"If we run into anything here..." Qova began.
"Pray that we don't," Arbiddance cut her off.
They walked back to the room next to the shaft and looked up.
"How?" he muttered.
"I can climb it," the Prince replied. The other two looked at him like he was crazy.
"I can," he said. "Used to so a lot of rock climbing in my youth."
"The shaft walls are sheer," Arbiddance countered. "No way."
"There are always finger holds... the odd toe hold," he smiled. "I'll do what I can."
"If you slip..." Arbiddance said.
"Then you're rid of me," the fighter beamed. "If I get to the top, I'll drop some rope. It's really not that far. Give me a boost."
Qova and Arbiddance lifted the fighter up to the ceiling. He felt around for cracks, somehow found some, and began to pull himself up.
What he would never admit to them is that such cracks are few and far between.
He searched, pulled, scratched, pulled at chunks that dropped from his hands, and slowly inched up to the collapsed room. At last, he dragged himself over the edge and onto the floor.
Do I dare shout down to them? he wondered. I don't know where the Snake and that she-wolf are.
He strode across the room and climbed the rope up into the hall of gargoyles. No sign... good. Across into the original camp room, where he was told the goblins had lived. A coil of rope was in one corner. Hern's rope. Hern also kept a spare sword; he found it.
The Prince returned to the gargoyle hall, and instinct made him duck.
A blade whirled just over his head. He dropped the rope coil and rolled, bringing his sword up just in time to block another blow.
Ariya Thule came at him in a flurry of blows... faster than she ever gave a hint of being. The Prince parried each one.
Where the blazes did she come from? he wondered.
The two lithely danced back up the hallway to its northern end. The Prince twisted his sword left and right in a series of parries under the thief's skillful attacks. He was waiting for an opening.
But apparently, Ariya wasn't the type to get impatient. He noted that her pale blue eyes were beginning to glow a dim red.
He had one last trick to play. He allowed one blow to knock his sword out of position and slightly twisted with it. Ariya whirled to give a finishing blow, but the Prince twisted back to catch her sword arm at the wrist and kicked her in the stomach. He felt her pubic bone crack.
Ariya howled in pain and dropped her sword. Her other hand sought her wicked dagger. The Prince drew his leg back and kicked her again, this time in the chest. She flew backwards and landed on the floor.
He flipped his sword in the air, grabbed it by the blade and threw it straight into her stomach. Ariya lay still, her eyes blank and open to the ceiling.
The Prince withdrew his sword, kicked hers away. He pulled her dagger and stuck it in his boot. He hefted her body, picked up the rope and dropped both into the collapsed room. Once on the floor with them, he dropped her corpse down the shaft, made a loop in the rope and lowered it down to his comrades.