“Indeed, of course you are right, Miklos,” Hasan acknowledged with a grin. “We should finish our exploration of the caves. I am afraid I don’t share your optimism about the one hour tour, however. We’ll have to see where those orcs came from.”
Feldard glanced first towards Stephan, who was all ready for setting out into the forest, then he looked to Miklos and Maruc – prepping for exploring the mine caves. The dwarf wished the humans would make up their minds which way they wanted to go. In or out!? Bah, he had travelled with the duo of mage and cleric for quite some time now, he should be used to their oddities. Ah and now the elf joined the ranks. That settled the matter.
Feldard hefted his axe with a grunt. “No sense dividing the group now. Lets get this done quick.” He moved to the forefront of the party.
Obviously nonplussed at the turn of decision, and nearly cranially crippled with the nuanced manifestation of group think, Stephan, shrugged and joined the others making their way back into the mine. His lot had been cast with these errant adventures and, despite the looming, stoically judgmental precedent of his ancestors, he found himself enjoying this new haphazard approach to life.
“Maruc,” hissed Hasan as he trooped toward the mine again, resentful of every step but sure his human companions’ instincts were right. “What of the goblin? I would not bring him into danger, deep in the caves. He must be our guide to the lair of the Wolftribe. But dare we leave this prize with Takaryon? What if he slipped his bonds? Dare we risk this fellow’s life as warden?”
The elf stared at the gnome with the same affection all shared, at the industry and generosity and bravery of this small creature who had resolved to stay on and honor his brethren’s legacy in the mine, despite the clear danger. Tekaryon, oblivious, had already turned away from the party and was working away with clear delight at the smashed machinery of the dam. The gnome’s bright stocking cap ducked behind wall of ruined machinery and earthenworks.
“No, I do not know what to do,” Hasan turned away and continued to address Maruc. “That dear boy could not possibly defend himself, but he may not pay the closest watch. And he so lacks appreciation for other beings, it seems impossible … ”
Boom! Water, stone, sticks, steel, and one small gnomebody erupted from the dam. The gnome lay crumpled on the ground.
Hernane ran to her fallen gnome friend and sobbed, clutching the soggy, bloody shoulder, the shock of the last 24 hours finally overcoming even her sturdy dwarven nature. Hasan’s face fell, knowing his quest for Elyas’s knowledge was not worth the death of a friend, even one of duration as short as his with Tekaryon.
“I knew it, a simple clog, the easiest of solutions, really, did you see how that worked, magician?” burst out a familiar, unassailable voice from the pile of rumpled rags and sooty skin Hernane clutched. The assembled adverturers saw the 8 foot wheel strain and begin to gently inch forward.
“A mix my brothers used before, but only deep in the mine, though I told them it would work in fresh air too, it’s simple really, carcoal, brimstone, Salt of Peter, ground and mixed. We thought maybe the heavy air below was better, but you can see it worked just fine in fresh air.” The circular motion of the wooden slats accelerated.
“Wonderful, wonderful. A discovery, not quite of my own, but wonderful still. Let’s call it blasting powder, no? Because that was quite a blast!”
“It is unseemly, Takaryon. Truly, you must stop yourself. I can teach you the simplest forms of energy. This tinkering is a menace to us all,” Hasan turned away, relieved and disgusted all at once. The elf addressed the cleric yet again, pointing at the goblin, which had twisted cowering into the hollow among the roots of the stubby pines the guarded the pathway to the mine. “I cannot leave this poor soul with this gnome. You must decide his fate: with us back into the mine, where he will surely be no help, or luncheon and perhaps a nap with Tekaryon!”
The priest climbed back over the the remains of the rocky cave-in that they’d pulled apart on their inward journey. He was listening with mounting alarm to the elf’s words. He paused letting the surly dwarf move ahead then turned to Hasan when he joined him.
“A ‘goblin’ a poor soul? I’d keep that opinion far from Feldard’s ears.” Maruc said with quiet feeling, ”Goblins and their like are a murderous bunch, as we have seen. Your concern is admirable if somewhat misplaced. Do you think that they for a moment would have thought of our safety were the tables turned? I know that to compromise our principles we’d be no better than them, but if he wanted a quite life he’d have stayed behind and grown crops or hunted food. He made his own bed when he chose to raid, he must accept the consequences. Mighty Halav who guides us is not unjust, but equally He is not a soft fool.”
“My dear Hasan,” grinned Maruc, “Are you suggesting that a walk some 150 yards into a recently explored cave system, spending quarter of an hour or so hunting about then returning constitutes abandoning a prisoner? Not all goblins have the self discipline to be escape artists. And you are not showing much faith that Tekaryon can guard a well trussed goblin. He is not ‘that’ foolish.”
“Perhaps just a little unlucky?” added the priest. He then turned to follow the dwarf. The corpse of the spider lay across the tunnel and Maruc heaved it to one side with his metal gloved hands. The main chamber came into view ahead.
Lightstone in hand Feldard awaited them.
Miklos didn’t get the feeling that the others appreciated his suggestion. But he felt they were missing something. Something, it was hard to describe, something intangible. He was never one for Fate. Perhaps he’d been around the priest too long. He also chambered over the rocks and followed the snaking path back to the spider chamber.
“Is Hasan right?” he muttered to himself, “Is this just a fools errand? I have seen precious little evidence that the goblins have anything to do with the Sons of Night. And what was it that Nicolai had said about his mother? He was steeped in contacts of the seedier side of society perhaps it was more than some homeward plea? And we have been lead astray by…Feldard? No, ridiculous it was brigands and goblins. Easy to hire with enough money. But that suggested that they needed to kill us or at least keep us busy.”
“I need more facts. Somewhere there must be something…” he said aloud. “We’re like blind men searching for illumination.”
Hernane followed the others into the caverns, she was uneasy about leaving Tekaryon alone with the prisoner, but it was quite well trussed up but she hoped her friend would remain safe. Truth be told she was also uneasy about the Orcs, they would be back once their courage returned this she knew they would not take there defeat easily. She wished she had some better armour and weapons, for she anticipated some more combat ahead.
* * * * *
The group carefully made their way back to the spider’s lair. There was no sign of the orcs just yet. At the rear of the chamber, a ten-foot ledge dropped down into a new cavern where piles of bones and remnants of clothing, equipment and other debris were littered the floor.