Readying his bow, Stephan muttered, “This does not look good. Let’s stay here, under cover, a bit longer. I don’t relish the thought of crossing that open area.”
His eyes scanned the cliff top. “I see no sign of anyone lurking.” Looking down, “The fires appear well extinguished. I wager they’re gone. But the question is, did they move on or….are they all in that hole?” Stephan indicated the mine entrance.
“Why tarry?” asked the elf. “We’ll be going down that hole soon enough, the Ilsundal himself may not know what’s in there. But if we must enter, we may as well do so well ahead of nightfall. Perhaps we’ll have a bit more of a chance against nocturnal creatures like goblinfolk.”
Stephan responded to Hasan in what he hoped was equally quiet tones. “Agreed. We’ll be going in that hole and doing so before darkfall might be best. Still,” the fighter again scanned the open area between them and the mine entrance, “I think we ought to just sit tight and observe for a bit before proceeding. Can’t hurt to take things in a bit before venturing forth.”
Miklos’s eyes swiveled from the Dymrakian to the dwarf and buried his head in his hand. If he knew the dwarf at all, the only thing so far that had given him pause for thought was the sight of an ancient red dragon. He was about to make some witty comment when he was caught by Feldard’s sweeping gaze.
The dwarf looked over the area with an engineers’ eye. He noted the mine’s stability. Impressive—whoever put together this operation knew what they were doing. Then hefted his axe. “The longer we wait, the less chance of us finding survivors alive, and if the goblins are down there if we wait, we give them more time to organize themselves and it’ll be harder to slip in. I’m going in.” Feldard stated and set off towards the mine.
“Well, I guess that settles it,” Stephan muttered with no little irritation.
“I’ll cover him and any of the rest of you that go now,” he said while checking the fit of his arrow in the bow. “Once you’re about half way there, I’ll follow myself. Hasan, what say you help me cover with your bow? Then we’ll both follow on.”
Hasan looked at the dwarf’s receding figure; bearing armor and provisions Feldard was nearly a perfect square. He then nodded at Stefan and watched as Miklos and Maruc, the unlikely pair, city mage and village priest, scrambled after their even less likely guide. Looking at his own partner in this venture, Hasan realized the whole troop was oddly constructed. Though he hardly knew her, Hasan missed Saeth. And Rahasia.
The priest turned to the rangy elf. “Best he goes first eh?” He picked up his Halavist emblazoned shield, its enamel glinted in the afternoon glow. He watched the dwarf, with surprising stealth, approach the edge of the cave mouth. The gurgling steam covering much of the noise of his footsteps. Maruc doubted anyone would be alive down in the mine, but his duty must be to check. “Poor souls. I hope the miners made a good account of themselves. But I don’t see any corpses.” That was odd, a breached barricade, with no corpses? Goblins were not known for clearing up after themselves. Shaking out his flail he followed the path the dwarf took.
Miklos smiled as he stood next to Stephan, watching the dwarf then the priest sidle up to the entrance. “And I was complaining about the claustrophobia of woods. Well, it looks like you’ve drawn rearguard old chap. I’ll see you down there.” Miklos hobbled the horse and cart, then started of down the bank of the stream.
The dwarf was close to the entrance, with the others not far behind.
“Well, let’s you and I now go,” said Stephan to the priest. “Seems nothing is afoot here. The business, I’m sure, will be in that black hole.”
The dwarf studied the rocks. They were stained with goblin blood. Clearly there had been some sort of battle to gain entrance to the mine. From the looks of it, the miners had inflicted some goblin casualties, for some of the bloodmarks indicated that more than one body had been dragged inside.
He was standing to the side of the entrance. He could hear movement from inside the cave.
A goblin voice called out. Then another. Only the dwarf could hear what they were saying—fortunately he understood their tongue.
“Who goes there?”
“Quick, come help us!”