Talimar looks over the dead ogres with a look of satisfaction on his face. The elf carefully cleans his sword then sheaths the blade. Turning to the company he speaks, "Garth, why don't you have a look at Kersath's wounds. Ras, please check the bodies for anything of interest. The rest of you stand ready in case they had friends. When Ras and Garth are finished we shall move on."
Druckner looks at the elf with a raised eyebrow as he puts away his crossbow. He approaches Talimar and when he is very close to him he says, "Wot ya sed meks sense elf, guess ya goth lecky!"
The dwarf shakes his head and smiles inwardly at the elf's pale face when he is subjected to his breath.
While Ras and Garth do their jobs, Rannigan leans back against the cavern wall, eyes closed and lips moving slowly. After he finishes, he spends the rest of the time resting, waiting for everyone else.
Snagger grumbles to himself about "missing all the fun" as he goes around kicking each of the dead bodies in annoyance hoping that one might still be alive so that he could beat it up.
Kersath sighs heavily and leans against the cavern wall, closing his eyes and trying to focus on something else other than the pain. Still with his eyes closed, he adresses Talimar. "It seems like our plan worked after all... although I wouldnt mind not having this troublesome scratch here..." he finishes with a bitter smile. Even as wounded as he is he still finds room for some healthy sarcasm.
Garth moves to Kersath's side and says, "Well don't go scratching it now." Pulling aside the material surrounding the wound, Garth carefully picks out loose threads and such. After rinsing the wound to his satisfaction with clean water, he gently holds the wound closed with his fingers and calls upon Selune's power to heal his comrade. "Oh glorious Selune," Garth quietly begins, "I ask that your gentle healing rays comfort Kersath and tend his wounds." His prayer said, the crescent medallion at Garth's neck seems to reflect the glow of the areas light in a pale and luminous fashion. Slowly the same light dances across Kersath's wound, beginning the healing process. Satisfied that Kersath's wound is properly mended and healed, he leans back against the cold wall of the cavern to catch his breath.
"Thank you, friend... that scratch was starting to get rather troublesome" says Kersath, smiling a smile that exposes his ivory white teeth, in sharp contrast to his dark features.
"You're welcome," replies Garth with his own smile. "Just don't be going and making a habit of it."
Looking down at the fallen bodies, Beleg shakes his head wearily. He removes his helmet and whispers a prayer of thanks to Forseti. "Thank you for your aid, oh mighty Lord." The large warrior then begins cleaning himself of the vestiges of combat. As Ras moves to search the defeated foes, Beleg follows closely, a hand on the hilt of his main gauche. "You can't be too careful" he thinks to himself as he watches over his diminutive friend.
Gnore stomps over to where his blade lies in the dirt and scoops it up in one hand.
"Blasted Greensword!!! Dropping my blade like that in the midst of battle!!! I should be Ogre dung by now!!!" Gnore huffs and kicks at the ground beneath him.
"Don't mention it, Gnore. It was our pleasure ta protect ye." Ortho grins wickedly at his explosive friend. Druckner and Snagger roar with laughter at the joke from their companion. Gnore tugs at his beard in frustration after being the butt of the joke, but he knows his actions warranted the jest. Biting his tongue, he mumbles to himself as he walks away from the others.
Dain leans against the cavern wall watching Ras work and wishing that his joints would stop aching. "I overjudged that one," he mutters irritably. "One of these days I really hope to be a better judge in situations like these. So Talimar, what now? I have a feeling that the gnome city is in less than hospitable condition. I hope it was nothing we did..."
"An' wat makes ye think that, friend Dain? Seems I recall the Gnomes 'ad a first-class defence arranged for any unwelcome visitors," says Ortho.
Leaning on his axe as he surveys the downed ogres, Ortho comments, "This rabble weren't much ta worry them Gnomes. Ah still think somethin' bigger is afoot which we might 'ave learned aboot. Ah guess we'll find out in time."
"I just have a bad feeling, friend. As you said, our gnomish friends do have a good defense, but don't you find it strange that we haven't run into thier scouts by now? Granted three ogres would give the gnomish city little trouble, but what of 20, or 50? In all likelyhood these fellows," says Dain gesturing to the corpses, "were just a small contingency of a much larger community. Now this community of ogres may have knowledge of the gnomish city, or they may just be here by chance, but one thing is certain... when their scouts don't report back, more will come to investigate. The bottom line is that there is a high probability that if the gnomes haven't been attacked by ogres already, they soon will be."
"Holy burnin' beard o' Moradin! Time's awaistin'! Let's move!" Animated to action, Ortho hoists his axe and sets off in the direction he believes to be toward the gnomish city. "Hey, Gnore, if ye can 'old on ta that toothpick of yours (snicker) Ah'll challenge ye to a contest: first one ta ten ogres buys the ale back at the Baron. If ye get knocked oot then yer payin' by default. Snagger, ye want some o' this?"
"Bah!!! You're on, ya dirt-munching cleric. An' no fair sneakin' in a hit from behind! Snagger and Druckner...join in the fun as well." Gnore states with a sly smirk shaking his fist at the unorthodox priest.
"Ye bet I do!" exclaims Snagger with excitement.
"Coont me in too!" says Druckner as he walks toward the others. "I kin taste that ale now!"
"Probably 'cause yer breath smells like three day old brew!" frowns Gnore as he feels happy to divert the attention from his faux pas.
"Nothin' wrong wit me bref," replies Druckner as he hefts his axe before him.
"I believe the elves are up on all of you," begins Beleg as he walks past the dwarves. "If that continues, you'll all be buying their ale back at the Baron!"
"Elves don' coont here," responds Druckner as he looks up at the Paladin.
"Ne'er de Giants!" says Snagger as he grins up at the warrior towering over him.
"Them I'm sure one of you will win," smiles Kersath.
"Alright, let's look sharp," begins Talimar as he gathers the others around. "Ras found a few coins and nothing else of value. We'll take the weapons to the deep gnomes, maybe they can use them. Now, let's be ready for anything and get to them as soon as we can."
30th day of Flamerule. Late Afternoon. Underdark.
After another day and a half of careful navigation through the twisting tunnels of the Underdark, the party manages to reach what they believe to be the outskirts of the Gnome city. Several deep gnome scouts appear to materialize out of the shadows around everyone and they gladly greet the Companions. Several of the deep gnomes are easily recognized from the groups earlier foray into their city and Kersath happily interprets that the gnomes have had no signs of any of the ogres lately.
Two hours later, the scouts have led the companions through the narrow and twisting tunnels surrounding their city and into the cavernous city proper. Beleg for one is quite glad to be out of the smaller tunnels and into the huge cavern once again. He is quite relieved to once again be able to stand to his full height. As always, the gnome citizens greet the Companions with some apprehension, still uncomfortable at seeing in their midst races that so many of them believed to be fireside tales. Of course the apprehension fades away as once again, Beleg's lute comes out and he begins playing several raucous tunes.
As they reach the center of the city, Carmeneren comes forward to greet the Companions.
"We thought you dead," she begins matter-of-factly, her straight forward Common lending an air of finality to her tone. "Glad to see we were wrong."
"So are we," begins Talimar as he bows slightly in respect to the priestess. "We brought you gifts." Moving around to the mules, he and Ras and Garth begin taking the various goods off the mules and over to Carmeneren. Her face lights up momentarily as she spies the trinkets before her. Along with several toys for the children, there are clay pots and iron cookware, many utensils as well as several sturdy tools to assist them. One of Carmeneren's priestesses sees to the taking over and handing out of the gifts as Carmeneren motions the party to join her in her abode.
"The gifts are much appreciated," she begins as she takes a seat around a table laden with food. "Join us as we break our evening feast. Tell me what has happened while you were away."
The evening passes with the Company enjoying the strange food of the deep gnomes as they relate what has happened since they last left the Gnomes. Carmeneren ensures them that they are well prepared for any attack by the ogres and that really, the narrow tunnels leading into their city help discourage any overly large predators from attacking them. Beleg and the others assure her that they will do whatever they can to keep from leading any predators toward her people.
Midsummer. Svirfneblin City.
The next day Talimar rouses the others, wishing to take their leave of the gnomes and head on down through the tunnels, but Kersath quickly deflates any plans the elf had.
"Today is Midsummer. A holy day in the eyes of my god, Mieliki. I must spend the day in worship," replies the dark elf.
"Just great. Well, I certainly don't want to encourage anyone to fall out of favor with their god," replies the grey eld somewhat sarcastically. "We'll take the day to celebrate Midsummer and rest. Tomorrow, we leave early though!"
Although the deep gnomes have no idea of the surface holiday, Carmeneren calls for a celebration nonetheless as they spend the day in revelry with the others. Between Beleg's musical ministrations and the flowing ale of the dwarves, the Company manages to spend a rather enjoyable day as they celebrate with the deep gnomes. Earlier friendships are opened again and each of the Companions can easily see the need for doing a good job and protecting the fun-loving gnomes. Even the normally dour dwarves manage to join in the revelry.
As Kersath closes his eyes the next day, he manages to imagine dawn breaking over the valley of Haranshire aboveground. As the first rays of the sun light up the valley in his mind, he takes comfort in that image. Around him, his companions finish their preparations for departing as Carmeneren emerges from her house.
"My scouts will lead you back to the passage with the illusionary wall. As I spoke to you before, you can take the southern passage to the city at the end, growing stronger along the way and destroying the Diregund at the end, or you can take the direct northern route to the city. I do not believe you are strong enough to attack the city directly just yet. I also cannot stop you from backtracking and going the route of the dragons. Whatever you choose, return to me after you have destroyed the Diregund and I will help you further."
The other gnomes watch on and wave as the Companions take their leave once again of the friendly denizens of the Underdark.
6th day of Eleasias. Intersection. Underdark.
For six days now the companions have been expertly led through the darkened and twisting passages of the Underdakr back toward the illusory wall and the passages leading them lower. Several times the skill of the Svirfneblin scouts have saved them as they have avoided numerous rock slides, areas of treacherous footing that could have easily led to the loss of a few members and assisting them along the narrow ledges that often appear along deep caverns.
Finally, mid-afternoon of the sixth day out of the gnome city, the scouts pull up in front of the cavern wall. Beleg, Ortho and Gnore can feel the strong presence of evil emanating from beyond the wall as they gaze at the powerful illusion. Desperately trying to disbelieve what they see before them, they are unable to truly get the image of a stone wall out of their minds. It is mere faith that gets several of the Companions to walk through the wall as they believe they are truly going to bump their noses on solid rock as they walk into it. The gnome scouts say their farewells and watch on with fear and horror as the Companions step through the wall and disappear.
On the other side, Talimar pulls up and the others fan out around him as they step forward to look at the split in the tunnel that is before them. Here is the moment of choice, the path to choose.
"S-sure is c-cold," stammers Ras as he rubs his small gloved hands up and down his arms, a shudder shaking his body.
"Wal which way is it, elf?" asks Snagger as he looks up both the darkened tunnels before him.