16th day of Alturiak. Morning. Underdark.
Gnore draws his bastard sword as he takes in the scenery of the chamber. This is the first time he's seen these walls and each new cavern explored brings some joy to the heart of the dwarf. He can't help but feel a sense of 'home' within him even though the apparent danger of these tunnels is real. Standing off to the side, he calmly waits for Talimar to make a decision on the Company's next course of action.
Ortho too feels the comfort of the walls close about him. Seeing Gnore's satisfied smile, he grins in recognition of his mate's feelings of contentment. "Aye, Tal, do we stay or do we go? The gnomes are known ta be punctual. Are they late? If so it might be our clue ta get movin?"
Talimar looks around the chamber, a deep scowl on his forehead as he listens to Ortho. Studying the tracks left by the other group, he looks up at the group, "Let's have a quick search of the area first. There may be a concealed passage that the Svirfneblin entered from. If not, we should move on, no point in wasting time."
With Gnore, Ortho, Beleg, Garth, Snagger and Talimar on the lookout for trouble, Kre, Kersath, Druckner and Ras make another quick search of the chamber looking for any other passages leading from it.
"Maybe 'tisn't Ramor's gang we're followin' either," offers Druckner as he and Kersath return from an alcove in the chamber, "maybe it's them spongeys off wit' som' slaves?"
Kersath shakes his head in response to Druckner's suggestion, "Nay, it's not them. 'Them spongeys' as you refer to them, tend to dwell in the lowest reaches of the Underdark and if they wanted to venture somewhere, their magical capabilities would carry them there, not simply by foot. But not to the upper world. They prefer the cold dark caves down below. Besides, these tracks are definitely human."
As the search for another passage turns up empty, Talimar draws the companions together again. "We'll move on through this eastern passage. If the Svirfneblin still live, I have a feeling they will find us when they are ready."
The others nod their agreement and the entire company solemnly heads toward the eastern passage and the Underdark. The very extensive passage and cave network that they have entered is one of limestone. Throughout the network are patches of moss, lichens, albino fungi, phosphorescent fungi, and the like on the walls from time to time. The walls themselves change in heighth and width constantly, ranging from five feet in heighth or width to a max of forty feet at times.
Occasionally throughout the tunnels, the party runs into a plethora of creatures, small albino cave worms (about an inch or so in length), moss-eating beetles, centipedes, slugs, small albino spiders, and similar fauna. Several passages branch off from the main one at times, but Talimar keeps the group moving along the main passage, knowing all too well that they could become lost venturing off the main tunnel. Needless to say, all the areas of the Underdark are unlit, the elves and dwarves relying on their heightened vision to see with Beleg and Dain using the magically enchanted stones for light. The temperature of the tunnels is a rather chilly 45 degrees Fahrenheit, with little variation on that. Ras is the only one who appears to be effected by the temperature as he shivers and complains about the "unnatural chill of the tunnels". The others simply pull their cloaks tighter about them and ignore the words of their diminutive friend, knowing all too well that Ras' abhorence to the cold has more to do with the cold blast he received from the trapped chest than any natural cold in the caves.
The companions make their slow procession through the caves all that day, leading the mules through the narrow and winding tunnels. Having traveled enough for one day and feeling the weariness invade their very bones, Talimar finally calls a halt to the journey. Picking a rather wide portion of the tunnel that offers easily defensible front and rear positions, the party makes camp for the evening. Without a word, each of the individual members of the Company go about their own business preparing for the night. Druckner, Ortho and Snagger see to each of their mules, unloading the equipment, rubbing the animals down and finally watering and feeding them. Once that is complete, they put blankets on their backs to protect them from the chill and hobble them so that they won't bolt during the night should they come under attack.
The evening meal is taken cold and little is said about the journey so far as the companions focus on their own inner thoughts. Beleg and Gnore have a quiet discussion about the defenses of the party in the caverns, each pointing out various killing fields afforded to them in the tunnels. Before long, everyone seeks out there individual bedrolls and settles in for some much needed rest.
Kre curses at Snagger as the buck-toothed dwarf kicks him awake to take his place for the last watch of the evening. Kre's anger is more to do with sleeping on the hard cavern floor, having become accustomed to the nice beds of the Baron of Mutton, than any real anger towards Snagger. Even more irritation can be linked to Kre missing the Lady Laera at his side during the evenings. Wrapping his blanket around his shoulders, he moves off to take his post with Kersath, Ortho and Dain.
Luckily for the party, the last watch passes without event and everyone finally rises on their own to make preparations to move out again. As everyone gets settled and ready to move out, Kre returns from his position ahead of the group, panting softly, obviously having run from the front. Beleg and Gnore have bastard swords drawn in a heartbeat as they scan behind the thief for any sign of trouble.
"Little ones....ahead....found 'em..." he manages to gasp as he bends over trying to regain his breath.
"What?" asks Talimar.
"The little gnomes," continues Kre having finally recovered. "We found them up ahead. Or they found us, just stepped out of the shadows and there they were! I about jumped out of my skin. Kersath is with them now, waiting on us."
"Well finally," sighs Talimar. "Lead on, let's go meet with them."
Perhaps another fifty yards or so, the party finally meets up with Kersath, Carmeneren and the rest of her Svirfneblin followers. Carmeneren has a look of extreme anger and weariness on her face and when the others arrive, she immediately begins berating everyone in Common, "I thought I warned you of the dangers to my people of you surface dwellers running amock down here below! Now you have sent another group below ahead of you and the Gods only know what dangers they will drudge up!"
"Hold on, hold on. Settle down," begins Talimar quietly, fighting to hold back his own anger at being yelled at. "What are you talking of?"
"The reckless group of humans that came below a few days before you. A sorry lot, I must add. They probably would not have lived beyond the orcs above had your group not cleared that danger for them. Now I fear they will alert the Illithids below and bring their wrath to bear on my people!"
Talimar watches the Svirfneblin priestess pacing before him, shaking a finger at the group as she speaks, obviously frustrated at the presence of the new party of adventurers. "We know nothing of this other group," he begins as Carmeneren calms down somewhat, "nor are they a part of us. Do not fear, lady, we will not bring danger to your people."
A few more minutes of calm discussion and soothing by the members of the Company and Carmeneren's fears and nerves are finally settled. Assured that the RFC had nothing to do with this other group, she affirms her position of offering information and support to the company, "We can give you food and fresh water when you need it, though perhaps you will not like the taste of our fare," she smiles. "If you must come back to us because you are badly hurt, then I can heal you. However, if you are followed you will bring death to my people. I have to be able to trust you not to make such a mistake. Do you see my problem?"
Looking at the old gnome before them, the company can see that she appears suddenly weary and almost fearful but they recognize her point. Everyone agrees and pledges that they will not needlessly bring trouble to the Svirfneblin.
"Our people maintain a watch on the uppermost tunnels and would be happy to report back to you from time to time on what they see. Before that, I have a first test for you if you agree to it," continues Carmeneren. "Not far from our own caves is a serious of caverns infested with Trolls. You would be doing us a great service if you eliminated this threat to our people. If we provided you with maps to these tunnels, would you destroy the vile Trolls?" Carmeneren looks to each of the members of the company for an answer.
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