Derrick was about to die.

Shrouded in the empty blackness of a vast, subterranean cavern, Derrick Stoneballs – second-storey man and lifelong criminal – clung to the vertical rock face and gave his predicament careful consideration even as his muscles screamed for respite.

As a dwarf, he accepted his people’s cultural fondness for rocky terrain, but he had decided there was a special place in The Abyss for this particular precipice upon which he was stranded. In whichever direction he chose to clamber, the cliff had an unknown and probably miserable fate prepared for him.

Out in the darkness to his right he could still hear the faint sounds of violent subjugation echoing from the chasm-top prison he’d recently escaped. Suspended from huge stalactites which thrust down into the darkness, the drow slavers’ structure was cunningly hidden above shadows cast by craggy outcrops and the webs of terrifying giant spiders.

Some indeterminate distance below Derrick was the icy water of an underground river fed by a nearby tumbling cascade, whose persistent susurration provided another layer of obfuscation for the clandestine drow structure. Brief consideration of taking his chances by dropping into the flow had been quickly dismissed as Derrick’s fellow escapee, a derro named Buppido, had done the same only to be heard falling victim to something that dwelt in that dark water.

Generations of subterranean life had gifted Derrick’s kind with functional vision in the underdark, and his senses told him that his rock face escape route came to an abrupt end not much farther to his left.

The only unknown direction was up, and his fatigued limbs and the unforgiving cragscape would only make exploration in that direction all the more treacherous. With fatalistic realisation, Derrick had begun to accept that his grim end seemed an imminent certainty.

Unless, he mused with blackest mirth, he suddenly sprouted wings or the ability to teleport. With delicious irony, the imagery brought back untimely recollections of perhaps when this terminal run of luck had first begun…

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