Chapter 7 – The Caves

During morning prayers and breakfast, Orunn sends word that he wishes to speak to the group before they depart for the mines. He gives them several items that may help in their journey: one is a fist-sized white quartz stone, which he says will glow for 1 hour a day and provide light equal to that of a torch; another is a small silver ring with a tear-shaped blue stone embedded in it, Orunn says that this ring will grant the wearer increased endurance; lastly he gives them a small leather bag with 15 berries appearing like small green grapes. When consumed the berries increase focus during battle. Orunn wishes them luck in their task and takes his leave.

Afterward, Galandil goes to speak with Erillas. As Erillas sees him approaching, he informs Galandil that his son Combellon will not accompany them on their journey to the mines. Galandil warns that Combellon has stolen away on several other occasions to be with the group, but Erillas says that he “spoke” with his son the prior evening and is confident that Combellon will not shirk his princely duties this time. Galandil offers to have he and his brothers look after the lad, to make sure he is safe, but Erillas says that he will be busy with diplomatic matters once they reach Tymirr — perhaps afterward he may accompany the group again. Galandil agrees, and Erillas wishes the group luck on their journey.

Packing up their gear and underground equipment, the group leaves the camp by horseback. They travel up the south trail of the forest, and soon must dismount their horses due to the steepness of the trail.

After traveling for nearly an hour, they come upon a large clearing to their left. From a dark corner they hear the cicada-buzz of Gorgers, and the sounds of battle. Meran charges the sounds, some 200 feet away, and sees a tall and ornately dressed elf fending off 2 Gorgers.

Freeing his axe, Meran slices one of the gorgers across the shoulder, wounding him badly. Neith follows on her horse, and with an expert rapier strike causes the other one to bleed. After several moments of combat the Gorgers are both killed.

The elf looks grateful for the help, but is badly wounded. Elowisyl heals him and also Meran, and they ask the strange elf what he is doing in this area. It is apparent by his blue-tinted skin that he is a member of the Blue Folk race, or Water-Elves. Neith surprises him by speaking in his own language, assuring him that the Tree-Elves may seem rough, but they are actually harmless.

The Water-Elf introduces himself as Celeb Falas, a resident of the Blue River area just south of Tymirr. He was traveling with a merchant band, and all of his companions were slain by strange beasts. He fled and found himself in this forest, attempting to hide from the Terrors.

Elowisyl tells him that he can either go on his way or accompany the group to the mines, where they plan to discover what Duke Perius was doing there. Celeb opts to go with them, as his skills may help the group accomplish their task.

They continue up the path, and an hour or so later come upon the entrance to the caves. There are several miners here, packing up to leave. Two of them Meran recognizes as the dark-skinned tribesmen that he met in Ransburgh. Meran asks them what they are doing, and one of them says that their job is done so they must leave as ordered by the Foreman. They heard about the destruction of the South Tymirr castle, and will go to Tymirr with the rest of the group from Ransburgh to seek refuge there.

The man speaking to Meran mounts his horse and begins to leave, but his companion pulls Meran aside (despite a warning look from the other man) and tells Meran that they should not go into the mines. Meran asks him why, and he says that when their two other companions got too curious, they were killed by men using some sort of magical power. Not only this, but there are other dangers in the mines, and the ropes from all of the elevators have been cut.

The man’s friend calls to him and he says that he must go, and bids Meran good luck. The miners all leave on their horses. Meran explains what the man told him to the rest of the party, and despite the unsettling news they continue on. They leave their horses at the cave entrance, tying them up with enough slack so that they may feed on the surrounding grass.

Seeing that the caves have been boarded up, Elowisyl uses the Tree-Knife to cut through the boards easily. They enter the mine, and notice that the tunnel here is very narrow, only fitting 2 people abreast. The ground is scattered with broken rocks and is very slow going — everyone must take care not to trip.

After a few minutes of walking they reach what looks to have been an elevator shaft. The elevator car itself is missing, and there are no ropes anywhere, only two pulleys bolted into the rock. Elowisyl drops a rock down the shaft and attempts to estimate how deep it is by how long it takes the rock to fall. It falls for a full 3 or 4 seconds, meaning that the shaft is 100 feet or more. Using their Elf-made rope and one of the pulleys, they tie Meran at one end and prepare to lower him down.

Since Meran weighs in excess of 300 pounds, it takes everyone’s strength to hold the ropes with Elowisyl at the fore. Halfway through his descent, the rope begins to slip and it takes everyone’s strength to slow him. The rope comes off the track on the pulley, and he slams into the side of the shaft. Luckily he only receives a bruise, but the rest of the descent is slow going. Soon he reaches the bottom, and appears to be standing on the smashed remains of the elevator.

The Elves and Neith are considerably lighter, so bringing them down is a less daunting task. Soon everyone is at the bottom, and they leave the rope on the pulley for their return trip.

In this area the cave is considerably larger and wider, and would fit 5 of them across. They move quickly with lanterns raised, and are encompassed by the claustrophobia of being so far underground. Every few hundred feet there are tunnels splitting off from the main path, but obviously they end only a few feet away. The group surmises that these must have been “wrong turns” that the miners took.

Walking for a few hours, they pass several areas that open up into larger cave rooms, some of them with pools of water. Natural gas or petroleum bubbles from some of the springs, and other are clear. Coming upon the third of these such rooms, they hear movement from the far wall near a water spring. Meran raises his lantern and sees two creatures that look like reptilian scorpions of some sort, with large jaws and a raised stinger behind them.

The creatures initially recoil from the light, but as the party nears them they move to attack. One of them stabs Meran viciously with his stinger, and he begins bleeding badly from the neck. He is able to resist the effects of the injected poison, however. Celeb is similarly wounded, and falls back to let the others take position. Neith and Meran free their blades and strike the creatures down with one hit each.

Healing their wounded companions, the group rests for a few moments before they move to the next area.