The Cave

Part 3 of the adventures of Quelek, Immerral, and Stor.

"Bird Person thinks that we can sneak through the water and drown the two goblins," Quelek said.

The three companions were hiding in a bush just outside the large cave. They could see the two goblins guarding the entrance and a small stream running out of the cave’s entrance. The guards sat around a small fire with a tent next to them. A rusty shovel, a hatchet, and other old worn down items lay strewn about.

"Will you pull in your nose, bird?" Immerral urgently demanded.

"Bird Person believes that it is called a beak. What is wrong with my beak?" Quelek turned his head to Immerral inquisitively.

"That's better. Now don't move your head. Stor, what do you think?"

"There is only one option. We must charge them at full force with all our strength and subdue them quickly. We do not need to sneak around. If we kill them fast enough it will be done quietly," Stor responded.

"I don't think that's true," Immerral said, confused. "Either way, I think the best thing to do is to have Bird Person fly over them and distract them with bird things. While they're distracted we can sneak over the water and take them out from behind."

"Lemmerick, what are bird things?" Quelek asked.

"You know. . . Bird things. Like squawking, flying, and being annoying."

"Elf, you may be mistaken as to how distracting bird things actually are," Stor suggested.

"Then do something distracting. The point is they're distracted and we attack."

"Of course! Bird Person likes this plan. Lemmerick and Stor can hide in the water while Bird Person distracts. When the moment is just right they can jump out and attack the goblin guards!" Quelek said with excitement as he took flight out of the bush.

"Why do we have to be in the water? We can just stay in the bush," Immerral looked around to find that Bird Person had already taken off and was quite high into the sky.

"I believe that we should not inform him of plans until we're ready to execute them," said Stor.

"Ya, I think you're right."

Quelek had soared well into the air and far off to the south could see outlines of the small city of Farthenwall. . There was nothing quite like flying to Quelek, the perception of freedom it gave him, was peaceful. So much so he often forgot why he was flying in the first place. In fact, Quelek often felt his only escape in the world was to be in the air. There was so much riding his shoulders. Recovering Immerral’s arrow, finding an expensive diamond, finding the stolen goods from the cart, and finding a suitable mate before his prime reproductive years were behind him. After all, his species only lived for about thirty or so years and the reproductive cycle would cause him to produce a much less efficient batch of offspring every year after his thirteenth year of life. An age he would soon be hitting.

Quelek often thought of how he was to find a mate. He had never met another bird like himself. He had been raised as a farmer by humans, with only old scrolls and books to read about his kind. After years of searching, he thought he would never find another creature like him. One to love, one to build a nest with, and one to lock talons with as they dove toward the ground in a death defying mating dance that had a reasonably high chance of resulting in the death of one or both mating partners. Quelek often thought long and deeply of such things as he flew.

After a minute or so the thought of Immerall’s arrow came to Quelek and he suddenly remembered why he was flying above these two foul looking goblins just below him. With that thought, Quelek squawked with great ferocity and dived toward the ground with an intense speed.

The goblins heard a loud bird chirping and were not disturbed by the fairly normal forest occurrence. However, once they saw a crossbow bolt pierce the ground near them they looked around for where it might have come from. One goblin looked up to see a large black raven plummeting from the sky brandishing a crossbow and cawing with ferocity. Slightly set at unease the goblin got up and briskly walked inside the cave. The other goblin went inside his tent and pulled the flap down. At that moment Immerral and Stor burst from the stream in a fury, ready to unleash their might on their unsuspecting foe.

Immerral, soaked, looked around and sighed, "I guess we overestimated the bird's ability to distract."

Stor shook his head and said, "Like I said, a frontal assault would have been best." Stor looked around for Quelek and saw him perched in a tree with a puzzled look on his face.

As the two of them were still attempting to find their bearing after the plan had not come to fruition as they hoped, three goblins came out of the cave chatting. They stopped abruptly, surprised at the presence of the elf and man in front of the cave entrance.

The tent flap was pushed open and a fourth goblin leapt out with a dagger in hand. Just as he was about to strike, a crossbow bolt caught the goblin in the neck. It dropped to the ground, dead. Stor charged at the nearest goblin, swinging his sword at its torso. The goblin jerked up his hand ax to block the blow, but Stor’s swift slash tore through the goblins light--and very ineffective--armor, the goblin fell over in a pool of blood. Immerral took out his bow and easily dispatched the remaining goblins with two successive arrows.

The scene remained relatively clean, despite the copious amounts of goblin blood. The tools, tent, and chairs remained in their place. Immerral looked at Stor and motioned for him to remain quiet. He pointed at the bodies and started to drag one to the stream. Him and Stor dropped three of the bodies into the water and turned around to dispose of the fourth to find Quelek smearing the dead goblin’s blood across his face and chest.

“Bird! What are you doing?!” Immerral yelled, disgusted.

“Quiet! You are being too loud. They will hear you,” Quelek responded.

“I don’t care! Why are you soaking yourself in blood?” Immerral said in a quiet tone, still shocked at Quelek’s actions. Stor said nothing of the matter. He only turned his ahead away and walked off a short distance toward the mouth of the cave.

“Bird Person thinks it is a good idea to enter the cave with our scents disguised as the goblins. That way they will never smell us coming. There’s enough for all of us to be disguised,” Quelek answered.

“No, no, no! You will not cover me with that. That’s a stupid idea, bird. Just stupid. Goblins don’t even have a good sense of smell!”

“Don’t they, Lemmerick. Don’t they?”

“No! They don’t!”

“Quiet,” Stor interrupted and waited a moment, listening. “There is no unusual sounds coming from the cave. Only that of running water. Let us venture onward. And Bird, clean yourself in the waters before we move on. You’re acting ridiculous.”

“Bird person will clean himself when our mission has been completed or failed. This will show you that it is a good idea,” Quelek said.

Immerral and Quelek walked up to the cave entrance and found that Stor had been right. The cave only sounded of falling water and smelt of it as well. They took their first steps into the cave and Immerral could see that it went on for about six-hundred feet. He could make out a waterfall at the end of the cave and walkway made of rock that led down to the end of the with a ladder running up to the right side. A bridge connected the two sides of the cave just before the waterfall. The light of a fire--coming from a passageway to the right of the bridge--dimly lit the back end of the cavern.

Stor moved into the cave first. He continued to walk forward until he was surrounded in shadow and silently motioned for the others to join him. They took only a few steps before the sound of howling and barking overtook them. They looked around and saw a small turn to the right that opened up into a rather cramped break in the wall. It went slightly in toward the back of the cave and allowed just enough room for three ravenous dogs and a stake to hold their chains down. As the three companions moved to the dogs Immerral put his hand out to stop Stor and Quelek.

“I’ll take care of them,” Immerral whispered, kneeling down in front of the beasts (just outside the reach of their chains). Immerral meditated for a moment and then held out his hands. The dogs quieted and retreated back into their hole.

“See, I’m not a useless ranger,” Immerral said smugly under his breath.

“What was that, Lemmerick? I can’t hear you over this water!” Quelek said, almost yelling, but not quite loud enough to echo through the cave.

“Will you be quiet for a moment, bird? We need to be careful in here. No more speaking from you,” Immerral quipped back. “I’m going to investigate the rest of this area. You two keep watch,” Immerral moved into the room, slowly, until he could see the back of the wall. He noticed a light coming from a hole, just big enough for a man to slip through, at the top of the wall.

“Stor,” Immerral whispered loudly, “Come help me up so I can see what’s in this hole back here.”

“I would love to, but I don’t make it a habit of intruding on the territory of carnivorous beasts. It would be best if we just left the rangering to the expert,” Stor responded.

“Come on, they haven’t moved since I calmed them down.”

“I’m sure you can handle climbing on your own.”

“Fine,” Immerral began to climb up the wall into the hole, but could not seem to muster the strength, or dexterity, to do so and about half way up he slipped and began to fall.

Quelek let out a loud squawk and threw out his arms. Immerral then seemed to fall at a slow pace and landed on the ground softly. The dogs perked up their ears and let out a deep growl at Immerral. He swiftly jumped to his feet and vaulted out of the room, almost falling into the stream.

“What was that?” Immerral said, surprised.

“What do you mean? Bird Person saved your life.” Quelek asked.

“What you just did. You stopped me from falling. Did you know he could do that?” Immerral turned to Stor, who seemed equally perplexed.

“I wasn’t aware, no, but I supposed there was a reason he hadn’t been killed already. It would seem some divine cause has empowered our feathery friend for the purpose of living,” Stor said.

“Bird Person only knows that there is power here in this and that I can use it,” Quelek held up an intricate golden amulet with a shape reminiscent of demonic design.

“That is interesting, most interesting indeed. However, as of now, we do not have time to discuss this. We must continue moving forward,” Stor said as he walked down the cave pathway.

Halfway into the cave Immerral spotted a small pathway on the other side of the stream that led to a tunneled ramp going up to another level. They each jumped over the stream to the other side and continued forward until they reached the tunnel. Immerral crouched down and snuck forward, motioning for the other two to follow suit. For all of Quelek’s clumsiness he was surprisingly adept at moving stealthily. He even seemed to move along more quietly than Immerral.

They reached the top of the tunnel--which led into a slightly larger tunnel running perpendicular to it--to their left they could see a faint fire light at the edge of the tunnel. The walls curved on either side blocking any view of where the ends led.

“I think here is where we must part ways, if only for a moment,” Stor suggested.

“Bird Person thinks that is not such a good idea. Last time we parted a small distance we were all ambushed and mauled by tiny goblins,” Quelek said.

“Just come with me, we’ll go to the left toward that light, Stor you can go to the right. Find out what’s down there,” Immerral demanded as he dragged Quelek with him down the right tunnel.

Stor crept along the wall of the tunnel, hardly able to see. This would be more efficient if the Elf came this way alone. I can’t see anything down here, Stor thought to himself as he stumbled along the walls. The tunnel opened up to the bridge at the end of the tunnel and Stor could see a fire lit in a room on the other side.

The bridge was wooden, rotting, and very unstable. It was fairly obvious little to no maintenance had been performed on the bridge and a very small amount of engineering went into its design. Stor examined the bridge a bit more closely, contemplating ways he could improve the bridges design. Perhaps ropes anchored to the walls above the tunnels. Maybe the bridge should be made of a different material. A wooden bridge at the edge of a waterfall doesn’t seem to be a very wise decision. Though, his thoughts were useless as he had no place in judging or discerning what makes a good bridge. Stor knew nothing of bridge engineering or the construction and maintenance of bridges; however he very much liked to think he did.

Finally on the other side of the bridge, Stor peeked into the room and surveyed its occupants. Stor could make out a small gathering of goblins--what looked to be two--and three other large creatures in attendance. One of was a very hairy bear-like shaped humanoid. It was about Stor’s size and at its side was a massive Wolf, larger than the beast-man that appeared to be its master. On the other side of the wolf, in between the two goblins, was a grotesque goblin of monstrous size. It stood two or three feet taller than anything else at the meeting and was covered with pale green and yellow growths.

Stor gasped at the creatures in the room and watched for a moment longer. He strained his ears to try and hear what they might be discussing. However, doing so yielded no results, and Stor eventually gave up; the rush of water proved much too loud to hear anything else.

The goblins began to turn around and Stor panicked, he had not thought far enough ahead in his plan to think that they would end their meeting. In his panic Stor jumped off the bridge into the running stream below. He hid under the water for as long as he could bear and finally surfaced just as he was carried out of the cave by the current.

Immerral and Quelek walked into what seemed to be a barracks of some sort. There were small armaments on racks and laid on the floor against a back wall. Toward the entrance about fifteen sleeping pads lay about the ground, in a semi-orderly fashion. A small ramp led to a second level of the room that looked to contain only a single large bed and two giant axes. Two torches perched on the walls caused the shadows to dance around the room in a convoluted fashion.

They searched around, ignoring the sleeping pads, for either Immerral’s silver arrow or food for Quelek to eat, as he had been complaining of being starved ever since Stor had left the two of them. Quelek climbed to the second level and looked around the bed for anything edible that had been left behind. He found a leather belt and figured that would satisfy his odd desire for flesh for the time being. For the next couple minutes Quelek pecked and tore away at the belt until he devoured it completely.

Immerral searched the room more thoroughly than Quelek had and came across no silver arrow, or even evidence of anything like it. He lifted up the lid to a crate and slammed it down in frustration when he found yet another empty box. The noise would have been just loud enough for any goblin that might have been sleeping in the room to awake just enough to be able to smell a not so gobliny smell had permeated the room. Goblins grow quite accustomed to their own smells. It is true that their sense of smell is worse than even a human, but when it comes to smelling things that aren’t gobliny they are quite adept at knowing things are less foul than they had been before.

Immerral stomped around the room more, causing more noise that would be even more apt to perk the nose of said goblins that were not sleeping in the room. That is not to say, however, that no goblins had fallen asleep outside the room in a drunken haze after a long night of guard duty at the cave’s entrance. It is also entirely possible that if a goblin was passed out outside the room, that Quelek and Immerral were so engrossed in their argument over how useful the magic is to stop someone from falling quickly from a 5 foot drop that they could have missed the goblin passed out in front of the room’s entrance.

So, as Immerral was clobbering about the room angrily and distraught he did not notice the small goblin stumble into the room to investigate what had woken him up. This gave the goblin enough time to thinly grasp his bearings, see Immerral lumbering about the room, and exit to warn anyone else that might be in the cave. Quelek was still more interested in his belt than looking out for such an event, rendering him useless at that moment. Immerral had been too busy blindly walking around and tripping over talking potato sacks to notice.

“Agggh!” yelped a sack Immerral tripped over.

“What the?” Immerral exclaimed as he jumped back from the sack and drew his sword.

“What are ya doin’?” the sack said again, with a strange dwarvish accent to its voice.

“What am I doing? Apparently I’m talking to a sack, or rather whatever is in the sack. Who are you? And why are you in this wretched place?” Immerral questioned.

“Well, if ya let off this ‘ere bag, I’ll tell ya.”

“Right! Got it,” Immerral sheathed his sword and unloosed the bag, out of which came a short burly dwarf with a long red mangled beard, and a bald head. He wore only a white tunic and a pair of pants. His hands were tied together and he looked weakened.

“Lemmerick, something is coming. You should hide in one of those bags and cover yourself in goblin scent,” Immerral heard Quelek’s voice as a whisper in his ear.

“What’s coming?” Immerral said as he turned around in time to see fire light growing brighter outside the room’s entrance. “Oh, they’re coming.”

Immerral quickly pulled the bag over the dwarf’s head and pushed the sack back against the wall, despite the dwarf’s many protests, and Immerral attempted to hide himself inside one of the sleeping bags. Immerral did this at the advice of Quelek, despite one of the many large empty containers that were closer to Immerral and much more capable of hiding his body and not-so-gobliny scent.

Just as Immerral hid himself among the bags a bear-sized goblin entered the room. The giant carried what looked like a large cleaver in one hand and a had on thick leather armor. It was probably the ugliest creature that Quelek had the pleasure of seeing. Three smaller goblins came in behind the monster goblin, one of which seemed very incoherent, except for a small perk in his nose as he tried to sniff out the absence of foulness.

Not far behind them Stor climbed out of the stream and made his way back into the cave with as much stealth as he could handle. He knew that his friends were in trouble and he had to make haste to find them.

Quelek had hid under the giant bed and hoped that his disguised scent would be enough to hide him.

Immerral barely let out a breath as he lay still as death inside the sleeping sack. However his not-so-gobliny scent began to permeate the room, alerting the goblins to his presence.