, wearing pacthed together chainmail, swings, but the sight and sound of its dying compatriot has shaken him and his swing is easily parried by Wolfgar's torch as he swings around to confront the last beast-man. He brings the torch into the creature's face, the heat and flame singeing the bristles on its face, causing it to reel back from the barbarian, who chops through the thigh of the beast as it leans away from him, his blow cutting through muscle and bone, dropping the creature to the floor in a spout of black blood.
It writhes for a moment before exhaling with its last breath: "Ashgrab."
Wolfgar rests the young woman against one of the pillars while he and Kel break camp. The day grows dark early, the twilight a deeper gray than that of noon. Color seems to have leeched from the world.
Pol sits next to the unconscious woman. His fingers trace the hashwork of scars that run across her upper arms, and neck where it is visible under the too-thin shirt of patchwork hides. Her face bears a scar that runs down the side of her face and throat like the skin was cut away and and laid atop the naked muscle to reattach itself irregularly.
Wolfgar hands the child a pack to carry, shoulders his own burden and hefts the too-little weight of the woman, bearing her through the gloom of the night, his face set in a grim mask. Kel follows, and night settles over the hellish ruins.
In the forest the fading light is nearly gone. Kel walks beside his oath-brother in silence for a time before Wolfgar speaks: “She was going to be a sacrifice on that altar you ruined.” Kel nods and says nothing.
After a while the gates appear, the wall of the temple complex a deeper darkness than the canopy overhead. Kel walks through the gate without a thought, but Wolfgar pauses before the rusted gate, letting Pol struggle through the gate with the loot scavenged from the dead of the ruin. When Kel turns, Wolfgar beckons him closer.
“Before we go further, there is something you should know. The last of the beasts I slew in the temple had a familiar look. It was the one we saw leading that first group of beasts, the one who alerted the others, and never fought – the one with the big hammer.” Kel nods (hopefully remembering). “When he’d been done for, before his cursed spirit fled from him, he named the man we seek, and used his last breath to do so. We knew he was here, and that these terrible creatures were his subjects, but Kel, that one said his cursed name like a prayer.”
Kel snorts in disdain. “So these creatures have given up the worship of their own dark gods for another, who is not a god? It is no wonder that they are so easy to slay. Their gods have abandoned them.”