With a flash of light from the Elves wonderful transportation device we appear in front of the cave entrance with the smells of dank water and vegetation not doing much to encourage us.
“This feels like a trap to me,” Trig mutters worriedly.
I grin and nudge her. “If Gnomes are involved, it’s always a trap, right?” No sense in us getting all nervous before we start this little adventure. I double-check my notebook and make sure I have enough blank pages for when we finally find this “squid” ship. I can only imagine what it must look like… flying squids, indeed!
“I will take point, my friends… so do not worry yourselves over the matter,” Jinsi volunteers as she quietly makes her way into the darkness. “Stay behind me and try to stay hidden while I scout things out.”
As we travel deeper into the caves I swear I can hear the echoing sounds of running water in the distance. A waterfall, perhaps? I turn to Shu to say something, when he stops me and points to a patch of ground ahead of us illuminated by a patch of sunlight from the cracks above.
“Ooo… what’s this?” I say to myself as I scurry ahead. “Hey Jinsi, I think we found some tracks heading north here… do you think we should follow them?”
Jinsi appears silently from the shadows to kneel beside me and look at the tracks. “That’s probably a good idea… but let us be careful and more quiet , as this could be a less reputable party looking for the ship.”
Heh… she obviously hasn’t known many Gnomes. A quiet Gnome is one who has nothing to say… and we’ve always got something to talk about.
We follow the path north as it exits into a large circular area strewn about with bodies and a set of climable cliffs to the side. While Jinsi seems more interested in what’s atop the cliffs and Trig and Shou investigate the exits, I take the time to see just who were these people… and what happened to cause them to lie around so limply.
Hmmn…. there’s the typical human corpses you find in groups like this… some orcs with rather intricate armor… and… some strange little gray monsters. Nothing useful though… at least not for someone our size. I’m about to point out some weapons to Jinsi when a crossbow bolt thumps into one of corpses near me.
Silent and deadly, Jinsi launches herself up the rope and manages to kill one with her shiny metal stars before the rest of us even make it to the top. Hmmn… I wonder if I could make a mechanical stilt apparatus that would help Gnomes run faster? Maybe rocket shoes?
Anyway… ah yes… we follow a path with more tracks at the top of the cliff until Jinsi calls a halt because of a flicker of light ahead. She goes ahead to investigate and after a few minutes I swear I can hear the disgruntled pleas of a Dwarf! I haven’t seen a Dwarf in years, so I quickly round the corner to join her.
“Please, don’t tell the Elves I’m working for them! I’ll never get a job in this sector again!” the Dwarf begs as Jinsi looks at him with disapproval.
“Them? Who’s them? What did you make?” I run up to him and ask curiously.
“Wait… you mean you aren’t with the Elves?” he asks nervously as he slowly lowers his hands.
“Not directly, no. So come on, spill it… what did you make? Who did you make it for? Do you have plans I can look at? I could probably improve it, you know… I’ve got some ideas for…”
“Abby!” Jinsi tsks and shakes her head briefly at me.
Ok….fine… now may not be the best time for me to tell him about my ideas for a new cannon. “So…anyway… what’s your name?”
“My name is Vergus and I work for Nafazz, the leader of a local tribe of orcs that took over these caves from the Dolgrim.”
“The whoozawha? Doldrums? The orcs defeated bad moods?” I laugh.
“The Dolgrim… strange little gray creatures.” Vergus nods. “Not much of fighters, the poor buggers.”
“Indeed… stout hearts only get you killed if you don’t have the proper equipment to back it up. Which reminds me… what did you build again?”
“Siege engines!” Vergus answers with a glint of pride in his eyes. “Not bad work either if I say so myself… they’re up around the top of the crevasse waiting to see if the ship takes off again, I imagine.”
“If you can take us to the ship, we will forget we ever saw you,” Jinsi replies cooly. I get the feeling that she’s barely tolerating this guys presence by the way she clutches her fists. Memo to self: if you ever decide to sell your inventions to opposing parties, don’t tell the smoke genasi.
“You’ve got a deal!” Vergus smiles. “Now just go back to the room you came from and take that other path and you’ll be heading in the right direction.”
After a little while we return to the room and with a few grunts from all of us we’re finally able to move the rock blocking the other path far enough to let us through.
“Eeew!” exclaims Trig as she steps back from the opening. “More dead humans!”
“Well, we know they ended up here… let’s see if we can figure out where they came from!” I reply as I cover my mouth in kneel down to examine their tracks nearby. “Aha… I believe they came from that-a-way!” I exclaim as I point to a small side path.
Trig and Shou draw their weapons and hug the wall as Jinsi makes her way down the path and I do my best to watch as she fades into the darkness.
“Abby, bring your potions… I think I found someone still alive!”